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Published: February 15th 2010
The Atlanta, Bangkok
They were very open about their policies.. which was necessary given the area we had decided to stay in!
Wow, Thailand is very different to India! As soon as I left the airport I was aware of the following;
Clean loos, with an actual toilet (!), loo roll, a flush that works, no bucket and bowl!
The smell of urine, rotting food and curry had been replaced with the lighter and more frangrant smell of chillies and occasionally the not so fragrant thai fish sauce that is used in all cooking.
- No rubbish on the streets.
- Signs written in English are spelt correctly and grammatically make sense!
- You aren’t harassed into buying something or shouted at to get a tuk tuk or taxi.
- When you are harassed if you say no they stop bothering you.
- Thai people laugh for (seemingly) no reason at all… in fact they laugh, almost inappropriately!
And yet despite all these things that may sound like I prefer Thailand and their clean, fresh smelling streets and friendly manner, I miss India. But here I am in Thailand. And I have to say despite my love of India… I really like Thailand!
I was to meet a good friend of mine called Louise, (from the
Muay Thai = thai boxing.. awesome... even got some blood shed!
UK) in Bangkok. So having arrived after a very uncomfortable, sleepless, squashed flight, I arrived at the Atlanta Hotel, Sukhumvit. Now my only other experience of Thailand was the Koa San Road a few years ago after my trip to Vietnam, and I have to say I was left very unimpressed and uninspired so after speaking to a friend of mine who lives in Bangkok I decided to stay away from the backpackers haven and head for what I later found out to be the Western old mens haven!! (no prizes for guessing what all the old, paunchy western men were doing in this part of Bangkok!!)
So, unaware of the local ‘trade’ I checked into my hotel. I have to explain a few things about the Atlanta, because it is an amazing place. Despite my arriving and having a fit because I thought the AC wasn’t working (as it happened it was working which was a little embarrassing, but in my defence I was sleep deprived and very hot and sticky having been dropped in totally the wrong part of town by the bus!!) Anyway the Atlanta was built in the 1950’s and boasts the first hotel swimming
Getting our feet cleaned by fish.. i am not joking!
pool in Bangkok and the first open air cinema (and some other ‘first’s’ that I can’t recall!) It has not been renovated or changed in any way since then which means when you walk into the foyer you are instantly transported back to the fifties! (black and white checked floor, retro furniture, ancient signs and lots of red leather!) There are endless signs telling the customers, ‘no complaints, not at these prices’ (I ignored this one when complaining about the fully functioning air conditioning!!) and ‘sex tourists not welcome’!! And I have to say that it was just as well that the sex tourist sign was up because, as it turned out, I was slap bang in the middle of ‘the action’!!
So after a quick sleep I went out to sample the local street food (of course) and then caught the wonderfully air conditioned sky train to the Siam centre to have a look at the ‘posh’ (in comparison to the Koa San Rd) part of town! I was amazed. It is so different to my previous experience and I soon found the food hall at the bottom of the Paragon Centre which is like heaven! In fact
love a bit of a ride on an elephant!
I was directed by a nice western man who asked if I was lost (I was standing gormlessly on the side of the road wondering what to do!) and after telling me he owned a local radio station he directed me to the Siam Paragon Centre - I’m glad he did… as it turned out I visited this place every day I was in Bangkok!!
The next day Lou joined me and it is so nice to have her here and we have had a blast so far! We went to watch Muaythai at the Lumpinee boxing stadium which was vastly expensive but really good fun.. we decided there wasn’t nearly enough blood but it was amazing to watch and great fun with the live music and traditional dance/ritual beforehand.. and of course the fighting was amazing. (I loved that they decide the winner on, ‘the fighter who can clearly hurt his opponent more and can cause more cuts and bruises’!! )
We also watched Avatar in 3d at the Bangkok Imax (I couldn’t resist it) which we loved and ate endless delicious thai food. We also lazed by our 1950’s pool, popped over to the Koa San
3 girls in chiang mai
Me, Louise and Janel in a tuk tuk at the start of our Chiang Mai adventure!
road to buy some fake Birkenstocks and remind myself of why I didn’t like it last time… it wasn’t nearly as terrible as I remembered but I’m still happier with my 1950’s, sex tourists not welcome hotel!
So after waiting slightly longer than we would have liked in Bangkok, we got a sleeper train to Chiang Mai in North Thailand. WOW. The trains are deluxe compared to india! They have sheets, mattresses, pillows and are spotlessly clean! It was a lovely journey. (We did almost miss the train because the traffic was so bad… we had to dive out of the taxi in the middle of a traffic jam, leg it up the road to the sky train, frantically asking how to get to the station - it involved 3 different trains - so we hoped on the various trains, running in between them in hysterics… but we did get there in time; in fact we got there early and very proud of ourselves!!)
So after a very easy, train journey we arrived in Chiang Mai. We managed to find a hotel that looked good (and had a pool!) and ended up sharing a room with a lovely
bunnies.. in dresses?
seriously what is the obsession with putting ALL their animals in clothing!
