Archive for the ‘ thailand ’ Category

Miskawaan and Getting Here

That was a long flight.

Not the first time that I’ve done the trip to Thailand, but the first time that it has been direct; no stopping in the Middle East. 11 hours in the same cattle-class seat. to be fair to BA it could have been much worse. The food was reasonable. The movies were ‘on demand’ and the wine was brought to us at an acceptable frequency both to us (getting a little merry) and to the stewardess (still assured that we weren’t going to be drunken trouble during the flight). The wine did cause the inevitable…drowsiness leading to deep sleep. By this point we had been awake since 6am (it was now 2am London time) and having done a full days work and stressed about getting to the airport had left us tired. We slept.

Suvarnabhumi Airport was just as I’d left it. It’s an incredible structure as you can see. As we dodged the taxi touts and leaflet givers we made our way back through to the check-in desks and to a very helpful clerk who managed to get us onto an earlier flight to Koh Samui. We had purposefully left a three hour window to account for any delays in getting to Thailand before catching our connection to the island, but BA being perfectly on time mean us waiting at Bangkok. Had we any more time then a trip into the city would have been possible but not with only three hours. But the wait was only 1 hour with a flight leaving in the very near future and with 2 spare seats! Result!

Now I’m a confident air passenger. I have complete confidence in pilots knowing that they can’t do their job unless perfectly fit to do so. I don’t think that the Koh Samui approach is a particularly difficult one but I seem to have read one too many articles like this and I always freak a little when descending to this runway. This time was no exception but as the medium turbulence was scaring Jen even more (my hand is still a little crushed) I was able to concentrate on her and not the descent. Long to short; we got down just fine and to the cutest little airport I’ve ever seen. No walls, no security, just huts and flowers.

We were met, as arranged by our driver and a20 minute, air-conditioned (may be nighttime but still baking, for us) ride later and we were at Miskawaan Luxury Villas. Wow.

As you can see on the Flickr Set the place is quiet incredible and as we were the first to arrive we had the place to ourselves. Our host, Tai showed us around to sounds of ‘Oh, wow!’ as we turned each corner. A short walk down the beach after she’d left us to our evening brought us to the Moon Hut restaurant. Our first Thai meal in Thailand and it was perfect…finally we felt like we were on holiday. At last.

So today has Jen running around with Jules making the final arrangements for the wedding in two days time and me with some free time to read and write. The stag and hen dos are tomorrow. We’re all going out on a ‘porno-boat’ (Alex’s title for the 30 foot power cruiser we’re hiring) to the national park for some uninhabited beaches for diving and beach cricket. As half of the wedding goers are Aussie we believe a reenactment of the last Ashes battle is in order 🙂

Right, I’m going for a swim in the sea, to hot to write. See you soon.

splish splash i was takin’ a bath…

imagine a water fight. we’ve all taken part at one point or another in our lives. you may have used a water pistol, supersoaker or water balloon to drench someone. has anyone ever been involved in a waterfight on a national scale lasting for 5 days straight from 9am until 9pm? welcome to the wonder that is songkran, the buddhist new year!

after jen left to go back to the uk i travelled back up to chiang mai on the night train, an awesome experience in itself, confortable, clean, relatively quiet and when you travel at night your accommodation and travel are paid for at the same time! (no showers tho :().

chiang mai was nice for the two days that i stayed but as i was now on my own again (boo!) i fancied being up where there were people i knew…off to pai! nelson, who i met in vang vieng, laos a few weeks ago spends quite a bit of time up in pai, i remembered him mentioning how great the festival is up there and no sooner had i gotten there than i found out. i left the bus station after being dropped off mid-town and had only walked about a hundred yards when i spotted a large group of thais and farang hurling water about. i with my ‘non-waterproof’ bags wasn’t looking to get soaked just yet…fat chance of that. the group were fairly easy on me; a girl who i would later find out was zoe missed both my bags by tipping a pan of water down the front of my shorts…cheers hun.

after dumping my gear at the riverside family hut bungalows i headed back into town to exact my revenge. the whole afternoon (and indeed the rest of the following four days) turned into one big booze fueled waterfight, us standing on street corners drenching passers by and taking refuge in bars and restaurants to get dried off.

we did have sone change in the evening; we’d all go off to see live music, eat out and on two of the nights eat at nelson’s self made treehouse home. simple food, but nelson, if you read this at some point, thanks so much man…that food was amazing!

