Tag Archives: thailand

That’s travelling folks!

14 May

And so we said goodbye to SE Asia. Sensing this, the taxi driver who dropped us off at the bus station took his last chance to rip us off and charged us 5 more ringgits than it cost on the way there because he refused to use the meter, but at 7am we weren’t going to argue. He had a good go at trying to convince us the buses would all be empty and would wait for hours before going to the airport and that we should actually pay him lots of money to take us all the way there, but we’d heard this many times before on our travels and just politely smiled, nodded, and then insisted we went to the bus station, where we caught the bus for £2 each and it left immediately. Can’t blame him for trying though!

Unlike the other airports we’ve visited, KL’s is quite big and full of people, so although we left with plenty of time, by the time we’d worked our way round the various queues and check points, the gate was already boarding. By luck of the draw, I managed to get a seat in the centre by myself – the third time this has happened, win! [Except seconds after writing this, a snotty kid came and sat next to me playing his bleepy little game thing. Giving him the death stare like I owned the plane didn’t work so may have to resort to actual violence, or at least making him kill himself. In the game, honest…I made him move in the end. I did give away my copy of Marie Claire to an Aussie girl to restore karma, but not sure that makes up for kicking a small child. Probably not going to heaven after all].  And the meal I’d booked whilst in Koh Samui before the tiny fish eyes incident was actually edible and Malaysian so that evens up our junk food:Malaysian ratio somewhat.

I ordered an Asahi beer and ended up with a bottle of sake but that was soon corrected and a little bag of Bombay mix was placed in front of me to go with the lager. I immediately gave this to Craig as I hate nuts…after inspected these he informed me that actually, it was a bag of tiny battered fish (with and without eyes). Yummy.

So I guess it’s time to do a round up of SE Asia seeing as I did one on Sri Lanka (don’t look at our ‘where are we’ page – our route looks like a plate of spaghetti)…

I was going to do a list of good things and bad things but it’s impossible as they often cross over. For instance, the first thing that hits you when you get off the plane is the wall of heat. That never, ever, goes away. If you don’t have a fan, or can’t afford aircon (like us mostly!), you will be sweating at all times. Even in the shower. We ended up getting used to it after so long, but the only time I really felt cold was when we were in Vietnam in January and when we had airconditioning in the room but weren’t given sheets. The rest of the time, you’re either slightly sweaty or very sweaty. But pretty much guaranteed sunshine every day was a never ending benefit despite the feeling of being hot all the time. It took a while to fight the English urge when the sun came out to immediately drive to the seaside and sit on the beach, no matter where you are. When you live in the Midlands, as far away as possible from the beach, sunshine is a rare pleasure and one that you can’t complain about.

Smells is another one. I will never get tired of the smell of frangipani trees, or jasmine, incense, delicious food cooked on the street, limes, spices and rain on hot pavements or grass, but all too often you’re half way through enjoying a wonderful combination of these and you spy a bin full of warm, rotting food, or fish drying in the sun and you tell your lungs ‘abort, abort!’ but it’s too late, it smacks you in the face before you can do anything about it and all you smell and taste is bin juice and fish guts.

One thing I feel really bad about though is the way they treat animals here. There are some people who look after them but I would say the vast majority don’t. From puppies in a cage in the boiling hot sun all day without food and water, to zoo exhibitions where the animals are in tiny cages, to stray (or pet) dogs covered in fleas and mange, it really broke my heart. I saw a Doberman like Holls in a cage in a petshop yesterday: clearly distressed and pacing in a sun-filled shop window and I really did consider buying it but there would be no way to take it over to Australia. Poor thing was docked and cropped within an inch of its life and was bored senseless. I am not sure why the state of the animals affected me more than the way the poorest people lived or seeing children begging on the streets – maybe it’s time to sort my life out? Or accept the fact and just work in a kennels?!

On that note, here’s a quick update on the puppy we adopted in Cambodia and rehomed with Geordie, a Canadian expat, and his family

From starving mongrel to pampered pup in three short months!

