Saturday, 29 August 2009

The art of losing face and the amazing Mister Paz

Sawasdee from Bangkok.
Lots to update -meant to get on line yesterday but it didn't happen and already I am forgetting some of the stuff which has been occurring.
So where did we leave off? Oh yep waiting our pick up for the train at Surat Thani. So along come a man in a van and we get bundled off to a place in the middle of nowhere (this we are finding is the usual course of events) everyone has to get out show their tickets and is then branded (well not quite but we're all stuck with a sticker - there are varying colours of sticker depending on where you're headed and from then on you are herded, divided, subdivided etc as you journey along (it is exactly like one man and his dog and we are the sheep BAH!) So after hanging around for 10 minutes all looking puzzled and occasionally being startled into trotting around in little flocks of confusion. A kindly looking shepherd whistled to Si and me and pointed to his mini van with a wink he motioned us into the two seats up front with him. We thought cool - we get to see where we are going and have some more space -then he piled our big rucksacks and our day sacks under our feet up there too. So essentially we were concertinaed and balanced precariously so that one sudden break would see us smashing through the windscreen. I had the added joy of sitting on the handbreak (fun for me and fun for the driver which was nice!) Oh well with a journey of only 3 hours who's complaining?
The journey was awesome as once again we travelled through miles of jungle with mountains all around. Eventually it grew dark and we arrived in what could only have been Surat Thani a bustling little city at that time of the evening with mostly Thai folk eating in the cafes and scooting about on mopeds. We were following the main streets for a while and then suddenly the driver took us down increasingly dingy dark and poverty stricken side streets stopping when several men darted out of a building and flagged him down. There then began a truly scary bit of business where these men and a women were all shouting through the windows, opening the doors and prodding the travellers shouting "Bangkok? You go Bangkok?" It seemed they were touting people to break away from their chosen route and go off with them. In the end they got to S and I in the front seat and on hearing we were going to the train station dragged us out the van. My terrified confused glances and beseeching of our non-English (and you would think by his own puzzlement no-Thai) speaking driver were wasted. We were hustled off through the alleys with growling dogs and strange dark faces peering out of doors and handed to a third man who took posession of some car keys from a fourth guy and put our back packs in the boot of a car. He motioned us to get in and then we saw some money changing hands before we were driven off in the back firing automobile. We kept reassuring each other that this was okay and they were taking us to the station (which we knew was about 10 kms away from Surat Thain town) but we were holding hands very tightly and then Simon started laughing and pointed to a road sign which said "Slaughter House" Obviously we lived to update the blog again... but for a few blood chilling minutes we were afraid we may be leaving you, our dear readers, bereft of another chapter.
Once at the station we settled down on our wooden seats to while away 4 hours until our train came. First class is the only way travel folks! The beds were way better and our private compartment allowed us to sit up for a while enjoying a couple of drams of Thai Whiskey and reflecting soto voce on the early travel terrors. We both slept reasonably well and spent the morning sitting on the lower bunk eating brekky and watching as the scenery changed from rice paddies to the increasingly built up burbs of BK. Some culture shock as we went slowly past some pretty poor shanty places where we watched families sitting on the floors of their corrugated shed houses built next to railway line and on stilts top keep them from the stagnant and filthy ponds they lived over.
Once in Bangkok we dutifully ignored all the taxi touts and went straight for the official pink metered cabs. Hopping in and giving the driver our destination (Soi Rambhuttri - near the Khao San Road but less manic with Backpackers and travellers and touts) I said the name a couple of times and he was saying Yes yes yes. Once we set off I realised his meter wasn't on so asked. He said No Meter I charge 100 baht. Okay we thought that's about what it would cost anyway and he is basically pulling a fast one on his bosses - fair do's. About half an hour later he pulls into the basement carpark of a high rise apartment block in the financial/business district! We explain again where we are going and then he's slapping his forehead and banging the steering wheel and driving like a loony. Next he's on his mobile and jabbering away and then he hands me the phone and barks Speak! On the other end is a lady who speaks English asking where we are going. She understands first time and then says that the driver wants 300 Baht to take us there... No way says I did she realise he was driving off the meter despite our asking that he use it? Anyway it all got a bit frantic and in the end I offered 200 baht by way of sharing the blame for the lack of understanding when we originally gave our destination.
We've done a lot of reading about Thai culture since we've been here and they have some very cool philosophies about things (based on the Buddhist culture here) One is Sanuk - this word encapsulates an ethos which seems to be there's no point in doing anything unless it is fun.. it is the art of making things fun. Remember a few blogs ago when we described watching the hotel staff on Phi Phi working their sarongs off all day unloading a supply boat? We said we wer struck by their team work and by how much fun they seemed to be having despite the hard work ? THAT is sanuk in action. Sort of related to this is there fear of losing face. If someone drops a box or trips up the observers of this mini calamity will make sanuk (make it a fun thing) this is to help the person it has happened to save face. Our taxi driving incident was the art of losing face... it was awful! I felt terrible because I was sorry for the driver but frustrated that our inability to communicate with one another meant we couldn't find a compromise. Everyone was hurting. Our driver passed a temple just before we got to our true destination and taking his a hands off the wheel he practiced the wei (showing respect by placing palms together, fingers touching your forehead and bowing your head) He kept fingering the amults and Buddha statues hanging from the mirror. When we stopped he quietly said "I velly solly" I thanked him and smiled and made the wei to him and Simon shook his hand and we were all smiling and nodding. I love Thailand!
I guess it was fate that all this happened as we ended up right by the Sawasdee Guest House which had an amazing room with a bed the size of a house and hot shower (for a change) and cafe, restuarant, right in heart of a laid back area all for 26 pounds per night which is hugely expensive after paying a tenner a night for the last few weeks.
Last time we were in BK (I can't remember if I mentioned this - we went to crazy China town and when we finally escaped the maze we landed further up the river (this area) and went into a bar called Mister Pas food bar. Mister Pas and his pal are huge foodies and have a picture of Gordon Ramsey outside their little restuarant. Mister Paz's friend although Thai has travelled fairly widely and was a cool customer dressed in black jeans and shirt and cowboy boots, shoulder length hair- think Antonio Banderas in Desperado but with Ronnie Corbett's face and you have him. Anyway we promised we would go back when we returned to BK and so we did the other night. A great night out all in all as we kicked off at a cool Thai bar and met a young German girl (well woman she was a Dr) travelling the world she'd just been in India working on a medical project and had heard the Dalai Lama teach. Great chat with her before we wandered to Mister Paz's. The menu is European and we had quid ink spaghetti with seafood and honestly it was wonderful. Antonio Corbett was there again in his role as chilled out charley. There was one other table in their with a group of rich Thais and a young french guy but we spent the entire time talking food with Mister Paz and Ronnie Banderas. After the meal Ronnie and I went outside for a cig and Simon got chatting to the french guy )only briefly before the guy left. On my return Mister Paz came over with a drink for both Si and me from the french guy. When we came to pay ....the French guy had already settled it! How amazingly cool is that?
Yesterday we went to the Great Palace - home of Thai Royal family. Beautiful and intense. We saw the emerald buddha (actually made from Jade) and he was wearing his rainy season outfit... he has three outfits for different times of year and the King comes and chages his clothes and hat each time) The greatest thing though was the murals... they go on and on and on and are awesome. I think you could spend years looking at them. Anyway 4 mins left here.
I guess this is the last post of the trip. We are looking forward to seeing everyone soon. I guess it only remains to say

