Krabi Birthday

Ko Lanta

Ko Lanta

23 July – 17 August 2012

We flew out of lovely Luang Prabang to not-so-lovely Bangkok returning to the hotel we’d stayed in before. We were hoping for a return of the three smiley swing men, but instead got the surly brother so we gave the musical soiree a miss.

We then got the overnight train with little fold down beds and very little sleep to a confused bus connection where we were herded on and off various different buses until we found the right one which had twice as many passengers as were intended . We got to Krabi town, Krabi province in Southern Thailand and we holed up in a grotty little hotel for two nights. There was loads of building going on here and we watched the sad sight of trees being bulldozed to make way for yet more concrete monstrosities.

We had a brief mini bus trip to hang around for a long time for another mini bus, in the meantime witnessing a nasty scene with the travel agent and a couple of tourists, him shouting across the small room “Don’t shout me!”, it got quite unpleasant with him aggressively slapping stickers on their chests, luckily we got away without any further escalation.

Whoever wrote “It is not about the destination, it’s the journey that counts” has never ridden in a Thai mini bus, they are hell on wheels. The drivers seem recruited from Beelzebub’s school of driving where I’m sure they score extra points for overtaking around blind bends, and shortening their passengers spines by taking every pot hole with a hideous jolt.

Lovely leaves

Lovely leaves

We were glad to arrive on the island of Ko Lanta, the quiet sister of Phi Phi and Samui. It was almost deserted where we stayed, but that suited us fine, we worked, swam and sometimes got a tuktuk into town. I got quite a nasty injury on my heel while we were here, coming out in sympathy for my big brave Sis who was undergoing surgery.

We planned to go to Phi Phi (pronounced pee pee, tee hee!) for my birthday and splashed out on a swanky looking place which cost four times as much as we had been paying. We were looking forward to this special treat, especially since the guide book waxes lyrical about PP, saying things like “it turns brutes into poets”. After a choppy ferry ride over we lurked around the port waiting for someone from our place to pick us up. There are no cars on the island, witch isn’t as peaceful as it sounds as the narrow lanes are full of bikes determined not to slow down and hard working barrow boys shifting suitcases and endless bags of cement (yep, more building). Phi Phi suffered horribly when the tsunami almost destroyed it in 2004, it’s hard to believe now, it’s a really throbbing tourist destination, and this is the quiet season.

Nice towels, shame about the mouse poo

Nice towels, shame about the mouse poo

We eventually got picked up and did our best to keep up as our boy zoomed through the lanes, we got to the part when even his mighty muscles couldn’t handle the incline and we all piled on a clapped out little truck (which did break down later) The place was disappointing, (infuriating actually).

Here’s why: We were made to wait 3 hours while they ‘cleaned’ the room, when we got in there was animal poo on the bed. No security and a work party dumping their stuff outside our room, really rude staff, water that turned off in the middle of a shower and a restaurant that didn’t serve food. There’s more but I don’t want to rant! More than anything we were annoyed with ourselves for booking ourselves in for four nights without checking it first, ah well… you learn!

Birthday Collection

Birthday Collection

Whinging aside, I had a wonderful birthday. Sweet Matt had put out a call to friends and relatives to contribute towards a celebrant course I want to do when getting back to UK. I have already done this kind of work, (non-religious creative ceremonies), but I’m really keen to develop my skills and get out there as a freelance celebrant. I was so touched by people’s comments and feel very affirmed that this is the right direction to go in, thank you so much those of you who chipped in, it really made my birthday very happy. It’s not too late if you still want to! Go here.

After Phi Phi we scuttled back to Lanta, this time staying a bit further down the coast, this place was a bit busier full of gorgeous people working on their tans around the pool. There was a funky-little-shack bar here where we met fellow travellers and shared a few beers.

Bonny boats

Bonny boats

We left this little haven for more god-awful trips, one night in Krabi, a mini bus to Hat Yai where we had a gruesome overnight stop, made really disturbing by seeing a dog get run over. We got up at 5am the next day to catch the train which turned out to be 2 hours late, which took us to Butterworth in Malaysia, then a taxi to Georgetown. We were feeling pretty exhausted and dispirited by now and getting increasingly anxious about the imminent return to England. We’d planned to do another all day overland trip but decided to sod the expense and fly to Singapore, that we we will hopefully arrive back in some semblance of good repair.

So now we’re counting the days, until the end of our Grand tour, it’s with mixed feelings and a considerable dollop of anxiety that we are contemplating the close of this extraordinary chapter. Five nights in Penang, two in Singapore and then London, we’re really excited about seeing some dear faces again and starting the next chapter of our life adventure. Thanks for travelling with us dear blog reader.

Love Fran and Matt

Birthday sunset

Birthday sunset

Look! more lovely pics

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A Piece of Pai

Love shack

Love shack

After a few days in Chiang Mai at a lovely luxury hotel which Fran booked to celebrate my birthday, we moved further north into the hills to the little village of Pai.  The journey was by minibus and after 5 hours and 762 curves we arrived in one piece.  No thanks to the frankly maniacal driving which seem to get worse as we neared our destination with blind overtaking and top speeds of 120km/h on the straights.

Very much on the backpacker trail, Pai is a sleepy place next to a river and comprises many guest houses and restaurants mainly catering to a young hippy type set. In fact the place seemed to be stuffed with 20 something people, mostly young women.  There was a lot of live music around, some of it very good.  Our local had an act on every night. A male/female duo who sang some interesting tunes and another guy who sang the usual Clapton/Cat Stevens/Beatles stuff but did it very well.  We were staying in a little bamboo shack which was peaceful and comfortable.  Although one day a strange teenager appeared and stood about moodily staring at Fran and other western women causing much uneasiness, hence dubbed the Pai perv.

Our stay  consisted mostly of eating, drinking and relaxing, we felt happy to potter about the town and not do any trips or tours, it was really too hot and humid to do much.  There was a fab place over the street from our hotel where we had many a breakfast.  They made a special juice drink from what looked like grass which they grew in containers which formed the ‘walls’ of the place.  It was run by a very perky looking dutchman, his vital looks a testament to his wares.

Our Street

Our Street

We met some young girls from London who were just starting a big trip and a nice guy from the USA who was a geophysicist, we had a couple of fun evenings with them, a merry random mix of travellers. There are so many bars and restaurants it was bewildering in such a small place.  One night we saw an excellent duo at a bar down our street.  The main guy was a Indian trained flautist from Israel who also played guitar and sang with the use of a looper building up marvelous soundscapes and grooves.  Also with him was a guest, Chinua, who played a beautiful melodic banjo.  I later chatted with him and he turned out to be from the USA but lived in Thailand with his family.  He is also part of an international band which plays Middle Eastern music, they only meet up to play tours as and when with no rehearsal, very spontaneous!  I later met up with him and had a jam which was great fun.  We played some Django stuff and some Turkish and American folk music sitting in a sleepy corner street cafe.

Matt and Chinua

Matt and Chinua

We whiled away our days until it was time to take the bus back to Chiang Mai and our flight to Laos.  This time the bus proved too much for poor Fran who succumbed to motion sickness half way through the journey.  We were sited right at the back and took every jolt and turn with a vengeance.  I desperately clung on to my seat and stared out at the road for the 5 hour trip and managed to keep hold of my breakfast, but only just.  Crawling out of the ‘Chuck-Wagon’ or ‘Vomit-Comet’, we headed for the ‘Top North Hotel’, a cheapo place in which to spend the night before heading off to the airport and goodbye to Thailand… for the moment… next stop, Luang Prabang.

More pics below