11/03/2005 17:10Depart Sydney
I woke up in Sydney at 5:30 this morning. I considered going back to sleep, but we had lots to get done today, so I got up and did the washing.

We headed over to Bondi Junction so Noom could get some stuff that his mother wanted, then he went to Chinatown while I ducked into work to set my away messages for phone and email.

We arrived at the airport at about 3:15pm, got checked in and looked for a few last minute items before we flew out.

Here's a tip:
Never believe vendors at the the airport when they tell you that the same store with the same (or more) stock is on the other side of customs. They lie!

I wanted a little notebook to write diary notes in and Noom wanted a bottle of wine for a mate. We we both told by vendors that there was more stock on the other side and we were both disappointed:-\

We boarded the plane (I got a window seat - YaY) and took off. We flew right over Dundas where my parents live :-)

We settled in for our flight, with me spending a lot of time gazing out the window at the Australia landscape. Eventually, I decided I should sleep and I even managed to get a couple of hours.

But when I woke up, I woke with a sudden case of gut wrenching flight sickness. It was horrible - not only did I want to heave my guts out, but there was an agonising twisting sensation happening in my intestines. I've never been nauseous like that before.

Fortunately, it went away as quickly as it came on. 10 minutes later I was fine... although still shaken by the episode. It really spooked me and I spent the rest of the flight taking tiny sips of water or nibbling on something - anything to keep the next bout from happening.

Pharmaceutical regulation in Thailand is pretty lax, so I think I might pick up some air-sickness tablets before I head home.

11/03/2005 22:20Arrive Bangkok
Apart from the 10minutes of air-sickness, the flight was largely uneventful. We got in at about 10:20pm Bangkok time - which is about 2:20am, Sydney time.

I first smelt Bangkok under the air conditioning as we walked from the plane to customs. It smelled a bit like smoke. I mentioned it to Noom and he dismissed it as just smoke.

But when we stepped out of the airport it really hit us. The air was warm, wet an thick with pollution. I cannot overstate enough how obvious the pollution is - at first breathing is a bit of a challenge.

We started looking for a taxi. One by one, Noom rejected taxis until he found one that was prepared to charge a reasonable price.

Driving back to the hotel wasn't quite as I expected. Although I can't really say what I expected. I was struck more by the same-ness than anything. But, I guess that concrete buildings, tar roads, neon signs and billboards all look the same where ever you are in the world.

There were the occasional reminders - like when a ute drove by with 2 passengers in the tray.

Once we got off the expressway (which is at about the 5th floor level of the buildings) and down to ground level, a few other things struck me. There were vendors lining the sidewalk and motorbikes and tuk tuks everywhere.

We dropped our stuff at the hotel and went for a wander. I finally got the bed at about 2:00 am, Bangkok time - which is about 6:00am Sydney time... meaning, I was awake for a bit over 24hrs

12/03/2005We stepped out of the hotel this morning and realised that last night's pollution was not an isolated incident. It was still there. Its was still hard to breath and Bangkok continued to live up the the title "steamy Bangkok"

The heat and humidity aren't as bad as they sound. Sure, its a little uncomfortable at first - but you get used to it after a while... so long as you have a cold drink in your hand and you don't have to move ;-)

We visited the weekend markets this morning. They're HUGE! Corridors and corridors of stalls, crowded with shoppers. You can get anything here. From high fashion to paintings; from life-sized statues, to crystal sculptures. This place has everything.

One stall had a full sized, realistic crouching xenomorph (from the Aliens movies) metal sculpture that formed the base of a glass-topped dining table. It was just amazing.

The markets are too big, hot and crowded to do in one day, so we came back to the hotel, dropped off our shopping and went to MBK, which is a large, air conditioned shopping centre.

We got back from MBK fairly late, had showers, got changed and wandered over to Sphinx restaurant. I've been chatting to the DJ at Sphinx for a couple of weeks now (over the net), so it was nice to meet him face to face. We then met up with for a drink with a mate of Noom's, before heading to DJ Station.

We stayed til 1am, then went home, exhausted.
13/03/2005I woke up with a hangover :-(

1st stop for today was a chemist for some paracetamol.

Today we headed back tot he weekend market; this time we were armed with a vague plan of what we wanted.

Somehow, the jostling of crowds, the heat, humidity and sheer size of the place didn't exhaust us this time.

We had a great time and managed to find most of what we were after.