"Having a great time; wish you were here!"

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Mangroves, monkeys and mad thai rum

So we arrived in Krabi which is quite chilled little town on a tidal river edged with mangroves. We took a long tailed boat trip along these and saw about a half a dozen sea eagles including an amazing view of one swooping down into the river right along side the boat. The boat man took us to see a big cave and then onto a fish farm (where he seemed to be more fascinated than we were fedding these enormous fish with small stinky fish) In the afternoon we wandered along the walk by the river and saw some monkeys playing chicken on the road running out to pick up fallen fruit and then dashing back to the side whenever a moped came zipping around the corner.

Last night we went to a cool bar called FU Bar which was the ubiquitous reggae stylee but this one was the best - really cool. The owner was a Thai guy with hair past his behind in dreads. A real smiley character who it turns out has an English girlfriend from Reading and a 1 year old daughter (he then proceeded to ply us with Thai rum and show us countless pictures of said offspring) It was worth it just to see Simon's amazingly polite show of interest as he flicked through the pictures and kept showing them to me saying "Oh would you look at this one and oh isn't she cute!" Quite unSimonlike!

It turned out that our new friend was called WOOD! So much back slapping and showing of passports by us and utility bills by him to prove the unlikely coincidence. We also met a young gay chap with the unfortunate name of BUM. Very sweet and looking for a long term boyfriend.,. When asked to describe his perfect type he basically described Simon (but with out the beard) This morning Simon went for a walk and passing a Thai Massage place out trots Bum "Yoo Hoo!" trying to drag Simon in for a beard trip - yeah right and the rest!! (Get your hands off of my man Bum!!)

So we're kciking our heals abit today as we wait to get picked up and taken to Surat Thani at 3.30 ish. Then we hop the 23:oohrs train to BK. We have a first class sleeper compartment this time- so at least if we cannot sleep we can have a fight or something to pass the time. We should arrive in BK about 10am on Friday morning which gives us a shocking four days there. Really it is too much but we are both feeling tired and the thought of trekking all the way across to Koh Samui (Bus, Boat etc) for a few more beach days just doesn't appeal. All our clothes are minging and I guess the horror of it is we are sort of ready to move on ... home I suppose. However if you have enjoyed this blog and would like to continue reading about our adventures please use Paypal to send your donations...(We could easily head to Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and then maybe Austra;ia, NZ for 6 months or so before heading via Easter Island to Chile and S. America for another 6-9 mths and then perhaps north America if you still feel generous???? No! Ah well it was worth a try!)

