never will i complain about the british public transport system again

we woke early to pack and get ready for what we knew would be a long day’s travelling to krabi. unfortunately, anna woke up really ill, and there was no way she was going to make the trip that day. after some deliberation and some toing and froing between the travel agent we booked the tickets with and the guest house in krabi via the internet cafe across the street, anna made me go on ahead to get the guesthouse whilst staying in the care of luke and cathy promising to join me the following day.

i waited for ages outside the hotel. knowing that i had to be on the  coast to catch the ferry i was getting a little worried. ‘thai-time’ kept reassuring myself. sure enough about 40mins late the minibus arrives to take my on a very swift trip to the ferry port…only to get my ticket stamped and be on another bus! No! I need to get off the island, not take a trip around it! They know what they’re doing, surely. i’s been told about buses like this. you sit, if you’re lucky enought or early enought to get a seat. you stand…on top of others if necessary if you arrive later than the seated few (i was a stander) else you hang on to the outside, hang on to whatever you can and take your chances that the journey is a smoothe one!

finally at the ferry port the guy who appears to be in charge ushers us off but leaves the bags on…more confusion but we find later that this was only to get us up on deck, the bus followed us onto the ferry and met us the other side.

the crossing was incredible, i saw the island and it’s hills disappear behind us and the mainland and it’s mountains appear out the the sea mist ahead. the weather was incredible, drank plenty of ice cold water and got chatting to a well traveled scotsman, ryan, also bound for krabi.

at the other side we rejoined our bus to suri thani, the main town in the area to meet our bus from wherever to krabi (how all this is syncronised is beyond me) within 15 mins of arriving at the suri thani bus station (a cafe and the side streets around it) we were lead to a tuk-tuk that took us to one of the side streets to get the bus (for one horrific moment i thought we were making the 6 hour long journy in the tuk-tuk!). i was quiet, only 20 or so people and had air con. on the downside the suspension was shot to hell, we were bounced about all over tha place and the breaks gave out this stomache wrenching scream everytime the driver made an attempt to slow the bus down. this was the leg of the journey i was hoping to get some rest…no chance.

after 6 hours i awoke as we pulled up at a gathering of buildings under a sign saying ‘krabi   ‘. there’s no way THIS is krabi…a dozen or so huts and a taxi rank! upon further reading the sign said ‘krabi station’ (i remember from the guide that krabi station is 4km or so north of the town and i felt somewhat releaved. a short tuk-tuk ride and i found myself at the b and b guesthouse. clean, quiet and cool. dok, the man at the desk is this short, smiley thai with a fantastic laugh and really helpful. i got settled in, showerded and changed and met ryan for some food and the great beer i’ve ever tasted.

it’s now tuesday, anna is moments away from getting here. i’ve talked to her already and she sounds much better tho i’me sure she’ll be tired. we’ll get some food and look around the town today. tomorrow hopefully will be a trip to koh phiphi, the location for ‘the beach’, some snorkling and some monkey spotting. there’s loads to do here, all outdoors and all active, great after the laying about over the past few days.

full moon-lit koh samui

we got checked out of the rambutri, our home for the last night in bangkok and shared a ride to the airprt after failing to negotiate a decent price with the nearest cabbie and got there, after dozing off in the cab, with plenty of time to spare.

the flight over to the island took no time at all, enough for a quick meal and a few pages in my book and we arrived just after dusk. out ride to the hotel failed to turn up to greet us so it was time to get the bartering hat on and get us a new ride. successfully done, we arrived at the samui beach resort not long after nightfall to a clear but damp smelling room (upgraded to air-con after the airport transfer failure). after a quick wash we we wondered up the ‘main strip’ (consisting of about 2 dozen not so great looking cafe’s and bars) until we found one that didn’t look sh*t!

a quick chat with the guy there and we found out that about a mile on and just around the corner was the real center of the town…down drinks, say thanks, walk further. ha ha! that’s more like it…loads of life, smiling faces, thai boxing ring, a jamacan bar, ladyboys and scooters everywhere. the main road is a one way street, this doesn’t mean that you don’ have to look in all four directions before you cross it and we pitched up at the bauhaus restaurant for some grub and a phonecall to anna’s freinds who were (or should) be staying close by. after a great meal and finally geting the phonecall in we found out how close by…two doors down.

cathy, luke and like’s dad, nick shared a drink or two with us that evening by the boxing ring. we got hastled byt he same flower selling, thumber war champions that we were fleeced by in bangkok, this time we were practiced, 1-1 between me a the kid (still bought a flower) but by the end of the evening it seemd she’d taken a shine to us all, covered us with flowers and platted anna’s hair. got to feeling very tired by this point so we headed home.

