Saturday 30 November 2013

Relaxing on the beach today

Chose the obvious option today and went to the beach. If you have been following my blog since last year, you might remember the most exciting thing that I ever reported. That was the day that we were at this same beach with our friend Dave.
When the tide is high, the only way to get to this beach is to wade out to it along a fairly narrow sand bar. As Dave was crossing a lady got into deep water by mistake and Dave saved her from drowning.
No such action today - the water was nearly waist deep on the way out and ankle deep on the way back.
There were hundreds of beautiful shells on the sand and I wrote Darren's name in curly ones so he knew which sunbathing space was his.
His claim to fame today was that he snorkelled from one beach, swam all the way around the island and reappeared on the opposite beach.

Glorious mud and elephants

Why spend time on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world when instead you can march down the middle of a muddy motorway?
Today we decided to go for a 10 mile walk to see the surrounding area. We set off along the beach ending up at a lovely harbour and then headed inland.
We got to the main road and was surprised to find it was being repaired and was basically a gigantic mud bath.
We met lots of friendly people who waved and shouted over to ask what we were doing. They were incredulous that we were out walking on purpose. A lady on a pink motorbike offered to give me a lift and she thought I was mad when I declined.
Eventually, we left the main road and got back on a tarmacced side street, just in time to see elephants crossing.
We also had some great treats from the local market stalls - banana and evaporated milk shakes and unidentified fried purple vegetables.
All in all a very interesting outing.

Friday 29 November 2013

Dramatic beach weather

Went to Ao Nang beach this morning for a bit of sun and sea.
We had just slathered on the sun tan lotion when the sky began to get dark. Darren decided to go for a dip, but I thought it better to check if I could get myself and all my belongings under my umbrella.
I sat and watched as the rain hammered down on the nearby beaches and Islands. Most of the other people upped and left the beach, which seemed a good idea. However, it didn't rain on us, and it was all very dramatic and entertaining.
It has chucked it down all afternoon though.

Thursday 28 November 2013

Ao Thalane mangrove forest

We set out on our kayak this morning straight into the pouring rain. We were soon soaked as we zig zagged across the estuary in our kayak. Apparently, my right arm paddles stronger than my left, so no matter how hard I try to go forwards we always veer off course.
The rain soon stopped and we followed our guide into the mangroves. The tide was low so the forest looked more dark and scary than usual, and it was difficult trying to avoid the sandbanks that were just below the water's surface.
Back out in the estuary we landed on a sandbank and our guide was really pleased to find four different starfish. He said five and six arms are common, but four and seven are quite rare. Thanks to Daz for modelling all four of them up his arm for educational purposes.
We paddled 6.5 k in total and it was very tiring by the end, but my shoulders are feeling pretty pumped now.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Evening out in Ao Nang

This is the early evening view from our terrace in Ao Nang. When we checked in we asked if we could have the top floor as we stayed there two years ago and loved it.
The receptionist was most put out that we wanted this room as she said she had a large room for us lower down. She said that the top floor room was small and thought we were after a discount, but we really wanted it and I thought she wanted us to pay extra for it.
Problem resolved eventually and we are very happy up here.
Haven't managed to do a lot today but we have just had a good night out on the town. Looking forward to tomorrow as we have a bit of kayaking to be getting on with.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Sunset boat trip

We are so lucky that this is our third trip to the unbelievablely beautiful Ao Nang, and as per the previous visits, we arranged to go on a day trip to the local Islands.
We decided to upgrade to the more expensive afternoon and sunset trip. However, as always, the boat was dangerously overcrowded and there were not enough staff.
The water was calm and the islands are not too far away, so I always think that if something bad happens we can always swim to a shore.
Sunset was good and we have been trying to learn a bit of yoga off the Internet, so here I am trying out a pose on the sand.
The undisputed highlight of the day happened after dark and unfortunately I could not get a picture.
We went to a spot to see bioluminescent plankton. The danger level was high as the boat had no lights apart from the driver's head torch and he just told us to jump into the black water and swim with our snorkels on. I was apprehensive but Daz just went for it so I did too.
It was completely amazing - it looked as if our arms and legs were sparklers as brilliant flashes of light exploded around us.
Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic!

Monday 25 November 2013

After the rain......

..... the sun.
We didn't arrive in Khao Lak until after 10pm last night so it was pitch black. 
Pulled back the curtains this morning to a beautiful blue sky, so we walked down to the beach before breakfast. It was looking lovely, but we had no time to dawdle as we had to up and on the road.
We had not had chance to arrange transport the 125k to Ao Nang, so we needed to stand by the main roadside and randomly put our arm out for any bus heading the right way.
We were lucky and a very slow and old fashioned local bus stopped then took us 40k to a big junction. All of the buses go straight on to Phuket, but we needed to turn left for Krabi.
There is a handy bus station and we just had time for a quick toilet stop and we were on our way again. This next bus was faster and more modern and whooshed along. We just then needed to hop in an open sided taxi van for the last few k's to our destination.
Much more speedy than yesterday and hopefully this lovely weather will help to dry out some of the flooded areas.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Very bad floods

