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Published: September 18th 2008
hello, massage, welcome.... now i am alone in the small town of Pakxe in laos, having travelled here from north-eastern thailand yesterday. after my last blog from hat yai 4 weeks ago, it has been a rather drama filled time!
i took the bus from hat yai to phuket, a slow 6 hour journey on winding roads. it was made worse by the driver being in a inappropriate race with a competitor company's bus on the section between krabi town and phang-nga town. resulting in several sharp brakes and swerves, much to mine and fellow passengers chagrin! phuket town has one of the most stupid locations for its bus station (and in asia there is a lot of competition for stupid bus station locations). it's right in the south east of the town, whereas as nearly all places you want to go from phuket town are north and west of the place. this means that every bus journey to and from phuket ends or begins with a bus ploughing slowly through the old town's crowded narrow streets. it is then another 20 minute walk back across town to the separate place where local minibuses/songthaews depart for the beaches!
CENTRAL WORLD, BANGKOK
THE CITY'S LARGEST SHOPPING MALL
stayed at patong beach, staying at the blue dolphin guesthouse, very luxurious for the bargain price, even if the gay french owner kept hassling me to pay all the time. stayed four nights, enjoying the gay nightlife there. kiss bar i think now has the better cabaret show than the older established boat bar. so much so that boat bar was almost empty most nights, whereas the kiss bar was always quite busy.... the beach was quite stormy and wet the first two days, though it soon was sunny again later. from patong, it was back to phuket town. even though there were about 10 people on the local bus wanting to go to the big bus station, the obnoxious driver wouldn't go any further than the centre of phuket town, leaving the passengers to walk for 20 minutes in the midday heat with all their luggage, or to take a tuk tuk from one of his friends/conspiritors.... eventually got a bus from phuket at 3:30pm, to surat thani train station, and from there the overnight sleeper train 84 back to bangkok. my friend ekk got on the train (in 3rd class)at hua hin at 4am, and we met up
and bangkok station.
we had decided to apply for a visa for him to live and work in the uk, so spent 2 days preparing it before submitting, at a great financial cost to me, to the british embassy visa processing centre in bangkok. we stayed in bangkok a few days more. i went back to the sathorn inn hotel to collect my bag i had left there in july. unfortunately it had been left on the floor of a very damp ground floor room, and a lot of my clothes were covered in mildew and damp. i had a bit of a run in with the rather sinister manageress. she tried to say the clothes were already wet when i packed them, then that the bag wasn't even mine, and then that because the bag was left free of charge she wouldnt take responsibility for any damage! eventually she reluctantly agreed to get the damaged clothes laundered free of charge, but even after that, some were still badly stained or had holes in them, so had to be binned..
after bangkok we travelled to koh samui and koh phangnan. it was a drama filled week. on samui
we stayed at the chaweng gardens beach, which is in the midst of renovations, should be very nice when completed in january, by the looks of what has been done so far. went back to the star club cabaret, where there was a bit of a drama when we wanted to share my very large and strong glass of long island ice tea, which to be honest, was big enough for 3 people. however the staff insisted it was one drink for each person watching the show, and conveyed this to us in a very rude fashion. so much so that ekk walked out, and after finishing the large glass myself i left too, and i havent been back since either. its a shame, as it is a good show, even if they do repeat the same old acts over and over again, though if you were there for just a week a year, you wouldnt know it...
far more successful was our motorbike trip around samui island. we visited namuang 1 waterfall, a beautiful place i'd never been to before, with many elephants for hire too. we then took to the mountainous interior of samui, which has a
much cooler climate, and the roads/tracks had been much improved since i last was up there again with ekk in 2004. we also visited the rather crass and touristy "big buddha" , and stayed a while in the afternoon at thongson bay, one of samui's lesser known and quieter beaches. it has some nice bungalows, some right on the cliffs at thongson bay bungalows. in the beautiful late afternoon sunshine it was idyllic, and i thought i wouldnt mind sleeping there on another visit. however i changed my mind somewhat when we spotted a red snake near one of the bungalows on the barren cliff, which ekk informed me was a extremely venomous and deadly variety.....
from samui we took the "had rin queen" boat over to had rin on koh phangnan. this was where most of drama unfolded. we stayed at neptunes villa resort on the quieter south west facing sunset side of had rin cape, which at this time of year (may to october) gets a lot of cool winds blowing in off from the south west monsoon, which makes it very pleasant to sit out on the balcony without fear of insects of getting too hot...
