Tuesday, 24 December 2013
Sunday, 15 December 2013
Monday, 9 December 2013
Monday, 2 December 2013
Thursday, 28 November 2013
Wednesday 27th November
The train journey from Surat Thani was a combination of strangely restful and quietly boring. With the lack of light outside the view from the window was of nothing and with people inside complaining because we were talking at nine PM, we were in for a peaceful night! So when I fell asleep, it was the dark sleep of the drugged, Thai meds are a little stronger than our own it seems. I woke up at half five in a comfortable position on a soft mattress, but dying for a wee. The thought of climbing from my pit to use the poo shoot was not appealing, but needs must and the sudden jolt of cold water flushing out my privates made sure that I was not going back to sleep!
Breakfast was served and once again the Thai chef failed to understand the concept of toast, the eggs were gooey and the sausage looked like one of those split willies that freaks like to show on the internet. It tasted lovely though and for the rest of the day I had massive farts because of it! Carol awoke a little after seven and found me smiling in my grim goth way as I spent some time playing on the laptop as she slept. Our little bunks had been nests of peace, but also of loneliness because although we were only feet apart, the curtains made it feel like miles.
Bangkok was hot, not just warm or sunny, but damn hot. It was heat that had made the glass of the train windows feel hot even as we moved along at speed. The air blasting through the open window in the toilet was like a hair dryer. The poverty outside of the train though was sobering, with people living in shantys along the side of the railway, raw sewage laying in stagnant pools between the shacks and yet there were still satellite dishes for TV, even the most poor need "sixteen channels of shit to choose from" to quote one of our favourite bands.
One of our worries for the day was the political unrest in Bangkok, our families had left facebook messages for us wishing us well and BBC News has been repeatedly showing images of riots and marchers looking aggressive. The tuk-tuk driver we hired to take us from the station to the hotel though was as cheerful as ever and cut through the traffic like he was riding a bike, I have never seen filtering like it and the guy did really well. The Bangkok locals seemed just as peaceful as always and every person we met and spoke to was just as polite, cheerful and lovely as always. We were still a little worried though and we knew that we had to go out and face the city centre one more time.
The hotel was once again lovely and the bed was unusually comfortable, the Thais it seems enjoy sleeping on the mattress equivalent of a paving slab, which plays havoc with my failing body. Also at the hotel was our friend Teenorn, the desk clerk and all round good guy. Not only does he work at the hotel, but he is also a keen protester and excellent translator, but more of that later. There are more posh and plush hotels in Bangkok, there are more expensive ones, but as far as we are concerned, the roof view place suits us with its simple style, reasonably well equipped rooms and lovely staff. We could not ask for better especially as the air con unit in room 309 gently caresses the beds with cool air, so going to sleep in there is an absolute delight.
So after check in, showering and sorting our gear we went for a wander around Bangkok for something to do and pick up a few last gifts for those back home. As we wandered, taking in the sun and enjoying the freedoms that Bangkok brings we could hear the distant sound of the anti government protests, but remembering advice from the Government and friends, we gave it a wide berth. Instead we checked out the Backpackers ghetto again and haggled for prices over little trinkets and enjoyed the evening light as the sun went down. A quick food stop in Bangkok Burger King (given my tummy problems recently I did not want to be spraying the bowl on the plane!) for a burger and fries and then we thought about what we wanted to do. The BBC news coverage had shown riots and people looking like they wanted a fight at the political protests, Thai news had shown debate and discussion. The BBC showed a bias that pretty much accused the protesters of being hooligans, the Thai news showed the Police standing to attention and looking prepared.
The noise of the protests was of lots of whistling and applauding with a good measure of cheering too, the people were sat on little mats, in comfortable camping chairs or wandering about at the stalls selling t-shirts. The band playing on the Democracy monument were a Thai folk band playing political folk songs, at the end of each song, they were given a loud roar of good cheer and applause. Running about through the crowd were children selling woven cord bracelets in the national colours and scattered about the sides were the market stalls selling food. No where could we see the signs of aggression that we had heard about on the BBC news. At one of the stalls we stopped and bought a whistle with a national flag ribbon and then at another we bought the Yellow bear with the national flag ribbon that has become the emblem of the Yellow Shirts. Again, as we wandered about the rally this time with our ribbons, we got no abuse, trouble or anything other than a few raised eyebrows as they realised that even the people from the West were there to give support.
Just wandering about there we felt the pulse of the people, the integrity of what they are doing and gentle way that they are doing it. When we stopped at a t-shirt stall, the woman there was very chatty and in her broken English and our very poor Thai, we tried to talk about what the protests stood for and she asked us to spread the word so that the people know the truth, that is all that these protests are about, the truth and justice. When the government is corrupt and money is made through political power, something is very wrong and the people of Thailand are making a stand for the truth. A few stalls later we found another stall this time the shirts show the crowd and underneath is the simple word Democracy. So with our t-shirts and our flyers, we went to watch some more of the proceedings and it was at this point that the protest leaders rose to the stage, the gentleman who is pretty much responsible for the protests came to the forefront and started to speak, his voice imploring the people to spread the word of truth and democracy (this we were told later when we spoke to our translator) and then from his pocket he took a simple harmonica and started to play Edelweiss. It was so moving that both Carol and I stood in awe as the crowd went reverentially quiet. He stopped half way through and spoke again about truth and freedom and then started to play again. Carol's eyes showed the emotion of the crowd, it was such a beautiful moment.
Back at the Hotel, we chatted to Teenorn about the protests and his smile was wickedly humorous. He translated what we had heard and the leaflets for us and talked freely and with a conviction about Thai politics in a way that many people in England would struggle to manage. We could see the passion in him as he spoke and he was very happy that we understood the issues and even some of the history of what was going on. We also talked about world issues and campaigns that we have followed with a passion. For this alone it was worth booking in to the Roof view and as we talked the conversation turned to music and it turned out that we had similar music tastes too. It was after all, a happy evening and finally we had to go to our room to pack and to sleep, having wished Teenorn a good night.
Thursday 28th November
I awoke this morning with a hangover, which is a bit off considering that I do not drink, but a late night packing and repacking to get weight down on our packs has taken its toll, we know how to live us does! So this morning we had a lovely breakfast of cornflakes, boiled eggs and toast (properly made toast too!) and saw our friend Teenorn to give him the music SD Card that we had mixed together the night before. I think that he was genuinely touched by this and along with the facebook add, we shall be keeping in touch because I think that both of us would like to return to Thailand again and see the friends that we have made here.
With everything packed and not much else to do, we decided to take a walk into the city again and have a mooch about, maybe pick up a few cheap small things as souvenirs and just enjoy the last hours of freedom in Bangkok itself. The time seemed to rush by and before we knew it, time was running out which was annoying because we had just found some things that we had missed on our initial trips out of the hotel. However we still had enough time to take a slow walk back and take in some sights along the way, such as the occupation of the ministry of Education! Again the BBC news would have you think that the building was over run by violent thugs and the truth is somewhat different. The street outside was lined with protesters, sat peacefully on mats, chairs or just the pavement. There were again the mix of ages and types of people from young students to older business people and the elderly retired. A large truck with a PA mounted in the rear was remonstrating the government once again and encouraging the people in the ministry to join the protest. Inside the grounds of the ministry were several lines of riot Police, stood in black uniforms in the baking heat of the day, their plastic shields rested upon the floor as a screen behind which they stood, silently oppressive.
Another horrifying sight at the ministry was the roughly hundred metres of Razor Wire, laid by the Police between a set of concrete barricades. In the distance we could see more Police in riot gear being drilled and marching in formation with full gear, training to deploy against the yellow flag waving protesters. What made it seem all the more sinister was the number of Police officers that wore red neckerchief, the symbol of the opposing red shirts, who back the current government. Out of all of the people we met, it would seem that the ones in power are the ones least open to discussion and most likely to resort to violence. The sight of them running in formation against the sun hat wearing whistle blowing protesters was an image I am glad that I have not seen.
Once again as we walked among the protesters and they saw the Shirt that Carol was wearing, she got the usual double take and wide grins. An old woman leaned over to us from her melon stall and in broken English said well done and spread the word. Carol beamed back at her and I think that both of them were equally happy. Through out the gathered crowd, everywhere we went we were greeted with warmth, welcome smiles and gratitude for sharing the message. At no time did I feel in any danger until the Police started moving. Carol took a lot of photos and then we knew that we had to head back, get some lunch and then get ready for the start of our journey back to the UK. In the hotel Teenorn was still working and he welcomed us back with more smiles before he then offered us a gift of something remarkable. At a protest the week before, stickers had been given out to those who took part and each one was numbered as the numbers climbed to a million protesters. He gave us two of these stickers, as special and as rare as they are, they touched our hearts and I nearly welled up with tears.
