Sunday, 19 December 2010

Last Days of Thailand

Apologies for the lengthy delay in updating the blog.. living out of the back of a van for the past 2 weeks has left it hard to get any time on the Internet. In Melbourne at the mo FYI, but its freezing and raining heavily!!
On to the update...

So our 2 day detox and recovery on Koh Lanta had gone well, Rob had now got the worst out of his system and we were all feeling pretty good. A much more comfy ride to Koh Lanta port in a nice 4x4 in the bright morning sunshine. Throughout the trip we have seen some pretty funny sights on the road including an Ox just standing up in the back of a pickup, and on this morning we passed a family in a tuk tuk being driven by what must have been the 5 year old son!

The ferry ride over was pretty smooth, Tom and I sat on deck taking in the sunshine and sights of the surrounding islands. On arrival we headed back to Sachas hostel where we booked into a pretty nice room with a good shower and good air con!! Throughout our stay on Phi Phi we had always said we should go check out Maya Bay which was on Phi Phi Lay (the smaller sister Island of Koh Phi Phi (which is Don)), the place where scenes from the film "The Beach" were shot. So we booked ourselves on the budget boat trip, which included a visit to "Monkey beach", snorkeling and watching the sunset. We spent a couple of hours relaxing on the beach and on the net before heading to the travel agents to be taken to our boat trip. Here we found the "Brilliant" lads from the other day and all headed off to jump on a longboat. The boat journey itself was quite an experience with 14 crammed in it looked certain we would topple and sink the thing at some points! Monkey beach did what it says on the tin, a beach with monkeys on. It was quite funny watching scared people running away from chasing monkeys, particularly Rob letting out a girlish scream and heading for the safety of the water.. Next stop was a quick dip in a really beautiful bay with clear water and white sand, nicely spoiled by one of the "brilliant" lads getting his bum out for a photo and the boat driver making some rather crude exclamations and gestures towards him! Onto some snorkeling in another bay which offered an amazing amount of tropical fish and coral creatures and plants through the crystal clear water, the best snorkeling views I've ever seen I'd say! Once everyone was satisfied we continued onto Maya Bay (The Beach) where we stopped off for a good hour. The scenery and beach here were amazing and could see why it was chosen for the film. The bay was enclosed by the classic Thai Island scenery of huge rock faces covered in plants, dropping down to the clear water and soft white sands with the sun beginning to set behind the bay.  Just off the beach was a little path through some high grass and tropical trees, very inspiring. A relaxing hour later we headed off on the boat, with some fresh pineapple to nibble on, to watch the sunset in the middle of the water between Lay and Don, which was very romantic...Back to the island and our hostel, headed to a local and next door restaurant, where I had the tastiest Panang Curry I've had, even got the recipe for it now.
Once again we had a couple of buckets and partied on the beach for a while bumping into none other than Alaskan Tony again, who again could not remember who we were! Unfortunately though this night it was the time for Tom to be violently ill from the stomach bug/food poisoning, so he didn't have a very happy night, but once morning had broken he was back on form.
The next day was pretty relaxed and non eventful, mainly recovering from the night before, after some time spent on the Internet we once again headed to Long Beach, though by the time we had got there the sun had disappeared behind some rather ominous clouds. On our walk back we were informed of an all you can eat buffet for what seemed a reasonable price. So headed here for our dinner, though the food was not quite as nice as hoped. I wish I could say this night was far more relaxed than the previous but it started off with us getting some DIY buckets from a local shop. Extremely strong and very disgusting which we unwillingly drunk in our room whilst playing cards, again (I have discovered on this journey that humid temperatures and alcohol make me as red as a tomato, as the boys will tell you I really flared up, that or I have an allergy to Thai Whisky...). From here we once more headed to the Irish bar where once again we bumped into Alaskan Tony and more adventures on the beach continued. Tom left slightly early as was still not 100% leaving Rob and myself to tear up the dance floor, then eventually getting a shisha after some serious bartering (I think the only reason we got it was because we had wanted a good fun barter), spent and hour relaxing, chatting to a French man from Toulons - telling him all about my elder sister and my nephew. The night ended up with Rob suggesting that if I got a tattoo he would as well, the sly dog. Therefore in my rather drunken state I joined the club of a Thai tattoo. I adamantly requested I had my parents names in Thai tattooed onto my right side, a bit of a spur of the moment decision, hoping to get my parents in a catch 22 situation...and I also couldn't think of anything "cool" to have... and so to bed..

