Your favourite soccer players with their favourite dogs

While you might be following your favourite soccer stars this world cup season, they in turn drool over their furry friends. Let’s have a look at who are these canine lovers:
1. Lionel Messi – He might be ruthless to the opponents with his tricks on the field, but Barcelona striker and Argentina National Team’s captain is calm and gentle with his Boxer named “Facha” when he is relaxing back home. Would be interesting to see him dodge Facha with his skills.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo – You can continue to argue if Real Madrid forward and Portugese team captain Ronaldo is better than Messi or not, but he is definitely a step ahead on our list. He is also one of the reasons why women are hooked on to a soccer match but we are giving you some more reasons to ogle at him. A proud dad to a Labrador named Marosca and a Yorkshire Terrier named Abelhinha.
3. Wayne Rooney – He would have disappointed his fans on the field in this worldcup, but he surely doesn’t disappoint his French Mastiff (Dogue de Bordeaux) at home. He reportedly bought home the handsome hunk for a stunning £1,250. That’s not all. He bought a holiday home in Barbados for £5 million and spent addition £10,000 for installing underfloor heating system in the kennel. The gentle giant is not alone, but has company of two Bichon Frises – Daisy and Bella and a Chow Chow named Fizz.

4. Frank Lampard – When it comes to French Mastiff’s, Chelsea’s all time scorer – Frank Lampard is not far behind his English team mate Wayne Rooney. But Frank only bought two of them – Daphne and Rocco home after his £4million townhouse was raided by thieves.

5. Nani – Moving over to the Portugese star and Manchester United winger, Nani. Even though his team couldn’t make it beyond the group matches, he has been quite generous with his pooches – a Labrador and a Chow Chow named Panda.
6. Mesut Ozil – Arsenal playmaker and German midfielder, Mesut Ozil recently bought a pug (Balboa) to give company to his Bulldog. He actively posts pictures of him along with his dogs from the social media accounts.
7. Lukas Podolski – Ozil’s German team members and Arsenal forward, Lukas Podolski doesn’t shy away from uploading pics of his Labrador Gero on his Instagram account.

8. Xabi Alonso – The reigning champions Spain also faced a similar fate as their neighbours Portugal. Xabi Alonso however is the proud owner of two pooches – Lagun and Goku. Does anyone have any idea what those names mean? In a recently photoshoot for Vanity Fair magazine, we saw him posing with a Weimaraner named Kyra.

9. Roy Keane – While we are talking about the current soccer stars, lets not forget some who were in the limelight some years ago. Father to a German Sheperd (Izac) and Labrador Retriever (Triggs), Roy preferred walking his dogs to spending time with his team mates. The loss of Triggs in early 2012 left him devastated. A dog lover to the core, he has been actively involved with his favourite charity, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind
10. David Beckham – The star might be have bid adieu to the field as a player and helping Miami boys raise a strong team, but he continues to stay in news with his style statement. His love for Bulldogs is evident from his furry family comprising of Coco, an English Bulldog, and Scarlet – a French Bulldog.
 
 
11. Francesco Totti – The former AS Roma captain and Italian Midfielder/Striker owns two Labradors – Ariel and Flipper, one of whom is as big a star as Totti himself. Ariel had rescued an 8-year-old girl and a 64-year-old man who were in danger of drowning in Civitavecchia, a seaside resort in the province of Rome. He was gifted as a present to Totti by a sponsor of AS Roma on the occasion of the birth of their first son, Christian.
 
 
12. Roberto Carlos – Who can forget the power packed free kicks defying rules of physics from Brazilian soccer start Roberto Carlos. Currently the head coach of Sivasspor, he received a Kangal dog as a gift during a live broadcast at Channel 58 channel in Sivas, Turkey.
 
 

Phuket Fantasea – A must visit in Phuket

Ticket Counter at the entrance
When you think about Phuket, you have images of beaches, night clubs and flee markets running in your head. Phuket Fantasea is nowhere to close any of those images. Inspired by the rich and exotic heritage of Thailand, this cultural and entertainment theme park spread over 140 acres is bound to mesmerise you. Despite the high capacity, their team does an excellent job of managing the operations in a very systematic manner. It is open from Friday to Wednesday and remains closed on Thursdays, unless it falls on a public holiday.
You can purchase the tickets through your nearest travel agent in Phuket or online on their website. If you book the tickets early on, you will have the privilege of selecting your seat from the theatre capacity of 3,000. However, for the gold seats upgrades you will have to pay an addition THB 300. The ticket price includes the entry to the theme park and depending on your selection, you can either go for only the Buffet Dinner (THB 900), only the show (THB 1800) or both (THB 2200). Unless you are staying within a radius of 2-3 kms and have your own transportation, it is advisable to opt for the pick-up and drop facility offered by them at THB 300-600 (depending on your pick-up point in the city). Also remember that by the time the show gets over and you step out of the theme park, it will be around 22:45 hrs. You might have difficulty to secure transportation for your return journey.
 