The taxi to the air port arrived somewhat early and the driver who is clearly a friend or family to the hotel people unfolded a comfortable seat behind the counter and got some rest as he waited for us to be ready. At three thirty, we made our goodbyes with some reluctance and climbed into the taxi to be waved off by our friends at the Roof view Place hotel. The air conditioned cool of the car made us both sleepy which was probably a good thing because it prevented tears from us both given how sad we were to be leaving Thailand behind.
So, with only a few hours left in Thailand, with our pockets still containing some Thai Baht so that we could buy food at the airport, what could go wrong? It is not like we could get into trouble at the airport is it...
The moment a woman from Moldova approached us with two bottles of very expensive boxed whiskey, something was bound to go wrong. After all, we do not have luck like that do we? The whiskey fitted into our bags and when we finally found the bag weighing scales we discovered that Carol's bag was 700g over the allotted twenty kilo limit. I weighed my bag and discovered not unsurprisingly really that my bag was three point four kilos over the weight limit, time to shed some weight and that did not include the whiskey. So being typical back packers what did we throw away? The wash kit, we binned almost the lot, keeping only our toothbrushes (and our towels, because you should always know where your towel is).
With the weight down we wandered over to check in and stood alone in a queue of no one. Check in took moments and they even gave us large bags to put our bags in to protect them during the flight. Mine even got a fragile sticker on it because of the mugs from TARA and Khao Sok held with in (wrapped in my towel, see I did know where it was!) safely from damage. So with that little issue dealt with we wandered about the airport for a little while before heading into Passport Control. Here things got a bit serious when our Passports were examined at great depth, scanned, rescanned and then passed to a black shirted official with a good line in making people feel small. The sudden fear of prison and with Carol wearing a Protest T-Shirt, I started to grin like a loon and Carol looked ready to spit blood if it was needed.
We were both told to wait and then to follow the forbidding official into his office, which was a desk in a corridor and once there he perused his desk, giving us the silent scary official treatment. I am pretty sure that he enjoys the feeling of being able to intimidate people, but it was not really working on us as we stood there like naughty schoolgirls trying not to snigger while looking at each other. Our crime it seems was to over stay our visa in Thailand by twelve hours, for such a terrible crime we were told that we had to pay a fine of one thousand Baht, so I dropped my last note from my purse into his hands and he immediately put it in his pocket and stamped our passports as free to leave Thailand. He did try to give Carol a telling off, but in truth we were too busy trying not to giggle for it to really sink in. Anyway, if you are going to Thailand you can only stay for thirty days!
So we finally passed through Passport control and headed into the check in lounge and prepared to go and sit down to wait for boarding. Carol passed through ticket inspection with ease, I got stopped and had my passport examined as if it were a fake, they then examined my ticket and re-examined my passport. I was refused entry to the boarding lounge due to my name not being correct on my passport or ticket. Was I really a Reverend they asked forcefully? So it was out with the Vicaring card and as she struggled to read the contents she looked exasperated, her friend nudged her and so she asked me again, madam are you a reverend? To which I answer truthfully Yes.
Carol gave me a look of concern when I finally sat down next to her and then she started to smile, just the pair of us had got into a fair bit of trouble just walking through Bangkok airport, what could possibly happen next? Well, we got on the plane and found our seats and got comfortable, all of the things that you do when you sit on a plane and then endured the boring "Life jackets under your seat, oxygen masks on your face..." chat and every time I hear it, all I can think of is that scene in Fight Club where he says why they have that false sense of safety to keep people calm and then the oxygen pacifies them. You have to love it. Once we had taken off it became apparent that we had buggered our entertainment consoles. So it was a case of calling the stewardess, who fiddled with it, reset it and then fiddled with it some more before finally saying sorry for it being buggered. After all that we landed in Singapore and that is where I am now, stealing their internet and their power to charge up the Crapbook.
So folks, it looks like we will be seeing you all in roughly a bit! Have fun, stay safe and get your sunglasses out, I refused to get a suntan and am still as white as a scared ghost!
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Monday, 25 November 2013
Monday 25th November
We started today early after another good nights sleep in our comfortable bed, after a swift shower we wandered downstairs to the the bar to meet one of Carol's friends that she made last time she was here. Adam of Rainbow Diving based in Ko Samui joined us for breakfast and a catch up with Carol.
Following breakfast we wandered down the street looking for bikes to hire and found a place prepared to offer us a couple of higher CC engined bikes, but when they demanded that we leave our passports we chose to look else where and ended up with two red scooters. Our plan for the day was to explore Ko Samui and travel the circular road that goes all around the island. A simple enough plan you would think, but this is Curious Adventures, when has anything we have undertaken been simple?
Being out on two wheels again was a blast of freedom in paradise and quickly settled into the winding roads experience that riding around the island has. However there were a few too many loons out there and some of the other drivers were taking things a little too close for comfort to near death experiences for us. We stopped for tea at Smiles resort which although very pretty and with immaculate furnishings and staff was a little too plastic for my tastes, but Carol assures me that the place is first rate. The iced thick shake was fantastic and more than made up for the sight of many obese semi naked German tourists asleep on the small beach!
Our next stop was the elegant granite slabs of the Grand Mother and Grand Father rocks, these two massive structures carved into the landscape by nature resembled the intimate parts of both a man and a woman laying together. Carol was gob-smacked that my usual stream of filth was restrained as I complained that she had simply brought me to a site that was in effect just a big rude joke! It was though utterly beautiful and in truth I could have spent many happy hours there just playing on the rock. Thailand has so many undiscovered climbs on those elegant cliffs spread across the country.
|Carol sat on the Grandmothers Clitoral hood!|
Back on the roads and things were starting to get more hectic with traffic getting heavier and more aggressive. I had a small taxi van attempting to drive onto my pillion seat and when he eventually overtook me, he cut back in so sharply I nearly hit his back bumper. Carol seeing this pulled over and we took five minutes out to calm down before heading over to the water falls.
The waterfall park is very tourist orientated and as such it felt a bit false. As we wandered up the path towards to restaurant we followed in the slow ponderous footsteps on elephants carrying tourists in specially rigged seats. Seeing such magnificent animals up close was wonderful, but our feelings were tainted by the knowledge that these animals are tied to trees and made to do what the owners want. On the flip side of the coin though, these animals were once used as mining animals to haul heavy carts full of rock and ore. Once the mines closed the owners were left with animals that they could not care for and with the huge cost of feed the animals faced starvation. With them being captive animals they would struggle to rehabilitate back into the wild and their future was bleak. It is a complex issue and although we can see both sides of the argument, we still had feelings of empathy for the animals, even though it was clear that the owners loved them.
At the restaurant we witnessed another pair of animals that had been removed from nature, namely two otters that were begging for food from the kitchen staff. There are some things in Thailand that are incongruous, the budhist way that all life is sacred and then the destruction of the natural habitat for cash crops. When poverty and the environment clash, there is only one outcome and it is not good for either side.
After our drinks and with me having forgotten my pain medication, I was effectively out of action, yet we wanted to see the waterfalls, so for a small fee we were able to jump onto (yes on top of the roof!) one of the ubiquitous Toyota Hi-Lux 4x4 trusks they have here and take a slow gentle ride up the hill. The driver though had other ideas and we were propelled at horrific speed across country, being bounced and battered as we went. Our feeble cries and bangings on the windscreen went unnoticed and with a final jolt we landed at the first waterfall! Painfully we climbed down from the truck, limping, dragging our mangled bodies as we walked up to what we thought was the falls. Not so, in typical Thai fashion we had simply been driven to a set of steps that climbed the cliff up to the falls.
|The view from the truck, just before he went mad in the cab!|
The falls were breathtakingly beautiful, again had been ruined by tourism. The wooden constructed pathway above the rushing waters was almost derelict and with many people trying to get across them, the erosion to the path way was starting to show. As we took in the view, a pair of unruly British tourists decided to jump into the pools, so cue two grown men stripping down to their pants and leaping into the water. It made a lovely view! Back at the car park where our truck was waiting we declined to get back in, which caused a large amount of distress to the Thai driver and he was deeply sorry for the pain he had caused us. He stated that so many people like a adrenalin fuelled ride, that he had become accustomed to driving like that. However we remained unconvinced and so took another truck back down to the main park. Our visit to the waterfalls felt decidedly sour and with the rain now falling in vast sheets of water, we headed back home and got thoroughly soaked.
