Email written on 25th Feb 06.
Well I thought it was time to update you all on the latest adventures! Thailand has been amazing and I am so sad to be leaving here tomorrow but also so excited about seeing a new destination! It’s funny how all the things that were so strange and confusing at the start of the month are completely second nature to us now! We have picked up some of the language, love the food and have really got used to the culture!
Bangkok was fantastic! We are constantly hearing traveler’s saying how much they disliked Bangkok but we think they are crazy! Perhaps because I'm a city girl I fitted right in! I loved the fact that it is so busy and modern yet filled with the friendliest people! If we weren't living on a budget I could have shopped forever! The transport is great too!
We spent a week in Bangkok. We had originally expected to only spend a couple of days there and then move on but we couldn't seem to drag ourselves away! We stayed on the Khao San road, which after India was mad! For those that haven't visited Thailand the Khao San Road is one strip of neon lights, shops and stalls selling fake designer gear for next to nothing, bars and clubs galore, it never seems to sleep, street vendors serve noodles round the clock, and it is constantly alive with loud music! It really is so bad you love it! We arrived at about 10pm on a Saturday and wandered down the strip with our backpacks! I was so used to having to cover up for the previous month in India and suddenly I was presented with hundreds of young people in bikinis and little skirts... I felt like such a prude!!
We got in to the swing of it and I dusted off my bikini and shorts! In Bangkok we spent the week really exploring the city. We went to the Grand Palace, and lots of temples and Buddhas. We visited the Red Cross hospital snake farm where they use the venom for medicinal purposes, it was really interesting! We visited Jim Thompson’s house and learnt about his mysterious disappearance, the house was beautiful! We wandered around the amulet markets observing all the monks! We went to see some Muay Thai boxing at one of Bangkok’s two big stadiums, it was fantastic!
We got about the city using the sky train, which is amazing! It is so well run and the air con is great when you've just stepped off Bangkok's humid streets! We also used the river ferries a lot to get about which was fun! And of course the good old tuks tuks!! We did stay wise to their scams but didn’t always succeed! We attempted 5 times to get to the main train station to book some train tickets but every time ended up at a travel agents! We stayed firm but always ended up dumped out on the street back where we began! At least we didn’t lose any money!
We also spent a day in Kanchanaburi to see the bridge over the river Kwai and the Japanese death railway. We took a ride on an old train, which runs alongside the old railway, it was really interesting!
Once we felt we had exhausted the many sights of Bangkok we decided to move North. We packed our backpacks and hopped on a train to the old capital of Ayuthuya. We left our packs in the station cloakroom and wandered around the historical park all day viewing the ruins and learning the history. Ayuthuya is a very beautiful city.
That night we got an overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai. The train was great! Such luxury compared to India! I was a little anxious because we had only managed to get tickets in different cars and so were facing a new train system alone for the night. I couldn’t believe it when the guy came and made my bed for me! The beds had so much room you could actually turn over and everything! The Indian trains were an experience, the Thai trains are luxury! We arrived in Chiang Mai the next morning refreshed after a full nights sleep!
We stayed at a great place called the Backpackers Meeting Place. They really knew what travelers were about. They had a swimming pool!!! Adam went off to explore the city for the day and I lazed by the pool reading a book all day! Heaven!
The next morning we set off trekking! We did a 3-day trek in the northern jungle! It was great! I am not exactly famed for my walking skills but I survived! It was hard work but the scenery was breath taking. The first night we spent in a hill tribe village, all 9 of us slept in a big hut.. it was like a school journey! It was great learning about the culture of the hill tribe. Our guide, a little Thai man called Joshua, was also a member of the Karen tribe and so we gained a real insight in to the culture.
We sat around the fire chatting and feeling really proud of ourselves for the days walking! The second afternoon we stopped for the night by a huge waterfall! We all showered in the waterfall (just like a shampoo advert!!), I loved it! The third day we walked for a few hours and then went elephant trekking. Me and Ad weren't especially excited having ridden an elephant in India but this was a million times better! The elephants were climbing the steepest parts of the hills with us clinging on at the top with no safety chain and barely anything to hold on to! It was like a rollercoaster! We bought some Bananas and sugarcane and rewarded our elephant each time he got up a steep bit! The elephants were beautiful.
