List of Do’s and Don’t’s Travelling Thailand

Yeah I’m still a virgin traveller, but from just one month stay in Thailand, there’s a lot of lessons I’ve learned and either regretted, or enjoyed being proven wrong about my assumptions. For other people looking to travel Thailand, some of this may come as a surprise to you.

So here’s a list of things for my final blog entry you may not think about travelling the first time. Not finite by any means, but stuff I’ve picked up on my way through Thailand.

Transport in Thailand

Bikes
I hired a bike in 3 places, Krabi, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai. Easily the most practical way of getting about, and likely the cheapest in the long run. It’s not, however, the place to learn to ride a motorbike. In the more sedate areas then you should have no problem, but in the built up areas driving can be a perilous affair. I learned how to ride in Thailand, though I’ve ridden a BMX through hectic London streets. Make sure you know what’s around you.. mirrors should be positioned correctly on left and right to see what’s behind you, look around often but pay attention to the road in front and behind.

When hiring a bike, you may be asked for your passport, ALWAYS refuse. If you’re afraid of offending then tell them if you get caught by the police without your passport you can be arrested – this is the truth, always carry ID with you for this reason. The alternative then, unless you get a friendly bike rental place, is to hand over a copy of your passport and a deposit (usually 2,000 Baht to 6,000 Baht depending on the type of bike).

Take photos of the bike from all angles, mostly those which could potentially be scratched, if you return your bike scratched you could lose some, or all of your deposit. The first bike I hired I handed over my passport, the second only a copy (though this was because my friend who lives in Thailand and can speak the language, and knows them), the third a copy and 3,000 Baht deposit.

You will get your bike without much fuel, you will not get a refund for excess fuel on return, nor are you expected to refuel the bike when returning it. Wear a helmet! If they don’t offer you a helmet with the bike then refuse the hire, helmets are mandatory, though you will see a lot of Thai’s not wearing theirs. A helmet can save your life in an accident.

Most of all remember that Thailand will usually be more dangerous than your own country, there’s a lot of drivers, no MOT system, a non-mandatory insurance system, and drink drivers. A lot of foreign tourists are involved in fatal accidents each year in Thailand, so don’t be blasé about it, take this seriously and you should find riding a motorbike in Thailand a pleasure and offering a lot of freedom.

Rental bike prices vary by type and how modern they are, from around 150 Baht to 450 per day, if you book a chunk of time you’ll find you can barter down the price. To fill up a bike with petrol also varies by petrol station, but more often than not I paid 110 Baht to fill up an empty tank, 120 was the most I paid. This tank will last around 90-100km

Trains
I took 4 long journey trains in Thailand, from Bangkok to Surat Thani and return, from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and return. The trains operate a sleeper system, if you book far in advance (and I suggest you don’t turn up expecting a train not to be full) you can secure a sleeping ticket. On my travels I didn’t book in advance, so I only managed to secure a sleeper ticket once, 2nd class. The other times were in 2nd class seating and 3rd class seating.

On public transport I’m a very bad sleeper in a seat, on the sleeper bed I slept very well, I have no objection to sitting on a train for 13-17 hours, but the first train in 3rd class seating was dark the entire journey, so I couldn’t photograph until sunrise around 7. Had it been light I would have had a whale of a time. For this reason I’ll book in advance next time, if there’s no sleeping then I’ll take a seat on a morning train and photograph the journey.

The trains are noisy, when the windows are open you get some air pollution in certain areas. If you’re a light sleeper I’d recommend tablets, eye pads and ear plugs if you need. I would also recommend bringing a blanket or wearing layers if you’re in a seat, the wind can get quite cold if you’re in the wrong place, and even shutting the windows and blinds may not reduce the wind in your direction.

Prices can vary depending on the seat and the journey, there’s a really good website that I refer to before travelling, Seat61.com which has extensive pricing and timetables for throughout Thailand. I paid: 250 Baht from Bangkok to Surat Thani 3rd class seat, 598 Baht from Surat Thani to Bangkok 2nd class sleeper, 431 Baht from Bangkok to Chiang Mai 2nd class seat 270 baht from Chiang Mai to Bangkok 3rd class seat.

In the seated accommodation you’ll get food and drink hawkers, beer and cigarettes most of the journey, in the sleeping carriage you’ll see fewer. For me, as a smoker, travelling 13 or 17 hours on a train without smoking is a bit of a challenge, but on the trains in Bangkok you can smoke in the vestibules with the doors open (a really nice experience, health and safety would do their nut).

The toilets are of the squat variety, and the trains move around a lot, so if you’re a guy – lucky (unless it’s #2) and if you’re a girl then make sure you wear good grips on your shoes.

I did spot a thief picking through a bag using a radio reciever presumably to test for mobile signals. So make sure you keep all your valuables in the sleeping bay with you, and keep your wits about you. All your clothes and non-valuable items can be placed in a backpack in the luggage holder by each bay.

Taxis/Tuk Tuks and Motorbike Taxis
As a farang, or foreigner, you will immediately be charged a higher price than a local, but this is not necessarily the final price you will pay. Don’t get ripped off, there’s plenty around and if one won’t accept your price move on to the next, more often than not the driver will cave for a lower price..

The classic piece of advice is DO take a tuk tuk, but only the once, it’s an experience rather than a necessity. The other piece of advice is DON’T take a motorbike taxi, as these drivers have very little regard for your safety. Taxi’s should tell you a rough price before you depart, and turn on the meter if they have one, if they don’t turn it on, request they do, if they still refuse then you should get out and avoid being ripped off, move on to the next and be happy.

They are everywhere though, so if you need to get somewhere in a hurry then either a tuk tuk or a taxi will take you where you need to go. Be prepared to be turned away when you mention your destination, some drivers refused once I mentioned where I wanted to go.

Never pay more than 100 Baht for a tuk tuk, fair enough if you’re travelling a long distance, in any way a tuk tuk wouldn’t be the safest or fastest form of travel.

Buses
Long journey buses are usually quicker than the trains in Thailand, but more expensive, I found sleep easier on a bus than in a seat on a train, the seats tend to recline a bit lower and are of a better quality, you also don’t get much noise from the outside. For destinations such as Bangkok to Krabi Town which doesn’t have a train station, you should buy a joint ticket from the train station, that way it will save you time and energy at the staging points.

Skytrain Bangkok (BTS)
Easily the best, safest and fastest way of travelling in Bangkok, and I’d recommend booking your accommodation close to a station, as this will save on taxi or tuk tuk fares. At most you will pay 65 Baht to cross the city, at least 15 Baht to go one or two stops. It has air conditioning throughout and the ticket purchasing is simple, you will need 10 or 5 Baht coins though so you need to go to the change stations situated near the barriers after working out – using the handy priced maps near the ticket machines – how much you will need.

If you plan on staying in Bangkok for a longer time then it may be worth looking into a pass that you can top up.

Accommodation

Hotels
If you can afford to stay in hotels during your travelling, then by all means do so, hotels tend to offer better service, more amenities, more facilities and good locations. The problem is the price, if you’re on a budget then I would recommend staying in hostels or guest houses.