Something we could both embrace was the food though. Aside from the junk fest we’ve been having over the last few days, purely because it was there and it was a link to back home, not to mention laden in fat and therefore scrumptious, we have loved pretty much every minute of trying Asian food. We didn’t bother trying the things that we knew were going to make us sick (spiders, bugs, kidneys etc) but everything else was lovely and the worst times we got food poisoning was when we ate at restaurants, not street sellers. They have some of the cheapest and nicest food out there give it a try :)

Noise is another omnipresent presence in SE Asia. I hate not being able to sit in silence and it really began to wear me down that I needed to be underwater before getting any kind of peace and quiet. Whether manmade or natural, you will not find a quiet spot. I think that’s why I’ve read so much here – it helps block out the madness around me but eventually I’ll have to put it down and Asia will come flooding back in until the next time!

Philosophy – whether it’s Buddhism, Hinduism, Muslim or other, we very rarely saw people get angry or shout whilst we were out here. We know it happens as we spoke to the only farang Thai police on Koh Samui, and he definitely saw violence, but in day-to-day life, everyone we spoke to was very calm and resigned to the fact that being angry helps no one. If you want to bargain or disagree, it’s best to smile the whole time than get cross. This was incredibly difficult at borders where we charged huge amounts of money over the official price, or when we got robbed on the ferry etc, but I think it’s good to take a leaf out of their book generally and try and get on with things without bearing grudges or teeth. They also have some of the best manners – everyone is addressed as sir or madam in English and most countries’ people were very friendly and welcoming. In Thai they use ‘kaa’ if you are a woman and ‘kup’ if you are a man to show respect. This bled into English on Koh Samui so every morning you got ‘GOOD MORNINGKAA!’ or ‘HELLOKUP!’ depending on who was speaking. The exception to traditional manners is the habit of hocking up whatever is in your throat and then spitting it where you feel like – on the bus floor, on the street, over bridges, up walls. A custom I really couldn’t get on board with!

SE Asia was incredibly beautiful, particularly in the more undeveloped areas such as Cambodia and Laos. Whereas the ancient temples and buildings we saw were stunning, the landscape was breath-taking and it even made long and otherwise boring bus journeys a joy. We were never happier than when we were climbing the mountain in Vang Vieng, or cruising down the Mekong in Luang Prebang, or trekking through the jungle in Banlung. Even though I couldn’t afford to buy new lens for my camera, I am most happy with the nature shots of all the places we’ve been as they will cheer me up when I’m back in England staring at four grey office walls and wishing I was elsewhere :)

Toilets are fairly hard to find, never mind negotiate when you’re laden with backpacks and carrier bags. Carry babywipes with you and don’t breathe in. Don’t put your bag down because the floor is inevitable wet with water from the bucket and ladle (or worse) and don’t forget to check for spiders and cockroaches in the bowl or paper before you go! I found the bucket and ladle quite good though, especially when this was your shower option, as some of the showers we used were so weak you couldn’t wash the shampoo off. Best use the ladle and pour as much as you want over you!

Shopping was fairly amazing – we wished so often that we weren’t travelling and could take all the gorgeous things home with us. Even more tempting was the relative cheapness of everything! But we couldn’t carry much and the things we did buy were little bits and pieces for friends and family, along with some clothes for ourselves as the temperature changed. And best of all, you can haggle! If you’re going anywhere in SE Asia, never pay the first price. Or the second. Or even the third! Craig is more ruthless than I am so we got some pretty good deals.

And then of course there are the people. Obviously you get the scammers who are just after your money, but generally we found SE Asians to be the friendliest, gentlest, happiest and most generous people. Some people we met had been through the most horrific experiences but were still laughing to tell the tale, some people had nothing but offered us a shady spot and a cold drink when we had gone on one of our stupid walking adventures without water; from the old lady who fixed my skirt with her sewing machine, to the man in Laos who patched up our tyre and gave us two drinks for less than £2, to the many guesthouse owners who let us stay in their rooms with a six week old puppy, we’ll never forget you!