The same afternoon we all went bamboo rafting which was fun! The rafts don’t actually move that fast (monsoon is yet to come and the water was pretty shallow) and so we made our own fun! We were destroying each others rafts tipping each other off! Every one of us was drenched through, it was great!
We met some great people trekking and 5 of us went out that night back in Chiang Mai. I was relieved to have one other girl on the trek, Jo, to explore the toilets with! I was hoping to have a Thai foot massage when we returned from Trekking but after the trauma my feet had been through I couldn’t bring myself to put them in front of someone else and expect them to touch them!
We were shattered from trekking but me and Ad were still up at 6am the following day!!! We went to visit a village where 3 of the hill tribes live and present their culture to tourists. A pretty strange existence we felt having tourists wander through their village every day but we were assured that they benefit greatly and the Thai government treat them very well. We visited the long necks, the long ears and the Arkar tribe. It was fascinating!
We also visited the most northerly village in Thailand and went to a point called the golden triangle. We stood on Thailand and could see both Myanmar (Burma) and Laos. It was really beautiful. We took a boat over to an island of Laos for the afternoon and tried some of the traditional snake whisky! Yuk!!
Chaing Mai had so much to do we really could have stayed there longer than a week. It has stunning scenery and the friendliest people and is so cheap. The Chiang Mai night bazaar is famous in Thailand, Adam and I went to test our bargaining skills!
Eventually the time to leave the north came and so we checked out and headed to the train station. We got an overnight train to Bangkok arriving at about 6am. Then we had 10 hours to kill before our next bus. We stored our backpacks away and headed for the Siam Square area of Bangkok - the big shopping centre MKB! We browsed for ages until we felt extremely jealous of everyone shopping and opted for the cinema. The Thai cinema is great - really hi tech! I was especially moved by the way everyone stands up before the film starts to the national anthem and watches a montage of photos of the king over the years! It was all very emotional! We watched 'Memoirs of a Geisha'.
Finally the time came to board our bus to the south! It was horrific!! The toilet had overflowed before we even got on the bus - slightly inconvenient and the stench was heave worthy! We didn’t get seats together and Adam had an extremely large man with oversized elbows to share his space with! We both tied towels around our faces to enable us to breathe. The strip light above our head had a small army of cockroaches running around! It was awful! 12 hours later we ran off of the bus vowing to never get on one again! We should have stuck to the train!
So we had arrived in Surat Thani. We had a 2 hour wait for another bus which took us to the ferry port. From the ferry port we had a 3 and a half hour boat journey to Ko Phangan. At this point it began to rain!!! (Yes I know you are all smiling!!) It was really heavy rain and it made the boat journey considerably rocky! We were both so tired having began the journey on Friday afternoon and now on Sunday still traveling desperately needing showers and half asleep standing up!
Eventually we arrived on the Island of Ko Phangan and jumped in the back of a pick up truck for a ride to our beach hut!
The rain continued to tip down for the following 3 days barely stopping for an hour! We invested in some playing cards and became masters of Rumee and several other games! Finally the rain stopped, we were beginning to get cabin fever in our little hut!
We decided to head to the port town of Thong Sala where we would try to get to a Wat we had read about. Wat Phra Khao Noi. Upon arrival a little monk came out to greet us and took us in to see the Buddha. He taught us how to pray to Buddha and also showed us some meditation! It was fantastic! Then he took us in to his living quarters and we spent the afternoon having tea and chatting to the Monk.
His name is Som Chai and he is a really distinct character! He was definitely a casual monk because he smoked loads of Marlboro Reds and had a big screen telly by his bed!!! He has traveled lots and he showed us his huge collection of photo albums. He has stayed at Jay Kay's house and has pictures to prove it! Apparently Jay Kay met him when visiting Thailand and invited him to stay with him in England and sought some guidance from Som Chai!!!! We spoke about our hopes for the future and he prayed for us. He gave us both amulets of his master to hang aroung our necks for luck. It was one of the most memorable days of our lives! When he waked up to the edge of the forest to where the path leads back down the hill in to town me and Adam felt like it couldn’t all be real! He is visiting England in April next year and so has invited himself to stay with us!!! Imagine me showing the monk around Brixton! It is going to be great! We are definitely going to stay in touch with him! I have some great photos of that afternoon!
