Tuesday, February 05, 2008

In November/December 2007 Denise and I visited Thailand for the second time. A thoroughly enjoyable holiday we stayed in accommodation varying from $21 per night to $150, revisiting Bangkok and Ao Nang, but also seeing Chang Mai, Pai and Phi Phi.

The following is a copy of an e-mail I sent toward the end of the trip which records some of the highlights. An abundance of photos can be seen on my Picasa and Webshots sites:

g'day All, Denise has done most of the communication and here we are at the tail end of the holiday, so in a Basil moment I thought, after our gin and tonic hour, I would share with you some of these splendiferous trip moments.. well it has been a fantastic holiday, fantastic in the sense that Thailand never ceases to surprise in its contrasts and variety.. I'm typing this from a jungle hillside villa, part of Tipa resort, where we arrived yesterday evening, having come by ferry from Phi Phi Island Paradise Resort and a villa on the white sands of Long Beach where the waters change colour with the light and the human shape in all varieties rollick, laze, wallow and muck about. A contrasting environment is Thailand. Yeah. Fab. You look around. You ain't seen nothing yet.

Some moments (and Basil moments later Kirst and Cara):

* 6:30 am Bangkok and your intrepid traveler is out with camera leaving sleeping wife, I’m wandering through a Buddhist monastery between the Kings Cross glam, sham and seed of the Backpackers' Koh San Road and the wide Phraya River. I'm looking at a shrine near the monastery temple. The few Thais I've passed on the way don't look at you, perhaps having encountered early morning back packing revelers of the English, German,
Dutch and Aussie variety on previous occasions. A short man walks up to the shrine with a cheery smile and "hello" to me. He puts his palms together in prayer and bows
to the shrine. He has artificial hands and forearms. He smiles again and passes through the gateway.

* Thai massages are brilliant. First they give you an uppercut to knock you senseless. Then when you come round they bend your legs back to breaking point and jump on your back to see if it's made of rubber. If you exhale or squeak it's a sign of weakness. Then they rotate your feet 360 degrees using their whole body to do so. You'd think it couldn't be done. My feet unfortunately have remained English despite my Pommyectomy. They are apologetically thin, white and boney and bear no resemblance to the rest of me…. Even I fail to recognise them each morning. "God. Who put them there?" The Thai foot massage is especially blissful.
They pull each toe out from its joint. Then they hammer it back in again. You feel reborn, alive and Hindu in fact you've turned into an Indian rubber man. I always give a tip for the smile on their faces.

* we've traveled everywhere at each locality by rented motorbike, except
Bangkok where I thought I might get lost. In fact I was lost in Chang Mai but eventually found my way back to the moat which surrounds the old city. Denise, as passenger was (naturally) tentative at first, trying to twist my body as we came to a bend, turn my helmet, but she's fine now and doesn't even yell "beep beep" at the traffic, who are probably as relieved as I !! A motor bike is a great way to travel, I love it. It has its surprises though.

Chang Mai and we're crossing the river over a rising humped bridge and we took the narrow side lane, a drop over the water and the missus agitated and me accelerating to get over it. "just hang on, it's ok. wow that was hairy...." Again on the back streets of Ao Nang and we came upon a makeshift bamboo bridge over a creek, the back wheels shifted, slid, and almost over the bridge when a large lady appears on a bike coming towards us. Shizen, I don't know how we didn't collide.

* in a
Bangkok laneway after breakfast we met a cheery English tourist on his 4th visit this year. He is on Benefits he said. "Great to be back, love it here, why would I stay in England? So cheap. The people are friendly. Might go to the zoo today. Have you been to the zoo? Have you been to the races? Don't miss it, whatever you do, the atmosphere is unbelievable. Don't spend much, just watch, all day, unbelievable".

* we took a day tour from
Bangkok to Ayathaya the Thai capital in the 1700s. The remains of huge temples now sit amid quiet tranquil gardens. The Burmese king and the Thai king fought each other on elephants and The Burmese sacked the whole splendour, burnt it and slayed every Thai. Here, just yesterday it seems, the blood sacrifice was immense, the smoke, the bellow of the elephants, screams of the victims and yells of triumph mingle with the tragedy of desecration and death. Now, in the bright beauty and tranquility the horrors have dissipated but the Thais are reticent to walk among the tragedy of history, the ghost filled ruins. Hugh, it reminded me of Culloden, those grassy humps on the cold moors where they buried the thousands of Scottish dead. Only yesterday. We enjoy a thin veneer of civilisation Denise pointed out. Yeah, Iraq… such lunacy, the legacy of Bush, Blair and our former PM, Slim Howard, the coalition of fools. Blind Freddy could have told them that if you stomp an ant's nest with a foreign, albeit democratic boot, you are likely to be stung.