Things I have lost:

Sunglasses

Nail file

Bra

2 combs

Hairbrush

Phone

Needle

Towel

Bikini bottoms

Needle

Things I should have brought on the trip:

Something to wear on my lower half other than one skirt

Less cardis

DVD drive

Things we found:

60,000 dong in Vietnam

1 puppy

Total number of miles travelled:

19,037

Backpacker’s bad luck bingo:

Top 5 favourite experiences:

Thai New Year/Craig’s birthday on Koh Samui

Swapping a hat for a dog in a Cambodian jungle village

Gorgeous botanical gardens in Kandy

Messing about in a Cambodian waterfall

Mountain climbing in Vang Vieng

All in all, a great trip and something we were very lucky to get the chance to do. Saw a lot, got our eyes opened, laughed a lot and met some amazing people. Can’t wait to go back…although I have really missed cooking my own meals, gardening, having a bath instead of a grim shower full of frogs and spiders, the relaxation of being able to speak to someone in their own language and of course Marmite. The Aussies have this poor imitation called ‘Vegemite’ but I’ve asked my stepdad to bring the real deal over from England as our stash ran out in Sri Lanka. Oh happy days!

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Good morning Kuala Lumpur!

11 May

Our last few days on Koh Samui were very relaxing – well, this was kind of enforced as I couldn’t move any of my limbs after the evil Thai massage. So we pottered about, raised a glass to Matt, explored a few last restaurants and suddenly it was time to go. We didn’t go and see the dead monk – a mummified monk who died 40 years ago and has been sitting outside the temple ever since, nailed to the wall so he doesn’t fall over and with sunglasses on because his eyes fell into his head – but I think we covered most other things to do. It was still sad though as we had to say goodbye to the lovely Oh, Andy, Meow and Guy who had looked after us for a month. They gave Craig an embossed Thai ashtray (with instructions never to us it) and me a little painted wooden box…two things we can hopefully get into Australia as they’ve got strict rules about what wood you can take in. This proved prudent as I went to pack my bamboo cup from trekking in Cambodia and found termites were nibbling away at the bottom of it :(

So after a mammoth packing session (stuffing everything into three bags), we were finally ready and got the ferry over to the mainland. Having been relieved of money on the way over to Koh Samui on the ferry, we tried to take our bags off the bus, but the driver said no. So we sat in the car compartment the whole way there, watching the bus in case anyone tried to take anything. This tactic worked and we didn’t lose anything from the bags this time. We got back on the bus for the trip to Surat Thani, which is a fairly non-descript and faceless town, but close to the airport for our flight the next day.

We found a hotel and dumped the bags, and wandered around the town trying to find a restaurant. There were plenty of street sellers but with getting a flight the next day, we wanted to be as sure as possible that the food wasn’t going to cause us problems. As the Greek girl who was also staying at our hotel put it, she wanted “food with a few less flies on it”. So Craig and I ended up eating back at the hotel – this was clearly a rare occurrence as it looked like we’d woken the staff up when we went in. The dead cockroach in the pot next to us should have been a warning sign in retrospect. Stupidly, I ordered Western food (the rule is, the fewer the tourists in a place, the worse the Western food will be), but I just fancied some comfort food so took the risk.

Idiot. They didn’t let me down – I should have stopped when I ordered spaghetti meatballs and they asked me whether I’d like pork, shrimp, beef, crab or catfish – the ‘meatballs’ arrived and it was pork mince (I had ordered beef) and not shaped into balls, just cooked up like normal bolognaise. Which was fine although there were approximately three strands of spaghetti. But luckily I’d ordered chips too so I at least had those to keep me going. I took a tentative bite…mmm sweet tomato sauce…and what’s that? Oh, they’ve added pineapple. Num num num. There is no way spaghetti bolognaise should ever be able to be described as sweet and contain fruit other than tomatoes. A hideous, hideous mess. Made slightly worse by Craig giving me the money to pay whilst he nipped to the shop to get beer –  the waitress upon receiving the 1,000 baht note, put it underneath her bra strap and told me I had to get it from there. I had no clue what was going on, but this was apparently comedy gold for the other waitresses so I just stood there, laughing confusedly and blushing. I did briefly consider whether to take it out with me teeth – that would show her – but I thought she might call the police so gave that one a miss. She then asked me again, shaking her chest towards me…I just went for the same tack, laughing whilst hoping the ground would swallow me up and she eventually took it out herself. So odd! What is the Thai women’s obsession with breasts at the moment?!

