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BUDDHIST TEMPLES...

MONKS...

ELEPHANTS... WE MUST BE IN THAILAND

SEAFOOD LUNCH AT KRABI ON THE COAST

PHUKET ISLAND FROM A VIEW POINT

PERFECT BEACHES DRAW THE CROWDS

LOCALS HANDLE THE BUSY TOURIST TRADE AT A LEISURLY PACE

HAYDN SNORKELING

Exploring Phuket Island...

...finding small peacefull beaches away from the
popular tourist zones.

 

There is more to Phuket than the beaches

...and enjoying the life style

 

Thai image

thai image

Again we enjoy the ride along the coast.

 

The crossing into Myanmar

Click for link to 1.1MB movie

Plastic bag and bottle litter lays everywhere...

...in contrast to the impressive golden temple.

Anyone for tea?

You go first, no you.

 

 

 

 

Happy days back in Thailand and what a difference!

Mmmm... one of the many Thai food stalls at the carnival

These steam buns are delicious - like a small pie.

Roasting the bananas on the road side.

 

 

 

 

Lunch on the beach really means lunch on the beach.

Prawn and noodle soup.

All this travel really is hard on my nails.

 

Floating markets at Damnoen Saduak

You can buy almost anything here.

click here for a 1.3MB movie

 

Wat Pho

The impressive Golden reclining Buddah.

Wat Phra Kaew

Thai image

Thai image

The Grand Palace in Bangkok

 

Thai Border post.

Thailand & Myanmar

30/11/06
Usually when we cross borders, there is an immediate and marked change, but here things seemed similar to Malaysia but perhaps a bit more run down and dirty. We had no expectations though and as we ventured further north things started to change and Thailand began to take on it's own character. A short stop for a drink and our first Thai food and the helpfulness of the people is immediately obvious. Another stop two hundred km further on and there is a crowd of people asking questions about the bike. How big is the engine? How much does it cost? etc etc. The people here speak no English but we get by with a note pad and pen. (I'll take anybody on with pictograms now). They are genuinely inquisitive and curious, friendly and fun loving so we have a few laughs with them. The men can't comprehend the size and weight of Jack and Haydn tries to make it look easy as we climb aboard the 'Star Ship Enterprise' (it feels a bit like that) and "hit the road Jack".
The roads are good and the scenery is becoming more interesting but it's time to find somewhere to stay. We're approaching a larger town, Trang, but all the building signage is in Thai. What the heck does 'Hotel' look like in Thai? Eventually we spot a place and I was so desperate and relieved I was prepared to pay $100.00 for a room. Turns out we got an air conditioned room with cable TV for $8.00. Even better, around the corner is a restaurant and we enjoy a sumptuous Thai meal with a couple of beers, for the rider, for only $8.00 while watching the locals whiz around on their small motorbikes. You wouldn't believe what they can carry, even more overloaded than in Vietnam or Malaysia and sidecars are quite common, used to carry additional passengers or... well anything really. These are the same small 100cc or 125 cc bikes we've seen everywhere.
One of the things we really enjoy about travel is the unexpected and we were just finishing up our meal when out of the darkness comes a couple of young men and an ... wait for it... an elephant!!! Well, what a surprise and for a few Baht I fed the elephant several sticks of sugar cane. The elephant then turned back into the oncoming traffic with a red tail light attached to its rear end and continued down the road... yep we're definitely in Thailand, you don't get a lot of that back in Australia. What a special moment, but alas now it's time to head back to the room for homework. Travel doesn't just happen. We both need to research where we're going tomorrow and how we're going to get there. We have photos to download and this website to update. This is not a whinge but I do want to remind everyone that this is not a holiday and at times it's hard work!!! We were up at 6.00am and got into this hotel at 5.00pm and it's now 11.00pm as I finish this update, but wow, I wouldn't swap the life for quids.


