Monday, August 29, 2005

Monkey Magic.

We've made it Lopburi, a day later than planned. We got up too late yesterday, after check-out. You had to pay a full days rent, so we decided to stay in Ayuatta another day.

Anyway, we are here now. Staying in the Indra Guest House (160 bhat a night), just across from were all the monkeys hang-out. In fact they seem to hang-out around our building quite a lot. Looking in at us through the bedroom window. We are the ones caged in, while they crawl all over the outside of the building. All good fun.

We spent the afternoon looking around Lopburi, checking out some of the ancient sites, but mainly hanging with the little hairy dudes. They are so tame, and totally unphased by humans. One even ducked under Sam's legs while she was sat on the wall. We got lots of photo's of them, climbing, eating, fighting, etc! For me, this has been such fun being so close to wild animals. There are supposed to be about 300 or so of them living in the city. All 300 it seems, within a few feet of our room.

The balcony of our room is caged in to stop them getting in, but we getting a great view of all their activities, as well as a cracking view across to the shrine sat in the middle of a huge round-about.

Tomorrow... Up early, and then a long haul up to Pi-Lok. We think it is about 6 maybe 8 hours on the train. Oh, well. Lots of reading and playing cards ahead of us then.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Saturday not Thursday or Tuesday?!

We've finally worked out what day it is today! I thought it was Thursday, Sam thought it was Tuesday!!

We didn't do the boat trip thing. I spotted somewhere that did 'real' coffee, so we plonked ourselves down there, and sat quite happily before we did the night market thing.

Today we headed to do some more temples. It was slightly overcast, so good weather to be out and about. Today we saw the three big chedi that they have here, and the biggest bronze Buddha in Thailand, which was restored back in 1957. To see the state it was in, and to see it now is quite amazing.

We've just come back from the night market, had something to eat. Rice and noodles and starting to wear thin. But Sam says it will get worse in Laos, as their food is bland. Oh well!

Anyway, off the Lopburi tomorrow. The 'monkey' town. Takes about an hour or so by train from here.

That's about it really, off across the Tony's Place for a drink. And then an early night! Honest!!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Two Days In Temple Town.

We've left the last guest house. It was too quite and too hot. An old teak house. Nice place, but not our sort of thing.

We have eventually found the guest house Sam was looking for all along. It had been knocked down and rebuilt, so little wonder she didn't recognise it. PU Guest House (250 bhat a night). A bit nearer everything, and the room is a lot cooler, plus here we get our own bathroom / shower. So not too bad really.

This morning we did some temple time. Went to the one which has the Budda's face encased in a tree. All the Wat's start looking the same after a while. The weather was too hot for much more than that though, so we grabbed our bags and came down to PU Guest House. This afternoon we had a wander around the market, ate went back to our room, had the second shower of the day, and then decided to head down to the internet cafe. That's where we are at now! Tonight?! Well we may take the river cruise, to see the temples at sunset from the river, a 200 bhat round trip doesn't seem too bad.

Anyway, 2 more nights here, and then onto Lopburi. I'm looking forward to seeing the crazy monkies, that steal everything that isn't strapped down.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Me Love You Long Time.

An amendum to the last entry... It turns out that the bar we were at was only two doors down from our guest house. We went out last night and got the full story from the girls. Apparently we started heading in the wrong direction, so they thought our guest house must have been elsewhere, so hence the getting on a bike thing. We made the poor guy go in one big circle! The place we stayed in, well it was the same place we had been drinking in! Did they laugh at the stupid farang. No, seriously when we turned back up there last night we got a great greeting. The girls came and welcomed us with open arms, hugged us, and were glad to see us back. A change from the usual sweaty fat red faced western old guy that usually waddles up to the place.

Another good night was had, if somewhat sad in parts. "Iss" (my phonetic spelling) one of the girls who worked that bar had been talking to Sam the night before, telling her about her English boyfriend she had not seen for 7 years. Last night I spent a lot of time talking to her, and heard a story that truly pulled at the heart-strings. One of many sad tales the girls who work in teh bars of Pattaya have to tell. It makes you ashamed to be Western.

Anyway Iss told us that the room we stayed in when they put us up, was for "customers". If you know what I mean?! So we can tick off the list, that we have spent our first night sleeping in a brothel. So to speak.

