Thailand offers many magnificent opportunities for the camper and the hiker.
To the north it is covered with lush and rolling hills, shrouded in mist and still the haunt of wild elephants and the bird of paradise. Hikers can trek from village to village, always sure of a friendly welcome and an inexpensive guest house.
Northeastern Thailand, known as Isaan, is mostly flat and agricultural. But there are some interesting hiking and camping sites along the Laotian border. But please be aware that there is continuing tension between the two countries and you should always check ahead of time to see if a campsite or hiking trail is going to be in the line of fire.
Central Thailand is all about Bangkok. The city is ringed with several exurbs that are filled with lakes and canals (known as klongs) where the fishing is always good. You can rent fishing poles, a boat with a guide, and a spot to pitch your tent if you’re staying overnight, for the equivalent of $25.00 per day.
But it’s Southern Thailand that bears the bell away when it comes to camping and hiking.
Hikingware.com wants to clue you in on how to camp on the beach in Southern Thailand. This is an experience that cannot be duplicated in any other country, because there are over 1500 miles of public beaches in Southern Thailand, both on the Gulf of Thailand and on the Andaman Coast. Their beauty, isolation, and freedom are unbelievable!
- Most public beaches are free, but some of the more touristy beaches will charge you a fee – usually around 10 to 20 baht (35 to 75 cents in American money). Avoid the overdeveloped islands, such as Koh Samet, where Thai nationals can get in for 20 baht but foreigners are charged 150 baht.
- Public beaches vary as to how safe it is to go barefoot. The rule of thumb is that if you have paid an entry fee the beach will be kept swept and free of debris. Otherwise, play it safe and wear sandals or swimming shoes.
- Remember that while alcohol is allowed anywhere on the beach, other recreational drugs are strictly forbidden and can get you deported or, even worse, thrown into the local jail for a few days.
- Bring your own trash bags. You’ll want to leave your campsite as clean as you found it – or maybe even cleaner. Trash cans are nonexistent on most Thai beaches.
- Do not leave your tent up during the day. This is because mahouts often bring their young elephants down to the beach during the day to interact with (and mulct) tourists. Elephants become nervous around tents, especially on a windy day, and may want to stamp yours into the ground!
- Be respectful of the local fishing folk. On most public beaches in Thailand there is an area that is unofficially cordoned off for fishermen to cast nets. There probably won’t be any signs or fences, but you’ll see where the fishermen congregate and you should give them a wide berth so as not to disturb their livelihood. On the other hand, if you offer to share a beer or Fanta with them you are likely to receive in return a large fish fresh from the ocean to cook over your campfire!
- Toilet facilities will be very crude. There will a segregated cement block hut for showering which will undoubtedly feature a squatter toilet, not a Western style toilet that you can sit on. Also, bring your own toilet paper.
- Limit your stay to no more than 3 days at any one spot. While the beach is free to all, the local police may want to see your passport or simply ask you to leave if they perceive you are overstaying your welcome.
- Don’t worry about the ghost crabs. These tiny, transparent creatures are everywhere on the beach. They will not disturb you once you are inside your tent, since they do not like to crawl over fabric.
- Be aware of riptides. They are marked by what looks like a barber pole sticking out of the water.
Cruz to Introduce Bill to Stop Americans Who Join ISIS From Returning to United States
NO CLEARER RENUNCIATION OF CITIZENSHIP THAN CHOOSING TO JOIN ISIS
WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has announced his intent to file the Expatriate Terrorist Act (E.T.A.) of 2014 today when the Senate is called back into session.
“Americans who choose to go to Syria or Iraq to fight with vicious ISIS terrorists are party to a terrorist organization committing horrific acts of violence, including beheading innocent American journalists who they have captured,” said Sen. Cruz. “There can be no clearer renunciation of their citizenship in the United States, and we need to do everything we can to preempt any attempt on their part to re-enter our country and carry out further attacks on American civilians.”
The ETA amends an existing statute that provides certain actions by which a United States citizen renounces their citizenship to include becoming a member of, fighting for, or providing material assistance to a designated foreign terrorist organization that is working to attack the United States or its citizens. Provided the requirements of due process are observed, if a U.S. Citizen undertakes these acts with the intent of supplanting his U.S. Citizenship with loyalty to a terrorist organization, that person can be deemed to have forfeited their right to be a United States Citizen and return to the United States.
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Senate should extend protections to knife and bow users
Majority leader’s rein of procedural error continues with more blocked amendment votes
Washington D.C. — If you like to hunt or fish or compete in outdoor activities using knives or bows, you better be careful where you go and how you get there, according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.