The Golden Kinnaree Buffet Restaurant
As a part of the Show + buffet ticket, the dinner is served at the The Golden Kinnaree Buffet Restaurant, Asia’s largest buffet restaurant with a seating capacity of 4,000 people serviced by 200. They also have 6 bars and offer Halal food in a separate Muslim-only zone. Your table will be assigned at time of ticket issuance. The food menu here comprises of Thai and International delicacies. The buffet dinner is open between 1800 hrs and 2100 hrs.
The Golden Kinnaree Buffet Restaurant
Suriyamas Seafood Buffet is available to all guests (ticket holders) of Phuket FantaSea as an optional upgrade. If you have booked for or purchased “Show & Buffet Dinner” OR “Dinner Only” tickets, Suriyamas Seafood Buffet upgrade will cost just THB 950 additional per person, regardless of age.
Palace of Elephants
The main show – Fantasy of a Kingdom is performed at the Palace of Elephants theatre. The gates open 20 mins ahead of the show timing at 2100 hrs. You will be completely mesmerised and impressed by the use of technology for the storytelling. Cameras are strictly prohibited and there is a heavy fine if you are caught filming the show. There is a counter at the entrance where you can deposit your cameras and other belongings and trust me, just like other facilities, this one is safe and systematic too. The show lasts for 70 mins and if you have deposited belongings at the counter, account for another 10-15 mins for securing them back from the counter.
Sand artist at work
It is advisable to block the second half of your day post 4 p.m. if you have opted for a pick up. Only if you arrive at around 1800 hrs, will you be able to spend enough time enjoying various sections of the theme park and finish your dinner at ease ahead of the show. There is enough and more for all age groups to enjoy and appreciate in the theme park. There are couple of zones inside where kids can purchase coupons and play games. There are some shops inside from where you can pick local handicraft too. There are some interesting kiosks where you will see skilled craftsmen working on glass art, sand art and carving designs on soaps etc. 
 
Glass and Soap artists at work
On certain timeslots, there are certain performances on the centre stage. You can pick up the guide with the map from the ticket counter and it will definitely make your journey inside more organised. The agent we booked out ticket from offered us booking at discounted rate. Another thing he mentioned was that Asians can avail an additional discount – don’t ask me why or how. But if you are planning a trip to Phuket, you must visit Phuket Fantasea.
Artists performing at the centre stage

Best way to travel from Phuket to Ao Nang

Rassada Pier
The best way to travel between the two locations is to hop on a a ferry from the two piers in Phuket. This is definitely a cheaper and more enjoyable experience. While hiring a cab would set you back by minimum 3,000 THB / person and will take atleast 3 hours by road, the ferry on the other hand will take 2 hours time and set you back by a mere 700 THB / person.
However, the flipside is that unlike a cab which can be booked for any hour of the day, the Ferry service is functional only in the morning around 8:30 a.m. The ferries ply not just to Ao Nang, but also to other locations such as Krabi Town, Koh Lanta, Phi Phi Island, Langkawi and Railay Beach. There are two piers in Phuket – Rassada Pier and Sea Angel Pier. Both of them are located 10 mins from Phuket Town.
Sea Angel Pier
There is also a pick-up service offered by the operators and the cost would depend on which part of the town are you residing. One thing you must ensure is that you book the tickets in advance to block a seat. The online portals providing booking service offer a higher rate, hence advisable to check with a few agents on-ground to get the best rates.
Nopparat Thara Pier
From the pier in Ao Nang, Nopparat Thara, one can take tuk-tuk to the destination. The other option is that you can ask your hotel to arrange for a pick up. Most of the places are not more than 5-15 mins away from the pier. You can also visit Phuket Ferry for more details on schedule.

