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Published: April 9th 2009
A serious tale of woe
Okay, sorry for the delay in blogging to you all, my dear and loyal audience. Yes, you read correctly, because of the stats feature on this website I know people are reading this - no doubt mostly from strangers looking to offer me internet porn and Viagra. Others from back home eager to hear what I’ve been up to on my fancy sojourn around South East Asia. Again, apologies for the lack of any update after the full-on-ness of Myanmar, I shall outline the reasons forthwith, hold your breath as it is a demonstration of how badly things can go wrong when backpacking.
(deep inhaling of breath)
When I got back to Bangkok after Myanmar, I was in a strange mood; I had to get stuff done namely get my poor 3 month old Fujifilm Finepix camera fixed after smashing it at a temple in Mandalay (sounds romantic now huh?) I was so reliant on John G for taking photos and he wasn’t especially considerate in this regard, so I felt as if I’d lost a lot of travel independence and for me that was pretty difficult to take. So, I arrived and
placed the camera with the Fujifilm service repair and waited for its return to me.
Then the next big thing - meeting up with Danielle. Danielle? I hear you scream? Yes, you heard right, me and this chick from Winnipeg, Manitoba - Canada had been emailing and Skyping since about October time having randomly IMed each other on a music file sharing service. We’d become very fond of each other over those past few months, and as we both happened to be backpacking in South East Asia at the same time, decided to meet up in Bangkok and maybe go travelling together.
Now, firstly I’d essentially been ex-communicado for the month I was away in Myanmar, not being able to keep in touch as much as I’d like, so by the time we were in the same city, we were both pretty eager to meet up. This began the towing and frowing. She was never in at her hotel; I was never in at mine, so I began leaving notes for Dan, purportedly from Michael J. Fox and Bryan Adams (famous Canadians see?) On my way back from her “flash packer” hotel the Buddy Lodge
I was on the look-out for her and low and behold I spotted her with two of her fellow travellers at a restaurant bar near to my hotel. I actually stopped and looked back at her and Danielle looked directly at me but then turned away. I wasn’t sure if Dan had revealed the big secret to her backpacker friends yet, but this seemed to prove that she hadn’t.
Anyway, I went back to me room, showered and prepared to make the move to approach her regardless. There was no need however, I got a telephone call to me room and on the phone was Danielle downstairs at the lobby. She’d been leaving messages at my hotel, but they’d just been selotaping them to the desk the silly bastards! So, I went downstairs with a skip and finally met with Danielle with a hug and mutual laughter. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t surprise her at the bar but I was being cautious and apparently my notes had given her game away as the receptionist had given a note to her friend instead of her and thus Danielle had had to spill the beans.
night we went out in sticky Bangkok not really drinking that much and just catching up and chatting. We got accosted by a lady boy named Jennifer who hadn’t had the operation yet and who was serving us at a bar on the river. She then took us out to eat at some food stalls, whereby I ate some roasted cockroaches and grasshoppers and Dan proceeded to nearly choke to death on something very spicy. We also said goodbye that night with a bit of a kiss, ahhhh.
Vague plans or intentions of going southwards from the girls which kind of threw me a bit, as I wanted to go north to explore a bit of the ancient cities of Thailand. However, we were all a bit sick of the dirt and smog of Bangkok and especially the farang (Thai word for foreigner) chaos of the Khao San Road. The next day we decided to check out of our hotels and book a bus southwards to the island of Ko Samui. So after the high of Myanmar and meeting Danielle this is where the trouble and strife began.
Heading south and dodgy bus
We booked what we
thought was a “Government” bus southwards as they were considered safer and less dodgy that the Khao San Road ones but it turned out to be the latter. No matter, we had a comfortable 12 hour ride south on a double-decker bus, with properly reclining seats, DVD movies and blankets. When we finally got to the island of Samui, the wondrous island retreat in the Gulf of Thailand, of course I realised that my wallet was not in my luggage compartment. So, no wallet, no bank cards and no money. Stolen in the luggage compartment even though they were locked? Or left in the hotel room in Bangkok? Thus began the constant castigation of myself for my carelessness and the endless borrowing of money from Danielle like some kind of kept man. Needless to say my independence was again curtailed. Anyway I went and got my bank and credit cards cancelled and new ones ordered to be forwarded onwards by my mate Mark in London to the General Post Office in Bangkok (post restante).
So we bummed around the beach in Koh Samui for a while, staying right on the beach in some bungalows on the cheap. Pretty nice
stuff, but already the strain of not having my own money and travelling with 3 younger girls were taking the strain. After a night out whereby I was practically ignored for the whole of it I realised that there really is a difference between 21 year olds and 28 year olds, in terms of maturity and travel experience. One of them in particular seemed to be only able to regale us of stories of the various activities she had done whilst under the influence of ze weed. Big deal, been there done that, get over it, yawn. To be fair she was only 21 years of age, but Jesus, did I feel distant.