The food issues continued the next day – the breakfast looked vile so I just had some water, thinking I’d be able to buy some snacks on the plane. The airport is tiny and there wasn’t much to do so I bought a Mars bar and a book (A Shattered Youth about a Cambodian girl growing up during the Khmer Rouge years, which was both interesting and disturbing) but this being Thailand, the book cost £11 as for some reason it’s really expensive to buy even used books here. But it kept me entertained and we got on the plane. As usual it was a lovely Airasia plane: new, leather seats etc but this time it was full so we didn’t have the luxury of stretching out like we have done on the last two. But they were serving food, which was chicken fried rice and as I was starving, I bought one and a Pepsi Max, which came to 180 baht…a fortune compared to what we would have paid on the ground.

How can you make chicken fried rice inedible? Put tiny whole fish in it of course! And basically no other flavouring! The disgusting tiny fish had their faces still on, complete with eyes. Except, some of them didn’t have eyes. This could only mean one thing…my rice contained tiny fish eyes. I think I’m not hungry any more. The irony of reading a book about a girl who was actually starving and forced to work all day on just a bowl of rice soup whilst complaining about tiny fish eyes was not lost on me, but I repeat, tiny fish eyes. I just couldn’t do it!

Our plane arrived early by 15 minutes, meaning the whole trip took just over an hour. We swapped the lovely Koh Samui

for this

Absolutely torrential rain. It was still warm, but just bucketing down. So after taking the bus to Kuala Lumpur city centre, we turned on our heels and headed to the nearest Burger King to wait it out and eat something that didn’t contain gross fish. We contemplated using the train to get to the hotel, but in the end decided this was too difficult in the pouring rain so we just got a taxi for 10 ringitts to the guesthouse.

A new language, currency, set of customs…unlike all the other countries we’ve been to bar Vietnam, the Malaysian language doesn’t look like a beautiful drawing, it looks like ours. Ours that has been shaken up – bus becomes bas, restaurant is restoran, taxi is teksi, central is sentral etc. It is confusing because it looks like English, but you find yourself wondering whether they can’t spell in English or whether that’s how they spell it in Malay as lots of words look the same. They also mix Malay and English on the same sign, so you have to look quite hard to work out what language it’s in and what applies to you. The currency also takes some getting used to – 65 baht for a night would be incredibly cheap at just over a pound, but 65 ringitts is actually £16. The whole place is very expensive, so we’re back to staying in grotty accommodation (but paying a lot more for it) to save some cash so we can do all the exciting things KL has to offer a little bit less guiltily.

So we found said grotty accommodation (would you like a room with a toilet or without?), dropped the bags off and headed off to explore the area we are staying in, Chinatown. First stop: umbrella shop!

Ow ow ow ow ow. Why am I paying you to do this to me?

8 May

So the last few days have been spent trying to get over dengue fever – the main symptoms have gone now but I just feel knackered all time. Apparently this will last up to a month following the actual fever :( I’ve been spending a lot of time in my room lying down trying to get my energy back, but yesterday Craig thought it would be a good idea for me to get a massage as it’s something I can do whilst lying down, my new favourite thing, and it would help relax me. I thought this sounded like a good idea, temporarily forgetting that I find massages awkward as it’s essentially a random stranger rubbing you…but the spa we went to was so gorgeous I thought this time it would be lovely.

I walked through the tropical garden – bowls filled with water with intricate designs floating on top made of fresh flowers, little streams and tons of flowers and trees – to the private room (air conditioned, yay) and was handed what looked like a black headband. No. These were my new pants. The lady left the room and I put the scrap of material on, taking all the rest of my clothes off. I wasn’t really sure what to do at this point…do I lie down on the bed on my front? Or stand there? In the end I went for wrapping myself with one of the towels on the bed and standing there.

The lady came back in and made me lie down on the bed, then covered me with another towel, and then took my wrapping towel off. I’d gone for an oil massage (with re-energising oils, perfect) and ticked the box on the form that said medium pressure, knowing that if I’d gone for a Thai style massage it would be painful. The lady put some oil on her hands and for 3.5 seconds it was nice and relaxing. The rest of the time was pure agony. If that was medium I don’t think I would have survived firm. For such a tiny lady, she was inflicting levels of pain that are the same, no, probably worse, than childbirth. She kept saying “does this hurt?” and prodding me where she’d spent the last 15 minutes pummelling me. YES, REST ASSURED, EVERYTHING NOW HURTS. WELL DONE. The only way I managed to get through it was to pretend it was happening to someone else.