Riding in the rain in Thailand is wonderful, the warm rain water soaked us to the skin, but the equally warm wind blew through our wet clothes taking away so much heat that we actually felt strangely comfortable. So much so that I could have kept riding for ever, but the pain in my shoulder was now so bad that I craved only pills and my bed. We returned the bikes and wandered up to our room.
After a warm shower to wash away the road dirt, we decided that the battered parts of our body needed some soothing, so we walked around the corner to Pin Tong massage for an hour of extreme comfort. She massaged away my aches and pains and when she touched my shoulder, the pain made me gasp. She studied it for a moment and then with hands of magic began to work around the area, kneading away what felt like bubbles in my flesh. The pain was exquisite, but as she worked, something in my arm clicked and my hand which always feels puffy and painful suddenly cleared and I even had full feeling in my fingers briefly. It seems like something is pressing on the nerves and as she massaged it away, the release in my arm and hand was divine. However as soon as she stopped, full pain resumed. Puzzled by this she worked my hand and arm and after our hour I had a fully working hand and no pain which lasted for close to half an hour. Yet as we sat in the bar, the pain slowly crept back into my system and as I write this, it is back to the usual high levels. For that time though, I felt energised and supple. Thai massage is wonderful, even if it does feel like a work out.
Facing our final night, we sat with out friends in the bar, enjoyed our dinner and finally said good night as we went to bed. Our time on Ko Samui although short has been greatly enjoyable, I think that both of us are sad to be leaving.
Sunday, 24 November 2013
Sunday 24th November
How much of this hell must I endure? This place is Hades and I know not why I am condemned to suffer in this infernal torment. Only this morning I was forced to suffer a colossal breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon, beans and toast. This was washed down with two large glasses of ice Pineapple juice. No one should have to endure this, this torture, this hell. Following breakfast we returned to our brutally comfortable bed and slept for another couple of hours of rest. This hell is taking away the hardness we created at the island of Chui!
Yes folks, being serious for a moment, Ko Samui is not only beautiful, it is great fun too and so far we we have barely scraped the surface. Once again Carol has made new friends in the bar and this evening I found her showing people her photos of home and holding court with the staff of the hotel. Although we are not in the most auspicious part of Ko Samui, we are in a vibrant part of it and with the port just a few minutes walk away, when it comes to leaving, we can stay here right up until the last few minutes.
After all of yesterdays travelling, we were exhausted and after breakfast we returned to our room, curled up on the bed and fell asleep for another couple of hours. Once we awoke though we were feeling like exploring and left the comforts of our air conditioned room to head out into the sunny warm streets. With a sea breeze blowing in, the weather was cool for Thailand but still hot for us cold British types. As we wandered along the streets enjoying the smells and flavours of the area we had a sudden painful discovery. Once again Carol has lost her bank card and after we returned to the hotel we searched every bag and pocket until it finally set in that it was gone. This left us with eight thousand Baht and with us still needing to buy tickets back to the mainland, buy food and keep ourselves busy it was looking like we were buggered!
So with a few horrible minutes spent on the phone it was time to try my bank card again and it failed us once more time. So it was back on the phone to find out why my bank was playing silly buggers and it turned out to be due to them trying to protect me from identity fraud. With that fixed, we had access to some basic funds and once again we could breath a sigh of relief because to be honest the thought of Squid Ink potnoodle for dinner every night was making us want to puke! As I drew money from the cash point though we made a discovery, unlike British ATMs, Thai cash points ask you if you want your card back and with the question coming up in Thai, it is hard to know what button to push.
So back out on the streets and wandering about we met a bunch of local bikers, with the sort of bikes we see back home. Parked up outside the bikers shop was a Yamaha Dragstar, a Kawasaki z1000 and a couple of small scooters. The guy riding the z1000 was dressed in black jeans, a black biker t-shirt and white trainers. He rode with no gloves, no jacket and no helmet on a bike that has more power than my precious Sylvie and a top speed in scary triple figures.
|No idea what this is, but it was damn pretty|
A while later though we decided to try a new burger bar and were greeted with huge smiles and a polite bow, inside we found a charming German who proudly showed us his menu and assured us that his kitchen was clean. He was not wrong, it was clear that the place was spotlessly clean and the comfortable seats in the air conditioned lounge made a wonderful place to settle for weary travellers. The burgers are clearly aimed at the Asian palate, but that does not detract from their flavour in any way, if anything it adds more spices and flavour to what could otherwise just be a plain burger. If you do not believe me, head over to Ko Samui and check out the HD Burger Bar in Nathon and tell them that Jayne sent you. You wont be disappointed I promise, especially now that they know how to make a proper cup of tea. Yes Carol and her ability to make friends also includes her buying tea bags and teaching them how to use them.
Following this we went for another wander and saw some more of the sites before heading back to our hotel. Sadly for me, I am feeling rather poorly again due to missing one set of my medication last night. This evening I was feeling very dizzy and struggled to explain how I felt to my dear Carol. The only way I could describe it is like being in the horrible stage of being drunk, but with out the brain fog and then with a live power cable touching me somewhere. So it was off to bed for me and a nice lay down in the air conditioned comfort.
|Aww, look what we found|
So far Ko Samui is wonderful and mean while in Ko Phra Thong an awful monsoon is literally raining destruction upon the region, it truly does seem like we escaped just in time.
Saturday, 23 November 2013
Carol and Jayne's Curious adventures: It's another long one... but you still love us don...: Thursday 21st November Both Carol and I are exhausted and we both retired to bed early last night at just before ten. I awoke at five...
Thursday 21st November
Both Carol and I are exhausted and we both retired to bed early last night at just before ten. I awoke at five in a lot of pain in my shoulder again and had to take some pain killers which took about half an hour to work and I was able to fall back to sleep. Carol woke at six, wandered about for a few minutes before returning to bed and falling asleep again.
When I woke up at nine, I did for the first time in ages feel well rested even though my shoulder still hurts. Carol though is still snoring away quite peacefully.
We are on a countdown now though, it is seven days until we fly home and to be honest I am ready to do so, if we could leave tomorrow I think that I would take the offer because I am starting to feel the distance between us and home. The simple pleasures of relaxing in a bath, cuddling my boy Jasper and seeing the two young people who share our home. Last night I had many strange dreams and when I was not dreaming of night clubs filled with exotic people from all over the universe, I was dreaming of home, dreaming of my Lego sets, dreaming of my bed and my home comforts. Back home winter is setting in, cold days and colder nights. Frost on the grass, ice in the shaded corners and as I sit here in the morning heat that is already above twenty degrees, I crave the cold, I crave not running with sweat with every foot step, I crave not being exhausted by a walk across the bay due to the heat of the sun. Most of all though I crave home and the company of the two special young people who are there.
There are things about Thailand that I will miss, I would love to ride my bike here along some of the roads that pass through the hills and valleys of the rain forest. Swimming in the sea here is something I enjoy and not dislike intently like I do at home. The people here have a relaxed attitude to life that people in the UK do not and most of all I will miss the lack of a Nanny state telling me to do things or not to do things because I am considered too stupid to be able to keep myself safe.
Back in the uk, I hate the attitude that the state has about making the decisions for the lowest level of inteiligence. For example have you considered the metal railings around corners that stop us crossing the road where we wish? Sometimes that can stretch so far that you have to walk quite a distance out of your way just to cross a road and walk back down again. At the moment in the UK and across Europe they are trying to introduce laws that will "make motorcycling safer", these laws have restricted Carol's son to a small capacity bike for the next two years despite his passing his motorcycle test. In some EU countries they want us to wear reflective jackets so that car drivers can see us because most car drivers do not look in their mirrors. I know this since I was hit by a car in Bristol a little while ago.
