A Travellerspoint blog

A Week in Paradise

get chaweng out (sam)

So we got up at 5 o'clock this morning to get the ferry to Koh Samui. We all came downstairs to wait for the cab and everyone had only a small backpack of clothes. I lurched down the stairs with my massive backpack and feel suitably shamed but at least I will have nice things to wear.

We got into Chumphon and waited at a little place called 'Fame' for our bus to arrive. Now who should appear at this ungodly hour, in a small coastal Thai town but big Robbie T, that most missed individual from our Bangkok escapades. I love the random events that let us meet up again. Rob was heading to Koh Penyang to stay with sam and kat for a while. We didn't know each others plans until now because I had no phone and a computer had been hard to come by.

Several forms of transport later and we were on our way the gentle sea urging us towards the islands. The ferry driver let us sit on the deck in front of his cabin and we lounged in the sun, sharing oreos and oddly flavoured thai chips. It was good to see Rob after we had to split in sickness from Bangkok. I had been ripping on my new English friends for ages about their soft pale skin and continued to do so as they lathered sunscreen all over themselves. Me and Rob span some crap about the Thai sun being to weak to burn us. It was very pleasant weather and the sea was calm, we had the wind in our hair, sun on our faces and Samui ahead of us, I slept peacefully with a big grin on my face.

I awoke in pain. Oh no. I had slept way too long in the sun. Rob had left the ferry at Koh Penyang and this whole time I had been sizzling away. Such poor timing, the day we arrive at a tropical island and after ripping on the English I burn my poor face cherry red. We cab to our accommodation on Chaweng beach. It is called Somwang House and we are meeting two other volunteers here, 2 English girls, Ruth and Rachael, who have already scoped out the area.

We spent a nice day at the beach. Chaweng is probably the quintessential Thai tourist beach. The whole place is lined with bars, beach chairs, jet skis, boats and burnt tourists (I saw whole new shades of red). All along the beach walk Thais selling ice-cream, toys and 'hammocks' (marijuana my friend?). The beach is still nice though and its fun being a tourist. One of the ice-cream guys had an interesting technique for selling his wares. He serenaded me in Thai for about 5 minutes hoping that would convince me to purchase his cold confectionary goods. It did not.

It was interesting augmenting our awesome foursome with Ruth and Rachael but they proved to be great fun. To be honest I was pretty stoked running around Samui with all these girls. I convinced on of the guys outside a suit store that Rachael was my girlfriend and the next day I convinced him that Alice was too. 'Ah you lucky man lucky man! Yes I suppose I was. We now had a pretty mad unit of 6 and were having a great time. Thailand, especially Samui, is like the ultimate place to crack onto someone and the constant beach walks and seaside dinners were giving me a great leg up in my endeavors with Alice (she may disagree). I'm of the opinion that anyone who is forced to spend an extended amount of time with me will eventually like me (yeah yeah have a laugh) and Samui was like a super bonus round.

We went shopping in Samui and I was absolutely frothing. I had to keep a tight rein on myself because pretty much every shop is filled with vagrant hippy gear (Grant you would have a heart attack) so I decided to live my shopping through the others. I started teaching the girls how to barter because they really sucked at it. You know how you can't look really excited about what you want to buy? Alice would come in and be like, WOW! That is like the single greatest shirt ive ever seen in my entire life, you must buy it, pay whatever the man asks just do it NOW!!!! But they started getting the hang of it, although I did miss bartering with sam kat and rob, we were rutheless (sam and kat are weapons). I found a great dress for Alice, black and orange and she was looking fineee. Pretty keen on her by this stage, she is a lot like me but less funny and probably a little prettier.

Koh Samui's main strip is a little like Kao San, there are burger king joints, fancy restraints and snazzy bars. A new feature was the animal men. These guys have an exotic creature, be it monkey, iguana, snake or eagle, and they come up and try to put it on you and you pay for a photo with it. Now I didn't really mind the animals (except the iguana, he really missed out when god was handing out the good looks) but I did wonder how the poor eagle got there. But the girls did mind the animals and a couple of times I had to hold my breath as they almost dived into oncoming traffic to avoid a hug from a monkey. To be fair though it did look well rabid.