Most places will have a hotel though I would recommend booking in advance as they will fill up and you may not get a room if you turn up on the day. Prices don’t have to be super expensive either, my first two days I stayed in Imm Fusion Sukhumvit, a private double room for 798 Baht per night booked online. En-suite shower and toilet, refrigerator  free water, TV and nice, clean sheets, in a quiet and good location and most importantly near to a BTS line.

If you’re travelling on a two week holiday, and have a hefty budget, then you can find luxury hotels more expensive than Western prices. I used TripAdvisor throughout, combined with HostelBookers and HostelWorld to book my accommodation  as well as turning up on the day.

Hostels
Tend to be large places with many different types of room available. Dorms from 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and even 12 beds, private rooms too. These places tend to attract backpackers, young and old and can be quite social, I met some really nice people staying in hostels throughout Thailand.

You could be charged a key and towel deposit, perhaps even rental price for the towel. Hostels can have laundry, TV rooms, male/female only dorms, bars, restaurants, lobby/sitting areas. Nearly all places have WiFi now, so you can connect with your friends and family on the move.

There will also likely be a baggage storage area and a locker for you to keep your valuable items in. Shared toilets and showers, unless you’re in a private room, either air conditioning or fan, also dependant on room type. I would recommend a fan room, as air conditioning can give you a cold when you’re in and out of hot and cold areas.

Prices vary by area, size, how modern they are, and the time of year, I paid 300 Baht per night and that was the most I paid. I also paid 270, and 220.

Guest Houses
Usually smaller than hostels, but a similar principle, offering various types of room and usually cheaper than the other options. I would recommend checking the reviews for any places your about to stay before deciding on booking, to give you an idea of what to expect.

Guest houses are a really common type of accommodation due to their size. Most will offer tour help and advice, as they usually make deals with the tour companies.

Don’t expect frills from guest houses, though it depends on the owner’s desire to make your stay nicer. Some have no towels, no western toilets and no toilet paper, they can be dirty at the low end prices, and noisy, or have insects. If you’re travelling on a budget, and aren’t squeamish if you see a cockroach, then go for a guest house because of the price.

Not usually as social due to the less people that can stay in one, though this also varies place by place. Will usually have WiFi  usually have less amenities than hostels.

Prices also vary, I’ve paid as little as 120 Baht in Chiang Mai, and as much as 400 in Bangkok.

Booking
You should try to book in advance, just on the off chance that you arrive and try to secure a room and are turned away late at night. I came with no plans to my journey, and so I couldn’t effectively (nor did I want to) plan the whole trip. I was only turned away a few times, and this was the on-season, so it’s still possible to not book ahead.

Food

Street Vendors
Late at night Thailand tends to open up – it’s less hot at night and so you’ll generally find night markets crop up every day in the towns and cities. You can get anything you want if you’re prepared to walk around. From meat to fruit, to vegetarian and vegan. Prices are lower than if you buy in a restaurant (and some things aren’t sold in restaurants. Some places may not seem appealing, it’s best to follow your instinct on these, try and get good clean food cooked in front of you, lots of fruit is sold already peeled, which could cause stomach upset depending on age.

Restaurants
Usually open all day, and you can – in the more touristy areas – find Thai and Western food alike. In certain areas like Hua Hin, there’s a lot of Westerners that have moved there and opened their own restaurant, offering authentic (note, authentic is used very often, sometimes by non-authentic chefs) Western cuisine. All of the places in the tourist areas apart from a few have English menus, but search around because you can usually find the same food quality for a lower price if you wander. Prices vary by location of course, and the class of the establishment. If you’re in a tourist areas expect prices to be double at least, from those in less tourist based areas.

Thai food is very nice, they take care in cooking – of course – and use a lot of spices for some meals. If you’re averse to spicy/strong foods then you could stick to the Western cuisine, but you will pay more. And be adventurous – within reason – something you may not eat in the UK is usually cooked with more care in Thailand, and they certainly know how to wow with their food.

Most all dietary requirements are catered for, vegetarian, vegan, halal.. throughout Thailand.

Food is everywhere, a cornerstone of Thai culture, you may come across items that you’d never think of eating in the West, and you may come across things that you regularly eat in the West but aren’t cooked the same in Thailand.

Drink

Alcohol
One of the more expensive parts of a travel is encountered if you drink alcohol, it may seem cheap in comparison to your usual prices, but it’s expensive when you consider that you may drink more often, or more frequently thinking that it’s cheap.

Wine is UK prices here (450 Baht a bottle), as a wine drinker I have had maybe one or two glasses – beer is the preferred drink of most that travel to Thailand, and – although prices vary, you can usually get a small bottle for 35 – 50 Baht. Spirits are available by the UK brands but also close to UK prices, unless you drink the Thai Sam Song ‘whisky’ or the equally lethal Hong Thong.

Of course you can get anything anywhere and so cocktails, spirits, beer, wine, mixers, alco-pops, just don’t expect to pay pence for them. Most of the places you stay will allow BYOB which is of course cheaper, though unless you’re near to a 7/11 (which, btw – while open 24 hours – only serves alcohol until midnight) then you may end up choosing to opt for the more expensive guest house/hostel-own price than walking the distance to the nearest off-license.

You shouldn’t drink alcohol in the streets, and most places will not sell alcohol between 2pm and 5pm each day.

Non-Alcohol
You can get just about any fruit in the land of smiles, and the best drinks I’ve had have been non-alcoholic fresh fruit shakes. Everywhere sells Pepsi, Coke and Sprite, and in the 7/11’s that are everywhere you can buy cold drinks from iced teas to juice to water. Hot drinks are a-plenty too, both coffee, tea and hot chocolate. A huge variety of teas are on offer in most places.

Don’t drink the water from the tap though, you can get various nasty things from it, not just Typhoid.. Be wary of drinks with ice in as that can come from tap water, but don’t be paranoid – you can generally tell from the place if the drinks they’re serving are ‘clean’ or not.

Photography

I’m very torn with travelling with a DSLR camera. Though I can say it’s been an adventure taking it, being able to change settings that I may not be able to on a compact. Given that I also had to take a laptop (shooting in RAW does have a downside), all chargers, accessories, etc.. the total weight came in around 18 kilos. Also because I was very wary of damaging and losing any of it I tended to carry it with me all the time. If you’re a photographer wanting to travel, if you don’t mind the weight, take all your gear – if you’re a photographer who wants to carry less I’d advise a mirror-less camera.

If you don’t take a computer, you’ll have a hard time with uploading photos. Once of the alternatives is to carry a memory card reader. Not all computers you come across in the places you visit will have an SD card slot (and good luck with a CF) so using a card reader will let you get the photos to a cloud or online source. Of course you can also just pack multiple memory cards.

Internet

Nearly everywhere has WiFi available for if you have your own device, some that give you the WiFi key, and some – usually hostels/guest houses – that offer an unsecured log in and give you a username and password for the account login screen.