Got up this morning and went to the bus station for our bus to Khao Lak. We had no idea of knowing what might have been happening while we slept, but it turns out that the whole town was also flooded, this time with stranded tourists.
The trains were unable to get in either direction from Chumphon station so had spent the night there and the tourists had spent 12 hours on them while they went nowhere. They were then tipped off with no explanation and they had to fend for themselves.
Also, ferries from the islands had arrived but the weather had been very rough so most of the travellers had been very ill on the crossing and were then left at a bus station all night.
We arrived to find many people trying to get in different directions.
We had to wait while the first bus to Khao Lak tried to make the journey across the country from one coast to the other to see if it was passable.
During the waiting time we decided to see what other options were possible so managed to miss the next bus.
We then had to wait for three hours for the following one, but there were then more people than seats.
In the tussle to get on a sort of fight broke out between two large French guys. One knocked the other over and then forced his way to the bus door. I was just next to him and didn't want him to get in front of me so he pushed me forward at speed and we shot on to bus ahead of most people.
Daz was putting the bags in the hold and I couldn't save him a seat so he had to stand for seven hours  - apart from the couple of hours that he shared a seat with two lovely eastern European girls!
The flooding was really bad but it was draining very quickly and it does happen to some degree every year so most houses and people are prepared for it. I was surprised how many locals waved to us on the bus and sat on top of benches just waiting for the water to subside.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Tropical rainstorm

Starting in the middle of last night, there has been the most torrential rainstorm I have ever seen.
It is soooo heavy and is rattling off the roofs at high speed and making a really loud drumming sound.
It stopped for a few minutes this morning so we went out briefly, but it started again and the road outside was ankle deep within a few minutes.
We had umbrellas but the rain splashing up off the road completely soaked us through.
The power went off for hours earlier but is back on now, although with no Internet. I would like to see the weather forecast for tomorrow as we are moving on again and it is difficult to believe that there won't be lots of flooding.
At least it's not cold though!

Friday 22 November 2013

Chumphon cocktails

Chumphon is not a tourist town and usually people stay for one night and use it as a stopover before going to the Thai Islands. It is therefore surprising that our hotel only does happy hour cocktails on a Friday.
Fortunately today is Friday so we thought we would check it out.
There were three staff behind the bar and no customers. They looked apprehensive when we ordered a cocktail each and scurried around looking for the instructions. The barman consulted them for ages, lined up some bottles and carefully poured them in to a shaker. He then opened a bottle of tonic water, got a teaspoon and poured in a couple of measures. Finally, he really got in to shaking the shaker for a long while, a la Tom Cruise.
Eventually when he stopped he realised that the lid wouldn't come off the shaker. He got a massive knife and tried forcing it for a while, then suddenly the lid shot off and the drink spilt all over the floor.
We tried not to laugh and he started all over again. This time he succeeded, but he hands were shaking  when he passed it to me.
He looked extremely stressed and did the whole process again for Darren's Long Island Iced Tea.
I have never seen a barman so relieved to have finished the drinks, but he did calm down and enjoyed having his photo taken.
After we left there were no other customers again, which I think is the normal situation.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Hua Hin to Chumphon

Chumphon is probably not one of the best known towns in Thailand. On trip advisor there are four things to do, two of which nobody has ever reviewed. In fact I think we have already seen most of it on our walk from the station to the hotel.
We caught the fast train from Hua Hin and it was delayed by one hour. We had been planning to catch the cheaper slow train but that was due to be two and a half hours late. There is a helpful board at the station which has the headings 'arrival time', 'delay' and 'real arrival time'. Useful as Thai trains are very unreliable.
We caught a similar train last year and when I sat down the seat back shot downwards and the man behind me was in the middle of eating a curry which landed in his lap. Mindful of this I carefully sat down but our seats were not really attached to the floor and were twisting all over. Daz entertained the old Thai ladies watching us get settled by pretending he was riding a galloping horse.
They all thought it highly amusing.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Pain free dental surgery and tongue studs

Just been out for dinner at the I-rice restaurant. It started very well with a nice chicken satay to share.
I then ordered prawn noodles and Daz had beef jungle curry.
I tried a mouthful and my lips and tongue
felt as if they were on fire. I sat making goldfish faces for a while, gasping for air.
The waitress came over to ask if we were enjoying our meal, then took mine away to be replaced with something that wasn't as hot as the sun.
Manfully, Daz finished all of his but by then his whole face was numb.
I suggested that I could have had some fillings done and got a tongue stud, while Darren said that I could punch him in the face. However, he has been very well behaved for ages so I didn't take him up on the offer.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Hua Hin

There is not loads to see in Hua Hin, but at least it is cheap, cheerful and relaxing.
We went for a paddle along the beach today to get a bit of exercise.
The sea is surprisingly rough at this time of year so any plans for snorkeling are on hold for a while.
Apparently it is the kitesurfing season, but having watched the action today, most of them seem to spend a lot of time splashing about trying to stand up, rather than skimming over the waves.

