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Published: December 25th 2017
Geo: 11.9727, 102.312
Thailand 1st July - 26th July
We were put on a flight out of Oz a day late. I think the visa situation influenced
Qantas as the day before we had been told there were people ahead of us on standby and it was highly unlikely we could leave. The first firm date they could give was the 9th!
I am not sure if it was our uncertain departure, the contrast between the empty outback and crowded Thailand, or just tiredness but when we arrived in Thailand we collapsed and rested by the pool for a few days. It was only a relatively cheap airport hotel but the pool was lovely.
In fact the hotel only opened a couple of days before we arrived and it was a Thai version of Fawlty Towers. The middle aged receptionist spoke hardly any English but promised a new receptionist the next day. We were greeted in the morning by another smiling lady, looking very professional in a navy business suit and blouse, the impact only slightly undermined by the accompanying baby blue and pink two-tone Crocs. So then we had 2 friendly, smiling ladies with about ten words of English between them. But we
managed fine. The next day the new 'receptionist' was cooking and waiting at the table so we were not sure if she had been demoted or was being given a full induction.
After three days we felt strong enough to go and visit a museum, Ancient Siam. It is an outdoor museum like Singleton in West Sussex, specifically designed for Thai people to visit to see their own culture through the ages. Buildings have been transported here from other areas to preserve them, some are exact replicas of certain buildings and some are built in the style of other areas, or centuries. It is a huge place, covering 240 acres, and included in the ticket is the loan of a bicycle in order to cover the ground in a day. We were the only westerners there as far as we could see and it made for an interesting day. It was very hot so the bikes made it much easier to get around and visit the superb gardens as well as the buildings.
As we visited Bangkok 2 years ago we saw most of the local sites so decided to go to a nearby island, Koh Chang. We had realised it was
the monsoon season but decided we would accept what came rather than travel a long distance to escape the rain. Koh Chang is about 200 miles from Bangkok and took a 5 hour drive crammed in a minivan (see picture of sign in minibus) and then a 30 minute ferry crossing to reach the island. We stayed at Siam Beach Resort, on Lonely Beach, which looks lovely in the promotional pictures and is in a perfect setting but unfortunately requires a huge amount of work to repair and update. The room itself was very good but the communal buildings had holes in the flimsy roofs where rain poured in. Everything was damp and it poured for days. Seeing the monsoon rains did make it clear how difficult it is to maintain buildings in this climate. Wood rots quickly and anything metal rusts while you look at it. If that is not enough adversity the monkeys then jump all over the buildings and pull guttering down to make a comfortable seat for themselves, and occasionally throw tiles down, hopefully missing guests.
We managed to watch the Wimbledon men's final in a bar in the nearby village and ate out there a couple
Guilty monkey, red lips show he raided shrine
He waited for the man making the offerings to move away and then emptied the bottles and lapped up the cherryade.
of times. One bar in particular was friendly and had good food but one day we walked past to see one of the staff with a nit comb carefully extracting lice from a colleagues hair. We could not bring ourselves to return there again! Hygiene is a constant concern here but luckily most of the food is cooked in a way that hopefully kills off anything unpleasant. In the hotel dining room the bread was placed in a basket on newspaper.
We decided to find a better hotel and moved to Nirvana, on the southern tip of the island. We love it here. A real treat was being given a cloth napkin at dinner in the restaurant. It is more usual to find a holder containing tissues on the table or even toilet rolls. Across the bay is the fishing village of Bang Bao, much of which is built out over the water. It has a number of good restaurants, that despite looking ramshackle, have delicious food. Obviously sea food is their speciality and they have huge tanks of live fish, crabs, lobsters etc but Jim and I tend to stick to chicken dishes.
Each evening the hotel transport, which doubles
as a bread delivery van, takes guests into the village and collects them later. The first night I struggled to climb up onto the high (for me) tailgate to get into the van, and since then whenever I use the shuttle service a mini step ladder magically appears at the side of the van and is then taken inside with us so I can exit with some dignity.
Although there is meant to be good snorkelling alongside the hotel the waves have been so big that it has not been possible to swim there yet but we are still hoping. In our room we have a large screen TV and DVD player which has been great for looking at our photographs, as well as watching films from the DVD library. The TV signal, wifi and power often disappear temporarily when there is very heavy rain and lightning.
Last night we were walking down the 'pier' in Bang Bao when the power was cut. It was disconcerting as the walkway, just above the sea, is a path about a metre and a half wide, and perhaps half a kilometre long, and on both sides the small shops and houses have been attached or
built on stilts, hanging over the sea and the walkway. There are gaps between the structures and the path in many places where the sea is visible. When the lights went out it was difficult to continue walking as it was impossible to see the gaps. Even worse, motor bikes are constantly ridden up and down the walkway requiring that pedestrians move to the side, not easy when the bike lights destroy your night vision and you can't see the path or gaps. But no-one worries, a few torches and candles came out and everybody carried on. It does make us realise how protected we are in the UK, where Health & Safety would have closed off the whole village long ago.
We did a half day trek in the jungle and saw 2 tarantulas. I now know how to spot their nests. Unfortunately the camera struggled with the humidity so we didn't get a good picture. On our bungalow wall we had a 15 centimetres long stick insect visit for most of one day. He must be the most photographed stick insect ever as he didn't move so provided a perfect subject for Jim, but was technically challenging as, being
View across bay to Bang Bao
Fishing village above the sea
so thin, it was difficult to focus on him. We also saw a small viper by the pool. There are few birds around but a huge variety of butterflies.
In 2 days we are heading to Laos, specifically to visit Vientiane and Luang Prabang. It is a complicated journey as we have to return to Bangkok to take an overnight train to the border. Get a visa, and depending on how long that takes, catch a minibus or taxi to Vientiane. From there it is a 10/11 hour minibus ride to Luang Prabang. Will let you know if it is worth it in the next blog!
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