* the cuisine here is excellent, the best for me being bar-b-qued whole snapper with
chilli - 100 baht, about three little Aussie bucks. Brit, Irish and even German pubs abound for those who like "food just like we 'ave it back 'ome". Why would you? We also enjoyed raw prawns in chilli, garlic and lime/fish sauce, very hot, so one is almost obliged to douse with Chang, Tiger, Leo, Singha or Heineken. While eating this in a Bangkok restaurant opposite the monastery gardens a beggar with no legs came by propelling himself on a skateboard while playing a chromatic harmonica (like the character in Rohinton Mistry’s 'A Fine Balance' Cara !)

* the Thais are mostly thin and cheerful and work long hours, albeit at a very moderate pace. They peck at street snacks throughout the day. In contrast some tourists provide resplendent examples of the human species in excelsis, and the beach parade is a constant surprise to the eye, as in this picture. Some blokes prefer to remain supine rather than risk turning to stone.... It is not that long ago that females wore the full body stocking into the ocean so that males could not be affronted. Has libido petered or....or is it merely a shortage of cloth?

* from Chang Mai we traveled by sardine bus to Pai in the mountainous Golden Triangle region near the Myanmar (formerly Burmese) border where old hippies move among Danish and Swedish trekkers and tourists from everywhere. A quiet albeit crowded village, no hassles from tuk tuk drivers or Frog Ladies on the march (Sonia). We hadn't booked accommodation and hauled our huge bags (Denise had cut them down to essentials....) across a swinging bamboo bridge over a fast flowing river. On the other side in the mist were about 60 wooden huts on stilts for 400 baht - about 12 Aussie bucks - per night, but alas no vacancies. We checked a couple of resorts - one was 6,000 bahts ($180) for the night!! and so we came to Failte (Irish for ‘Welcome’) run by Dubliner Brendan. Brendan got our hospitality award for the trip. He loves a chat despite "being off the drink for a week now" and was a font of knowledge about the local region. "Try Chez Swan, you must go there, the best breakfast in town, rashers, sausages, eggs, the lot, absolute best".

So we took the place. "I hope I didn't wake youse last night. I went ballistic at dis freeloader camped in my hut - I'm supposed to be making money here. I bought this place from a Buddhist woman, I trusted her, no more Buddhist than my arse"
Brendan had bought a lemon, the books had been cooked and Failte was faulty, but Brendan is blessed by a community of pals who pitched in to help tart up the place, between beers. It was our pleasure to meet them, and it was reasonably priced, 700 baht- about 21 dollars and the experience was priceless. We checked out Chez Swan. The sign on the restaurant window said " Owner will accept all offers". Prophetic perhaps...

* Basil moments. Yes I admit to having had a few onsets of Basil. ok Kirst and Cara, I lost my motor bike..... but but extenuating circumstance whereby
we had ducked into a restaurant overlooking Ao Nang Bay during a downpour, ordered bar-b- qued seafood, which was excellent but spicy, so it had to be accompanied
with yer Chang (elephant) beer. The label shows two elephants pummeling a tree, as you would know Cara, which is the metaphor for what happens to your brain when it
tries to deal with a quantity of the 6.8% brew. "Now where did I park that bike....". We walked up and down, then down and up, holy shite some buggers lifted it.
"it's white I think with that sign on the front", says I being helpful "I know what the sign says", she replies " 'This motorbike is here'. You know Barry, most blokes wouldn't
lose a motor bike....." she can be cutting at times. Of course we found it, in fact had walked past it at least four times...

another moment. Indian tailors don't sleep. a truth in
Thailand, and the shops have splendid names; House of Saville, Armani. "Gutpa I am thinking you are joining the business tomorrow, but we change your surname to Armani. It has a ring, no? Gutpa Armani?" They usually start by asking you where you are from. If Australia they say the usual "G'day mate, come inside, looking looking. good price skippy" I took someone's advice and pretended to be German which seemed to work for some strange reason. But, there we were trotting along the path in excellent humour when this Indian tailor speaks to me " Deutchlander ya?" Somewhat taken aback I said to the missus rather loudly "Bloody hell, did you here that, that chappie mistook me for a bloody Kraut". To which she whispers - "those we passed behind us are German". Most Europeans here speak English very well. I look behind and Fritz does not look pleased, at all, at all.

