Travel Blog: Week 22

Singapore and Thailand Week 22: 08.04.2013 – 14.04.2013 Monday:- Woke up feeling knackered. I need to get a proper night’s sleep. I was moving on today. The breakfast room was heaving and so I decided to wash and dress. The shower room was set up for someone with a disability and the water sprayed everywhere and the room flooded. No ventilation either – so far none of the rooms have had a window. Wet feet and tiled floors is not a

Singapore and Thailand

Week 22: 08.04.2013 – 14.04.2013

Monday:-

Woke up feeling knackered. I need to get a proper night’s sleep.

I was moving on today. The breakfast room was heaving and so I decided to wash and dress. The shower room was set up for someone with a disability and the water sprayed everywhere and the room flooded. No ventilation either – so far none of the rooms have had a window. Wet feet and tiled floors is not a good combination which made me question how my roommate had broken his leg! I tracked down a mop and dried the floor.

I had breakfast and then packed. I was rather pleased with my packing skills this morning. I was planning to bus/train it to Thailand so packed accordingly – making sure I had access to wash stuff and a change of clothes. For the first time in a while I could fully zip up the extension zip on my bag. Woo hoo!!!

I checked out and set to sorting out today’s logistics to Thailand. 2 people advised me against the train travel at the moment, particularly at the border, and against my sense of adventure I took their advice. After considering so many options I booked a flight to Phuket – £60 is pretty good. I would look at other train options elsewhere.

Airport shuttle booked I headed to Little India for lunch, although by now it was 2ish. I found vegetarian restaurant close by and went for the first thing on the menu. No joke, a tray full of food arrived and all laid out on a banana leaf.

For £4 I got rice, and pickled salad, aubergine curry, vegetable curry, 5 kinds of sauces, popadom, chapati, and some fried savoury doughnut thing. It was wonderful (Mum – you would have loved it as it had a real kick).

I got back to the hostel to shuffle my packing as I was now flying. Mid re-pack the shuttle arrived 15 mins early. So hurriedly I stuffed things back in. I was off and it was raining.

I checked in at the airport and all was well with my bags. Singapore airport is pretty interesting so there’s heaps to see. I had some dollars left so a bought a mega memory card for my camera – think it might come in handy for my next stop.

The flight was only 90 minutes and the seats were surprisingly comfortable.

I really thought I’d have the entire row to myself until, at the last moment, a group of Chinese students slid in. They were really friendly. It makes me realise how far I need to improve my language skills. I got through immigration, no visa required, and collected my bag – in fact it had already been going around on the conveyer belt and was just about to disappear through a hatch, no doubt to start another circuit. Now what! I hadn’t booked anything and wanted to see how things went, but its always at this time that I question that philosophy. I was tired, the airport was manic and I had no local currency.

I headed for the tourist desk. A totally unbiased place (not). I asked for recommendations for backpacker accommodation. Apparently there was none. They were however doing a promotion on a hotel. By Thai standards it was probably pricey but for 1000bht (£20ish) I went for it for one night. Now to get there. I signed up for the shuttle which cost around £3. What they didn’t tell me was that it would only go when there were 10 people. I got chatting to a guy from California who was a photographer and combining work and pleasure on this trip. I also saw the Chinese students again who kindly offered to take me to their hotel – bless. After a while, and after more planes had landed, there were 10 people for the shuttle and we were off. I got talking to 2 guys who had also flown in from Singapore (their hometown), but who lived in Switzerland now. Great company for the journey – we had laugh when half way through the journey we all had to get out of the bus just to get the voucher which we’d been given a the airport stamped. Think it was an opportunity to share tourist opportunities with us – obviously cheaper if we book through them!!!!

Eventually we arrived at my hotel. It looked OK, thank goodness. And when I was taken to my room I was blown away – it was the size of a tennis court, had its own bathroom, and a TV. All for 20 quid!

  

The bed was huge and hard, and after unpacking a bit, doing some washing (my cheapo $1 KMart plug came in handy – I knew it would!!!) and having a shower (Lauren – I flooded the bathroom due to an enthusiastic shower head) I went to bed. It was around 1am and I needed sleep.

Tuesday:-

I woke around 8:30. There had been no early morning singing, calling, banging , or even squeaking metal bunk beds. It was bliss. Absolute bliss. After a while I really thought I should get up and have a wonder. The view from my window wasn’t picturesque but it was a typical street scene.

