Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thailand 2006
Travel diary take one.
I'm BACK from a lovely warm Thailand to ol' grey, cold and rainy Blighty. I've had a FAB time and only took 400+ photos...

I was diligent with my diary (at least until the last couple of days) - So I'll transcribe it slowly.

Thursday 19th to Friday 20th October - and I'm sitting here in 'Big John's BackPacker's Hostel' in Thanon Sukamvhit - having followed the instructions to get here so precisely that I was only 7 Thai Baht down on the record set on taxi rates. I've just had the 'Big John's Speshul Fried Rice' which was cheap and filled the belly. I'm sat on the 'Mezzanine Terrace' - a mezzanine being a 'partial story between two main stories of a building' and accurate enough but sounding much grander than it actually was. I'm sat at a formica table and the surroundings are basic but absolutely fine for my needs, ta very much.

The journey here was relatively uneventful - starting with the first leg to Dubai where I threw my aeroplane dinner over my neighbour - not deliberately you understand, after all my neighbour was perfectly pleasant, indeed helpful, and the food was the usual unobjectionable plane fodder. I guess my hand just slipped.

I'm disappointed to report that the carefully purchased bamboo circ. needles were NOT allowed on the plane - although I WAS allowed to take my sharpened pencils. What's the difference I'd like to know? I could stab out the cabin crew's eyes with both equally well if I was so inclined. In flight entertainment has improved no end since last I flew. You now have an interactive screen on the back of the person's seat in front of you (that's on your lap, in economy!) . At the touch of a button I had a choice of 50 movies, games and I could even text home at a cost. I only manage to sleep 4 hours, and that with waking every 10 minutes or so to move a stiffened limb or neck. And even though it's really only 5 pm there it's 11 pm here in Bangkok and I'm overdosing on a couple of halves of cold lager because it's a hot and humid 33 degrees C.

I'd spent several hours wondering around the HUGE new international Suvarnabhumi Airport only recently opened.

The name Suvarnabhumi was chosen by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej which means “The Golden Land”, specifically referring to the continental Indochina. (“Golden Peninsula”or “Golden Land” is a traditional name for the Thailand-Cambodia-Laos-Burma region). There are over 40 flights to Phuket a day, and I thought I'd have no problem getting a seat. WRONG - tomorrow is a National Holiday and all flights are full. Since I have to be in Phuket very early Sunday morning (and it's now Friday evening) - to get the connection for the seakayaking trip - I am forced to catch a bus - which is the equivalent to taking the slow boat to China when I've only got 16 days to play with.

I'm sharing a dorm with Seena from Finland - she's also travelling alone, but is staying in Thailand for three whole months. I'm jealous.

I sleep the sleep of the dead and fail to hear my alarm clock at 6 am Saturday morning. Fortunately Seena does and wakes me up. I want to catch the [strike]damned[/strike] bus early from Bangkok Southern Terminal as the trip can take 14 hours plus.

Saturday 21st October after very english breakfast of scambled egg on toast, apple juice, coffee, I manage to forget the large bottle of water I'd just purchased and get a second taxi. The roads are amazingly clear - today is that National Holiday and there is only a quarter of the normal traffic volume ( see that picture? The cars were moving - normally it's gridlock!). Really lovely taxi driver who insists on taking me to the right ticket office and making sure I get the right ticket for Phuket and then sitting me in the right place to catch the bus afterwards. I have to wait an hour and a half for the bus, soaking up the atmosphere of a typical engine fumed, dirty bus terminal. There are mangy, fleabitten dogs wondering around (I was to see many over the next two weeks) - including two fairly young puppies.Although the bus journey will be long and slow, I'm looking forward to checking out the scenery, knitting, sleeping maybe. Almost as soon as I'm on the bus, my neighbour goes to shut the curtains. The bus is full of Thai people (with two saffroned monks taking the best seats in the back), and all the travellers pull the blinds so they can keep out the hot sun and sleep. She's obliging when I ask her to open them about half way so I can watch this strange new world go by: it's all still so excitingly foreign! After several miles though, the view starts to pall. There are miles and miles of seemingly industrial type buildings on the side of the road. Thailand doesn't seem to have strict planning control. After a few hundred miles we shut the curtains and I try to sleep too. There are several stops for loos and food - chili, chopped hot green chili and rice rules OK.

WE started out at 0945hrs and we get to Phuket at - aaargh - 0230hrs. By the time I've agreed to be ferried (on a little scooter!) with rucksack to Talang Guesthouse and found it locked up - then find an ATM to get Paddleasia's cash - then agree to be ferried by another moped taxi person to an OPEN guesthouse - it's 03.30hrs going on 4 and I've got to get up at 0700hrs! As soon as I get into the perfectly comfortable hotel room at Imperial 2 Guesthouse, I pass out.