A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

The Road Trip - Part 2

31 °C

As Charlie mentioned in the last blog; the road trip through Thailand has been one of the highlights of the trip so far. The independence and freedom to actually get off the 'beaten track' of our own accord has been really inspiring and we have seen parts of Thailand that we just would not have been able to get too by bus or train.

The final few days of our trip took us to both Trang and Hat Yai in Southern Thailand. Whilst neither city offered us any kind of cultural stimulation they have both been marginally interesting - in the sense that you get to see how these smaller transport cities operate on a daily basis. Trang was fairly quiet when we arrived and the hotel Thumrin, situated on the cross roads at the centre of town, could easily have been in any of the SE Asian cities we have visited to date. However, the one advantage Trang did have over other towns in the region was the Bank of Bangkok! Such trivial matters mean a lot when you have 200 pounds worth of Loatian Kip and Vietnamese Dong to exchange and nobody (except the Bank of Bangkok) will take your money. So, after some rather fraught negotiations with a non English speaking bank teller and an extra few baht in our back pockets, 2 million less Dong to contend with both Charlie and I were happy with our brief flirtation with money laundering.

The Journey onto Hat Yai from Trang was only 140km and the road south continued to wind through masses of palm trees and jungle laden scenery, truly stunning! Hay Yai itself is a major transport hub and most travellers, including ourselves, use this as a route to catch the train onto Butterworth, Malaysia. We did get to explore Hat Yai city centre in the evening before our train journey though and were amazed at not only how quiet the city was but also the massive Chinese influence that dominates. This did seem so odd to me though as the place really did feel like it was stuck in the cold war era, most of the building were grey and dull and clearly built in the 1950s/1960s. For some reason my own pre-conceived ideas of this part of the world were very different from the reality we got to see.

So our first road trip together concluded 1200km and seven days after it started. Charlie had never been on a road journey before and whilst I have had a couple of trips through Europe by car this one blew both of those out of the water. The control of your own journey gives you so much freedom, and whilst that is an obvious thing to say for any traveller, it really does count for a lot after you have endured a miserable twelve hour train journey or delayed bus ride through some god-awful out post. In fact the experience is akin to passing your driving test and getting into your own car for the first time.

Ross and Charlie
xxxx

Posted by charlieandross 03:25 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

The Road Trip - Part 1

Hua Hin to Kura Buri

sunny 40 °C

Hello Everyone,

We hope the weather is improving back in the UK, we have been thinking of you all – we can’t quite believe the temperatures everywhere! First of all, a big thank you to Lee, our first guest blogger for such a great write up which summed up our journey together really well. Apologies for the delay on our own blog entries – we have had limited WiFi since leaving Hua Hin, as we are on a Road Trip! Yes, Ross and I felt we needed to get off the beaten track a little more and really wanted the freedom to stop off wherever/whenever we wanted.

So, we have hired a Yute! A Silver Toyota Hi-Lux Vigo 2.5L Diesel - it’s brilliant.

On Valentines Day (day 101 of our journey since leaving the UK) we began our journey South. Our first stop was at a huge roadside mango hut where we stood and enjoyed the sweetest mango’s ever. We were already off the beaten track where the Thai people are even friendlier and so proud of seeing visitors enjoying their wares. We bought two more for the journey onwards and were kindly given another for free, we are learning all the time that the poorer the people, the more giving they are…and they do it with genuine smile that Ross and I are continually humbled by.

We decided to check out Praphat Beach as our second stop. The evidence of the destruction caused by the Tsunami is palpable and incredibly sad. An entire (once touristy) village, was derelict. Any building that was just about standing was completely water damaged, but mostly the land was left to ruin and there were just a few rotten longtail boats and a rusty lifeguard look-out platform. Though we have visited many beach areas affected by the Tsunami, this one was worse - neglected in the redevelopment, appeared destitute and dare we say it without sounding dramatic, but we could kind of feel the death. There is a Tsunami Museum in ‘town’ (we didn’t visit this) and a brand new research facility for coastal development. The place was eerie…certainly no place to stay. Even the sand was grey – the first time we have seen this in SE Asia. It was evident that there were once shops, guesthouses, restaurants and bars that were empty and again, water damaged. What happened to the owners and workers of these places? How/where are they now?