Enzi wanted a debate on granting the same protections to those traveling with bows and knives on federal land that gun owners enjoy. The Senate majority leader, however, decided to block dozens of amendments from both Democrats and Republicans from being considered as part of a bi-partisan sportsmen’s package of bills.
Enzi said the Senate majority’s blocking of amendments to the sportsmen’s bill does a disservice to hunters and outdoorsmen all over the country.
“I’ve been working on an amendment with Senators Bennet, Flake, Risch, Sessions, Thune and others to allow bows and archery equipment to be transported through national parks. This bi-partisan effort is necessary because some bow hunters need to travel across national parks to get to the land they intend to hunt on. This is also a common sense amendment because it provides parity for bows and firearms,” said Enzi.
Enzi also offered an amendment with Senators Lee and Thune to ensure that those traveling with a properly secured knife are not prosecuted under local or state laws which ban certain knives.
Enzi also joined other senators in filing amendments that would:
- require the Department of Interior to suspend for 10 years a listing decision in states with approved or endorsed sage grouse management plans.
- prevent the EPA from regulating all bodies of water, no matter how small and regardless of whether the water is on public or private property.
- would allow folks to carry firearms on Army Corps of Engineers recreational property.
- make cabin user fees more affordable and predictable, allowing families to keep their cabins on Forest Service land which some have been for generations.
- Address the maintenance backlog at the National Park Service.
In his speech, Enzi noted that many of the amendments he sponsored or cosponsored are bipartisan, but the majority leader is insisting on making decisions for the 99 other senators on what ideas should get votes and what shouldn’t. Enzi said many of the senators now in office are new and they may think this is how the Senate is supposed to work, but it isn’t.
“There is a better way,” he said.
What if a single taste of one fruit — in this case, the durian — changed the course of your entire life?
That’s what happened to Lindsay Gasik and Rob Culclasure, a young couple who visited an Asian grocery store in Eugene, Ore., in 2009 in search of the football-sized fruit with thick, spiky skin. They were curious to try it after hearing that the durian’s pungent smell and custard-like flesh had the power to drive people delirious with craving.i
The moment Gasik and Culclasure inhaled the fruit’s gassy aroma of fermented pineapple and onion and tasted its cool, creamy, vanilla-flavored flesh, they were hopelessly hooked. Now, after years of traveling through Southeast Asia tracking down and eating durian almost daily, they have become experts on the fruit. And for other travelers who catch durian fever, Gasik has written adurian travel guide to Thailand, which comes out in June.
Five years into their obsession, Gasik tells The Salt they’re as enthralled with the durian as ever.
“It’s very sensual — the thorny texture, intense aroma, bizarre appearance and amazing range of flavors found in no other fruit or natural food,” Gasik tells us by email from Bangkok. “Durian is the only fruit in the world that I know of that combines a very high sugar content with a high fat content. It’s like crème brûlée on a tree.”
Since the couple departed for Asia in 2012 to pursue durians nearly full-time, they’ve eaten the fruit in 13 countries, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Australia. Along the way, they visited remote orchards and wild jungles and enjoyed all-you-can-eat durian feasts at roadside stands. And they documented it all on their blog, Year of the Durian.
Thailand, they say, is ground zero for durian diversity and abundance. More than 200 varieties are grown here, and the country’s orchards produce more durians by far than any other nation.
Thing is, most visitors to Thailand never experience the country’s traditional durian culture of roadside stands and small farms open to the public.
“So few travelers venture away from the tourist-friendly beaches and neon cities that great swaths of the country are left virtually untouched by the tourism industry and its vices,” Gasik writes in The Durian Tourist’s Guide to Thailand. “This is where durian grows.”
The guide provides everything you need to know for a durian-centric vacation, like how to harvest the fruit on organic farms, avoid durians that have been doused by pesticides and even arrange lodging in idyllic orchard guesthouses.
In Nakhon Nayok, durian seekers can find an organic orchard where a dedicated farmer has preserved 50 rare varieties of the fruit, while Chantaburi province may be worth a visit for the annual World Durian Festival.
Seasons in the tropics are unpredictable, and fruit trees can be, too. This means you can’t find durians just anywhere, anytime. In central and eastern Thailand, Gasik’s guidebook tells us, durians are usually available March through June; in the south, durians ripen and drop from the trees almost all year long.
The guide also provides some vocabulary and phraseology basics. “Chun/Pom thong gan ja gin turian,” for instance, means “I want to eat durian.” That should help get you moving in the right direction once you’ve left the Bangkok airport.
You’ll want Gasik’s tips on the tact and etiquette of eating durians in Thailand, too.
“[Eating durian with bare hands] is considered fairly bad manners,” Gasik writes, so many locals use rubber gloves. If you have to go bare, don’t shake hands or touch anyone until you’ve washed your hands.