Here in Thailand we have seen families climb aboard scooters helmet free. Helmets are available here and many people choose to use one. In the time I have been here, I have not seen a single accident, nor have I seen a single act of road rage. Something in our culture back home is broken, with the Government taking away our freedoms under the guise of making us safer I have fears for the future. The UK is turning into a Police state as more and more cameras are put on motorways and in town centres, all to keep us safe. Drivers in fits of rage will get out of their vehicles and attack other drivers. There is aggression everywhere as the media rallies suport for the far right as they pour scorn on the unemployed, the disabled and the foreign traveller fleeing from brutal regimes back home. Our Government also has this agenda, I read somewhere once a quote that said "The people should not be afraid of their Government, rather the Government should be afraid of the people."
I will admit that I am afraid of what my future holds at the hands of this Government. Yet the choices that we have are so limited in our votes. We can choose the leftish right, the centre right or the far right. Being left is considered bad by many and liberal is used as an insult. I am a liberal, I believe in liberty and support for the people. I believe in the NHS and education for all. I do not believe in a Police state with cameras every where and greater powers of control for those in Governance. So yes, I will miss Thailand when I return home, where we are now I have not seen any Police, yet I have seen great poverty. There must be some middle ground somewhere, a balance between the Poverty and the Police state surely? Yet Poverty is now a threat in the UK too, with people having to choose between food and heating through out the winter.
There is something very wrong with society and although I can see the faults, I do not know how to fix them. Maybe I am a Marxist after all, although I have often referred to myself as a anarcho-libralist. The part of me that wants to return home is equally balanced with the part of me that hates the limits to my freedom. Funny how a small holiday can have such a large impact, I am still not eating the curry though.
Today we spent some time resting and then went for a walk to the Golden Buddha to steal some internet while we had a cuppa, however once we got there we saw what they were serving for dinner today and so stuck around for a bit longer than we planned just so that we could have a lovely dinner, especially after yesterdays Pizza on the beach.
Annoyingly both Carol and I seem to have a bit of a dicky tummy, nothing serious and no other symptoms than a sudden need to have a shit. During yesterdays bike rides I had to keep coming back to base to empty my bowels and today Carol faced a similar thing. For me I am fairly used to it and put it down to my medication as usual, however for Carol to have it too something does feel a little strange and I would hate for our last week to be spent being ill.
So once we had updated the blog and nearly crashed their server waiting for facebook to open so that we could try to upload a picture (which we could not do in the end due to a poor connection) we put asside the crappy little chromebook and ordered dinner. Carol ordered a curry (brave given we now know what they put in it!) and I ordered spare ribs in sauce. When the food arrived, we would have been hard pushed to say who had the best meal. My spare ribs were huge chunks of meat dripping in sauce and Carol's curry smelled and looked lovely. To be honest, the portion of spare ribs was not enough, not to say it was a small portion, it was just so nice that I could have eaten another four plates worth just to enjoy the flavour. It was the sort of meal where your tongue orgasms, where you regret having only one tongue and where as you put the last morsel in your mouth, you can't help but grieve a little. As I type this now I am salivating like one of Pavlov's dogs!
The walk back to the hut was not with out incident, poor Carol suffered another agonising stomach cramp and was forced to dig a hole on the beach and void herself into said hole while I stood by offering support and kind words. When she finds out that I am telling you this, I am sure that she will kill me, but you have a right to know the truth.
Once back home we played a game of who needs the loo first and Carol won and then had another invigorating ice cold shower. Meanwhile I wandered off down to the bar to make sure that Chui kept the lights on, there was no need for us to worry though because he was getting increasingly merry with the British guy from the dive school. Sadly for him, his work load for the week has just been cancelled because there is supposed to be a storm coming in. Chui however says that this is rubbish and it is just going to be a bit of wet weather and the dive school are being pansies. His arguement goes on that given that he has lived here for all of his life, he has more local knowledge that the tourists who run the school. The Dive master has said that there is a typhoon blowing in and it is going to put all of the fishing boats into port for at least a few days. Well, over the next few days we shall see who is right.
Anyway, as I did my nails and listened to the two men talk and get increasingly more drunk it became apparent that Chui himself is rather lonely on his desert island paradise and does infact have a wife and kids somewhere else, but they don't like it here because there is no power or internet (I can kind of see where they are coming from to be honest). Yet with the number of women who come to his resort, one of them must he argues find him attractive and want to stay with him because he is such a good catch with many techniques of... sadly I lost the translation at this point but it was either dancing or press ups.
Back at the hut all was quiet and Carol and I settled down for the night and once again I am left awake writing as she starts to gently snore. Curse my sick and ruined mind, make me sleepy at bed time, not lunch time you bastard! Oh well, it as you all know just part of the Curious Adventure.
Friday 22nd November
It is four AM and I have just woken up feeling rather unwell. I am also covered in fresh bites, some of which hurt and this is despite our bed being covered in a mosquito net. I appear to be a Mosquito restaraunt, I can imagine the slogan "Eat at Jayne's, the blood is good and the skin is pale and thin!" Mosquitoes are I have decided, bastards! I am going to try and get some more sleep and stop sulking, our friend Rich calls me a SAAB 900 Turbo when I sulk. I fear that if I continue sulking here, a mosquito will bite me on the lip and with the swelling it would cause, I will resemble John Merrik!
Strangely I am now actually looking forwards to getting to Bangkok. I am ready to go home now having had the holiday of a life time. I miss my friends, I miss the kids and I miss my cat. We have only a few days to go here on this island paradise and yet with the promise of bad weather for the next few days, part of me feels like I am home already!
Ah, 8:30 AM and things seem to have settled down in the tummy and I have loved aspects of this place because it truly is the island paradise that we were looking for. The place is covered with beautiful Hermit crabs that wander about doing Hermait crab business. There are also the little beach crabs here that are just hilarious, watching them run sideways is one of natures comic moments, you cannot help but smile as they sprint away in a large arc only to get swallowed up by a wave from the ocean. With the current bad weather the waves are something spectacular, big tubes of water crashing onto the beach. Even a land lubber like me can feel the pull of the ocean and the urge to go surfing. I have never surfed in my life, but I imagine it is easy. After all it is just standing on a slipperly fibre glass board, propelled by the sea towards to the rocky coast. What could go wrong?
Well it has not stopped raining all day so far and it is two PM, we have tidied the hut and I have started packing stuff ready for the flight home and have managed to get Carol's leathers and my new stuff into my main bag. With the stuff I am junking because it is no longer needed I will be with in my weight limit. As for the rest of today I am very bored. Our options are so limited, with no power we can not really keep the Crapbook on for very long due to needing to keep some power in the battery so that we do not have to turn the fucking off. Once it is off we cannot log back into it, which is pathetic. Good job Google, make a device that is only any use at home and in places with wifi. OK, we sort of knew that it was basic, but when we were reassured that we could use it with out a net connection we did think that it had some benefit and we could live with out net brousing. Anyway enough moaning about the Crapbook.
I have done some writing today but I am struggling to find focus and cannot get more than a introductiuon written before I lose interest. Obviously if I had my net connection I could put this in my writing blog, but on this island we do not even have power during the day. We also have not yet eaten anything and are considering what our options are for today. What ever we do, it requires a bit of walking and I am suffering with pain today and walking is the last thing I want to do. If I were at home today I would be resting, exercising my mind somehow be it Scrabble or Lego or maybe even reading. I have asked Carol if she wants to go to the bar to play cards but that interests her about as much as having her toe nails pulled out.
Despite the rain here, it is still hot and sticky which is quite horrible, where ever I go I am wet and fed up with it. Carol and I are both a little disappointed with this place, it has so much potential, but with no shop selling even the most basic things, motorbike hire that is laughable and not even a safe restaraunt, Chui has failed to keep up with the times which is sad. When I was talking to him last night he said he does not want the internet because he gets busines through word of mouth. Yet with the internet generation we are spreading the word all over the world and things get read about his site and this puts people off before they even meet him, which is a shame. I have one major question though, if they can run a power line from the hydroelectric dam in the rain forest to Myanama, why can they not get power across three hundred metres of river? Is it really so hard? With a power line could come a phone line and with a phone line could come the internet and then Chui could skype his beloved family that he misses so much, a family who tell him that his site is too basic. The twenty first century has arrived and the dinosaurs who want nothing to do with it will eventually die out.
As if to make a point this evening, Mr Chui turned off the power to the site at five to eight in the evening. It had been on for slightly less than two hours when he pulled the plug. I am now fed up being in this stupid place, it is sub standard, the food is unsafe and the huts are generally in poor condition with rotten bamboo struts in places. What can we say when it comes to the review on line? Only what we have seen here and we are becoming more and more unimpressed.