So after a nice day of shopping, burning and animal wrangling we went back to Chaweng beach at night. The beach is beautiful at night. Full moon was approaching and the big silver orb smiles down over the beachfront. The water comes right up and laps quietly, centimeters from the collection of beachchairs that have been pushed together to form raised platforms. The platforms are covered by a blanket and adorned with pillows. Above this most relaxing setting is a criss-cross network of Christmas lights. Chilled house bumps in the background. We order cocktails and feel pretty damn good. (I have a mocktail because I am still on meds from Bangkok.) But then we are quickly reminded that we are, infact, not in heaven, but on a major tourist beach in Thailand as the animal men descend for the night shift and haunt the walkways with their feathered, scaled and furred accomplices. Men walk by with boards of jewelry and small children challenge us to games of connect four with costly losses and princely wins on offer. Fireworks are sold and earlier purchases randomly explode above us, sometimes very low. Yellow lanterns from a string rising to meet the moon. People by them on the beach, make a wish and light the candle, the hot hair propelling it slowly up. It’s a truly festive atmosphere and with that essentially Thai air or fun without any sort of OH&S. And I dig it.

The next day we head to Lamai beach further around on the island, the coastline is beautiful and this beach is a little quieter than Chaweng. Here the water is very tropical blue and the sand pearly white. Sadly my cherry face still burns and I take cover beneath a big shady umbrella. I think about how strange it is that ive only just met these people but how much I like them and Walt Whitman echoes my thoughts, 'It may be if I had known them all, I would have loved them all.' My pontification is rudely interrupted with a challenge to a table tennis match on the table behind our beach chairs. A delicious pizza, coconut icecream and a few swims later we are heading back to Chaweng. (Yes I did win table tennis. Ok ok Alice it was pretty even). On the way back we see a parade through the streets of Lamai, children wearing skeleton masks and traditional thai clothes dancing down the road to the beat of drums. It is a celebration for the Buddhist holiday that has so conveniently placed me on Samui for the week. I'm tempted to join the joyful dance but im even more tempted to get out of the sun.

That night we hit the beach again and found a cheap place to eat. We are all excited because tomorrow night we will be on Koh Penyang with sam kat and rob for the full moon party. Oh and today I finished my medication course. Hello Chang.

Posted by codywant 23:57 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

There's a Red House over yonder

Getting my shit together

Ah, a new day, and what a beautiful one it is. I wake with a smile because today I can't ehar a single automated machine, no traffic, in fact, I can't hear anything. Chumphon is a quiet coastal town and we are staying in the holiday area on the off season. Can you feel the serenity?

It's still hot as shit here but I have gotten used to it by now. I decided to take a look around our place. 4 storey red house with blue doors, light on the furniture but airy and clean. Our room is the biggest in the place and the balcony is well solid. I go downstairs to see if anyone is awake and find that all the program managers are scattered randomly on the floor and is that whisky i smell? Looks like we could be set for a good month. I had been told I was teaching with Alice and that we were set to teach 4 days a week, but this week was a buddhist holiday (the best kind) so we had a whole week to get to know each other before we even started teaching. Cheers big man.

Eventually everyone stirred. You can't sleep in here its just not possible in the heat. We jumped in the back of a ute and drove into Chumphon city, about 15 kms. Its the coolest i've been for over a week so i stick my head out like a dog, tongue flapping in the breeze. A large insect puts a stop to these shenanigans. I get the impression that where we are staying is like a little beach community and the Chumphon itself more like a little city. It is very cool as it is a pretty good example of a small Thai city. Lonely plant does not have much to say about Chumphon, only that it is a good place to get a ferry to the islands from.I found its good for a whole lot more.

