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Published: December 6th 2008
i am now in hua hin, having safely arrived from bangkok last night. its been quite an long and very varied adventure since my last blog from phuket....
i spent another 12 days in phuket. i had a great time there, so much so in fact, that i am going back there next week, to spend my 40th birthday, christmas and new year.... should be fun! spent the evenings seeing a lot of lip synching ladyboy cabaret, maybe too much, mainly in kiss bar, but also other establishments. boat bar sadly continues be become less popular, it is a shame, but they really to change their act...
if anyone is wondering what the hell is going on in thailand right now, let me tell you it is still a safe place to visit, that is if you can get here! the PAD group are a group of mainly middle class bangkokians, who didn't like the current government, as they say it has too many links to the disgraced former prime minisiter, Thaksin. however it was voted in by the majority of voters in a democratic election last December. the PAD point out though that most of bangkok did not
ROYAL PARADISE HOTEL, PATONG
THE SOIS AROUND HERE ARE WHERE THE GAY LIFE IS, IE THE BARS, DISCOS, SHOWS, SAUNAS AND MASSAGES...
vote for the current government, and that most of the votes came from people in the poor "un educated" rural areas, whom they say don't really know what criminals they are voting in. in any case most of their votes are bought through small cash bribes and gifts of free sacks of rice...
the PAD want to replace the government and the entire voting system with a part-appointed assembly, chosen by the middle class bangkok intelligentsia, so not that democratic either...! who knows where it will go from here, as the army chiefs are all anti-government as well, so they wouldn't step in to stop the PAD. the country is back from the brink again, but for how long? at the moment, after months of pretty unenventful protests around government house, thailand aired its dirty laundry in the full view of the rest of the world, and wasn't pretty! the two airports in bangkok were taken over and closed for 9 whole days by thugs, who paid thousands of poor people to camp out in the guise of protesting, paying them 100 baht a day, as well as free food and drink. which is worth more than actually going
to work for the bangkok minimum wage of 160baht a day! some of these protesters are little more than tramps looking for freebies... it is a shame that these people and their corrupt leaders, either don't care or don't realise what damage they have done to the country's economy, international reputation and tourism industry. my solution would have been to shut of the electric and water at the airports, though i suspect the PAD have control of them too... but it looks like the situation is better now the thai high court has dismissed the entire government, and flights started up yesterday, though it will apparently take about 10 more days to get the timetable back to normal. who know what the impact on the iminent tourist high season will be, how many have cancelled already?
anyway, after the delights of phuket, i travelled back up to bangkok, met up with ekk, then went up to chiang mai for loy krathong festival together (the whole journey from phuket to chiang mai took 36 hours!) we had an enjoyable time in chiang mai, being very cool at night. loy krathong involves lots of playing with dodgy chinese made fireworks, so
2ND NIGHT OF LOY KRATHONG, FLOATING LIGHTED KRATHONGS, FIREWORKS AND LANTERNS....
a bit of a potential death trap, as well the more traditional activities of lantern flying and krathong floating... there are also three consecutive nights of progressively really over the top lit up floats, which parade very slowly down the darkened streets from about 6pm until 11pm. while we were in chiang mai we also took a motorbike up to doi Inthanon, the highest point in thailand at over 2500m above sea level. stunning views and weather, and even a bit nippy near the summit. we also took a motorbike to Mae Sa elephant camp, where we watched them paint and do various clever stunts. they have nearly 100 elephants there, of varying ages, from just born up to 50 years old. after a week in chiang we travelled north to Thaton in northern chiang mai province, a great little place i'd never been near before, surrounded by lovely scenery and remote hill tribes. then we travelled to chiang saen, then to chiang khong. these places used to be hot travel destinations, but since laos opened up to tourists, they have fell a bit on hard times. still, they are very cheap places to travel around, and a great climate
WE HAVE TAKE OFF
EKK AND I'S LANTERN SETTING OFF INTO THE NIGHT, LOY KRATHONG, CHIANG MAI
this time of year. in fact it has been beautiful clear sunny blue skies for all of the past month, every single day, and the nights and early morning are refreshingly chilly...