Carol and I have both stated today that we are looking forwards to getting back to Bangkok, what a shame because we were both looking forwards to coming here and it has been a disappointment. We discovered today that the mattress that we are sleeping on is rotten and has been chewed by mice and rats with the posibility of bed bugs, there is animal faeces on our fly net every morning and being next to a swamp we are plagued by mosquitoes, so that we get several bites every time we use the toilet. All I want now is to go and leave this shit hole behind. In the mean time my tummy is playing me up a treat and I need to use the loo again. Over the last few days both Carol and I have had tummy upsets and this is not a good end to our holiday and we are now trying to find a new place to stay. We have asked Mr Chui to take us over to the mainland in the morning and from there we can find another adventure and thus move on from a place where we have not been hugely happy. The disappointment we feel is however tempered by the thought of a new adventure.
For food this evening we were forced once again to leave the site due to the kitchen here and went for a walk out to the Horizen resort and had food there. This was a good choice and the food was really nice even if they used a lot of garlic so I now have death breath and will be safe from Dracula for the night! Rather than walk along the beach, we chose to wander along the track through the woods and eventually found the place. Food arrived very quickly and the staff were nothing but friendly. The walk back though soaked us to the skin and I was actually cold for a brief moment of time, however as soon as I started walking I warmed up once again.
Saturday 23rd November
What a day! We are now on another island on the other side of Thailand! We are now on Ko Samui, having escaped from the Ko Phra Thong and the joys of Mr Chui. But before I tell you anymore about where we are, let me tell you about our day.
Mr Chui was sullen and charged us 2000 Baht for our stay with him, not bad for three meals, one fucked motorbike and a few drinks! The level of over charging there is unprecedented even in Thailand. He collected our stuff in all but silence and then stopped at the bar so that he could get his bright red head scarf and then rode the bike and sidecar to the jetty, again with uot saying a word to us other than to tell us to get on. At the jetty he told us to wait while he sorted his boat and then told us to get on. ONce we were on, he climbed up on the front of the boat and sat on the prow smoking fags and talking in Thai to his friend who drove the boat. At the other side he told us to get off the boat and then to wait while he got his Taxi, a large shiny leather fitted Volvo. When he pulled up he told us to get in and we drove in silence to the bus station where he told us to get out. We unloaded our bags and Mr Chui suddenely smiled shooks our hands and said good bye!
We jumped on the first bus of the day in Kuraburi and took that to Takui Pa where we changed to another coach to Surat Thani. Both coaches had leaking air conditioning and on the first coach Carol got dripped on. On the second journey I asked if she wanted to swap seats, but she said no. Thus is was that I got dripped on too, The coach took the familiar route down past Khao Sok and as we stopped at the bus stop for the National Park I saw Mr Bao's shiny Toyota and jumped off to say hello. His beaming smile and welcoming hand shake prived that he really did care about the people who stay with him and I thanked him for the wonderful time we had in the rain forest.
Our arrival in Surat was rather hurried and the guy selling tickets on the bus dropped us right ourside a travel agent who then told us that there was only one more ferry to Ko Samui and that we were unlikely to make it if we fried to take the bus. She recommended a fast taxi and a sprint to the port. She was not wrong, the taxi sprinted through the rain, driving like a formula one driver, weaving through traffic and we arrived at the port just as the ferry was loading, the taxi driver drove the car into the foyet of the port, we loaded on our back packs and started walking into the port office and got waved through to the ticket office, we handed over our tickets and got waved through to the gangway and waited for about two minutes before we were waved onto the ferry. Had we waited for the bus, we would have missed the ferry and had to wait at the dock until tomorrow morning. We gave the taxi driver a 100 Baht tip for (£2) for getting us there in time and we taught him a new way of saying that something is good. Yes, I taught him to use the work Wicked!
The ferry set sail at half past six on the dot and sailed straight into the remains of a monsoon. I stood on the deck in unbeleivable rain that washed over the deck as the ship swayed from side to side (Carol says it is Yawing, I say it is making people want to puke!) in the wind. It was utterly beautiful and even though I got wet, I could not tare meself away from that spectacle of weather. It was truly fabulous. The lights of Surat had barely dipped below the horizn when the lights of Ko Samui came into view, it was the shortest two hour crossing I have ever been on and the food was also great, just a shame that there was not enough.
We docked in Ko Samui under a heavy clouded sky with the occasional flash of lightening and wandered down the pier to the first piece of land. Just as we stepped form the pier to the dry land, the heavens opened and torrential rain fell, soaking us both in a matter of seconds. We sheltered under a shop awning and shivered, teh girl in the shop came out and told us that the cafe next door was still open if we needed to rest and get a drink. Carol asked if they had WiFi so that we could try to book a room and she said no, but the bar next to that did.
The bar next door also had cheap rooms, cheese burgers on the menu and WiFi. Guess where we are still...
As I tucked into my clean safe and tasty Cheese Burger, I raised my glass of well deserved beer (bollocks to the medication, I can take that tomorrow!) and toasted Mr Chui with a might "Fuck You Mr Chui!". Carol gave me that look that is half disapproving and half laughing, is it any wonder that I love that girl with all of my heart. We travelled for twelve hours, met a good man again and enjoyed a tropical storm. Not bad for a days work is it?
So that is us for the next few days, we are both a lot happier, it is always a shame when paradise gets that human touch to drop the clog in the loom.
As a footnote to this, it has just been on the Thai news that Phuket is seriously flooded, it seems that the Dive Centre were right and Chui was wrong. We cannot make much from the news due to the language difficulties, but it seems that flooding and bad weather is coming as far as Surat Thani. As we have travelled across the country, we have been a step ahead of the weather and although we are not fond of Mr Chui, we do hope that he and his friend made it back home safely.
Thursday, 21 November 2013
I am sorry for the delay in posting, with no access to the internet and a very slow connection when we do find it, pictures are hard to come by. So here is our journal from the last few days. It is a big bit of blocky text, but there is some fun stuff in here too. Love from us.
Sunday 17th November
I will admit to some sadness to be leaving the rain forest, but most of all to be leaving behond the friends that we have made here in Mr Bao and his team. When we settled up our bill, we gave a five hiundred Baht tip to Sih and Min to thank them for all of their hard work. Sih took the note and gave us some thanks, when really we needed to thank her and Min was a little shy and Bashful. They are a lovely couple and both of them work so hard, I hope that our little token gave them something a little extra.
Mr Bao dropped us at the bus stop and then went to speak to his friends. Once again we could see the sausage factory that is the leisure industry rolling on as Mr Bao awaited the arrival of his next guests. However with it being a bank holiday the coaches had been cancelled. So that left us crammed into the back of a mini bus with a group of very nice German tourists and a good natured driver who drove like an absolute maniac.
At the end of that particular journey we climbed out of the van grateful to be alive even though we had arrived in a dump of a bus station. Being desperate for the toilet I paid the required three Baht and wandered into a pissoir from hell's suburbs. The smell was ripe and the floor thick with grot. The only toilets in the place were the Thai squat 'n' drops and so needs must and all that, but trying not to piddle in my trousers was a nightmare that almost had me topple over backwards into the bowl! As I serenely walked back out of the toilet (following the mad dash to get in there!) and found Carol in a state of agitation as she hunted through her purse and then her bag and then every pocket on every thing she owned. It transpired that the main card that we have used to pay for everything, a sort of Pre-Pay credit if you will, had been lost. This left us with no money and no access to money. I tried to use my personal bank card in the ATM and was refused twice and told to refer to Bank for details. I am now expecting to get home and discover several letter telling me that my card has been used abroad and I should contact them immediately! Bastards...
With our worries far from over, we had to find our bus to the next stop and it was only by chance that I noticed a bus slowly allowing people to board. A quick check with the bus station office and it was confirmed that the bus was ours and we needed to get on it pronto! So we loaded our kit and then in typical Thai style, the driver went for a fag, stopped at the fried chicken stand and then had another fag. With our connection waiting at the other end our time was running out. Finally and fifteen minutes later than he should have, he started the bus engine and then hooted the horn a couple of times. A few minutes later he sounded the horn again and then put the bus into gear and began to drive away.