We drove to the mall to get supplies. We started reversing and a little man in a uniform popped out of nowhere and started to blow on his whistle feverishly, in what i assume was a guide to us parking the car. He made a lot of wild movements and noise and then the moment we were parked he teleported over to the next car and whistle assaulted their ears until they were parked. Personally i find reverse sensors more effective but this guy had a lot more character.

The mall was pretty much the same as any mall at home, boppers and cool kids walk around in G-unit shirts and small skirts browsing the stores. The only difference here was the BB Gun store that sold a whole range of military scopes, fatigues and large large knives. After the mall we went across to a market. I bought some replacement thongs and some bob marley shorts (what?). They had some odd things at the market and some amusingly descriptive products like the thing you would use to massage your back in the bath which was deceptivley named, 'Bath Massage Thing',

We drove back to our place and the guys at the restraunt put on a cooking class. The red curry was mind blowingly good, I think you just get meat and veg, throw it in a hot wok, put on a shitload of oyster, fish and soy sauce, plus some other shit and ahh i forget but damn it tasted good.

Quick lowdown on the characters at the bar. Toby wears exclusivley reggae related gear and big white sunnies, calls me wolverine and can solve a rubix cube in seconds. Kong (at least i think that is his name) is a big jolly unit, think of an alcoholic buddha in a hawaiian shirt. Jeng is a bit of a playboy but a mad dude 'how many tattoos jeng?' 'too many too many.' Nang is a 30 year old woman who looks about 22 and can drink all of us under the table. And the godfather of this motley crew, P-boy, who wears only Thai fisherman pants and Tie Dye shirts, he also plays godlike blues guitar but we'll talk about that later.

We had a swim (finally) which was fantastic (no surf though boys devoooo) and I taught Alice, Chris and Kat how to play 500. Chris and Kat are the other two people we are teaching with. Chris is a mad dude from Manchester yea? and Kat is a scottish/irish girl who drinks a lottttt. Alice is from london and laughs at my jokes (yeah it does happen). Here's a tip, if you are the only person who knows how to play 500, DO NOT OFFER TO TEACH IT! It did tke a few hours but they kinda got the hang of it.

The next daywe rented pushies and cycled arond the whole earea to scope it out. The town itself is not very big and basically consists of several bars and restraunts and not much else. The beach area is called 'Thung Wua Laen Beach' which means 'Running bull beach'. This is apparently because before the beach was settled people used to come and watch the wild bulls that ran on the beach, eventually taming and riding them around. There is a big gold statue on the beach to commemorate this.

We are planning to go to Koh Samui for our week off and hit up the full moon part on Koh Penyng which is cool cause I can meet up with Rob, sam and kat. Had the best meal of my life, a red curry so hot i felt like i had just dined with lucifer, but so tasty. This place is really nice and we spent all afternoon playing pool to a reggae beat. I'm looking forward to the next month but for now im just going to sleep in this hammock.

Posted by codywant 03:41 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bangkok Blues

Errors in the big city

So we left each other at the temple of Wat Pho. We rejoin at a private hospital in the heart of Bangkok. the night after Wat Pho we hit the town on Kao San Road. Sam, Kat and myself started to devour buckets of rum like animals, while Rob slept off a bad cough at the hostel. NEVER buy a bucket of Sangsom and certainly do not ask for it to be stronger than usual (Sam.). I remember some cool english people from this night, we all cruised together, jabbering incoherent fools blending into the madness of Kao San. Visions of bars, buckets and a wild tuk tuk ride involving a wheelie return to me. At some point i lost my thongs and returned home shoeless, a bedraggled prophet heralding the new morning in turquoise fisherman pants, i brought the word and the word was DAMN!!!!

So me and rob now had serious coughs and fevers from a combination of drinking, insane heat and ridiculous airconned rooms. We got a cab to the hospital (the driver still tried to scam us even as we went to hospital) and checked in for testing. There is something universally calming about the sterile atmosphere and the competent air of a hospital that will relax your ill self quickly. We had to wait for a translator before we could tell the doctor that we felt like shit. All the hype about Swine flu had us pretty geed up and we had a few of the supposed symptoms.

