Archive for the ‘Bangkok’ Category

I’ve had some issues with Internet connectivity lately so here goes the very delayed last entry to my traveling blog. Since I left Australia I was back in London for two weeks, doing some work for a quick bank account boost, and I’m currently in the States visiting friends and family for a few weeks.

Here it goes:
So after leaving Sydney I headed up to Byron Bay with the Wills. We got off the bus after what ended up being a pretty sleepless night for me and arrived to several backpacker staff with their vans trying to draw us to their hostels. It worked; Will, Will and I were too tired to do any deciding ourselves, so we followed a blond Canadian named Eric to his van and he took us to Aquarius hostel.
We checked in to the nicest dorm I’ve ever stayed in and picked beds on the top floor of our duplex style room where we met Katie, another Canadian who had also just arrived.
Our first day in Byron was spent watching the rain POUR down like I’ve never seen before. We realized that this may go on, so we found out about bus trips to a place called Nimbin – a hippie town that hasn’t moved on since about 1968. We took a very psychedelic bus tour to the town listening to Pink Floyd, The Doors and other ‘free love’ bands to arrive in a multi-coloured tie-dye town. Walking down the main street was an exercise in turning down one offer after another for weed, brownies, more weed, cookies…you get the idea. I took a tour of the Nimbin Museum whose design concept was something along the lines of ‘here’s some stuff I found on the street/at the flea market/in my cellar.’ There was stuff EVERYWHERE, and none of it seemed to make any sort of sense. Hippie heaven. At the end, before exiting, we met a 50-something year old woman rushing off yelling “just wait 15 minutes guys, I’ll be back with the cookies soon, I just have to pick them up from my house.” This wasn’t just a nice lady who baked things for visitors. She made her money making tourists feel like they were on a Grateful Dead tour, or a character in Ken Kesey’s acid charged life. On the way home our bus driver pointed out all the ‘beautiful shades of green’ in the countryside and took us through the mud back to our Byron home. Where it was still raining.
Unfortunately the rain continued so after meeting the backpacker staff and we spent our nights exploring Byron Bay nightlife with them and spending most of our days watching the rain come down with two days of sun that we spent on the beach and walking to the lighthouse – the Easternmost point of mainland Australia.
After a few days I decided I needed to make a move up north if I wanted to see more of the country. One problem. All that rain? Causes problems. Like flooding. In both directions.
Nobody, myself included, could get in or (more importantly) OUT of Byron for a few days.
I embraced my fate and paid at the reception for more nights at Aquarius. At least I could hang out here with people I liked, and I got free dinner every night, even if it was the same stuff over and over again… free is free. Plus we entertained ourselves with pub quiz nights and poker tournaments.
For all the less-than-ideal weather, I had an amazing time in Byron Bay thanks to the Wills, Katie and the Aquarius staff. After deciding that it was time for me to leave I realized that my time was now quite short, so instead of heading up north I headed back to Sydney and the twins. Since the highway was still flooded I took a flight from the small airport inland that was still accessible down to Sydney airport where Joh met me to take me back to another few days of home comforts. Mike and Lisa were still around so I spent my last few days seeing them, taking a day trip to the Blue Mountains, and going to the Sydney Aquarium where I saw a platypus! They’d been hiding when we went to the Sydney Zoo in my first week, so I was glad to check off that last Australian animal from my list after kangaroo, wallaby and koala among others.
I also cooked a meal for Nad, Sal, Joh and Lisa that went down well, I think?
I loved Australia, a sentiment perhaps not expressed well enough in this shortened version of my time there, but I have decided to save up as quickly as possible for a return trip on a one year work-holiday visa.
So that’s it! I took a flight from Sydney back to Bangkok where I spent a day doing some last minute shopping and sharing my stories with new travelers experiencing their first nights abroad on Koh San Road. Then it was back to the airport to travel back to London and home.
Seven and a half months later, a term of teaching and an amazing backpacker experience through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and finally Australia and I’m back where I started. Back in the Foster home in Crouch End, London. Dreaming of my next adventure.
I’ve had a great time writing this blog and plan on setting up a more permanent URL to continue life as a blogger, so watch this space for a final update and a name URL address.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and sending me all those great letters and packages. I write for you. 🙂
“The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.” – St Augustine.

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So after my tour of Laos and Cambodia I headed back into the familiar Land of Smiles. It was nice to be in a country where I didn’t have to learn the language or customs as they were already old familiars to me.

The group split up a little due to various forms of travel. Matt and I took a very long bus from Sihanoukville to Bangkok. Actually I think it ended up being three buses? Four? Five? I lost count. But eventually we got to Khao San Road where we met up with Claudia and Calvin who had flown in from Phnom Penh.
There we also found Emily, Claudia’s friend from home who came to join us for a few weeks and we had one night in the big city before we said a tearful goodbye to the boys and the girls headed to Koh Pha Ngan for a week to join the infamous Full Moon Party. This is the same party I went to for my New Years Eve, so my time on Koh Pha Ngan was “same same, but different” (don’t ask, it’s a Thai phrase, I don’t know why they say it, but there you have it).

