Thursday, 25 September 2014
Looking back all those many months ago when I first set off, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself in for or how much it would truly change my life. As I write this now reflecting on my adventures there is no way in a million years I would have ever imagined the things I would see, the people I would meet, or the places I would go, I had a good idea in my mind after doing my research but nothing could have fully prepare me for it. I think the overall highlight for which I am most grateful was meeting Fai, meeting her truly allowed me to see much more of Thailand than I would have otherwise, I love her very much.
As I write this there is now less than four days before I depart once again to Thailand only this time there is no intention of coming home (but for a holiday) I have a clear plan set in my head now, including an adventure in Vietnam, a return trip to Cambodia, more specifically Koh Rong and then I shall be enrolling in a TEFL course in Chiang Mai giving me the qualifications to successfully find a full time teaching position (hopefully in Ayutthaya but who knows)
I thank all of those who were following my blog, it was tough at times as it was hard to find time to do it, either that or I was generally feeling too lazy but I'm glad I kept it up, although it was simply impossible to document everything, I managed to get a huge amount down which I will thoroughly enjoy reading in later life. I hope that it also might have inspired some of you to take up an adventure of your own. If you're even half thinking about it, I say do it. You will never regret it! I promise!
Tuesday, 29 April 2014
We headed off mid morning and arrived in Pattaya a few hours later, we parked up in the pier carpark and took the boat to Koh Larn. It was only around 40 mins on the boat and was an easy ride but for the little brat who would not leave Fai alone. To start with he seemed like a ordinary cute three year old but indeed he turned out to be a right little so and so. So here we were on Koh Larn, our first objective was to find some accommodation, we hadn't pre booked anything but had looked on the internet at the "Sea Beach Guesthouse" so went to check that place out. They told us they had a room available that evening but were fully booked for Saturday and Sunday, we took it for the Friday night and figured we would have a scout around to find something else. We rented a motobike from the guesthouse where they didn't even ask for a passport (first time I have even seen that) we hadnt even signed a book upon check in so basically they knew nothing about us and just handed us over the keys, it was kinda nice to be so trusted, I mean it would be impossible to steal the bike being on a small island but its possible we could have damaged it (don't worry we didn't). Our search was now on for different accommodation but it proved somewhat difficult. The island is only a few square Km's and there isnt that many places to stay, the first three or four places we looked at were full and it was starting to get dark so we figured we would try again in the morning after checking out of Sea Beach.
In the evening whilst looking for somewhere to eat we realized the island was very quiet, there was a pretty good night market selling all forms of seafood but the restaurants themselves where all basically empty. I'm not a huge fan of seafood and fancied something other than that, Fai though fancied some squid so we got some cooked up and took it to a bar where I was able to get some pat ga pow delivered by one of the locals. We had a cool night at the bar even though there was almost no one there; I got up and sung a song and taught a few of the locals some English. The following morning we still couldn't find any accommodation so decided we would take the boat back to Pattaya at 5PM giving us the whole day on the island still to go to the beach and go snorkeling. We left our bags with the place we stayed the night before and all was fine, we still had the motobike so off we went on a tour around the island in search of a nice beach to go snorkeling and that we did, I got to see some exotic fish and a mine field of sea urchins.
That evening we took the boat back to the mainland and found a hotel where we booked two nights. The last time I was in Pattaya I didn't have a particularly good time due to the traffic "fines" I had to pay to the police but I had forgotten about all that really and it was superb this time round. We hit the "walking street" and I even took Fai to a ping pong show, I myself had not actually seen one and as a backpacker in Thailand I'm pretty sure it has to be done, Fai was also a little curious about it too so in we went. I wont really describe it but it was very very strange, but also pretty funny to watch at the same time, Fai was in utter shock from the very begining and to be honest I kinda was too. Do we regret going in, not really but we know that we certainly dont need to see that ever again. Along with ping pong Fai and I also hit some of the go go bars of which she has never been, Fai is a very conservative devout Buddhist and to see naked Thai girls walking around dancing and acting highly provocatively was somewhat of a shock for her but after that wore off we had a really good time in there. On the walking street there is also "Ice Bar" here it is possible to go from an outside temperature in the high 30's to negative 15 degrees in a matter of seconds to indulge in some shots, they offer you a coat to wear before you go in but of course I declined went in and even took my t-shirt off, as you do. It was freeeezing!
Upon surfacing the next day and after a Subway we headed off to the "Pattaya Underwater World" we had always talked of going to the one in Bangkok but never actually got round to it, it was quite ironic that the first ever outing we talked about doing turned out to be our last (until I return again to Thailand) we manged to catch the feeding times and saw all sorts of monstrous magnificent aquatic life, what a day it was! The evening saw us hit the walking street again for round two of alcoholic antics and before we knew it, it was the next day, check out time and time to head back to Ayutthaya. I now only had one full day left in Thailand before heading home to England.