The next morning we had to get up early, check out and get ourselves tickets for the ferry over to Phuket. This day was scorching. The ferry that was taking us over to Phuket was a huge luxury one, somehow we got for the same price as the little ones that took us to and from Koh Lanta. We instantly headed up to the top deck to relax in the heat of the Sun with a couple of beers, wisely topping up our suncream and blood alcohol content, though we were sure we would burn.. somehow we didn't.. in fact none of us ever have so far this journey, though I don't know how as we are desperately trying to Tan!! This journey was accompanied by some lovely views of the islands, as well as that of a man trying his earnest to chat up an attractive woman on the deck below, providing us with some gold entertainment and banter for the journey. On the ferry we had booked ourselves a taxi to drive us to Patong Beach (an apparent good tourist destination). So once we had alighted from the ferry we had a half an hours taxi ride with a driver who gave no care to road safety (seems a common theme with the taxi drivers there), cutting up other road users etc dropping us off near some hotels. All the hotels in this area looked rather swish so we took it upon ourselves to trek, with all our bags, down the road to search for a cheaper backpackers hostel. However all we did was find increasingly pricey and extravagant hotels, eventually resorting to jumping in a tuk tuk and asking him to take us to some cheap accommodation. After stopping off a couple of times to check prices and availability we inevitably ended up back at the hotels where we had first been dropped off. We gave in and decided to pay 1000 bhat for the night (between the 3 of us), which to be honest was still only 7 pounds each. This was probably the best decision we had made on the trip so far as the Hotel was LUSH!!! Rooftop swimming pool, gym, large comfy king size bed (that fitted all 3 of us in), lovely shower and toilet... we got an absolute steal!

After basking in the awesomeness and a quick dip in the swimming pool we headed out to search for somewhere to eat and watch the Arsenal - Tottenham match. This walk was rather a whirlwind adventure, starting off casually walking down the street being asked every now and then if us "Handsome men/man /sexy man etc etc" wanted a massage, then headed into a small area with loads of small round bars/huts. These bars were all 'manned' by Thai girls and, my god, I cant describe to you the wall of sound that hit us as we entered the area.. All these ladies shouting at us trying to get us to come over and have a drink at their hut, naturally we got scared and just walked through not really sure what to do. So we continued through and round and out the other side, not really sure as to what had just happened but agreed we should go back at some point for a drink... We eventually found a small restaurant and had a not very good meal while watching Aresnal throw away a 2 goal lead to Tottenham.. shame..
After dinner we continued our walk through the center ending up at Bangla Road. A wide street lined with "A Go Go" bars, bright lights, lots of food stalls and loud music... and absolutely buzzing with tourists. The long walk down this road was pretty similar to the huts we had seen earlier, lots of local girls all trying to tempt you into their bar, though far smuttier. We just kept our heads down and headed home to the hotel. I'll say one thing though, all our Egos were firmly boosted...
Once back Tom and I decided we should go for a drink though Rob was once again feeling worse for wear and spent the night in the hotel room being ill...
Mine and Toms adventure was quite a funny one starting off rather normal in a bar on the corner of Bangla Road which was packed with tourists. Here we had a couple of beers and enjoyed watching English, Irish, Scottish and Aussie boys and girls make fools of them selves on stage, followed by quite a talented local band... Innocently moving on we got dragged into what I can best describe as a big room of bars on the side of the road, lots of bars all in close proximity with local girls all screaming at you to come to theirs.. standard.. Tom and I sat down at one and got ourselves a couple of beers, here we were chatted up by two local girls (I'm assuming they may have been "solicitors" *cough*). These girls brought out a few board games and we actually had quite a funny and enjoyable time playing connect four and Jenga with them. Felt rather odd but very amusing all the same. I think they were slightly disappointed that we left without ordering anything "extra"..
Moving onto to another bar and a quick drink we decided we were ready to head home...

