Thailand

20th May 2015

I woke up at 8.30am with the alarm on my casio f91w watch. I lay in bed a couple of minutes till my dad appeared at the door with a wake up cup of tea! Shortly after Hercules the cat meowed at the door and came up on to the bed for a cuddle. I went downstairs and cooked a fry up but had to use bacon from the freezer as the bacon from the butcher had gone mouldy! My mum had been out bottle feeding the lambs and came in for some tea too. I had a refreshing bath and got dressed into my travel clothes (green long sleeved shirt, baige shorts, the legs of which I accidently melted with an iron the previous day, and my sketcher shoes. I quickly checked my backpack and packing list and headed down stairs to go with my parents down to Horton station to catch the 10.24 train to leeds. We made it to the station(2 miles) away in good time and took a couple of photos on the platform.

I hugged my parents goodbye and got on the train which was pretty quiet and got myself a seat on a table. I admired the scenery which was the last time I’d be seeing it in a while. The weather was sunny with the occasional cloud and the view green and pleasant. After a while I listened to my mp3 player till I got to leeds.

All along I wad texting Rosy updates of my journey as I was excited to see her and she was nervous been in London by herself. When I got to Leeds station I went to Wetherspoons and had a coffee costing £1.15 with free refills! I called the motorcycle insurance company and got my dad put on the policy. I then went to get on the 12.15 train to London kings cross. I had prebooked the journey from horton to London a couple of months before for only £15.70! I found my reserved window seat and started to eat the packed lunch my mother had made. The train got held up at Doncaster for 45 mins and so we got given forms to fill out to part reclaim our fares. Apart from that the train went very fast.

I got to kings cross and quickly dashed through the sweaty underground to meet rosy at waterloo. I gave her a ring when she was in the main station and met her very excitedly and gave her hug. We then got her a travelcard and went to oxford circus to buy some new karrimor travel trousers exactly like the last ones with zip off legs. I got them from sports direct and changed into them and walked out the shop, taking the now surplus previous pair with me too. We then went for a couple of pints at the george pub on great portland st. After that we went back to oxford circus but couldn’t get into the tube station as it was overflowing on all four corners of the junction. So we decided to walk down to bond street and get the tube from there to harrow on the hill to meet Ed.

Ed met us at the station in his nissan juke and drove us up to his and vickys flat. Vicky was just returning from work as we parked up. They fed us a hearty meal of spaghetti bolognaise, some that we wouldn’t be eating for 4 months, gave us rum, gin and tonic and some cuban cigars! We talked about travels, old times, mutual friends and went to bed reasonably early at 11am.

21st May 2015

The sofa bed was very comfy but I didn’t sleep too well as I was too excited about the next day. We woke up at 5.50am and had a quick cup of tea. Ed drove us to south harrow tube stop and we got the piccadilly line all the way to Heathrow terminal 4, changing at acton town. On the tube we swapped a couple of bits like liquids into my rucksack which was to be the hold bag, and rosys the cabin bag. I had my green dry bag which I used as my carry on for my documents, tablet, guidebook etc. When we got to check in there wasn’t much of a queue and we got our boarding passes for both flights and I checked in my bag which only weighed 3.9kg! We then went straight through security and got a rather expensive fryup on the other side. We then went to the gate and I called my dad to let him know everything was ok.

We boarded the plane and found our seats, the whole place smelt of spices! We took off and were served a couple of drinks and lunch. The cabin crew were speedy and you had to be quick to get hold of them. We kept looking out the window but some cheeky lad signalled to rosy to close the blind but we looked anyway as some of the mountain scenery in north iran was breathtaking and there was plenty of snow on the peaks. 9 hours past and we finally landed in Mumbai airport where we had to go through security again. We had a quick curry in the departure lounge bought with some rupees Will had given us before leaving. We then found our gate (after going to the wrong one as instructed by security) and boarded the second flight to bangkok.

22nd may 2015

It wasn’t as good as the first one and we got hardly any sleep as they kept turning the lights on and off. We had planned to sleep the whole of the second flight to beat the jet lag. We landed in bangkok and filled in a landing card and went through immigration which was very easy, didn’t even need to get an actual visa. We got my bag from the carousel which i had half expected to get lost. We then headed out to get the bus to khao san road but they now no longer operate so we got a taxi which cost 350B plus 75B for the highway tolls (50B of which i think he kept for himself so we didn’t tip) and it took 1 hour.

We found our hotel easily at they let us check in early (8:30AM) and we found our room. It was ok with air con but the bathroom light didn’t appear to work.

We had a shower and headed out to gecko bar on soi rambutri. I dived straight in and got a stir fry with steamed rice and an iced coffee and rosy had a mango smoothie and a bowl of muesli we yoghurt and fruit. We then headed down to the far end of soi and found a shortcut through to khaosan road. We then walked 2/3 down khaosan and rosy bought some sunglasses and tried her bartering skills which were ok. We then walked through a small mall to thanon rambutri and where we got a coke and rosy bought a has. We followed the road back round to the end of khao san which turned out to be a street entirely of silver dealers and wedding dress shops. We then felt pretty rubbish so we went back to soi rambutri and got a pad thai and mango sticky rice. After going back inside to cool off we went to find the boat pier 13 and actually found it easily and jumped on a public orange flag boat for 15 baht each! I dont know why it was so hard last time but this time it was really easy! We went down the river and got off at pier 6 i think and it was the china town area. We thought we’d go for an explore but it was really hot and Rosy nearly got clipped by a 4×4 so we decided to head back to the hotel and chill out by the roof top pool. We saw loads of stuff from the river. The grand palace, temple of dawn, wat pho, shacks on stilts, long tails boats, people swimming for some reason! Monks and plenty of thai folk.