She then asked me to turn over onto my front. She massaged my arms and legs again and then wrapped my head in another towel, covering my eyes. She then massaged my stomach, and covered me back up with the towel. “That’s odd”, I thought, “she’s moved the towel in such a way that my boobs aren’t covered. I expect she’ll move it back in a second when she realises her mistake”. Oh no. No no no no no no no no…she isn’t planning to massage my boobs is she? That would be…oh yes, that’s exactly what she’s doing. With oil. I have inadvertently signed up for a torture/sex massage. Excellent. Well, this isn’t awkward at all and perfectly relaxing….

She finally stopped doing that and went back to beating me up, telling me that I was probably 30% fixed today and I should come back tomorrow for more work. What part of watching me weep with relief that it’s over makes you think that I will be coming back?! Never, ever again. Although I have been given a 30% discount voucher so maybe I will go back for a pedicure – they probably use chainsaws to cut your nails and then pliers to pull them out. Maybe not.

But I am being looked after by the staff at the hotel very well – Oh made me some lemongrass and ginger tea which is meant to be very good for you when you’ve been ill, she gave me a cuddle (Thai people do not cuddle so that made me feel special) and she cooked me chicken nuggets when the kitchen was closed. Very sweet. Craig’s been going fishing with Andy whilst I’ve been napping

and I think he’ll be missed by Andy when we go so the girls also did us a massive barbeque last night to say goodbye. We had chicken, ribs, jacket potatoes, salad and the fish that Craig caught the other day, along with toffee cake and banana and sticky rice parcels. So yummy, it’s just a shame I have no appetite as normally I would have demolished eight times what I did last night :)

We were also treated to a couple of traditional Thai dances by a young girl who is learning at the moment. It’s a very slow way of dancing, and every movement down to the way her fingers are pointing is carefully choreographed. It was amazing to watch and she clearly loved doing it. I also had severe costume envy.

It’s our last full day on Samui today: tomorrow we’re leaving for the mainland so we can get to the airport there in time for our flight on Thursday. It is also the anniversary of Craig’s best friend’s death last year so I think a quiet day of recouperation and reflection is in order before we leave for Malaysia.

You give me fever…dengue fever

5 May

Aside from the usual pottering (which I will write about soon when I have more energy), this week has mainly been spent feeling ill. We stayed at Tom and Sarah’s last Friday for lunch after work, and then beers by the pool which was a lot of fun although their pool had got some weird stuff in it that dyed everything green – bikini, fingernails and skin! We had a fairly quiet day on Saturday but then both of us woke up on Sunday feeling rubbish…just really achey and tired.

Craig was fine the next day, but I had had a fever in the night and felt worse. I had a pain behind my eyes, felt weak and hot all the time. I was going to stay off work for that day but thought rather than just sitting in the room feeling yucky I might as well make myself useful and go in for a couple of hours. On Thursday, when the pain behind my eyes was at its worst, I took some paracetamol and went to work, but halfway through the morning I realised I had come out in a rash all over my arms and legs so Sarah (who’s a nurse) said it was probably best to go to hospital to get myself checked out. Craig took me to the hospital where the doctor reeled off my symptoms as soon as she saw the rash and said it was likely to be dengue fever, but they had to do a blood test to be sure as there’s another disease with similar symptoms – the much cooler sounding chikungunya. But no, the blood test showed it was dengue.