Our group became pretty huge after we met up with my friends from London, George, Sophie and Claudia, on top of meeting up with a couple – Graeme and Donna who we had briefly seen in Luang Prabang, and the five people they had also befriended on the island. On top of this Juliet had two friends from home meeting her, one of them brought a boyfriend and another friend in tow, AND Juliet’s friend from Chang Rai plus a friend joined us too so it was quite the crowd.

We spent a week in Koh Pha Ngan and it was pretty interesting watching the island go from relatively quiet to completely overrun by the time the full moon hit. Unlike New Years, this time we all managed to stay on the beach until the sun had risen which was quite a sight to see, although not all of us remember it…

I enjoyed beign on the island for longer and getting to know some people. I befriended a group of Thai guys who work at an art gallery there and who welcomed me into their studio to hang out, listen to guitar and have a few drinks each night when I was walking home from whatever bar we had been in. Koh Pha Ngan is a strange island and I’m not sure I could stay there for too long, but I’m happy I got to know it a bit better this time.

The next day was reserved for being as lazy as possible before Emily, Claudia and I said goodbye and made our way up to Chang Mai for Songkran from April 13th – 15th. Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration; it’s also celebrated in Cambodia and Laos I believe. It was essentially a three day long water fight on the streets. We reunited with Calvin who had been doing some volunteering work in the hilltribes outside of Chang Rai, and every day we went down to the streets armed with our super soakers ready for action. We parked ourselves near a backpacker corner of the city where the bars blasted music and people slowly drove down the streets in pick up trucks with enormous barrels of ICE water on the backs to soak unsuspecting pedestrians. The most fun was probably watching the Thai ladyboys strutting down the streets in their heels, hands in the air, getting drenched and loving it.

After three days of this we were exhausted. Emily, Claudia and I went to Pai, a village I visited in December (click here for the post) . My one day there was spent on rented motorbikes exploring around the various natural hotsprings and waterfalls. The village was significantly quieter than it had been in December, most likely because it was not a holiday weekend and it is summer now and Pai is a big tourist spot for Southern Thais to come in the winter so that they can feel the cold…I know, it’s strange, we don’t get it, but feeling cold is a novelty here. But it still had the feeling of a sleepy hippie town. After that I unfortunately had to leave to go to Myanmar…

The fun thing about visas is that they expire… A very long bus ride and a quick walk across the boarder and back again and I had a brand new visa, plus a new fun stamp on my passport, so everyone wins, especially the Burmese who are 500 Baht richer for every person like me. Rip off if you ask me….

After meeting the girls back in Chang Mai we headed down south for some more beachy goodness!

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I know these have been long awaited by some people and my internet finally wants to cooperate, so here it is. Photos from all these old stories I’ve been telling. I don’t blame you if you don’t have the energy to go through all of them at once, but here are all the links for those not on Facebook to peruse at your own pace. Enjoy.
The most recent album is from this last weekend. I went to Chang Mai and met up with the girls plus the lovely Sophie and Claudia from London! They are here in Thailand/Laos/Cambodia for the next few months and it was great to see some familiar faces for a couple of days. You can check out their blog about their travels here.


Bangkok (way old)

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Quick update on the fun going on down in Bangkok. A couple of hours ago Thailand elected a new Prime Minister. For the Americans reading this, the process did not involve the whole population voting, the system worked closer to the British way of organising things. I guess they do hold popular elections here, but because this was a special circumstance, that didn’t happen.

So since the old political party got kicked out and disbanded last week, members of parliament voted for who they wanted their leader to be – and the opposition party won. That would be the party who made themselves comfortable hanging out in the airports recently. So we’ll see what happens now.
Will the rural population finally get mad enough to have an effect? We’ll see….. but this is Thailand’s third Prime Minister in a four month period, so they don’t have a great track record so far for accepting things the way they are….
This new guy, Abhisit Vejjajiva, is young and attractive and promises change. We’ll see.

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I have to admit that before coming to Thailand, I knew very little about the country except that I have a lot of friends who have spent many a drunken week here diving, sunbathing, and all in all ‘chilling out.’