So cue another tedious journey by coach, the advantage of Thai coaches though is that they treat the passengers as responsible adults and thus you can have a window open if you so wish or you can stand in the open doorway, your choice and your fault if you fall out. There is something about Thai culture that makes me realise that our own culture has lost something vital that has curtailed our freedom. The freedom to take a risk has been stopped by the Nanny state. Carol films some of the journey and I gently doze or smile and wave at the baby being held in the seat in front of me. There is something so precious and beautiful about the smile of a child, so innocent and free of the corruption that adult life brings. I would still not want to be a child again though.
Suddenly and with out warning the bust stop and the driver gets off. A policeman gets on and starts talking loudly to the two teenagers on the back of the bus, typical anti establishment types, with spikey hair and a punk rock snear, they chat away quite affably with the Rozzer and then we realise that we are at the bus stop. The driver though has parked the bus on a verge next to a drainage ditch that has a perilous four foot drop to a concrete ditch filled with god knows what!
As we escape from the coach and walk the tight rope of the curb stones, we were greeted by another jolly taxi driver who tells us that he is Mr Chui's representative and that we need to put our bags in his truck. A fellow traveller is sat in the back on the tail gate and so we have to chuck our heavy bags over the side of the truck. The journey to the quayside is short which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing in that the journey is over and curse because the truck was air conditioned, if cramped. So we disembark and face the next stage, the stage I have been dreading.
THE BOAT TRIP!
My initial thoughts on seeing what we are about to put to sea in are "WTF!"
We climb aboard what to me looks like a wooden baking tray with a cement mixer jerry rigged to the back. Carol is in her element and her sea legs are obvious! I however am what those sailor types call a land lubber. If evolution had meant for me to float on water I would have been born able to float! As my first foot touches the boat, it tips alarmingly and the fear gland in my bowels decided to unleash a full bucket load of buttock clenching scaredy pants!
Carol sits at the front of the boat, a smile on her face as broad of that of Lord Nelson on a warm sunny day of peaceful sailing. I grip the plank seat with my arsehole and we start the perilous journey down the green estuary. Yet as the boat chugs up the river I am reminded of that scene in Apocalypse Now with Martin Sheen, I too could be on my way to face my renegade Col. Kurtz and my inner dialogue starts putting a narrative to the faces and views I am seeing. The only thing though is that the chap driving the boat ( I don't know what the technical term is, so driving will have to do!) is clearly not not more than a biscuit older than me and would have been a baby or at maybe a young child during the conflict in Vietnam and Laos, a conflict that is still claiming casualties to this day through the huge amount of unexploded ordnance dropped by the Americans that lies rotting and dangerous in the forests of those countries. It is darkly funny to think that Carol and I are holidaying in a part of the world that has seen such terrible human suffering. The atrocities of Cambodia are the first thing that I remember of world politics from my childhood, that and Thatcher gaining power, both of these were things that later in life I would campaign against happening again.
So the boat noisily chugged up the river, the heat was intense, the sweat was stood on my face in a sheen of my own when suddenly the driver (you know why I call him this) cuts the engine. Fearing the worst and trying to work out if I can swim as far as the opposite bank I turn to see the man answer his phone in rapid Thai. After he puts the phone back in his pocket the engine roars once again and once again I am deafened and am unable to focus on anything other than the plank in front of me. Suddenly our fellow traveller leaps across the boat front with his camera in hand to snap some photos, the boat dips perilously close to the water and I shriek in fear and try to lean the boat in the opposite direction. Carol too has her camera in her hand and is snapping away at what I can only guess is something interesting as I stare intently at that plank! I hate boats...
Finally we land (dock?) at another concrete quay and the smell of human activity hits my nose like a cement mixer to the head, that odour of rotting rubbish and discarded fish heads that hangs on the air like a poisonous plume from a volcano spitting out vast tectonic farts. Carol steps ashore with the grace and poise of a Sea Captain and turns to see me still holding on to that plank with my arsehole, the concern on her face is genuine as she helps me ashore as I wibble and shake with fright, did I mention that I hate boats?
At the top of the quay we were met by a Thai man of indeterminate age, who has a bandanna tied around his head that holds down a well kept pony tail, his whole disposition says biker, Carol has found a kindred spirit once again and immediately strikes up that friendly chat that she is so easy with and so good at. The man is Mr Chui and he tells us to dump our bags into the side car of his battered CG125. He rides up the quay following us on the tatty old machine, but its Honda CG character shines through and it just rumbles away happily enough. At the top of the quay he tells us to climb on and so begins our journey into the unknown.
My writer brain once again starts compiling a narrative as we traverse the narrow concrete roadway, Mr Chui rides with the deliberate finesse of a man who has made the journey many many times. As I see the road way I can imagine a Japanese army, equipped with jeeps and motorbikes, generals shouting orders and local people being forced to construct the road. Yet this is based on entirely my inner story teller and is probably no where near actuality.
When we arrive at the site, Mr Chui drips our kit at our hut and then rides off leaving us to settle in. Exhausted from the days travel I find the bed and to my utter delight it is soft and comfortable. Everything feels good with the world until dinner time. The food is indescribably awful!
Monday 18th November
I awoke early today absolutely crippled by pain and swallowed my usual indelicate pile of pain killers to little effect and spent the next few hours drifting in and out of sleep. The hut has a bamboo floor and as Carol gently moves about the hut the floor bounces with ever step. It takes a little while to get used to and after a while the movement becomes strangely comforting.
When I finally get up and brave the shower I discover to my horror that it is a cold tap with a hose and shower head attached. The water is shocking to my delicate Western disposition and to me feels like glacial melt water! The facilities here are basic and just like the rain forest the toilet flush is a bucket of water next to the loo, other than the shock of the shower all is normal and nice. The lack of power though is annoying to a spoiled Westerner like me, with no power there is no power shower, no pop up toaster and where to plug my lap top to charge. Talking of the Lap top, Carol and I were dismayed to discover that the Chromebook is in fact a pile of bollocks. Due to lack of internet it refuses to start up and let us log in. We were assure when we bought it that it worked off line, but this turns out to be false and it is now nothing more than an expensive battery for my inexpensive MP3 player.
The sticky heat in the hut feels horrible to my aching and sore body, all I want is to lay down on a soft air conditioned bed, yet with no power here such luxuries are not going to happen. As it is, the site does get power in the evening for a couple of hours as Mr Chui runs his bar and lights up the place a little with eco bulbs. Basic and pretty, but annoying to an overly pampered Westerner like me! I crave the cooling air of a fan, nut again such luxuries are not going to be powered by a small generator just like we have at home. I have fears that our stay here is going to be bleak. Carol though seems to thrive here, she has a level of peace about her that is not only gratifying but lovely.
Breakfast at Mr Chui though is another feat of endurance and as my omelette is delivered it smells funny, also the toast is clearly not toasted,why cannot Thai people make proper toast? Toast with blackening on it where it has just started to burn, but not enough to make it inedible is beyond Thai people it seems, they prefer to taste the bread and not the carbon. The omelette on initial taste is rank, it is a mix of off fish, rotten eggs and a huge amount of salt. Given that Mr Chui has ducks here I can only assume that the eggs used are from these birds and the local diet has tainted them somewhat. Despite the vile taste I finish the food because I was so hungry after giving dinner last night a miss due to it being horrid.
As I eat what passes as toast I happened to glance into the kitchen just as I put the last bit of food into my mouth. The work side is covered in chickens. Live chickens! Live chickens that are slowly eating their way through the loaf of bread that our toast has just come from. As I point this out to Carol she hopes that such things are because the animals have got in the kitchen by accident. The sad truth though is that this is clearly not the case. I am now worried about our continued eating here and what potential diseases we could pick up.
Our plan for the day is to try out our snorkel gear and again I am hesitant about such activities due to my fear of water. The beach though breaks my heart when we leave the forest that borders it. The view is achingly beautiful, but the litter on the edge of the tide line shows just how much rubbish and garbage we as humans simply chuck into the sea. As we wander along the sand I find broken bottles left by tourists, old water bottle left behind with no thought as to who will clear them away. The damage to this beautiful beach by human beings is enough to make one cry. When later we find a Hermit Crab with a shell that is in reality a discarded pill bottle I could weep at the state of this paradise which if you look at the ragged edges is being decimated by the people who come here to see the beauty. I am ashamed to be human when I see this.