Nor should you take a durian into a closed public space; many people – even people who’ve been around durian their whole life — simply cannot bear the smell.
For durian beginners, the Monthong, a sweet and creamy variety grown for export to countries like the U.S., is a good starting point. The Longlaplae, too, has a mild, milky flavor and virtually no aroma.
But there’s much, much more out there for those willing to venture deeper into the durian flavor spectrum.
“Thai durians come in flavors ranging from vanilla or butterscotch custard to milk chocolate, caramelized onions, or even a sulfurous egg-iness relished by those with a thing for the savory,” Gasik writes.
The Puangmanee durian – found in the Chantaburi province – has yellow-orange flesh “with a smooth, chocolatey sensation.”
The Ganyao, one of the most prized durians, has “yellow, very dry, thick and smooth [flesh], comparable to an extremely rich frosting or moist cake.”
In the southernmost part of the country, there’s a rare durian called the Graveolens with what Gasik describes as “lipstick red flesh” so rich, sticky and cheese-like that it can be difficult to swallow.
More intrepid seekers of the fruit can find wild durians in the jungle growing from seed and without varietal names; they’re referred to collectively as thurian ban.
And even Gasik and Culclasure have more new durians to taste. This summer, they’re hoping for a chance at “elephant dung durian.”
Elephants often eat fallen durians off the ground, Gasik explains, and sometimes the entire fruit manages to pass through the animal unbroken. The flesh of these durians supposedly goes through a further ripening process that amplifies the taste.
“There’s a guy in Malaysia who says he’ll have some in July,” Gasik says. “I’m really, really excited.”
Chinese herbalists in Thailand have long hailed durian as a valuable component in the control of several health problems, such as cancer and diabetes.
Claims that a daily helping of durian can help control diabetes, reduce high blood pressure, and push certain cancers into remission have not been scientifically substantiated, according to the Thai FDA.
(Washington, DC) In response to incidents in Ukraine targeting minority communities, Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, made the following statement:
“I am deeply disturbed by the recent attacks and threats against minority groups in eastern Ukraine, including Jews, Roma and Crimean Tatars. The Joint Statement on Ukraine signed on April 17 by the EU, the United States, Russia and Ukraine calls on all sides to refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions and condemns and rejects all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism.
“In recent days, we have seen troubling manifestations against ethnic and religious minority communities. In Donetsk, leaflets have been distributed calling for Jews to register their religion and list property, and Molotov cocktails have been thrown at a synagogue in Mykolaiv. In Sloviansk, armed separatists have reportedly invaded Romani houses, beating and robbing inhabitants. In largely Russian-speaking Donetsk oblast, even Ukrainian-speakers, such as Ukrainian-language media, have reportedly experienced intimidation. At the same time, in the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula, Crimean Tatars continue to be threatened with deportation and assaulted for speaking their own language.
“These attacks underscore the importance of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and other OSCE institutions in Ukraine in assessing the situation on the ground and helping to de-escalate tensions. They need to be permitted to operate unhindered in eastern Ukraine and need to be allowed access into Crimea, which Russia has thus far blocked.
“The actions against minorities are the direct result of Russia’s unfounded and illegal aggression towards Ukraine – first in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin needs to keep the Geneva promises and immediately rein in the militants.
“I commend the Ukrainian government for its denunciation of attacks and threats against minorities and its pledge to find those responsible and bring them to justice. It is imperative that the Russian-controlled separatist groups cease their de-stabilizing and violent activity.”
Condemns Iran’s choice for ambassador to the United Nations; calls on colleagues to pass legislation to compensate hostages held captive in Iran
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., sent a letter along with 28 of his Senate colleagues to President Obama this week requesting the denial of a U.S. visa to Hamid Abutalebi, Iran’s choice to be its Ambassador to the United Nations. By his own admission, Abutalebi was part of the group that took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
“The United States should not be granting entry to an individual who publicly admitted to participating in an act of terror against the United States and its citizens,” the Senators wrote.“We respectfully request that Hamid Abutalebi promptly be denied a U.S. visa and that you instruct Ambassador Power to work closely with the U.N. Secretary General to ensure that he is never accepted as a representative to the United Nations.”
In light of the news of Iran’s decision to name one of the demonstrators who took over the U.S. Embassy in 1979 its ambassador to the United Nations, Sen. Isakson also took to the Senate floor Wednesday to condemn the government of the nation of Iran and bring light to the fact that those Americans held hostage have never received meaningful compensation for what they went through. Three of the former hostages live in Isakson’s home state of Georgia.
Isakson also called on the Senate to pass his legislation, the Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran Act of 2013, to properly compensate the 52 victims of the Iran hostage crisis for the 444 days they were held captive.