Now the test for Swine Flu is really fun. I sat on the chair as a lovely thai nurse, smiling, removed a very long flexible needle with a roudned end from a sterile packet, which wobbled to and fro with the very same menace as a hooded cobra. Now i was worried, naturally there are a few places you would not want a 6cm needle inserted. I wondered what the hell i was doing in this ridiculous situation but then i laughed and told her to get on with it. The needle entered my nose and it kept going till i swear it touched my fucking brain or must have poked out my eye socket. finally she had a sample of the innermost part of my head and removed that tourtuous weapon of choice from my screaming nasal passage.

We then slept and waited for our results. Me and rob discussed whether it would be funny if we got Swine Flu. We decided that it would not be. The results cam back and the nurse was pensive. Shit I thought, ive only been here 3 days and ive gone and got myself Swine Flu. The nurse laughed and told me that I had a common cold. Ouch. Fucking news hype had me all twisted up and freaking. Rob actually had a flu but not of the swine variety. So we returned to our temporary home on Kao San, weary and worn butwe found comfort in our freshly extended life expectancy.

I had a horribly feverish sleep, Rob got his own room so that we could weather our illnesses separately. In the morning flow of the next day i weakly packed my bags and left for KT Guesthouse, where the next part of my trip was to begin. Even in the state I was, pale and wearied, loaded like a packhorse, I had to walk away from 3 cabs before one would use the meter. I collapsed into my chariot and slept as i drew closer to the haven of my organised trip and the capable peple who were there, bringing an end to the madness of the last 4 days.

Bankok was a lot of fun and my senses were strained to breaking point but it is a very dirty and hard place where gap between rich and poor is intensely obvious. I could spend no longer than i did there or it would overcome me. I was off to the coast for some old soul healing. I entered the guesthouse, checked in and dived into a small coma until the late evening.

I awoke from my sleep a sweating heaps. In Thailand there are 4 stages of dampness you are in. You are always in one of these stages and sometimes 2 at once. You can either be sweating, showering, swimming or being monsoonaly rained upon. Dryness is a myth from a faraway land.

All the new cats from the teaching placement where set to go out that night. I was still weak from fever so I popped another of the potent fever tablets the hospital gave me and read some Walt Whitman. I would not meet my amigos until tommorow. Walt said, 'I exist as I am, that is enough, if no other in the world be aware I sit content and if each and all be aware i sit content.' I feverishly philosophised myself to sleep.

I wondered about the choices I had made so far in my trip and pondered the choices to come. I grew slightly melancholy and decided to watch 'Into the wild'. Here was some comfort for me. 'If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason then the possiblity of human life is destroyed.'

I slept comfortably, excited about the next stage of the trip and the people I was going to meet.

The next day I awoke feeling better but still faint. I went down to the orientation to size up my new compadres. We had names on our seats already and I walked the long way around the table to view the new kids. I had done my prayers in the temples of Bangkok and I knew fate would hook me up with something, although I couldn't see a lot happening as I sat down. Just as a new wave of nausea hit me and i put my head on my hands a proper english accent said, 'Hi you must be Cody, I'm Alice.' Head up champ, and wouldn't you know it, Alice was a pretty brunette with a delightfully proper London accent. Delicious. Confident that buddha was still on my side i went back upstairs for another sleep.

We jumped in a mini-bus that afternoon and I felt much better, and a couple packs of lollies picked me up even more. As we drive to Chumphon I see a new definition of 'short straw'. A ute passes us, the cab packed as tight as it can be with people, but one man has missed out and he sits huddled in the tray of the ute, torrential monsoon rain pounding down. Devo.

We arrive late at naight and throw our bags down. The guesthouse, called Mali Blues, is modest and spartan but I like it. The room consists of 2 futons, 1 fan, a bathroom and a balcony. Iquickly make myself at home and we head to the bar to meet everyone. The previous lot of volunteers are having a party for their last night but we are all wrecked. We head wearily to bed, wondering what comes next.

