Tag Archives: backpacker

Thai islands, part 1

Hello dear reader,

Welcome to what is probably the penultimate travel blog entry, because we fly home in nine days!! I can hear you all breathing a sigh of relief. Thank you to all of you have stuck with me from the very beginning. I’ve loved having the blog as a diary, and also a way to tell the stories of our trips to my friends and family.

Through the blog I’ve discovered a new love for writing, and as I’m almost a hundred posts in, it seems a shame to throw in the towel now. I’m going to keep the blog going even when I’m at home. Sure, I probably won’t have anything that interesting to write about (except wedding planning… Cough) but I’ve really enjoyed having a new hobby that I can do anywhere (hello international airports) and anytime (hello insomnia!)

So, the past week has been spent having a look around the south of Thailand.
It was really nice to return to Thailand. It’s been the first time we’ve “returned” anywhere on the trip, but it’s a relief to arrive somewhere and understand how it all works, and how to say “hello” and “thank you.”

Unfortunately on the way out of Cambodia I developed tonsillitis. I’d like to take a moment to share with you, and anyone who may or may not have had tonsillitis in the past, one of my favourite ever pieces of journalism: Charlie Brooker on the horrors of tonsillitis.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/jul/28/healthandwellbeing.health

It’s worse, far worse, than international terrorism and child abuse combined.”

Although the above quote is a slight over statement, I love to return to this piece every time I get tonsillitis and share it with anyone who doesn’t understand how FUCKING TERRIBLE IT IS.

So our flight to from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Phuket, Thailand wasn’t a fun one for me.

I went hot cold hot cold hot cold and I couldn’t wear my hoodie because it’s currently in quarantine after I slept in it in a bed full of bedbugs in Siem Reap. (But that’s a song I shall sing another day.)

We changed flights in Bangkok where we were delayed, but I was semi conscious so I didn’t really know or care that much about it.

FINALLY we got to Phuket and had some food (an ice cream for me) and fell asleep.

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

 

(Above is the only photo I took in Phuket! See, told you I was ill! Haha. Our room was really cool, it felt like we were staying in a church and I had a nice new dress on.)

The next day was a slow plod to an English-speaking pharmacy where I demanded antibiotics and then went back to bed with a nice little spittoon next to me. Special shout out to Thomas Copley (aka Nurse Copley) who is basically a SAINT. I seriously don’t understand how people can travel alone. There have been far to many occasions where I’ve been bedridden on this trip (hello Vietnam!) and I’ve relied on Tom to get food for me otherwise I would have died.

Anyway, nothing was achieved for 48 hours other than walking around the corner to visit that cat cafe. I love cats!!!

Then we moved to another side of Phuket, closer to Kata beach. We found our hostel, and as I got there I saw a little dog sat on the bar stool by reception. As I walked towards it to say hello (“sawadee ka!”) it stuck its paw out and gave me a high five! This was one of the best moments ever as it felt like an achievement to even make it there in my sweaty and delirious state!
The hostel was okay but the bathroom was grim and full of cockroaches so we had to knock loudly on the door and turn the lights on and off a few times before we could enter. (To scare them off into their holes) It was a bit hysterical really but I’ve got to the point where I’ll put up with anything!

We chilled by the beach for two days which was nice, and I began to feel better. What would we do without antibiotics?

After Phuket we went to Koh Phi Phi, which was really nice, more filled with backpackers so we felt a bit more at home and I was beginning to feel more human.

image

We basically lazed and wandered around for two days. Our hostel was really grim and the toilet was in the shower, but it was okay. We had a crazy thunderstorm one night. The thunder was so loud that it was like someone banging a drum in your chest.

image

(our lovely toilet in the shower, for your viewing pleasure.)

The next day we went for a very slow plod up to a viewpoint above Ko Phi Phi. To get there, we followed the tsunami evacuation route. It’s good to see that these have all been put into place after the 2004 tragedy.

We had a nice walk. It was very sweaty, but we met some nice kittens and the view was cool. On the way back down the hill, my foot slipped from underneath me and I completely stacked it. My knee was bleeding so badly that it was running all the way down to my ankles but I just laughed because it ALWAYS HAPPENS TO ME. Tom said “you’ve taken to travelling like a duck with bricks in its pockets,” and then a German man shouted at me for wearing the wrong shoes. No rest for the wicked eh?

image image

That evening we watched a fire show on the beach which was nice.

Next stop: Koh Lanta. We’d heard Koh Lanta was a nice chilled island to visit. We got a tuk tuk to our hotel which was literally just on a road in the middle of nowhere. Because it’s low season, “quiet” means “totally dead.” Also, we had overlooked that we were visiting a Muslim island during Ramadan. Most travellers rent motorbikes or scooters but because we’re both too clumsy (see above) and we’ve seen too many people covered in bandages we’ve decided against using them. This meant that we were in the middle of nowhere for 48 hours. Because it’s rainy season the weather has been pretty pants so we just basically did nothing! I didn’t take a single photo because it was literally just a dirt road in the rain.