Dengue is a disease that is carried by a certain type of mosquito…you have to be fairly unlucky to get it as the mosquito needs to have bitten someone else with dengue fever first but I guess that’s just me! These mozzies bite during the day so you need to be careful with deet during the day too (something that I didn’t appreciate). Thankfully I seem to have contracted a mild version – the muscle/bone aching bit for some people can be excruitating but luckily that stage of it only lasted a few days for me and only felt like an ache. It’s not something that can be treated as it’s a virus – you just take paracetamol, try to keep cool (not easy when it’s 45 degrees outside) and take muscle relaxants to help with the aching. I had to go to hospital for daily blood tests to make sure that my platelet levels didn’t drop too low, as that is when complications can happen and it can turn into dengue haemorrhaging fever or dengue shock syndrome, neither of which are good. Mine went from 113,000 per whatever to 101,000 in 24 hours (100,000 being the point they will admit you to keep an eye on you), but I got the good news this morning that my levels have started rising again so I’m on the mend and won’t get the nasty bleedy/shocky version. Yay. I am looking forward to getting out of bed and being up and about a bit more: Thai TV is rubbish.

The hospital, Bangkok Hospital Samui, is really nice but expensive. We should have guessed this when we saw the fountains outside it :I On the other hand, it’s really clean, has western standards and the staff are knowledgeable and kind. On the first day the lady who took the blood sample said it was going to take an hour and a half for the results to come back. I asked whether we had to go and come back, but she said I should stay. She then asked if I’d like a lie down instead and got me a little bed in the corner of her room so I could have a nap whilst I waited. The room had air conditioning so I was out like a light :)

So the volunteering job to save money has fast turned into a fairly expensive three weeks:

Ferry robbery

£40

Bike scratchery

£140

Computer power cable surgery

£20

Immigration dept. thiefery

£76.80

Hospital savery

£264

£541

Our insurance will hopefully cover all but £100 of the hospital bill (£10o being our medical expenses excess) so the total unexpected costs from being here is probably likely to be £441…but that’s still a fairly horrendous amount. I hope Malaysia doesn’t contain the same amount of nasty surprises…

Koh Samui week 2

28 Apr

Another week has drifted by quite effortlessly. Craig went fishing with the hotel’s owner, Andy, and caught a massive fish in the nearby lake

which was a bit alarming as they can live out of water for hours so it was still alive when they brought it home. Andy dispatched it in the kitchen and his wife, Oh, made a Thai curry with it and also deep fried chunks of it, which dipped in chilli sauce, were delicious. I think quite a bit of chilli and spices is needed to make catfish nice but she managed it :)

The next day, Craig, Mathias, Frederik and Johann, a Swedish boy they’d met in Malaysia, and I went for a drive around the island trying to find a nice beach to swim to make a change from the pool. We found the beach in Lamai but there was a stagnant pool of sewage next to it so it stank. We carried on round and found a smaller beach that had loads of brown foam in the sea so gave that a miss, but found a nice waterfall along the way. We then drove up the mountain (well we did, Frederik and Mathias had to walk for part of it as it was very steep and their bike was small) and went to a little cafe for a beer and to watch the sunset over the island before heading back to the hotel to say goodbye to Frederik and Mathias as they were leaving for Koh Tao the next morning, by which time I would be at work. It was so lovely to see them again and I’m glad we had a chance to catch up.

I had my first solo drive the next morning as Craig was not in a fit state to take me to work. I went the quiet way feeling like I was in Easy Rider, although they probably didn’t drive a titchy scooter, go at 20kmph until wobbling to a stop whilst humming Bad to the Bone and mentally joining Hell’s Angels. But I did the difficult bits (turning right across traffic) like a badass…ahem…and got to work in time without being smushed or causing someone else to be.

Emboldened by his recent catfish success, Craig took me and Andy fishing. I sat and read by book for a few peaceful hours and watched the sunset

and looked at the stars. Craig didn’t catch anything but Andy caught this

He does usually look a bit more cheerful than that!

We went for a drive to Nat Thon via the scenic route: a new road that cuts through the island that was absolutely deserted. A good, flat (well most of it, apart from the bit that had been smashed by falling rocks) quiet road is fairly rare here and it made a nice change not to be panicking about who was going to pull out on us next.

At Nat Thon, we sorted out our visas – only having a visa exemption rather than a tourist visa meant we could only extend the visas by 7 days for the bargain price of £40 each :I So I will be stopping work a day or two early. We have finally decided where to go next…Kuala Lumpur on 10th May. We’re not quite sure about what to do after that but one thing at a time!