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
After a bit more resting the pain had gone down considerably and it was now time for me, Fai, her sister Fah and her close family friends Beer and Nook to head south to Pranburi, a place I had never heard of before. It was around a 5 hour drive and we arrived to "Pranburi Delight" which certainly lived up to its name, it was a beautiful resort just across the road from the beach and it had a pool too. In the evening we headed to the night market in Hua Hin about a half hour/hour drive away from our resort where they had some amazingly handcrafted items, I'd not seen a market like it before in Thailand. On our way back we grabbed a bottle of Hong Thong from the 7-11 and headed back to drink it, even though Fah, Beer and Nook spoke little English I was still able to teach them some easy drinking games and it was a funny funny night.
After surfacing out of bed the next morning we headed to "Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park" to visit the "Phraya Nakhon Cave", now after visiting Laos with Fai I know she hates caves but this one we read was not a deep dark cave and it was also very famous as it was visited by three of the kings of Thailand including the current Rama IX (who also has a house in Pranburi). It was a great day albeit exhausting and extremely hot, we had a significant walk and climb up before we reached the opening and when we did it was magnificent, it had a lot of green life and plants inside due to a big opening where it had collapsed in and in the middle there was a hand built pavilion put there by order of Rama V. After our decent back down the rocky pathway we got our breath back and cooled down with an ice lolly before heading back to resort, though not before we bought some freshly caught crabs from a restaurant in the car park. On the way back we stopped in at Tesco Lotus to buy some other ingredients for a BBQ, the resort had a BBQ area we could use and we were the only people in the whole resort now which was kinda cool. To my surprise (well kind of) there was no beef products (steak/burgers etc) in the whole supermarket, the Thai people rarely eat beef but I did fancy me a nice steak, instead we got a selection of other tasty meats and headed back to the guesthouse to fire it up. What a night it was, we all again got very drunk and finished our night by splashing about in the pool.
The following morning it was time for the others to go as they only planned two nights where Fai and I planned to stay longer. There was a small problem which we didn't fully think through and that was that Beer was the one driving and he would be of course taking his car leaving us with no transport basically in the middle of nowhere. We said our goodbyes and off they went leaving just us two having the whole resort to ourselves it was very peaceful although kinda weird also. We didnt really have any plans for our remianing time here so we hired a motobike from the resort and headed off on a drive back to Hua Hin which was extremely sketchy, I think being in the pool the night before didn't help my ear and it was hurting again and made me a little dizzy which didnt help me maneuver and interpret the motorway but we made it there alive and went for some cake at a quaint little establishment before heading back to the resort again. It was a fairly early night for us as my head really wasn't feeling too good from the infection.
The following day we debated how long we would stay and whether or not we should hire a car due to the vast distances we needed to travel to see the various sights,we worked out though that hiring a car would be too expensive and the cost of the resort was fairly high too so we decided we would spend one last night and then head back to Ayutthaya, perhaps planning another little getaway somewhere else before I had to leave to go back to England. We spent our last day lazing around on the beach playing with the dogs who lived at the resort, the domestic husky called Vodka and the stray I dubbed "Sparky" it was funny watching them dig for crabs, I never thought they would actually get one but low and behold Sparky did but neither of them then quite knew what to do with it which was hilarious. In the evening the resort let us borrow the motobike this time for no charge so we could go and get some dinner then we headed back to get ready for checkout the next morning. We organised a mini bus that picked up us up directly from the resort taking us to Bangkok then we took another minibus to Ayutthaya.
Thursday, 17 April 2014
On the second day of the three day celebrations an old face from the past popped up on Facebook saying he was in Bangkok, I had worked with Ben 10 years ago at a DIY shop "Hayling Hardware" and hadn't seen him since, he asked what I was up to and I told him to come up to Ayutthaya to celebrate Songkran, when he arrived we hit the streets much like I did the previous day and we carried on the madness. We spent a good hour or two in one spot dancing in the street operating a couple of high pressure hoses spraying the cars and the people that went past, this was all in between us splashing around in a paddling pool with some of the local kids; two of them were child monks which was kinda cool. We then moved on to find street parties and different stages set up everywhere, we even jumped up onto random peoples pick up trucks to play Songkran with them. In the evening we headed to a different area to find a huge foam party where even a fire engine was getting involved in the water fights, we stayed here for a while and headed back to my stage where I did my thing for a little while and then we headed off again just drunkenly walking around stopping at the various parties, one of which we got dropped into a large drum of water and just carried on dancing, it truly was crazy and tremendously enjoyable. On the third and final day we both woke up extremely hungover but finally got up to go out and do it all again.