1/12/06
We were told that it should only take about two and a half hours to get from Trang to Phuket, but two and a half hours later we were only half way. Eventually we crossed a relatively short bridge to get onto the island and we reach the town of Phuket, a further 50km away, at about 3.00pm feeling somewhat hot and bothered. Phuket town is the main shopping centre and harbour on the island, a stepping stone to the many spectacular islands here and not the beach resort you may assume. We still had to cross the island to get to the famed beaches and find somewhere to stay, always the worse time of the day. It was the first day of the high holiday season, well we timed that well, prices have doubled so the many huge luxurious resorts are definitely out of our league and there was no accommodation left at the few budget places. We decided just to ride south towards the many beach towns and found an affordable hotel just on the outskirts of Patong, the largest and most famous beach town. A bit more than we wanted to spend but as we want to stay for 5 nights Haydn negotiates a cheaper rate. The room is great, with air-conditioning, all the usual trappings and has a balcony that overlooks the street so we can watch all the goings on. And there are a lot. This is the place where the gringo males, many of them senior citizens, find young Thai girls to 'show them around'. or is that 'show them a good time'?


2/12/06
We have decided that today will be a 'rest day' and we will just do what we want to do and not go anywhere in particular. The room is comfortable and we can get the washing sorted out and do a bit of reading (research) for the coming phases. When we get bored we just step onto the balcony and watch the goings on outside. There is a tour operator across the road and I check out the deals. A visit to Phi Phi island is a must and I agree on a deal that will take us there via high speed motor boat on Monday.


3/12/06

Breakfast in the room this morning. We have brought our cooking gear with us and I feel a need to try and save some money and also have an 'egg on toast' breakfast. Works well, but I'm glad there wasn't a smoke detector in the room!
Back on Jack today for a ride around the southern part of the island to check out the Karon and Kata beach and small towns. All are idyllic and we have lunch at a restaurant located high in the hills at a viewing point overlooking all the beaches on this side of the island. Both of us are feeling more relaxed now and contemplating Phuket as a possible location to spend a few months of the year. We check out some accommodation and find that one could get a very nice small house to rent for about $A150.00 per week. Food for thought.
The beaches here are truly fantastic with crystal clear waters and squeaky white sand and later in the afternoon we enjoy a swim and though prune like, watch an orange ball sun fall into the water. These 5 days are the first time in a long time that we have done the 'holiday thing'. Usually we're planning or riding but now we're just enjoying and soaking up. I think I like this.
Dinner tonight and we head into the main tourist area and experience yet another great Thai meal. Then it's off to explore the typical flashy night club scene but it's the people here that make the difference and I must admit the local girls are really friendly and many 'invite' us into their bar for a drink. It's really hot here, even at night, and these local girls are so much smarter than us westerners as they dress in very 'cooling' clothing, next to nothing really! Haydn thinks this is a great place and keeps reminding me how chatty and friendly the local girls are!! They are so keen to help out, he tells me, and that's why almost all the males here have a local Thai girl with them. Haydn tells me that they are probably 'personal' guides just wanting to show the tourists 'a good time'. They seem very interested in showing Haydn a good time too so like most of the couples here I hold onto him tight. Even that though doesn't stop us being propositioned, but in the nicest possible way. The girls openly promote themselves by gyrating on bar tops or stages in the streets, now I know why Thailand is regarded as the sex tourism capital of the world. Well some places promote eco tourism, some beach resorts and some mountain climbing, At Patong it's 'a good time'.


4/12/06
8.00am and the mini bus collects us to take us to the high speed boat that will take us to several islands around here including Phi Phi. The package deal I had negotiated included pick up and drop off, high speed boat, swimming and snorkeling off several islands and lunch, all for $A40.00 PP.
It took us over an hour to get to the first island and it was a fairly bumpy ride but definitely at high speed. The boat carries about 50 people and Haydn tells me that it is pushed through the water with 4 220HP outboards. At the first island we swam for about 30 min in crystal clear waters then we were taken to a coral reef and enjoyed some spectacular snorkeling amongst the brightly coloured coral and tropical fish. Magic. Then off to Monkey island and the main island for a wonderful Thai lunch before boarding again to be whisked off to yet another smaller island where we walked at low tide amongst the coral. Many of these islands were decimated by the Tsunami but have been rebuilt and are again a popular tourist stop off.
To top off a perfect day we have been invited by the hotel owner to a buffet Thai dinner. Seems it is her birthday and this is a bit of a traditional thing. No charge except for drinks and the food is amazing. See the pics. Well we ate what we could and regretted not having a doggie bag. Sometimes the food is just sooo good.