Posted by codywant 03:41 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

The Fleecing of the Lamb.

Travel Rookie

Warning/Disclaimer: The following is scattered, rambling, grammatically incorrect, way too long and may contain nudity, coarse language and drug use. Wooooooooop!!

Day 1. 'Sitting in a little cafe on Kao San Road. Chang beer 60 baht. Just bought some fisherman pants for $7.' The flight was great on the way over, had a spare seat next to me so I just put my feet up and watched about 5 movies. I also had a few beers on the way and was laughing quite heartily to anchorman as we landed in BKK. Jesus BKK is a crazy place. I walked through the airport and assessed the automatic guns on every second dude wearing a military outfit. I don’t know what it is but the Thai guys look really sketchy in their military uniforms. The airport is really nice and I was just totally stoked that I was travelling by myself so I had a huge grin as the travelators whisked me through the airport. (Yes dad the plastic sleeve is by far the best way to keep your documents together.) Went through immigration sweet as and picked up my goods. Hahaha there were like 10 other dudes with guitars on their back. Looks like Thailand is the place for the cool cats right?

I stepped outside and almost passed out immediately. It is joke material how friken hot it is here. I figured out where to get a bus from and jumped on into the city. The traffic was horrendous but it was interesting to watch everything through the window. Honestly you see the craziest shit on the roads here, weight limits are just a vague suggestion and every second Ute has about 10 faces peering out as it zooms past surrounded by a swarm of death defying motorcyclists who move like water along a river bed as they somehow avoid painful death between a speeding truck and a Ute loaded with chicken coops.

I will never forget the feeling that I had when I stepped off the bus and into the chaos of Kao San Road and the surrounding area. The air itself was electric and each of my senses was strained to breaking point but it was fucking magic. I truly love the streets of Thailand they are absolutely mental. I walked, in the rain, along Kao San Road, marveling at the collection of flashing lights, offers for taxi my friend, ping pong shows, places to sleep and beggars for a buck. The loneliest man in the world could walk along the streets of Bangkok and he would find himself a lot of friends fast. My friend suit for you! My friend special deal for you! I felt like a golden ghost walking along in the rain cowering under my baggage looking for my hostel. That moment was one of the greatest in my life and I will never forget it.

The hotel has an open lobby to the streets which is down an alley past a jazz bar and between two reggae bars. (No joke.) I checked in and put my bags away and went walking to suss the place. I made some friends with some Irish guys and some English girls. (Everyone here is English; seriously I have only met two Australians.) You guys will not be super happy about this but I got a tattoo on my first night. It is on my inside bicep and it is hidden by a shirt. I love it so much it is the Buddhist endless knot that I have wanted for ages. I know you don’t like them but for me it represents that one shining moment when I walked the streets of the most hectic foreign place in the world and saw how big the world really is. I then met some English girls who showed me the spots to eat on Kao San and we hung out for ages. Then met rob and we chilled out for a while then went to bed. Day 1 wasn't even that long but it was amazing.

Bangkok is a rough and dirty city but it is never dull. Anytime I stepped out of the hostel I was assaulted by stray cats, rabid dogs, blaring music, toothless grins and the constant hiss of an oily wok. Anywhere you go the locals will try to take you for all you are worth, but it is never malicious, more like survival, this place is a real concrete jungle. Over the next few days me and rob cruised the streets of Bangkok marveling at the chaotic river of living that never stops moving. I saw the stark dichotomy of living conditions one night, an up market bar with well dressed patrons drinking the night away and a young boy sleeping outside on the street, inside a broken telephone box. We met some girls who took us to the roof of their hotel which had a private pool. Bangkok stretched out before me, a grey dusty desert of shacks and shanty towns interspersed with gleaming mall and supercentres. We were gods of a new age, and this was our city, at least for that one moment.

