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Travel blog I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental and I eat French toast (Beastie Boys) | | | Photos available at www.istockphoto.com/georgeclerk

Thailand - Bangkok + Western Islands

THAILAND | Friday, 7 December 2007 | Views [3086] | Comments [3]

Just before leaving Macau I decided to charge up my laptop - a bad decision since after about five minutes there was a short power cut.  When the power came back a few seconds later, the laptop was kaput, and making a high pitched whining sound.  So no pictures here for a while!

I met Dom and Nicole after customs in Bangkok airport, and we headed to the brilliant Triple Two Silom hotel in what seemed to be a relatively plush part of Bangkok, called Bangrak.

Bangkok in general is a far more sophisticated and easy going city than I'd realised, and the famous friendliness and helpfulness of the Thais was noticeable straight away, including the novelty of totally un-pushy sales tactics.  As expected, the exceptions were the scamming tuk-tuk drivers and their pals who'd brazenly insist that anywhere you wanted to go to was either closed or being repaired.  Funnily enough they always said they knew about better places that were open!

We were in Bangkok for the public holiday marking the much loved King's 80th birthday, so in addition to the skyscrapers covered in his image were 'Long Live the King' decorated boats going up the river, and lots of banners.  Not that we had any reason to, but apparently insulting the King in Thailand in any way causes much upset.

Dom had been before, and took us to see some impressive and pristinely manicured sites such as the Royal Palace and the Lying Bhudda, plus the amazing Chatuchak and Patpong markets, and we also had cocktails atop the State Tower, where the views of the city at night were awesome, just made slightly bizarre by the DJ's very strange musical choices!

After transport including the ace Skytrain, a tuk-tuk and a fast, public riverboat back from buying fake t-shirts, I was amazed that the Mandarin Oriental graciously allowed the three of us a riverside drink in their swish and exclusive bar while we were wearing our new fake t-shirts rather than something more appropriate like genuine linen jackets!

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Anyway, after three nights in 'Bangers' followed by a short flight and boat trip, we quickly found ourselves on a sun-drenched beach on the Railey peninsula, which was very pleasant indeed, except for the fact that it was where both Nicole and I picked up a nasty bout of food poisoning, I think from a prawny phad thai.  Only the second time I've ever had full-on food poisoning... not nice!

Then on to Koh Phe Phe island, which despite being a national park, and having been devastated by the tsunami less than three years ago, is thoroughly developed again, but with the noise of angle grinders and piledrivers never too far away.  Other than that it's very pretty, with karst rock formations all around. The smaller of the two islands is uninhabited, and it's where birds' nests are harvested for soups and Chinese medicines.  We went there as part of a boating/snorkelling/canoeing trip, which included going to the famously beautiful Maya Bay, where 'The Beach' was filmed.  Dom and I were just gutted that the French girl from the film was no longer living there!

Apart from that we did a bit of sunbathing, read books, played cards, chilled generally, and noticed that among the always pleasant waiters and waitresses were quite a lot of people at various stages of becoming ladyboys - some just normal looking men who wore a lot of makeup and lipstick.  Oh, and disposable lighters kept - literally - blowing up in Nicole's face!

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After Phi Phi, Nicole and Dom headed up to Bangkok via a night in Krabi, and I went South to Koh Lanta where after a few days my food poisoning symptoms finally started to go - phew!  Once I could eat and drink without having to be less than two minutes from a loo, I went on a tour of the island, which included me doing a rubbish job of trying to get sap out of a rubber tree.  But seeing the process from start to finish was interesting, with the end result being 1 kilo sheets of latex ready to be sold to the condom factory!

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Then another boat trip south, down to the lovely Koh Lipe, close to the Malaysian border.

The island is part of the huge Ko Tarutao National Park - another island in the park was used to make one of the US 'Survivor' series.  The right on Lonely Planet says that nobody should stay on Koh Lipe, the only island where private development is allowed, since it's success will encourage the government to allow more and more development in the park.

