Friday, 6 February 2015

Mae Klong Train Market

Eila was telling me about the Mae Klong Train Market near Bangkok and how unique it is. She even showed me pics.

So during my trip to Bangkok last month we joined a tour because we were too lazy to find our own transport to the market. Cost of the tour was THB 1,100 which covered the Mae Klong Train Market, Amphawa Floating Market and a firefly colony (which is a boat ride from the Amphawa Floating Market).

Before I tell you the story about the train market, let me share with you another story about poor planning.

When we booked the tour with our hostel, the receptionist told us to be ready by 11.00am the next day.

The next morning we went to one of the stalls near the hostel for a breakfast of noodle soup.

As we were walking back to our room at around 10.30am, the receptionist informed that the guide would pick us up at 11.30am instead of 11.00am. We were happy because that means an additional 30 minutes to laze about and get ready.

However about 10 minutes later, the receptionist was knocking at our door to inform that the guide was already downstairs. We were annoyed and rushed to get ready.

By 10.45am we were downstairs and hopped into the waiting van. Geesh, talk about poor timing and planning. Maybe it was a communication breakdown.

According to Google Maps, the Mae Klong Train Market is a 1 hour 15 minute drive from our hostel in the Sukhumvit area in Bangkok. However if you join these tours organised by your hostel, be prepared to sit in the van for hours as the driver drives from one hostel to the next to pick up guests.

Be prepared to wait even longer if you're the first guests the driver picks up, if the driver can't find any of the other hostels or worst if the guest is still sleeping!

In the end, the supposed to be 1 hour 15 minute drive to Mae Klong Train Market turned out to be a 3-hour long journey, sigh ...

I snapped this pic at one of the hotels while we waited for the guests to come down:

I thought this was creative. Not sure whether these car lots are actually being used by the people mentioned :-)

Ok now back to the Mae Klong Train Market.

People casually walking on the tracks. When the train is about to pass the area, bells will ring and the traders will remove their shades to allow the train to pass.

The train passes the market twice a day at 1.45pm and 2.30pm (in the opposite direction). 

Note : The lady in black tights was not trying to commit suicide by jumping in front of the moving train.

After passing the market, the train stops at the Mae Klong Railway Station for a short while before making its journey back.

There were many people at the station that day. Maybe because it was the year end holidays. Photo by Angie Tan.

It was amusing to see people jumping onto the tracks after the train had passed to snap a selfie.

But while jumping onto the tracks or even standing by the side to watch, people forget that the width of the train is much wider than the tracks, thus putting themselves in danger.

This is how wide the train is:

Photo by Angie Tan using her new Olympus Pen. A point-and-shoot camera like mine will never be able to take such clear shots of a moving object.

Photo by Angie Tan.

We were told that just a few weeks before we went to the market, a tourist got dragged by the train because he/she was standing too close. Must have been quite a scare to be dragged like that. Luckily the person didn't perish in the incident.

So remember, don't stand too close to the tracks.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Mulu Park - New Website and Price Increase

Mulu Park has got a new website.

I discovered it recently when I was planning a trip to the park for LvH who wants to tick this World Heritage site off his bucket list before he returns to his home country for good. For me, it will be my second time at the park.

The Mulu Park website is now more organised with loads of information. Everything you need to know about the park can now be easily navigated.

Tours & Activities

I personally found the Tours & Activities page the most informative especially in deciding which tour/activity is suitable for me, my level of fitness and capabilities. For example, I can't do some of the underground cave tours that require swimming as I'm not a strong swimmer. 

It's also possible to book selected tour(s) through the website. It is important to do this prior to your trip because tours get booked up quickly especially during peak seasons. 

During my last trip to the park, I didn't do the Garden of Eden Valley Walk because it was fully booked by the time we got there. This time I'm going to book early and do it! 

The website also states the price for each tour/activity which makes it easy to plan especially how much cash to bring. You may pay using credit card, but there's a surcharge. And remember, there're no ATMs at Mulu Park.

Booking of Accommodation

Another improved feature of the website is that accommodation can now be booked online. 

When I booked the dorm in December 2013, I had to call up the park office followed by an email. So much hassle.

This time around it's much easier. After placing my booking through the website, I received an email with instructions to make a RM200 deposit to the park's RHB bank account in order to secure my booking. We pay the balance of the payment upon check-in.

After making the deposit, I emailed them the bank-in slip and subsequently received a confirmation email that I'm supposed to print and bring with me when I check-in. It's as simple as that.

Increase in Price

With a new website, comes new prices (as of January 2015).

When I visited Mulu Park in December 2013, a trip to Deer & Lang Caves was RM20 per person. The price is now RM30 per person. That's an increase of 50% in about 1 year - which is way higher than the average inflation rate of 3.7%!

Accommodation rates have also increased. Dorm rates used to be RM41 per bed per night in December 2013. It is now RM50 per bed per night. 

Thank heavens the 5-day pass for Malaysian Adults remains at RM15!

Prices will increase over time in tandem with inflation. However the huge increase in prices at Mulu Park in such a short span of time is relatively exhorbitant.

Most travellers are first timers there and have limited knowledge to other economical options like opting for homestays near the park. Therefore they have no choice but to go with whatever is available at the park, rates included. And it's always inhibiting when there are no options.

I understand that it's quite costly to bring in groceries and other necessities to the remote park. Thus the high transportation cost is passed on to the traveller. But the park management needs to take into consideration that oil prices have fallen recently to the extend that some airlines have abolished their fuel surcharges.

With these recent developments, I hope the management of Mulu Park will consider lowering its prices. Or if they are unable to do so, then hopefully these prices will remain for a long time to come.

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