Will update again no doubt in BK.

We get back to UK at about on Tuesday night and then will have to head North on Weds as I have heaps of prep for new term.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Old Man and the Sea and the Monkey in the tree

Okay so it's been a while. We had a boat chartered to take us over to Phi Phi Lay a small uninhabited island off the larger Phi Phi Don (where we were staying last) Unfortunately we were given a whole heap of excuses regarding why it would be better for us til wait until 12noon to go (mainly though it was because the lady had double booked) By 11.45am we couldn't see our destination from our island as a huge storm was blowing in... By 11.50 we spotted the tornedo on the horizon. Clearly the cowardly Jo was getting cold feet about this. Our lady promised us it would be okay by 1pm. By 1.30 it was an argument about safety and having our money back. In the end Simon agreed to go first thing the next day. He got up with the fishermen and bid my sleepy head adieu and it wasn't until I ventured out for a leisurely brekkie with my book about an hour after that I realised that the weather was equally as squally as the previous day. I then spend the next two hours biting my nails and singing "For those in trouble on the sea" Eventually a small dot appeared and slowly revealed the prow of my husband's vessel (phew) As usual I had worried for nowt as Simon had had a real adventure, being dropped off in the most beautiful emerald cove surrounded by tall cliffs and with no one else in site. He also got to swim over to a cliff and climb a bamboo ladder over the top and down onto Maya Bay (made famous in the flim the Beach- the book of which he's just finished reading)
The weather then set in and his boatman set sail (actually that's poetic licence as these are long tail boats and have no sails..but hey we're in with all the mariner terminology here) for home. After a few beers to celebrate his deliverance from the tempest we set sail again for the main town and the port to await our ferry to Rai Lay. The journey there was freezing- it was pouring rain and the inside cabin had its aircon on so high you could have kept meat hanging there for weeks. This meant we had to stand outside in the squall. Very exciting though.
Arrivng at Rai Lay in such grim conditions did nothing for impressions of this completely different yet dramatically beautiful point on the mainland near Krabi. One side is full of mangroves and the water is muddy and it has a completely different and spokyish feel-especially at night. The first night we sat on a bamboo jetty over the mangroves and watched afire fly work it's way through the exposed creepy roots.
Rai Lay is big with rock climbers and day light showed us why. The whole place is huge jungle covered lime stone stacks. The place is littered with caves too. Today we wandered over to the most beautifu; beach we've ever been on. (Await pics- though even they don't do it justice) On the way you walk along a path which abuts the base of these huge over hanging cliffs which have stalagtites spokily hanging down and often mingle with the jungley vines. At the end as you approach the beach is a the Princess cave. So allegedly a beautiful Indian Princess was drowned here when the ship carrying her foundered on the rocks. She was buried in the cave and fisherman believe she haunts it still and grants favours of good fishing and luck to those who pay their respects. To this end their is a shrine in the cave (similar to the spirit houses which are ubiquitous in peoples house out her) with food and drink left and flowers etc. The main gift for paying respect however seems to be phalic symbols. The place has heaps of them littering the little cave. When you look around you at the beach you can sort of see why as there are these enormous Lime Stone sea stacks looking phallically (if indeed one can loom phallically!!) from the most beautiful blue sea.
Oh and this morning we saw our first wild monkeys in the trees outside our room.
We're both doing well though we are tired of our constantly sticky sandy clothes (despite several laundry trips) We've now had three days at Rai Lay and tomorrow we're off to Krabi for a couple of days. We next make our way back to BK to end the trip with some shopping and so we can squeeze in the golden palace (if indeed one can squeeze in the golden palace!!!!)
Simon looks very brown and has lost the belly :( but he's still cuddly. I look like a victim of some dreadful curse - as usual! Despite the deet the mosquitos have really enjoyed my blood -so just hoping i don't develop Maleria or Dengue afterall.
Right well Simon is sitting over looking the sun setting and supping a mango smoothie looking very mellow as I sit typing in this hot little room so I think I'll check out for now.
Love to all...

Friday, 21 August 2009

This is a Tsunami warning, please leave the beach!

Okay before you all start to panic - it was a drill. Still very eerie and kind of moving to be hiking up to find the elusive view point on top of a hill in Phi Phi. A hill we were promised would give views over the spit of land where the beach bums would have been enjoying their sunny boxing day that day when the Tsunami hit and devastated this island along with many other areas in the Indian Ocean. We are about half way up when the alarm sounded all over the island followed by a voice in Thai, then English, German, French and Chinese warning that this is a Tsunami warning please leave the beach and make for high land as quickly as possible...repeat... Fortunately we had stopped for water in a little shop on the way up the hill and the lady there asked whether we'd heard there was to be a Tsunami drill in half and hour. If she hadn't done this you can be sure we would have been panicking.