5/12/06
The Kings birthday today and it's a public holiday. I've got a route mapped out around the north of the island towards Kamala and Surin beach, what a good choice. The road winds it's way up and over and round and about with magnificent views over the ocean. The King must have some influence as the weather is perfect with blue sky and no wind. The traffic too is easy going. Exercise common sense though and be aware of what is in front of you and behind and just be tolerant towards others. We have no problem with the locals but some of the many gringos on hired small bikes have yet to learn some tolerance towards others.

More bungalows are available here on the beach front and the further north you go the more relaxed and peacefull it becomes. Heading north west we reach some of the local communities and the commercial buzz is left behind us.


6/12/06
Our five day 'holiday' is almost over and we have lots to arrange. Still not sure what we will do with the bike come March. Will we leave it here or ship or air freight it back to Australia. Time to get on the infernal net and do some research. Several hours later, you know how it is, we have some answers that will help our decision making and go for another ride up the north coast to a small beach side resort for lunch.
We leave Phuket tomorrow and we've still not had one of the famous Thai massages. Haydn has noticed that the local girls behind the hotel are very friendly and asks about a massage. Their rate is somewhat higher than we expected but they do offer 'a complete service'. We feel we can make do with an 'incomplete' service and arrange with the hotel staff for two masseuse to come to our room at 9.00pm.

Stay tuned for the outcome.

7/12/06
The massage was wonderful but not quite 'complete'. Haydn says there is a small area behind his ear lobes that they missed!! Anyway, feeling refreshed after a good nights sleep we should have left Patong today, but instead decide to visit the Gibbon Monkey rehabilitation centre located inside one of the many national parks. A little surprised at the $A8.00 PP entry fee to the park. Gibbon monkeys are on the endangered species list as they have been preyed on and caged as 'pets' and as amusement for the tourist. Rescued creatures are sent to the centre where a rehabilitation program has successfully released families back into the surrounding jungle. Well worth a visit and they are always looking for volunteers to help out. I could see myself spending a few weeks here sometime in the future.
To cap off an enjoyable week we had a relaxing swim at the nearby Kamala beach and were rewarded with a magnificent sunset.

Last sunset in Phuket


8/12/06
Up early and it's time to leave what has become our 'home away from home'. It's not often that we stay anywhere for more than a couple of nights and we now feel comfortable in these surroundings, but we must move on. The traffic is heavy as we leave Patong and climb into the hills heading north for Khao Sok National park. As we descend from the hills we ride alongside the white sandy beach and the brilliant aqua ocean and stop for a short break and a chance to take some photos of a local fisherman. As usual locals greet us with a broad smile, they can not speak English but we are invited to stay and share their huge morning tea feast. Unfortunately or fortunately we need to keep on going, I am not sure if our stomachs can cope with too much spicy food at this time in the morning!
The good winding road (highway 4) with little traffic passes many small villages but just too far from the coast line to enjoy ocean views. A chance left turn towards the coast and we stumbled upon Bang Muang Beach with white sands and a shady restaurant with ocean views. We experience, what has probably been until now, our best Thai meal and for just 180 baht ($A6.50).


Arriving at Khao Sok National Park, we get to feel part of the ancient jungle that surrounds us from our balcony and 'open shower with a view' in our quirky 'Morning Mist' Bungalow. We have a magnificent vista of some limestone peaks while Gibbon monkeys howl (I think), Gheccos gurgle and some blasted bug makes an awful screeching noise.

Khao Sok National Park

A shower with a view


9/12/06
An entrance fee into the park of 400 B ($A14.00) each for foreigners again surprises us (20 B for locals) but allows access into the jungle for trekking. We'll do a similar hike up north so save our money and move on to Ranong where we plan to go across the sea to Myanmar (Burma) the following day. We are enjoying shorter days of travel taking rough side roads into small communities and passing local markets.

A drive down to the Port shortly after arriving at Ranong has confirmed arrangements and we now have a plan of action for tomorrows day's trip across the border.

 

 

Thai image

Close view of small local communities...