I also don’t remember the last time I ever saw Thailand in the international news headlines.
My how things have changed.
I’ve learned that Thailand isn’t just a drunken beach party, and I’ve managed to arrive in this country just in time for it to splash its name all over the English papers paired with words like ‘crisis’ and ‘attack.’ Words I don’t like to hear any more than the next guy.
So for my readers who are just as naive to the situation here as I was just a short time ago, here’s the deal:
For a few months there was a large group of anti-government protesters (the PAD, or People’s Alliance for Democracy…the most ironic title they could find; will explain later, or read here for more details) on the streets, surrounding government buildings, and for a few days sitting in Bangkok’s two major airports, suspending all air traffic in and out of the country’s capital. Basically they wanted the Prime Minister to resign because they believe him to be corrupt (which it appears is probably true).
The airport sit-in caused enormous disruptions to Thailand’s economy as you can imagine, so the protesters definitely made their point. Check out the link for more on that, but the short version is that during Thailand’s busiest tourist season (now) hotels are at a fraction of their usual capacity. Not to mention all the exports Thailand produces that couldn’t fly out last week. One foreigner managed to get inside the airport and camp out with the PAD. He video taped a bunch of what he saw which you can see here.
So last week when the PAD made it clear that they in fact were quite comfortable in the airport, but thanks for asking, the leaders of the ruling party were found guilty of electoral fraud and the Prime Minister plus his executives were banned from government for five years. Ouch. Party in the airport!!
So now everyone is sitting around and playing the waiting game. They will probably hold elections in the next couple of weeks which could be pretty interesting and could very probably make things worse regardless of the turn out. Here’s why.
The PAD is not a party for the people, nor are they democratic. So great title right? PAD members are royalists, consisting of middle/upper class citizens who believe in an appointment based government led by the royal family. So no popular elections, no democracy, the term fascist-like has been thrown around…
The PAD managed to lead a government coup a couple of years ago throwing out the previous Prime Minister, Thaksin. Only problem is, when a popular election was held after that coup, Thaksin’s ally was appointed Prime Minister, because despite their ability to make a whole lot of noise, the PAD do not make up the majority of the population here.
Do you see the problem yet?
So now here we are again, probably about to have another election. And guess what? The PAD still don’t make up most of the population. The PPP (pro-government) members consist mostly of rural farmers which is a huge majority of Thailand’s population. So post-election, either the PAD wins (not likely) and the majority finally get pissed off enough to do something about it, or the PPP supporters win and we’ve all seen what kind of mess the PAD can drum up.
So there’s the deal on Thailand. Don’t you feel smarter? Now go impress someone with your knowledge and feel free to correct the mistakes I probably made.

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Here’s some photos relevent to my previous posts.

Lisa and I eating street food and beer at about 4 in the morning in Bangkok
My favourite part of the Grand Palace – the demons and the monkeys. (The monkeys are barefoot). Everything you see that looks like it might be made of gold or gold leaf – it is.
A group of us out at the Happy Beer Garden in Bangkok before experiencing ping pong…
It’s been a crazy few days since I last wrote.
As expected, elephant trekking and bamboo rafting was a fantastic experience. I highly recommend Kanchanaburi if you are ever in Thailand, it’s beautiful, and there’s a lot that I didn’t see, so I’m hoping to find time to return.
On our way to the hotel (which was a paradise in itself) we stopped by the Bridge over the River
Kwai, which apparently is really famous thanks to a movie that was made with the same title.
If you’ve heard of it, sorry to let you down in the movie culture side of things. I guess I haven’t seen as many films as I thought!
But the bridge has some interesting history that you should look up, to do with how it was built during WWII by POWs for Japan, thousands of which died during the construction/reconstruction (after the Allies bombed it). We almost got run over by a train, because we were not warned that the train tracks running along the bridge are still active! Luckily there’s little platforms along the bridge for pedestrians to cram onto to prevent death. How thoughtful.

Our hotel, as I said was a paradise running along the river Kwai, where I enjoyed a fantastic Thai massage. It’s hard to describe the hotel without this getting too long and boring, but just think peaceful jungle paradise. The picture is of the river by our hotel. The lamps are where we ate dinner.

Lisa and I shared an elephant ride, which was great. I got to ride on the elephant’s neck! And they went walking into the river and through the jungle. Then during our bamboo raft ride down the river, I actually spent most of the time swimming; so I get to say I’ve gone swimming in the River Kwai which at least my parents are exceptionally jealous of. The bonus is that I haven’t been sick since this experience either, which is probably against all odds.

That afternoon we went to visit an orphanage and teach a short English lesson. I left wanting to take every orphan home with me. Thai children are irresistibly cute and they loved us. I spent about 45 minutes straight in the hot sun doing nothing but bumping kids up and down on my lap, which they never got sick of, even if I couldn’t feel my thighs afterwards.
Finally, after a crazy Thai bus station experience, an 11-hour ride on a pretty amazing bus that had reclining seats, a stewardess, a hot meal at a random restaurant at 1:30am, and Thai karaoke music videos, Kelly, Shaleas and I have arrived in Tha Wang Pha. Our coordinators (Patarin and Amporn) met us and broke the news that we cannot move into our apartment yet and are stuck in a guesthouse for about two weeks (but who knows, on Thai time that could mean anything).
Kelly and I are sharing a room that we have already had to rid of enormous spiders, a massive cockroach, and an ant infestation. But other than that….it’s still pretty annoying. The room is actually ok, it’s just frustrating since we have to continue living out of a suitcase, and school starts next week. Also, the shower is the bathroom. So each time we shower, the toilet, sink, and anything else in the bathroom gets soaked. But we have a Western toilet, which trust me is a blessing.