After another 140km we decided to stop overnight in a small fishing village. We drove through a boatyard area which was full of huge tables with thousands of tiny fish – looked like sardines, were drying out – I can only assume this was to make Nahm Pla (Thai Fish sauce). We were not sure of the name of the village on the map but the nearest town was Bang Saphan. We found a beachside guesthouse where we were literally the only guests, to stay for the night. We found a superb boutique hotel right on the beach to have dinner and enjoyed the best green curries either of us have had, and lazed in hammocks on the empty beach – a perfect day all in all.

The next day Ross drove no less than 350km further South. We stopped at a small village just outside of Ranong by a stall selling Vietnamese steamed dumplings – so that was our lunch for 40p! Again, the young girl who served us was incredibly proud and smiley and her buns were delicious!

We climbed high up into the jungle, and took in some stunning scenery on the sweeping bends, to arrive to jungle territory near Kura Buri. We found a fantastic guesthouse, surrounded by lush greenery, lizards, geckos, hornets, frogs and bats, all surrounding a tranquil lake, where we enjoyed a bit of canoeing. Our traditional clay house – a round hut made from clay with a thatched roof and an outdoor shower, with a hammock overlooking the natural stream. The surroundings were stunning, very natural and therapeutic.

We visited a National Park (which we timed perfectly between tour groups and had the whole place to ourselves), swam with fish in a natural spring pool from the beautiful waterfall above, en route to Mai Khao where we were back in December.

We are just halfway through the road trip and Ross will update you in a few days when we can get some WiFi again. Suffice to say this is one of the best decisions we have made since our travels began and is already a huge highlight of our trip so far. We both thought that backpacking, using local trains and buses would give us everything we needed, but it just doesn’t get you off the beaten track in the way a road trip does. We have found places and had experiences that we would never have done so otherwise, and though it seems a little extravagant on our budget, it is absolutely worth it. We have hardly seen any Westerners let alone tourists, and the freedom to stop & learn whenever we feel like it is invaluable.

Two things though….. we didn’t think through our love of music for the car, with just two CD’s, we have listened to MGMT & James Blake far too many times….and we have got a new addiction to Fisherman’s Friends….any longer and we might start on the Werthers Originals.

We are updating the travel map as we go.

Keep warm,

Love Charlie & Ross
xxxxxx

Posted by charlieandross 17:11 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to everyone from Bangkok

semi-overcast 32 °C

Hope everybody enjoyed a wonderful Christmas Day and that you're all suitably merry on sherry, mince pies, port, turkey, duck, roast potatoes, red wine, more red wine, cheese, biscuits....the list goes on.....seriously though, I hope you all had a lovely time with family & friends. As you can probably tell, we missed you all .... and our Mum's cooking....Christmas Day was strange to start with - on Long Beach, Krabi, but it turned into a fun evening with a Thai Buffet and the most cheesy karaoke evening!

We were staying in another 'beach hut set-up', an upgrade on the last place in terms of hut style, run by a Thai couple, their adorable daughters, and pack of dogs - most of which we fell in love with. We made a great unit of buddies to enjoy christmas, and though it may not mean much to you all, I feel I need to mention them as we spent a week with them (including christmas) all and wouldn't want to forget..... We met a South African couple (Beronese and Kelvin) who we did some book swaps with (we definitely got the better deal, I think!) intelligent and energised, they will be moving to the UK to study the classics at Oxford or Cambridge, yet us mortals managed to have a deep a meaningful with them about SA politics across our verandahs.....nice!

A great Aussie group of 4 - Heather, Lockie, Irin and Robbie (the latter being a heavy bearded, full figured gay and proud guy who loves singing Mariah and Britney in a hilarious tongue in cheek way - made our Christmas evening). They also saved our bacon when we travelled to our hut by boat - the Thai boatman couldn't get near enough to shore, so we arrived in an eery 'Lost-like' style, the sea up to our knees, complete with backpacks, bags and the like...without these guys to help us with our bags, it could've been interesting.

Sara Marie (Northern Nutter who likes to tell you how much she's spent on 'looking as good as she does') complete with her two guys - it took us 3 days to work out if they were her sons, brothers, lovers or cousins......we got there in the end - nonetheless they were a very entertaining 'family'.

A mad french woman with a very kind heart, her husband and their two punchy kids.

Two Finnish guys who were working at our camp while earning their keep so they could practise their Thai Boxing in the evening - think Eurotrash, techno bling dressed guys, with tribal tats and bad undercuts, complete with mean faces - you're getting the picture.........but the biggest softies who would greet us in the morning with comments like, 'hi there......vell, vat a bootiful morning sit is' They were a bit odd

So that was our Christmas - an electic mix, not forgetting the Thai owners who were way too enthusiastic about Karoke including Sang Som from the bottle drinking Grandma who loved kissing everyones kids; and camouflage army-gear wearing Grandpa who just loved to party. Ross kept calling out 'fire in the hole....' which he wasn't bothered by, thank goodness.