yet another moment of Basil. Here at our hilltop jungle retreat everything is schmick, in fact it's one of the schmickest places on earth. I stepped out onto the large verandah
overlooking the jungle and the lake down below, with my gin and tonic - G&T hour starts at
05:00, and can extend for a few hours into darkness. It was dark, that's my excuse
for putting my bare foot onto a large orange flying insect which objected to being stepped upon by such an object and sank its stinger in. Holy shite the size of it I was waiting for the leg to freeze, go numb and my appendage to drop off. but luckily i must have flattened the beastie before it could do it's worst.

a Denise moment. "where's my purse, where's my purse?" panic again. Her life is in that purse. we always find it of course, in her bag where the whole world lives. Another. Denise fell out of a boat, arse first into the
Andaman Sea. Laugh !! we both had a good old laugh about that. Fortunately she held my bag up, quick instinct. The camera was in it.

* we enjoyed snorkling around both Phi Phi islands and at
Phra Nang Princess Cave. Took a long tail boat tour around Phi Phi and the boatman stopped just outside Monkey Bay. under the mighty limestone cliffs we slowly swam through a cave which opened to a small lagoon with bright sandy bottom. At the opening were many fish hardly moving, suspended. Time suspended here; this was limbo where the souls lie between heaven and hell. Out through the dark side of the cave, suddenly millions of tiny fish, huge shoals of bright silver glass light shows moving in slow formation around you, the souls in heaven. I thought there was no end to it, we were amazed. Strangely, despite many tourists on anchored speedboats, none were here. We were blessed with nature's beauty.

* around the sheer majestic cliffs, rising out of the emerald ocean like a huge sea fortress, yet sea gypsies had constructed bamboo poles to reach, in a series of climbs I assume bird eggs. the climb appears impossible and the nerve and strength required is beyond belief.

* "Thais are the world's best copyists" Paul , a writer from Co. Meath
Ireland, friend of Brendan. The resort bus collected us from Krabi Airport and the driver put on a CD. 'Return to sender, address unknown'. Yup Elvis. Denise and I were singing along. Then 'you ain't nothin' but a hound dog'. "Mmmm" I remarked to Denise, "must be an outtake - the guitar break is different". Then, 'I wonder if you're lonesome tonight', you know, the spoken bit in
the middle. Not quite. It was indeed, Elris. Thai version.

* a dog story for O who is always amused by canine antics. we walked to the reef at shark point Phi Phi to see if we could spot the sharks who feed there. No luck but saw a wet hairy doggy type of dog walk through the water looking carefully for something, then dig a hole on the beach to find a small almost transparent crab. Delighted the dog jumped around it while the crab moved in bursts towards the safety of the sea, slower now, possibly injured but still with hope. No chance I thought, the dog is quick and enjoying the fun, bounding around it, putting nose up close sniffing but wary of being nipped, then jumps up, runs around kicking up sand and then becomes muddled "where is it, my preciouses?" jumping in a ring, sniffing madly while somehow the crab sneaks off undetected, slowly does it, tentative moves, then finally with the sea in sight does the bolt, flat out and and in!! The dog still madly searching, sniffing, then looks puzzled and gives up. It has four cute pups and one comes over. The mother picks it up in her jaws, carries it to another crab hole, sniffs and starts the dig again. The pup clambers beneath
for a teat, gets covered in sand and is bowled out by the mother's energetic digging, sniffing, digging. Alas, no crab this time. Mmmm, a great hole to just lie in and watch the ocean. Plonk.

Well, I'll see you soon, back on Tuesday. No Christmas cards this year so happy Christmas and a beaut new year. luv youse all. Colleen, pls send to Stuart and Tony. fiona can you send to Owen pls? Sonia or hugh pls pass to anyone else at work who might be interested - who is left there?
Will yourself and Kirsten be available on Thursday? Cheers, Baz xxx

Check our comprehensive Salary Centre Overpaid or Underpaid?

No comments:

Haiku From The Far East

Sea swell Osaka liquid lead and white Suddenly the sun Tokyo. Tokyo yo So many minted faces One could never know Can...