i have a cold now, possible something to do with not being dry for the last five days…not to worry mum, i’ll shake it. i’m back in bangkok after taking the night train back down here last night. i have to stay one night as the night train down to butterworth in malaysia was full today so i go tomorrow. unfortunately i’m going to have to pay an overstay charge when i leave, my visa ran out on the 15th and it was more costly to do it this way than to do a visa run, no big deal, i’ve not met too many people who haven’t had to do it at some point on their travels.

i’ve now finished the gift buying…hopefully this means i won’t have to see the khao san road again for while. i’m going to chill out in my room and listen to some music (it’s so much hotter here than in the north…and i have air-con this time :)) and venture out later for some food and back for an early night (i didn’t sleep too well on the train thanks to the efforts made by one woman to keep the whole 12 car train awake with her snoring…successfully too)

i’ll be in malaysia by the time i next write. going to be there for about a week then on to singapore for two days at the most before i fly home…something that seems to have come about very quickly but something i think i’m totally ready for now.

i’m looking forward to seeing everyone very soon. M

i’m so smooth i slipped off myself

firstly, sorry for not posting anything sooner, genuine apologies too, as a couple of people have noticed that it took me a while to get this up here.

my last 10 days have been spent between bangkok, nai yang and pih phi, i asked jen to come visit while i was here to give her a holiday and so we could spend some time together and i could show her some of the parts of this trip that i’ve loved. it was great to go back to some of these places and catch up with some of the people i’ve met.

we started off slowly on the first day in bangkok, jen was jet lagged and the weather was hot even for me. after dumping bags in the room i showed her the khao san road great that the excitment of seeing it for the first time came back to me as i saw her reaction. that evening too was spent there eating, drinking, catching up after two months and dancing with the thais. we flew to phuket the next day thankfully without a hangover and on to a place called nai yang. i’d bought a few cds for wat, the owner of the bar i spent some time in with anna, laura and colin and watched him gamble with the other bar and restaurant owners while we drank. it’s really getting into the low season here and places are getting quiet, we had the bar to ourselves most of the time.

the same peace wasn’t to be found on phi phi the follwing day. after taking a boat crossing that was certainly quieter than the previous time, and finding the bars a little emptier there were still plenty of people. true that i had seen most of what we saw the time before but it was so much better this time with jen there and i felt great being able to show her somewhere that i have such great memories about. so on that note we saw the sunset from the waterfall bar, drank margaritas and sat on the beach, we wondered through the town and bought gifts, we watch some incredible fire shows at hippies, but we also got up to so much more finding better food and an even better fir show at carpe diem, kayaking out into ton sai bay, walking up to the biew point and seeing the whole north east side of the island, visiting the tsunami memorial park, albeit in the dark, feeding and befriending a cat called casper, getting caught out in a powercut, watching great movies in the ‘irish’ pub and getting holding a real, live, wild eagle! seriously, it was perched out on the menu stand of carpe diem and with a little encouragement hopped off and onto my arm.

the final night, back in bangkok was spent shopping for gifts (some people back home are going to be happy) and packing for her flight back today (hope it went smoothly babe).

not sure exactly how i’m going to finish up the last 3 weeks of the trip. i’d love to go into vietnam, but not sure about the time i could spend there. i really want to to go chiang mai for the buddhist new year, songkran and the water festival so as soon as i know after getting in touch with some people (got an email from bopper today who’s coming over to go climbing in krabi, could be a plan) i’ll shall let you know.

i intend to write more about about this last week but i don’t want to sit in front of the computer too long this evening; i ate something that didn’t agree with me and i’m nowhere near a bathroom (nothing to worry about mum) but i wanted to get something up here for jen to read when she gets back into work.

in other news, congrats to dad on the job in jordan, he flew out there yesterday so i’m yet to hear how it went, sure i’ll hear soon.

thanks to pete for the last few comments…which website are you getting those from?? :p they are great tho, i’ll leave one of my own.

