Ola from paradise,
Apologies for the delay in blogs but the internet has proved elusive recently but here’s a full round up. Since the last blog we've been getting to grips with Thailand. We flew into Bangkok planning to get the night train directly up to the north of the country, Chiang Mai. Rach decided with the big push to get to Thailand, it was the perfect time to get ill. Thus after purchasing our ticket to get the night train, and having visited a very impressive big Gold Buddha, we ended up in a cafe with me and Justin playing cards, Amy reading Harry Potter and Rach flopped over the table in what can only be described as the death position. After a short while Rach decided the death position was not for her and went to sit on her own at another table, followed by her having to run to the toilet to be sick. While I have continually encouraged Rach throughout the trip to show a little more grit even I had to relent and I went and booked us into a hostel for the night.
The next morning however we got on the 12 hour train to Chiang Mai with Rach in much ruder health. Once on the train we were greeted by our crew for the day, one a very pleasant lady who gave us lots of food for the day and the cleaner who was quite clearly a cross dressing rugby prop. Having managed to escape the prop with our lives, we arrived in Chiang Mai and joined Amy and Justin at the guesthouse they’d found. The next day we set off sightseeing; first stop Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on top of the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai. As the holiest site in Northern Thailand the Wat was fairly insane with people praying left right and centre, monks giving out blessings, people breathing fire and a pantomime horse. However the main event of the temple, the golden chedi, in line with Angkor Wat and My Son, was covered in scaffolding. Not letting this dampen our spirits we descended the mountain only to be dropped off by our songthaew about 2 miles out of town. Thus after battling the heat and going through some tough times in our relationship (I was refusing to go for a beer after only seeing one temple) we arrived at the beautiful Wat Phra Singh. Buddhist temples are really beautiful and even though they’re hundreds/thousands of years old because they’re used every day they keep them immaculate and full of colours. Feeling that we’d relented on not having a beer long enough we began the stroll home. On the way we called in at Wat Chedi Luang where we sat through about half an hour of a service. For the first 15 minutes the monks were all gathered at the front in silent contemplation and then began singing. Becoming a Buddhist monk is increasingly becoming appealing, however due to the amount of sitting with crossed legs for hours on end it is a career only for the flexible and I have cast it off as an aspiration along with contortionist and ballerina. After the Wat we headed back to the hotel, tracked down Amy and Justin and, with Rach increasingly looking like a fish out of water due to her need for a beer, picked up the cheapest beer from one of the ubiquitous (one for bruv) 7/11s. Rach was however to be left stranded like the last fish on the fish counter as it soon became apparent it was cider and she didn’t like it. She thus had to wait till tea to get back in the ocean of beer.
The next day (despite all evidence that this was not a good idea) we split up for the day. Rach went to a cookery class with Amy and Justin, for Justin’s birthday, and I decided I’d walk around Chiang Mai looking at things. On the cooking class Rach started by going to market and bought the products. She then learnt to make Green Curry Paste, Green Curry, Phad Thai, Tom Yum Soup, Veg Spring Rolls and Sticky Rice with Mango. She really enjoyed the experience and even managed to sneak me some tasty morsels home. My day involved (in chronological order) getting lost, the oldest temple I could find, walking the wrong way up a motorway, the national museum, seeing an owl in a temple, chocolate milk, getting lost, meeting a hillbilly in dungarees who wanted to know which part of America I was from who got lost with me for about half an hour, a temple in the jungle, a French woman who was convinced that I was at the temple for Buddhist prayer just like her and who I didn’t have the heart to tell I wasn’t so I had to look for the class with for another half an hour, Coca Cola and getting lost. In the evening we went to the brilliant Chiang Mia walking market which was full of dead cheap tasty food followed by a few tasty beers for the J-man’s birthday. If the evening had ended here all would have been well. However after meeting up with a couple the cookery students had met on their course, we ended up in a whirl wind of expensive drinks, the greatest Thai cover band the world has ever seen, free shots, seemingly an eternity of dancing and the eventual catastrophe inevitable from a night of such excess when drinking 6.8% beer. Though I was standing tall at the end of the night the heroine of this blog was not at her healthiest and so we stumbled home at about 2 o’clock.