It’s really anywhere if you want it. Except if you plan to go on long trips through rural areas and aren’t prepared to pay the huge data roaming charges, then I’d advise getting an international sim, everywhere sells them in Thailand.

Internet speed depends on where you go, I went in some very low-grade places and had amazing internet, compared to some high end places that had a very slow connection.

Toilets

There are three types of toilets I came across, the urinal for guys – everyone knows how to use this right? Then there is the standard toilet with seat and lid, and then there is the squat toilet. With the standard and squat toilets you will see a hose with a nozzle at the end near to the toilet. This is for cleaning yourself after going to the toilet.

Don’t expect everywhere to have toilet roll, this is something that has been introduced to Thailand over the years, the ‘bum gun’ is the equivalent, like a portable bidet if you will. Toilet roll can also cause issues if flushed, so please be sparing with what you use, and try to use the gun where possible.

The squat toilet is as it sounds, you have to take down your trousers and sit on the scored areas either side of the toilet to do your business. Once done, you will see a bucket/vat/some water receptacle with a bowl or other item to scoop up water and use as a manual flush. For this reason squat toilets usually have water on the floor, making the experience a challenge, and also slippery.

What to Bring

I can’t advise girls what to bring for various reasons, but some items are universal.

Towels
I didn’t take a towel with me, I wanted space for other things, did I make a mistake? Given the same chance again I’d take a towel, a small one at least. Most places have towels as part of the room charge, some you leave a refundable deposit, some you leave a deposit and pay, some you pay. But, if you don’t take a towel you can’t go in the sea at whim, to a pool, or any other water activity.. This let me down so I would take a small towel with me again. But it wasn’t such a pain to ruin it for me by not taking one.

Shower and Hair
Depending on where you stay there’s sometimes products available in the showers. But don’t rely on it. I’d suggest taking a body wash of some sort, soap even, or shower more often using just water.. Shampoo if you need it but shower gel will do the job. It gets hot and so two or three showers a day is commonplace.

Sun Cream
Thailand is sunny and hot for most of the year, you will need sun cream. It’s expensive there, so buy it in the UK (or wherever you’re from) it was around 400 Baht when I was looking. I used SPF 40, but some anti-malarials (Doxycycline) can make you photosensitive which will make you burn more easily, so get a higher SPF if you burn easily and are taking Doxcycyline.

Insect Repellent
The same, mozzies are all year round, you will need repellent  It’s expensive there, buy in the UK. Mosquitoes are everywhere, mostly at dusk and dawn.

Medication/First Aid
Well done if you don’t take tablets when something is wrong, and there are pharmacies most places in Thailand, but I preferred to come pre-prepared. Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, anti-diarrhoea, bandages, plasters, anti-bacterial gel, salt replacement powder, sleeping tablets, tape, anti-malarials, indigestion remedies, laxatives.. I used all but plasters of those in one month. If you’re going for longer then maybe stock more, but you could end up taking the whole pharmacy if you’re worried.

Insurance
Anything could go wrong, don’t skimp on insurance, get good cover which you may not use, as opposed to bad insurance which won’t cover you for lots of things. Cash loss, personal items cover, passport loss, theft, injury (even death) could happen whilst you’re away and you don’t want to be left in the lurch. Choose the insurance that matches your requirements and don’t be blasé about it.

Money

Credit cards
I’d take a credit card with no balance on it for emergencies. All ATMs will charge you 150 Baht per transaction, if you also add your type of card’s natural overseas charge, then each transaction could end up costing you £3+ each time you withdraw. There are some cards that factor this in, so check around before you go. Also remember that some places (though most do) may not have an ATM nearby.

Cash
Don’t take it all with you. If possible allow for an ATM transaction or two along the way. There’s nothing worse than losing your wallet, except for if all your cash was in it. Carry your wallet in your front pocket, or somewhere less easy for pickpockets (which for me, wasn’t an issue, but if you’re going to the seedier areas you may want to take this advice). On a heavy night out you shouldn’t really pay more than 1500- 2500 Baht, so only ever carry what you need, hide the rest in your sock if need be, but as the old adage goes.. ‘don’t keep all your eggs in one basket’

Backup
When you run out of cash, and your credit card is maxed, what then? Make sure that you have a means to support your travels or get home.

Packing

Valuables
A very broad topic, I’d advise against wearing any jewellery that could make you a target for people. Jewellery is – in my opinion – unnecessary for cosmetic means. Keep it safe at home. Passport, wallet and mobile should be with you at all times where possible, regardless.

Generally though, keep them with you at all times.. I kept my laptop and camera with me at all times, if you’re travelling on a sleeper transport and you fall asleep, then you’re not keeping an eye on anything that’s not near you. Be wary of your environment and be sensible. Don’t flash your valuables around.

Clothes
Thailand is hot.. very hot.. all year round. Except in the North, it can get down to 3/4/5 at night in places like Pai, you may need another blanket and thick clothing to wear yet in the South it’s super-hot in the day and still warm at night.

I was uninformed before I came so I packed way more excessively than I should.. light fabric, non-branded, everyday clothes are inexpensive in Thailand, you could probably come with no clothes in your bag and stock up for all-weather types for less than UK prices. I threw away socks and pants I didn’t need on day 1, I went commando throughout, and once you get a pair of flip flops then socks are out of the window too.

Is That It?

As I said, this list is not finite, though the above are some key things to consider before travelling. I travelled alone, so I can’t comment on group travelling/safety/packing, I did find from travelling alone that I enjoyed myself more as I wasn’t tied to anyone else.

You will meet a lot of people in the same boat as you, doing the same things. Embrace each chance you have to share stories – some great advice came from fellow travellers about where to go and what to do/not to do. Most of all have fun, be safe, love everyone and trust no-one, be respectful of Thai culture, take in the sights, sounds and smells, and make the most of what you have.

Thanks for reading, until next time..

Matt

Wat I Did in Chiang Mai

After checking in at Mojito Gardens I headed back to Villa Duang Champa again for a small beer and to catch up on blogging and photo editing. Here I was treated to an amazing traditional Thai dance by two dancers, first with just hands, then an umbrella, then fire and then back to just hands again. The dress they wore was extremely well crafted.

Thai girl doing a traditional Thai dance in Villa Duang Champa, Chiang Mai

Thai girl doing a traditional Thai dance in Villa Duang Champa, Chiang Mai

Thai girl doing a traditional Thai dance in Villa Duang Champa, Chiang Mai

Thai girl doing a traditional Thai dance in Villa Duang Champa, Chiang Mai

Thai girl doing a traditional Thai dance in Villa Duang Champa, Chiang Mai

Thai girl doing a traditional Thai dance in Villa Duang Champa, Chiang Mai

Thai girl doing a traditional Thai dance in Villa Duang Champa, Chiang Mai

Thai girl doing a traditional Thai dance in Villa Duang Champa, Chiang Mai

Typo in the title you say? Nah, wat means “Temple” in Thai.. just before you go accusing me.