Onwards! Krabi! This was one that I was really excited about because we’d booked somewhere faaaaaancy as a treat for Tom’s birthday. By fancy, I mean £50 a night, but it really goes a long way in Thailand! We checked into the Krabi resort, and Tom said “it’s my birthday tomorrow, is it possible to get an upgrade?” And it worked! Amazing. I need to be more assertive. “Britain needs serts!”

image
We were taken to our suite in a little golf buggy and the novelties didn’t wear off for the next 48 hours. Our room was stunning, and huge, and octagonal. We had a lovely bathroom bigger than many rooms we’ve stayed in with a sunken bath. The resort had two massive pools, all you can eat buffet breakfast…. Oh it was just paradise! I’ve never appreciated luxury so much! Tom’s birthday was great, we just spent the day eating and drinking and lying by the pool ordering drinks and charging them to our room which just felt amazing until we checked out and paid the ransom the next day haha!

image

(The birthday boy)

image

I leave you with the above photo to distract from my despair that the next time I write here we will be GOING HOME!!!😭😭😭

Okay time for happy thoughts, here are some things that have made me laugh so far in the Thai islands:

  • During our time at the Krabi Resort (posh hotel) there was a monkey on the loose who kept emptying the bin at the bottom of the stairs, looting all over the place, and generally causing chaos. The staff laid out a big trap filled with bananas but he wasn’t interested.
  • Also at the Krabi Resort there was a gigantic lizard who was about four foot long and was doing laps around a little posh moat area, making everyone who spotted him scream. Clearly the animals at the resort didn’t get the memo about it being a swanky place!
  • When boarding one of the boats between the islands there was a very official man in an official uniform making an official announcement…. By shouting through a traffic cone.

blogsignature

A love letter to Kuta and Ubud

Dear Kuta,

When I first stepped off the plane I was a bit overwhelmed. It was 2am, I was dehydrated and I’d just woken up having gone through all the sleeping positions possible on a budget airline seat. When we’d found our bags, we went in search of a taxi driver. We didn’t have to go far. They were lined up in matching Hawaiian shirts waiting for us. Our first one gave us an insane quote. The second one was slightly better… But not much. But we were tired. We followed him even as he offered rides to other bewildered westerners, and boasted to his friends how much he had got out of us.

The taxi was alarming. There was little in the way of street lights and it felt like another world. There was no sense of give way, just everyone everywhere. The dark alleyway where we found our hostel scared me. We waded through puddles with our huge backpacks on and tried not to look at the snarling dogs. But then we saw the security man waving to us…
Our room was great. Elsewhere we’d paid on average £40-60 a night for a double room. We hadn’t had an ensuite for the entire trip. Kuta, you were £9 a night. You had air con! You had a double bed and an ensuite!! We passed out. We woke to the sounds of dogs barking and cockerels going crazy.

image

We tried the hostels breakfast, and looked at the huge Hindu shrine in the centre of the courtyard. Incredible. Breakfast was £1.30 each for a toasty, fresh fruit and orange juice, an omelette and coffee.. Kuta I started to like you. Everyone had told us “get out of Kuta straight away” but we decided to explore you instead.

image
We walked your winding streets, leaping out of the way of the millions of scooters, saying “no thank you” to the offer of “taxi!” Or “massage!” and headed to the markets. We haggled and came out with a new top for Tom and an embroidered handbag for me.

We wandered the streets, jumping over the Hindu offerings full of flowers, food and burning incense. On the beach, bananas had been left out. We tried our first Indonesian meal for lunch – chicken satay with rice and Bali fried rice, fresh juice and cold water, for about £6.00. The novelty will never wear off! I fed the stray cats, even though I wasn’t supposed to.

image

image

I’ll never forget my piña colada made with fresh pineapple juice. It tasted like alcoholic smoothie heaven. I’d like to forget the huge cockroach that joined me in the bathroom and keep the memory of Tom coming to save me in his boxers and walking boots.

Dear Ubud,

The shuttle bus we took to you scared me. It drove down alleyways that I’m certain aren’t made for minibuses. When people on scooters squeezed in between the bus and the alley walls, I had to close my eyes and dig my nails into my palms. My eyes stayed firmly closed whilst we reversed around blind corners into the path of oncoming motorbikes. But once we were out of Kuta I couldn’t keep my eyes off the world outside.

Artists lined the streets, stone maker after stone maker creating huge Hindu statues. Rice paddies. Crazy smells. Scaffolding made out of bamboo. Entire families on scooters where only the adults are wearing helmets. Two hours later, I was relived to reach you.