The Full Moon party was wicked! We went with another couple from Canada, an English guy, an Australian girl and another girl from Holland! We all met in the taxi there and stayed together the whole night! We picked up strays as the night went on becoming a massive group! It was such a wicked sight as you approach the beach and catch the first glimpse of all the people dancing on the beach! The fire dancers were amazing! We spent time in every single bar along the beach eventually chilling out at Mellow Mountain!
Me and Adam have avoided alcohol since setting off to travel because it really does eat in to your budget, however the full moon turned us crazy! We were tucking in to the traditional drink of 'Buckets!' Literally a plastic bucket filled with Thai whisky (Samsong) redbull, coke and soda topped with loads of straws!! It was great! We lasted until 6.30am and then decided to call it a night!
We fell in to bed and woke up at midday realizing the sun had turned our wooden hut in to a sauna! It was disgusting! We peeled ourselves off of the sheets and straight in to a cold shower! I felt awful! I spent the whole day in our hammock dozing and eating comfort food!
We spent a day on the Ko Phangan original island boat trip called the 'Magic Reggae Boat Trip' where magic cigarettes were included in the ticket price! The boat went all the way around the Island, it was fantastic to see it all from a distance. We stopped for snorkeling and had lunch on the beautiful bottle beach! It was a great day! We had a great crowd and all met up for dinner that night, then sat on sand mats on the beach chatting for hours watching the fire dancers!
All week we had considered getting a moped to get around the island but been put off watching everyone return to the huts with the infamous Ko Phangan Tattoo - cuts, scrapes and grazes! The roads on Ko Phangan are crazy and the rain had turned them in to giant muddy sand holes! But on the last day we decided to give it a try! Adam went off to get the moped while I showered. A couple of hours later and I’m getting worried... either he's got carried away with the new toy and forgotten me or something has happened..... A little while later Adam storms back to the hut complete with his very own Ko Phangan tattoo!!! Luckily he wasn’t injured too badly but he has lots of grazes on his arms and legs, I think it was his pride that was hurt the most!
Having spent 7 days on the island we were ready to move on and so boarded the boat back to Surat Thani. From there we took a boat to Krabi. We opted for the secluded beach of Nop Tharrat Thara and got ourselves a hut. First impressions of the hut were great; it had lots of space and was right on the beach! Unfortunately first impressions are deceiving. We had an entire colony of ants move in with us and they were everywhere! They also left ant pooh on everything we own! They were coming from the rotten wood, the hut was ready to fall down! We had a bird living in the roof that became extremely active whenever Adam and I wanted to sleep! It would scratch the roof like it was about to come through! We only encountered 2 cockroaches inside the hut but they were huge!! I think the sun has caused advance evolution because these cockroaches were the same size as me! We also had a troop of bed bugs, which tucked in to Adams legs at night! All in all the hut really was a beautiful experience!
Krabi itself really was stunning though. The scenery was just like a postcard! The beach we stayed on was part of the national park. We spent our time visiting the phi Phi Islands, Leh and Don. Phi phi leh is where the film 'The Beach' was filmed. Phi phi Don still had obvious tsunami damage which was quite shocking to see. I was really moved at the strength of the faith the islands population still have after such a tragedy. I swam out to sea and took a moment to contemplate the day that the wave from the very sea I was in had hit the very beach that I was on. It was really poignant.
We also visited a hot spring waterfall and an emerald lake containing natural minerals. The lake was so warm, every now and then the bottom of the lake would release bubbles just like a Jacuzzi!
We also visited the tiger cave temple: 1237 steps up a mountain! It was exhausting but the view and the breeze at the top was worth it!
Yesterday I had a full body Thai massage! It was certainly an experience! A cross between torture and yoga! Although the actual massage wasn't the most enjoyable experience I walked out feeling like a new person!
Today we left Krabi and got a bus to Hat Yai where we are now. We are spending one night here, and tomorrow getting an overnight train to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We are only spending a couple of hours there before boarding another train to Singapore. We are going to spend one night in Singapore and then head to Bali! I am quite exhausted just thinking about the journey - 4 countries in 3 days!!!