‘Pay no attention to the faults of others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what by oneself is done or left undone.’

in case anyone is wondering about the title. jen brough over this skin treatment for us, gets rid of dead skin and helps the tan and left me very smooth…so much so that when we ate that night sitting on floor cushions i leant over, put my elbow on my knee and slipped off crashing into the table. jen found this so funny she could, hardly breathe for the first minute and kept giggling at my ‘smoothness’ the rest of the week. as it made you smile so much, this page is dedicated to you.

gah! and like a little fish…i’m hooked!

it’s true, i knew it would happen…pete i think you did too, sarah, you certainly did…i’ve been bitten by the very same bug as you. i’ve found another expensive sport to become addicted to. diving is just something else. there really is no other way that you can defy nature so completely than to breathe underwater. i was a little surprised by how natural it feels; there wasn’t one point where i felt panicked or uncomfortable, even at 28m in less than 1 meter visibility on our deepest dive where to surface immediately would had meant time in a decompression chamber or serious injury. it was fine tho, i remember my breathing being calm and i can remember thinking ‘i wish i could see a little more, i wonder what there is out there just out of sight’.

i really sorry to have to leave the island today, it’s been an amazing 10 days, i’ve got my advanced open water card, certainly going to use it again on this trip even if it is only for doing a little fun diving. the next part of the trip is going to awesome tho,jen arrives on tuesday for 10 days, we’re going to hang about in bangkok for a night or two, then come down to the islands and relax, give her some time to work on the tan before heading off to vegas (jealous!)

this will now be the fifth time i will have been back into bangkok, i can’t say that i hate the place, that would be totally untrue, it’s really quite a wonderful city, but i have been to so many other better areas that it seems a shame to have to leave one of the better ones even if it is for only a few days in order to meetjen and show her around. jen’s arrival will be exactly 2/3 of the way through the trip. i will be home exactly a month after she arrives…wow, how time flies. i’m in no mood to start thinking about coming home just yet, just thought i’d mention it.

hope you enjoy the underwater photos, i had so much fun taking them…in need of a little practice at both the diving (buoyancy in particular) and the underwater shooting skills. can’t wait to give it another go sometime soon.

now even the lows are highs

firstly: massive apologies for taking so long to post anything up here, it has been a while but my last few days have been proper hectic and massively rewarding.

my luck was truely in on the trip out of cambodia, i checked out of the angkor international at 6am to be greeted by the tuk-tuk driver who’d been showing me about for the previous few days and he got me to the airport in seemingly record time, essential as the queue at the airport meant that i was in the departure longue for only 10 minutes before the flight was called. the very easy flight to bangkok got me there with enought time to spare before catching another plane down to koh samui where i landed 30 mins before the final boat to koh tao (where i was provisionally enrolled in the diving course for the following day). i got to the island, found the diving school and was lucky enough again to be the last person they were going to sign on that day due to a lack of instructors (they were all off in myanmar doing visa runs). so i got here, signed on the the course and checked into a sweeting little bungalow 50 yards from the beach and the diving school.

the first afternoon was spent in the classroom. they get us a fairly chunky book, the first two chapters of which we were to have studied and answered the questions on before the class. no problem at all. the class explaind the function of the variuos pieces of equipment and the safety proceedures and structure of the rest of the course. day 2 and we get to dive! that first evening i wondered up the beach to sai ree and bumped into some people i met in bangkok the night before going to cambodia. very small world over here.

so, day 2. we get fitted up for wetsuits and buoyancy controlls and straight out to the boat and off to the ‘japanese gardens’ dive site. we started in shallow water learining to snorkel and clear the masks before we were let loose with the air tanks. there’s nothing more surreal that defying nature and breathing normally underwater! it’s so exciting. that first day we got down to about 7.5 meters for about a half hour and got to see trigger fish, moray eels and a school of barracuda deeper below us. i’m hooked!

the third day and we were back in the classroom after more studying to learn how to execute some of the emergency techniques and to use dive tables to calculate the amount of time you can safely dive before you start getting high for the saturated nitrogen in your system. so much more to think about that i first thought. that afternoon’s dives took us a little deeper and we practiced more buoyancy techniques and safety tips.

day four and we were back in class for the exam. no problem, passed with flying colors and celebrated suitably afterwards. this was last night, i’m feeling the effects a little now, but we have the morning off anyway. this afternoon we have two dives at different locations where we can practice a little underwater navigation and get to dive a little deeper, to 12 meters i think.

as i say, i’m hooked and as such i’m going to stay on for a few more days to get the advanced course done. deeper still, more advance ‘peak performance buoyancy’ skills, another night dive and the finale for me…underwater photography! oh yes!

time to go and get ready for the afternoon, there will be photos going up very soon, hopefully later today now that i have found a decent internet cafe and the phone lines are up again.

nate, roger, i’m so sorry…

you gave me sound advise and i chose, very unwisely not to follow it…i took the bus from bangkok to siam reap!