We saw the long boat racing in Nan on Sunday, which was fun. It’s one of the things this area is most known for, and we managed to catch the last day, which was lucky.

We are clearly the only white people for miles because we get treated like celebrities everywhere we go. At the boat event several people took pictures of us, and one guy even videotaped us. Everyone who can speak a little bit of English makes an effort to talk to us though, and last night we went out to dinner with Patarin, her husband and bunch of his friends who all had at least eight whiskeys each, and they spent the evening teaching us a lot of new Thai words, although I can’t remember most of them. I’m not sure if that’s because of the whiskey or the completely foreign language. We rode home sitting in the bed of Patarin’s pick-up which was amazing because the weather in the evenings up here is perfect, and the sky is full of stars, more than I’ve ever seen thanks to my city-dwelling life. There’s not much to see in the skies of London, New York, Baltimore or Boston I’m afraid.

There’s a good market five minutes from our guesthouse, which we will be buying everything from toiletries, clothes, school supplies, and food from since we have no kitchen. It’s going to take a few days to adjust to this place, but all in all Tha Wang Pha is a really nice area, as is Nan (the main city, about half an hour drive from here). In order to get around, it’s becoming more and more clear that our only option is going to be renting or possibly buying motorbikes. Absolutely everyone here has a motorbike of some sort, and the public transportation seems to be very sparse, if it exists at all, so we’ll be looking into that pretty soon.

That’s it for now. I’m here for a week, possibly going to Chang Mai for a couple of days if we can make it, and then school starts on November 3rd! I’ve already met one boy who goes to the school and also works in the market; he’s in the highest grade and spoke relatively fluent English so that’s a good sign!

I’ve tried to post a few photos (hopefully it has worked!). There are a lot more, but I’m borrowing Kelly’s thumb drive to upload these at an internet café so the rest will have to wait I’m afraid.

My future mode of transporation: literally everyone has one.
Thai lesson #2:

One = Neung
Two = Song
Three = Saam
Four = Sii
Five = Haa
Six = Hok
Seven = Jet
Eight = Baad
Nine = Gow
Ten = Siib

Sawatdee ka!

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Just a quick post since I’m actually not sure when I’ll next be on this thing. Tomorrow I’m off on a my two day trip to ride elephants/go bamboo rafting/visit an orphanage, then on Saturday we leave for our sites where my internet may be slightly limited, I don’t know yet.

Tonight I meet my school coordinator and hopefully get all my questions answered about what I’m doing and what to expect, including what to wear. All the days of the week have a colour here which I love, so that’s going to take some of the guesswork out of what to put on each morning!

Monday – Yellow
Tuesday – Pink
Wednesday – Green
Thursday – Orange
Friday – Blue
Saturday – Purple
Sunday – Red
There is a specific yellow polo shirt that a lot of Thai people wear on Mondays with a royal emblem on it, because the king’s birthday is on a Monday, so every Monday they all wear this shirt to show their love for the king. There’s an equivalent shirt in pink for Tuesdays because the most popular princess was born on a Tuesday, but it’s not as common as the yellow ones.
Other things I’ve learned:
Everyone assumes you’re rich if you’re white, but any price can be bartered and brought down, including camera chargers in a camera store inside the BIGGEST mall ever (called MBK….massive). My brand new camera charger chose to break immediately after entering this country, but as I said, the woman selling me my new one and I had a little discussion and we completed a nice little transaction.
Just as Americans/Brits try to be more tan by buying sunless tanning lotions, the Thais buy skin whitening lotions. Vaseline have large billboard advertisements all over the place promising whiter skin in 14 days.
Porn means beauty in Thai, so a lot of beauty parlours have the word ‘porn’ in them, and a lot of women have it added to the end of their name as well. This fact causes many smile and giggles from naive foreigners.
Some Thai phrases that don’t work when translated directly into English:
“I speak English snake snake fish fish.” (means I speak very little English)
“You are sweet mouth” (smooth talker)
“Banana story” (very easy)
“You old man snake head” (dirty old man!)
You have heart water (you’re very kind)
That’s it for now! I’ll post again whenever I can to tell you about the elephants!!! I’m so excited!!!! Can you tell?
Sawatdee ka!

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