The next morning with glorious sunshine out, and Rob feeling back on form, we headed to the beach. Patong beach reminded me a lot of the Mediterranean with lots of deck chairs and parasols, motorboats towing parachutes and lots of families and older folk. A MacDonald's later (the only food we really felt we could trust by now) and we got ourselves a couple of deck chairs and soaked in the sun, though it was uncomfortably hot. Rob decided to take a dip in the sea (which too was stupidly warm) whilst myself and Tom paid a few bhat to be rubbed down with fresh Aloe Vera... incredibly gooey, it felt like we were covered in jelly, but amazingly cooling and good protection for the skin.. win win!
After enough time in the sun we headed back to the hotel to take a dip in our roof top pool with a couple of refreshing Chang beers (though by this point we were all rather resenting Chang beer as it had dealt us much pain). Whilst going through the motions of shithead before dinner it was finally my turn to get the bug. Coming on rather slowly but then hitting me with full force. I'll spare the details but once I was ready we headed out to find Pizza. Arriving at a suitable Pizza parlour I felt extremely poorly and was straight to the loo, after ordering I decided it was too risky to stay out and took my pizza take away back to the hotel. I cant tell you about Tom and Robs night but I think it involved watching football with a few beers much nicer than how mine ended as I became feverish and hated everything about my insides.

Needless to say I didn't get too much sleep but eventually the next morning arrived and we woke early to check out and jump in a taxi (which once again drove like a madman), to Phuket Airport. Checked in and fed, I felt much better tho still slightly ropey. However we had arrived about 2 hours earlier than we needed to so spent a lot of time sat around doing what we do best with time on our hands.. playing cards.
An uneventful 3 hours later our Thailand adventure had ended and we set foot in Singapore.

I guess a few things we can take away from Thailand is the Chang lottery is bad, Buckets are amazing, food is delicious but can cause some trouble, you can feel famous and we became far too comfortable with each other..

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Koh Phi Phi continued

Well we've arrived in Perth and are now in a Hostel so have a bit of free time to get up to date with some of the rest of Thailand..

The 4th day of our travels started rather slowly with us all feeling the effects from the night before (our first encounter with the buckets of alcohol they have there). We woke ourselves up made our way down the ridiculously steep steps and into the main streets where we grabbed a typical Full English breakfast and a fruit smoothie to sort ourselves out. Really appreciating the local culture and cuisine... After filling ourselves we headed off to Long Beach again, taking a shorter route over the rocks to get there. We spent the rest of the afternoon here swimming, relaxing, throwing a frisbee, and grabbed a drink and snack at the bar on the beach before heading back to our Hostel. A rather similar evening to the previous happened (gambling shithead with beers then heading to the local Irish bar to make use of the 3 for 1 buckets they had on offer). This night we made friends with a couple of Aussies and an Alaskan named Tony who bless him was a nice guy but everytime we bumped into him from then on, he could never remember us - friendly all the same! The night ended in some typical Brit behaviour of the other 2 (Tom and Rob) skinny dipping in the sea and taking a good time to stumble home..

The next morning and we were meant to rise before 11 so we could check out and find ourselves somewhere nicer and cheaper to stay. But once again it was a slow start, and when finally packed and leaving we had incured a late fee - something we learnt from in the future (we've noticed we like to learn things the hard and expensive way...). We wandered down into the center and found ourselves a nice little Hostel named Sachas where we got a room for half the price of our previous with a working shower and a bed each (rather than a double and a single). After unwinding and eating we headed to an internet Cafe and booked ourselves onto a flight from Phuket to Singapore on the 22nd November, thought it best otherwise it was a 24 hour coach ride.. We then again hit the beaches again until dusk, on the main beach this time where our frisbee skills impressed some fellow Brits who cheered and jeered our throws - its nice to think we can entertain and make ourselves look reasonable good!! Theses Brit lads were even more liabilities than us 3, having all tatooed "Brilliant" on thier bodies, amoungst other things.

