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Published: February 17th 2009
Welcome all, to my last blog of what has turned out to be 18 months of travelling overland (not a single flight!) to and around mainland south east asia, an eventful time indeed... for next thursday night (26th february), ekk and i will board a Etihad airlines flight bound for london (via abu dhabi). it is also the first flight i've taken since april 2007, so slightly apprehensive...
i wrote my last blog from the southern thai city of hat yai at the beginning of january, after just coming back from koh lipe for new years eve. ekk and i spent a few more rainy days there, including visiting the nearby beach resort of songkla, where it rained some more! ekk then had to return to work in hua hin, then i went onto bangkok. i stayed with a friend there, in his house. it was a free doss, but it was quite primitive. the room was tiny and the bathroom (squat toilet and a cold water butt with a plastic scoop for a shower), was down a cockroach infested corridor. the first week was fine, but then i came down with a very bad stomach bug. i shall not
THE GIANT SWING
BANGKOK DOES SOMETIMES GET BLUE SKIES...
go into the gruesome details too much, but suffice to say i have never felt so ill for a very, very long time. despite pills from the doctor, i was very slow to recover, so decided to take to more hygienic environs, and headed for kanchanaburi. it is a 2 hour bus ride west of bangkok, by the river kwai. i stayed at a nice riverside bungalow at rainbow lodge, all mod cons for 500 baht a night, including unlimited free internet. it also had cable tv, so was able to catch up with the somewhat depressing world news, and even more depressing news from the UK, as well as obama bin laden's inauguration...
kanchanaburi is also very cheap, so i could get by on about 800 baht a day, including the bungalow and food. since the once great british pound slumped in value in october to around 50 baht to 1GBP, i have had to cut back on spending, so i stayed a week there, not doing very much and relaxing. then it was time to go back to bangkok, though i went to hua hin for a couple of days first, to see ekk and to sort
some of my possessions out. got back to bangkok 2 days before my mother and her friend from stowmarket, susan, were due to arrive for their holiday. stayed at a cheap guesthouse called white lodge, in soi kasemsan 1, just opposite MBK, for only 450 a night.
as part of my cost cutting, i decided it would be a good idea to go the airport by public transport, to save a 400+ baht one way taxi fare. so i walked to the central rail station, bought a ticket for 6 baht only, to the station nearest the airport, and then walked some more. however this walk was much longer than it looked on the map, and it took over 2 hours in the hot afternoon sun to reach the airport bus terminal! from there i took a free shuttle bus to the air terminal itself. so i ended up reaching the arrival hall only just in time to meet my mother and susan off their flight from the UK. i would also warn anyone meeting people off flights at bangkok to bring their passport, otherwise the guards will not let you into the arrivals hall. its true! also to
KANCHANABURI WAR CEMETARY
HERE LIE MOST OF THOSE SERVICEMEN WHO DIED CONSTRUCTING THE BURMA RAILWAY
take a taxi, at least until the high speed airport elevated rail link opens this august! we sensibly took a taxi to my mother's hotel, the siam@siam, with possibly the rudest, grumpiest taxi driver in bangkok, and spent the evening eating and shopping at MBK.
the next day we did a tour of some bangkok sights, including a morning visit to jim thompson house, a well oiled tourist machine... but by mid afternoon susan had had enough, so we headed for a sizzler restaurant, after which she headed back to the hotel for her daily siesta. i took my mother to lumpini park, and in the evening we headed for the banyan tree hotel to have a drink at their rooftop "moon bar".
the day after turned out to be a long one. we took a train out of bangkok to nakon phathom at 8am, where ekk, his sister, brother in law and mother eventually met us. ekk then drove us to the river kwai, where we visited the allied war cemetary, the bridge over the river kwai, and the burma "death" railway. we also stopped by at an elephant camp. all this took much longer than i
thought, so by the time ekk had driven us all back to hua hin, it was about 7:30pm. my mother and susan checked in for one night at the central "fulay hotel". we then had trouble buying our tickets to koh samui by lomprayah catermaran. the somewhat obnoxoius assistant in their hua hin shop said both the connecting bus and the catermaran were full for the next day. however after about an hour of me harranging them, 3 seats miraclously became available!!
we then met ekk at a local "pizza company" restaurant for dinner, after which ekk took my mother and i back to his sister's home, 4km out of town, where i stayed the night. my mother came with us so that she could fawn over the 4 puppies. ekk then took my mother home to her hotel on the back of a motorbike, her first ever ride on one...
the next morning the lomprayah bus to chumphon and catermaran to koh samui went smoothly, especially compared with the hassle of actually getting the tickets the night before! the sea was fairly calm, and soon we were on a minibus transfer from the catermaran "dock" on maenam
beach, to the chaweng gardens hotel, where my mother and susan stayed for 4 nights. they have been up-grading the hotel, it is still not completely finished, but they have a pool now. i stayed at the nearby and cheaper "samui mandalay", for 600baht a night, its ok if you don't mind a few cockroaches....