I’d spent a couple of days in Chiang Mai, and done relatively little, ate, drank, slept, most of my days were on the bike as well driving out of Chiang Mai on one of my many jaunts.

Well, as my last day on the bike came to a close, I used the day to see the local wats, Chiang Mai has over 200 of them, in and around the city, rivalling Bangkok on sheer volume.

I was still stuck in HDR mode too.. so they’re all in HDR. Absolutely amazing places, and no wonder that backpackers and tourists alike want to meander round them.

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR Chiang Mai wat

HDR of a wat in Chiang Mai's grounds

HDR of a wat in Chiang Mai’s grounds

After taking my fill of the beautiful structures I knew I had to go and take my bike back – hoping to get the full, and needed deposit back – before 6pm. Luckily, through gabbing to the guy who rented it to me, I got away without an inspection, maybe because I went to the care of photographing it before I left, and also being friendly to the guy on return. 3000 Baht back in my possession and my last few days in Thailand sorted. I’d asked about staying the night again at Mojito Gardens but they were full, so I also went back to the Green Oasis to book a room for the night, dumped my bag and went back to Mojito Gardens

After showering and refreshing I heard three British accents, Northerners in the dais/gazebo in the centre of the garden. Always loving to hear the accent whilst abroad I asked if I could join them. This is where I met Karl, from Stoke, and Ian and Nick from Leeds.

Of course having lived in Leeds I was able to talk with them about their local areas and all three of them were easy to talk to anyway. The beers came and went, conversation flowed, then before long Jade came to join us – also a Brit, who I chatted to earlier in the day about photography.

Nick playing Jenga outside Mojito Gardens

Nick playing Jenga outside Mojito Gardens

Karl from Stoke, outside at Mojito Gardens

Karl from Stoke, outside at Mojito Gardens

Ian outside Mojito Gardens in Chiang Mai

Ian outside Mojito Gardens in Chiang Mai

Things got a bit messy from here and we stayed up quite late, getting “shh”‘s from the locals and the owners before moving into Nick and Ian’s room for a few final drinks.

Everyone was a bit rough the following day, Jade didn’t surface until late in the afternoon. I woke up and went and sat in the gazebo area, Nick, Ian and Karl joined in brief succession. Karl had found a good place to get breakfast and then decided to go and get a prison massage (if not the best, certainly the most popular in Chiang Mai – me, Nick and Ian sat and had a couple of hairs of the dog, Ian was behaving as they’d booked on an elephant tour the next day.

I’d seen a couple of girls playing Yahtzee nearby, so I went over and tried my hand. Ronja and Lajla from Germany, and it’s called ‘Super’ not Yahtzee in Germany. After working out what the German scoring types were, I lost the subsequent three hands, and suggested they come and join us on the gazebo.

Jade had arisen, and Vicky, her friend from Surrey also joined, and by this time Karl had come back too, so we had a nice little gathering before deciding to head out to Zoe’s a local gathering place with music and drinks.

Jade and Vicky at Zoe's in Chiang Mai

Jade and Vicky at Zoe’s in Chiang Mai

Nick and Me at Zoe's in Chiang Mai

Nick and Me at Zoe’s in Chiang Mai

Ronja and Lajla at Zoe's in Chiang Mai

Ronja and Lajla at Zoe’s in Chiang Mai

We didn’t have a very late night, as most had booked on tours the next day, and were getting bothered by one hawker who I bought a bracelet from earlier in the evening.

One of the jewellery sellers at Zoes in Chiang Mai

One of the jewellery sellers at Zoes in Chiang Mai

So we all headed to a few bars playing live music (quite well I might add, the Thai rendition of ‘Killing in the Name of‘ certainly had me up and moshing) but ended up in the end meandering our respective ways home. Considering my new guest house was only a 6 minute walk… to spend 1 and a half hours trying to find it was a bit curious.. I ended up in the open air guest house lobby, on a chair, with my bags, four foot from the bed I’d booked, and slept like a baby until morning (apparently ignoring the owners shaking trying to wake me up and the mosquitoes feasting on me all night). Not the best start to my last day in Chiang Mai before heading back to Bangkok.

Living the Life of Pai

My longest planned journey by bike yet, I woke up Saturday morning and left my big backpack with the guest house I was staying at. Loaded up on supplies and drove off.

In the wrong direction! This is me, of course, I kind of did a semi-circle around from North to East, driving for an hour before I decided that the road signs I was seeing weren’t right. I stopped at a coffee shop with wifi and located myself – abused myself mentally and then double backed, back towards Chiang Mai.

It did give me a chance to stop at a viewing point and have a Korean guy take my photo.

Me sitting on a barrier at one of the viewpoints overlooking Chiang Mai

Me sitting on a barrier at one of the viewpoints overlooking Chiang Mai

The two outer roads in Chiang Mai are one way, with few U-Turn possibilities. I ended up on the right road thanks to a friendly American who spotted me with a map, and I was off! Because of the wrong way fiasco I had to refuel. It’s just two roads to Pai, one is a motorway heading North out of Chiang Mai, then a left turn onto the road of death (RoD), the 1095 from Chiang Mai to Pai! Before the RoD I refuelled to the top, not knowing if I’d get another chance along the way.

The turn off to the 1095 road towards Pai

The turn off to the 1095 road towards Pai

The first stretch of the road is easy going, you can get up to 80 for prolonged periods of time. It’s scattered with small towns and villages either side, and the usual beautiful Thailand scenery. There comes a point however when the roads start getting a bit narrower, and then the curves, bends and twists hit.. Literally every 100 metres, give or take, you will see a warning sign to slow down, that there’s an incline or a decline (is that what the opposite is?) a sharp left, sharp right, hairpin, sharp left then right, or sharp right then left, slow down to 30, etc..

The first stretch of the 1095 road from Chiang Mai to Pai

The first stretch of the 1095 road from Chiang Mai to Pai

This goes on for approximately 70km. I was told it was a two and a half hour ride total, it took me 5 – yeah okay I was being the overly conscious driver that I am, wasn’t doing the 50km/h that I’d heard was possible, even 40 at some of the less tight corners and I was veering into the opposite lane. What beautiful scenery though, wow! The main reason it took me so long was that I was stopping so frequently to photograph the amazing views.

The video above doesn’t really show the curves until around 1 minute in.

Beautiful scenery on the road to Pai

Beautiful scenery on the road to Pai

Beautiful scenery on the road to Pai

Beautiful scenery on the road to Pai

Beautiful scenery on the road to Pai

Beautiful scenery on the road to Pai

Beautiful scenery on the road to Pai

Beautiful scenery on the road to Pai

Beautiful scenery on the road to Pai

Beautiful scenery on the road to Pai

At one point a convoy of porsches drove past, around 30 – 40 of them, “Drive of the Year 2013” must be some kind of tour/paid event.

The Drive of the Year 2013 Porsches heading to Pai

The Drive of the Year 2013 Porsches heading to Pai

Then when I stopped for a coffee at a really beautifully designed coffee shop an almighty roar of bike engines went past, slowed, turned around and came to the coffee shop, around 20 bikers on racing bikes pulled up so I got the chance to photograph them too.

