I'm still trying to update this blog, but finding the time in between sunbathing, swimming and general relaxation is proving difficult. I guess I should not expect too much sympathy on that front though.
Anyway, to recap.... I had a great time in Thailand, although was not there that long really - only a couple of weeks. I had a very long bus ride to Bangkok from Siem Riep and was packed in like sardines with all the other tourists who had trying getting a budget bus trip. Most of the journey was spent trying to slap feeling back into my legs as sitting with my knees up by my ears whilst sliding around on a bumpy road was unsurprisingly a little uncomfortable. However, I met some nice people on the bus and subsequently spent the next four days with them all in Bangkok.
Like every other tourist I stayed on the Koh San Road and had the obligatory banana pancakes, beer and noodles that it would be rude to not join in with. It was a bit of a culture shock to be somewhere so modern after such a long time and buying even simple things took me ages to get my head around as I have not been used to having a range of choices to pick from. It was also strange to be around so many tourists after being in places where there were only a few pockets of tourists and hearing so many people speaking in English accents. I started to wonder if there were any people still in England, or were they all in Thailand.
I had a few days to treat myself to having a much needed haircut and this time I paid out to get a decent one from Toni and Guy (unlike my last disasterous cheap haircut in Hong Kong). It was funny to whizz around the city in the crazy tuk tuks with drivers who seemed to either be under the influence of some fairly strong substances or just liked alarming the tourists by laughing hysterically whilst driving head on towards lorries and simultaneously turning to look at you and see your reaction.
I went to see the Muay Thai kickboxing in the big Lumpini Arena and really enjoyed the night. There were three types of tickets, but the owners clearly wanted the tourists in the first class area and not in the third class caged area. I had not taken enough money for anything other than the third class, but the ticket vendor was concerned about me being in this section and so told me not tell anyone and I could go in the main area. I guess I kept that secret really well then .....oops.
There were about six matches and some of the fighters looked really young and I thought it must be way past their bedtime. However, the main fighters were really mean looking and absolutely laid into each other. By the end of the guys had what looked like really bad bruising over one entire side of his back. The crowd seemed to love the more intense fights and the supporters for each side would chant collective 'ooohhh' and then 'ahhhhhh' each time their man landed a punch or kick. I have no idea how all of them did not end up with broken ribs as they took repeated knee blows to their ribcage. It was a really exciting night and I was pleased to see I may have sat in the same seat as the likes of Steven Segal and Jean Claude Van Damme, who had previously watched the matches there. Unfortunately they were not there on the night I was there.
I also went to see the Ladyboy Cabaret in one of the hotels. It was a very surreal night which started with a Thai Elvis impersonator warm up act before you all had to go downstairs to the dimly lit nightclub and sit at tables to watch the performance. Some of the ladyboys were absolutely stunningly beautiful and really did not look like men. However, others looked like prop forwards in suspenders. The show was based around lots of big dance numbers with homages to silent film stars like Louise Brooks, flamboyant camp numbers with Carmen Miranda and a backing troupe of ostiches, a Chicago number with lots of leather, a spanish guitar strumming stand off Latino story, a dramatic wedding scene and geishas. It was really over the top and funny and was a great night out. I also ended up getting a bit more than I bargained for due to the delay on my camera flash and missed a shot of a big line up to discover I had instead caught the precise moment they did a Fully Monty whip all the clothes off. At least it sorted out my doubts as to whether they were all women or not! NB: I thought best not to include this one on my blog.
I also had a pretty funny night out with the guys I was travelling with at one of the bars in Patpong. Again it would probably not be a good idea to describe it on my blog!
I then caught a plane down to Phuket and met a couple of girls from France and Denmark that I subsequently spent the next few days with. We spent the first night in Phuket town and discovered we had arrived there when there was a week long annual celebration called the Vegetarian Festival. That night one of the roads was taken up with street stalls selling lots of vegetarian food and all the locals wore white. I had been led to believe the festival was a little more exciting than tofu, so felt a little disappointed.
The next day we caught the ferry to Koh Pi Pi island and despite a very worrying start with a big storm cloud directly over us we managed to pass through it to a really beautiful little island with palm trees, turquoise sea (as you can see from my picture below) and clear blue skies. We could not help but feel happy for our good fortune. We booked into one of the nicer beach bungalows and the next few days were spent relaxing, swimming, having a beach front massage, snorkelling, chatting, eating and drinking cocktails. It really was a great place to have my birthday and I spent it on a boat trip around the island in the picture below where you jump off and look down to discover beautiful coral and fish. It is the place where the Leonardo di Caprio film The Beach was made and is indeed really stunning. One area has a beautiful turquoise lagoon with a rope swing and high limestone walls. I also went on three scuba dives and saw a tiger shark and a Tsunami memorial where the Thai's had sunk a beach hut and had a number of plaques with inscriptions.
On my return to Phuket I discovered the real Vegetarian Festival where the locals all pierce themselves with skewers, knives and even a ceiling fan and then parade through the streets in a shamenistic trance. It really made you wince to see these walking human kebabs who must have been in at least minor discomfort. I spent a couple of hours watching before breakfast and then decided I'd had enough. It was a bit early in the morning for it, although strangely fascinating too.
Anyway, Thailand was great and I then caught a plane to Oz for the last section of my trip.
Will update how I get on soon.