My first Songkran in Thailand was incredible, it was some of the three best consecutive days in my life where I was able to act like a 10 year old not worry about a single thing. One of the best things about it was that the crowd in their thousands was almost entirely populated by local people, I think we saw at most a dozen other farang the whole time so we were celebrating it true Thai style. The reason there were no tourists in Ayutthaya is because they would have all have been in Chiang Mai as this is promoted as the best place to celebrate, It would have been nice to see how it's done in Chiang Mai, but my thing is to celebrate with the locals so I know exactly where ill be celebrating it again next year!
Friday, 11 April 2014
Our second day we headed back to the bike rental place and decided this time on a manual, I only have very vague recollections of driving a manual before so gave it a quick test drive and realized there was nothing to it so off we went on our way to the blue lagoon back along the long rocky road. Once we reached it (after ignoring the fake turn off signs which luckily I'd read about) we discovered the alluring lagoon. It was populated with a small crowd of backpackers and was a very peaceful spot, we spent some good time here before visiting the cave which is also in the same spot. To get to the cave you must first climb some very steep rocky stairs about 100M before you can get into it, now Fai had not told me she did not like the dark until we actually got into the cave so needless to say she did not enjoy it as much as I did. In the cave were many bats, huge stalagmites and stalactites and even a reclining Buddha image. Once we had descended further down we turned off our lights to submerse in complete and utter darkness, to me it was tranquil, to Fai it was terrifying. We spent maybe an hour exploring before making our way back to the lagoon for a few last jumps. That evening there seemed to be a lot more backpackers around so we headed again to one of the bars for more beers and baloons.
The following day we still had the bike and weren't sure if we would go tubing or go for an unknown adventure exploring outside Vang Vieng. I was somewhat hungover and the thought of tubing didn't appeal so much so we headed off for a small village (~30KM away) as recommended by the our resort owner. Armed with my basic offline GPS map off we went, we drove through some small little towns where everybody was extremely curious as to who we were, we stopped at one place to get a drink and to have a little rest and the whole time was stared at in wonder by dozens of little eyes, we waved to them as we left and carried on our journey. We passed many schools which of course meant we passed many more kids walking or riding their bikes and they were all incredibly friendly and happy, they all shouted out to us "sabai dee" (hello) and some of them even tried running after our bike, it was funny to see how almost all of them carried an umbrella to protect them from the sun. A good hour or so into our ride we realized we had in fact passed our original destination by miles so headed back in search of the original place we intended. When we reached what we thought was the right place we made a turn off and ended up on a very remote path in the middle of nowhere, just a few local villagers, lots of cows and striking views. Our unknown excursion was a success
Monday, 24 March 2014
My time in Cambodia has now sadly come to an end, my visa is about to expire and I must leave and go back to Thailand, I am looking forward to seeing Fai and my other Thai friends but would have liked to have spent longer in Cambodia. Although my first experience was hellish the country really grew on me, I learnt a lot about the history and hardships the people had, and still have to face, and pray that times get better for these people. Cambodia is a country where 50% of its population are under 18 and it is great to see that their level of English is to a very high standard (much more so than Thailand), the children here are the future of the country and by them learning English it will ensure that they can secure themselves jobs in later life. There is certainly hope for Cambodia but its not going to be easy.
Tuesday, 18 March 2014
My next stop is back to Siem Reap to meet my German friend Philip who I met in Thailand in January (i think), he has just come from Vietnam and we shall go explore the wonders of Angkor together. I am sad to leave as I got very attached to the way of life and the people here but I must move on. Dont worry though Koh Rong, I will be back!
Monday, 10 March 2014
Thursday, 6 March 2014
After the ordeal I had on my first night out I am pleased to say that I have seen much more of Cambodia now and it is a wonderful country with some wonderfull people. I spent only three nights in Siem Reap in the end as my two German friends planned to head to Phnom Pehn I decided to head there with them, I didnt see Angkor Wat yet so will go back to Siem Reap to see it before I leave.
To get to Phnom Pehn we took a seven hour bus ride which was all fairly painless and arrived to the "Sunday Guesthouse" we had pre booked. We were on the top floor which had a cool little lounge area right outside our room and as most people didnt bother climbing the stairs it was basically our own private area for the four nights we stayed. The first day Lenny and I jumped in a tuk tuk to head for the Central Market, unfortunately Jacob had to stay back nursing a dodgy tummy presumably from some off food but we couldn't work out what. We got to the market and it was pretty smart, I managed to pick up a sweet pair of shorts and a new t-shirt for a good price. We had a wonder round for a while looking out for a new ring (something I've wanted for for a while) but still I didn't find a suitable one the right size. When we were finshed with the market we made our way to The Grand Place, another famous site in the city. It was beautiful, it had a lush green garden and a lot of interesting artifacts to see as well of course as the main temple, sadly we wernt aloud into this one but could still get a good look in. We spent a good hour and a half wondering round before heading back to the guesthouse. On the way back Lenny narrowly avoided losing his phone by someone on a motobike who tried to snatch it out of his hand, it was lucky he was holding it tight.