However being in a Buddhist country we should have known that Karma would never be far behind, and sure enough the next morning it was time to set off on our day of trekking through the North Thai hills. While Amy and Justin were having their own crisis next door Rach was looking very green around the gills. Sure enough it would seem Rach had made it her mission to vomit after every mode of transport throughout the day. Thus once we got off the mini bus, where’s Rach? On all fours next to the mini-bus. Just before mounting an elephant, where’s Rach? On all fours next to the elephant shed. This sequence continued when we dismounted the elephant, when we arrived at the first ‘hill tribe’ (aka 3 market stalls on a hill), where a persistent 5 year old Thai girl stood over Rach repeating ‘5 Baht for bracelet lady’ and throughout our ‘trek’ (aka a pleasant short walk through the countryside). However things undeniably picked up when we arrived at a beautiful waterfall which washed the badness out of her and I loved. After this it was off to lunch followed by 45 minutes bamboo rafting where we got the joker punter whose moto was ‘no wet no fun’ and promptly overturned our raft after 5 mins leaving us shivering the rest of the way round. After this it was back home and McDonalds for my three companions and Thai Green Curry Soup for me.
The next day it was time to hit South Thailand on our whistle stop tour and so we flew into Phuket, the largest of the Thai islands. After a night stopover in the town we got an early morning bus and ferry to Ko Lanta. While the place we originally intended to stay was full, after a comb of the beach huts along Khlong Khong beach we found a reasonably priced beach hut a stones throw off the beach and set up. While Rach was already terrified by the information that there was a potential of tarantulas appearing in our room, our sparse interior of a bed, mosquito net and the numerous holes in the plywood floor, convinced her that we would probably never survive a night there. However after a really peaceful nights sleep she became slightly more hopeful at our chances of survival. We stayed in Ko Lanta for 4 nights and filled our time with a basic day of get up, go snorkeling, eat breakfast, sunbathe and read, get beer from 7/11 to watch beautiful sunset, eat tea, go bed. On the last day we hit the highway again and rented a scooter and whizzed around the island, checking out another beach and driving the length of the island in about 45 minutes. I even managed not to crash this time, but did break down due to lack of petrol. This problem was though quickly rectified as I broke down at a petrol station.
Next stop was the tiny beautiful island of Ko Jum, covered in tropical rainforest except for the strip of white sand that ran around its perimeter. There was only a 30 meter strip of concrete on the entire island, with the rest of the island’s one road not much more than a dirt track. To get there we caught the ferry from Ko Lanta and as we were passing Ko Jum our guesthouse sent out their longtail boat into the ocean and sailed us to land. We stayed at OonLee Bungalows an up market resort on the island. However rather than paying the prices they offered for their bungalows we opted to stay in a tent on the beach for 4 pounds a night. The view from the tent was amazing, as was the shower which allowed you to view the sunset over the sea as you washed. However our first problem was that we’d lost our 7/11 for cheap alcohol, water and snacks and secondly that the food at Oonlee was 4 times as expensive as anywhere else in Thailand. We thus walked about 30 minutes to find cheap water and, after checking out the rest of the other guesthouses nearby, decided to eat at our next door neighbor. We filled our first 2 days there with walking around the island (it was only about 10km long), lying in the hammocks reading our books and swimming. However there was trouble in paradise. Mr. Oon himself was not happy at our money saving ways and when on the third morning (of the 4 we’d booked) Rach got up to go to the toilet she was rudely informed that someone had been booked into our tent and we had to leave, check out 8.30 am. Quickly formulating a new plan we decided to jump back on the ferry as it passed, take on the 12 hour mission to Ko Pha Ngan and write a damning review on the Trip Advisor website where they’re rated number 1 for Ko Jum (middle class fury at its most raw.) Fast forward 12 hours, 3 boats, 2 buses and 1 taxi and we arrived at our resort in Ko Pha Ngan to find Amy and Justin who had arrived about an hour before. After a tasty tea we collapsed in bed.
The beach we’re currently on is Haad Salat a beautiful cove of beach which, though quite touristy, is really relaxed and shady with the best sea to swim in we’ve had yet. Yesterday was spent with an early morning run on the beach (my second of the holiday), followed by a swim, breakfast, hammock, beach, tea, bed.
That’s about everything that’s occurred in probably far more detail than you wished to know. Thanks to everyone for reading, especially Angela who’s rapidly becoming number one blog fan. Also a quick belated Happy birthday to Aunty Linda, sorry the birthday wishes are so delayed!!
Much love as always
Joe and Rach x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x