The rooftop pool was great with nice views of bangkok and sunloungers. We had a bit of swim then suncreamed up and lay on the loungers. We both kept falling asleep and there was a massive storm brewing up ahead although it never actually rained. So we decided we couldn’t stay awake any longer and went to bed. We on managed a 40 minute nap and awoke feeling like we’d had a full night sleep but also felt completely awful.

I decided the room was a bit crap and depressing so forced us out to go to a bar or just somewhere else with refreshments. We found a really nicely laid out bar called lana’s food on soi rambutri. It was wooden like a beach bar and had an upper deck with loungers and beds and seat hung from the ceiling like bird cages. We ordered some herbal tea called Vata tea which said it balanced body and mind, perfect for jet lag! We then had some food. Tom ka gai and another similar named soup.

We stayed at the bar for a while then got a second wind and headed down to th rambutri and looked about and got a beer from a rasta street stall which had booming reggae and lots of joke adverts about selling weed. We finally went to be properly at about 11.45pm which we were amazed by.

23rd May 2015

This is written several days later (28th may) as haven’t had much time to blog so details are a little sketchy!

We got up and had breakfast at Gecko bar and then went to chill be the pool for a bit. We decided that we would then have lunch and go to wat pho. So we got the river taxi down to pier 8 and got off and walked to the wat only about 50m away. Rosy was clad in her dress and shirt to be respectful and we got tickets 100b each which included a free water. We looked at the reclining buddha first which was very impressive. Also the walls were covered in a huge mural depicting a number of scenes. It was very busy with lots of people taking photos but not actually looking at what they came to see.

We took a look around the other buildings in the wat. Most were shrines with a different style golden buddha in each. There were many decorated graves ? Stuppas in the wat and a few fountains with large coy carp in, which I tried photographing with my waterproof camera. We had a bite to eat from the stalls near the peer before we got the taxi boat back to peer 13. We went back to the hotel and rosy had a shower. I went out to talk to travel agents about booking trains down to prachuap and transport options from there to ko tao. After a few discussions i decided the best way was to do it ourselves and just buy tickets from the station etc when we needed them. We got back to the hotel and had a shower and then went out for a street food dinner. Rosy accidently left her card in a cash machine but was managed to cancel it online. From various stalls we had satay chicken, spring rolls, locusts, fruit shakes, barbecue squid, finishing with a chang and a cocktail at the rasta street bar.

24th May 2015

We had a quiet day by the pool again in the morning. We looked into going to a floating market at pier 13 but it seemed rather expensive 2000B and only 30 minutes at the market. So after a pad thai we went back to the pool for a “lazy day”. The only problem is I get restless and can’t just sit about so I decided to go for a walk and meet rosy later.

I bought a thai sim card for my phone as my english one wasn’t working, for 300B including 100B credit. I walked down khao san rd to the main street to the democracy monument. There I got a coke which turned out to be fake. I met a couple who were russian and french looking at a map. I said I was going to the golden mountain and they decided to join. On the way there we went by a wat but were told by a tuk tuk driver it was closed, walked in anyway and it open surprise surprise!  The other two spotted a market they wanted to have a look at so I decided to leave them to it. I headed round the corner to the golden mountain. This is a wat with a golden pillar on top built on the ruins of a previous pagoda that collapsed. It looked pretty good for an artificial rock with plenty of vegetation. On the way up there was lots of bells that you could ring including a giant gong which was very loud. I headed up into the wat in the heat, it was pretty busy with tourists but quite pleasant. There was a central golden shrine with lots of people praying. Up on the roof there was the golden pillar with a ceremony going on where there were wrapping a purple ribbon around it. I didn’t really understand what was going on so I just stayed near the sides and looked at the views of bangkok which were 360 panoramic, incredible.

I left the golden mountain and followed the streets through a nice park to the grand palace. One of the streets was obviously buy a buddha street as every shop was filled with giant golden buddhas like those we saw in the temples. I saw a couple of monks bartering over the price of a buddha which completely devalued the whole temple experience. I walked back from the grand palace to the hotel and packed our bags for the next day. We had a final dinner at lanas and went to bed.

25th May 2015

We got up early feeling pretty tired and went and had breakfast at gecko bar. We checked out the room and got a taxi meter for 50B to the golden mountain so rosy could see the views. We then got a tucktuck to the train station for 100B which took is straight there and didn’t take long. We got out train tickets to prachuap kiri khan for the 1pm train 2nd class aircon 575B each. We had a sandwich and an ice coffee and then got on the train. For the first couple of hours the train moved very slowly and stopped at plenty of stations and looked at the map and thought we might not get there till 6pm the next day! But after a bit the train picked up speed and got to prachuap at about 8pm. It rained heavily for a while which disturbed at the stale urine on the track so it stunk.  We were welcomed by an ambulance which picked someone up from the very over crowded 3rd class and carted them off.