P.S. The lovely Yulia (http://insearchofperfect.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/paying-it-forward/) kindly nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award. Thank you :) In return you have to nominate your favourite 15 blogs and do a new post…sadly I don’t actually follow 15 as the internet is so temperamental it’s hard enough to get this one sorted. I kind of just read random ones when I can! But my friend Samantha’s travel blog is always a good read (http://scgreenslade2.wordpress.com/ – although she’s home now, she’s not quite finished getting up to date so there should be more posts!), the four in the box on the right and Where is Phil Now – http://wheresphil.wordpress.com/2012/04/. Having spent 5 hours trying to connect today I am sorry I couldn’t join in properly!

Swimming/scamming/bearding

22 Apr

Another few days of ups and downs…the major down was when Craig, Mathias and Frederik went off on their bikes whilst I was at work. As soon as Craig had parked up, a Thai guy started screaming at him that he’d scratched his van. Craig was pretty sure he hadn’t even touched it, but the guy was insistent he had put the tiny scratch on the plastic bumper and didn’t let it go. He wanted 10,000 baht from Craig for “repairs” as Koh Samui doesn’t have a Hyundai dealership where “special paint” needed to be bought so he had to take the ferry to the next island and take three days off work. Craig refused as it seemed very expensive, and he was sure he didn’t scratch it in the first place. The guy (lets call him SLB, or Scamming Little B….) said he’d ring the police, which Craig agreed to as he still wasn’t going to pay that much.

So SLB rang the police who turned up pretty quickly. They both explained the situation and Craig thought the policeman (let’s call him SLP, or Scamming Little Policeman) would be on his side once he’d seen the tiny scratch, and given that Craig, Mathias and Frederik were all sure it wasn’t anything to do with them anyway. But no, SLP said he must pay SLB something or he’d arrest Craig (didn’t help that Craig hasn’t got a Thai licence) and he’d have to pay SLB 10,000 AND SLP money to release him. Craig spent an hour and a half arguing but it was no good…he ended up paying 7,000 baht (£140) for something that wasn’t his fault and will not be fixed in the first place. It is very likely that SLP got a kickback later on from SLB. The SLB.

We have spoken to many expats here and they have all said either the same thing has happened to them (20,000 baht for a scratched underside of a van!) or that there was nothing else that could be done except pay. Many of them speak Thai or have Thai wives and they all said it’s fairly common here and nothing short of blackmail but that if Craig had got cross or jumped on the bike and left, it would have caused him much more trouble and money than it’s worth.

Having just finished The Damage Done by the Australian Warren Fellows, about his 12 years in Thai prisons, I am very glad it didn’t get out of hand. I’d recommend anyone even thinking of doing anything bad in Thailand reads that book first! I read a bit out to Mathias and Frederik yesterday as they hate Marmite, having tried it with us in Sri Lanka. Warren was served a “soup” of dirty water, dirty, partially cooked rice and a fish head. Pretty much everything had live maggots in it. The prison guard kept walking past, spitting pumpkin seeds in Warren’s soup, and after a couple of times, one hit him on the face. Warren snapped and threw the soup at him, so the guard went to get a package that had arrived for his best friend, which contained food from Oz like tinned pineapple, sardines and Vegemite. The guard made them both sit down and watch him eat the entire contents of the package. He left the Vegemite til last and dipped his whole finger in and licked it. Warren and his friend Paul then had the intense pleasure of watching the guard run off to be violently sick :)

Sadly, the monetary loss has meant that the benefit of volunteering here has been greatly reduced as £140 would be a big chunk of our accommodation bill, not including the money that was robbed on the ferry. Koh Samui has not endeared us much to be honest.

Having said that, our hotel is lovely, the owner is really nice, it’s great to see Mathias and Frederik again and Tom and Sarah cooked us a delicious meal last night to try and save us a bit of cash, which was very kind of them. So it’s not all bad here, it’s just that losing the odd dollar here and there to police in Cambodia was annoying, but losing £140 in one hit is pretty distressing.

The owners, Andy and Oh, came back with a whole roasted chicken yesterday, still warm from the rotisserie, for £3, which made us feel much better. It was the first time I’ve had a roast (albeit one smashed into random mangles of flesh, skin and bone, and eaten with the fingers!) since I’ve been away and it was so gorgeous. I think we’re going to get another today, some fresh bread and have roast chicken and mayonnaise sandwiches. Yum.