On our last day, I inadvertently became Doctor Doolittle, broke up a dog fight that left Tofu with a bleeding face (Ross applied the Iodine perfectly) and then fed and watered a very very young pup that had got separated by it's Mum, before the French husband got on a moped and returned it to her in the woods.......
The place felt like a commune at times (in a good way), everyone waved us off as we left with the french lady calling out.....'you two are soo lucky, so so lucky - what a fantastic adventure, just brilliant' - she's right, and we have to keep pinching ourselves. This was the first time we had left a place with any emotion, as when travelling, once you're ready to leave, you just go and get excited about the next chapter.

We arrived this morning to wonderful Bangkok via a 13 hour night bus. Jaded but excited to be here for new year, we're staying in a great little Danish-run guest house and have met another lone traveller - Henry from Holland, who has given us some great tips for our trip into Laos.

Happy New Year to everyone, hope you all enjoy the celebrations wherever you'll be. We'll be watching the lantern festival and fireworks on the banks of the Chao Praya River.......

Tonight, Ross will thrash me at pool...:-)

Love to you all,

Charlie & Ross

Posted by charlieandross 03:43 Archived in Thailand Comments (8)

Transit days

sunny 30 °C

We have now experienced a number of transit days - days getting from one destination to another. This is fascinating, frustrating, enjoyable, and tiring in equal measure. Our last journey from Mai Khao to Krabi long beach was as interesting as any of the others before it; a beach walk followed by golf buggy drive, coach journey, auto tuk-tuk ride and finally a long tail boat to the shores of our new derelict beach destination. Safe to say these modes of transport have been surreal, exciting and tiriring in equal measure.

The average transit day starts with Charlie and I packing up everything we own into our travel bags. This process is becoming more well oiled though, clothes are getting rolled - not folded, more space is being utilised in our day bags, dirty towels disposed of and bagzips taking extra burden of weight in smaller compartments. We really are starting to get into the swing of this back-packing malarky. Exciting stuff hey!

Invariably the cost of travel is normally quite varied, a three hour coach journey yesterday (about 110km) cost us 3 quid each whilst the long boat (5 mins) cost us 2 quid each. Sometimes there is little rhyme or reason as to the cost of travel but this is all part of the greater experience.

The number of modes of transport, borders crossed, frustrations yet to be experienced, hunger, tiredness and surreal journeys will no doubt increase. This is always exciting and for one day every eight or nine days this will be our commuting routine for the next ten months.

Ross and Charlie
xxxx

Posted by charlieandross 00:54 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Heavenly Bliss on Mai-Khao

overcast 27 °C

Hello Friends & Family

Well, what can I say....we are in heavenly bliss. We are staying in a non-touristy, away from it all, low key blissful place called Seaside Cottages on Mai-Khao. This place is peaceful, soulful and inspiring. We are staying in a bamboo beach hut with just enough space for a double mattress which is one of just 5 on a small plot of land right on the Mai-Khao beach. Birdsong and the crashing of waves fill our ears morning and night. Run by a British guy who prefers the Thai way of living, everything is rustic, traditionally Thai and completely down to earth. We're in heaven. We can see the beach from our hut. The shared bathrooms are immaculate and the food is some of the most authentic Thai food I've had - cooked by his Thai Wife. We even get to use the luxury pool and wifi of the hotel next door which is pretty much empty due to the economy, yet our place is booked up until after Christmas, so we're getting the best of both worlds - not bad for two sun junkies back-packing eh??

Today has been overcast but most of the time it's incredibly hot and sunny here.

We will be going on a sea-fishing trip while we're here - both really looking forward to that and we'll have some cooking lessons too. We've also got a little fitness regime going (don't laugh girls, but Ross counts me down on my skipping - he's whipping me into shape!)

Keep the messages coming - lovely one from you Phil...glad you're all enjoying the blog. We'll send an update in a week or so once we're in Krabi.

Let us know all your plans for Christmas, ours our pretty much sorted - beach, BBQ's and campfires are promised before we begin our tour through Thailand via the Mekong.

Love you lots and missing you all (including RW guys - thinking of you all - hope the Christmas party was a good one)

Charlie & Ross
xxxxx

Posted by charlieandross 01:32 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

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