The following day our destination was the S21-Prison (Genocide Museum) Jacob was still feeling ill so it was just me and Lenny again. We walked there as it wasn't too far and grabbed some lunch from a restaurant outside before going in. Whilst at the restaurant we had the usual kid come in selling bracelets, as a general rule you really should not buy anything from kids on the street as it keeps them out of school but it was the weekend and when he came to our table we started chatting to him. We first asked him if he went to school for which his reply was yes, his English was incredible so we got talking to him more about his school and his family and it was really interesting, he told us on the weekend he sells bracelets and other random bits to pay for school, clothing, books etc so we decided to buy something, I took a bracelet, and Lenny a scarf. The boy (whose name is best pronounced Heya) offered us a chance for some money off for playing rock, paper, scissors which Lenny and I both won, we felt kinda bad so bought him a drink and chatted a whole lot more with him, we asked him what else there is to do around Phenom Pehn and he told us about the Russian Market, we had loads of time before the S21-Museum closed so we decided to check this market out, maybe we would find a ring here. Heya said he would come with us and organised a tuk tuk (one of his friends who would turn out to be our driver for two days) we had a mooch around the market for a while and I came out with the perfect ring, Lenny who also had been looking for one got his too. It was then time to head back to S21 and words cannot describe how horrific this place was, it used to be a school but was turned into a prison under the order of Pol Pot and the Kymer Rouge. I couldn't even begin to imagine what used to happen in this place, around 20,000 people were killed there and only seven people survived, on the way out we saw one of the seven survivors selling books on his story but I was lost for words on what to say to him, I was only able to give a respectful wai and we left feeling very sad.
The following day Jacob was feeling better and we all (Heya included) headed to the "killing fields" one of many sites where mass execution was carried in the most hinious ways. One particular method was to smash small children and babies against a tree. I felt physically ill. We had an audio tour and the stories and the horror told was barbaric, you could still see some bones emerging from the grave sites it was unimaginable to even try and understand. After an emotional visit to the killing fields we were taken to the shooting range where I would have my one and only opportunity to fire some big guns, it was pretty pricey but we got it down a bit, we ended up taking 10 bullets each on three guns, the guns we fired where AK-47, M16 & K57 and they were seriously powerful, I have never fired anything bigger than a small rifle so it was really exiting, I'm not sure I'll do it again but it was a great once in a lifetime opportunity, my favourite gun I think was the AK. Having satisfied our trigger happy fingertips we headed back again to the Russian Market to buy Heya a gift for his great company, we got to speak to him a lot and wanted to say thank you. We asked him what he needed and he tried very hard to convince us that a new phone would help his schooling but we had something more practical in mind, he then told us he wanted some new shoes to show off when he went back to visit his home province, we thought was a much better option. He decided on taking a pair that were too big but he told us they were the ones he wanted, we figured it was ok as they would last him longer as he grows into them so we bought them and he was happy. It was then time to drop him off while we had a quick drive around the independence monument amd took a nice pizza on the riverside.
I must say I was quite impressed with Phnom Pehn, sure its heavily polluted, the traffic is chaotic and we encountered another thief but I really enjoyed my time there. Our next stop is Sihanoukville on the beach.
Thursday, 27 February 2014
The day had arrived that I would be starting a new series of adventures in a new country, Cambodia. Fai came to pick me up from the guesthouse to take me to the Poipet border, a place that I very much despise. It was here we had to say our goodbyes and I told her I would see her in a months time, I was now on my own about to embark on the unknown yet again. No sooner had I said my goodbyes that I was approached by someone saying "hello sir you going Cambodia today sir" I just gave a big smile and ignored him wondering how many more times I would be asked similar questions by these con men, to my huge suprise though this was the only one. As you know I have been to this border once before and had a nightmare sorting everything as well as getting ripped off but as I knew now exactly where to go it was a very smooth process. I went to the offcial place to buy my visa and paid the correct fee of $20. The official then pointed to a bit of paper that said $20 + 100 baht, I smiled and politely lauged with him that I wasnt going to pay the addtional money (that was only going to go in his pocket) and it worked. He looked a bit grumpy and I thought this might mean I'd have to wait longer but within 10 minutes I got my passport back, visa in place. I now just had to que for an hour at the gate to cross and there I was officially in Cambodia. From the Poipet border I took the free shuttle bus to the bus staion and shared a taxi with some Russians I'd met in the que, it was $12 each for the three hour journey and jesus was it sketchy. I cant even count how many times he used the horn but it was several dozen times at least. After surving the taxi to Siem Reap I had to then take a tuk tuk to my pre booked guesthouse "Tropical Breeze" which had a huge very clean room, more like a hotel.