The beautiful coffee shop on the 1095 road to Pai

The beautiful coffee shop on the 1095 road to Pai

Just some of the sports bikers who stopped at the cafe on the road to Pai

Just some of the sports bikers who stopped at the cafe on the road to Pai

It does get very cold in places though, something I’d yet to experience in the oven-hot temperatures elsewhere in the country.. My hands were numb, I only had (I thought) a jumper with me to go over my measly thin shirt, and my bottoms which are also thin.. So I was stopping and pausing in the few brief glints of sunlight through the mountains just to get my hands back to normal temperature. At most it must have been about 10 degrees, but when you couple in the wind factor from driving, it may have been around 5 in all.

Luckily it was one road though so I didn’t have to pay attention to a lot of signs, except the warning ones. Around 4pm the road got extremely dodgy, hairpin bends downhill one after another. I nearly wiped out on one of them by undercutting the road and ending up on the verge. The verge itself was a couple of inches of tarmac and then a dip, so, very luckily, I was able to right myself and get back onto the road – I stopped and gasped for a second.. got my head right and carried on. Maybe 15 – 20 hairpins later the road evened out, the weather got warmer and I was able to increase my speed.

Even more beautiful scenery came into view, terraced farming communities to the left, not far after hitting the ‘welcome to Pai’ sign, 33km to go. The petrol gauge that was worrying me throughout – as it seemed to go from full to empty super fast, and there’s no stations on the road – seemed to have stuck at half full for about 40km, so I wasn’t panicking so much. The road got even straighter and I was back to doing 80 again for a short while.

Terraced farming just outside Pai

Terraced farming just outside Pai

Terraced farming just outside Pai

Terraced farming just outside Pai

Terraced farming just outside Pai

Terraced farming just outside Pai

The memorial bridge was signposted as being 8km away, and I knew that to be close to the centre of Pai. I stopped there as the sun was dropping and saw people washing themselves in the river and catching fish.

Man fishing and bathing in the river below the memorial bridge in Pai

Man fishing and bathing in the river below the memorial bridge in Pai

Man fishing and bathing in the river below the memorial bridge in Pai

Man fishing and bathing in the river below the memorial bridge in Pai

Man fishing and bathing in the river below the memorial bridge in Pai

Man fishing and bathing in the river below the memorial bridge in Pai

Then, before I knew it I was in Pai! What a stunning little place this is.. I felt my blood pressure drop hard as I took in the clean air and golden sunlight vistas. I had to find a place with wifi so I could locate my guest house, and once again it turned out I was very close. I drank my coffee and headed there. Just over a small bridge and a lefft turn I arrived at Darling Viewpoint Bungalows – this place is so perfect, all wood and hammocks, cushioned living, easy going. I was greeted by Sophie the owner’s niece who asked me by my name which was a nice touch. I checked in and was shown around, I was upstairs in the main bungalow in a 4-bed dorm, but as I went up the steps, the balcony overlooking Pai blew me away.

Darling Viewpoint Bungalow upper deck

Darling Viewpoint Bungalow upper deck

Beautiful lights over the pool at Darling Viewpoint Bungalows in Pai

Beautiful lights over the pool at Darling Viewpoint Bungalows in Pai

I showered and sat on the balcony camera in hand waiting for the sun to go down over the distant mountains.

Sunset view from the Darling Viewpoint Bungalows in Pai

Sunset view from the Darling Viewpoint Bungalows in Pai

It was getting dark so I quickly headed into town for supplies and came back to meet the other guests. A huge campfire was lit, and we went and sat on the benches surrounding it, beers in hand, and talked long into the night. It was around 3am before I dragged myself to bed, knowing I’d had to do the long journey back the next day, I was told though that there are 2 waterfalls in the vicinity that are free to go and see, which would also take some time – I’d have to leave for Chiang Mai no later than 12:00 otherwise it would get too cold and potentially dark on the way back.

The campfire at Darling Viewpoint Bungalows

The campfire at Darling Viewpoint Bungalows

The campfire at Darling Viewpoint Bungalows

The campfire at Darling Viewpoint Bungalows

I woke up around 8, feeling a bit worse for wear, so had a stodgy breakfast and coffee, and then sat gathering my thoughts. Chatted to the guesthouse owner, Darling, and Peter the husband and Sophie his niece, before checking out, thanking them for the experience and heading to the Mor Paeng waterfall. These were the worst roads I’ve come across yet, potholes the size of two pillows stacked on top of each other, and camoflaged in the shadow of trees, so it was slow going. Passed by one lady who made a ‘cigarette to mouth’ gesture. I was smoking so I presumed she wanted one, I asked and she said “no, ganja?”.. Uhm, no thanks, and on my way.. Another lady up the road gestured the same but I declined, and then before long the waterfall was close.

I arrived to the parking area and a guy, Italian, or French maybe took a dirt track to the left.. Thinking this was the way to the waterfall I went up there, steep as hell, rocky, came close to the guy and asked where the waterfall is, he told me it was back the way I came so I tried to turn the bike around.. what a disaster, the bike toppled left, so I only had control of the accelerator handle, revving the enging all to hell gashing my leg on the way down and worst of all scratching the front fender and left wing mirror slightly (there goes the deposit, or some of it). Cursing myself and in sight of the guy, feeling foolish, leg bleeding and hurting, I picked up the bike and dusted myself off before getting to the parking area.

From the parking area it was a short, but slippery walk to the waterfall, there was a family there and I wasn’t so impressed by the fall itself, but I sat there quietly contemplating life and listening to the water flowing and taking pictures. One of the family’s children was naked so I couldn’t shoot the whole scene, luckily they weren’t in key positions to ruin the photos I took.

Mor Paeng Waterfall in Pai

Mor Paeng Waterfall in Pai

Mor Paeng Waterfall in Pai

Mor Paeng Waterfall in Pai

It was around 12, so I scrambled back up to the bike, and rode back slowly over the treacherous roads to Pai. I drove around Pai trying to work out which direction Chiang Mai was, eventually found a signpost and followed it, stopping to fully refuel along the way.

HDR

One of the things I really wanted to do whilst in Thailand was experiment with my photography, I’ve done HDR before but I gave up for a long while, with such beautiful scenery around, and having shot most of it on the way up here, I thought on the way back I’d shoot some HDR photos. Cautious that I’d set off for Chiang Mai later than the previous day setting off for Pai, I knew I’d have to hurry up and stop less. Stupidly I’d found the last night that I’d actually packed an extra shirt and pair of trousers, and knowing what it was like on the way up, I wore everything I had for the way back down.