We went to the night market for dinner and had some fish noodle soup amd skewers which were very nice. We looked at a couple of hotels but eventually decided to get a motorbike taxi to Natural Home bungalows on the north side of town, 400B with air con, and went straight to bed.

26th May 2015

We rented a moped 200B a day and went off to find a beach we headed north to the fishing village and then south to the town. We came across an air force base which had a sign saying beach but weren’t sure if we could go through. We went back to the room to cool off as it was very hot *and rosy had a preseizure to we napped for a bit. I then thought that we better do something so we went through the airforce base to the beach. I had to sign in at reception but that was it. The beach very nice with plenty of food halls and sun loungers. We had a swim and relaxed for the afternoon. On the way back to the room we stopped by the fountains at the north end of town to watch the monkeys playing in the water and trees. We fed them some corn on the cob an old woman on a bike sold us they were pretty cheeky but quite tame, but we gelled and washed our hands a lot afterwards. We went home and changed then went out for a posh seafood dinner. We had raw prawns which we thought was a mistake but turned out to be really nice, along with grilled mussels, tempura prawns and squid. We got a drink at a bar afterwards which turned out to be full of sex tourists and had a chat with a very drunk german man and his thai girlfriend.

27th may 2015

We went to the north end of town again after breakfast and went up a small mountain where the monkeys were to the wat on top. The wat was being painted and the monkeys were all down at the bottom. From the top there were great views of Prachuap and the 3 bays. We went to the beach again at the base in the afternoon but also went and had a look at a different group of monkeys called spectacled langurs. They were much calmer and we fed them some nuts from a nearby stall. We went to a stall type fish restaurant for dinner. There was also a wedding happening on the pier. We went home and packed to go to ko tao the next day.

28th may 2015

We got a minivan to chumpon 180B 3hrs. It dropped us at a travel agent who charged us 500B for the taxi to the pier 28km away and 600B each for the high speed lomprayah catamaran tickets which is what we expected.
It was a nice boat ride. When we got off the boat we were hounded by taxi touts so went and sat in a restaurant to make up our minds ahout who to dive with. We went to crystal dive just in the other side of the pier and got a 3.5 day package including open water padi certification and free accomdation for 9800B each wjich we believe to be the cheapest in the world!

The next day we had an afternoon of videos in a classroom and quizs. The second day was a long day in the swimming pool 7.30am till 6.30pm. The third day we had an exam im the morning which we all passed and two open water dives in the afternoon at mango bay and japanese gardens. The fourth day we had two open water dives in the morning and got our certificates in the afternoon. The whole diving experience was really good with two very good instructors dirk and jason, german and american. We saw loads of fish like angel fish, parrot fish, clown fish, all very colourful. We passed thr mcq exam, I got 98% and rosy 88%.

We then got the 3pm ferry to ko phangan 500B and rented a moped 200B a day from harp bar by the pier. We set off Thong nai pan yai bay on the northeast of the island. We picked some very nice accomdation 1300B a night with aircon and two double beds so Emma would have somewhere nice to get over her jetlag when ahe aerived the next day. The resort was called Nice Beach Resort, and it was! The restaurant was on the beach with bright colorful lanterns under a tree. It was a little more expensive than we had got used to, 100-200B a dish, but the food was very good. We then had a cocktail down the beach at a nice bar with fire lanterns and matt seats to lie on. There was a busy beach restaurant called Dreamland resort which had a load of Chinese tourists in and a karaoke band.

2nd June 2015

I went for a morning run on the beach in my bare feet which was good exercise but later gave me bad blisters on my big toes. We had breakfast and relaxed on the beach awaiting emma to call us once she got to ko samui airport to give us a rough idea of her plans to meet us. She called around 12ish saying she has got a bus boat ticket from the airport to had rin which would get her there around 1.30pm. Rosy and I had lunch and I set off on the moped to pick emma up. The road was twisty and steep through the jungle but the moped was 125cc so it managed ok. I’d forgotten how steep the coast road to had rin was, bloody steep! I parked up in had rin and eventually, after a couple of calls, found Emma with an impressively small back pack. We rode back to thon nai pan, on the way we saw some people riding elephants. We chilled out with Emma for the afternoon, who had basically travelled directly from Heathrow to ko phangan bar one night in bangkok. We had dinner and got the taxi to the full moon party at 8pm 200B each which was a pleasant surprise compared with the taxi prices last time in 2009.

