Travel Blog: Week 25
Southern Thailand – Koh Tao and Bangkok
Week 25: 29.04.2013 – 05.05.2013
For various reasons it wasn’t the best night – mostly due to a headache that came from nowhere. It therefore wasn’t the fastest morning off the blocks. I took my time and read some. Around 12 I made it out. I went to the beach and had a late brekkie. Then …….. I wanted to go to the small island just off the coastline – Koh NangYuan. I found the “official” ticket seller at the Lotus Bar and bought my return ticket. The water taxi was a traditional long boat with the propeller on the end of a very long pole. It was perfect for negotiating the coral and shallow water.
The scenery was amazing and the water crystal clear. I wasn’t the only tourist though. I was one of many when the boat dropped me off.
I climbed to the vantage point which wasn’t that high up but with the heat I was sweating buckets by the time I got to the top. So worth it!.
By now I really needed a dip in the sea so I snorkeled on both sides of the strip. The beach was all broken coral which meant walking in bare feet and getting into the sea a little tricky. Both sides were very shallow and buoys marked the boundary to keep us safe from the boats. I found it a little restrictive but there were plenty of fish, and sea cucumbers, to see.
I walked further along the beach and found another cove which hadn’t been obvious from the view point. The water was deep and clear and there were fish in abundance. I loved that I could dive down at last.
At 4 I caught the boat back and wandered along the beach. I wanted to find the man a bought a necklace from yesterday. He carved amazing shapes in bone or coconut shell and made them into necklaces. I wanted to take the pendant off the necklace and add it to a bracelet so asked him to make the hole larger so I could thread it on.
Met an American girl on the way back and we chatted and shared stories for half an hour or so before parting ways.
The cool shower back at the backpackers was bliss after all the sun, sea and sand of the day. I also put on new clothes as the ones I’d been wearing for the past few days were well wiffy. I signed up for the snorkelling trip for tomorrow and took to the hammock to watch movies.
Hunger drove me into town. I was hoping to find the famous sticky rice and pork but my search wasn’t fruitful. Instead I found a street vendor who made me a fabulous pork and vegetable stew thing. I knew it would be good because I watched her make it. I asked for just a little bit spicy. Thank goodness I did – it blew my head off and I like spicy food!! What would medium or strong be like? I sat and ate it sitting on the pavement between the vendors – I was kept company by a little girl who either found me interesting or just wanted some of my food. The other street vendor was selling waffles so a had a raisin variety for pud.
Back to the hostel and bed.
I slept better than the night before but not my usual deep sleep. I need that skill back! Up at 8:30 as we had a snorkel trip. I booked my ticket to Bangkok (which will be interesting – bus then night ferry getting into Bangkok around 5am) and had a quick toast and jam for breakfast. Then we were off via a sandwich shop – for lunch later!!!
We all met at the Lotus Bar for a snorkel briefing session. There would be 4 snorkel locations and a cliff jump. Gulp! The group was so large we needed two longboats – 12 in each.
Thankfully the weather was cooler today with some cloud cover. Perfect when we were due to be on the boat for most of the day. We did 2 sites before lunch; one with mostly dead coral but loads of fish and this attracted the sharks. I saw one – yee ha! The next was totally different with amazing corals and fish.
Then came the cliff jump. We were dropped at one side of a cove and would be collected the other side once we’d jumped. You could do a 4, 7 or 9 meter jump. I did the four – easy. He difficult part was getting to the jump site. Through trees, along creaky wooden gang planks and across scolding rocks. All in bare feet. I was the first one to jump, just because thought my feet were about to burst into flames.
Lunch at last although sadly by now my sandwich no longer resembled the delicious looking one I bought. Squashed. But I have to say still delicious. A storm was raging out to sea and the thunder was deafening.
Rain came into the beach which didn’t improve my already soggy sarnie. It’s warm rain and soon passes. The sun shone again and it was so hot it drove us back in the sea.
Last snorkel was at Japanese Gardens which turned out to be where I had been the day before. It was beautiful.
Back to shore around 5 and time for a quick cup of ginger tea, a snack and a shower before picture viewing at 7. Pong our snorkel guide, photographer and as it happens owner of the “Spicy” hostels had been taking pictures all day. I loaded a set to my iPad. He also had a camera similar to mine and explained how to use the underwater settings – setting I didn’t even realise I had (note to self, at least flick through instruction manuals!)
I chatted with the others for a while and then had every intention of going out for food but changed my mind and went back to the room for some p&q. Once I managed to stop the flow of ants marching over my bed, I put in earplugs (the first time I’d used them – I was determined to get a good nights sleep), covered my eyes from the light and put my head down.
I vaguely remember swiping the odd ant off me in the night but apart from that I pretty much slept through until 8. I felt so much better this morning! Apart from the ants who were back in force and all over my stuff. Just as well I was checking out today. I went down to breakfast for jam and bread – I won’t miss the flies. Then back to the room to get my stuff together. I packed and everything went in fairly smoothly – even the extra ants! Hunger Games was on the TV in the common area so, once I’d stripped the bed and paid up at reception, I watched a bit of that before heading down to the beach. I had the muesli combo because I knew it would fill me up. I did buy a few snacks for the trip to Bangkok. The journey would be 5 hours on the ferry, a 3 hour stopover at Chumphon, then anything between 5 and 7 hours on the night bus. I’d arrive in Bangkok around 3/5am depending on traffic etc.