But from here I've heard that the Sea Gypsy (yes, that's really what they're called!) people were moved from their homes on all the separate islands to Koh Lipe when the national park was created, and allowed to develop tourist businesses to make up for their lost earnings, so I didn’t feel too bad spending three nights on the island.

My first night in the beachfront bamboo bungalow that I stingily stayed in - rather than the fancy new brick ones that were £1.50 more - featured a rodent attack where I was woken up at 3am by the clattering of things being pushed off the narrow shelf, and the contents of the bin being loudly scattered and nibbled at for much of the rest of the night.  All my attempts to see - or even scare off - the perpetrators failed, but in the morning I also noticed that my toothbrush had vanished!

I joined two Swedes on a longtail boat trip around some of the nearby islands, where we snorkelled just above some incredible coral of all shapes, sizes and colours, with all sorts of fish to match.

Among the coral I found my nemeses fish species - these pretty looking stripy pink things about the size of a small trout, which were dotted around the coral, would swim head-on straight at me.  Trying to scare them off only seemed to make them more angry, and they'd occasionally have a stroppy little nibble at my legs!

On the safety of dry land, we saw monkeys, a flying squirrel, and - to add to the lightening fast, translucent crabs that I've seen everywhere and tried to photograph on lots of Thai beaches - every single intact shell that I could find was occupied by a hermit crab, some of them only able to find shells that were way too small.

Getting back to my little bamboo bungalow in the hours between the light fading and the electricity coming on, I thought I'd had my daily lot of animal woes with the small pink fish attacks.  But the loud screeching, crunching and thwacking noises coming from the bathroom area suggested otherwise.

I couldn't see anything in the tiny, damp bathroom square to add to the list of ants, spiders, lizards and frogs that I'd already encountered there, but as the noises got more brutal and violent sounding I wussed out and found someone to help.  He came armed with a big torch and a long wooden spike, and eventually found the problem: two rats fighting in the bamboo cladding.  He spiked the losing rat (which was nearly dead by this stage anyway) and managed to extract it after some bamboo demolition, while the other one found a way out and ran off into the night.

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Leaving Koh Lipe - and Thailand - involved getting my visa stamped by the one woman passport control, and being given the Malaysian arrival card, complete with a warning in bright red 'BE FOREWARNED: DEATH SENTENCE FOR DRUG TRAFFICERS UNDER MALAYSIAN LAW'

But since the island has no pier, getting onto the ferry itself seemed pretty deadly - we missed the lashing rain by a matter of seconds, but the skill of the sea gypsies piloting our small longtail boat to the ferry was put to the test.  In the heavy swell and rushing tide, the engine was cut a moment before the rope to the ferry was properly secured, and as our boat veered backwards, smashing against the see-sawing hull of the ferry, our longtail captain frantically turned the manual engine-starting crank.  In the end the engine spluttered back into life for us to make another run in and somehow the six of us and our bags made it safely onto the ferry, which soon headed off into the dusk.





Tags: Beaches & sunshine

 

Comments

1

Hi George,

I like the blog - glad you got over the bout of food poisoning. I was pretty sick myself the day Nic and I left Ko Phe Phe.

I can confirm that Rinaldi managed to get your laptop home in one piece.

Enjoy the rest of Asia.

Dominic

  Dominic Sender Dec 11, 2007 7:37 PM

2

You're at no. 4 in the top 5 most popular writers (on this site. At the moment. Click on 'writers' at the top of the page). Everybody - let's see if we can get George to be Christmas Number 1!

  Will Dec 15, 2007 3:01 AM

3

hi george

i was doing a study on travelers in thailand and i was wondering how old you were because my study needs to be on travelers between 18-25 years of age.
also if u know of any other travellers ( bloggers )to thailand in the age group of 18-25 that u can recomend.

thanks and keep up the great blogs

  jimmy Mar 4, 2009 6:36 AM

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