My first impression of Cambodia is that it is very diffrent to Thailand. It is very dirty and dusty, the traffic is chaotic, the streets are poorly lit and there are a lot of street kids here begging. What would you expect though from a country which has suffered such a horrible history including genocide only three decades ago, I am not complaining by any means but it is a lot take in. Not only do I have to adapt to this but I now have to get to grips with a new currency, to make things trickier they use both thier own Riel but more commonly the USD and as there are no cents in circulation if you need change from a dollar its given in Riel, it requires a good mental arithmetic to make sure you're not being fobbed off. My brain has been wired to Baht over the past few months so I have to do many calulations to work out what the price of something is in Baht then I know if its a good deal or not.
The first evening in Siem Reap I just stayed at the guesthouse, I arrived after dark and I wasnt up for taking to the streets on my own just yet. By staying at the guesthouse I ended up meeting a French guy and two German guys which was a bit of a weight of my shoulders, the following morning they headed out on the trips they had booked while I took myself for a walk to explore. The location of where im staying is just 5-10 minutes from the old market and pub street so it was easy to find, whilst walking through the market I couldn't belive it when I bumped into a Japanese group I had met one night in Streetlamp (Ayutthaya), we went for some beers and they came back to my guesthouse to play pool. Come five or six pm the french guy and the german guys were back and the Japanese guys had to leave to watch the sunset at Angkor Wat. They started on the Angkor beer with me and before we knew it we were all drunk and ready to head to pub street which as the name suggests is full of bars. We stopped off at a restaurant first for something to eat and I noticed frog and crocodile on the menu, of course I decided on the frog BBQ for my tea. If you want to know what it tastes like (without trying to sound cliché) it did taste like chicken, seriously, it was kind of a mix between chicken and steak as it had quite a chewy texture, it was delicious. When we got to pub street it was very busy and very well lit up, we ended up choosing a cool bar with swinging seats where we got truly hammered and I got up to sing with the three girls who were there singing to backing tracks, it went down well and one of the customers put a request in for me to sing Robbies "Angels" so of course not to be rude I did, it was great fun. The bar was closing and my friends wanted to head back but I was keen to stay on and find another place that was still open, afterwards though I thought it probably wasnt a good idea but they'd already gone so I got in a tuk tuk and asked him to take me to my guesthouse, at this point though I had very little money on me just a few thousand Riel (about a dollar) and he said it was enough, problem was though he didnt take me to the guesthouse...
Now the following story is about how I narrowly avoided being robbed on my first night out in Cambodia. Instead of the driver taking me back we ended up at one of his friends house's for which I was now very worried. I asked him what he was doing and he told me to come inside quickly, he just needed to get something and then he would drive me back, I knew the driver knew I had no money so I thought it was quite possible he did just need to see someone quickly. It was strange though when he told me to come with him, I declined but he insisted so we ended up on the porch of a house where his friend was very drunk. We talked for about 10 minutes and all seemed ok until his friend asked for some money, I told him I didnt have any and then he started to get angry, I asked my driver to please take me home and I walked back over to the tuk tuk, the driver followed but his friend wasnt happy for me to leave, he demanded some money and whilst following us he threw a glass bottle in my direction, all of a sudden I knew I was in real danger. I had no idea where I was, the road to his house had no streetlights and if I was to run I would have to deal with the dog who was guarding the gate to his house so running was not an option. It was then I came up with my life saving story, I reminded the driver I only had little money on me and if he drives off quickly now I would pick him as my guide for Ankgor Wat and would offer him $40 for it, this of course was highly appealing to him so it was now in his interest to keep me safe to get my business later. Now of course I had no intention of doing this but he didnt know that, we passed the gate with the dog and got on the main road, problem was though his friend who also owned a tuk tuk got into his to try and chase, luckily as he was so drunk he was not able to catch us. When I recognised where I was I gave the driver a fictitious guesthouse name and just told him to drop me a few places down so he did not know where I stayed. I gave him what money I had and made it back to my guesthouse alive, you can not even imagine the relief running through my body. What did suck though was that when I got to my room I realised I had lost my key and reception was closed so I found some cushions on the balcony and made up a bed in the corridor. It was a good laugh for the other guests who discovered me in the morning but I felt like death when I woke.
So there you have it, on just one night out I realised that Cambodia is a very poor country and contains some desperate people. The lesson of the story is to ensure I do not go out on my own again, I'm sure not everyone is out to rob you but there obviously are people here that will.