the day didn’t start off too badly, the large air conditioned bus pulled up just down the street from the hostel just as i had been told it would do by the young woman at the travel agents. ‘getting to cambodia in this will be no problem’ i thought. well the jouney as far as the border in this bus was great. at the border we got out, had some food, a few people got there visas sorted out and we made our way through immigration. not a difficult process but it was getting really hot by this point and a little sticky and uncomfortable. that was where the fun ended.

the continuation of the journey would still be by bus, but not the super-comfortable big ‘vip’ bus. no no. by a small, rattling, air-conless ‘local’ bus (for local people) . then it got worse. you see there was a rumor, one which has since been confirmed that a nameless airline company in this part of the world has paid off the government NOT to tarmac the road from the border to siam reap, know fullwell that the nightmare of the journey by road will become infamous and people will fly. not i. i sat on this local bus for 7 hours while the very skillful driver negotiated potholes the size of lunar craters not on a road but a dirt track. rocks the size of footballs, huge artic lorries, bikes, cars, no ‘drive on the left’: drive wherever the hell you can. the lack of air con meant that the windows had to be opened letting what nate coined ”cambodian snow” (the orangy-red dust that part of the country is made from) to cover us all from head to toe. joking aside, i’m still coughing up mud. guys, i know you warned me, but i am glad i’ve done it. something of an experience that will make any journey from here on in blissfully easy by comparison.

but it’s not all bad. i’m in a nice little guesthouse, possibly the poshest i’ve stayed in so far, for $5 a night. today i’m going to see one of the sever wonders of the world: angkor wat. going to see it by day and the sunset today, then the sunrise and the early light tomorrow. hoping to get some killer shots and learn more about this countries early history. on saturday i’m going to travel to phnom pehn to the killing fields and get more insight into the more recent and tragic history. we had a short lesson in rather broken english from a tuk-tuk driver last night, more to come on that one.

…and now two days sat in a boat

but i’m not complaining, not one bit. the two day trip from chiang khong to luang phrabang via pat beng is just stunning. i didn;t realise that there was an over night stay half way down the river, i should have guessed it tho, 472km in one day is far too much…and they don’t call it a slow boat for nothing.

first off was getting up and out of bed in time for the boat of the river to the border control in loas. in the bleary-eyed haze that is my normal wake up i managed, after using it as an alarmclock, to leave my mobile under the pillow in the guest house. of course i realise this after i’ve made the border crossing and have set off in the boat. no luck in this story folks, the guest house can’t find my phone. i have a new one, no idea what the dialing code is but the number is 5547 950. use it wisely. oh, and i can’t receive txt either :s

anyway. the scenery was almost prehistoric; endless miles of unspoilt jungle covered mountains dotted occasionally by collections of huts or parties of fishermen along the bank. every few hours we would stop either to let people off to wander seemingly straight into wild jungle or to pick up children selling food, drinks and woven bracelets and cloth. it was a very uncomfortable trip tho. the benches, barely big enough for two people were over crowded and there was very little room to stand up and stretch legs.

when we finally got to pat beng there had been a problem, the guest house was over booked and there was nowhere in town for us to stay as a new hotel had opened (more places to stay surely) and they were having a party with many, many people invited from all over norther laos. ok. no problem.

as it turned out it wasn’t a problem at all. the owner of the guest house we’d all booked in at also had a restaurant with a stunning view over the river. in about 20 mins we’d moved tables and erected mozzie nets and turned his humble but comfortable dining area into our very own dorm. and a great night’s sleep i had too. to wake up fresh as a daisy at 6:30am as the sun is coming jup over the hillside (check the photos) is a superb start. may have to get into the habit more often (hmm, yeah, right)

the second day on the river was much the same as the first. got chatting to a fair few people, mostly french travellers visiting one of their former colonies and within 7 hours we were at the very modest town of luang phrabang.

the french influence in the place is everywhere. for starters the architecture is more like a sleepy village in the south of france than a town in south east asia. some of the food is very european, the coffee is great (they don’t use nescafe :)) and it’s altogether more modest than thailand. i prefer it wholeheartedly. i’ve never felt like someone’s trying to get money from me, something that always seems to be a point of conversation with people in thailand. it’s cleaner, more traditional and strangely more sophisticated than it’s more affluent neighbor. i like it here. i’m going to visit vang vieng and vientiane. from there i think (although it changes regularly) south to do ‘the loop’ by bike and then on to cambodia. but now as it’s getting late, i’m going to wander about the night market, pick up a few gifts and take a few more photos and have an easy night of it.