The walk to the view point was knackering (scuse the french) Simon was literally wringing out his shirt. The sun was relentlessly beating down on our heads as we plodded up the steep lane. On the way we met a couple of S. Africans who gave us directions (follow a jungle path left and left and left) Well it was confusing as the paved lane looked most likely the way, then the first and then the second lefts which were dirt paths but looked fairly well trodden... but we took the path less follwed and that made all the difference (as the poem goes) It was nothing more than a narrow trodden down piece of jungle and was scary as we were in flip flops and shorts and had the fear over snakes. Eventually it brought us out into a little opening with a rock and a view.. (Still not sure it was THE view but it was the only one we could find)

Last night we sat on the verandha and drank some beers and some Thai rum which tastes like diluted whiskey. It was very chilled but I could sense my small boy's restlessness and suggested we wander to the beach to see the lightning flashing across the sea (no thunder sounds so probably a storm half way across to India) Of course being an over sized toddler he jumped at the opportunity and the next thing I know... I'm standing on the beach (this is midnight) holding all his clothes -(yes undies too) whilst he goes for a nudey swim in the dark. Couldn't see him in there except when the lightening flashed. He was very excited especially when he discovered phospherents (sp!) milling around as he essayed the breast stroke. They were amazingly pretty tiny glowing blue blobs which you could pick up in a handful of sand and look at.

Staying another two nights here now as it is so cool. Tomorrow we've chartered a long tail boat for three hours trip out to the island where they filmed the Beach. Our boat man is a real hippy high sea gypsy with a great laugh. Hope he can drive the boat!!

Anyway on Sunday we're off to Rai Lay which is on the main land and apparently incredibly lovely.

For now though we'll end by posting a few snaps of our journey thus far. (no beach pix yet sorry)

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Hermit crab in Pants' pocket in Paradise

Okay so where did we leave you? Oh yep Chiang Mai (seems light years ago) We took a flight on MOnday morning to Phuket and arrived mid afternoon. Herded onto a minibus to take us to town for 100 bahts per body (2 quid) Within minutes of setting off they stopped at a travel agency place and made us get out and tell them where we were staying- the idea being to sell us tours and hotels etc. We just said we were meeting friends and to drop us in centre (a good excuse) Phuket town is a ramshackle busy and not very pleasant place and we booked into the first hotel we came across (a big hotel which in typical thai fashion has been left to go off- no maintenance ever done on it and with about 6 people to every job none of whom go out of their way to give any value added whatsoever) Anyway it was clean and safe and we were grateful of the fridge so we could read and sup a few beers instead of trying to find anything to do in the town. Si did wander out and found the town had a certain charm in that it was once a colonial port and had some bits of interesting decayed architecture worthy of a snap. He also decided to nip downstairs to sample the hotel entertainment which turned out to be one rather tragic character singing karioke to an audience of 6 bartenders and no guests (saving our erstwhile reporter Pants in Thailand)
And so early pick up at hotel by minbus to take us to the ferry port and then a super ride of a few hours to Phi Phi passing on the way the stunning vista of the island and beach made famous by Leo di Caprio in the film The Beach. On landing at the ferry port (if a wooden jetty in paradise can be termed a port) we had a welcome cold beer and a bit of fried rice prior to hopping into a long tail boat taxi (2 quid each) and were sped out into the aqua blue once more and taken around to Long Beach - a true paradise. Our bungalow in basic but clean as a whistle (despite cracks in the wall which let in daylight) It has a little covered verandha and a fridge and is all of 10 seconds from the white beach and with views of wonderful jagged limestone islands which jut out from the horizon very dramatically)
So what of the hermit crab? Well our man in Paradise went for a swim and came back to shower off- suddenly a squeak (no not very manly I know but still it was a squak or maybe squeal!) of delight he came into the bedroom saying Hermit Crab in my shorts, I caught a hermit crab. Sure enough in the net pocket of his swim trunks was a shell out of which a little hermit crab was wiggling around thinking the estate agent didn't tell me about this when I moved in. After an impromtu photo shoot on the bed (for the hermit crab - not me!) He was released back into the sea.
I decided to have a lie down in early evening to start reading Robinson Crusoe while Simon (ever the adventurer) went to check out whether there was any other human life on the island. Whilst he was away I was roused from my book by the whole bungalow lightinig up almost at the exact same time as a huge roll of thunder gave out. What followed was the single biggest, loudest, longest storm I personally have ever experienced. After the first half hour I began to have misgivings that Man Friday erm Simon had been zapped into never never land but of course how could I worry. We all know how resourceful our hero is (even with a moniker like Pants) He spent the entire storm shacked up with some sea gypsies quaffing ales and discussing fishing and the differing personalities of the tropical storm!!
Once the storm cleared it was all fine again and wandered down to the restuarant/bar where we ate like kings on fab hot Thai curries and fragrant rice.
All in all an early night and we slept pretty well. This morning Simon has been for several swims and then made me walk back to the main beach through the jungle!! Great! We saw some beautiful butterflies some very large ants, a five inch millipede, long lizard and a massive hairy spider disappearing into a hole which I thought may have belonged to some sort of tropical island rabbit.
Anyway sun is out now and it is hot (oh by the way on the ferry yesterday idiot jo burned the tops of her legs to a raw crisp tender bbq shade...ouchy! Just my bloody luck to be the only person in paradise that looks like a suet pudding with two unsightly red burns on her legs, no teeth, no eyebrows and a sweaty face!!) (Oh and simon just informs me a couple of big mozzy bites on my shoulders!)
Okay we;'re off for lunch now.. may check in again in a couple of days. Expect to be here til maybe Sunday/Monday then possibly off to Rai Lay and thence Krabi and BK and home :-(
Hope all are well