Tuesday, 18 February 2014
After seeing the bridge we headed for the resort to check in, shortly after we headed for Soiyak Noi waterfall which was beautiful, there were a lot of farang there splashing around but it was still a great little spot. We then headed to the the Soiyak National Park where we blagged local pricing to enter (Thailand is notorious for having one price for Thai and a much higher price for farang) The park was beautiful and we were basically the only ones in the whole place. Day two we decided to head to the Safari Park we had seen signposted, now I'd been to a Safari Park before but when I was much younger and don't really remember it much but this was awesome. We saw many an animal from gazelles to bears, lions, tigers and zebras but my favourite had to be the giraffes which came over to the bus sticking their long necks in to munch on the food we had for them; it was was quality. After the safari ride we went to see the elephant and crocodile show that was included. For the elephant show I was the only farang there so by default I was not able to refuse when I was summoned up to have a full size elephant stamp on my nuts. Seriously, I had to lie underneath while the monster of a thing gave numerous stamps over my private region, it was obviously trained to do it softly but even so its pretty dam scary. The crocodile show was pretty dam scary too, we watched as two guys narrowly avoided potentially fatal chomps by the powerful creatures, sticking their arms and heads between the massive jaws. In the evening we rented a kayak from the resort and headed out onto the river, it was Fai's first time in such a thing and when I wasn't purposely rocking it she enjoyed it, and of course so did I.
Monday, 10 February 2014
Off to immigration I went not really knowing what the process was, all I knew was that a 30 day extension was 1900 Baht. It's only a short distance from Soi Farang (the street with all the guesthouses and farang bars including my very favourite Streetlamp) and Dave and I found it eventually. When I got there she told me I need a form completed by my guesthouse owner so she gave me the papers and I headed back to have it filled out. When I returned to the immigration office she then told me she needs a copy of his ID. Erghh! So back to the guesthouse I went to obtain it, thankfully on my return this time the guesthouse owner let me borrow his bike to get there. Once I had the correct paper work it was simple, I grabbed a ticket number for the que and within 10 minutes I was being seen to, I then just had to sit there while they entered some data into the computer, I moved around to four different people for different levels of processing and didn't need to say anything much at all, 30 minutes later it was done and I walked out with my extension. Sorted!
That evening we planned to have a quiet one so not to be too hanging for my birthday but of course that didn't happen. We stayed out till well past 12 therefore it was my birthday before i went to bed and I got a few free drinks at the various bars on the road, it was a good night. I hadn't really planned much for my birthday only that I would probably get very intoxicated and that I wanted to get hold of some fireworks. Both ended up happening and I even got hold of some skylaterns too. We started at Coffee Bar, one of my favourite all Thai places, it was here that Fai presented me with a wonderful birthday card, an amazing homemade cake and a new speaker to replace the one that had fallen from the hotel balcony in Surin. She really is a top girl; she is jai dee mak! After Coffee Bar we headed back to Soi Farang where we drunk copious amounts more whiskey setting of the fireworks in the street then the very special birthday sky lantern. It was coming up to around 1 or 2AM which meant it was time to head to mam-mam, the only place in Ayutthaya open until 6 in the morning. I love this place, it is so welcoming, I managed to get up on stage with the DJ and sung one of Thailands favourite western songs 'Zombie' coupled with some improv freestyle in Thai telling the people that I loved them and their country; of course it went down well. I couldn't tell you what time I got in but man it was one hell of a night.
The following day we had to wake up as Dave had to get to Suwanapoom airport to catch his flight to Sydney, Australia; a country where he would be starting his new life. Fai being the best person ever offered to drive and I was in the car hanging to say the least and in fact I was probably still a little drunk, all I knew is that I would not want to be him right then, I know how daunting it is to start life in a new country but I knew he'd be ok. We arrived and we said goodbye, I wished him chok dee and off he went. Fai and I then headed back to Ayutthaya where I plan to stay for around a week to get all my paper work in order for my US Visa. There is nothing really on the agenda as I've seen pretty much all of the city now but Fai has mentioned going to Kanchanaburi which was on my list so we will be heading there for Valentines weekend. I cant wait, I heard it is a beautiful place.
Friday, 7 February 2014
Having not pre booked any accommodation on Samui this was our first port of call. We had to take a mini van to the opposite end of the island as thats where everything is, the guy dropped us off in Lamai, a quiter place to that of the more popular Cha-Weng. It was a steaming hot day and we had all our stuff with so instead of walking around we grabbed some motobikes and found accommodation that way. It didnt take us long to find a cool little guesthouse "Kaoeng Bungalows"with an amazing view of the sea, It was a very reasonable price at just 350 Baht a night, I figured we would pay a lot more on the islands but this was perfect, especially considering the view.
Our days on Samui were spent riding around on our bikes exploring, along with laying on the beach and of course sinking a few beers and whiskeys. On one of the days we headed for a waterfall, now obviously I was not ready to climb but I saw they offered an off road 4x4 lift (part of the way anyway), Dave said he would walk and I should get in this and meet him at the top. The ride was fun, I thought it was just a lift for lazy and elderly people but it was actually more like a roller coaster where we had to hold on for dear life while he flew this mini monster truck around. At the destination Dave was nowhere in sight and if I was to see the actual waterfall I did indeed need to climb some rocky stairs. I kinda wished I hadn't as it didn't help my foot, but the waterfall was cool and I found a quiet spot where I could have a dip as it was sweltering. A little while later I still could not find Dave and had no phone on me so I headed back the guesthouse where I bumped into him on his bike on the street.