HDR shot of the view from Darling Viewpoint Bungalows in Pai

HDR shot of the view from Darling Viewpoint Bungalows in Pai

HDR shot of the view from Darling Viewpoint Bungalows in Pai

HDR shot of the view from Darling Viewpoint Bungalows in Pai

HDR shot of the scenery en route from Pai to Chiang Mai

HDR shot of the scenery en route from Pai to Chiang Mai

HDR shot of the scenery en route from Pai to Chiang Mai

HDR shot of the scenery en route from Pai to Chiang Mai

HDR shot of the scenery en route from Pai to Chiang Mai

HDR shot of the scenery en route from Pai to Chiang Mai

I also saw the porsches on the return leg of their journey!

One of the Drive of the Year 2013 Porsches heading back to Chiang Mai

One of the Drive of the Year 2013 Porsches heading back to Chiang Mai

I had another near death experience, some idiot was overtaking on a hairpin, despite the no overtaking signs, I had undercut the curve on the opposite side and couldn’t see what was coming, luckily though I evened out and missed the minivan, both of us going around 30, by a few inches. That was it, no more cutting on to the wrong side to save some time.

My route, wrong at first, from Chiang Mai to Pai and back

My route, wrong at first, from Chiang Mai to Pai and back

Slightly warmer than the last time, though I’m not sure if it was because it was a different level of sunlight at a different time of day, I made it back to Chiang Mai in less than it took me to get to Pai, around 4 and a half hours total.. I went to grab my backpack which luckily still had my laptop and everything in, moved onto my next place, the Mojito Gardens 2, checked in, showered, and relaxed..

Bed Shaking Waking Me in Chiang Mai

Arrived in Chiang Mai by train around 3pm – bleary eyed, lack of sleep, I’d sat for the last 5 hours in 3rd class to take photos of the sunrise and scenery. I’m pretty glad I didn’t sleep, and likely in future I’ll take a long train journey during the light hours so I can photograph, because it seems that I can’t sleep on any public transport.

I went to meet Julia and Nina in the next carriage when we landed, and we grabbed our bags and moved off. They’d met two German guys Chris and Simon the day before and we all met up off the train. I was a bit stressy from the lack of sleep so I meandered off outside the station to the café nearby and ordered a mixed fruit shake, shoo-ing off tuk tuk and taxi drivers wanting my fare!

The four of them joined me and ordered food, I chatted to the two German guys and found out that they’d booked a guest house in Chiang Mai, close to the outer wall, North West and so I approached a taxi driver to see if he could take us there, and to haggle a good price (from 50 baht each to 35) I told him to wait 5 minutes until they finished their food and when they’d finished we set off to SpicyThai guest house.

Because the German guys had a reservation they were let in, and the owner asked if we had one, to which we were then told that only 1 night for each of us as they’re full. Fair enough, and not willing to go to another place, we checked in, payed the 220 baht + 200 baht key deposit and 30 baht towel deposit.

This was around 29 hours since my last shower, so the first thing I did was that.. cold, aye, stinging, aye, comfortable this was not, but I was clean, and that was shower marked off the food, shower, sleep list. I wanted to chill for a bit so we sat, met the other residents, and a few of us wanted to go and get food “FOOD CRAWL” was shouted, and a couple of others joined.. We wandered around 500 metres to a recommended local good Thai food place, and en route I chatted to Emily from the US, she was planning to head up to Pai on Saturday by bike – 149km – I said that I’d join her, up for the challenge and Pai sounded like a nice place to visit.

After dinner I headed back to relax, preparing to mark the last thing off my list. I hooked up online, half watched a couple of films and wrote a couple of blogs so that I was up to date, sorted my accomodation in Pai, and also for the next night in Chiang Mai. I knew that I’d have to get up early to hire the bike so I had a not late, but not early night.

Shake Awake!

Woke up quite frequently in the night, but around 7am to the guy in the bunk below “rhythmically” shaking the bed.. thinking that he was on his own, I made aware that I was awake thanks to him and tried to go back to sleep. I couldn’t though as the bed started shaking again, so I got up.. on the way out I noticed two pairs of feet sticking out of the bed.

I grabbed a shower and headed back up, they were still at it! So I took all my gear and checked out, then sat in the lobby saying hi to everyone from the previous night. I left my luggage and went out to hire a bike. Each place wanted my passport (no!) or a 3000 Baht deposit, so I wandered to an ATM – ended up wandering quite far and somehow did a round circle back to the guest house… I watched the latest Total Recall and chatted some more to the other guests.

The guest house owner had heard rumours of the libertine guy in the bunk below me, and asked me for more details, then went upstairs to sort it out – he also said that after hiring a Thai girl, he had a Western girl in his bed after! Nina and Julia came downstairs, but really only had time to chat quickly before I picked up my stuff to go to the next guest house.

My first, and only tuk tuk in Thailand - Chiang Mai

My first, and only tuk tuk in Thailand – Chiang Mai

A typical Chiang Mai street

A typical Chiang Mai street

I did my usual zig-zagging through the city to find it, stopping at the rather awesome Villa Duang Champa for a refreshing small beer.. It also gave me the chance to find out where I was in relation to the guest house, quite close, so I relaxed a little before heading there. Near the guest house was a laundry and a seamstress.. my bag had broken on day 6 leaving me carrying it with one strap, a bit of a pain in the arse so I enquired how much it would cost to fix – 50 baht and done in 15 minutes (a far cry from the ‘all-day £14’ the lady in Kingston charged me) – I said I was going to go to the room and unload the contents and bring it back. I checked into the Green Oasis and unloaded, took my laundry over to the place across the street and paid a little extra (50 baht instead of 40) to get a two hour service instead of next day.. Then I took the bag to the seamstress and headed back to the room for a sit in the reception area.

The Villa Duang Champa, a really nice place to sit and while away the hours

The Villa Duang Champa, a really nice place to sit and while away the hours

After picking up my bag again and loading up, I hit the town.. I tend to breadcrumb wherever I go, mentally, left, left, right, right, that way I know right, right, left, left on the way back. I turned one street and saw a hostel I’d seen listed on TripAdvisor, but hadn’t looked for the reviews, I sat there and had some food, talked to a French guy who does a lot of travelling around, made a note of the place as it looked like it was okay, friendly staff and people and the price was the same as what I was paying at my current place. I paid a deposit for my return from Pai and meandered back left, right left, right, left, right to get my laundry.

Chiang Mai is a bit cooler than Bangkok, by around 6 degrees, so it’s really nice – not too hot, not too cold, and no need to take #2 of my usual 3 daily showers (travel days an exception) Though I did wash my feet, the Macbeth’s I’ve been wearing are near toxic, so it’s unfair to force that on anyone but me. After getting my laundry I hit the town again.. As I liked Villa Duang Champa so much I thought I’d head there to see about some food, and sat down – on my own.. I ate and drank and paid.. not long before leaving, the musician who had been sitting behind me the whole time presented me with a drawing!!

Tom, the musician at the Villa Duang Champa drew this of me whilst I ate

Tom, the musician at the Villa Duang Champa drew this of me whilst I ate

Love it, it hit a certain note with me, something about the loneliness yet serene mood I was in (lonely is not a negative in this meaning) I thanked him profusely before offering a tip for the drawing of 50 Baht. Smiling all the way back to the guest house I took a few pics

One of the many wats, or temples, in Chiang Mai, Thailand

One of the many wats, or temples, in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chatted with some of the guys and the owner in there before realising I needed to head to Pai quite early as well as hire a bike the next day and then turned in.