Next stop was china town. The general rule in Bangkok is that any free space must be used to sell something. Chinatown consists of streets and alleys filled with market stalls

We met up with a Uni friend of Noom's for dinner. She's a lovely girl and speaks very clear English... but apparently I don't.

The poor girl was completely thrown by my Australian accent - to the point where I'd speak to her in English, she'd ask Noom what I said in Thai; Noom would translate what I said to Thai; she'd then answer me in Thai as well as English with Noom adding any extra information in English, if need be.

14/03/2005Today we visited the Grand Palace and Royal Temple. Absolutely spectacular!! We very quickly filled up a memory card on the camera.

This is the sort of exotic thing that I guess I was expecting. Words cannot really do these places justice - so, when I organise myself a little, I'll post the pictures that we took.

While at the royal temple, we stopped by a famous Thai massage school and got worked over for 30min each.

We then headed over to the flower market... or at least where the flower market should be. But there were no flowers.

Apparently, the market is held from night til morning... which makes sense when you consider how hot BKK is during the day.

We had dinner with one of Noom's friends. He's a farang who teaches at the local international school. We had pizza at a little restaurant near his place

15/03/2005We were at a bit of a loose end today. We had originally planned to go to Pattaya and the Tiger Farm... but after a bit of reading and a quiet word from a colleague, we decided that it wasn't something that we wanted to do.

Apparently, its more of an old style zoo - which means small concrete and iron cages.

Instead we went shopping again. We found a few shirts and shorts as we wandered around. We stopped off for a beer before heading to dinner with some of Noom's uni friends.

Som was the girl that we'd had dinner with before. Along with her was another girl who's name I find impossible to remember :-\.

Som and I exchanged a bit of small talk here and there - but most of the conversation was in Thai. Considering the fact that they're in Thailand and Thai is by far the strongest language for all three of them, it makes sense.

Whenever Noom was out of earshot, the girls would attempt to teach me Thai insults to shoot at him :-)

The thing with many Thais is that, while they often understand English, they're embarrassed to attempt to speak English to a native English speaker. Noom's other friend (whose name escapes me) spoke Thai only all night - but would laugh at a joke that I made in English.

After dinner we went for a wander through yet another of BKK's plethora of street markets. We were rewarded on our bus trip home with the sight of the flower market that we had missed the other day.

That night, we rocked up at DJ Station night club again. One of Noom's friends had said that Tuesday was quiet - this was anything but. We had a great time, perving at the local talent, before heading home at about 1:45am.

Return of the King was on the movie channel and Noom stayed up to watch it, whilst I sensibly slept.
16/03/2005Before going to sleep, we decided that we should wake up early this morning to trek out to the Historic Town. Two things got in the way of this plan: The Return of the King, which finished at 4am; and rain.

I woke up at 7:30, as planned to find it pouring down with rain outside - just the thing for a humid city ;-)

I attempted to wake Noom to inform him, but the Return of the King had taken its toll and he was unconscious until 9am.

We went downstairs for breakfast, packed up and headed over here to the internet cafe.
16/03/2005 17:00Depart Bangkok

We were using a local ariline (one2go) for this flight, so we weren't sure what to expect. What we got was a 140 odd seater plane from the 70's, with labels in both English and Spanish.

It was kinda funny to take off from smoggy BKK, fly above the clouds and see what the air SHOULD look like ;-)

The flight was short and uneventful - 'spose that's a good flight.

16/03/2005 18:20Arrive Phuket

We arrived in Phuket at about 6-6:30 pm. We had a vague notion of where we could maybe, possibly stay the night, but hadn't actually booked anything.

Our other problem was that we weren't too sure how we were going to get from the airport to Patong. We initially turned down the offer of a taxi (we've learned to be suspicious of people who find us - we'd rather find them) - but, for lack of options, Noom haggled with the guy and got us a rate that he wasn't toooo uncomfortable with.

The taxi was a minibus that was "considerate" enough to stop off at an isolated travel agent on the way to Patong. What happened next was a credit to Noom's upbringing.

As I said before, we had a vague notion of where we could stay. We'd done a bit of research, called a few people and had a bit of a feel for the market. The place we had in mind was two blocks back from the beach and about four blocks to the side of the town centre.

Noom haggled with the travel agent and got us a place ONE block back from the beach and in the CENTRE of the town, for a mere 50 baht (<$2) a night more - breakfast included.

We got into town, checked out our room and went for a wander.

Its no BKK but the town is still very Thai - meaning that tuk tuk and taxi drivers are CONSTANTLY trying to give you a ride and that there is a stall crammed into any free space.