“It is an insult to everything the United Nations stands for, to the integrity of the people of the United States of America and the memory of those who passed and those who live who were held hostage,” Isakson stated on the Senate floor. “We should demand this appointment be withdrawn by the Iranian government. We should demand an apology on behalf of Iranian government to the people of the United States of America. And we should demand they voluntarily compensate those hostages.”
“They’re not going to do that and I know that,” Isakson continued, “which is why we introduced legislation which I principally sponsored to compensate the 52 hostages held in captivity in 1979 until 1981.”
Video from Sen. Isakson’s remarks can be viewed online here, and a full readout from his floor remarks are included below. Additionally, the joint letter sent by Isakson and his Senate colleagues to President Obama requesting the denial of a pending U.S. visa application can be found online here.
“America was insulted earlier last month by the Iranian people. The government of the nation of Iran has appointed a new ambassador to the United Nations. That new ambassador’s name is Hamid Aboutabeli. He captured 52 Americans and held them for 444 days, a man who claims he was an innocent bystander and didn’t have much to do with that tragedy.
“If you were alive at that time and watched “Nightline” shows night after night to watch the beatings, torture and terror and capture of the American people, you understand full well nobody could have been within sight of that embassy and not claim to be a part of it.
“My state has been touched. Almost every state in the union has been touched. Those hostages were held right up until the time Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president and were finally released at the last minute when the United States government waived their right to compensation against the nation of Iran. The nation that held 52 of our diplomats hostage for 444 days, signed an agreement never to have to pay any reparation to those people, is now appointing to the United Nations, the world forum, an ambassador who was on the site in Tehran when those people were taken captive is an insult to America.
“First and foremost, the government of Iran should apologize. Second the government of Iran should compensate all those hostages. Mr. President, 52 hostages were held, 25 percent of them have passed away. One took their own life as a consequence of the injuries they suffered.
“One of my constituents from my state, Col. Chuck Scott out of Jonesboro, Georgia, was on television just two nights ago about the tragedy in Tehran. His teeth were knocked out with a two-by-four in his captivity and he’s going back for another surgery in another week to try to remedy some of the pain he still harbors from that tragedy that took place 34 years ago.
“It is an insult to everything the United Nations stands for, to the integrity of the people of the United States of America and the memory of those who passed and those who live who were held hostage. We should demand this appointment be withdrawn by the Iranian government. We should demand an apology on behalf of Iranian government to the people of the United States of America. And we should demand they voluntarily compensate those hostages.
“They’re not going to do that and I know that, which is why we introduced legislation which I principally sponsored three years ago to compensate the 52 hostages held in captivity in 1979 until 1981.
“It is a shame beyond belief that 52 Americans who were held hostage are the only Americans in the same circumstance who have not been compensated for the damages perpetrated upon them. I hope a vehicle comes to the floor of the Senate where we can attach this legislation.
“Senator Kerry, while he was chairman of the committee, and now Senator Menendez, who is the chairman, and Ranking Member Corker, have all embraced our concept of seeing to it that we fight to see that recompense is finally made to those hostages captured in 1979 to 1981.
“We have a great compassionate country and we owe it to them and their families every effort to see to it the nation of Iran compensates them and they are paid back for the terrible tragedy.
“First and foremost, Iran needs to know that this United States senator, and I think every United States senator, realizes the affront to the American people and the insult to the United Nations that Iran is perpetrating by making this appointment as ambassador of their country today.”
Background on Isakson’s Iran hostage legislation:
Isakson believes the 52 Americans who were held hostage for 444 days when Iranian radicals seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, in 1979 deserve more than the small compensation they received upon their release more than 30 years ago. Many of the hostages were terrorized and subjected to torture while held captive. In 1981, the hostages were freed by the Algiers Accords—an agreement between the United States and Iran that settled the crisis—barring hostages from seeking damages for their imprisonment.
A group of 45 former hostages have sought to collect damages in court challenges over the years, but their efforts have been halted by the Algiers Accords, which was the deal brokered between the United States and Iran to release the hostages and prohibits the hostages from suing Iran. Isakson’s legislation provides an alternative avenue for the victims to collect compensation without violating the Algiers Accords. Three of the former hostages live in Isakson’s home state of Georgia.
Currently, the Department of Treasury enforces U.S. sanctions on Iran. Isakson’s legislation would direct the secretary of the Treasury to establish a fund that would be used to pay the claims to the hostages. The fund would be financed from a surcharge added to fines and penalties assessed on any business or person that does business with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
Isakson’s bill would allow hostages or their family members to collect damages amounting to about $4.4 million each, or $10,000 for each day they were held captive. Five years after their release from Iran after being held for 444 days, the hostages received approximately $22,000 each, or $50 for each day held captive, from the U.S. government.