It was leaving this beach when Tom accidently put Rob's camera in the bin.. Rob had left it in a small plastic bag which we had then begun to use as a waste bag, hence going in the bin! Quite a shame to lose this, Rob for obvious reasons as losing a camera is never good (I also understand it was a birthday present from the family.. sorry about that!!), but it also had some very good photos on!

After the beach we once again got some beers and played shithead, (*From here on I have photos of our trip). The night followed the same pattern of dinner then buckets at the Irish bar, bumping into Alaskan Tony again then hitting the beach for a dance. This night was quite epic with each of us splitting off and having a good story, to be told another day. Ended up with me wandering past a tattoo parlor to look to my left and seeing Rob in the middle of having a tattoo of "Wales" in Thai placed on his right buttock. Found Tom, Rob spent some time arguing because some Thai locals said the writing said "Whale", once resolved headed back to pass out.

The next morning, day 6, we had to be up early to check out and get ourselves organised to head over to Koh Lanta via the local ferry. We booked our ticket for the 2.30 boat across and relaxed with some local pancakes on the beach. Rob got himself an hour long thai massage, which I very much regret not doing myself as it looked awesome from the look on his face! Got ourselves to the port and onto our ferry where we all instantly felt sea sick/hungover. Luckily we all managed to sleep for the journey without feeling ill at all, I though for sure it was on the cards that at least one of us would be horrificly ill! This ferry ride also started with one of the funniest moments so far... Rob chose his seat next to a little girl as it was the only one free... as soon as he sat down she let out the loudest and most scared scream imaginable, screaming at him and crying.. over rushes the mother apologising saying the girls is afraid of men.. though im sure any young girl would have the same reaction if a semi drunk/hungover Rob had sat down next to them!
Once arrived on Koh Lanta (weather not great) we got ourselves a Tuk tuk half way down the island to a Hostel on the beach. After we realised that we could have got free transfer in a nice truck to a hostel right next door that was charging the same price for a room!! Mugs once again!!
We checked into our quite nice little bungalow, checked out the beach and had a little wander in the rain. The time on Koh lanta was meant to be relaxing and detoxing to recover from our rather hectic start. It was detoxing, but not very relaxing for Rob and Tom. The evening was the start of what we think must have been a stomach bug or Food poisining. Again played shithead, without beer this time, and headed to a nice local restaurant right next door to have dinner, though I was the only one that could stomach their entire meal, enjoying every mouthful.. Tom fared ok and struggled through most of his, however Rob was now feeling terrible and could only manage 3 forkfulls! The night was a colourful one for Rob who I dont think had much sleep being very ill from both ends, whilst Tom also suffered rather bad being bloated and restless.. I slept soundly on..

The next day with everyone feeling rather on edge, I was putting it down to a 2 day hangover for me, but Rob and Toms bellys were definately not well. Spent some time on our beach swimming and sunbathing, as the weather had now improved. We had some time on our hands to relax and get some of the blog done and get in contact with the families and GFs etc. Later I had taken my great scooter ride to the cash point, where admittidly I did standardly topple the scooter when turning it around, both me and the bike abs perfect condition though so no worries there! This night we decided to head and get some Pizza as everyone was on the road to recovery. Only we happened to find the most expensive Pizza place on the Island, but thought we might as well treat ourselves just this once...After our nice but expensive (I say expensive it was probably still only max 8 pounds each) meal we hit the sack again to try and get some rest before waking early the next morning to get our ferry back to Koh Phi Phi! I believe the night was less eventful for Rob and Tom than the previous, which was nice...

Will update with the last few days of Thailand shortly. (FYI we have been in Perth for 4/5 days now and I have not seen any sign of a single cloud in the sky @ 35 degrees heat, I hear its snowed in Oxford??)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Koh Phi Phi - Hitting the beach

Picking up where I left off..