THONGSON BAY, KOH SAMUI
MY FAVOURITE SAMUI BEACH, KOH PHANGNAN ON HORIZON...
had rin is a very touristy backpacker type place, home of the notorious full moon parties (though there is party every night to some degree)! it is quite a lot more expensive than the rest of thailand for a lot of things. eg internet cafes all charge an extortionate 3 baht a minute (the usual price in other tourist places like chiang mai, phuket or samui is 1baht a minute, whereas in other non touristy thai cities it can be as low at 15baht for an hour)! also every cafe has the same price, which smacks of a pricing cartel going on....
we took a motorbike on koh phangnan too, the 1st day we drove over to had sadet beach, a remote place on the east coast, ekk and i failed to get here in 2004, falling victim to the dusty, sandy and steep track en-route. this time was successful however, due to recent rain which had compacted the tracks and minimising the slippery dry sand. spent some time here swimming and relaxing, though it was a bit stifling and calm, being sheltered from the south westerly breezes this time of year. also on a visit to the bushes
to go to the toilet, i had a close encounter with a huge scary monitor lizard, the size of a crocodile! which spooked me a bit, though i think he was more scared of me, judging by the way he soon scuttled away.
the next day we went further afield to the north west of the island. we were then back at the bungalow several hours when i realised i had left my expensive mobile phone on koh ma, an islet where we had drinks earlier that day!! we then made a frantic 1 hour dash by motorbike over the same dangerous rollercoaster roads in pitch darkness to the place where i thought i had left it. low and behold, it was still there, in a hammock i had sat in 8 hour previously! no one had sat there since i had, luckily. after that episode we were quite late going out, so lazily we didnt take the bike back to the bungalow, instead we parked it outside the beach bar, only 5 minutes walk from our room. big mistake, as after a few sangsom (cheap thai rum), redbull and coke buckets on the beach, we were not in
BUCKETS LINED UP FOR SALE, HAD RIN
A VERY PERILOUS WAY TO CONSUME DRINKS....
a fit state to go anywhere near a motorbike. but at 3am we did, and managed fall off it on a loose sandy corner by the seven-eleven store in had rin, during the barely 2 minute hop to the bungalow. i got a badly gashed knee. a week later im still nursing my bandaged knee! worse still was that every motorbike rental place in had rin has a scam going on, whereas they keep your passport and hold it to ransom if the bike has a slightest scratch upon return. our's had several minor scratches, but nothing at all serious, however i still had to part with 2000baht before i could get my passport back! (it would have been double that if we hadnt managed to negotiate). apparently ALL (another had rin cartel?) rental places have the same policy of replacing ALL scratched parts for new, and will charge you accordingly, so beware!!
i took a peek on the expensive internet once whilst in had rin, though only for the minimum 10 minutes (for 30 baht (1 USD!!) that was long enough to check on the progess of ekk's visa. to my surprise there was a message that his
HAD SADET BEACH, KOH PHANGNAN
ON EAST COAST, ONLY ACCESSIBLE BY BOAT, OR VIA A VERY STEEP 10KM LONG DIRT TRACK
application was "ready for collection". i took this to mean that it had been approved, so after one more night on koh phangnan, i travelled back to bangkok the next day, in very choppy seas and rain, by catermaran and bus (took 12 hours).. went with ekk to the visa centre, however upon opening the envelope there was just a blank passport and a letter of refusal!! we have been given another chance, and have until october 6th to submit what they want. basically they want a lot more pics of ekk and i together and other evidence, which hopefully i now have got. so when i get back to bangkok on 28th of this month, all will be well with our submission. fingers crossed! after a couple of days in bangkok, i had leave thailand as my visa has expired, hence why im here i laos.
en route here i stopped by in sisaket province in isaan (north east thailand), great taste of rural thai life, and total isolation from other farang and tourist infrastructure. for an authentic thai rural homestay, it was the real deal, apart, that is, from one trip to the Tesco 40km away! also
THE ROAD TO HAD RIN CAPE, KOH PHANGNAN
NOT FOR THE NERVOUS OR INEXPERIENCED...
from sisaket i took the 2 hour morning train to the city of ubon ratchathani. i arrived there at 10:30am, however the next international bus to pakxe wasnt until 3:30pm! killed time at the 15baht an hour internet and also printed some pics of ekk and i together from my photo cds at 4baht each. time soon flew, and was soon crossing the border at chong mek to laos, and i arrived at pakxe at 6:30pm last night. mild fiasco at pakxe bus station as the first guy off the bus fell up to his waist down a loose covered man hole!! he was ok, but got covered in black slime! totally unrelated, i managed to severely pull a lower leg muscle getting off the same bus and now can hardly walk!
from here i'm heading south to the 4000 islands (in the mekong), then to cambodia, and thence onto to bangkok by the 28th september.......to sort ekk's visa out!
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