Thai image

...and local markets.

 

Into Myanmar
10/12/06
The helpful owner of the hotel offers us a lift to the immigration office and the Port. A popular activity for visitors to Thailand is to do a 'visa run'. On entry, visitors only get a 30 day visa and most want to stay longer so they need to find a convenient border crossing point and cross into another country, then back into Thailand where they are given another 30 day visa. Strange set up I know but that's the way it is. Anyway everyone here thinks we are doing a 'visa run' and they are used to the procedure and guide us along.
We've been wanting to take a ride in one of those long boats for a while and Haydn is intrigued by the long propellor shaft attached to the engine and today is his opportunity to get a close look as we climb aboard for the 40 minute crossing to Myanmar. Our guide book said that when you arrive in Kawthoung it feels like you have gone back 50 years. We definitely take a step back in time and the change in buildings, poverty level and general layout is enough to take your breath away. On arrival we are charged $US10.00 PP entry fee and not the $US5.00 we expected. Fortunately we had enough US dollars on us. It seems that they have only recently doubled the fee but visitors can now stay 28 days. Myanmar is starting to open up it's borders, easy revenue I expect. After passing through the simple immigration office, local guides flocked towards us to offer their services and we agreed with one that 300 B ($A10.00) was probably a good deal for a full day tour.
Despite the appalling poverty here the Buddhist temples are as ornate and spectacular as the Catholic Churches in Central and South America. A bit of a surprise to us really as we understood that Buddhist philosophy was not about worship and more about a way of life. Sadly though, many people live here in appalling conditions and these are made worse by the amount of rubbish laying everywhere and in all this squaller the temples I suppose, bring some beauty and peace into their life. Buddhism is absolutely central to the way of life here and every male must take up temporary monastic residence at least twice in their lives and there are several monasteries where monks live and study the Buddhist philosophies. Dark red cloth drapes the young and old alike and they walk the streets in the morning collecting offerings of food from the people Each day they must eat before 12.00 and can not eat again that day. A walk onto the deteriorating timber harbour is fascinating, obviously daily fishing activities are also very much part of life here too.

The wooden fishing harbour

We pass many tea rooms, the ladies domain, and water wells where people are having a morning wash or collecting water. It is incredibly hot, our guide drinks from several ceramic urns of water placed at the side of the road, filtered water apparently, but we drink our own supply of bottled water to lighten our load.
Lunch time and we have a choice of going to the 'tourist' restaurant or the 'local' one. With all the dirt and rubbish laying about we hesitantly go for the local one just to savour authentic Burmese food. Our guide warns that it is hotter than Thai food so we are cautious and order mild dishes. It doesn't look too good so we both only take a small portion, but surprisingly it tastes very different and it's good but we just can't help hoping that it doesn't make us ill.

After lunch we walk through local markets and around the 'newer' part of town.

Dried fish in the market

It's as hot as hell and we're the only silly ones out in the midday sun. We spot locals indoors sleeping on the floors. We might be slow but we do pick up on things and it isn't long before Haydn suggests we stop somewhere, have a drink to cool down and just soak in the atmosphere before catching the boat home.

A brief but fascinating look into life in Mayanmar.

 

Customs and Immigration

Back into Thailand

'Home' is the Pathu Resort (" resort"! well some resorts have a different interpretation here) and we can't wait to have a long cleansing shower. Only problem visiting the many Buddhist Temples is that you have to take your shoes off and walk amongst the, well, other stuff. In Mayanmar this included the many steps up to the temple and a large area around the temple.

(We can highly recommend the Pathu where the rooms are clean and well appointed and where the staff will bend over backwards to cater to their guest's needs. www.pathuresortranong.com).
Cleansed, we sat down at the hotel dining area for a meal and... well when you're travelling things just happen. We were about to order when 8 gorgeous Thai girls walked passed in traditional costume. They were about to take a 'taxi' to the fair in town where they would perform traditional Thai dancing. The hotel owner asked if we were interested in seeing them perform and we jumped at the chance. Haydn also jumped into the taxi with them for a free lift into town.