The air is a lot clearer here - but still sufferes from a bit of a haze - but I think that has more to do with humidity than pollution. There's a nice breaze that often comes off the water, which is relatively refreshing.
17/03/2005We didn't really have anything planned for today... except to make some plans.

We had breakfast, dropped off our laundry and caught a "bus" into Phuket town to visit the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand)

The Bus was basically a truck with a roof and benches. The conductor played human tetris as more and more people got on.

When we got to Phuket town, we were dropped at the markets. The salesmanship is pretty intense in town... scarily intense. Noom had to lie to one taxi driver - just so that we could escape!

We checked out prices at the bus depot and the TAT, then went to a shopping center for a quick look. I had a Thai iced coffee across the road... mmmm....

Armed with a bit of information, we headed back to Patong and called the travel agent who got us the room. Once again, Noom weaved his magic and got us two tours for 18th and 19th at great rates.

18/03/2005We were picked up the morning (in the middle of breakfast) to go visit James Bond Island. I believe it featured in "The Man with the Golden Gun"

The scenery around the area is like something from a fairy tale, with postcard scenery everywhere! We stopped at a fishing village on the way back, for lunch.

The village is like a Thai Venice - the whole thing is on stilts.

19/03/2005Today we were picked up at 8am and travelled out to Phi Phi island.

We had a fun, but rough, speed boat ride out there. We shared a tour with a Canadian, his son, some Aussies, an American and some Germans. It was a nice group - very friendly.

The scenery in this country is just so beautiful. Everywhere you look are postcard scenes.

Our first stop was scuba diving, off the smaller the two Phi Phi islands (Phi Phi Lay, I think). There was a lot of dead coral from the tsunami, but there were still quite a few fish to look at. The beach where we stopped was just beautiful.

We moved on to have lunch at Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two. We stopped in what would have been a stunningly area, before the tsunami, but was now a mess. We took a shot or two of the wreckage, then turned the camera on the rest of the scenery, which was still stunning.

Next stop was a beach on the other side of the island. Here we stopped to feed the piranas. OK, so they weren't actually pirana - but a few did nip at me and I was left with at least one bleeding wound. That sounds much worse than it was

we moved on to Kai island, which isn't much more than some sand and a few rocks... oh, and a fully stocked bar and a masseur.

20/03/2005Well, I guess it was only a matter of time: we payed too much fro something - they got us.

Today we managed to sleep in til 9am, before breaking fast and packing up our stuff.

We intend to be in Koh Pha Ngan by the day after tomorrow. We figured we'd go via koh Samui, spending a night there.

We had our options lined up. None of them were as cheap or convenient as we'd like, but we finally settled on getting a tuk tuk from Patong, then a coach to Surat Thani, then ferry across to Koh Samui.

They found us as we got off the coach. We should have seen it coming, but were still a bit dazed after the 4hr coach ride. "Koh Samui! You going to Koh Samui? You need to come this way"

Back in BKK, I deduced that you find good deals and bad deals find you.

Dazed and lost in a strange town, we followed him to the travel agent. There we arranged for transport across the water. 250 Baht was the price (<$AU10).

After a short wait, we crossed the road to board the minivan, where we found an argument in progress. A danish girl had found her purse empty after staff had handled her bag. They returned 6000 baht, but 4000 was still missing. Noom briefly acted as an interpretter but the issue was unresolved by the time we left.

We took a curiously long drive to the pier...

When we arrived, Noom compared notes with some fellow thais and realised that we'd been had.

There was a pier in Surat Thani. If we'd caught a taxi to THAT pier, it would have cost us 80 baht (<$AU3). The actual ferry ride costs another 80 baht - all up 160 baht. Wherras we payed 250 baht. Bastards!

We had a pleasant night ferry ride to Koh Samui. We're now in a town called Na Thon in NW Samui.

We ate dinner at the local street market before heading to a travel agent to arrange accomodation. We booked a tour and a cheap place to stay the night

21/03/2005We woke up bright and early this morning for our tour. Today we visited Ang Thong National Marine Park, which is a series of islands, featuring one island which completely encircles a salt water lake.

The area is beautiful, but not as consistantly spectatular as the Phi Phi/James Bond/Kai Islands. Either that or it was just a bit too hot for us to really enjoy them today.

We got back from the tour at 5pm and had 1.5hrs to kill before the ferry fo Koh Pha Ngan. We stopped for a Singha beer at a local hotel, then wandered over to the street market again for dinner.