The view out to sea in contrast to this is utterly perfect in its beauty, this is the Indian Ocean and I am about to swim in it. My fear was gone in an instant and the water is like that of a cool refreshing bath, with its glass like clarity I can see the sea bed almost forever and to be in the water suddenly feels like the most natural thing in the world. I dipped my head below the surface, breathing slightly more rapidly than normal due to my fear and came face to face with a large fish! There were so many beautiful fish that I could not count them, there were small patched of coral growing on the rocks and fish of so many colours, yet my fear changed track and instead of concentrating on the beauty all I could think of was the dangers of meeting an angered Lion fish, swimming into the fronds of a Jelly fish or even brushing against one of the horrific local snails with a sting so potent that it kills local swimmers every year.
Carol though swims through the water with the grace of a sea mammal, she seems at home here in a way that I envy and with her comforting looks and signals I started to relax until we swam together hand in hand pointing to wild life and sharing the moment together. At that moment my only feelings were of the bliss of the instant, the shared love between us and the calm of swimming in the Indian Ocean. Yet with every up comes the inevitable down and my damaged shoulder soon let me know when it had had enough with a jolt of pain causing me to have to leave the water and sit on the beach with my dear Carol. The view out over the ocean was magnificent and as we sat there sheltering from the glare of the sun under our towels the utter peace of our position was ingrained on our souls.
Eventually we returned to the hut and the shock of the shower which has now mellowed into a cool comfort from the heat of the day. My dread moment though was returning to the bar and having to eat there. This proved to be founded as the food we were served was inedible and our fears over food poisoning caused us to leave the majority of the food on our plates. The rice served to us was of an unknown vintage and was not only cold and sticky, but contaminated with the grains used to feed the chicken and ducks. I tried to eat the main dish, but the meat was tainted with something and after a couple of mouthfuls I gagged and was nearly sick. Once again I returned to hut hungry and starting to feel the hunger pangs turning to depression.
Despite the incredible beauty here, the small things that grate on us are starting to make me hate it here and a late night walk along the beach confirms my views of the people who have visited this place before or who have thrown their trash over board from a ship. The delicate beach, with all of its splendid life is being destroyed with the litter of the thousands of people who just do not care about the consequences to their actions. We as humans are destroying these places, the last places of nature in her natural beauty and we are destroying them with our filth.
Tuesday 19th November
Today we faced a catastrophe, if we cannot find a place to eat clean food we are going to have to move away from this island that is in almost every other way just what we were looking for, despite the horrible things I have seen as a direct result of other human beings. I feel exhausted and even after a morning of rest I am still exhausted, but then I am once again running on empty and my fears of going back to Bangkok are starting to feel real.
Carol and I decided to go for a walk at lunchtime and the plan was that we had to find a better place to eat that Mr Chui. Our first stop was at the Dive school and the woman there was genuinely surprised at our comments about the kitchen hygiene. It seems that Mr Chui has a reputation for good food, if this is the case then our fears of what the other places would be like were darkening. Fortunately we found that the bar at the dive school also served basic food and it was fairly well priced too. However there was another place that we wanted to check out too and the walk along the beautiful coastline was also calling to us both.
The climb up the the hill on the headland was both exhilarating and pleasant. The views more than made up for the effort it took to get there and suddenly I felt at home in my environment as I wandered along cliff edges with the ease of the experienced climber. Carol though appeared to be a little like a sea lion out of water, she could do it but it took effort and I could see that she was not comfortable on some of the sheer drops, even if they were only seventy feet or so to the rocks of the beach. My reassurances that such falls would most likely result in broken limbs rather than actual death unless she was very unlucky did not seem to reassure her at all much to my surprise. However, we make a good team. She is fantastic in the water and I am good on the rock, so we support each other through what feels alien to us both.
We stopped at the next bar and to my delight discovered that it is a Pizza bar, they prepare and cook the food right there in front of the customer. I noticed that every time the lads working there went to handle a fresh pizza base they washed their hands, there were no fags being smoked while these are being cooked. We had a couple of drinks and asked if there was anywhere else around that had food and maybe even WiFi. The damn Chromebook has all but failed us now and with out any form of net access it simply refuses to do anything and we cannot even use it to transfer the photos from Carols cameras to the hard drive, the main reason why we brought the damn thing in the first place. I was at this point thinking of throwing it in the sea, to see if I could use it as a float to aid my swimming, but decided that there was enough junk in the sea already.
The lads at the pizza bar directed us to the next restaurant along the beach which was roughly a thousand metres away. so we headed off and took the path past Monkey hill, at the end of the track we seemed lost and in the end asked a German tourist if we were on the right track to a decent restaurant. He took us around a corner and there on the beach front was an oasis in marble and wood. The food was exquisite, we dined like the British ruling classes during the Empire and enjoyed every tiny luxury like the fans above us and clean food. We also found a WiFi connection and restarted the Chromebook which is how I am able to type this now and update our blog from my hand written notes. With the Chrome book now working again we managed to transfer enough data to actually be able to use the cameras again and then started to head back along the beach.
Walking along a golden beach, my heart filled with the love of my partner and my tummy filled with glorious food was one of the most beautiful moments of this trip so far. With waves crashing on the golden sand just metres away from our feet and our being almost completely alone on this beach that stretches away to the far horizon I commented to Carol just how romantic a moment this was and then she farted! The pair of us giggled like school children as we made the long walk back to our hut along beaches that both break and fill the heart. The sunset was spectacular with deep blues and pinks that went on forever, walking hand in hand with my best friend, my wife and my muse I do not think that I could have been happier.
As we wandered along the beach we avoided the deep river that had caught us out on our walk up the beach and crossed it where it joined the sea as a shallow trickle and then rounded the corner onto another section of glorious beach where we found the large glob that makes up a Jelly fish. These things here can cause serious harm to a swimmer and leave them needing hospital treatment providing that they do not drown before getting to shore. We took a couple of pictures and carried on our way back to our hut.
Back home we discovered that our water supply has failed and so we reported this to Mr Chui who in his typical biker way (a way well known to us all, be it a biker here or in the UK) wandered off to fix it. AS he left the bar, a large brown rat crept cautiously from the kitchen and as Mr Chui turned a corner the rat pelted along the bar edge where it joins the sand and vanished into the undergrowth. When Mr Chui returned we helped him to fix a knackered gasket and then we retired to bed where we are now. Carol is asleep and I am sat here as naked as the day I was born typing this crap into this infernal machine. With no shower though Carol and I were forced to pour water on each other from the large bog bucket to wash off the sand. The water was freezing cold and each scoop full poured on me made me squeal like a school girl! I have no shame in admitting this, I am after all used to finer things in life, this is why I live in Weston Super Mare!
Wednesday 20th November
We have eight days until we fly home and face the harsh realities back there, part of me wants to stay here and escape from that reality but with our money starting to run low, such a plan will only lead us into poverty and legal problems with the Thai authorities. It is funny, but at the start of this trip I did not think that I would fall in love with the Thai people as much as I have, their gentle polite natures are so peaceful and it is all thanks to their culture. Mind you, we have only seen one side of the society here, that of the Westerner visiting the place and having money to spend. If things were different, if we were out of money and trying to find work I can imagine that life here in Thailand is somewhat harder.
This morning I awoke to the sounds of the sea crashing on the beach and Carol's more gentle snoring. As I type this, she is fast asleep with her face almost angelic. As she slowly breaths in and out there is a look of peace about her too. I can see that she loves this place, Thailand is her spiritual home and I know that she too will be sad to leave this place even though we will be returning to our precious family.
In the more real day to day order of things, I can report that due to a lack of a shower last night, our bed is now full of sand and feels like a soft comfortable sand paper. Mr Chui is no doubt working on the water problem as we speak and hopefully will have the issue sorted very soon, especially as I am starting to smell! Parts of my more intimate aspects are starting to smell like Bangkok which cannot be a good thing, although having now identified what the smell over Bangkok is, I am a little shocked!
Thankfully the water is now back on and I enjoyed a great ice cold shower this morning, although enjoy is a relative term, lets say that I enjoyed it more than I would enjoy walking naked into a nest of red ants. Washing my hair in cold water is not an experience I truly enjoy first thing in the morning. However after a long hot day that shower becomes a golden palace of pleasure. The cool glacial water soothes and cleans away the days sweat and grime. What I dread in the morning, I crave in the evening, thus proving once and for all the theory of relativity.