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The tale of Numbo the Elephant and the long neck tribe

Friday evening saw us at the Night Bazaar (Bizare more like) Endless market stalls selling crafts, copies of designer clothes, food etc etc.. Everyone hawking their wares offering to make good price. Problem is with back packing we are limited on space to start buying lots of things.

We stopped at a seafood place in market and had the best food yet. Squid in thai basil leaves and seaford red thai curry and fried rice with fresh crab meat and deliciously comforting fat shiny soft thai noodles in a beautiful sauce with chicken and all washed down with Singha beer (Thailand's favourite allegedly) A short tuk tuk ride back to our area and we discovered a group of young guys playing the most incredible game of skill you have ever seen. A net with three hole in it (Sort of hoops) dangling about 20 feet off the ground and then a team of about 8 chaps who were trying to score using a hard plastic ball about 8 inches diameter. The were allowed to kick or shoulder or head the ball but not use arms or hands. Really cool to watch.

Did I mention that on Weds night the Queen had her birthday and it is a huge national event? We ended up joining in with that ceremony holding lit candles during the national anthem (a jolly ditty which goes on for about 20 mins)

Anyhow.... Saturday! An early start as we were picked up by our guide Q (Yes that's his name) at 8am. We were driven for about an hour and half into the mountains and into the jungle to Chiang Dao and the elephant camp there. Here we watched the mahouts taking their elephants into th river for a nice bath. It was fantastic and I cannot believe I ould ever see such things personally. There followed a show wher the mahouyts and elephants showed off their skills including the els painting pictures!!! We weren't too sure this was good for th animals but they used to be trained for moving teak logs around so I guess at least this keeps them useful and not left for poachers or completely abandoned.

Next up we were taken on a bamboo raft for an hour trip down the river. Amazing to see all thes little huts and people living along the river in the jungle (many had elephants in tall bamboo structures to house them) Simon had a go at rafting and after a promising start soon reverted to his early punting skills and took us hurtling towards the river bank and over hanging trees.

Apparently the river eventually flows all the way to BK.. so the boatman kpt making the increasingly lame joke that he would take us Bangkok only 100 baht. (I think it was the only english he knew)

After a buffet lunch where we ate too much and had a couple of beers (a very short sighted move considering what came next) we were then taken up on to a bamboo platform and promptly told to stand on an elephant's head and sit in th little seat they had thoughtfully strapped, somewhat precariously I thought, on the elephant's back. A mahout sat straddled on the elephant's head with his feet behind the ears and off we went. Within seconds we wer regretting our lunch time greed as the elephant careful;ly tiptoed down the steep river bank into the river causing a stomach clenching forward lurch for us. What followed was a 45 minute elephant trek up the side of a mountail through the jungle. It was absolutely awesome and I kept thinking oh my god Ellie would love this! Our elephant was calld Numbo and we had thoughtfully brought along a bunch on bananas and a bunch of suger cane so that every so oftn when he felt a little short on energy he would stop and trumpet, sticking his trunk back so we could lean forward and hand him a banana. What was incredible was how quiet these animals were as the single filed through the trees. The old saying you sound like a herd of elephants is obviously not very true. At one point our mahout got off Numbo to talk to a villager we passed and let Numbo carry on without him - so we felt like the real deal driving along on an elephant all by ourselves.

After a final trip back through a particularly deep bit of the river we dismounted and continued the journey back to camp on the back of a cart driven by a couple of ox.