from chiang khong, we took the "slow" boat to Luang Prabang in Laos, a popular south east asian travel experience i hadn't tried before, and probably will not again! as well as "slow" you can also add the adjectives; rip off, cramped and uncomfortable. paid over 900 baht (an extortionate amount for Laos) for the 2 day trip, sharing the boat with about 100 other passengers, mostly other westerners. the seats were just planks of wood with zero leg room, the kiosk on board charged rip off prices for everything. it was also smoking anarchy on the boat, as all the smoke from peoples cigarettes would blow downwind into other peoples faces, smoking war nearly broke out (and i wasn't involved!) the views were fairly ok, though by the 2nd day they were getting a bit samey (ie river banks). the boat stopped for one night in a village of Pakbeng, a place whose economy is dominated by this boat arriving everyday from thailand, full of unsuspecting
so with relief we arrived in Luang Prabang for a few days, enjoying the restaurants and night life there. though i am sad to report that the owner of the only gay bar in town, the Khob Chai, has succumbed to economic pressures, and is playing movies and football on a big screen EVERY NIGHT to attract the backpacker crowd, leaving his gay patrons out in the cold (literally), being relegated to the tables outside..... they still do unbelievably strong cocktails though... i also treated myself to a massage, to recover from the boat. it was a gay establishment, amazingly the massage had no sexual overtones, now that wouldnt happen in thailand!
after Luang Prabang we took a bus to Phonsavan, where the Plain of Jars is. the road there is some french colonial road engineer's idea of a joke, taking a very rollercoaster route over the endless mountains. the Plain of Jars stands over 1000m above sea level, which combined with its relatively high latitide, and the time of year, meant it was very cold for south east asia. it is also the the most bombed area in the most bombed country on earth (by americans
ONE OF THE LOY KRATHONG FLOATS
THIS WAS ON THE 3RD AND LAST NIGHT OF THE PARADES
from 1964-1973), so you have to be careful where you walk. the huge Jars are ancient funeral urns that are scattered over the area, just three sights have been cleared of UXO for tourist to visit. the jars are pretty interesting in themselves, but the unique geography and climate of the area in which they lie it just as much as an attraction. we took a day tour to see the jars, which was really the only way to see them, the day was marred slightly by a chain smoking couple of young backpackers, who must have got through a pack of 20 cigarettes between them in the 6 hour tour! so we had to view the jars though clouds of smoke! we stayed at "NICE" guesthouse, which was very nice, the best we could find and only about 400baht a night. the town of phonsavan lacks character, as it has been built from scratch since 1975, as the old town was wiped off the face of the earth by the lovely american's. it is the only place ive been to in the past year i wished i had more to wear than just a t shirt, especially at night
LOY KRATHONG PARADE, CHIANG MAI
ANOTHER OVER THE TOP FLOAT WINDS IT WAY THROUGH THE NIGHT TIME STREETS
and in the mornings, but we survived!
from there we took another bus to the lao captial, vientiane, took 11 hours along more mostly unnessararily winding roads. the roads have been improved but they all seem to remain in the same slow ancient winding alignment, even on the rare flat sections... i had to wait for a new thai visa in vientiane, so spent a few nights there, in one what must be one of the worlds most enjoyable and easy going capital cities..
then we crossed the border to Thailand and spent one night in Khorat (Nakhon Ratchasima). it is actually thailand's third largest city, though it is a big come down after bangkok and chiang mai! i'd never been there before, so it was a good place to break the journey between Vientiane to Bangkok.
in bangkok we went to the British Embassy, intending on giving them grief for not processing ekks visa yet. however it turned out they were about to call ekk that day to tell him his visa had been approved!!! (that's what they told us anyway...) so we got the visa physically pasted into his passport there and then. the visa
VIEW SOUTH FROM DOI INTHANON
THE HIGHEST POINT IN THAILAND, 2569M ASL
is dated from feb 01 2009, and we have to enter the UK and also enter into a civil partnership within 6 months of then. an ironic thing is that if the visa had not been delayed like this, we would have been flying back to the UK last week. on the very same day that the airport was taken over and closed!! we only spent two days in Bangkok, my first time back there for over 2 months, so was good, but wanted to escape before i got wind of the lung clogging pollution again. as for the quarter million stranded angry and frustrated tourists, they were nowhere to be seen (probably queueing for days at some military air strip!) many usually crowded places, like MBK were conspiciously devoid of high spending holidaying farang... so then it was back to hua hin, and my first encounter with ekk's sister's dog's new born puppies. i think she (the dog, not ekk's sister) must have it away with a rottweiler, judging by their appearance, but at the moment they are still very cute though!
after ekk's 35th birthday tommorrow, i'm leaving ekk here in hua hin for a while. he
DOI INTHANON NATIONAL PARK
is setting me free for a few weeks until the new year...... we have purchased one way tickets for two to the UK for February 26 2009....
this is my last blog of 2008, so happy new year, and see you in 2009!!!
PS: sorry but there are a plethora of more pics this time, 30 in total!! don't forget you can view photos full screen by clicking on them>>>
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