DOG UPDATE: Goldie seems to have had her nose put out of joint by the arrival of the puppy so has disappeared :( but the puppy, Fanta (???), is very sweet. I woke up the other night to find her in our bed – Craig had sneaked her in. I was less impressed at this in the morning when our sheets were spotted with her blood where she’d been lying from whatever ferocious insects were eating her during the night. Gross.

More pool games have been invented, involving complicated underwater obstacle games where you have to put on clothes, goggles, fetch the dog toy and put more googles on over your shoulder whilst swimming a lap of the pool, and shark vs odd searabbitdogfishdragon thing that Craig bought yesterday

We have occasionally managed to leave the pool…we went back to the Thursday night market with the boys and watched a Thai reggae band and an amazing 10 year old doing beatboxing. He should be on Thailand’s Got Talent as I swear he didn’t breathe for 15 minutes! We went off to get pad thai and barbecqued ribs and moquitos and came back to find a German couple in their sixties dancing in the street to the band. They were great and loads of people joined in after that. Our best find has been takeaway chicken noodle soup from a little stand near the traffic lights by our hotel…you get a bag of broth, a bag of chicken, vegetables and noodles, a bag of chilli and sachets of sugar (they put it on everything) and chilli flakes. You assemble it all at home but that way it all stays hot.

So now we’re going to have to think about what to do next…Thailand is exactly asking to be further explored to be honest. Our visas will need to be extended so we can keep working, but after that we will either go on to Malaysia and Indonesia or take the plunge and go straight to Oz. However, Craig mentioned going back to Vietnam last night…so who knows??? Bit weird to think our travelling might be almost over before we have to go to do Proper Work.

But Mathias and Frederik have given us plenty of opportunities to cheer up – I dyed Craig’s hair red again the other day and Frederik decided he wanted his beard doing too. All of us had had a few drinks by then and this seemed the best idea in the history of the universe. This is how they ended up.

In the cold light of the next day, however, Frederik had somehow become less enamoured with his day-go beard. I am not sure why, it still looks awesome to me. He decided that it had to go, and set about shaving it off a bit at a time:

How can you not smile back at that oddly-tinted face??

Why can we not go anywhere with adopting a dog??

16 Apr

Throughout my time travelling, I have developed a near-pathological desire to be near animals. Going from owning a cat and a dog to none was quite a shock to the system and as people who have been reading earlier posts, we ended up rescuing a dog in Cambodia and owning an honorary puppy in Sri Lanka…I just feel so sorry for all the mange-ridden and starving animals here I can’t help but stop and stroke them – anything to feel like you’re relieving the suffering makes me feel slightly better not taking them home :) Craig gets very annoyed at having to stop every five minutes to say hello to starving or ill dog or cat but I love stroking every animal that goes past.

The hotel we’re staying at has acquired a dog – a golden lab cross that just turned up two days before we came, like it knew we were coming. She is less than two years old and has such a waggy tail that you’d think it would come off. She’s clearly not a stray as her teeth and fur are too good for that, but she seems to have taken up residence here with only the odd grumble from the male dog who lives here.

When we went to Tesco Lotus the other day, Craig banned me from buying dog food for Goldie, as I have nicknamed her, in case she (or more likely, I), got too attached…but he didn’t say anything about dog chews :) So I got two for Goldie and the other dog and swore blind that somehow they must have just fell into the basket…same as the expensive ham that unfortunately “fell on the floor” and into Goldie’s mouth.

Goldie knows which side her bread is buttered as she ended up sleeping on our bed for one night. It was clearly the most comfortable she’d ever been as spread herself into a thin scraping over the whole bed, the way only dogs can. Every time I turned off I was rewarded by a thumping of yellow-furred tail to say hello.

When we woke up this morning, she was lying on our doormat, clearly waiting for us to get up and give her some fuss. She is very clever as she knows when she’s overstepped the boundaries –  nibbling my ankle bracelet or the computer cables is a no-no. I put some water down for her (she was drinking swimming pool water before this) and when the male dog here came to bark at her for encroaching onto her space, she ran between my legs to protect herself. Another country, another dog…