The taxi was full of 18 years olds and we felt pretty old, but when we got to had rin there were quite a few older folk too. Emma’s jetlag suddenly caught up with her. So we sat down for a little bit on some steps with a coke opposite 7/11. We went to the beach and picked Mellow mountain as our rendezvous point should we get separated. We went up to have a look at the view. I went to the bar to get a drink but didn’t because all they were selling was magic mushroom strawberry shakes! Emma suddenly felt better so we walked down the beach looking at the fluorescent paint stands. They were a couple of hundred baht for one design so we got our own paints from a shop and did our own. Rosy was very good at painting. On my back she did a cat with a pint of bitter and a pipe surrounded by sheep with I love yorkshire written below. My face had war paint and a big blue hand print on my chest. We went down to paradise bungalows at the south end of the beach and raved. The beach was rammed with people in fluorescent clothing and everyone was really friendly. We watched lots of people badly burn themselves on the giant flaming skipping rope so I thought best to give it a miss. We went to 7 11 to get more drinks then went to a rasta bar on the beach. We met a couple who were really high on pills, she was very hyper and he was very mellow which was really funny to watch. We met another english guy called Dean who was pretty cool and surprisingly coherent considering he was on his 3rd bucket! I made the most of the 100B singhas and we went home on the 4am taxi, which actually ended up leaving at about 4.45am.

3rd -5th June 2015

We stayed in the Nice Beach Resort for a few days just relaxing and enjoying the beach. We lookeds into going on a longtail boat tour to Thaan Sadet waterfall, bottle beach and a snorkelling spot but each day either Rosy was feeling unwell or the weather was too stormy. So on the last day me and Emma went to Thaan Sadet waterfall on the moped. The falls were just a river really with some namesa of kings carved into the rock, not very exciting really. We met a man from south africa in the waterfall who after a while just wanted some suncream and a joint. So we gave him a bit of suncream and pointed him in a nearby sign saying “Hide and High” which was probably just a wild life viewing hide. We then walked upto a viewpoint in a what seemed to be a derelict restaurant, but eventually a woman appearred so we bought some soft drinks. The viewpoint overlooked Thaan Sadet beach which we then walked down to an had a swim in the sea. The beach was very quiet with a few bungalows but nothing else. We then tried to ride down a dirt track on the moped to bottle beach but the track got worse and worse so we decided to abort and turn back. We went back to the bungalow and planned our journey to Krabi the next day.

6th June 2015

We got up and had a final breakfast at nice beach resort. Emma managed to get a taxi to the pier for 200B while Rosy and I rode the moped. I took the moped back to The Harp pub by the pier and got my passport back with no problems. We got our bus-boat tickets from the lomprayah tickets office for 850B each to krabi. The ferry was quick and the bus to krabi was very comfortable double decker bus with aircon which went directly to krabi. As we got nearer krabi we could see the limestone karst scenery emerge from the landscape, much like that of halong bay in vietnam. When we got to krabi town they dropped us all off at a random street where they expected us to get a taxi to our hotels. After much confusion we discovered that we were only about 1km from where we wantes to be so decided to walk it. It took about 20 minutes and we chatted to some folk from hawaii who had also decided to walk. We got to the area we wanted to be and found a cafe with wifi called Ronan to find out his plans. It turned out he had been quite unwell and just wanted to rest for a couple days. Puma and phill had arrived but had gone straight to ko phi phi the day before. So we went up to see ronan and cecilia that evening for dinner and a catch up at khlong muang beach, about 30km from krabi 400B tuk tuk ride for the 3 of us. They were staying in a very posh beachside apartment with a nice restaurant next door. We caught up then went back to krabi town with the same driver and his wife who had driven us up, but this time as it was later it cost 500B. Before we went there we had found a triple room for 350b with a fan which served the purpose, called Good dreams 2.

7th June 2015

We got up early and had some toasties from 7/11 for breakfast and a minibus arranged by the guest house took us to the boat pier to get the boat to ko phi phi together costing 250B each. The ferry was slow and took 2 hours but had enough seats and also a viewing deck. As we approached ko phi phi don we could see the large vertical cliffs rising out of the water topped with jungle like trees and a couple of beaches that made the wter look postcard perfect turquoise blue. We landed at the main pier and paid the national park cleanup fee of 20B i think. We had arranged to meet phill and puma at the pier at 11AM but that time past and they weren’t there so we got some drinks next to the pier and waited for them. They arrived in not too much time having ran down from a viewpint. We went on the hunt for accomodation and after a couple of false starts found a room for rosy, emma and myself and booked 2 nights costing 1300B a night, a bit more than we wanted to pay but it was a good room and the other guesthouses we had looked at were revolting, and puma and phills was even more expesnsive.

We walked around the town and saw cats everywhere and not one single dog like in other parts of thailand. We figured this was becuase cats could climb trees so had survived the boxing day tsunami and bred successfully afterwards! The town was a bit scruffy and had a kind of malia vibe to it with everyone wearingvests and fake ray bans like it was spring break or something. We booked a snorkelling trip on a long tail boat costing 800B with an english speaking guide called alex who had met Jason and Dirk who had done our diving course on ko tao. That night we went out and got reasonably drunk on the north beach which had some noisy nightclub bars, two main ones called “fourplay” and slinky. There was a few fire shows and i had a go at some fire poi.