It could be in Vietnam. And this was enforced when I took a walk out of the hotel. Dirt roads with scooters carrying a whole family. It was sticky warm, but there was a intermittent breeze.

I made it to the beach area. It is quite touristy here and I’ll move on tomorrow probably, but for now I wanted to have a base so booked the room for a second night. Along the way a bought a fruit smoothy of mango, banana and orange – watching the girl make one for the couple in front of me I noticed the added extra sugar water – I had mine without the extra sugar. It was cool and delicious. I spent the rest of the morning sitting by the beach using wifi, watching the world go by and eating more fruit. After the diet in Singapore my skin needed it.

 

I whiled away a few more hours and had noodle soup for lunch. I then walked along the beautiful beach – I found a little Toby fish washed up on the shore and carried it back to the water. Didn’t risk the same with the huge jelly fish. There were so many pink tourists on the beach – rows and rows of sun beds. I wandered back. As a treat I got an hours massage. Amazing, and all for £6!

I took the long way back to the hotel. I found an art shop and ordered a painting (something that can be rolled up and sent home) which meant I needed to stay another day when it would be ready, found icecream, an ATM, and a shop for water. Back at the hotel I snoozed and never made it out again.

Wednesday:-

Today I was going to be more motivated, although I did have a lay in.

Breakfast was bought along the way to the beach. I risked 2 chicken skewers from a road side seller. They were absolutely delicious and it was only as I was finishing the second that I realised it was chicken but like the parsons nose bit. Oh well, it filled me up. To balance things I also bought fruit, green mango and watermelon, from a roadside vendor. The food is really good and much cheaper than going to one of the restaurants.

The beach was relatively quiet but the weather was a little overcast. I walked along the beach to find a quieter spot. All the way guys were trying to sell the sun loungers, food, drink, water pistols (I kid you not – and will explain later) and various other stuff. I wasn’t sure how much the sun loungers were so I initially camped out on the sand. There were a group of lads nearby and I asked them how much the loungers were. They weren’t English but a got the answer 100thb – well worth a days comfort. I listened to music and had a few dips in the warm water. The lads turned out to be Russian and came over to talk. They seemed concerned that I was swimming alone as the wind was getting up. Although, they did recognise I could swim quite well for a girl – apparently I “could swim like a boat”. Not quite sure how to take that!! anyway, around the same time a massive storm broke and the heavens opened, with thunder and lightning – the works. Time to get back in the sea, it was so much warmer. The force of the rain eventually got the better of us, it actually hurt when it hit our heads, and so we gathered under not very waterproof umbrellas and did the only sensible thing – had a beer. It was surreal talking to Russians – the accents were great and I felt like I was in some James Bond movie surrounded by Bond baddies. Never would bond have talked of the forthcoming Songkran festival and “dancing in the moonlight” though (historical when said in a Russian accent – you had to be there). By now we were soaked and really cold. I was invited to join the 4 of them at their hotel which was considerable closer than mine. We had a little hotel room picnic, fruit donuts and crisps (very balanced) and hot tea. It continued to rain for the rest of the day.

I dashed back to my hotel during a too brief a gap in the clouds. Washed, warmed up and changed. I was joining them for dinner. It was still raining when I was ready to leave the hotel. I usually walk everywhere but having got dry for the second time today I wanted to stay that way and was willing to stump up for a taxi. Or so I thought. Not a taxi or tuk tuk in sight. Eventually I got a lift down on the back of a motorbike and for free (Mum/Dad it was safe and only about 5 minutes!). We met at the Tiger restaurant and had a fabulous Thai meal washed down with Thai beer. Of the 4 of them 2 could speak good English, 1 only a little and 1 none at all, but we all got along and the evening was fun. After the meal we walked around and I was introduced to Bangla Road. I’m not sure if they were protecting me or weather my presence was protecting them. Women and ladyboys approached from all angles, together with invites to the various Ping Pong shows. Sasha was intrigued enough to go to one of the shows while the rest of us ended up in an Irish bar listening to great live music. It was quite a night but still raining so I got a taxi back to the hotel.