we ate on the beach every night here, as there are many restaurants on the sand to choose from. the first day at chaweng as spent relaxing, and in the evening we took in the very professional ladyboy cabaret show at "starz" cabaret (formally "star club"), but now at a new larger, partly open air venue in north chaweng. beware though that there is now also a new cabaret called "star club" in south chaweng, but this is much inferior, and nothing to do with the former "star club", even though they have somehow managed to get hold of all the former "star club's" old fixtures and fittings, including the drinks menus! (maybe someone can explain this...?) on the second day we hired a jeep, and i took my mother and susan on a tour of the island, including the phallic rocks, and a
ON THE DEATH RAILWAY
NEAR KRASAE CAVE, RIVER KWAI
crappy short elephant ride at namuang 1 waterfall. (they paid for 30 mins, but the ride ended after barely 20 minutes, so we managed to get a 200baht refund, albeit grudgingly...) we also drove up to the highlands, some of the way, both up and down, was on very dodgy steep dirt tracks, we then passed samui dog rescue centre, so we had to stop there! we then finished the day at quiet and peaceful thongson bay, in the far north east of samui... in the evening we went to "christys cabaret", the original samui cabaret, very different to "starz", but also similar in that that they also churn out the same old songs night after night....
the 3rd day was another relaxing day, i had a 2 hour body scrub and aroma oil massaaaage, while susan did a thai cooking class, and while my mother visited another branch of the samui dog rescue centre, and also had another of one of her favourite thai activities, massaaaaages....
after 4 nights on koh samui, we headed by taxi, ferry, minibus and public bus to khao lak green beach bungalows, right on the shore of the andaman coast, a journey
which took just over 7 hours in total. we arrived well in time to have a dip in the warmer andaman sea and watch the sunset. the next day we took a one day speedboat tour to the similan islands, my first time there. great sea clarity, lots of fishes, sunshine, and whitesand beaches, great! the next day we did a similar tour to mu ko surin, the last place on my thailand wish list i had yet to visit. it was a longer day than the similans, and susan did not come. it is a hours drive north from khao lak to kuraburi pier, then by speedboat to the surin islands. they are a lot less touristy than the similans, though as it was a thai national holiday, a lot of thai's were camping there for the weekend. mu ko surin has probably the best and most colourful live coral ive seen in thailand, also lots of tropical fish i hadn't seen before, great beaches, and exceedingly clear water. didnt get back from the tour until nearly 7pm, but a great day, very glad we went, as we nearly didnt...
after 3 nights at khao lak, we hired
a taxi to ao nang in krabi for 2000baht, going via the beached police boat and tsunami museum, at bang niang. i had booked my mother and susan at the 4 star krabi resort in ao nang, in a very nice spacious bungalow for 2 nights, with a great pool and directly on the beach. i stayed at the must less salubrious "jinda guesthouse", but it did me ok, and the staff are very friendly there... we arrived in ao nang from khao lak at lunchtime, so in the afternoon we took a walk to the east end of ao nang beach, to see the monkeys and for the many massaaaage salas..... we had a great meal in one of the seafood restaurants on soi seafood in ao nang, managing to talk susan out of going for the dodgy ao nang pizza option!!
the next day, i had planned for my mother and susan to go on a longtail tour to hong island, but in the end they opted for sun lounging by the hotel pool. in the afternoon we did get to go by longtail boat to west railay beach and pranang bay, though it was quite late.
watched the obligatory sunset on pranang beach and came back by longtail boat in the dusk back to ao nang by 7pm. that evening, my mother and i had a great buffet meal, and my mother called home to talk to dad.
the final day in ao nang, the boat to phuket didnt leave until 3: 30pm, so had a another relaxing day around the resort, before transferring mid ocean from a small longtail boat onto the "ao nang princess 5" express ferry bound for phuket harbour. eventually arrived at patong beach at 6:30pm, where my mother and susan checked into the very tall "royal paradise hotel" for 3 nights. great views from up there, while i stayed nearby at a room above a laundry shop, albeit with all mod cons, for 600baht a night. we ate a great buffet restaurant in the jungceylon mall that evening. the day after was spend relaxing and shopping around patong beach. in the evening, my mother and i ate at the friendly and gay owned "sea hag" restaurant, while susan opted to dine alone at the uninviting and expensive buffet++ at the royal paradise hotel....
the next morning dawned with torrential
rain, the first and only day it had done so. so the planned visit to the beach was cancelled in favour of more massaaages for mother and susan, which meant susan never actually set foot on patong beach during our stay! also frustratingly she never made it down the main drag of bangla road by day or by night, but she seemed happy enough.... that afternoon we hired a car and my mother and i drove down to the south of phuket, then came back via patong to pick susan up. i then took them to laem singh cove, my favourite phuket beach, though the steep walk down the cliffs to it and up again took its toll on susan. we then went directly to phuket fantasea, a hugely elaborate and somewhat kitch and over the top theme park and show. quite a spectacle though, including having dinner at the worlds biggest buffet. we got back to patong by 11pm, in time for susan to have one last massaaaage..
the next morning i took mother and susan to phuket airport in the same hire car from the day before, so they could catch their 10:20am flight to bangkok
and onward flight to london. that was 3 days ago, and i am on phuket for a few more days. then its back to hua hin, meeting up with ekk, spending one more night in bangkok, then it will be time to fly together back to the UK, for our new life... who knows how that will all pan out........
PS as always you can view each of the 41 photos in this blog (or any of the other blogs), and get more details, in a full size window, by clicking on them....
PPS they may also be a postscript/highlights blog once i get back to UK....so watch this space...
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