8th June 2015

The next day we got up bright and early and went on our snorkelling trip. While we were sleeping there had been a massive thunderstorm so the sea was pretty rough. We were taaken first to the east side of ko phi phi leh which was reasonably calm and there were loads of fish, more than when we were diving. Rosy and i tried out our water proof cameras and got lots of photos. We also saw a sea snake, which we though would freak emma out but she was surprisingly ok. We then went to a sight next to one of the cliffs called the wall which dropped right down deep into the ocean. We followed the wall along and saw a puffer fish and some box fish as well as many others. We then went round to maya beach  where the film “The Beach” was filmed. The sea was a bit rough on the way there and PUma turned a more funny colour than usual and ptetty much as soon as we got into the bay and were surrounded by other tourist boasts, threw up over the side a huge amount, which attracted alot of fish. The guide was pretty freaked out but after a bit Puma felt a bit better. Unfortunately i forgot to photograph Puma throwing up in what alot of people would describe as paradise but maybe next time! After that little incident we went around to the west side of the island to look for sharks and turtles. The visibilty on that side wasnt too good and we didn’t see many fish. I briefly saw a black tip reef shark about 4ft long but it swam off quickly into the shadows by the cliff. No one else saw one however so i was very lucky. The sea was rough again when we came to climb out onto the boat and i got on last to find both Phill and Puma throwing up over the boat this time. We headed back to Ko phi phi don and dropped off our gear at the dive shop , said thank you and apologised for the vomit, and went back to the hotel for knap.

Later on we had dinner and a couple of drinks down the far end of the beach to watch the sunset but it was cloudy so didn’t see anything.

9th June 2015

We got up early and had breakfast and went to the pier to get the boat back to krabi town costing 350B. We said goodbye to puma at the pier on the krabi side as he was going to bangkok to meet his friend foxy and would catch up with us later. Phill , Emma and Rosy and I organised a cab to Klong Muang beach where Ronan and Cecilia were and agreed a price at the desk for 400B. But when we got in the cab the driver said it was 800B so after a bit of smiley discussion and a phonecall to the desk we decided to get out and he was sorry. But when we got our bags out of the boot he suddenly said he would do it for 500B as if he didn’t take our fair he wold got back to the bottom of the ladder again so would miss out. So we went with him in the end but he explained that his colleague had basically done him over by agreeing 400B as they would never normally do it for so little.

When we got to Klong Muang, Rosy had found a place online called pine bungalows which the driver took us too. It was a nice set of bungalows on a quiet beach. Rosy and i got ours with aircon costing 700B while  Phill and Emma got one to share next door with a fan for 500B. We booked two nights there and walked down the beach to meet Ronan and Cecilia who were at the same nice place as last time. We went for dinner at a street side place which was still comparitively quite expensive to other areas. After that we went to a bar called Lazy Bar which was owned by a very stoned rasta man called Mr Ra. We had a few cocktails there and he had to go out and buy more juice to make some of the cocktails. He had a crazy laugh and offered us some weed but we all politely refused. We had a couple of games of cards and then Mr Ra gave us a ride home in his very nice white vintage mercedes. He offered to take us to a waterfall the next day for only 3000B which we again politely refused!

10th June 2015

We had lunch, cooked by our host Bill, which was very good and included grilled squid and prawns. We then headed down the beach and met Ronan and Cecilia and also Ronan’s friend Martin who had just arrived. We made a happy birthday Ronan mural on the beach and got some Changs from the shop. We also got Ronan a bottle of some awful spirit, a plastic frog and beer cooler. We swam in the sea with our beers while the sun set. We got a taxi down to Ao Nang and got some pizzas and went to a bar. We didn’t stay there too long and got a taxi back. It was a pretty glizzy/sleazy place but at least had some kind of scene.

11th June 2015

We checked out of Pine bungalow and got a taxi to Krabi airport. It was a short flight up to Don Muang airport in Bangkok. There was a really annoying classically american idiot man with his family who kept making retarded comments all the way through the airport. Everyone was embarrassed. We headed out to try and get a train straight to Ayutthaya but the lady in the ticket office said there were no trains straight there so we would have to get a train to the main train station and then another to Ayutthaya. The next train to the centre didn’t leave for another hour so we decided to get a taxi instead. When we arrived at the main station we bumped into Puma and his friend Foxy who had arrived the day before. We booked a train to Ayutthaya for 30B each in third class, which was the only class available for that length of journey. The train was very hot and had wooden benches which had a thin cushion on them. Everyone in the carriage looked really confused as to why there were some whities on the train! After about an hour we pulled into Don Muang, train station! So it turns out you could get a train to Ayutthaya from there. In hindsight I think I was saying the name of the town incorrectly when trying to buy the ticket so my bad! After another hour we arrived in Ayutthaya. While in the train station we thought it best to check the train availability to Chiang Mai, turns out they were all fully booked for the next few days, so we decided to figure out other means of transport. We did the usual tuk tuk driver dance and eventually got a one up to a street with a few hotels on it. We had trouble finding room for all of us so we stayed in separate hotels on either side of the street. That evening we headed out to a large night market with lots of really nice street food.

On the way back we found a bar with a band playing some alright covers. They tried to get us up and sing, but we weren’t really in the mood. We then went on to a bar next door to the hotel where Thailand’s Best Guitarist 2012 was playing in a band which did Guns n Roses, Metallica, Tenacious D covers. They were awesome so we sat and had a few Changs. We kept teasing Emma about there been snakes around and we thought she was just playing along but it turns out she had been genuinely freaking out about them for a few days after seeing a dead one on the road in Klong Muang! In the end she burst into tears and ran off, Rosy went after her and came back after a little while saying she had left Emma to calm down so we decided enough was enough and stopped the snake nonsense. The bar we were in closed so we moved a couple of doors up and were joined by a couple from Finland.

