Sunday, 27 June 2010

Thai Islands for my 20th!

This week my fellow travellers and I have been sunning ourselves on some of Thailand's most beautiful southern islands, and it has been wonderful.

From Chiang Mai we stayed one night in Patong near Phuket, which didn't float our boat, but after the world's most tiring day on multiple buses, tuk tuks, minivans, coaches ferries and a taxi we arrived on Ko Samui; a stunning island with a buzzing nightlife on the east side of Thailands southern strip. Samui was beautiful but quite commercial, and we had a fun night out here where we shared our first notorious Thai "bucket'', played pool and wondered who was a tall thai woman and who was a (convincing!) ladyboy.

After Samui we got the ferry to Ko Phang Nga where the infamous Full Moon Party takes place. Here we met 3 friends from England, making our terrible twosome into a fabulous five (soon to be an excellent eight!). As I was meant to be meeting three friends and staying with them but this fell through, I bought a lilo and camped on the other girls' floor in their luxury beach apartment. To thank them I bought lots of buckets, straws and a big bottle of "vodka" for us to share (it did not turn out to be vodka but it definately was alcoholic!). We had a fantastic night out on the beach drinking buckets, watching the fire poi shows and laughing at those silly enough to skip in a fire rope only to trip and land on the flames.

The next day we did a day trip to Ko Tao, which is a smaller, less commercial island to the north of Phang Nga. Our guides took us snorkelling, which turned out to be fabulous after I had recovered from a bout of sea-sickess (or hangover maybe) and aside from my first experience of being sick in the sea this was actually pretty fun! We also went to a STUNNING island and had a delicious buffet lunch then sunbathed on white sands and in turquoise waters :)
That night we went to the Coral Bungalows pool party, which started well but ended on a dull note when a guy jumped from one table to another, slipped, banged his head and had to be taken, covered in blood, to hospital. We left and returned to the atmospheric beach where my friends were tackled by some crazed men and one lost her flip-flops, so had to scrounge around for another pair for the journey home!

We stayed on Ko Phang Nga for the Full Moon Party on the 26th June (my birthday is the 27th!), for which I bought UV paints to decorate my roomies (and inadvertently the room itself) with. Not that all our efforts lasted the night- it rained! We just had to "embrace it" and dance on the beach with wet faces and soaking hair. I learned the verb; "to Dub", and will be "Dubbing" a lot more on this holiday I am sure!
At 5am we showered and got ready for our journey across sea and land to the east islands at 6am, finally arriving around 5pm (!) and in the evening we watched the England game (4-1 = embarrassing, but made better by Mai Tai cocktais and the biggest shot I've ever had- thanks girls) and watched the mesmerising fire shows on the beach

Today we were meant to be kayaking around the island and snorkelling on the beach where they filmed 'The Beach', but as it is raining we have to go tomorrow instead! Then it's back to Phuket to meet 3 of our other friends at last and travel to Cambodia via Bangkok.

Written with love and happiness from the Thai Islands!! x

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Chaing Mai- Thailand!

Sawadee Ka!

I greet you in Thai because that is where I am writing from; the northern Thai city of Chaing Mai!

My fellow travellers and I flew 7 hours from Heathrow to Bahrain, and a further 6 to Bangkok, then my friend and I flew up to Chaing Mai, arriving around 8am on Sunday morning.
Aside from a few initial setbacks (having to run to catch my train to London, needing to crack the crap padlock off my bag after losing my keys etc) everything is fine and I am having an AMAZING time!!

Here's a quick run-through of my activities this week:

On the Sunday we arrived we attempted to 'power through' our jetlag and explore the city, but the heat and the fatigue got the better of us and we had to sleep it off before the Sunday Night Market held in the city centre. The market was so much bigger than anything I could describe, it literally took us hours to walk round half of it but it was so atmospheric, and gave us a much better view of the city than our first tentative dragged steps that afternoon. The items being sold were as varied as the people browsing; from homewares, jewellery and clothing to instruments, massages and black coconut jelly. Trying to find our way back to our (2 pounds each a night) hostel proved difficult, as we spent 4 hours aimlessly searching street after street; finally stumbling across it at half 1- thank God!

The next day we accidentally slept in until half 5 (which is acceptable because we had been travelling for a whole day), much to the amusement of our hostel staff when we rose and said "good morning". That night we went to an awe-inspiring temple then went to a bar and met some lovely Argentinians who introduced us to their English friends at their hostel. Their hostel had a POOL and was far better than ours so the next day (hungover after an awesome night out with our new friends!) we moved in, haggling the price down to the same as our 1st hostel.