We headed out of Pattaya today, got a bus back to Bangkok. Then we grabbed a train (only 15 bhat each), up to Ayutthaya, the ancient Thai capital. The train was good, out windows so you could lean out and take in the Thai countryside. People wandering up and down the carriages selling food and drink. Ayutthaya is a lot quiter than either Pattaya or Bangkok. You can actually cross a road here without taking your life in your hands. This is where we get templed out, as the phrase goes. Dozens of temples, buddas, prangs (phallic shaped structures), etc... I think we are going to spend a few days here before we head to Lopburi, the monkey city. We got a tuk-tuk from teh station to a guest house, I can't remember the name, was formally known as PS Guest House, I know that much. At 300 bhat a night it is a bit rich for our blood, so onec we get our bearings tomorrow, we will go find somewhere cheaper. It's a lovely place, and not far from some of the best temples, so we will make use of it while we can.

Well an early-ish night ahead, lots to do in the morning. Sam just sat outside chatting with an Aussie GP that is staying here too. He's done the temple thing today and is heading off tomorrow. I will get lots of pictures to bore people stupid with when we do the rounds of them all. There is one particular classic image I want to capture, of a Budda's head encased in the branches of a tree. Just like in the movies.

Off now, will get the missing Koh Maak days typed up in the next day or so.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What A Laugh.

I was going to write a quite hard hitting and nasty piece about Pattaya. As at first the place made my skin crawl somewhat. The thought of all the fat sweaty "farang" (westerners), sleazing over the poor Thai girls, made me feel bad for being Western. However on reflection, after the night we had, the tone of this piece will be different.

We arrived in Pattaya after a bit of a killer journey. Leaving Koh Maak at 8.00 am, we got the ferry back to the mainland, the a bus to some little one "elephant" town (we saw it in the street), for the connection to Pattaya. We traveled for about 10 hours yesterday, so we were quite tired by the time we hit town. Getting dropped off at Soi 6 of Th Pattaya we wandered down to find a guest house. Already the street was lined with girls outside the bars and clubs, waiting for there fat, sweaty, smelly Western customers. Here is the capital of hedonism, here you can buy a girlfriend for the day, the week, the month. Here you can buy whatever your sick little mind desires, from Thai prostitute through lady-boy to a small child, if that is what your sickness demands. At first the feeling you get is a mixture of amazement and a queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Anyway, to move on. We found a guest house just away from the main madness, Sky Top, owned by an Aussie called Pete (450 bhat for an air con with TV and hot shower). It was a good deal for the area we are in so we decided that was for us, paid for the room and got ready for a night out. Taking it slowly at first we found a stall, had some noodles and a Pepsi. Not bad at 70 bhat for both of us, about a quid. Then the night started!

We had a Chang in a quiet bar and then moved onto a beautiful place that was full of wealthy Thai. "J" was our waiter, and he chatted with us as much as he could, while serving others. He explained that he had come down from the north and had worked in Pattaya a few years now, as many of the workers here do. They come from all over Thailand and often end up trapped in these tourist places, not able to go home ever. I witnessed my first toilet massage at this bar. This is when some guy will stand behind you and give you a shoulder massage while you pee. All a bit odd, I probably end up peeing all over my trousers if they tried it on me. We stayed there a while listening to the Thai singers, doing Western songs, Karaoke style. Then we felt brave enough to venture into the darker side of Pattaya.

We found a bar that was empty of Western sleazy, and sat at the bar. The girls were very welcoming to us, as a Western couple, as we are not threatening to them. We make the bar look busy, the boss is happy, but they don't have to deal with the whole sex issue. We chatted, and played games. Jenga and some dice game that I had not seen before, but got into and enjoyed all the same. An old guy approached us at one point and started doing close-up, slight-of-hand, magic. He was really good, first time for me that I have seen such tricks done so well. So we parted with 40 bhat, as part of a trick, and were quite happy with the entertainment on offer.

It is as the night moved on that things got more surreal. We moved to another bar, I had learnt "yai" (meaning large / big) from J. Which became something of great amusement to the girls at the bar when used with "farang" and directed at the over bloated, over the hill and over here Westerners in the bar. Sam chatted with one girl, about her Scottish boyfriend she has not seen for 7 years, a sad story! I meanwhile laughed and joked about the "yai farang" with the other girls. We met some Finnish guy, who bought us some fags, but things start to become a bit hazy around that point.

The time hit 3.15 am, and it looked like we may have been locked out of the guest house. Suddenly we realises the time, and in a flurry of activiety all round we found ourselves both riding pillion on a bike taxi. Through the back streets of Pattaya, trying to find where we were staying. We eventually found where we needed to be, after a bit of a round-about journey. The poor driver didn't know where we wanted to be, and neither did we, so we didn't do too bad to find the place in the end. It was locked! All lights off! What to do? Thai's from nextdoor came to our help, and we were offered someone's bedroom for the night. It cost us 300 bhat, but hell someone got a new dress out of it maybe and we got to get our heads down for the night.