Finally the day ended with a trip to a village to meet a hill tribe called the long necks. A strange burmese tribe who believed they had been cursed yars before to be food for tigers and to that end the women from about the age of 5 start putting metal loops around their necks. What happens is th weight from the loops pushes down their collar bones so making their necks look longer. I asked Q why the men felt they were immune from this threat of tigers and didn't have the loops and he shrugged and said I guess they can run faster! (Typical)

Anyway long post here sorry. Also sorry because this keyboard has a dodgey E so if you see typos with e's missing apologies.

Friday, 14 August 2009

The tale of Edward the tiger and the women's prison

So as you can see from the pic- Si recovered from his squits and felt well enough yesterday for a trip out of Chiang Mai to Doi Suthep- a jungley mountain with a beautiful temple on top. We had a wonder around there for an hour before heading to the zoo. What a brilliant zoo set in acres of jungle and with such close access to the animals. We got ace snaps of hippos etc but highlight was pandas (I speaky Thai here!) We saw the daddy P eating bamboo and generally lapping up the attention and then we had special tickets for seeing baby P(anda). Whilst wandering around the vast zoo until baby panda time an almighty storm broke out and we were in the middle of this jungly bit and had to hide in a sort of bamboo hut watching the torrential rain (It was still so hot though)
Although the zoo was surprisingly quiet (we could walk for 10 mins or so without seeing human life) the queue for baby panda was immence and after about 10 mins I lost my zen and had to flee. Simon waited in vain as he couldn't see the baby anyway except on a screen. :(
Today we went in a tuk tuk to Tiger Kingdom- a tiger zoo/breeding/research programme. It was incredible as we actually got to go in and pet some baby tigers (the photo shows us with Edward the tiger!!) We also saw Leo and Anakin Skywalker tiger. The experience was well worth the money and we got a cd with 100 or so snaps of our tiger cuddling experience. We were abit concerned about how above board this was as we'd heard that the Tiger Temple near Kanchanaburi was bad news for the tigs. This however proved to be really well run, the tigs had loads of space and pools to play in. The were obviously in fine fettle running and fighting and playing and growling at us.
This afternoon we popped by the women's prison (as you do) as we'd heard they did massages (they train the ladies in vocational things so they can find work when released) We decided against the massage though and had an iced frapelattemochacino instead made by a prisoner and served by a guard.
Tomorrow we're booked on to a safari through the jungle on an elephant!! Boring boring it is sooo boring here. Anyway must dash we've cocktails to drink!!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Minight train to Chiang Mai and dogs in nappies

Quite a lot has happened since the last post. We spent Sunday in Kanchanaburi exploring mainly the river and the bridge. We started to wander over the railway track on the bridge only to discover after a few feet that this was a hair raising thing to do if you're queasy with heights. There were lots of people pushing past and not enough ground to step aside on. The ease with which one could slip through the sleepers or off the edge was chilling from the toes up! We decided instead to take the little train (15 min ride) over and that was scary enough but well worth it. We were in cart with a bunch of Thai tourists. About half way across one of them bowed to me in their way and asked whether he could photograph his friend with me!! Well much bemused I agreed (you gotta be good to your fans right)Next thing they all took it on themselves to take turns posing next to me and Simon and some were videoing the whole photo shoot on their phones. Maybe they thought we were original PoWs returning to the site but I secretly suspect they thought we were Brad and Angelina (Easy mistake!)

The crazy mad things you see almost daily continue.. a dog wearing a nappy anyone!

We visited the Allied Forces cemetry and were both very moved. Just so many men and so young. The inscriptions were heartbreaking and many refered to the distance from where the men lay to home.

Later we ate at a floating restuarant with incredible views of sunsetting over the Kwai.

Monday we set off fromn the guest house in a motor bike taxi (a bike with a side car which is sort of like a mini flat bed on a truck with a bench around and an umbrella roof.) We took a local non air con non comfy bus 2 hours to Suphanburi and then another to Ayutthaya in order to meet the over night train to Chiang Mai. It was a long day but we both really enjoy thetravelling bits.

Taking the night train was a real excitement (to begin with) Everyone milling around the station buying essentials before boarding from track level. We dined in the catering car- very cool (proper Thai food and beer witht the sounds of a Thai Abba singing Mama Mia blasting from a sound box under someone's seat) When we returned our beds had been made up and all along the carriange people were behind blue curtains snoring. Simon had the bottom bunk...which was 5 star luxury with reading light, wide of a single bed, window and comfy mattress. Meanwhile I had a bed on the luggage rack... mmmmm!! What a dreadful night. Eventually I took advantage of Simon being asleep and snuck in head tyo tow with him for the last hour. We were woken at 6.00am and had 20mins before breakfast of ham and eggs to just gaze in wonder as the view from the window of sun rising slowly of miles of hilly jungle.