We found our homestay, walking through an alleyway full of scooters and then through a tiny door, past families sat on the floor and naked toddlers dancing around eating rice from a Tupperware. Another child was crouched on the floor, chopping up a tree branch using a huge machete. Then we found it! Another diamond in the rough, this time with a balcony. What luxury. We had coffee with the owner, who had an amazing smile but not much English.

image

Once hydrated we went to visit the monkey forest. I loved those guys. I now understand where the expression “cheeky monkey” comes from.

image

 

They are so playful. And agile. I loved walking around a corner and coming across a monkey sat in a huge pile of sweet potatoes, holding one with his feet and feeding himself another from his hands. I loved the mummies with babies hanging from their bellies.

image

 

The big ones had gigantic teeth which made me keep my distance… then I felt a little hand pulling on my shorts and the next thing I knew, I had a visitor. He felt warm and cuddly like a baby and refused to be put down, whilst I calmly walked him around and prayed he didn’t need the toilet anytime soon. I was left covered in muddy hand prints but no poo thank goodness. The same one jumped on Toms lap… He was a bit scared!

image

I’ll never forget watching a monkey walk up to a woman in a maxi dress and pick up the hem so he could peer under her skirt. Cheeky monkeys.

We wandered and ate and ate and wandered. At one point I forgot to look up. A man who was chopping down a tree dropped a huge branch that missed my head by inches. There’s no sense of the pedestrian getting priority here. It got dark. Getting back to the homestay required the light of our phones because the pavements are littered with huge holes, hills and stacks of bricks. If you look ahead for a moment you’ll break an ankle.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that insect repellant doesn’t work on me. Neither does sting cream to relieve the bite. I’m pretty sure years and years of living with eczema has been leading up to this point. Oh well. At least I’ve got a bag full of malaria tablets, so it won’t kill me.

image

Back at the homestay we could hear loud loud gamelan music. The owner rushed out and apologised profusely for the noise. We just smiled and said “no problem” and went to look for the source of the sound. Down the adjacent alleyway we stumbled across about 100 people rehearsing for the Bali new year celebrations. The men were sat in a horseshoe playing gamelan and huge drums and cymbals, chain smoking and laughing and the women danced. It was hypnotic.
We couldn’t sleep for a few hours. But what better thing to keep you awake? It certainly beats the snorer in the dorm room.

The following day was a fun menagerie of all the cashpoints in the town before realising the credit card had gone overdrawn. Australia, I love you, but you have made me poor. And FAT!!!!!! We are back on the straight and narrow, eating lots of fresh food and cutting down on the beer. And the credit card is all sorted. When I was stood on the balcony on the phone to Halifax, a cock fight broke out in the courtyard and one cockerel started noisily charging at a stray dog… I think this helped the operator to believe that I was in fact in Bali and not pulling his leg.
We headed to the market. I’ve been perfecting my haggling skills on this trip. I was one woman’s first sale of the day. She was delighted, and told me that I’d brought her and her business luck and then proceeded to use the cash is I’d given her to smack me and Tom around the face shouting “LUCK” and then used the money to hit all of her goods for sale.
We then went for a yoga class.

I have never sweated so much in my life. At one point I nearly passed out and looked down and saw that my ankles were sweating. We did very well in that we only got the giggles a few times. One instance of which was when I was holding a pose so difficult that my entire body was shaking with the effort and then I felt toms foot slowly going up my bum. We both felt amazing afterwards. We went for a cocktail looking out at the rice fields whilst we sat on cushions on the floor and I got bitten to death again.

The following day was a big wander. We sweated. It’s so humid that your entire body is drenched in minutes. We walked out of town, until the roads got too small and I got scared of the cars and scooters. Back in town, I had a green juice! Despite being the only customers in the shop it was a thirty minute wait. The Balinese have no sense of hurry. I like that. That’s something I want to bring home with me.
In the evening we watched traditional Indonesian kecak dancing. A group of dancers in stunning costumes told the tale of Rama, Sita, and the golden deer whilst accompanied by a choir of forty men, who sat on the floor using their voices in so many ways and their bodies to dance.
The finale was a fire dance- a barefoot man dressed as a horse jumped over a huge fire, and kicked the burning ashes at the audience. On the front row this kept us on our toes, literally. One huge ember rested next to my flip flop and as I kicked it back it was so hot. This went on until the soles of the dancers’ feet were black.

image

 

We applauded, and stood to leave. Then the local children came and started kicking all the burning embers around. You can tell they had been itching to have a go. One thing that I’ve been fascinated by on this trip is the children. There’s no sense of them being wrapped in cotton wool here. In Fiji, the toddlers play on the beach unaccompanied whilst their parents get on with their day. Here in Bali you’ll see kids who can’t be older than three crouched in the building site outside their parent’s shop, playing with the rubble and a toilet plunger.

It’s just a different way of life I guess.

image

blogsignature