We are now back in out air-can room, suffering with hang-overs, but having had a brilliant night. Just before I came down to write this up, both Sam and I sat and rolled with laughter at the madness of the night before. We had the night of our lives, and get to do it all again tonight. Hurrah! What a life!

Paradise Regained

The following are the missing entries while we where away from all civilisation on Koh Maak.

21st August 2005 - Koh Maak

hanging out in the beach hut in Koh Maak, after our first full day here. We landed at the tiny harbour at about 6.30pm last night. The 3-4 hour ferry journey was pleasant enough, but the 3 of us being the only Western faces should have told us something. It is low season here on the island, so it is mostly closed. Koh Maak is a low lying island, cultivated with coconut and rubber plantations. With a population of around 500, the island has little infrastructure. The roads are basic at best, and there is almost nothing but forest beyond the resorts.

One thing that stood out about the trip over was the "skipping" fish we saw. These odd dart shaped creatures that literally skip across the water for ages, eventually plopping back into the sea.

On arriving here we set off for god knows where, deep into the palm and rubber plantations. To be rescued by an East German guy who owns Koh Makk Villa, a beautiful place on the highest point of the island (rooms 500 bhat low season and 2500 bhat high season). From there we could see where we needed to be. A short walk down to the cove found us at our destination, Koh Mak Cococape Resort. (250 bhat for a beautiful beach hut, half price being low season.)

After a wander along the beach we settled in for the night. Good food, good conversation, a couple of beers or four found us in good spirits but ready for bed after the long trip over.

Sam and I read for a while. She's reading "Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Dog" by Dylan Thomas. I, well I'm working rapidly through "The Disspossed" by Ursula Le Guin. Story of an exiled scientist from an anarchist planet, returning to their races capitalist home world. A good read for anyone with any idealistic political leanings.

Neither Sam nor myself slept too well, and awoke to torrential rain. Rolling over and going back to sleep, we eventually dragged ourselves down to breakfast at nearly lunch-time. Eric had already been up and gone beach combing, his prizes lined up on the porch of his hut nextdoor.

Rice soup with chicken and a coffee later, we felt fit enough to go exploring for ourselves. The cove is a huge arching crescent shape, called Ao San Yai. ("Yai" I found out in Pattaya meaning Large / Big.) Across from the cove, seeming so close you could reach out and touch it, is Koh Kham, a tiny island with only one resort. The scene is truly beautiful, spoilt only by the slightly overcast sky, left from the storm earlier. The was doing its best to clear the problem for us however.

A pocket full of shells later and we headed for the beaches to the left of the resort, for a swim. The long sweeping shore means that you can go out a long way, still able to stand on the bottom. I swam out quite far until my foot came down on a sea urchin that was rolling along with all its mates, just underneath where I was. One pricked heal and a frantic swim away from the spiky guys I got back to where Sam was. These things were a good 2 foot across from tip of spike to tip. Back at the beach hut, Sam had a good dig around with a needle and the tweezers. I ended up with a sore heal, but not much more than that.

No we are chilling before dinner. Eric leaves tomorrow, don't know what we are going to do. We may go to, maybe starting our journey north, or maybe spend one more night here. Yet to be decided.

22nd August 2005

We did decide to stay another night. Eric went this morning, the ferry leaves at 8.00am. Sam and I didn't sleep well, a tremendous thunder storm disturbed our sleep. At one point a crack of thunder so loud, I felt I was inside it, broke above our heads. Neither of us had heard anything like it, ever before. It was unworldly!

The morning came, and the rain remained until lunch. We thought that maybe the extra night was a mistake. However, by mid-afternoon the sun was blazing, the beach was turning white, the sky and the sea a brilliant azure blue. We got the beach time we came for. We walked to the far end of the cove we had not yet explored. A couple of small fishing boats rested on the long sloping sands. The gentle waves lapping against their sides. A spirit house nestled in between the palms, looking out across the wide crystal clear waters of our little corner of paradise.

We waded, we swam, we even frolicked a little. Soon Sam settled herself down for a spot of sun worship. I meanwhile wandered along the beach taking photographs. Picking up a piece of broken bamboo, I scrawled "Sam + Rich's Beach" in large letters on a sandy shelf, just above where Sam laid.