The taxi picked me up with Orla, a girl who had been working at the hostel for 9 weeks, and we were whisked away to the pier. The place was packed and I really wasn’t sure how we’d all get on – but we did. We also met up with Chris from the hostel (he was in the same dorm as me) so we all sat together.
The ferry journey seemed to be over in the blink of an eye.
The waiting time in Chumphon was due to be 3 hours but we were loaded into the bus after only an hour and a half – just enough time for a toilet break, food and a wander.
There were two buses; one very swanky looking double decker and another sad looking one. We got the sad looking one. My bonus was I had no one sitting next to me so there was a good chance I’d get some sleep. I did despite the stops made along the way for toilet breaks.
The downside to leaving Chumphon early was we arrived in Bangkok early – just before 3 am. After dodging the usual taxi touts the three of us made for Khao San road to ride out the time before check in. It’s a colourful place and even at 3 in the morning it’s buzzing. We found a bar where we could take a load off (literally) and Chris could watch the football. From this vantage point I could see the lives that some Thai children and women lead. As I said a colourful (and a bit sad) place. As the bar started to close around 4:30 we sought sanctuary in McDonalds – it was open, cool, clean, and served sausage and egg mcmuffins. It’s been a while but I enjoyed early mouthful.
Around 6 we chanced a call to the hostel. It was not only 24 hour reception but they had a bed for me. The 3 of us negotiated a taxi (bags stuffed in the boot and held closed with one of those stretchy spider things) and we were off. We dropped Chris off at the train station, as he was going on to Chiang Mai, and then checked in. What a bonus that we could go straight to the room. We slept until 10.
Orla was getting her hair done today so once she’d left I showered, sorted out some laundry which stank, did some hand washing and generally pottered. The dorm room was amazing. 7 beds – no bunks, and each bed had a power supply, light and shelves. These may seem like basic essentials but in this world that’s a luxury.
I explored the area around the hostel. Went in search for a laundry and had food. The laundry was expensive here so in the end Orla and I combined our stuff into one big bag and put in through the hostel service. I found a nearby park and spent a couple of hours meandering. So many people exercising despite the heat! It was beautiful, peaceful, green and full of smiles people. Plus a few unexpected brushes with nature.
After the park I was going to get the Skytrain to the big shopping mall and made it as far as the Skytrain station which not surprisingly was raised off ground level, but when saw the surrounding streets I decided to stay here and look around. Hustle and bustle everywhere. Street food for miles and of every combination. I bought corn on the cob and fruit to keep me going.
I walked a fair way and found a guy would made leather items – he didn’t have a stall, just a sheet on the ground. They were works of art. I bought a bracelet and anklet. Both needed adjusting to fit so I sat and watched him work. By now it was dark so I crossed the road to see the other stalls on my way back. It was so much cheaper here. I bought a card for Mum (which will be winging its way home around July) and a tigers eye bracelet for a quid.
I met or Orla back at the hostel – for various reasons she’d been at the hairdressers all day, but looked fabulous – before we went out for food. There was a Canadian guy in our dorm and he joined us. We found a nice, cheap restaurant and all sat together chatting. Made a pleasant change. Roraigh left Orla and I to browse the markets. It’s Patpong which has a reputation for “shows” and we were invited to a few. We gracefully declined and just stuck to the market.
We turned in around midnight. It had been a full day.
Slept so well.
Orla was checking out today – after months away from home she was meeting up with her boyfriend before they embarked on a life in Vietnam. I went with her to her new hotel, which gave me a chance to view more of the city from the comfort of a taxi. She checked in and we walked in the direction of the Skytrain station. Somehow we went a little off course, good to know its not just me who gets lost, but soon found our way. Orla went to the airport to meet her boyfriend and I went to the BMG shopping mall that everyone raved about. It was huge, too huge, and not really my thing. So after an hour or so I went back to the main road to explore. I found loads of shopping malls, some small, some big, some very posh (check out how a family of four travels over here).
I had ginger tea in one of the smaller ones and played in a virtual orchestra in one of the bigger ones. You stood on a selection of podiums and touched the screen in front of you. The instrument displayed on the screen then started to play in the orchestra. Awesome – really!
Now, as you know I’m a big Magnum fan but even I couldn’t be bothered to go to the create your own Magnum restaurant. What will they think of next???
And check out the gecko on the poster – a star is born.
It was still hot and I needed to rehydrate and sit down. I found a place which turned out to be the foyer of a cinema. It was 4:30 and a film was start starting. Never heard of it but decided to go in – only £2! The film was ‘To The Wonder’, if you ever think about going …… Don’t. If you’ve seen Brad Pitts tree of life – this is similar. A most bizarre film. Before it started there was a little montage to the King and we all had to stand. That’s a first!