Yes, you read correctly - I'm drinking beer. I finally found a beer that I like. Well, its either the beer or the environment. I find that I also drink a lot quicker here - no more taking an hour to finish one drink.

We caught the ferry at 6:30pm. It finally left the pier at 7:30 and we arrived at Koh Pha Ngan at about 8:20. We caught a Patong-style bus out to Bankai, our hotel for the next 4 nights.

This is the 1st place to give us two single beds. We've moved them together for now but aren't sure whether to seperate them again tomorrow morning.

22/03/2005The place we booked online was the Bankai Orchid, which is a 10min drive from town. The place is beautiful. When we woke up this morning and looked out the window, we realised that the hotel was right at the edge of a small beach and that our room was 20m from the water. We ate breakfast on a balcony overlooking the cove.

We're a strange pair. The room was pleasant and the view, wonderful. But it was just too quiet and too far from town. The full moon party was on a beach in the town of Had Rin. In between are what the Lonely Plant describes as some of the worst roads in Thailand.

We realised that our hotel was owned by the same person as a hotel in town. Over breakfast we plotted our next move: we would check the hotel in town to see if they had room, then ask to swap.

We flagged a passing taxi into town and bore witness first hand to some of the scariest strips of road I have ever seen. Narrow dirt roads shooting up and down steep hills. Motor bikes and cars struggled to get up and down without slipping, whilst trying to avoid eachother.

We arrived in town, even more determined to find another place to stay. We found the Had Rin Orchid and made enquiries. They said yes without hesitation. We rushed back to the Bankai Orchid to collect our stuff.

When we stepped into our bungalo at Had Rin Orchid, we realised why they were so quick to agree. This was, without a doubt, the most basic accomodation we had stayed in. The aircon struggles to cool the place (and Had Rin is a HOT town); the beds are hard , only coming with a sheet to cover the matress and a tiny, thin blanket; and the bathroom - its just funny!

The bathroom is a tiled area, behind a 5'10" door (I'm 5'11"). The sink has no pipe ffrom the drain hole, so water jsut falls straight to the floor. The toilet sits next to a detachable nozel that serves as the shower (no curtain). Oh, did I mention that the bathroom is directly accross from the front door?

I should probably also mention that the bungalo door is about 10m from the beach - a better beach with more youthful, beautiful bodies than you could poke a stick at.

We dropped off our stuff at our home for the next 3 nights and wandered into town for some essentials: towels, soap, etc.

Had Rin is more of a village than a town and, unfortunately, more targetted at farangs than anywhere else we've been. We had to LOOK for Thai food!

Later in the afternoon, we wandered down to the beach for a swim. The water is SO warm!. I only grudgingly crawled out when the sun started to get low on the horizon and the gentle undertow bacame more insistant. This, of course, proves what I've long said: the only reason that I don't swin in Sydney is because the water is too damn cold and I just don't have adequate thermal insulation ;-)

23/03/2005We ate breakfast this morning at a table at the edge of the beach, admiring the imported fauna as it lay on a towel or went for a dip.

There are more motorbikes then people around here and Noom had been threatening to take me for a ride since before we flew out of Sydney.

He couldn't have chosend a better or worse place to show off his prowess on a motor bike. As I mentioned earlier, the Lonely Planet credits Koh Pha Ngan with some of the worst roads in Thailand.

We hired a bike and trundled out of town; me in shorts, a t-shirt and sandles and Noom, topless with shorts and sandles... no helmets for either of us. I can tell you about it now because we made it back without any so called "Had Rin tattoos". I was, however, petrified for most of the journey.

We covered a fair bit of ground, visiting the local waterfall and two other beaches.

3hrs later, we rode back into town, filthy, exhausted and saddle sore - but with some nice pictures.

The full moon party is, oddly enough, meant to be held at the full moon. However, this was complicated by protests on religeous grounds as parties would coincide with religeously significant dates. The actual full moon is on the 24th, but the website advertised the 23rd as the day of the party.

The music started at about 7pm, as I was writing some postcards. At about 9pm, we wandered out in search of food and at about 10pm, we made out way down to the beach.

The bars all along the beach had put out mats and little tables. The music was loud and varied and some of the best fire-twirling that I've ever seen was on display. There was one 10yr old boy who was really good.

Later in the night they started the "fire walking" which cosisted of burning ropes, set half a metre apart. The air was thick with the smell of kerosiene. After the firewalk came the flaming limbo, at which Noom and I both had a go.

We had a reasonably early night of about 3am. It was OK, but the crowd wasn't quite what we expected.
24/03/2005We didn't really do much during the day. We wandered around town a bit, sat on the beach for a while and had a swim.