The girls took us to an electro disco, where filthy sweating masses heaved and spammed ecstatically to a thumping loop. Male zombies accosted our new friends in a constant stream, playing the numbers game until they bumped into a fellow zombie, eyes wide n the flashing lights, red bucket of vodka clutched to their chest. I left in horror, wondering why they bothered leaving the same clubs at home.

On my first day out in BKK I was involved in 3 scams at once. No I do not want any jewels and I don’t fucking care if they are half price. No I don’t want a tailored suit, do I look like I wear a suit? I don’t care if it the best material in the fucking universe I don’t want it!!! I was the guy with the most friends in the world. My friends came out of every store and they all had special deals for me. Well I was sure the most popular guy in BKK that day. But I really felt like a piece of meat being devoured by a constant swarm of flies.

Just as I had enough of the dirty, foul city a short man came out and started walking with me. A curious man he was, who spoke like his whole conversation was coming from reading cards. (In fact this was not far from the truth.) He told me that he was a teacher although not a volunteer as I was. He spoke for a while and told me that it was a special holiday today and that I could get a cheap ride around the city because the government – or someone – was paying for it. In reality it was the beginning of an elaborate scam where the driver would take me to one interesting sight and then a shop (that was part of this special deal) where a golden tongued man would convince me that all I really wanted in life was a double breasted linen suit, and would I please like some tea? Luckily I was too cheap to buy anything to I didn’t get scammed and I managed to get a free ride around Bangkok.

That day I saw a towering golden Buddha, 3 stories at least, a colossus of the east, radiating the golden glow of Buddhism in waves over that dirty city. I walked through an empty building, shadowed y feral dogs, catching glimpses of seated gods on lotus beds between the pillars. At the top of a narrow staircase was a shrine, surrounded y a thin balcony. I eagerly mounted it and looked out over the temple grounds, the royal palace and off to the edge of the dusty expanse. On the way back I walked past a small temple where the rich tones of praying monks echoed off the seated Buddha before them, and spread out to the busy street. I went to a local shrine where a man thanked me for teaching and showed me how to prey before a shrine. I knelt and touched my head 3 times with the sticks of incense. What to pray for? I was already there.

So me and rob, the three day veterans of Bangkok sit in ‘silk bar’ on Kao San Road. By now we are getting the hang of things and we do cheapskate tricks like ringing our own water from 7 eleven to restraints. We also have an awesome good cop ad cop routine for bartering that works a treat. The night before started with a quest for karaoke but ended with a Thai reincarnation of Hendrix melting his guitar to Floyd and Lynard Skynard in an Irish bar with some French Canadian and amsterdamian girls.

We had made plans to meet up with Sam and Kat on the road but neither of us could get the bloody phone to work so we vaguely organized the night before on good ole faceook that me and rob would sit in a café and Sam and Kat would walk past until they saw us in a café. Great plan guys, really foolproof. but somehow I looked up from my ridiculously tasty and cheap curry just as they walked past, looking very official with camera around the neck, the loveliest couple in all of Bangkok.

That day we went to Wat Pho to see the reclining Buddha. Now the Buddha is not reclining like you would in a lazyboy chair, he reclines like a sexy pose n the side, head resting on one hand, a coy grin of omnipotence creasing his golden demeanor. The Buddha is incredible. About 10 cars long and 4 cars high (what the hell measurement is that?). The Buddha is all golden gilt and the feet are a remarkable feat (excuse the pun) of workmanship, a complex design of inlaid mother of pearl. The grandness and grace of the statue is hard to describe. The temple itself is housed between gigantic towers of ceramic s of all colors, glittering in the sunshine. Huge statues of warrior guardians protect each entry to the ground. We climb one of the ceramic towers and sit halfway up, surrounded y a skyline of Buddhist devotion, safe within the walls, protected from the madness o the fierce concrete jungle of Bangkok. On the way out we drop 108 coins in 108 pots for good luck. We’ll see how that works out for us.

Posted by codywant 10:43 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

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