Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ayutthaya? No, there's just something in my eye



It's been a while since I wandered through the decaying ruins of fallen civilisations and considered the futile nature of our temporary existence. But I've seen enough of Thailand's natural wonders for one month, so time for some stuffy history. There will be a test, so pay attention.

While the temples of former Siamese capital Ayutthaya make for a good day trip out of Bangkok, I was a bit annoyed that I only found out about Sukhothai too late to visit there instead - which looks like an even older, bigger, better preserved and just plain better version. Never mind, at least this sort of makes up for my lack of photos from Pompeii, even if there are no harrowingly preserved dead children in Ayutthaya. I want the moon on a stick.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More tribes, more temples and all the disgusting bugs you can eat



The only way was down after yesterday's excellent adventure, so while today's half-day trip around more of Chiang Mai's essential sights was a good way to spend my last full day here, it was a little underwhelming.

It did help me to realise that my enjoyment of activities isn't related to how much sleep I've had though (which I previously thought was to blame for my lukewarm feelings about the Acropolis and Abu Simbel). I had my first full night's sleep in ages last night, but it didn't help - turns out some places just don't get me excited when I'm all templed out.

I did eat some insects though. WOAH, now you're excited to read more!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Elephants, Brachiosaurus women and other Chiang Mai-zing tales



In Thailand, my life is measured out with day trips (and overlong bus journeys).

I've been critical of package tours in the past for making the travel experience too pampered and robbing it of any independence. But when you're scurrying all over the country on a visa-imposed schedule and trying to fit in as much as you can, stepping on the conveyor belt to enjoy the same identikit tourist experience as thousands of others before and after you is the most convenient way to get it all done. Not to mention it's so damn cheap.

I probably had another one of the best days of my life this weekend on a packed day trip out of Chiang Mai, which ticked off a whole lot of firsts: my first elephant ride, my first rafting trip, my first swim in a waterfall and my first hammock. I also hung out with a great group of trainee yogis. What's not to like? Join me on the road well travelled!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Chester of Thailand



The comparisons between Chiang Mai (North West Thailand) and Chester (North West England) are manifold. Both are historic walled cities, with only tantalising fragments of these walls and gates remaining in the present day. Okay, that's about it. So they have about as much in common as Edinburgh and Athens then.

I like Chiang Mai. Its one square mile (literally square) historic centre is a lot easier to get my head around than historic Bangkok, and at 300 metres above sea level in the fresh Himalayan air, the heat is a lot more bearable too. IT EVEN HAS A MOAT. But if you're allergic to temples, you probably shouldn't click here

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wat the heck


Thai Temples are called 'wats,' you see? Oh, you knew. Fine


I don't like indulging and endorsing superstitious woo, but after recent events strengthened my friend Oliver's belief more fervently and irrationally than ever before that he is literally a walking diaster area (sometimes he doesn't even have to walk), I figured paying 50 baht to get him a 'blessing' would be worth it if it gives him any small measure of placebo-style comfort.

That's the kind of guy I am: cheap. Unfortunately, it all went tits up.

Friday, March 25, 2011

(Chiang) Mai-y first earthquake

I arrived in Northern Thailand and felt My First Earthquake today. Chiang Mai is exciting already!

Fortunately for almost everyone (especially this blog, which has permission to be jovial in the circumstances), this one was nothing like as devastating as some of the earthquakes that struck other parts of the world in recent weeks. But at 6.8 magnitude, it was still powerful enough to shake buildings as far away as Bangkok.




I was closer than that - about 100 miles from the epicentre, which was in north-eastern Myanmar - but it all took place far inland, so there were no dangerous waves to worry about. My bungalow swayed gently for about 20 seconds, and that was it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Don't have a Khaosan, man


Ay caramba!


What's that, Dave? A twenty-years-out-of-date Bart Simpson reference is the best pun you could come up with? And one you've basically used before? EAT MY SHORTS!

I didn't get the appeal of Khaosan Road when I first visited, it just seemed to be like any other trendy tourist street selling knock-off goods, pointless tat and sexy massages. But when you look a little closer, it can be pretty hilarious.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Well, that about wraps it up for Cambodia



Wait... since when were you in Cambodia?

For about 20 minutes today, enjoying the underhanded administrative holiday of a lifetime to renew my Thailand visa. I passed through immigration, even if I revolved right back out again, so it still counts!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oliver's Bangkok Diary (by Dave)

Disclaimer: The attitudes ascribed to characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to what Oliver actually thought is marginal at best




I met Oliver in Bangkok this week (honestly: above photo hasn't been doctored). This was a coincidence, because I thought he was in a different hemisphere. We were even staying in the same dorm, almost as if this was somehow planned.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A childish day out again again



Things have been a bit busy and stressful since I left paradise behind and got back to Bangkok, but I left my earthly troubles behind on a trip to Dream World.

I am definitely not too old to be here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tranniversary

What do you mean that's a misleading title? Well, when in Bangkok! Have genital reassignment surgery.

I've been travelling for six months now. I don't have anything to add to that, just thought I'd mention it. Here's to the next six months of crises, crap accommodation, budget tours, aimless wandering and girl trouble!

I'm never going back.