Monday 18 November 2013

Bangkok to Hua Hin

Left Bangkok on the slow train this morning to Hua Hin.
It was very pleasant, but took nearly five hours to get down the coast, when the bus would have done it in half that time.
However, the scenery was good and very often the bus drivers are completely crazy, so it was well worth it.
Settled in to our new hotel and enjoying happy hour cocktails on the roof.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Poor soldiers at the Grand Palace

Decided to visit the Grand Palace earlyish this morning to avoid the crowds. Big mistake!
The whole tourist population of Bangkok had the same idea and converged at the entrance at 10 am.
We shuffled around the main temples amongst huge tour groups. Everyone was taking hundreds of photos of anything that either moved or was stationary, and I was no exception.
I felt really sorry for the soldiers guarding the Throne Hall as they had to stand as still as statues while tourists clowned about in front of them.
Every few minutes they had to march up and down and the tourists stood directly in front of them taking close ups, then jumping out of the way at the last moment.
Everyone had to wear either a long skirt or trousers and you could hire a skirt if necessary. They were all brightly coloured so the whole crowd had a lovely rainbow look.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Jim Thompson's house

Jim Thompson arrived in Thailand just after the second world war from America.  He helped revive the Thai silk industry, collected many ancient works of art and constructed a beautiful traditional style Thai house by combining six teak buildings into one large mansion.
He moved in in 1959 and mysteriously, Jim went for a short walk in the Malaysian jungle in 1967, never to be seen or heard of again. That is a great shame as it is a beautiful house and leafy garden. In fact it is very difficult to see the house at all.
We then stopped off at the Erewan Shrine.  It is lucky to walk clockwise around it and make a wish. I walked around twice to be on the safe side and left a little yellow garland.
It was very popular and loads of people were putting hundreds of garlands on every available surface.
We arrived just after two men had gathered up all of the existing garlands and filled an enormous dustbin, but now, about ten minutes later, it is already getting quite full again.

Friday 15 November 2013

Afternoon chocolate buffet

Went to the swanky Sukhothai hotel for afternoon tea.
On Friday's they do a chocolate buffet and the choice was incredible.
They also do hot chocolate drinks that were individually mixed and made for you by a very rotund and friendly chef. He spoke about the different types of chocolates in the same way as people talk about the different grapes in wine.
I chose really bitter dark chocolate with chilli, curry powder and salt in it!
Sounds weird but was actually very lovely.

Swans and giant lizards

Went for a swan ride on Lumpini Park this afternoon. It was quite hard work pedalling, but then I stopped and Darren did not notice so I thought he might as well do it on his own from then onwards.
We did a lap of the lake and followed the massive lizards that swim across it.  They then sit around the edges looking fierce with their tongues flicking out.
On our way back to the hotel we saw one that was up to about ten feet from its head to the end of its tail. It disappeared into what looked like a sewage pipe, so I hope that everyone keeps the lid down on their toilets or they might be in for a shock.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Arrived in Bangkok

Here we are in Bangkok, at the start of our winter adventure.
Started off slowly by checking into our hotel, (£16 per night, compact and bijou, surprisingly good location) and slept for the first three hours.
Our hotel is about 100 metres from an amazing shopping mall and we have just eaten our tea at a great table overlooking the Asoke train station.
It is so built up around here that it is difficult to work out where the ground is.
We are about seven stories up in the photo although the shopping mall also seems to have a couple of floors underground. To get here we crossed the road by walking up loads of steps and through the station which is directly above the road. It is like a street in itself and above that this is another raised walkway leading to I know not where.

Wednesday 13 November 2013


Just spending three hours at Helsinki airport this afternoon.
It is pretty cold out and I am dressed as much as I can for the weather.
I am very concerned what my friend Julie will think of the footwear as she told me she was fed up of seeing me in the same shoes all of the time on the blog.
I think she means these sandals that I am actually wearing today with socks - but in my defence I don't know any Finnish people so I am not too embarrassed.
Hopefully we will be in Bangkok tomorrow morning and the socks will be at the bottom of my suitcase.
Only joking Julie, and thanks for the lift home the other night!

Curious Incident

'Up west' last night, as they might say in East enders.
We were out with Darren's mum and dad for a slap up dinner of cocktails and burgers, and then on to a show.
That was where it started to go wrong as we picked the show, and bought the cheapest possible tickets.
'The curious incident of the dog in the night time' is a book that has been turned in to a play. Very briefly, it is about an autistic boy who goes on a train ride to London. Not everyone's cup of tea then.
Our seats were so far back in the theatre that we were above the height of the fancy corniced ceiling. We couldn't get to our seats through the front doors and had to go round the back near the bins to get in.
We were almost vertically above the stage, but the sound didn't carry up to us. Daz and I could hear it okay but the in-laws did not hear a word, neither could they really see what was going on.
They also kept wondering when the singing was going to start.
They were troopers though and stayed until the end, but I think it will be a long time before they let us arrange another night out.
We also passed the Eros statue at Piccadilly Circus. It is surprisingly tiny, and the photo unfortunately  features it's bottom as most of its base was covered in scaffolding so I couldn't get a better shot.