The carnival was huge with all sorts of stalls, an amusement area and food, glorious Thia food everywhere. So busy stuffing our faces we missed 'our' girls performance but saw others. Never mind, we still had a good time and what a contrasting day. What a contrast to our day spent in Myanmar.


11/12/06
We had a fair way to go today to Hua Hin on the east coast. Only about 350km but we knew the going would be slow on the hilly twisty roads leading out of Ranong. Also after the oppressive heat yesterday we wanted to get as much riding done as possible while it was still relatively cool. About a half hour out from Ranong and we passed a village where all the locals had small stalls selling steamed pies and wonton things. Could not pass this by, had to sample the local food so we gave it a whirl. Well it was so good we gave it another whirl. These 'things' were sumptuous, a great way to start the day.
It was an overcast morning and we were enjoying the coolth when it started spotting with rain, but as we've got older we've also gottn a little smarter and decided to stop and put on the wet riding gear before we get wet. Worked out well, stopped at an empty road side stall to put the gear on and feeling a little smug with ourselves we rode on into heavy rain and remained completely dry.
The rain had stopped for a while and we entered another small town that was again lined with vendors all selling the same things. Dry roasted bananas and deep fried bananas this time. The passing traffic obviously knew this spot as virtually everyone pulled over and was buying up big. We sampled and bought some of their wares and also decided to get out of the wet weather gear as the horizon was looking brighter and it was warming up. Well, we still need to get a little older before we are smart enough to get things completely right. About 30 minutes up the road it starts spitting again but we decide, actually the rider (you know his name) decided, that it was just a 'few spots' and we wouldn't bother stopping to get the wet weather gear on again. I kept asking myself as the water ran down my back and into my boots, why had we bothered to stay dry during the first rain just to be totally drenched in the ensuing, even more torrential, downpour this time. Mutter mutter.


12/12/06
A sleep in and a later start to today. We have a few housekeeping things to attend to and need to contact the bike dealership in Bangkok and confirm arrangements to replace the tyres before heading into Cambodia and Laos where we expect the roads to be challenging. My biggest challenge is to navigate this notoriously difficult city, made worse by inconsistent street markings. Our guide book offers an insight into what we may expect,"This simple sketch of Bangkok's layout does a real injustice to the chaos that the city has effortlessly acquired through years of unplanned and rapacious development. Street names are unpronounceable, compounded by the inconsistency of romanised Thai spellings. Street addresses are virtually irrelevant as the jumble of numbers divided by slashes and dashes are a record of lot distribution rather than sequential order along a block". Hmmm, perhaps we should have got that GPS after all.
With our tasks out of the way we wandered down to the beach area and I found a bookshop with a good map of Bangkok. By now it was 12.00pm and we soon found a restaurant right on the beach. Haydn had said he wanted to have lunch somewhere with a view of the ocean but he didn't expect to be actually sitting in it as the small waves lapped our butts through the deck-chairs as we savoured a $A5.00 seafood soup.
We remembered that this was not the time of day to be wandering about so we whiled away a couple of hours, and what's a girl supposed to do with a spare couple of hours? Have her feet massaged and get her nails manicured of course. No use drooling at all the other ladies getting the treatment on the beach when for only $A6.00 so can I. What an indulgence and I still feel a little guilty, but gee it was good.

After my nails dried, we walked further up the beach to the pier and watched the fishermen unloading their catch. Literally tons and tons of fresh fish, squid and prawns all packed in ice destined for somebody's plate, perhaps ours. Our wanderings took us through the Hilton Hotel gardens and we tried to look like the 'rich and famous'. It was only later as we walked passed a mirror that we noticed we both had our 'dorky' hats on. The colour of our skin and my nails is an advantage and no one gave us a second look, we could've made ourselves right at home but there was more to see and do!

The Hilton Hotel and don't we just blend in?