Oh, I forgot to mention an adjacent woe, one that affects all Englishmen at some point, yes, sunburn! I went bareback for 15 minutes in the sun whilst some Thai geezer tried to sell me henna then “Charlie” on the beach. That sounded like gay slang for some reason, it wasn’t. Anyway, just to show you the strength of the sun in these parts, and as we are pretty near to the Equator I got really bad sunburn after just 15 minutes with
my back to it. The next 3-4 days were like having a hot oven on my back, and then the itchiness began, I really am not a very agreeable patient I’ve come to realise. Poor Danielle, but poor me! I’m not going to be as naive like that again.
So we soon moved onwards to the island of Koh Pha Ngan ostensibly for one of the moon parties, which we were in time for the Half Moon only. We stayed in a pretty horrible resort called Coral Bungalows, with lots of young Westerners sitting by the pool beer in hand, and worst of all, Thai workers with East End wide boy accents. We rented some motorbikes which was cool, although I was getting tired of the others’ slowness on the road and the pissing about trying to work out how the damn automatic thing work as well as Dan’s lack of control when riding with me on the back. I sound like a right grumpy git right now.
Anyway, we geared up for this all-nighter in the jungle, even going to be at 9pm for a few hours’ kip. What a disappointment it was, by
the time the resort got us into the pickup trucks for the hair raising ride, it was already nearly 1am. When we got there, they turned the music off at 2am. People just standing around expecting the power to come back on but it never did. What a scam. The only decent thing that happened was that we got taken along by some Swedes and Brits back to their resort, singing songs in the van along the way. (See the video above)
There we sat by the beach listening to songs being played and sung and the girls getting chatted up by the pretty gross Swedes. I had to fend off so many men from Danielle that evening, something I’m not used to doing, taking on the role of Alpha male, of protective boyfriend.
We arrive in Ko Tao, one of the smallest islands in the region to do the scuba diving course known as PADI. It’s meant to be a Mecca this place so we’re all looking forward to it, but not really the endless number of scuba places we have to choose from. Anyway the girls fall upon Buddha View, which is not in
the main town so it’s much more chilled out and we get accommodation included in the price. Problem is the room is hot, grotty, the toilet has no Western flush, and the fan is rubbish and the people who work there a bit like summer camp people, a bit fake and hot/cold with you. We changed rooms, well more like I changed room for air con and the bastards wanted to charge us 500 Baht more for the privilege of air con.
So, what about the diving eh? Pretty cool I have to say, swimming with fish of various colours, being underwater and stuff. Just the rigmarole they put you through in preparation, gets a little wearing at time. Endless procedures plus classroom sessions, I felt as if we were in some kind of fast track scuba school, which in fact we were, and it showed. I ended up failing the written multiple choice exam, at the end, pretty hard to do but my heart wasn’t in it and I knew they gave you a PADI pass anyway, regardless.
What put my mind off the whole exercise was after another misfortune. Going out to a nice restaurant in
Resident goner at Half Moon party
Well, I suppose sleep was better...
the harbour and then a few unintended drinks at a bar, talking dirty. What could go wrong? Well, of course I lost money, to the tune of 200 quid or thereabouts. I won’t go into it as it hurts a bit but Danielle must have thought she was travelling with a complete nincompoop, except she probably doesn’t know what that is, so moron would be more relevant.
The turmoil doesn’t stop there. Now, I’m an alternative kind of guy, bit of a non-conformist some would say, a young contrarian. So, when it comes to buying things I like to go my own way, and not follow the flock, and by God have I regretted that.
Before I came travelling I’d heavily researched and finally bought an MP3 player - the rival to the Apple I-pod, named the Microsoft Zune
. Now it’s 120 GB and a huge screen, bigger than the i-pod equivalent, I just forgot to put on any videos when at home. Darn it, because Dan had Peep Show
and loads of other videos on hers that I was getting addicted to. Thus I try to use the Zune software on my data pen on a
computer somewhere in town, yer know to see if I can download video onto my Zune, like normal people do. Nope, doesn’t work, doesn’t even want to sync.
At about this time, I start getting error messages on my Zune too, along the lines of “contact support”. Then I get support messages online saying I need to reformat my Zune, which basically includes getting rid of all my media and starting from scratch. They plainly haven’t factored in backpackers being away from home and their music files and being unable and totally unwilling to do such a thing. Anyway, I’m still having problems, it’s a beautiful little thing but I want to destroy it. Microsoft I hate you. Teach me to be a flash packer and a bloody non conformist. Baaaaah.
One last thing, Dan is a girl but she does boyish things like scratch her ant bites and mosquito bites so hard that they start to bleed and actually turn into nasty wounds on her leg. Yes, you got it, she did that on a place called Bottle Beach
- a deserted little beach on Koh Pha Ngan which I found very pleasant but
Jeremy and me
on the way back from Krabi
kind of boring. I don’t do relax whilst backpacking.