Our day was spent having fun on two wheels, the bike we hired from Mr Chui was something spectacular in its horrendous condition. First off the front brake has no friction material left on the pads and is now running on the bare backing plates. The throttle cable is rusted and only opens a third of what it should making pulling away a difficult proposition. The spokes of both wheels resemble Victorian metal work that has been left on the coast for a hundred years and has rusted through. The seat has been recovered in thick black plastic, the foot pegs have been removed and rear sets from a sports bike have been bodged into place raising and pushing the pegs back into a most uncomfortable position. The rear brake has worn through the back plates of the pads and has now locked the worn pads together around the disk, which is a good thing because this is what keeps the rear wheel straight in the frame given that the bearings have worn out and been ground to dust. The clutch feels like it is pulling on the springs of a Kenworth road train and it bites suddenly making the bike jerk away. Riding it is utterly hilarious because nothing works and yet it just keeps going, good old Honda. With me piloting and Carol filming from the pillion, we toured the island and even found a shop, a real actual shop!
Shopping on Ko Phra Thong was an interesting experience for us because despite our best efforts, the woman who ran the shop refused to speak to us. We greeted her in Thai, asked for things as best as we could in Thai and even thanked her in Thai. She however merely grunted at us as she stared at us both with a mixture of incredulity and cold murderous incomprehension. I can only imagine that her store gets a lot of very annoying Westerners who refuse to make an effort to communicate.
Once we had stocked up on supplies and I had a big pile of sweets we perused the doughnuts, freshly made and glazed with shiny crystals of sugar... They looked lovely. Carol though found something else on display in the shop on a shelf just next to the doughnuts, a tray of some kind of glue or poison that had the bloody corpse of a mouse and several cockroaches. The urge to eat fresh doughnuts left me as she pointed it out and then she commented that she wondered if said dead things were for sale! Thai shops do it differently to English ones, I cannot imagine a small village store in the remote parts of Britain having a tray of decomposing vermin on display next to the stock.
So we paid for our things and put our shoes back on and climbed back on the bike, it was time to explore some of the other roads on Ko phra thong and this is exactly what we did, we explored the other roads, which took a few minutes as we quickly discovered that they went nowhere. One road stopped at the school and given what one very famous British Traveller came to this region looking for we decided not to hang out there so took another road which lead to a large lump of concrete resting over the road way next to the Islands water tower. The other road passed down through the town to the town hall. Now remember that these roads are concrete slabs laid on the sand and with a five to six inch drop at each side, the slabs them selves are roughly the width of a car wide and seem rather good as road ways. Again this is not something that you would see in Britain and is unique as far as I know to Thailand.
So it was time to get on the only road that led out of town and over to the other side of the island, so with the bike roaring along at close to twenty KM/H we left town and once again followed the road less travelled, bumping into only a couple of people on the small bike and side car outfits. Now given that there were no public toilets and it was still a long way to Mr Chui's Bar, there is only one place that one can go for a wee if it is desperate enough to need to stop. So as I squatted there and asked Carol not to film me as I passed water, she got out the camera and stated that I had not asked her not to take pictures and she snapped me right there! I promptly fell backwards laughing and squirted wee down my leg!
Now a road laid on sand would suffer from some kind of subsidence you would think, but to be honest there were less pot holes on the whole island road than there are on the three hundred meters of our street! However when you do find one, it is not so much a pot hole as a crater! There are two sections of damaged road, one is a hole in the road about two feet across and half a foot deep. The other piece of damaged road is where half of the road has fallen in the swamp! It has just broken off and fallen in the swamp, a big chunk of road, just like that, as if it has been stepped on by a huge foot and had one edge broken off.
Now with out turning this blog into a list of my bowel problems, we had to race back to Mr Chui's bar fairly rapidly and then after ten minutes or so of my agonised ablutions, we set off again to explore a cross road that had looked promising. We navigated the off road sections once again on our battered little Honda clearing through the soft sand with greater and greater ease, although we did manage to pick up a few nasty red ants and Carol got bitten a few times by the vicious little bastards. Once back out on the concrete road we found the cross road, or rather cross slab and headed into the unknown.
Tracks in the soft sand that had blown across the road showed that several motor vehicles had used the road fairly recently and then in the distance came a Toyota Hilux pick up crammed full of people and what ever junk they happened to have with them. So we carried on and then suddenly the road stopped. At the end of the road was a ten metre stretch of swamp and the road resumed again in pristine concrete. The swamp had a set of planks nailed to wooden beams similar in design to a railway line and this was obviously how the section was crossed by the bike and side car outfits. A bike on its own was going to find this section a little trickier. The mountain biker in me though relished the challenge and with a twist of the throttle as far as it would go, I dropped off the road and mounted the narrow plank. The wheels stayed true to the planks despite the rear wheel steering effect of the worn out and ruined rear bearings and then as I hit the third plank in the line of five I realised that it has split in half down its length and that one side of it had broken and dropped right into the swamp, so with the pathway now even narrower I kept the bike going along the wooden road of doom! Which ended abruptly as I mounted the concrete road once again.
The road stretched and twisted into the distance and with both of us back on the bike we set off at the steady speed of twenty KM/P once again and enjoyed the sweeping corners on a bike with no brakes until once again the road stopped. This time it stopped because we had found the family who were busy laying the road in the first place. Again Thailand does things in a strange way at times and having a family of road builders laying a road on their own seems most odd to us Westerners, but I suppose that if your family business is road building then so be it. The family working on this project though were using a bike and side car to ferry reinforcing steel to the site of the next layer of concrete and the concrete was mixed by hand in situ. I cannot imagine a more gentle way of spending a day than building a stretch of road with my wife and family!
So with another bowel emergency on the horizen for me, we headed back to Mr Chui's bar and just in time. After a few minutes of gut aching squirts I washed myself down with the hose pipe and Carol joined me once more on our fabulous death machine. It was at this point that Carol joked about how it would be if we took this bike to our dear friends at Bridge Motor Services for a standard British MOT. Given the level and number of faults with the bike we thought that Steve would either tell us to scrap the bike or get out and never darken his door step again!
Riding to the beach on the bike was again another hilarious act of silliness, the brakeless wonder traversed the soft sand with the grace and poise of an ice skating rhino and with it weaving and bucking all over the place we managed to, get it to the edge of the beach. From this point, firm damp sand made our roadway and with our destination on the end of the next bay, we set off as intrepid desert explorers across the endless sands. OK, endless is a slight exaggeration, across the half a KM of damp sand crossed by a few tiny streams, it was then through the very soft sand of the point and out on to the beach where we had gone swimming only a few days before. This bay stretched for a KM of golden brown sand crossed by some tiny streams and one deep stream.
The bike leapt forwards like a drunk gazelle on morphine and with us both laughing we sped along the sands. Old Burt Monroe would have been proud of us as we splashed through the streams, but then came to the deep fast stream that had worried us. Here the sand got soft and the wheels dug in deep, Carol jumped off the back and I revved the engine and nothing happened, the bike was sat on the swing arm in sand. I wiggled it forwards slightly, revved it again and this time the smooth road tyres bit into the sand and the bike wobbled forwards picking up speed, sending out a wall of spray on each side of the bike, the water got deeper and for a brief moment I had fears of it stopping in the middle of a river, the engine flooded with river water, bears approaching from the woods to eat this poor lonely biker. Luckily the other bank was only a couple of metres away and as the bike rode up the bank, it slithered to a stop next to the Pizza bar. We had survived our epic journey and we ordered our Pizza with the proud voice of a British conqueror. The lad running the pizza bar pointed out to us that had we crossed the river lower down the quiet beach where the sand was firmer and the water less deep we would not have looked quite like such a pair of ferang idiots! The Pizza though was fantastic and after a little while of just enjoying where we were, I had to once again head back to Mr Chui's bar for... you guessed it, another bottom emergency.
Damn I love Thailand, although I would never dream of riding my precious Sylvie across such a beach or through streams filled with soft sand, the potential damage to her delicate precise parts would fill me with horror, so I would need another battered old wreck like the brakeless wonder to do it all again.
On another note, as I was preparing to go to bed last night I had to pop down to the bar for for something and found Mr Chui and one of his employees catching the large beetles that fly around here. These bugs are about an inch and a half long and will sit quite happily on your hand for a while before flying off, they are rather sweet. I asked the lad why they were collecting the bugs and then wished I had not.
"For the curry." he stated happily, "they go in the curry."
"Do they taste good?" I asked.
"Very good." he replied happily before looking at a bug that was just out of his reach. My being taller I reached up and picked the bug off ceiling of the bar and handed it to him. He beamed a smile at me and thanked me and then went off with his bugs, as for me I swear that I am not going to eat curry ever again!