Tuesday we haggled for and booked a trek and went to another night bazaar (and found the most amazing ice-cream and Mac make-up for super cheap!), deciding to try some unusual Thai food from the street stalls. The green sloppy fish in a bag and the spicy snails we tried were inedible, as was the "sausage" that definately wasn't a sausage, the oily fried maggot grub thing and the orange fruity sweet that was far too sweet even for me. On the plus side though they sold sushi for 5 Baht a piece (around 10p) and we had some lovely pad thai noodles!

Wednesday was trek day, and after deciding that a 3-day trek would be too hardcore for us girly girls we plumped for a busy 1-day Trek that began with a visit to a beautiful orchid and butterfly farm. After that we had an AMAZING elephant ride where I got to sit on our elephant Menchan's head behind the guide! I loved this part of the day as it was peaceful riding through the jungle but also fun as the baby elephants were really playful, we fed the elephants bananas and had to hang on for dear life whenever we went downhill! After that we went white water rafting, which wasn't as intense as I expected it was more amusing singing along with out excellent guide, all bouncing on the raft sides whenever we got stuck between rocks and squaling when we saw water snakes. After that we swatted the flies away from our Thai buffet then had a 40 minute hike up and down the hottest dryest and steepest mountan-sides I've ever experienced, but when we got to a stunning cool waterfall our happiness was restored.
Following a quick swim we went bamboo rafting down the river, which was so peaceful (if you forgot about the cricket and unidentifiable jungle noises) and a great time to reflect on what a wonderful week we'd been having so far. We then visited the long-neck Karen tribe and were shocked by the TVs they had in their 'primitive' village and how money-orientated they seemed to be. Rather than giving them money me and my friend left our trainers as they probably mean much more to them than they do to us. On returning home absolutly knackered we had a delicious meal of vegetable spring rolls and pineapple rice and hit the hay.

The next day was 'chill-out day', but ironically I ended up very sunburnt from one too many dips in the pool wearing a 'water-resistant' (but not waterproof) suncream. We returned to the night bazaar to finish the remainder of the market, but the sun had exhausted us so we were sensible and had an early night.

Friday was some more sun-bathing to try and even out my skin tone (at the moment I am like Ross in Friends when he gets spray-tanned repeatedly on the same side) and we attended a fabulous cookery course with Siam Rice Cookery School. There was only myself and my friend in the session so we became really close with Nancy, her funky husband Pot, their adorable baby and their extended family and friends. We were taken to a market to learn about the ingredients and then learnt how to make 4 dishes each plus how to make curry paste from scratch, and I can honestly say it was the best curry I've ever tasted! We were given a certificate and recipe book to bring home so no doubt when I've tracked down some ginseng and lemongrass I'll be a top Thai chef in no time! See the pics here!

We bought a bottle of interesting-tasting Thai whiskey from the 7/11 and had a glass or two with Coke while we waited for the England game to start at 1.30am Thai time, which turned out to be a disappointment but a good night at the pub making friends!

Saturday (today!) we've just relaxed and read by the pool, went for a greek meal (Thai is lovely but I wanted something that wasn't noodles or rice!) and are going to a temple and the huge Saturday Night Market tonight before we hit a few cool Reggae bars down town for our last night in Chiang Mai.

All in all a wonderful week in the charismatic city of Chaing Mai. Tomorrow we fly down to Phuket and travel across to the eastern islands ready for the Full Moon Party on th 26th.

Wish me luck! x

Friday, 11 June 2010

And So It Begins...

Well I'm packed and ready to go on my travels round South East Asia!!

I'll be posting on here every time I go to an internet cafe all about where I've been, what I've been doing and any other things that might take my fancy, for example cute things I've seen or funny stories to tell or interesting things I hear.

Assuming the computers I'll use have some way to upload pictures from an SD card then there will be images to compliment my tales- if not I'll be adding these when I return (hopefully safe and sound with SD card still in my possession) at the end of July.

Tonight I'm going to London to stay overnight with a friend's brother as we have to get up at the crack of dawn to make our flight. We have a stop-off in Bahrain then it's on to Bangkok, and pending on no delays, my friend and I will be leaving our other friends to spend a week in Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. There we are hopefully going to do a 3 day trek, ride the elephants, get a well deserved Thai massage, maybe do a cookery course and sample the delights of Chiang Mai nightlife!

My (massive) rucksack is stuffed with mosquito repellants, malaria tablets, SPF50 and 30 suncream and medication for all ailments. I am taking no chances.

Aside from holiday buys like bikinis and thin towels and coloured eyeliners (yes these are necessity even when backpacking) I intend to find a special item or 5 out there to bring back a slice of the Orient with me, and am especially looking forward to getting something tailor-made in Vietnam.

Anyway enough for now, wish me luck and I'll post again soon from Asia!