the next morning (the day of the party) the weather had turned a little, grey skies and a fair breeze blowing as we walked up the beach (a much qicker route than the road) to get into town for brekkie. bellies filled and plans made with luke and cathy for the rest of the day, we chilled out in the town, did a little shopping and prepared to get ready for the evening. 600 got us a round trip from the hotel to the pier, a ride on a speedboat and the return. the driver was so late we missed two outgoing boats, not that it mattered, you quickly get used to ‘thai-time’ and everything always seems to fit into place. the boat trip was like a rollercoaster, about 35ft, carried about 40 people and went like the clappers. we made the mistake of sitting at the front and were bounced about all over the place. i have the bruises to prove :s

the party was incredible, some 30000 people spread out over the beach, bars all the way along setup like mini nightclubs playing out over the sand, street vendors lining all of the tiny, windy streets and people everywhere.

before we realised it it was 6 in the morning and time to get the speed boat home. with priop knowledge on our side we sat in the center of the boat, not nearly as rough; lucky as i think cathy would have let her fill of booze and street-food fly all over the weary crowd around us.

needless to say we had a lay in the next morning. we spend the day wondering the town, grazing on food and looking in the shops. later in the day we met up with the others and went for a massage, my first since getting over here!

it was great. i went for the thai oil massage, 250b (about $3) for an hour. it was like a swedish massage, but with the thai style bending of limbs wher limbs don’t go on their own! the final manouver is done sat down with your hands behind your head, the masseur’s arms around yours and with a swift and strong sideways twist, they crack your back and relieve all the pressure. or so it was mean. the young girl sorting out my aches much have over judged and with one swift movement sent us both flying into the next cubicle occupied, luckily by a fully clothed anna. they laughted we all laughed and all was great, especcially my back…never felt as good. hoping for that to become a daily thing now

sex on the kao san road

…don’t worry mum it’s just a drink, and not a particularly nice one at that…just thought it would grab your attention 🙂

yesterday was fairly quiet. after an easy get-up, we checked out of our respective rooms, said fairwell to jean, guni and claire (guys, if you get to read this, it was wonderful to meet you all, had a fantastic few days and i’m so glad we got to do all that we did together. hope you have safe and exciting travels ahead :D) and made our way to the station to get the train back to the smog.

anna and i are back in the rambutri hotel just off the kao san road, the place she was in the night we met and a recommendation as it’s clean, has hot water and is central to the action…we had some action i tell ya!

what started off as few beers and a meal turned into a few cocktails and us crashing a thai birthday party in the brick bar…as the only white faces in there it could have been dodgy. that could not have been further from the truth…we got introduced around the entire group, some 20 people or so…dancing to ska music and trying desperately to learn all the names we were being told and picking up new phrases as they laughed at our attempts to speak thai. awesome. i’m hungover this morning.

luckily today is an easy one…update this page, eat brekkie, get to the airport, fly to koh samui, sit on a beach. can’t wait for that last part 🙂

we’re there to meet anna’s friends and do the full moon party on koh phangan. only there for 3 nights and after that the plan so far is krabi, ralaigh and the climbing…managed to talk anna into letting me teach her to climb, i can’t wait to get there, it’s meant to be one of the best spots in the world.

i’m starving, breakfast time 🙂

i hope everyone back home is happy and well.

ligers…they’re pretty much like my favoriute animal.

after a late start due to the previous night’s driking with the people we met on the waterfall trip and a good long chat with a bar owning ex-pat gatheirng info about how to go about my trip around laos, vietman and cambodia, all five of us met up to go see the tiger temple.

about a 1/2 hour suangtheu (truck with benched seats in the back…no idea about the spelling :s) ride of of k’buri is the temple. not a temple in the traditional sense, more of a nature reserve run by an abbott. we followed the path down into this small canyon, reminded me of that scene in raiders of the lost ark when they’re taking the arc to open it. (got pics but bad connection atm). there were about 10 tigers, chained up but roaming about, lying stretch out, basking on rocks and in turn, lead my one of the temple volunteers, you were taken up to them, pat them on the back, hav photos taken. really quite strange being allow to go touch, not like any zoo in the uk! over seeing it all was the abbott. to could tell the amount of trust he had for the animals he’s taken in, every time one of the tigers got a little nervous or ‘overly-playful’ he walk up to it, and it would calm down. he’d then get a little playful with it too, allowing the tiger to knaw on his hand…kinda like i let my labrador milo do…not sure i’d let a tiger do the same.