13/12/06
Good morning Bangkok, well not quite but an early start as we couldn't go past the famous floating markets of Damnoen Saduak enroute. Almost there and a sign promoted a canal ride to these famous unique floating markets for just a few dollars, so in a flash and a blurr it was off the bike and onto a longboat. After refusing to be tempted by a number of touristy nicknacks by vendors in small boats, we eventually got to the actual market, but unfortunately by this time every other foreigner in Thailand had also converged into these narrow waterways and they out numbered the colourful local merchants. An experience none the less and we hope to return one day and get there a little earlier.
Well, having navigated Haydn and Jack successfully through one of the most confusing and congested cities in the world, Bangkok, I can officially add the title Master GPS after my name. Haydn had to quickly adapt and move with the flow and rhythm and chaos to get us anywhere in the slow crawl of grid locked traffic and we made slow progress. The BMW workshop (Barcelona BMW) was on the other side of Bangkok Centre and there was no easy way around. Bikes unfortunately are not allowed on the freeways so we had to struggle through the traffic and in the 35 degree temperatures Jack was getting hot and both of us a little bothered by the time we arrived.
We left Jack at the dealership and stayed at a nearby Hotel recommended to us by the service manager and being off the tourist trail meant it was good value .....

Another huge day in paradise!
Thank you our good friends Sam and Lee for your sponsorship and help with tyres, hope you're riding with us on our adventure.


14/12/06 - 15/12/06
We only planned to stay in Bangkok for a day and a half while the bike was at the workshop and as usual we are several days behind our schedule to get into Cambodia and Laos before attending a Horizons Unlimited meeting in Chang Mai in a months time. We now had to get into Tourist mode and see and do the must see attractions of this huge city. The guide books tell you how spectacular the Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace are, but their words did nothing to prepare us for these gleaming architectural wonders. The guide books also warn about the local con artists but even so we were not prepared for their professional trickery. Yes, I'm embarrassed to say we were taken to a gem workshop and jewellery store and even though I was actually quite interested to see these artisans at work, our tip for any traveller to these parts is to never ever take a Tok Tok ride!

The public transport is really cheap including the river boat, subway and sky train and we soon sussed all that out and it was a breeze getting in and out of the city this way. Taxies too are cheap and a 30 min taxi ride costs about $3.00, you just need to look as if you know where you are going or you could be taken for a longer ride.
While in Bangkok we hoped to get a Visa for Loas. You can get a Visa at the border crossing to Vientiane but the crossing is more flexible, cheaper and easier if your passport is already stamped (we'll confirm this later). If we have a visa we can also choose other border crossing points. A study of my trusty map revealed that the Loas Embassy was but a stones throw away from the BMW Workshop. A short taxi drive from the Huai Khwang Sub Station if you where coming from Bangkok city centre. Here we simply filled out an application form, glued on a photo (we always carry a number of photos of ourselves for such an occasion) and within a half hour our passports had another page stamped. Not much effort at all.
The bike was supposed to be ready mid morning but it was 3.30pm before we rode into peak Friday afternoon traffic to head, not too far, out of the city. Again no dramas, a smooth ride east towards the Southern coast border crossing at Koh Kong in Cambodia. We stayed at the 'Grand Palace Hotel' and I'd rather not spend too much time describing this architectural wonder other than to say it once was certainly grand but it has definitely had its day!


16/12/06
Only one more day in Thailand before we enter Cambodia and our destination is a border town only 350km away. Fairly heavy traffic, mostly trucks much of the way but on a dual carrageway the going is easy. Here we find there are quite a few places to stay, we find a cheap bungalow for the night, probably normally only rented by the hour!! but it is clean and close to the border.


17/12/06
The Thai border crossing was straight forward even without the Carnet but still took 30 min. On the Cambodian side they were helpful and spoke English but asked for 1200 Baht PP for an entry permit. I had read that the fee should be 800 Baht and that the officials will try for whatever they can get so I stood my ground and refused. There is always a delicate balancing act when dealing with border officials. We subtly expose their scam but give them an out to save face and eventually we all agree on 1000 Baht. Haydn used the Carnet at Customs for Jack as it was just simpler, although we had to wait 20 minutes while they sent someone to get the appropriate stamp, then horoo and into another country we go.

 

Again travel here has been easy and each meal an experience. We have been riding through many of the popular tourist centres and have found that Thailand is not quite as cheap as we had anticipated and some of the Thai people have forgotton their Buddhist beliefs in their search for the tourist dollar. We look forward to returning to Thailand though in the more remote north around mid January.

Next page will take you on to Cambodia.

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