In the afternoon we noticed a sudden influx of people into the little town, including a ship load of Thai navy boys. We'd suspected that we were a bit early for the full moon party and the influx today confirmed our suspicions - the night before we had to leave the island was actually the night of the party.

The party that night was fantastic. Lots and lots of people; the music was great too. With tomorrow's early morning in mind, I sensibly bailed early (3am again), while Noom partied until the wee hours of the morn.
25/03/2005[comments to come]
25/03/2005 16:40Depart Koh Samui
[comments to come]

Koh Samui airport looks more like a resort than an airport:

25/03/2005 19:20Arrive Singapore
[comments to come]

26/03/2005The tourist brochures that we picked up last night welcomed us to “Sunny Singapore”. I can only assume that this was out of some sort of ironic sense of humour. When we stepped outside this morning, it was raining. It only really stopped raining by about 11-12am

We wandered around today without much of a plan. This is because Noom got tired of his role as planner and delegated the task to me whilst he had a shower. After a couple of hours of wandering around and being rained on, he decided that he'd rather organise the day (he's more of a structured type then I)

We realised very early in the piece how cruisey Singapore was. Wherever we went, we had guys checking us out. I was followed into a cramped market stall by one young guy, who wanted to “be my friend... you know what I mean, right? *wink* *wink*”. I was a little unnerved by the experience and, after trying to politely extricate myself, I simply said, “I'm going now. Bye”.

Singapore is rightfully known for its shopping centres and markets. There is lots to look at but, after Thailand prices, the merchandise just didn't seem quite as attractive

After dinner we tried out another couple of venues. At Happy, my expectation of being shunned and ignored was realised. It was quite nice to not be sized up for a change. Noom left the club very happy, having been shown lots of attention.

27/03/2005Having had a bit of time to peruse brochures, Noom had drawn up today's agenda. We systematically visited various places of interest. We got some OK photos, but once again had been spoiled by southern Thailand for photo-fodder.

We contemplated hitting the clubs again but, after finishing dinner at 11:30, we though better of it. We had to get up early for our flight back to Bangkok

28/03/2005 10:55Depart Singapore

We got up this morning, having not left enough time. We rushed through packing, sped through breakfast and hurried to the airport.

Having arrived 3 hours early for our flight to Singapore, then the flight being delayed, Noom had decided that he was sick of waiting for planes. So we arrived 1.5 hours before the flight, instead of 2. We checked in and made our way to the gate. This flight had been delayed by 30min, so it all worked out.

They finally opened the gate 5 minutes before departure time. We were among the first through the gate, but then we saw a free Internet terminal.

We'd promised to meet our friend and former flat mate, Caroline, in Bangkok and take her with us to Kon Kaen... but Noom's phone battery was flat, he'd lost his charger and her number was in an SMS in his phone.

We checked his email, looking for her number, while the rest of the passengers filed past us. We finished up as the last of the passengers went through the gate and boarded the plane. It was then that we discovered that the seats weren't allocated. We sat 2 rows apart and settled in for the flight.

I think this sign says that you should give your seat to men with canes or women with big bottoms...

28/03/2005 12:15Arrive Bangkok

When we got to Bangkok, we set about looking for a phone charger, so that we could contact Caroline. We also needed to pick up some luggage from Noom's friend and deliver some stuff from the luggage to his sister in Bangkok.

The reason why we had to pick up the luggage and deliver part to his sister is a bit complicated. Firstly, Noom's family don't know that he likes boys; secondly, his mother would expect that, if he is in Thailand, he would come straight home and stay there the whole time. As far as his family know, Noom met up with me in Singapore, stayed a couple of nights there and came straight home via Bangkok.

The first time we were in Bangkok, we dropped the stuff for his family with his friend so that we didn't have to carry it everywhere.

We found a charger, picked up the luggage, contacted Caroline and started to go to his sister's place. His sister was nine months pregnant, so Noom called ahead. It turned out that she'd gone into labour at 3am that morning, so we turned and headed to the hospital.
28/03/2005 23:00Depart Bangkok

Noom's brother in law offered to take us to the bus station, so we fetched Caroline, before heading over to the station. We boarded a very comfortable night bus to Kon Kaen and settled in.

29/03/2005 06:00Arrive Khon Kaen
01/04/2005 11:40Depart Khon Kaen
01/04/2005 12:40Arrive Bangkok
02/04/2005 06:00Arrive Sydney