more later.. time has run out 😦

bangkok to kanchanaburi and the elephants

breakfast over, the five of us together, plans made (claire having done all the research and arrangement making) we were off on our speedy-gonzales-piloted tuk-tuk to the station and off to the courty. the three hour train ride out of thonburi station to kanchanaburi was a relaxed start to the day, perfect to resolve the alcohol induced headache from the previous night. it only took a few miles to get out of the smog and density of the city to find ourselves with loing views over green fields dotted with a mixture of modern newly built houses and shacks that could blow down in a light breeze. all properties, no matter what condition they’re in, have perfectly decorated ‘spirit houses’ outside of them. thais believe that spirits have the ultimate right to the land and being very superstitious in nature they can’t upset any spirits, certainly not by taking over their land. during the build of any size of house (any building for that matter) they build colorful doll house like shrines for the spirits to live in. they always aim to make the spirit houses look nicer than the ‘people house’ to make sure that the spirit will live there rather than with the people. spirits, although not evil, can be mischievous and can apparently be easily upset. 🙂 anything for the quietest life possible in thailand.

as the journey progressed the hills got higher, the fields green and the buildings smaller. k’buri, when we arrived at the station was underwhelming considering the talk we’d heard about the place. but this was to be so only of the station. after bartering hard with the local tuk-tuk and taxis we hopped on a flatbed truck with benches in the back (still need to fine the name of these things) and headed about 5 miles for 30p to the jolly frog hostel. paradise! no other word for it! 70b (about 1 pound) gets you a single room, mine right next to the bathroom, with a view out across the river kwai and for all of us that evening, the perfect thai sunset.

we took a short wander up the main drag in k’buri to book some trips for the following few days and check out what was available in the way of food and drink nearby. plenty…every single building is either a bar/restaurant or offers massage. spoilt for choice. at the toi trip center we booked the next day’s trip to see all local tourist traps and a visit to the tiger temple for the following day for 1000b. two days worth of entertainment taken care of straight away. i’m hungry…back to the frog!

the food in the jolly frog was just as much of an amazement as the accomodation. for 25b, about 30p i hade the best sweet and sour chicken and rice i’ve ever had. we all ate a feast for about5 pounds and decided afterwards to sit outside with the rest of our drinks, listen to some music and relax.

jean had previuosly met a full-time hippy by the name of beyo (bee-oh) in chiang mai; he just happened to be sitting with his girlfriend, emma, out on the grass (smoking some grass) listening to reggae and watching the sun go down. would have been rude not to accept his invitation to join him. after bangkok and the previous night nothing could have been more perfect that evening.

i awoke to the sound of two cockrels in full voice doing what i thought at the time was fighting (later to find that they were merely singing the new day in) at 4.30am, ouch. awake to early. nevermind. the bed was not overly comfy anyway. what can you expect for a pound?

anna and i met for a quick breakfast before getting out to the front of the frog to meet the tour guide, ricky, and the rest of the folk (zara and brandon, jen and ian, and peter) we were joining for the day’s trip to the erewan waterfalls, the elephant farm, thai-burma death railway and the famous river kwai bridge.

the waterfalls were stunning. 7 levels of clear blue, cold water teaming with fish surrounded by a forest alive with birds and monkeys. we climbed right to the top passing all 7 falls (number 4, called ‘bristols’ as they look like a woman’s breasts. this was also the fall that you could use as a water slide…cue giggling at the thought of sliding down the cleavage…*sigh*). the water was wonderfully refreshing in the heat, we enjoyed it so much we were late back to meet the guide. ha had to order our lunch for us to keep on schedule…oops. nice lunch of fried rice tho.

i’ve always wanted to ride on an elephant…i’ve finally done it! the next stop was chang wang-po elephant farm. we rode for about half a mile across the farm…slowly but thrillingly…on our elephant driven by a local mahout (elephnat trainer). we even got to in turn, ride on the beast’s neck rather than on the padded seat on it’s back…awesome. mum, i know you’d have loved it!

at the same location we joined a group riding rafts up the kwai, a motor boat towed us for about half mile and we were left to slowly drift our way back, very relaxed and calming after the unpredicatble motion of the elephant.

off again in our minibus to the death railway and cave. the railway built in ww2 connected the japanese in thailand to the british war front in burma. the pows did 6 years work in 13 months. 100,000 died constructing the 450km of railway. the disturbing visual…one railway sleeper for every man dead. the cave was used by the japanese to store ammo buit now holds a sitting buddha image…my first one seen 🙂

finally we ended up at the river kwai bridge made famous by the movie. unfortuately after spending so much time atother sites we didn’t have enought time to walk across it, but we’re tired by this point and did have time for a little street food and a drink before home.