Now I must say that the nightlife on Samui disappointed me somewhat, I had a preconceived idea about what it would be like but basically it was dead pretty much everywhere (this may well have been down to everyone being on Koh Phangan for the Black Moon Party I'm not sure). It was a good thing in a way that there wasn't much going on because the whole point was to rest my foot. On one of the evenings while searching for a party we randomly came across a Thai bar called 'Camp Beer' I think. Pretty much everyone on Samui are farang holiday makers so it was a surprise to find this, I was really pleased, it was a great night. After relaxing on Samui my foot was feeling better and it was time for us to head off on the three hour boat ride to the infamous island that is Koh Phangan, home of the Full Moon Party!
We had checked the dates prior and realized we would miss both the full moon and half moon but none the less we heard this places goes off whatever the lunar cycle may be. As we were waiting at the pier for the people who had just come from Pangan to get off we got a glimpse of what we were in for, the amount of people coming off with cuts and bandages was ridiculous, after they had all hobbled off we got on and set sail the three hour journey. We had not pre booked here either but started talking to a guy at thier pier who was trying to get us to go to his 'Coral Bungalows' it was just 5-10 minutes walking distance from the one and only Haad Rin beach and had a pool so we thought it was definitely worth a look, it was also offered at a discounted price (500 baht for aircon room instead of 1500) because of the moon so we went for it. It turned out to be a super cool place with super nice staff, it was the perfect pick. What did make me laugh when we got there was the amount of signs specifying the amount of money you would have to pay if you broke/lost anything in the room/resort. They had literally covered everything, it was obvious that this place gets pretty looney on the full moon.
After checking in we rented bikes to go exploring, now oh my god did we have to check these bikes over throughly before we took them. We had to sign off absolutely everything and if anything was broken afterwards the fines were extortionate. I have never encountered this in Thailand before, you here the stories of people getting scammed when renting bikes but in reality thats not the case they normally just chuck you the key and off you go, but no this was very very different so we had to be thorough. I'm sure we wern't going to be scammed but should we actually have broken or scratched it it was going to be expensive. With the bikes being fully checked off we went on exploring and oh my days these were the sketchiest roads I have ever been on, it was up and down and up and down, with very steep hills that on a few Dave had to push himself up on full throttle. After checking out some awesome views we came across a man and his monkey getting coconuts from the palm trees. He had this thing tamed pretty well, it was on a long leash and was high up in the tree, the man warned us to watch our heads and he shouted some commands for the monkey to twist the coconut and drop it down to the ground. We spoke to the guy after and he told us the monkey doesn't eat much food but runs off whiskey and red bull (sounds a bit like me)
After a few hours our exploring was done now all that was on the agenda for the rest of our time was partying, after all we were on Koh Phangan. We met some wicked people here including two guys from England, Emily and Matt who we spent all of our time with. The first night was a pool party at our resort which I have a vague recollection of it being crazy as hell. The second day we woke up around noon and got straight on the buckets playing cards all day until it was time to head to the clubs on Haad Rin beach. This night was even crazier than the last, it was full of fire dancers, nos baloons and many more buckets. I'm not sure what time I got in but in the morning Dave woke up with a tattoo, yes a tattoo, he'd decided at 5AM it was a good idea to get the Hong Thong (Golden Phoenix) logo on his leg, I was actually gonna get this a while back but have decided against now even though it does look pretty cool. It was super funny in the morning when we found out.
The third day we decided to give the booze a break (at least for the afternoon anyway) and our plan was to head to mushroom mountain to get a round of milkshakes, after chilling for a while we went on a mission to find some baloons, the bar told us they had them but to come back around 8PM so we ended up on a diffrent mission involving the maddest bridge you have ever come across. I mean this thing was seriously dangerous so we trod very lightly all the while I was laughing so hard I actually got stomach cramps and was sick; I dont know why it was so funny but it was. When we got around the corner along the rocks we realized it was the way to some quaint little bungalows that looked pretty smart, you got a really good view of the beach and the island from there. We sat for a while and contemplated the journey back as we needed to get back before it got dark as that would not have been fun at all. By the time we got back we decided it was time to start on the buckets and it went on from there, in the evening there was a foam party on the beach where we partied all night long, there were again fire dancers, people jumping over a giant flaming skipping rope and human fireworks in the sea. It was a guy stood on a table in the sea with fireworks attached to him almost like a human catherine wheel. How he didn't get burnt to bits i don't know, then again he probably did, he must have.
The following morning we had to pack up leave, it was time to head back up to Bangkok and then to Ayutthaya, we didn't fly but took the boat (of course) and then another sleeper train to Bangkok where we got a different train up to Ayutthaya. Its my birthday in two days and Dave leaves in two so we are spending his last few days here.