Dave went to Italy, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Taiwan and Thailand.
But which one is the best? I couldn't possibly say.
(A: It is Thailand (probably))

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You wouldn't like me when I'm Ang Thong


Approaching Wua Ta Lap


I was sad to leave these idyllic islands behind, especially with the knowledge that I'll be back in bloody Bangkok after a full day of travelling. But that didn't curb my enthusiasm for the second leg of my Ang Thong trip, especially as there was plenty to keep me entertained - there was even a cave!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don't make me Ang Thong...



To finish my Thaisland hopping tour on a high note from which only disappointment, misery and death can follow, I took a day trip from Koh Samui to Ang Thong National Marine Park - a collection of 42 unspoiled, protected islands that are about as close as you're likely to get to paradise. Considering heaven doesn't exist, obviously (what are you, five?)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

There's my goddamn monkey!


Cheeky monkey tried to eat my headphones


How's that for a happy ending? No, not that kind. Even though I'm in Thailand.

I had time in my schedule (ha ha, the very idea that my life has anything as structured as a 'schedule') to fit in another couple of Thaislands before heading back to Thmainland (that one doesn't work so well, it just looks like I'm dyslexic).

So I chose Koh Samui for macaques, cock rocks and corpses.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thaisland hopping


I tried to make a panorama, but the experiment failed miserably


Last stop on the snorkelling tour was Koh Nang Yuan, a dinky island that I've wanted to visit since I first saw it on the approach to Koh Tao. It's private land, which means a small entry fee, a fascistic approach to littering (which should be implemented globally) and no worries about pesky health and safety concerns when designing perilous tourist trails.

You'd better appreciate these photos - my respiratory system was already knackered even before the climb, thanks to breathing through a plastic tube for most of the afternoon. Maybe that's why this pair of grassy mounds, connected by a strip of beach, reminded me of a pair of lungs? On a normal day, my thoughts would probably have been elsewhere (though still in roughly the same anatomical region).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Face-first in the sea



When I mentioned that I was thinking of taking a snorkelling trip in yesterday's blog, I bet none of you expected me to follow through on that. Mainly because no one actually reads this, but also because I often fail to live up to these vague promises.

Well in your face, nay-saying non-existents! I did it just to spite you. And to make things worse, it was ace.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Turtle power


Turtle Island, Thailand


There are more than 80 islands in the Gulf of Thailand, and I had to visit at least one on my pointless pilgrimage. With some being too small or undeveloped to visit, and others like Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan being too much in the other direction (unlike Michelangelo, I'm no party dude), the lean, green Koh Tao was the obvious choice.

The fact that its name translates as 'Turtle Island' sealed the deal, as I've clearly never grown out of the fixation I developed for the amphibians at an early age, since being corrupted by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Where are my goddamn monkeys?


There are no monkeys in this picture


I was promised monkeys today, and as let-downs go, that's quite a big one.

I say 'monkeys,' but in Western Thailand they would technically have been macaques, like the monkeys I hung out with in Kaohsiung. But if we're going to start making racial distinctions between primates, next thing you know we won't be able to call all people from the Far East 'Chinese' any more. It is political correctness gone mad.

Never mind, I still had a nice trip up the beach and through the monkeyless coconut groves to Ban Krut Temple, once again hypocritically glad to have got away from the tourists for a while. If you want to join in with the primate spotting adventure yourself, why not play Hunt the Chimp? It's 0.2 seconds of fun! I say 'fun'…

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lodger



I don't big up my hostels often (usually because it's tough to big up a bed bug infested mattress on the floor), but I've totally enjoyed my time in this weird little village resort in Ban Krut (or Ban Kruit, Bankrut, Bangkrut, Ban Krud - anything goes with Anglicised Thai).

I tend to book my accommodation in short, sharp spasms of panic a couple of days before arriving, without really checking out what I'm letting myself in for, so I had no idea I'd be staying in my own private wooden lodge.

WOODEN!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The journey



'No man is an Iland,' wrote the metaphysical, can't-spell-for-toffee poet John Donne.

Taiwan is an island though, and sounds a bit like 'no man' if you're deaf and have a speech impediment and are mad, so this unfortunately required me to break my 'sacred' 'no flights' 'rule' to get in and out of the ROC. A self-imposed principle that I've previously upheld to the letter, only breaking it in the rarest and direst of circumstances as you'll see here and here. Oh, and here. And here.

I'm the Captain Kirk of the East; disregarding sensible precautions where'er I visit and corrupting their women. I also have ace sideburns.

But even when I took flights rather than other, better, greener, more interesting forms of transport, it was always as a last resort - either due to distance, border restrictions or simply a lack of alternatives. But now that I'm back on the mighty Eurasiafrican continent, and country boundaries are mostly political rather than geological, I have the opportunity to travel more authentically, experience the changing landscape and pay ridiculously cheap local prices. Flying is rubbish.

Here are some of the most notable journeys I've made so far.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rellling in Thailand


rellling (v): portmanteau of 'relaxing' and 'chilling,' coined by comedian/linguist Richard Herring. An alternative for people who think 'chillaxing' sounds silly, but not quite silly enough

'I'm not on holiday' has been one of my stock phrases since I left the UK, as I explain to people that I'm working hard most of the time, and simply trying to keep the non-working hours more interesting and bearable by filling them with new experiences and more interesting scenery. (Most of the time it's loads cheaper than living in the boring UK too).

But this party line is getting harder to justify when I'm spending most of the day rellling on the beach, writing rubbish and reading worse, before heading back to my offensively cheap, inappropriately luxurious, air conditioned hotel room to literally chill out. It's like being back in Egypt, except the toilets flush.