Cabbages and Condoms

Yesterday I was so tired.. I don’t know why, but also I had the sweats and a bad stomach, I was hoping it was just temporary.

I checked out of the Pak-Up Hostel and into Good Dreams, just next door and half the price for a private room. Fair enough it didn’t have air conditioning but it had a powerful fan so I was happy.

I was told the blanket was still drying and they’d drop it off to me later. It didn’t bother me to be honest, I dumped my stuff on the bed, curled up around it and fell asleep from around 12 noon – 5pm.

So, I felt it was a bit of a wasted day, pootled about after waking up and a shower, just locally, came back and watched the Beach. Then noticed the stack of DVDs to borrow and picked a couple out (Bangkok Dangerous, and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life) popped a sleeping tablet because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep and settled in for the night.

Woke and got out for 11, hit the Choke Dee restaurant for my usual pineapple shake, then – as it was too late for the four islands tour – I thought I’d hire the bike again and go to Ao Nang beach.

Now, as a non-driver, and given that all roads seem to lead to Krabi, I went round in a massive circle at first. Then started again and intentionally took a right instead of a left at the junction I thought caused the misunderstanding the first time..

Wrong again, I headed North, up towards Ao Luek and although after a short time I knew that I’d done the wrong thing again, I still saw some great things:

Beautiful Mosque Just Outside Krabi

A beautiful mosque not far from Krabi, I got invited in but declined as I had to get moving

Krabi Golf Driving Range

Krabi golf driving range, I bet my dad’s golf course would love this backdrop!

Cabbages and Condoms, Thailand's first, global award winning, social enterprise, set up to promote safe sex

Cabbages & Condoms, thanks to Peter telling me this is Thailand’s first, global award winning, social enterprise, set up to promote safe sex

And of course, littered with limestone rock outcrops, like this:

Limestone Rock Detail

Close-up of a limestone rock outcrop

My Dream House

Now my idea of a dream home, what a view

And so it was, after an hour and a half of driving the wrong direction, I turned back, destined to head to Krabi and grab an espresso from the Choke Dee restaurant.

Sun, the head waiter there was smiley as usual, picked up on my sunburned quarter length arms, bib shape around my throat from wearing an open shirt, and bad sunglass tan face!

Refreshed I was determined to see out the last few hours of my bike rental and see the beach while I was down south.

Set off, found the right direction at last, after a measly 45 minutes ride I found paradise.

Ao Nang Beach 2

The beautiful beach at Ao Nang, limestone rocks in the distance

Transport to and from Krabi

A little piece of paradise

Panoramic Image of Ao Nang Beach

A panoramic of the beach – not amazing, but using a free online program, click to enlarge

I was gutted to have not made it earlier in the day, as I’d have definitely gone in the sea. I didn’t have the right gear with me really so I took a load of pictures whilst there, relaxed on a beach bar, watched life going by and the tour attendants ferrying people to and from the beach by boat.

Group of People Carrying their Belongings to the Boat on Ao Nang Beach

Look closely to see the girl at the back with two suitcases! That’s 3 foot of water close to the boat!

Worrying that I wouldn’t get back in time to hand my bike in, I set off early and headed back to Krabi.

Here’s my route:

My route from Krabi to Ao Luek to Ao Nang to Krabi

The cackhanded route I took to Ao Nang beach today, 125km instead of around 50

So, an eventful day today compared to yesterday.. I have to really make a decision about what I’m going to do next. Peter has kindly offered me a roof over my head in Hua Hin, but the transport situation from here is a concern.. On one hand I could hopefully check out at 6-7, get the 3-4 hour bus to Surat Thani at 10:40, and arrive at 16:01.. but, it’s a bit touch and go.. Seriously though if you want to work out train times, you should check out this site, it’s helped me a load.

The other alternative is a train at 16:46, but that arrives at 00:40, and it’s a bit harsh to expect a family man to wait up.. so I think I’ll head up that way and stop at two places along the way for 1 night each.. This coincides perfectly with Peter’s days off on the 31st/1st, so it’ll be New Year’s in Hua Sin!

That’ll be my next Skype window with the family and friends too, so I’ll hit them up when I get there.

A BMX With A Motor Became My First Truly Eye-Opening Experience In Thailand

After the longest journey in the world, arriving in Krabi proved to be far too relaxing.. as I said it’s more sedate here, but also a hub of tourism due to the central location for trips to the various islands dotted around.

This may be also because I chose to stay in a hostel, rather than hotel, but so many French, German and English folks come to Krabi. And generally they stay at Pak-Up hostel.

The outside of the Pak-Up hostel in Krabi

The outside of the Pak-Up hostel

Here is where I met Alyx..

She was on the same long-ass train as me as well as the following buses.. Immediately heard her French accent as she talked on the train to a Thai girl, asking for advice on Thai language whilst here. While I didn’t speak to her on the train, as soon as we arrived to Surat Thani and heard her say ‘Krabi’ to one of the station attendants I knew that I wanted to speak to her and find out her story.

So it was, from day 1 to now I feel a strong connection to Alyx, very easy going and respectful, but also likes a beer and a smoke. We discussed plans (or she discussed her plans, I admitted my lack thereof) and she’s heading to Ao Ton Say (or Sai, you can’t Google Maps this place), a secluded and small island for Christmas with her friends (for French it’s Xmas eve that’s the main day) I was invited to join, throughout the two days of full on conversation we spoke of her plans and it did sound very good to go to one of the beaches, but I felt it wasn’t the right time to change my plans – and I had the hostel booked for 5 days, so, despite agreeing at first, and subsequently feeling bad for going back on my word, she understood.

What an amazing two days!

I’ve met a lot of people in my life, but rarely you find someone where the conversation is flowing and rare moments of silence. This was the 48 hours in Alyx’s company. Everything from deep to political to life in general. The one thing I valued most was an exchange of language. She spoke extremely good English, and I now understand I speak very good French. At lots of times during the conversation a word would crop up one of us wouldn’t understand and so the next 5 minutes would be explaining the word. This was neither a sexual nor physical attraction, but a very visceral and deep understanding of our lives and so the flow was perfect.

So

Arriving in Krabi during the rain, and each subsequent morning for the next two days, I had thought this could be a washout place. But, the Pak-Up hostel was super awesome, clean and centrally located, and most of all cheap.. There is cheaper, and I’ll have to find these places, but it’s a great place and definitely worth staying in if you ever hit Krabi Town.

One of the benefits is there’s people from all walks of life, and all areas of the world staying here.. You’re always guaranteed a friendly conversation and because of the nature, everyone is open to being talked to and talking to. I have to share with a potential 7 others, but by the time I hit the sack everyone’s asleep so there’s no real interaction inside the dorm.