Anyway I digress, what with all that sand and the tropics being prone to bacteria developing a lot easier it went all nasty and her foot swelled up as well as becoming painful in her leg. Also, bring on the arguments between us about silly things, like most couples, symptomatic of something much worse inside the relationship. Anyway, lots of crying, trip to clinic, anti biotics and the job’s a good un. Fair play to her for scuba diving with the wound, I’d have been a grumpy mofo me thinks.
So we leave the island to go to Krabi, on the Andaman Sea coast, on the other side of Thailand. I made the decision and I bought our ticket because nobody was making a bloody decision. An aside on this is the question of travelling in groups; it’s a pain in the arse to be frank. Way too much politics, way too much indecision, solo or couple? - much better. So Krabi is a cool little town, we all like it, I rent a scooter and despite initial wariness they all follow suit eventually. We visit some
national park, some waterfalls, a cave with a temple and monkeys and a shopping mall, where the girls’ bike has a puncture. Looks like my luck is changing as they have two more over the next few days and I have none.
I hate 02
However, more fatigue! So I arrange before I leave the UK for my mobile phone account to be suspended for a year, as I’m going away I won’t need it and will use a Thai SIM instead. Oh no, I put in my 02 SIM to see what the deal is and I’m told to contact them as I have not paid them. I email and basically they’ve said I’ve renewed my contract (didn’t have one anyway apparently) and to cancel I will have to pay a fee and £25 x 12 months for the life of the contract. What a load of arse. I repeatedly email protesting about this, that I won’t pay, can’t pay, am abroad etc. It’s still ongoing this and it’s incredibly stressful when you open up your email and you have to deal with Muppets like this.
So whilst in Krabi my final downfall
is on a 1,250 steep climb up to the top of Tiger Cave. 30 steps in and a pack of monkeys monkeying about and the camera stops working, I mean black screen and funny buzzing noise. Grrrrrrrrrrrreat! Anyway, I reach the top like a sweaty beast, and what view, panoramic 360 degree views of the karsts of Krabi, the river and the lagoons, terrific stuff. No camera. Arse. I take some pics with my mobile, reacquainting myself with the thing, and I’m impressed. Still upset by the failure of a 4 months old camera mind.
Koh Phi Phi
So, by this time Jeremy the fellow Winnipegger is on the scene, backpacking around SE Asia for a few months and an acquaintance of the peeps back in the 'peg. He goes on a visa run to Malaysia and so the girls wait for him to come back, plus they have shopping to do in Krabi, night markets and stuff like that.
But I’m impatient to get my trip going so I get the boat the next day to the legendarily beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi - star from the movie The Beach. I will catch up with
them the following day. Nothing bad happens in Koh Phi Phi, I view the Western farang overly developed place full of scuba shops as if it were southern Spain. It’s pretty awful but has its uses for decent food. The locals are miserable unsmiling fuckers mind.
I stay in the Rock backpackers’ place, a single room, literally a bed masquerading as one with a hard mattress foam thing. Prisoners get more space I'm sure of it. Showers are grotty as hell and the dorm next door (only 50 baht cheaper - one quid) have two fans and twenty people in them! I get kept awake from 4 am onwards by drunken Swedes (yes them again, they are everywhere in Thailand - Canadians too - must be the harsh winter they are escaping) directly outside my room, talking arse and generally trying to chat girls up and into their beds. Charmers (snake).
Anyway, the next day, the Canadians are back in the town, having arrived by boat from Krabi and we meet up with more Winnipeggers who they know, this time Nina and Iain. Lots of drinking and genuinely good nights out was had. It’s amazing what being in
Atop Tiger Cave
(taken by Joyce! with her own camera)
the right company does to your state of mind, it also helps that you avoid the expensive “buckets” (literally sand castle buckets) of ice, shitty Thai whisky and red bull and go make 'yer own. Then proceed to visit bars that have ten minute slots of giving away free buckets. Cheap nights! We met more Canadians over the next few nights and a good time was had by all. The island is pretty beautiful from the Viewpoint and also around "The Beach" area, made famous by the film.
So, tale of woe or not? Not sure myself. It seems my bad luck run has just about come to an end. But not quite, I’ve gone up to Bangkok once again to sort out a visa run, pick up my bank cards and fix my broken camera. But just before I do the visa run to Cambodia for my 15 days add on, I get the first bout of diarrhoea since I’ve been in SE Asia. What a bummer. 😉 No puking, but I’ve had to take Imodium to stop the runs to the toilet in order to get my arse 😉 to Cambodia for a 15 day
visa extension on a bus journey lasting from 5am to 2pm. I’ve left the girls and Jeremy in the south where they went to Malaysia and then onwards to the proper Full Moon Party on Koh Pah Ngan. I was intending to go back down myself but bad luck again the day I arrived to fix my camera at Fujifilm was a public holiday (Chakri Day - some king of Thailand apparently), so my timetable was pretty much destroyed fromi there on in.
By the time you read this I’ll be in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, waiting for Sukran, or Thai New year to begin, and let the water fights begin! Sorry for the long delay, hope it was worth the wait for my tale of woe!
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