CM is lovely and much more relaxed than BK. It is Wat-tastic (Wats are buddhist temples) We spent yesterday exploring but trying our best to not over do it as we were both tiired from the overnight. There's loads to do and see from CM (everywhere are places offering hill tribe trekking, jungle trekking, elephant mahout training etc) Last night we had an amazing meal and a few drinks in a bar run by a really cool ex-pat guy. I slept like a dream all night which was most welcome but Simon unfortunately is in a pretty bad way with D & V. He has had dodgy tummy for about 5 days but last night he was really bad and didn't get much sleep. I've come out for brekkie and having persuaded him not to eat anything fo0d at least today and only have Diarrolite and water intend to take him a newspaper back and plenty of water.

Today is the Queen's birthday in Thailand it is a national holiday and drinking alcohol is forbidden (by them anyway) Every place we've been to thus far has huge portraits of Her Majesty and the King and clearly there will be celebrations later. Maybe we'll go out and see what's happening later if Simon is better.

We hope to go to CM Zoo tomorrow - a baby panda was born there a few months back so I need to go and get a picture for Debs right!

Anyway this is a little bit flat but that is because it is extremely hot and the key board (as seems to be the national custom) has broken keys which don't depress properly making typing arduous. We are both in great spirits and loving the country. Can't believe we've only arrived a week ago. Anyway I have laundry to collect from Mr Cleen's and water and diarrolite to return to the sick room.

Love to all

Saturday, 8 August 2009

3 monks in a tuk tuk to say nothing of the monitor lizard

The heading here refers to some of the completely extraordinary sights we're seeing each day. buddhist monks in saffron robes abound 9I know the more well travelled amongst our readership ;-) know this but for us there is nothing so fun about travelling in new regions as finding all the things that you've always imagined about the place thrugh books and tv and then actually seeing it all for real!!

Oh yes the monitor lizard- back in BK at one of the ferry terminals on the river in middle of the city there we saw him just lazing on a log, all four foot of him!! Don't get tose in the Mersey kids!

Anyhoo we left BK yesterday for kanchanaburi by train. Some fun and games with the taxi who took us (about 45 min journey) to the wrong train station... we knew this was happening but had spent 15 mins before setting off trying to show which one we meant- in the end we just chilled out and enjoyed the whole mad city as we beetled our way through the mayhem to the wrong place. at GBP1.50 and a few hours to spare you just gotta get zen about things. Speaking of which everyone is really cool here.. you don't see or hear people shouting at each other there's no aggression and it really shows after awhile and rubs off- so different from say those passionate spaniards, italians or greeks who can't speak to one another without it sounding like they're having a humdinger.

The train to Kanchanaburi has to be one of the highlights thus far. wooden seats and fully open windows- every station saw people walking the platform or boarding the train to offer Chicken satay (which simon says is made from chicken bottoms- but it's all bottoms with him!!) Beer, Deep fried peas etc. We took too many photos from the window and all the way it was like thai style slumdog. Kids playing and fishing in little ditches that run between the railway and their palm leaf roofed shacks, women in straw hats and scarves around their faces against dust laying cable in the road, people waiting at level crossings all waving and smiling as the train chugged past. i saw my first elephant at one such crossing - just a second view of him swaying away up the road but of course I was "Elephant, elephant, oh oh elephant" all over the carriage like someone challenged mentally.

And so to kanchanaburi finally and to Apple's guest house- very clean if a little characterless. Completely different feel here almost like a greek village - lots of little bars and internet cafes for tourists. We had a good night but the highlights included sitting on a terrace which is held up on stilts in the River Kwai - it was dark and all we could see was the light from a fisher man on his litte punt boat. The noise from the frogs, little mystery splashings from below in the oily river and lizards everywhere in the bar.

Sorry this is a long post- guess we're using this as a bit of a journal for ourselves too. lots of options today none of which we're taking up. it's raining (still hot though) so swimming at waterfalls doesn't appeal. washing elephants may have to wait until Chiang Mai, we reckon war museum, old town and of course the death railway bridge.

Hope all are well. We'll check in again probably from CM.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Thailand for chinese

Slept like we've never slept before- so chilled. Last night went down to the big backpacker street and chilled out with a couple of cold ales whilst watching all the action- still in thirties even at midnight-really really hot.  Met a nice lass named Mel travelling from Aus to have her teeth done but needing to stay in BK for a few weeks for treatment- brave girl. Hi Mel if you get to check in here- we enjoyed the laugh.  Crazy crazy here- wandering street vendors ever optimistically trying to sell us the biggest pile of rubbish you can ever imagine wishing to buy... glow in the dark plastic cubes pretending to be candles with Man U logos which double as a clock!  Wooden frogs which can be made to croak, torches which glow in tin spots of light and of course the universal plastic roses sold by three tiny kids (youngest about 4 and eldest -the girl about 9 throwing her arms around seated western men and masssaging them, flirting to get a sale! A bit upsetting to see- especially at gone midnight)  Saw our fist ladyboy out on th razzle - have to say if you are going in for the sex change thing you might doll up a bit- honestly he was going for me on a lazy sunday after a big night- not very lovely!