Sunset came and we made our way back to our hut. A short lived evening getting acquainted with Thai TV, and we made for an early night. Our 2 new doggy companions followed soon behind. They had become our firm friends in the time we had been there, following us wherever we went. We fed them the Lyles Treacle Tarts we had left from the flight over. A treat they wolfed down with great delight. Then to bed. I stayed up reading, and writing this journal entry in the kiddies exercise book I got in Bangkok.

It's a 7.00am start tomorrow, the "chief" lady will knock us up, so that they can take us over to the pier for the ferry back to the mainland. Via Trat again we plan to head to Pattaya, the supposed hedonistic capital of Thailand, if not the world. Sam says it's worth seeing, just for the madness of it all. And anyway, if you are going to experience a country, you should experience all of it, all of the extremes, not be some traveling Western snob. That would never do.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Paradise bound.

I'm not sure how much internet access we will have on Kho Maak, so this maybe the last entry for a week or so. The island only has electricity from 3pm until midnight, so we are really heading for the roughing it experience. Get ourselves a beach hut, a see how it goes. It's just got to be done. You only do this sort of thing once in your life. Well I say once, I'm already up for just never stopping, I could live like this forever.

Chang head.

Day off the beer today, Chang is lethal stuff (only 55 bhat rather than the 80 bhat we paid in Bangkok). Didn't drink that much, but my head is banging, probably all the nasty chemicals they stick in it. Left Sam in bed, wandered down to use the internet. It's raining outside, a nice break from the heat. Not as bad as the down-pour we had in Bangkok the night before last, that really bucketed it down. Never seen rain like it in my life. It was interesting to see that before the rain came, that the locals all knew it was on its way and started to bring out umbrellas and protect their stock on the market stalls.

We had a really cool night last night. Wandered down to the night market and had soup and noodles (30 bhat for 2 of us). The exchange rate is roughly 67 bhat to the pound, so that make a meal for 2 less than a quid. We then went back to Guy's (150 bhat a night for a double room). It was packed with travellers, so we wandered down to a bar just round the bend, the Cool Corner. Sat and chatted, had a couple of Chang. The place was very chilled. Sat in the open air listening to the sounds of St. Germain wafting through the quite streets, a stray dog ran past with a flip-flop it had nicked from an unaware traveller. The whole place is covered with little geckos, cheeky little lizards that seems to be stuck on every wall and ceiling.

We made our way back to Guy's, it was a bit quiter by then. As we got there we bumped into Jake (almost literally), an American guy who lives in the south of Kho Chang. He's bought a boat and is doing it up, and wants to sail it back to the US one day with his wife and kids on-board. It's a long way from Thailand to Oregan, but hey it's an ambition worth having. An open invite was offered to go down and stay with him if we were ever in Kho Chang. While we sat a passed the time with Jake, a Spanish guy called Rhoan joined us. He lives in Trat and said we could crashed down on his floor when we next pass through Trat on our way north. He did explain where it is he lives, just got to remember... Across the main road from Guy's, look for a gym, ask around and we will be sure to find him! Or something like that. Its' great to meet and talk to people from all over the world, you realise no matter how cultured and worldly you think you are living in Hull, that you are really little more than a hick from Hicksville UK.

Off to Kho Maak (or Kho Mak as some spellings have it) today. Taxi booked for 2pm, ferry leaves at 3pm. Looking forward to some hardcore tropical beach time.

One addition I forgot... I can't believe we have only been here a few days, it seems like a lifetime. And we still have another 9 months of travelling ahead of us. What a life, I wish I'd done this all sooner. We miss our friends in Hull, but not the city. Everyone! Grab a bag, book a flight and get yourselves out here. You will not regret it.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Fuckwits are us.

Slept in, so missed our air-con air to go to Kho Chang. Arse!

Got my dreads done, costing 1200 bhat, as I had extentions as well. Feels wierd to have hair. Sam keeps staring at me in a strange quizative sort of way. I was a side-show freak during the process of getting it done. Sat on the side of the road on Kao San people just came and gorped at me.

Anyway, we have sorted the getting out of Bangkok thing. Got ourselves to the bus station, and caught a bus to Trat, near the southern coast. It took us about 5-6 hours to get here. We've had to stay here the night, as by the time we got here it was too late to catch a ferry. Not bad though, we got a nice guest house. Guy Guest House was on the recomendation of Eric, a French Traveller we met at the bus station. His friend owns a pizza resturant across the road from the guest house. He also said the Kho Chang is really built up and full of tourists now, and said that Kho Maak is a better island. So it now looks like the 3 of us will be catching a ferry to Kho Maak tomorrow at about 3pm I think. It takes 3 hours by ferry.