Thursday:-

A late night so a late start. Under the circumstances, pouring rain, it seemed OK to me. I eventually made it out around 11:30 when the rain stopped. Although, it re-started between me looking out of my room window and getting to reception. Luckily the hotel had a brolly, a bright turquoise one with cartoon cats!! I was supposed to meet the guys again this morning. Breakfast was on the hoof again (maybe not the best expression as I’m never entirely sure what part of the animal I’m eating) and was it “beef” skewers? A couple of bits didn’t taste quite right so were unceremoniously spat out but the rest were lovely. And I felt fine afterwards. I met the guys but left them to their sunbathing (not much sun today) while I went in search of a SIM card and a bit of browsing. I didn’t find a SIM, or indeed any mobile phone store!!!!, but bought a fabric bag for £2. The bag was deep red and as my clothes were damp the coloured leached out. My lovely white t-shirt now had a diagonal pink stripe across it.

Lunch was the most amazing chicken noodle soup from a street vendor. There was a bit of a queue which gave me the chance to see how it was all done. The soup was cooked fresh in a tiny little mobile kitchen. You then helped yourself to extra bean sprouts, some mint like sprigs, sweet/sour chilli sauce, fish sauce and chilli flakes. I sat on the beach and savoured every mouthful. I took a quick swim in the sea but it started to rain again!! Where’s the sunshine!!!!

Back to the hotel to unsuccessfully wash my t-shirt and wash the new bag, which never stopped turning the water pink.

I changed, grabbed the umbrella again, and went out. I picked up my amazing picture, which was rolled and packed in a plastic tube. Had a wander round, bought water and decided to call it a night. It was still raining!

Friday:-

I never seem to leave the hotel room before 11. Love it!

Today it was sunny and warm. I was going to have a day of sunbathing and reading. I walked to the beach buying my usual fruit although I buy from someone different everyday.

  

I had every intention of having a Thai breakfast but a passed a restaurant with egg and toast on special and I couldn’t resist. Today was the first time I’d used a knife and fork in a few weeks. I found a pre paid SIM card today and set up my phone – at long last. As soon as it was all registered a received a handful of texts. All in Thai so who knows what they were telling me. A long as it works I’ll be happy. Right next door was a jewellery store and here I bought the next addition to my bracelet.

It was a beautiful day and the sun lasted until just after 5. I got chatting to another Russian on the beach who had decided to come away and celebrate his birthday in peace. As the rain started I packed up but by the time I’d got to the bar, to meet the 4 Russians I’d met a couple of days before, it was torrential and my towel which had taken the brunt of protecting me from the weather was soaked. I met the guys for a short while and then braved the town. It was the eve of Songkran – the Thai new year – and it had become a tradition to throw, chuck, spray, spurt, just about any means possible, water at passers by. Yet again I was soaked. This was becoming a habit.

  

  

Conscious I still had by bag with me I headed back to the hotel, dumped my stuff and put my money in a plastic bag in my pocket and returned to the mayhem. And it was just that. People had the biggest and most powerful water pistols I have ever seen. They could spray you with some force from across the road. Yep – you guessed it I was drenched again and I have to say getting cold by now. I warmed up with a bowl of noodle soup, my new fave dish. I took my takeaway noodle soup and found somewhere quiet to eat it. My takeaway carrier bag contained a smaller bag with hot stock, a bag of cooked and hot noodles, vegetables and meat (hopefully the pork I asked for), a smaller bag of fish sauce, and a final small bag of sweet/sour chilli sauce. I also had a small plastic spoon (the shape of the ones you get in a Chinese restaurant which never seem to fit in your mouth), some wooden chopsticks and a polystyrene bowl . All for 40 bht. I opened each bag and poured them into the bowl. The soup was fabulous. And as I sat and ate it I was joined by a little friend. A small cat who was chasing, catching and then eating cockroaches. It was quite a meal by the sound of it. Interestingly, there a relatively few cats but most of them have docked tails – not sure it that’s deliberate or whether there lifestyle causes them to lose them along the way.

I rejoined the mayhem and met an Aussie at one of the bars, well actually he called me over as I was dodging water, and had a fabulous G and T. It was dry (the bar not the G and T) and the company was interesting. Dinner was street noodle soup, and a couple of spring rolls, and unbelievably it was even better than the day before. I so love the food here.

The water and the cold got the better of me and I called it a night. I dumped more wet clothes in the bathroom and tried to keep the tiled floor dry I hit the sack.