we invited the people we met on trip to join us for dinner and meet out other companions (only anna and i did this trip) dinner at the frog, and few (too many) drinks and the friend bar up the street and some invaluable knowledge from a local ex-pat about getting about laos, vietnam and cambodia and suddenly it was 4am and way past bed time. luckily the tiger temple trip is not until 2 this afternoon and i managed a lay-in (not cockrels this morning thankfully).

finally something awesome to write about

it’s so surreal to be here after such a wait. so far, after one day it’s everything that i thought it would be, both good and bad.

so, from the beginning to the present.

the flight was long…really easy but long. from london to bahrain the flight was half empty, the gent sat next to me disappeared after about 10 mins; i thought he’d just gone to the loo, but when he didn’t return for about a half hour i decided to stretch out. wish i could say the same for the flight out to bangkok: 6 hours crushed up next to this hugh fella who squeezed himself into his seat and poured out over the armrest towards me. tried as much as i could to get some kip but ended up arriving in thailand tired after not one wink.

i did get to chatting to this called ash right at the start in heathrow, he’s down in pattaya now looking at property; one of the many people who come over here once and love it so much they have to stay.

the first (and hopefully last) error of the trip came when booking into the hostel. i arrived late, only by about an hour, but they had already give my bed away to someone else! a very apologetic and very smiley young chap at the desk informed me that it was the last bed, that i would not be staying there tonite but could come back tomorrow and after what i thought was his final word on the matter he disappeared into the back room only to emerge just as i was leaving to tell me that he’d found me a room just a short skytrain ride away and handed me a map! service!

a short ride away it was. the skytrain is amazing. very clean, very fast and hardly anyone on it. can’t imaging what someone in a similar position in london for the first time would think of saturday traffic on the undergroud.

so my first night in the ‘urban age’ hostel, patpong. basic. no other word for it but it was just what i needed. dumped the bag, took an amazing hot shower (nothing overly remarkable about it, just felt so great after covering so many miles) quick change and then out to meet anna, ben from work’s sister.

we caught up on the kao san road…the part of town i should have looked at staying in…just amazing; so much color and so many people, about 90% backpackers and 10% people trying their hardest to rip backpackers off selling them dodgy cds and fake t-shirts…of which i bought a few. damn, so easily suckered in! that’s gonna have to change!

and so then we enevitabley started in on the booze! what started as a few quiet beers chatting about the trip over here and anna’s travels to date, we met up with clare, guni and jean, three people anna’s been hangin out with over the past week. a few more drinks and a thumb-war ass kicking by a 10 year old girl pesting us to buy roses!, some wonderfull food (gigantic shrimp for about 7p each!) we decided to all hook up today, get out of bangkok and get over to ratchaburi, about 100k west of the city. the plans have changed already, as i knew they would after only the first day. the city is very cool, i’m going to be back in about 3 days to do the sites, but it’s dirty. these guys know it after being here for about a week already and i have no problem about getting into the country for a few days of trekking and elephant riding.

breakfast has been eaten…i feel alive again after the headache this morning, i’m all packed up again and about to head off. just time for me to leave you with a few shots.

kao san road

street hawking thumb-war king!

hope everyone back home is happy and well, chat soon.

tickets arrived this morning

and to be honest i’d totally forgotten that they hadn’t arrived yet, how’s that for getting caught up in the excitment?!?

all set then…9 days to go!

oh yeah! and how’s this for good news…

…wayne ‘the mane’, dave and macca (sa-wat-dee!) are going to be about in thailand the first two weeks of april just in time for the full moon party on koh phangan apr 2nd! can’t wait to meet up with you guys, will be a blast.

the replacement

i’m very glad to be able to say that the final task before going has been accomplished! 🙂 someone has been found to take over my room while i’m away! the first person to come and see the flat has given me a deposit, a date has been set and i can relax *sigh*

less than 3 weeks now.

i’ve been getting my work ready to hand over, gotten everything i (think i) need for the trip (tickets aren’t here yet, but they’re not supposed to arrive for another week or so, not panicking) and now i know there’s someone cool to look after the place and be ‘dad of the house’ in my absence.

starting to get nervous.

more excited anticipation than nerves i think but the time between getting the tickets bought and now has flown and it’s now very real! cool.

can’t wait to get over there and start taking photos and writing about it. 🙂

the final hurdle

ok, so now that new years is out of the way, (fantastic party btw! pictures here -> nye photos) the one and only thing left to do is get someone cool in to rent my room!

so, if anyone reading this know of anyone who wants a room from the end of jan to the end of april, please get in touch…there are details on the room ad on gumtree

3 weeks and 1 day to go as of posting this. seems to have crept up very quickly. i guess i was looking forward to xmas and nye as they’re always a blast and always take some organising and that now they are done and dusted the next thing is the trip.

oh there is one other thing…i have to go and buy some shoes…