Koh Samui and Koh Phangan are spectacular, there are many more islands to explore but for now thats all time allowed for. I'm not sure I need to return to Samui but will certainly be going back to Koh Phangan for a full moon party. That was place will be going off!!
Friday, 31 January 2014
When we got to check in they told us we would have to pay 900 Baht each if we wanted to check in luggage. What!? We had checked the small print (well we thought we had) allowing 15KG free but realized we went with a different airline in the end which didn't offer free luggage. After some smooth talking to the lady she told us she would allow us to take all of our stuff on as hand luggage so that we did. It was at that point Dave and I realized how many banned items we were carrying (scissors, liquids more than 100ml, aerosols etc) but we thought we'd 'test' their security and just chance it. Sure enough though we were pulled and they went through all of our stuff, I blagged quite a few bits as I politely argued that the stuff was probably under 100ml but in reality almost certainly wasn't. The main thing I needed to keep though was my medicinal shampoo for my psoriasis as I'm not sure how easy it is to find in Thailand, it was way over 100ml but after a bit of pleading he checked no one was looking and put it back in my bag for me. What a guy! Dave unfortunately though lost his special Thai rice whiskey which we hadn't even had chance to taste.
We had a few hours to wait now before our flight so had a little nap in the departure lounge. It was then time to board, up in the air we then went and one hour later we arrived to Surat Thani. From the airport it was all smooth sailing, we bought a joint bus and boat ticket from the airport to get us to Koh Samui. The bus was ready and waiting and took just over an hour to get to the pier. It was then 1.5 hours on the water until we arrived on Koh Samui. Sweet!
All in all this is the furthest distance travelled in one sitting it took exactly 24 hours on the nose from the train leaving Chiang Mai to us arriving in Samui. I was dreading it before we left but it fact it was all rather quite fun.
Thursday, 30 January 2014
Friday, 24 January 2014
As I open this post im sat on a bus going from Sukothai to Chiang Mai. Since he arrived in Thailand Dave and I have been to Pattaya, Lop Buri and of course Sukhothai. Pattaya was again a crazy time, although I had my first proper run in with the police which was a load of bullshit, I know all about the police here and how corrupt they are and I've been lucky to avoid it up until here. We were riding our motobikes along Jomtein Beach and came accross a make shift pull over spot directly aimed at tourists, they asked us to produce our international driving license which I do own but didnt have on me, Dave didnt have one so basically we were told that if we didnt pay a 500 baht fine *cough* bribe we would have to go to the police station so we just paid up to avoid hassle. Afterwards we figured it wasnt so bad, it wasn't extortionate money but it didnt end there. In the evening we were still riding around and were on our way back to the hotel where we made a wrong turn, we did a quick U-Turn, something that is perfectly standard and perfectly legal as far as I know but just as we were to enter the main road again a policeman on the corner whistled us to stop. I was not up for paying any more money so I just ignored him and drove past but Dave unfortunately got grabbed on the arm and was a 1000 baht lighter before he was on his way. Pattaya really pissed me off this time by its police conduct, im not sure I'll be returning anytime soon.
Following Pattaya we headed to Lop Buri, the infamous monkey city where I had also been once before. We had decided to stop over the night here to break up our journey up north. When we arrived we found a cool looking guesthouse but unfortunately the last room had just been snapped up by the people before us so the helpful young guy at reception gave us a map and directions to another one just down the road. later on we went back to that guesthouse to drink at their bar then headed to a Thai bar filled with lots of friendly locals. On the way home though I managed to trip over the ridiculously uneven pavement and sprained my ankle pretty badly. In the morning the pain was agonising so I went to the drug store to get some cream and pain killers to fix it, the lady couldnt speak English and I ended up walking out of there with bloody Trammodol, 10 pills counted loose from a huge pot put into a small baggie, these were given to me with no instructions so its lucky i knew what they were, these are pretty strong painkillers. Then we went to see the monkeys one of which pee'ed on me from a powerline then we headed further north to Sukhothai taking the train to Pitsanulok to change the last distance by bus.
Upon arrival to Sukhothai we jumped in a tuk tuk and headed straight for the 4T Guesthouse, a place I thoroughly enjoyed staying before. I have considerably more hair on my head now but after showing the staff some pictures they remembered me which was nice. We spent three nights here and during that time we relaxed by the pool, explored the old city on motobikes with another girl we met from Belgium, and on the final day I was able to meet up with one of my students from the English Camp we had in Chantaburi. He and his friend run a small market stall selling t-shirts so I swung by to have a chat and buy one.
So I am still on the bus, its the same bus I took before (which was arduous to say the least) and again im sat on a shelf at the back this time though theres two mattresses instead of one but the bus keeps stopping and adding more people. This time though the air con is not flooding the place so it's not so bad. I kinda need a pee though I hope we stop soon we got a few hours to go yet.