Saturday:-

I did sleep but I have vague recollections of music almost all through the night and it was certainly a party atmosphere when I woke around 8.

I had breakfast just outside the hotel to give me time to decide what to do. The road was busy and the cars, trucks, motorcycles and mopeds, regardless of who was driving them and what they were wearing were drenched in water. Some were obviously happy with the gesture although others clearly were not. This was happening everywhere.

 

I could not face another day of getting soaked and feeling cold (I’d have stayed in the UK if that was the case) and I really couldn’t be bothered to think of anything to do, so I decided to stay in my room and chill. I watched movies and read. Sooo lazy but after 5 months away from home that’s all I wanted to do.

I eventually ventured out around 6pm. Could I escape the New Years festivities? Absolutely not. I’d only got about 100 yards when I was targeted and got soaked. That’s how it continued for the next mile. I was also covered in talcum powder. I didn’t mind the warm water but the cold water was freezing. Just what I didn’t want. Anyway, I got over myself and decided to embrace the tradition. It was hunger that forced me out so I stopped at a street cafe and had my favourite noodle soup. This one had some dubious ingredients – I’m not sure what some things were but there were definitely intestines. I attempted to eat them but just couldn’t swallow those bits. Yuk!

  

The rest of the soup was fantastic. I then walked around the main area – there were water pistols left right and centre. Brrrrrrr, that cold water. I found myself at Bangla road. IT WAS CRAZY, REALLY CRAZY. I stopped at a bar for a beer and watched the water war going on in the street. I finished my circuit of Patong Beach and was kindly escorted through the worst of the water by a South African. I had had enough but just had to have an Magnum ice cream on the way back. Actually I enjoyed it so much I bought another – they are much smaller than the ones at home- yes, really!!!

I wandered home to the hotel. One of the things I’ve noticed over the past few rainy days is that at night the numbers of frogs (apart from a squashed one on the road, I’ve only heard them), rats and cockroaches have increased. The rats and cockroaches in particular still make me jump when they scuttle out in front of me then disappear into a hole in the pavement. From what I’ve described I bet you imagine the roads around here are filthy but actually they’re pretty clean. Refuse is always bagged and collected regularly. And despite the number of dogs that roam the street, most of which are clean, well looked after and respected (they just lie around in the road and the cars drive around them), the streets are fairly poo free.

More movies in my room and bed.

Sunday:-

Today I WAS going to do something so decided to get going earlier than my more recent routine. I opened the curtain – hoorah no more water throwing. I showered and dressed only to find the heavens had opened and it was pouring, really pouring. And it didn’t stop all morning.

I spent the morning trawling the Internet for my next destination. I needed to move on, I was getting a bit bored and lazy here. I needed an environment where I could be more active. I was hoping that opportunities would open up for me but in their absence I decided on Koh Lanta. An island the other side of Phi Phi. I wasn’t sure I’d like Phi Phi, it sounded touristy so I skipped staying there. Maybe I’d do a day trip there from Koh Lanta.

By around noon the rain subsided and I went out and explored.

  

  

    

  

  

Found a new quiet restaurant and had brunch. It was more like lunch but I’d missed breakfast. I had a green curry which was marvellous and the most did spent on food for a while.

For the rest of the afternoon I browsed the huge shopping mall. The Big C grocery store was worth a visit just for fresh produce. Never seen anything like it – even in Wegmans!

  

I bought a replacement towel, I lost mine along the way somewhere, and some snacks. On leaving the mall there was a row of spas – set out like something from Brave New World. All doing special offers. I went for it mini Guinot facial and mini Thai massage for 7 quid. I felt like I could sleep for a week afterwards.

Back to the hotel to pack. I was wrong about the rain bringing out the critters. They’re here all the time!

I realised when I got back to the hotel that I was leaving at the right time. An enormous Thai family had taken all the rooms on my floor and it was madness up there.

Apart from a trip /trek out to buy take away noodle soup, which turned out to be a delicious tomato, onion and prawn noodle concoction, phone top up, and another ice cream – my third in 2 days, I really need to rein in my sweet tooth – I stayed in and packed. Against the norm I also booked into a hostel. The feedback was so good and the prices so reasonable I couldn’t resist.

It wasn’t the best nights sleep with the party on my floor continuing into the early hours – at least until 4am anyway.

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