12th June 2015

We rented bicycles from the hotel that Puma, Foxy, Phill and Emma stayed in and set out around the town to look for temples. There was a whole flat area layed out like a park complex with various temple ruins. It turns out we were on an island surrounded by a river and the temple complex made up the original capital of Thailand. While going down one road we came across people riding elephants which had nice red boxes on them for sitting in. We followed where they were coming from and found an elephant camp with over a dozen elephants. At first the elephants seemed happy enough and got our pictures taken with a baby one which had been well trained to pose for photos. We went for a short and expensive ride around the temples which was a fun experience and we all had a good laugh (400B each). It said in the guide book that the elephant here had been rescued and saved from maltreatment and slavery. They looked well enough but were still chained up and swaying their heads from side to side like a resident of a mental asylum. I’m still unsure what I think about elephant tourism but I think if these elephants weren’t “earning their keep” as it were here then they would probably be dead or in some far worse place. We fed the elephants some cucumbers then headed off south through the park on our bikes down to the river bank and found a place to eat. We had a reasonable lunch and then headed back through more of the park. Unfortunately I got a puncture on my bike so I pushed it back towards the elephant camp to try and flag down a taxi, however some friendly policeman went and got a tuk tuk for me, and I put the bike in the back and went back to the hotel. The others arrived shortly after.

We had booked earlier a two hour boat tour around the island 200B each. We visited three temples. The first was very modern and was still a functioning temple. It contained an absolutely huge Buddha! Outside there were people on the piers feeding hundreds of huge catfish! The second was older and seemed less frequently used and in the central monument there was a shrine filled with bats around the walls. The third was really old and partially ruined and was by far the best. There were signs everywhere saying do not climb on the walls etc, but there was a guy from another boat there who was the ultimate travel wanker and climbed over everything, wearing a headband and weird patchwork clothing. Massive dickhead.

Anyway the river was covered in riverweeds which turned out to be something called Swamp Cabbage which we had been eating alot of and was very nice, kind of like swiss chard. We also saw a minotaur lizard run up one of the bankings. The boat dropped us at a night market so we ate there. We then got a “VIP” night bus for 800B overnight to Chiang Mai, which wasn’t too bad but didn’t get the best sleep.

13th June 2015

We arrived in Chiang Mai at 6AM feeling pretty rough from the night’s bus journey. One of the pickup truck taxis took us to a hotel which we picked randomly from tripadvisor. Unfortunately we had to wait a while for them to open and when they did they were really expensive so we headed south down the river and found a place called Riverside which was 1000B a night for a good double room so Rosy and I stayed in that room and the others in slightly cheap rooms. The hotel had a pool and a nice breakfast area. As always there was building going on and a good old bit of welding!

We all had a good rest and after a bit Foxy, Puma, Phill and I went for a walk over the river and hired some bicycles, and rode around looking at a couple of temples which were recommended in the guide book. The first was a nice old slightly ruined one, where we had a good chat with a man from Bangkok, who at first seemed like a salesman or scam artist but in the end was just been really friendly and didn’t want anything from us. He said the best thing about Chiang Mai was the shopping. The second temple just seemed like an ordinary Thai buddhist temple. The only thing of note was a woman selling caged sparrows outside, offering to release its soul if you paid her! Which I thought was rather dark and twisted and did not partake.

We located the rasta bar area which me and Ben had a good time in in 2009 and marked it on the map for later and then headed back to the hotel. We were told by our hotelier that there was a good number of markets on that weekend, so we headed out to one of the many night markets where Rosy bought some trousers for the Ben and Becky’s triplets back home and Phill finally got a wifebeater! We headed on further and eventually got to the south side of the square where all the food stalls were. It was absolutely heaving and we sat down on the first table we could, which turned out to have various grilled beef and pork chops which came with chips! for about 100B a plate! Which was nice as we were craving some home food.

After that we got another pickup to a thai boxing place which we had got tickets for earlier at the bicycle rental place. There were two venues to choose from, the one we picked was slightly more expensive but was said to be more traditional that the other and not full of ladyboy prostitutes! We could have paid more for ringside, but it turned out our seats were only a couple of rows back and we were all seated together, just out of the blood and sweat spray radius! Throughout the fights we had a waiter for drinks and there were people taking bets, along with traditional music.There were 6 fights in all. The first 3 were kids and teenagers, which seemed tame at first till someone got their knee dislocated and one was nearly a knock out. The 4th fight was called a “special fight” which turned out to be 4 guys in a ring with blindfolds on beating the crap out of each other which was hilarious! The 5th fight was two full grown men and the 6th was the international womens final, Thailand vs China, and Thailand won. It seemed like a traditional fight but nearly all the audience were backpackers so I’m wondering if it was actually an international final. Afterwards we got a taxi up to the rasta bar area where we had a good dance to some reggae bands and finished up with a rock bar. Somehow puma ended up stage doing some kind of two part metal rap with the band! We had a beer at one bar on the way home and ended up very drunk! On the pickup truck ride home Rosy kept on saying “Peter” in the style of Lois from family guy and we were all in hysterics.