We had booked our tickets to get a bus and ferry to Koh Phanang and were now waiting for a bus to take us on a 10 hour trip to the coast. Here we met a couple of Irish girls who it turns out will be on our flight to Perth from Singapore, its a small world when travelling! The coach journey itself was actually more comfortable than our flight to Bangkok, with large seats that reclined almost fully back and plenty of leg space. A couple of innapropriate films and some sleep later we arrived at Surat Thani, where the whole coach was unloaded and we seemed to be left in the middle of nowhere waiting for the next leg of the journey. Here we discovered that poor weather was preventing the passage of the ferry to Koh Phanang. Therefore we got swindled into continuing onto Koh Phi Phi, the other side of the country. Whilst in Surat Thani waiting for the next coach to arrive we were taken into a small Travel agents where we were pretty much massively mugged. We were convinced into booking a hotel for when we arrived on Koh phi phi, the pictures looked nice and the price sounded reasonable in our heads so we booked two nights. I was then taken off on the back of a moped to a near by cash point to complete payment for this booking, I couldn't help but feel slightly vulnerable! Soon after my return a battered old coach appeared to take us onto Krabi where we would get the Ferry across to Koh Phi phi. A short 2 hour coach trip, along some of the straightest roads we've ever been on, and a smooth ferry ride later we stepped foot onto Koh Phi phi. The weather wasnt brilliant, quite overcast, but the island still looked beautiful. On the pier we met a man from our hotel (Bamboo Mountain) who put our bags in a cart and walked us through the center and up the hill to our accomodation. The long walk and the room we were put in is really why we got completely mugged off when booking in Surat Thani, as it was a complete hole with no working shower and up miles of little steps..and we paid far more than we should have done. Once unloaded and in our beach gear we headed out to explore and find a beach. The center of Koh Phi Phi is small but very busy with lots of little alley ways and many many bars, restaurants, shops and tattoo parlors (tourist central..). We walked along the coast following a small path sign posted to "Long Beach". The path was a bit of a scramble of clambering up rocks, through small tropical woodland and across neighbouring little beaches and Hotels, quite an adventure in itself. Finally we arrived at Long Beach, settled down and relaxed, having a swim and beginning work on our tans (the weather had improved a lot since the start of the day). Once the sun started setting we headed back taking a bit of a shorter more direct route across the rocks on the coast, to get us back to our hotel, picking up a few Chang beers on the way. Here we begun what would be a bit of a ritual for the next few nights of having a couple of beers whilst playing a bit of gambling "Shithead" (a card game that seems to turn us into retards when playing, fun none the less). After a few hours of mayhem we headed into the center to check out phi Phi  night life, which is awesome. A few buckets and some dancing on the beach later we were all safely tucked up in our mosquito nets.

Again time is short so will update the next few days of Phi phi soon....

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Thailand week one (A blurry beginning)

I guess I should start off from where I left off in my brief opening post... I'll try to go into detail but not so much that it deters you from reading on!

Leaving my house for the last time for a while, I set off with my parents to Robs house to pick him up and say farewell to Kelly (probably more emotional for Rob than myself). With Rob holding back the tears we were on our way to Heathrow. Once at Heathrow, parked and in the terminal (3) we met Tom and his parents and got our bags checked in, giving the parents some time to chat and discuss worries no doubt... Soon followed the sad goodbye to mine and Toms parents and the boring process of waiting to actually board our BA 747 plane. A cheeky couple of pints while watching the football helped this time fly by, a little too quickly perhaps leading us to quicken our pace to the departure gate (which happened to be the furthest away). The flight itself was relatively uneventful and gave us some time to watch a few films/read/eat/drink/sleep. I say uneventful but a lady did happen to pass out and fall flat on her face right next to Tom, causing a slight stir and it didn't help I was watching a comedy at the time as we couldn't help but let out a little chuckle. She was fine in the end after given some oxygen and rest, for those that were worried....

We arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, at around half 3-4ish and worked our way through customs to pick up our bags and head to the nearest taxi rank. My bag had been slightly tricky as I had wrapped it up at Heathrow in shrink wrap so ripping that off proved to be some issue..(eventually helped by Toms scissors..)
Taking a 30 minute taxi ride to Khao San road, very jet lagged, we ended up being chatted to for a while by a couple of Thai locals about where we should stay and what we should be wary of. Needless to say we ignored exactly what they said and headed down Khao San road to find a Hostel. Booked into one which looked quite nice with a good bar/restaurant, Robs telling me it was called Khao San Holiday Inn, proved safe enough for the one night in Bangkok. After dinner in the Hostel we headed out to check out what the road was like. Lots of Bars and lots of stalls to buy things with lots of Thais vying for your attention/money. After a few beers in an Irish bar Rob decided to take us on a wild goose chase around a few of the back alleys and empty streets until we eventually ended up back on Khao San Road. A few more beers (which all turn out to not actually be that much cheaper than in England), in a few more bars and we ended up taking a tuk tuk ride with a guy named "Tony Montana". This guy was pretty wild with his driving, scaring the life out of us and losing one of Robs flip flops, he also pulled out an air punch whilst driving which is now our signature move... I know we are cool. After watching a local talent show we took a ride back with Tony to the bars and headed into a club.. from here on its a little fuzzy but we did make some new Scottish and Irish friends (for the night), staying up till gone 6 chatting and eating local Phad Thai.

The next morning was a little bit hazy but once we woke ourselves and repacked our bags, leaving them at reception, we got ourselves some breakfast/lunch. (Rob is taking over writing the blog from this point on, due to the fact we need money to pay for our boat tomorrow, and I am being sent on a mo-ped from this internet cafe for free to get money, feel like they might be doing this to rip us off, but I have been asking to go on a bike ride since we got here, and so far none - so here goes)

After eating we decided to take a walk and see if we could be cultural for at least some part of the trip. So we decided to walk right and see what happened. After about 10 mins walking we were approached by a local and asked if we wanted to be taken around a number of the buddhist temples for only 30 bht each (about 60p) and we jumped at it. So on we got and headed around a number of temples, which if we are honest we cannot remember the names of. There was a lot of gold statues and impressive marble work which we did have on record but that camera has been lost as you will find out if you read on. We soon found out why the price of our tuk tuk was cheap as we suddenly stopped outside a suit shop and were told if we bought a suit he would get a ticket for free petrol. So with no intention of buying a suit in we went. 10 minutes later we came without a suit as even though we managed to get the suits down from 11,000 bht to 6,000 we decided it was not worth it. So we went outside and disappointed out tuk tuk driver and thought that would be the last of it as he took us to another temple. However it was not.

We then left the last temple thinking we had 1 more to go to but again pulled up in front of a further suit place (this time it looked a lot smarter and professional) so in we went. However I at that point was adamant that I wasn't going to get a suit where as Chris and Tom were pretty sure but would ask a few questions. So as i sat down waiting to see what happened and time was ticking by I thought I would go and check they were still not going to, only to find them haggling a final price, which is where I stepped in said if I got one as well what deal with they give to given the offer of 5,000 bht which the other 2 jumped at and I quickly followed 'suit'. After choosing our suit linings we then left and gave the taxi driver what he had been waiting for, his free petrol voucher.

(chris is still alive and taking over again)
That was quite a fun ride by myself in the dark. Luckily no crash.
After ordering our tailor made suits, which will be sent to our homes back in England so we don't have to go and pick them up and lose them along the way, we headed back to our hostel. Here we had a bite to eat then headed to a middle of a roundabout with our bags to wait for our bus that we thought we take us to Koh Phanang....
This blog will resume once we have a bit more time in the next couple of days....

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Off We Go!

A quick first note to start this blog off!

The day has finally come and after the months of anticipation and (lack of) preperation I, as I'm sure are the others, cannot wait to get on that plane and arrive in Bangkok. Weather reports arent looking too favourable for the first few days but hopefully the sunshine will arrive in time for us to relax on the beaches!!

All packed now and just finishing preperations off, then to Robs to pick him up and travel to Heathrow to meet up with Tom.

Its been a good couple of years back in Oxford and will miss many a good friend, I'll look forward to seeing everyone on my return... be prepared for many a great long story that goes nowhere but I find amusing none the less!!

Cya soon,