Aussie girl called Janel. The three of us ended up having an amazing time in Chiang Mai. It is a fabulous place. Full of backpackers but in a good way (if that is possible!) and just very calm compared to Bangkok. Lou and I did a cooking course as soon as we arrived. It was brilliant. We each had our own cooking ‘station’ and we cooked 10 dishes each!! At one point Louise almost blinded herself by getting green chilli in her eye (NOT recommended) but in the end all was fine and we ate extremely well!
The next day Lou, Janeand I organized a private trek. We splashed out on a private one because all the day treks were only 40 mins of actual walking and all the rest of the time was either in a van or on an elephant/bamboo raft!! After telling the man I didn’t want to go in a van we negotiated a day trip where we did 4 hours trekking (it was probably more like 3 but 4 hours sounds so much more strenuous!.. and it felt strenuous so I shall be telling everyone 4!!) Anyway when the lovely guy turned up the
the flower pageant... definately had a beauty queen element!
next day he proudly told me that it was a truck not a van that we would be going in!! (I think he thought I had a problem with the actual style of vehicle rather than the fact so long would be spent in it!!.. but since he was so proud that we weren’t in a van but a truck I decided not to say anything!!)
The trekking was amazing; much better than Mount Abu!! We swam in waterfalls (it was all very traumatic getting into the water as I had just seen a snake and there were a lot of rocks so it wasn’t a matter of just jumping in, so I phaffed around on the edge for ages convincing myself that I would be attacked by snakes or paralysed by rocks!! .. but of course it was fine and good fun, if not a little fresh and a little brief!!) we also got a chance to go on an elephant ride which was great fun and a bamboo raft which was hysterical… everyone else seemed to have little bamboo seats on their raft, but not us.. we had nothing so we stood up Indiana Jones style trying
This is what you look like if you get green chilli in your eye!
poor lou.. she was very brave!
not to fall in or get soaked!
The following day the three of us went on a quod bike and white water rafting extravaganza!! Our group consisted of the three of us, a young aussie couple and an older thai guy. Well, right from the start, it was a bit of a debacle! First of all I put my hat on backwards so in all the photos I look like a right idiot!! Then as we pushed the boat off to get started we got beached on the first available rock and annoyingly (or amusingly if you were watching) this was to continue the whole way down the river as we went from one rock to the next getting wedged at every available place.. so not so much rapid… and not so much white water! So my first experience of white water rafting was not as I had imagined (however we managed to have a water fight with the other boats that seemed to go a lot faster than ours and didn’t seem to get wedged on every rock?! Although I’m not sure they were quite as amused by this attack as we were… after all they were enjoying
the rapid waters unlike us!) Anyway, spirits still high we headed to the quod bikes. Well this was brilliant. Not the most safety conscious place I’ve ever been (they barely told us how to work the bikes so the other girl in our group went flying off the road into the ditch on a few occasions!) but it was great. Lou and I ended up back at base camp with one guide and sat with our feet in the river waiting for the others (they had been held up it seemed… ) well we sat there initially feeling smug that we had got back and were drinking cool drinks with our feet in the river (caked in mud, but cool none the less!) as the minutes ticked on we started to get worried.. and we were right to be; after about 40 mins the rest of our little group rocked up in the back of a pickup truck with the young girl in our group stretched out in the back in pain. No one spoke English and no one seemed to know how to call an ambulance, so after a further 30 mins of me (using my teacher voice!) trying
we had such fun on the quod bikes.. until one of our group fell off and had to go to hospital!
to explain that she needed a hospital and absolutely could not be squashed into the back of the car with a back injury (which is what she seemed to have) we eventually managed to get her flat in the back of a pick up and driven to the local hospital. As it turns out she is fine, but was kept in over night to get a full check. In England the health and safety officer would have had a field day!
Well after all the excitement of the day Lou and I went for a foot massage on the side of the street and wandered around the amazingly large night market. The next day we decided to chill out and walk around the temples, markets, shops, etc
So after 4 lovely days in Chiang Mai ( a destination I can thoroughly recommend!) Lou and I flew to Phuket. Now let me just say that Phuket is incredible; when I say incredible I think the 2 things we did there will explain my choice of adjective (I’ll get to these in a minute!) We only stayed one night on our way to the very beautiful Koh Phi Phi.
getting ready for the 'not so white or rapid' water rafting!
1.First of all we went to see a ‘lady boy’ show. Well, some of them were obviously men dressed as women, but I am in serious doubt as to whether all of them were lady boys!! They were beautiful and dressed in the ost outrageous outfits with more makeup on than, Widow Twanky.