14th June 2015

The next day I was VERY hungover and didn’t get up till midday. Eventually we decided to get a taxi up to a waterfall area which was 50B each return. Rosy decided to have a day off and chill at the hotel pool. The rest of us went with our driver, called “Mr Happy” who was ALWAYS HAPPY! We got the forest area about 50 minute drive from Chiang Mai and went swimming in one of the pools by the waterfalls. We went up the forest track and in the end decided it was getting a bit late at the park closed at 5:30pm, so turned around and went back to find Mr Happy and his dog asleep in the pickup truck. All the way back to Chiang Mai the dog had his head out the window barking at every other dog we passed, which was a lot of dogs! All the dogs tried chasing the truck which was funny until we pulled over at a petrol station to fill up and some horrible looking dogs caught up with us. Lucky they didn’t jump in the back of the pickup!

That evening we went to the Sunday night market and found a good food area with lots of different Thai foods. Once again it was heaving! For some reason one stall refused to sell me a lychee smoothie, because it was SPECIAL?!?! On the way out of the food market onto the main drag we passed a stall with a man blowing glass, and an american girl said “oh my god! Ice sculpting!”. Rosy bought some jewellery and we headed out of the old town onto a main road. We spotted a roof top rasta bar and headed up. It was one of those weird places which made you take your shoes off and sit on mats, when you wish you could keep your shoes on! We had a few games of cards and then got a pickup back to the hotel.

15th June 2015

We decided to head up to the temple on the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai. Once again Mr Happy was already waiting for us outside the hotel with his pickup. He took us up the mountain which took about an hour with a couple of viewpoints on the way. The temple was a bit of a circus. Around the carpark was a whole strip mall of souvenir stalls including a line of ATMs. On the several hundred steps up to the temple there were stalls lining the street selling food and more souvenirs. I decided to run up all the steps to the top which I only just managed! The temple was very busy with lots of chinese tourists, including visiting monks, and EVERYONE was taking selfies and posing like they were in a modelling shoot, including the visiting monks! There were all the usual golden buddhas and great displays of wealth which appeared to be the cornerstone of Thai buddhism (WTF?!). On our way back down the steps we had a look around a couple of stores for souvenirs. Puma and Phill decided they might get a prayer bowl which resonates when a wooden stick is moved round it, similar to a singing wine glass. After much batering they finally bought a couple. Meanwhile Rosy, Emma, Foxy and I were eating some “meat of a stick” and corn on the cob. Mr Happy was waiting for us again in his pickup truck taxi and we went down the mountain at what seemed quit a speed around the hairpins.  

On the way back through town we stopped off at a Cat Cafe called Catmosphere which Foxy found on his tripadvisor app. A cat cafe is basically a cafe full of cats and cat toys! We sat down on cushions on the floor and played with the cats. There were a few up in boxes bolted on the wall. There were a few different breeds, some timid and some ferocious! We had some coffee and a burger which was really nice. The place was really good apart from the fact there played non-stop James Blunt. There was a couple there who were obviously really really high! That evening we ate a restaurant who had given us some useful information on the markets on both the previous nights. There was a group of the drunkest Chinese men we had seen in there making loads of noise! Luckily we had gotten a table just outside. After dinner we went for a couple of drinks at what turned out to be a hors corner. The bar that drew us in was called the Bluegrass bar. But once we had got settled we noticed that it was Black Eyed Peas on the stereo and there were alot of “girls” hanging around. After a drink and a couple of games of connect four, we ventured into to what turned out to be the alternative venue for the Thai boxing which the travel agent had warned us was full of hookers. We had a very brief walk in and out, saw some ladyboys and old western men and vowed never to go near the place again! Rosy and I then went back to the hotel and the others stayed out for one more. We had booked a minivan to Pai the next day which we knew would be painful if we hungover. Turns out it would be painful whatever we did!

16th June 2015

The next day we got up reasonably early to get our minibus to Pai. We ended up waiting around for a good while but in the end a pickup showed up to take us to the minibus depot. We met a guy called Sam Walker who happened to be staying in our hotel in Chiang Mai and he was getting the same minibus up to Pai. We all had a good chat at a rest stop on the way. The road up to Pai had over 700 hairpin corners so it was a bit of a hairy drive as the driver was a bit mental! When we got there we had a look around a couple of accommodations and decided to go for some nice bungalow huts at Pai River Villa (600B per night) by the river away from the noise. The main strip was just around the corner and had lots of cafes and street food stalls. We had a meal a highly rated restaurant on the corner which turned out to be the slowest ever as all the staff were stoned!

That night we had a pretty heavy night out! It was all going well with just a few Changs till we got on the vodka and coke buckets at one of the bars till late on. The police then came down the road shutting all the bars and herded us down the road to over the river to a bar called “Don’t cry” which me and Ben went to in 2009. Not much had changed, there were a load of hippies trying to get a fire going which I helped with by wafting it with a bit of cardboard. This caused such comments from the stoners such as “Wow that’s amazing, how did you do that?” to “Did you train with Bear Grylls or something?”. We all had a good time on a picnic table and ended up getting very drunk indeed! I can’t really remember leaving but a dog called Foxy showed us the way home, I fell over on the porch of the bungalow, much to the dog’s amusement. Later that night I got up and started hallucinating when I came out of the bathroom. I thought there was a spiral staircase in the floor going down to a pond! Rosy said I was just sleep talking but I remember her in the bed saying come back to bed, so I think my drink must’ve been spiked or something.