Kho Maak is a small island, only 16km across. The electricity only comes on at night, and there are only 500 people who live there. Sounds like a perfect paradise island to me. Also we can get to some smaller islands that are near to Kho Maak, these are less than half a mile across. So we can really experience the full Robinson Crusoe thing. Can't wait!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

All Budda'd out.

First full day over we've done some sight seeing. Standing Budda, Sitting Budda, Reclining Budda, we are all templed out! The Reclining Budda at Wat Poh is well worth seeing. About 40 odd metres long, and some 10 metres or more high.

To get around we have mainly been using the Tuk-Tuks, they seem to be everywhere. Little 3 wheels taxis that nip through the smallest gaps on the crazy Bangkok roads. You feel like you are taking your life in your hands, but the drivers seem to know what they are doing, getting you there in one piece.

We are now back on Khoa San Road (right spelling after Sam corrected me), chilling out and getting ready to go down to Kho Chang tomorrow morning. We leave at 8, catching a coach and then a ferry to arrive there for about 3 in the afternoon. This is Sam's beach time she is insisting she needs.

Well that's about it for today. We now have a digital camera, so soon we'll be posting pictures (just make everyone jealous). I'm now off to get my hair dreadlocked. 500 bhat (about 6 quid) bargin!

One Night In Bangkok

Well made it through the first night here. Got hammered so that we could sleep. A little strange getting up this morning, as it was one in the morning UK time. Sam is feeling a 'bit slushy'. Travelling and such is catching up with her I think. I meanwhile am right at home here already. The chilled, laid-back life-style is right up my street.

We are spending today in Bangkok, site seeing at Wat Poh (huge old temple), and then shopping for a digital camera. We are staying on Khoa San Road, the infamous street for all travellers to crash and get their heads around being in Thailand. Tomorrow we will be heading for Kho Chang (the elephant island) for some beach time.

I'm trying to get my head around the lingo. Just about learnt to order two beers, which is the essential first line anyone should learn when going abroad. We spent last night just hanging around Khoa San Road where we are staying. The room we got is pretty good by Thai standards, I've only seen one little cockroach so far. Everything is so cheap here, I can't believe that we have paid for two nights accomodation, had two meals, quite a bit of beer and only just made a dent in twenty quid.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Made it!

Well here we are sat in an internet cafe in the traveller hot-spot of Bangkok. Flight was about 11 hours, but loadsa movies to watch on the little screens in the back of the chairs. "We not in Yorkhsire anymore ToTo!" No higgledy-piggledy fields in this place. Lots of regimented paddy fields, straight roads, long narrow canals, etc... Still getting the feel for it, seeing how we only been here a few hours. But still, we managed to find a place to stay, fed ourselves from the night market, and had a couple of beers. Weird to think where we are. I (Rich) thought it would be more of a culture shock, but I'm handling it all pretty well.

Going to spend a couple of days in Bangkok, then Sam wants to hit the beach. Snorkeling, laying around doing nothing, that sort of thing. Now we've finally done it, many people said we wouldn't, we plan to make the most of the experience. So keep checking out what we are up to, and love to all our friends and family in good old blighty.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

In the departure lounge.

Well we made it. Just waiting to get on the plane. No catering on the plane, so we got bags full of sandwiches and crisps. They gave us vouchers to get food, and we blagged a load of free food too. So well loaded down for the flight. Just hope the catering strike doesn't mean that there is no alcohol. 11 hours without a drink, that will kill Sam and I. :o)

Anyway, this is it. Off to Bangkok, catch everyone when we get there.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

One week and counting...

Today is a significant milestone. It is exactly a week today that we fly out to Thailand. Finally.

We've said most of our goodbyes, it's now time for one last check to make sure we have everything we need. The butterflies in the stomach are really starting to kick-in now, and both Sam and myself are having difficulty sleeping, it's all getting a bit too much.

Not much else to say. The next blog entry will hopefully be written while sat in some internet cafe on a street on Bangkok.

Catch you soon.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

So long and thanks for all the fish

Well we left Hull last Sunday. Finally! It's been a long time in coming, particularly for me. We packed up and relocated to the Dales for a couple of weeks, before we fly out to Thailand to start our adventure proper.

I'm staying pretty calm considering that I've never done anything like this before. Sam, well she's an old hand at it all, having travelled before. I think it will all kick in for me when I get on that plane, and it is all the more real. And then landing in Thailand, well I'll probably be a basket case by then, or really drunk on the duty free booze. Sam will have to carry me off.

Anyway, not long to go now. I've waited this long, I'm sure I can wait another week.