Visa on Arrival in Thailand – things you need to know

CNTraveller
If you are planning a trip to Thailand for not more than 15 days, then you have the option of securing a Visa on arrival provided your passport is valid for not less than 6 months from the date of application. A lot of people travelling to other cities in Thailand from Bangkok will be taking a connecting flight from Don Mueang International Airport. If this is the case, then it will be critical to calculate the amount of time you can end up spending in transit, including the time required for processing Visa on arrival. A few things that you can keep into account:
FLIGHT TIME – In case a lot of flights are landing around the same time, chances are that you will find a longer queue at the Visa counter. Hence it is best to check before you embark on your journey on the number of flights landing at the airport within +/- 1 hr window. Around midnight, there are a lot of flights from South East Asian countries.
VISA PROCESSING FORM – Once you get off, would suggest you follow the signage and immediately rush towards the Visa processing counter. Just as you enter the Visa section, there will be a counter you will get a form which you need to fill. It will prompt you for basic details about your passport, hotel you will be staying in and the connecting flight etc. If you are staying at a hotel, keep the confirmed booking status of your reservation handy. You will also need to carry a passport size photo (4 cm x 6 cm) which needs to be attached. Also please carry your full paid return ticket which is usable within 15 days since the date of entry. Make sure you fill your form quickly as within minutes, you will see the queue in front of the Visa counters pile up
EXPRESS VS REGULAR PROCESSING – There is a separate queue for Express Service where in you end up paying 200 THB / person additional to expedite the processing. But unless you are in a major hurry and the queue is extremely long for regular service, there express service will not make too much of a difference. The Visa processing fee for regular service is 1000 THB / person. Also please ensure that you are carrying this amount in cash in local currency. We had got the currency exchanged from Delhi itself to avoid spending additional time on the airport for this. Also we had read in couple of places that they also accept this fee in USD, but this is not the case. The payment needs to be done strictly in THB.
CASH REQUIREMENT – As per the Visa laws, the applicant must possess means of living expenses at the amount of 10,000 THB / person and 20,000 THB / person accordingly. But we dint see anyone being questioned on this element, including us.
Last but not the least, keep into account atleast an hour (post 11:00 p.m.) and two hours (during day time) travel time between the two airports to be on the safe side.

Exploring Rommanee Botique guesthouse in Phuket Town

  
When in Phuket, who wouldn’t want to stay next to the beach? But if you are looking to get a taste of the Sino-colonial vintage setup, then you must look for camping options in Phuket Town. Approx. 34 kms from the Airport, Phuket Town retains much of its Thainess and the charms of a small provincial town.
From the available options, we selected The Rommanee Boutique, a small guesthouse located on Talang Road. The interiors have been done very tastefully and the street actually has the typical colonial architecture with colourful buildings. The owner Ann is extremely warm and helpful. There is an interesting seating arrangement on the ground floor around a small water pond with Koi fishes. There are in total 4 rooms in the guesthouse, all of which are located on the first floor. The stairway is narrow and steep. Ann is extremely hospitable and ensures that even if she is not around, she has passes on the instructions to relevant staff members. There is a personal touch that you would get while staying at the guesthouse, just feels like home.
There is free Wifi available in the guesthouse and all the rooms are non-smoking. The room size is sufficient for a couple and at the max another child upto 7-10 years as there is no space for additional bed. In order to ride to Kata beach, we approached a few motorbike rentals in Phuket Town but everyone was asking for submitting the original passport along with advance payment. While some people were happy to do so, after reading reviews about possible scams on the web, we refrained from doing so.  But Ann was extremely helpful in arranging a motorbike for us within 30 mins without having to deposit the passport. Also Shell Fuel station is less than 400 mtrs around the guesthouse.
                               
There are few eating joints in the vicinity of a km and more. But if you really want a better variety of options, then one should head to the beach. There are also banks available where you can get better exchange rates for your currency. The brief breakfast is available at the reception on the ground floor in the morning and has coffee, bread toast and fruits available. There is Route 68 café just at the end of the road and has karaoke nights on certain days.
In the market nearby, there are travel agents which also help you book tours, transfers to Ao Nang and even tickets for Phuket Fantasia. After trying our hands on a few, we found Woody at Mark Travel & Services extremely reliable. His shop is hardly 10 mins from the hotel on Takua-Pa Road near the intersection point with Ratsada road. You can mail him at woody_marktravel@hotmail.com or call him at 08-1693-6207.

If you are looking for Forex exchange near the area, while there are couple of merchants and banks available near the guesthouse, we found Kurg Thai Bank offering the best rate by a considerable margin. The process was very swift and one did not have to spend too much time.

Ann can also help you in arranging an Airport pick up and it is always advisable to take their service. Most of the shuttle services from Airport don’t ply towards Phuket town and the independent taxi’s will try to squeeze the max out of you knowing the situation.

If you are traveling to Ao Nang via Ferry from Phuket, the departing pier is also very close to the guesthouse – approx. 4 kms and takes 15 mins. The ferry services also have an option of charging little extra and providing you pick up service.