Took our first tuk tuk ride (cost a quid) at 2am, haring around corners and squeezing in between trucks and buses scary, smelly, noisy but fun!  

Today we went by boat to China Town .... simply the maddest, smelliest, noisiest place I've ever been  and once in there it went on for ever.  Oh the humanity!!  Escaped after a time and found a place for a quiet contemplative beer before heading back to the chill zone for another shower and a nap! Quite a different experience from yesterday's 40 foot reclining buddha.

Anyway off out for something good to eat now and then tomorrow we have a secret mission in Kanchanaburi something about blowing up a bridge on the River Kwai before the Japs get there... (something tells me we'll be too late!)

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

1 Night in Bangkok

We arrived by taxi just before 8:00 pm at our amazing, chilled out hotel located in a part of Bangkok well away from the high rises and tourist areas. After a quick shower, we were out passing street food stalls, tuk tuks, eels in bowls, wired up locals drinking cheap rum mixed with energy drinks, and endless green vegetation plus the odd lizard. 

Jo's 40th birthday dinner was spent by the main river, with the water heaving with enormous thrashing fish, and being bombarded by bats. Our first dish came out, and we knew we were in trouble as the prawns were raw - "cooked" with chilli and lime. Jo wisely declined to eat them, but I figured I might as well dive in the deep end. This probably wasn't the brightest move as I ended up beating the world diarrhea record. 3 hours! 

Jo here.  Thanks for the birthday greetings one and all.  Made a toast to dad with our beer last night and thought he would probably have enjoyed the setting.  We hadn't been sitting at te table for more than a few secs when we had half the cafe over introducing themselves and teaching (in vain I must add) to speak Thai!!! Mainly we met a friendly faced dude (who I'm sure used to be in that hit tv show of our youths- Monkey!!) He was overtly friendly and before long was saying he had a friend in UK and we should contact him before we left so he could put us in touch with th friend.  He gave us his business card (Tip Toys!!) and then casually got around to talking about dope ..... I gave Pants a bruise on his shin before politely saying we didn't go in for that kind of thing (ahem!- well I've seen that BK hilton thing and thoughts of us cheerfully carrying a toy elephant back for his old pal in the good ol' UK wasn't appealing.)

You cannot contemplate the heat - faces are a lather of sweat constantly.  Breakfast this morning, in this idylic hotel garden with it's Buddha and little area set out for massages, consisted of fresh water melon juice, rice with pineapple juice, fresh herb salad followed by sago in coconut milk with cantaloups.  

Right off to the old markets this morning and then maybe a temple or two for jollies.  Love to all.. (PS: Bill- Si did reply - he has great big fat digits though so poss hit a bum note on the email address.  Hope you are feeling more positive -we think of you often.)

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

HalfWay there

So, disaster struck on Sunday afternoon when Jo fell over and really bashed up left knee. We are currently in Abu Dhabi with three ordinary legs and one tree trunk! V Painful and seemingly getting worse! Local Time 6.21am -next leg (no pun intended) leaves for BK at 9.25am we get to BK about 7 hours later!
News of a plane crash on Koh Samui! According to Al Jazera news this has been put down to Thai Idiocy!! Bodes well doesn't it?
Anyway- both happy but really tired so brain not functioning.
Loveto all

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Pre-Thailand Shuffle

Well! Here we are doing the pre-Thailand shuffle, which sounds like we're busy runnng about, packing, cleaning, paying bills, checking travel docs etc. In reality we're chillaxing with a new CD by the Red Sparowes -musically very good but their spelling leaves a lot to be desired. We woke up at 4.30am with feelings of OMG! we're leaving for Blewbury tomorrow and we've heaps to do and here we are -having achieved the square route of B all-eating cheese (yum all melty!) and drinking Gs and Ts at 13:20!! Typical, bloody typical Ah! (That Ah! should translate visually into a gallic shrug! Think Gerard Depardieu)

All this pointless drivel is really to make our new blog look less like our bank accounts (ie: at least it has something in it!) and to acclimatise you our nearest and dearest to the idea that you can keep tabs on our journeying this time. The idea is simple enough pop along here every once in a while and read the posts to discover the latest in our Thai adventure.

Apart from dreams involving: Rabid snake rat dogs with dengue fever, malaria and diarrhea - we're pretty excited- Tsunamis, sharks, jelly fish, over loaded ferries and dodgey Tuk tuk drivers not withstanding -we're looking forward to tramping the well travelled paths of about a zillion backpackers who did it "before it became comercialised" blah blah.. Other dangers clearly include travel bores and Rick Stein- but heh that's a danger anywhere (Cornwall anyone?)

I suppose we ought to get on and stop warbling on about nothing.. There's half a bottle of gin and some listeria to get through before we sleep! Woo Hoo only two more sleeps!!!!