2.So after this show we headed to the other main attraction of Phuket… the ‘ping pong’ show. I don’t know if I really need to explain this one! however I had no idea it was possible to do some of the things this lady did!! Ping pong balls, yes… but string with pins attached, endless coloured ribbon, toads, eels and budgies… dear god that just isn’t right… a bird for crying out loud.. a LIVE bird!! Where are the NSPCA when you need them!! (I mean the eel and the toad is gross enough but they like dark damp places.. but a bird?... ) So after an hour of being absolutely gobsmacked we headed back to the hotel a little less innocent and a lot more ready to leave Phuket for the gorgeous island of Koh Phi Phi!!
And here I am. As I
it was tiring .. but worth it.. such beautiful scenery!
write I am sitting on the beach in the sun. Louise left today; I was supposed to leave too, but I have decided to stay! Let me explain why;
- We are staying in a cheap hut close to the beach. When I say hut, please don’t have an image of a lovely clean, beautiful bamboo type abode in mind… this place is literally 4 walls with a bed in (no toilet, shower, basin etc).. and the floor is made up of wide boards with large gaps in between so you can see the ground underneath (and the insects etc can climb through with ease!!) however it is cheap and there is a mosquito net and we aren’t planning on spending much time there… jut sleeping. The shower and toilet is up the hill, basic, unlit and cold which is … interesting! However the beach is fairly quiet (for Thailand) and the water is warm and crystal clear with the most amazing fish. We went scuba diving on our first full day (thanks mum and dad for paying for me to get my PADI in Greece!) and then went scuba diving the next day; I can’t do it justice
hysterical.. where were our little seats that everyone else seemed to have!
by trying to explain how brilliant it was so let me tell you these small things so you can get an idea about how much I loved it!:
- The instructor and dive master are two young men who are completely lovely and not at all bad looking!! With a cracking sense of humour.
- We saw turtles, black tip sharks, leopard sharks, ghost pipe fish, scorpion fish and endless others… including the most beautiful soft coral.
- The groups we went in were small (3 or 4 in our group)
- The scenery is beautiful
- We ate our lunch on the boat moored at Maya beach which is the beach that the film, ‘the Beach’ was filmed on!!... stunning but sadly FULL of tourists and boats.
- We did two one hour dives each day
- In the evenings when we got back we had time to do a bit of sunbathing before eating some food and then sitting at the Buddha bar and watching young thai guys play with fire, play cards, and have a bit of a dance with the lovely people we had met!
So.. I think
Long boats on Long Beach
Long Beach, Koh Phi Phi.. it is heaven here and i have totally got into scuba diving too!
this goes some way to explain why, today when I was supposed to leave with Louise for Bangkok and then Laos, I have decided to stay and do some more diving and head to Borneo via Malaysia (i.e just head straight down from here rather than going back to Bangkok).
I am so sad to say goodbye to Lou. We have had a blast.. I think the people of Long Beach (which is where we are in Phi Phi and definitely the best place to stay here!) think we are crazy! We have definitely not gone un-noticed during our stay!
So that brings you up to date again. I’ve no idea how long I will stay here or if I will go to another island or stay here, but I am pretty sure I will get my advanced dive certificate and get a lot more dives under my belt. I think I have found my new favourite thing and I intend to scuba everywhere I go from here on out!!
So let me very briefly tell you that I am now on Koh Lipe - which is an 8hr very hot and sweaty boat ride from Phi
Long Beach Diving
This is our little diving group.. me, Lou, Samuel and Paco the lovely instructor
Phi. I did the most amazing night dive in Phi Phi with the lovely Long Beach Dive centre and I am still gobsmacked by what I saw… at night it is a whole different experience and whilst there is no way I will even try to explain just how amazing it is let me tell you two things;
1.We weren’t too far from the beach so as we entered the water we heard the distant music playing brilliant music totally unware that we were there.
2.When you jump in the water and turn off your torches and move your body the phospheresence glows all around you lighting up the blackness of the sea like twinkling stars.
3.I couldn’t sleep when I got back because I couldn’t stop thinking about all I had seen!
So I was mesmerized. Amazed. Breath-taken. I loved it! But I decided not to stay and do my advance certificate there but move to Lipe. I spent my last day getting sunburnt playing Gin Rummy (or Charlies Rummy!) on the beach with the very lovely Samuel, from Switzerland who I had dived with a few days before. And we hung out for my
Loving the scuba diving!
last evening with his two friends, Olivier and Bruno, (it was also Olivier’s birthday) and Steve and Paco the dive instructors, and so we celebrated and made merry until the early hours when I had to get the boat. Yet another place I was sad to leave with people I hope to see again.
Lipe is great. Very different, very beautiful, must bigger than Long Beach with many more tourists and tourist type activites/shops/restaurants etc… I made a slight cock up by turning up without much money and realizing that there is no atm but hopefully I will be ok! I did two more dives towards my advance certificate and have met a lovely English girl who I spent the first night with and we are now in next door bungalows in a lovely area just off the beach… not too expensive too!! (phew)
So. Hopefully I will get my visa for Malaysia on Langkhawi which is nearby and then head to Borneo…
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