17th June 2015

The next day I felt incredibly rough! I spent a lot of the day in bed recovering. The others rented some mopeds and went off for an explore. I went out to the main street for some late lunch but then went back to bed. Later I went out with everyone for dinner but felt really really weird so went back to bed again!

18th June 2015

I felt ok the next day so went with Phill to rent a moped each so we could join the others. We all had very dodgey tummies! We decided to go up to a waterfall for some swimming which was good fun and there were lots of Thai people there. On the way back we went for a ride around a loop back to Pai which went past some elephant camps. We thought it would be cool but it was actually quite sad seeing the elephants tied up in pens. We went back to Pai and went for a meal at a health food place which was really nice. There were lots of kids playing around which were very entertaining and kept playing games with Sam, Emma and Rosy.

19th June 2015

We had arranged to get up and out at a reasonable time so we could ride to some of the way to Mae Hong Song and back but by the time we actually got on the road it was the afternoon. There were some pretty big rain clouds in the sky but managed to stay dry all the way to Nam Lod caverns where Ben and I went in 2009. We didn’t time for a tour though and I wanted to leave so we weren’t driving back in the dark. It was a good road to ride on though over a high mountain pass. When we set off down the otherside of the pass back to Pai the heavens opened and we got absolutely soaked and I myself even got a bit cold. We tried going to a couple of open mic nights in the evening but they were pretty wack and not really “open”. I didn’t have a late one, one big night out in Pai was enough for me!

20th June 2015

We got up early and headed to the minibus depot in Pai. We were split up onto seperate buses as Rosy, Emma and I were going to Chang Mai bus station while Sam, Puma, Phill and Foxy were going to airport to fly back down to Bangkok. We all said our goodbyes… but on the way down both buses stopped at the rest stop and then again at the bus station so we got to say goodbye several times! When we got to the bus station Rosy and I got tickets for the next bus to Chiang Rai which were only a couple of hundred baht I think with a company called green bus. The journey to Chiang Mai was pretty unremarkable after being in the hills around Pai. When we got there we picked a street out of the lonely planet and went there and found a hotel. It seemed very American and turned out to be next to a strip of “girly” bars. It did however have a nice view over a Wat. We went out for some food and had a walk up to a main street with a busy market on. There was a very garishly illuminated clock in the middle of the street which did a light show. We got stocked up on insect repellant for Laos as we were going to be near the Mekong and in malaria country. We went back to the strip and went to a reggae bar for some drinks. One sex tourist (ST) tried to upstage another ST by buying the other one’s “girlfriend” a flower when he wouldn’t buy one. I was hoping for an ST fight, but I think they were too old…. There was meant to be a band setting up to play but it didn’t seem to happen. We had a chat in the beer garden with some french people who were teaching there and said it was a nice place to live. As there weren’t too many tourists.

21st June 2015

We had our free breakfast at the hotel and walked back to the bus station to get a bus to the border town Chiang Khong. We thought we would be able to jump on a nice air con green bus again but instead there were only local buses with fans going. We thought it would be horrible but for 60B each it was actually ok. The bus was pretty empty and we were sat on the shady side with all the windows open. It took a couple of hours to get to Chiang Khong where we got a tuk tuk for a few baht to the border. It all seemed so easy! We got to the Thai side where a man was stamping the passports for leaving. We hadn’t checked our arrival stamps to look at the date we had to leave so didn’t realise we were actually a day late so we had to pay a fine! We didn’t believe him and he said we had to go into the naughty people room where two stern immigration officers made us count the days on a calendar to show we were late. We realised we had made a mistake and paid the fine and the man managed to make a joke about Rosy’s name “Whitehead” and his grey haired colleague. So after that we then had to pay and cue for a bus to take us across the friendship bridge to Laos. We got off the bus and pretty much had to prise the immigration officers off their chairs, watching Thai boxing on the TV, to get them to stamp our visas. It took an unnecessarily long time and had to pay extra because it was a Sunday! We got our visas and went through to the concourse which was deserted apart from a couple of tuk tuk drivers. We arranged a price then he decided he wanted to sit down for an hour to wait for more people to arrive. After a while we managed to persuade him to get his mate to take us and the whole 10 minutes down the road to Huay Xai. Our first impressions of Laos were not good, everyone seemed particularly lazy!

We got to town and looked around a couple of guesthouses which were pretty damp and smelly. We settled on a place ran by an old lady called Mama. She spoke reasonable English and enjoyed telling us we looked dirty, which we probably did! So after a good clean up we went out and booked our Gibbon Experience tour at their office. We decided to stay in Huay Xai a day so we could recover from a fair bit of travelling and get used to Laotian culture. We went out to a couple of bars but there wasn’t much of a scene.

22nd June 2015

We didn’t do much the next day but relax and walk around a bit. It’s always good to have a day off! A young lad who was working for Mama was trying to set up his own kayaking business on the Mekong river, to try and raise money for a local schooling programme. We helped him set up and trip advisor page.

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