It was just getting dark when I left and a walked around for a few more hours. I decided to walk back to the hostel which was further than I thought so was knackered by the time a got back. I’d ordered another leather bracelet from the guy on the street which he was making for me today. I made the effort to find me – I really was knackered now. He recognised me from the day before and we chatted as best we could with the language difference. His name was Mim.
My treat to myself was pizza for supper. I’d seen it the day before and promised myself one. Eat in (ie at a table on the street) or take away? Take away please. Now, what I didn’t realise is that takeaway is 10THB more because they give you a box. This had better be good. It was bloody lovely.
My weary legs took me to my room and off to bed.
Pants – woke up with a cold! I guess it’s inevitable when travelling with so many people. I could do without this.
Today I needed to get my transport to Cambodia sorted. I found a travel agent, well he tracked me down from the street, and booked a ticket plus a room for the first night. The minibus would pick me up around 7:30 and after getting a visa at the border would arrive in Siam Reap early afternoon. I hope all this is legit!!
Next I walked in the opposite direction to my routes so far. Found an amazing temple where a man was washing down his cattle (yes in the middle of Bangkok) and I could walk around. I bought a flower garland and laid it at one of the statues.
On to the metro and the weekend market at Chatuchak.
After about a dozen stops I arrived and was immediately blasted by the heat of today. Even the locals were complaining about the heat!!!
The market was ma-husive. Something like 12000 stalls packed into a relatively small area but semi organised into like merchandise. We could buy pretty much anything here (including water by the litre – a helpful guy showed me how to use the machine) and we could bargain with some of the sellers, while others could not be budged from their fixed price. There was also the usual food vendors but hundred of them. The heat and the smells made for an interesting mix for shopping but I managed. I came away with my bus fare home – literally!!
I stopped only for a big bottle of water on the way back. I was bushed and my cold was draining me, so I spent the evening reading and listening to music. I finished the final Hunger Games book, Mockingjay, which had an unexpected ending!!! Good story though.
PS – can’t believe I’m telling you this but I had a Big Mac for breakfast!
I managed to leave the hostel before 11 today – which was quite an achievement. I went in search of breakfast. Surprisingly, many of Bangkok’s shops are closed on a Sunday. I think my cold has affected my taste buds as I could not face Thai for breakfast. I bought a ham bun and yoghurt and went back to the room. I decided to go to the Grand Palace so I needed to change into suitable, respectful clothing. Something to cover legs and arms. I walked to the metro to get the train to the river, then jumped on the river. I had been advised to get the public ferry as its cheaper but you have to be on your toes with these Thai. Apparently, no local ferry today so I bought the more expensive ticket, relatively speaking, and hopped on the ferry. Just as the public ferry arrived …..hmmmmm!!!!!!
Anyway, I made it to pier 9, which was the setting down point for the Grand Palace. Again, those cheeky Thai. They dropped us off at the furthest point on the pier from the Palace so we tourists have to walk past tuk tuks and souvenir sellers!! I’m starting to think …trust..and…throw! It was a fair walk to the entrance and it was another blistering day. I queued up and wrapped my shawl suitably around my shoulders. Reject!!! Wrapping a shawl is not respectful enough. Talking of respect – the security at the gate had none. I was not impressed. Not allowed in. Conveniently, there were sellers waiting with long trousers and long sleeved shirts. I point blank refused and walked away – have to say I was disgusted. Some people preserved and first bought long trousers only to find they were rejected for sleeveless t-shirts so had to buy a t-shirt too.
Earlier, from the viewpoint of the ferry I saw a more interesting looking temple on the other side of the river. That was now my new mission. I started walking, walking, walking, eventually finding a boat that would take me across the river for 5THB.
I was soon disembarked, much to the amusement of the locals, and wove my way through the back streets trying to find the temple. I found myself in odd places, crossing a river inlet via an industrial lock, through a monastery (lots of men in bright orange garments), and what looked like people’s backyards. I even ignored the water taxi driver when he said you couldn’t get to the temple on foot. I think I’ve sussed these sneaky Thai.
I found the place, much to the amusement of more locals. I was allowed in with my shawl and charged 50 THB for the privilege. It was worth it. Wonderful place and you could climb the extremely steep steps to about two thirds of the way up.
I took a break under the shade of a large tree for a while before heading back. I wanted to walk more along the river. I again found myself in out of the way places. Not a tourist in site. Each time I needed reassurance that I was going in the right direction, and believe it or not I was, I asked and was usually met with a smile and a nod.
Sustenance was provided by fruit and a seven eleven toastie – today was turning out to be a bit of a cheese and ham day. I was beginning to flag when a helpful man gave me directions to a metro station close by. Again walking through streets and markets for just locals. So interesting. Better than Grand Palace any day!!!
I found the metro, hopped on and was back before I knew it. I had walked miles today and it felt good.
I packed my bag ready for the off in the morning and went out for food. Still not into Thai food today so ……it had to be cheese and ham pasta. I’m sure if I could have tasted it, it would have been lovely. Lets hope my taste buds kick back in tomorrow.
Back to the room and bed. Early start in the morning!
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