Skype was a lifesaving and a homesick inspiring experience

I’d promised Olivia and my family a Skype the first Sunday that I arrived. The 23rd was my first date where I’d said I’d be online at 7pm here, 12 noon there.. So, as it came to it I found a place with Wifi and Chang, happened to be with Alyx but she sat reading GQ whilst I spent the next hour and a half Skyping with no sound, but everyone could hear me.

Speaking with my family made me homesick for Christmas dinner, mum’s mashed potatoes, family conversation, the sleep at 3pm and the arguments for the next 5 days.. speaking with Olivia made me happy – she was looking forward to her own family time and of course excited. Speaking with Rob and Karina grounded me and made me realise that I missed their faces and their company a lot. I won’t say in particular what it was that made me – but Rob and Karina know!

Me and Alyx whiled away the hours when Bernie turned up, from Canada, and has been to Thailand 6 times.. we enjoyed each other’s company and shared the stories that you share when meeting people for the first time. And then Dominic turned up, also French, but professed to not know English at all but actually spoke perfect English – so this forced me even more to practice the language after English I know the most. It turned out that Dominic was going to the same place as Alyx and so she had a travelling companion, of the same nationality to spend time with.

Next morning’s breakfast was coffee and a pineapple shake..mmmmmmmmmm… this is awesome, nice espresso and an even nicer and more refreshing shake (sans le lait, bien sur ! Pure pineapple)

The beautiful pineapple shakes in Chokdee Restaurant, Krabi

A pineapple shake at Chokdee Restaurant, Krabi

The faking dog

This dog faked a back leg ailment, every 5 minutes after dragging himself down the road he’d stand up and walk back up to drag himself again

But.. followed by the first Chang, then the second, then the day degraded from there.. Sadly this was not either Alyx’ or my bad influence, we were both as bad as each other.. But also not to say that the day was ruined, again we talked very fluidly and discussed life issues, politics, exchanging vocabulary and more.

For the French, Xmas eve is the day to celebrate, so she had planned to go to Ao Ton Say that day, but as the day progressed and the beer flowed it got to a point where the last boat had sailed and she had to stay one more day. Bad for her to miss meeting her friends for the special day, but good for conversation and discussion.

We said goodnight and I said I’d come say hello in Chokdee restaurant/bar tomorrow morning. And so Alyx and then Dominic turned up and we.. well, they talked for 2 hours before departing for Ao Ton Say. I met my best friend during the trip, a ginger cat who seemed to want to ‘do a Kitsy’ and sit on me all day!

My new best friend, the ginger cat

My new best friend, the ginger cat

Then came the first defining moment for me of the trip.. I hadn’t blogged (I had written in my journal) but I was very aware I was just having conversation for 2 days and nothing more, no pictures. Which… isn’t a bad thing, but was against the primary purpose of my trip – to photo blog. So once Alyx left I felt a lot more in harmony with myself and the desire to experience Krabi after 3 days of not doing so.

The first day I’d spoken to my cousin Jenty and she’d said her friend is in Krabi, so to meet up. I’d organised a meeting at Viva the pizza restaurant. Turned up at 8 and she said she’d be there with friends. I turned up and didn’t know what she looked like, there was a group of people to my right and all of a sudden a Portsmouth accent piped up “Are you Matt?” and so for an hour or so I discussed my options with some expats and came away.. well.. none really the wiser but happy to hear a familiar accent during my far East travels. I had my first glass of red wine since landing which was a good, but expensive (it’s the same price for red wine as it is in the UK) experience, and met my first vegan (who asked for no cheese on the pizza, Pizza Express-style)

I returned to my hostel and unloaded, went back out for a smoke and met a couple of guys (I forget their names) one from Finland, and one from Japan.. The Japanese guy was doing the world on a long boat! Wow! And so with his broken English and my non-Japanese we managed to talk about their travels for an hour..

The Japanese longboatman that I met

The Japanese longboatman that I met

Afterwards I met another French guy Alain, from Bordeaux, and once again I find myself connecting most with the French.. maybe I should have been born French! Alain is super cool, and on a similar wavelength to me, similar aged daughter and life situation. We decided that if I head to Laos in the next 15 days, we should meet up – I’d like to, he’s switched on and once again the conversation was flowing..

Then around 5 others turned up and we all talked, all from different places in the world – Germany, France, England and South Korea. The decision was to go up to the roof bar and get a “Black Cock Bucket” which I’m still not sure what it is.. vodka definitely, but not harsh tasting like vodka. We talked, drank and played Jenga (record 31 stacks by the way!) but the night was ending, Alain had to visa run the next day so left first, then one by one we all dissipated and I went to sleep relatively early (2am).

I was very aware of what the couple from London told me during my visit to Krabi, that they’d hired a bike and just gone somewhere and enjoyed – they were not wrong! – Next morning I hired a motorbike for 150 Baht (£3) until 7 pm, this was around 1pm, so tomorrow I’ll hire one earlier and make the most of it.

Wow

I’ve never ridden a motorbike before, this was the first time in my entire life. I felt ashamed to ask the bike rental guy how to operate a bike.. but it had to happen – I started and stopped the bike, asked how it restarted, then how it went forward and how you could refuel it.

The initial embarrassment was replaced with an amazing sense of free spirit! I mean I’ve ridden a BMX before, for many years, but once you add a motor it’s a whole different story. I went North, East, South and West of Krabi because I could, relatively quickly. I was aware that the beautiful limestone cliffs I’ve seen everywhere were on the road following the river North, so first step was to drive as straight as I could towards these.

En-route there were a few, but in fact they’re dotted everywhere as I’m hearing.. so tomorrow I’ll maybe hit Ao Nang, or nearby, because it’s so close (and Bernie the Canadian recommended) I was even looking at buying a bike of my own, but they’re no cheaper there than here – around 50,000 Baht (£1,000) so out of my price range.. maybe £50 perhaps, but not a grand.

I went and came back to Krabi a lot, but towards the end of my rental, and fuel gauge, I drove out North again.. at one point I saw a road sign to a waterfall and decided to drive the 22km there.. fair enough my fuel was short so around 7km from the goal I headed back to avoid a potential charge for missing the 7pm return time.

This is a really liberating experience, wind in your hair, as fast as your 50cc will allow, on relatively quiet – and straight – roads. I recommend this to anyone visiting Thailand, but please be careful – the drivers don’t give a crap about safety, especially the car drivers. So if you’re not careful you could end up in a bad way like the French guy, Mat (also a photographer) that I met.

I settled down to blog in the hostel and Alain turned up again so we chatted at length before his trip to Koh Tao tomorrow.. this is why this is being posted around 7:30 instead of 5pm UK time!

I’ve enjoyed Krabi but I think my time is near to ending here. I don’t really want to spend a lot of time in one place so tomorrow after the bike ride, and to maintain the 2 days minimum at the Good Dreams guesthouse to satisfy the 150 Baht price (£3) instead of a single night 200 Baht (£4) price, I’ll look at where to go next – definitely North to stay with Ella’s brother Peter in Hua Hin, but not sure about the journey on the way.

If I can offer you any advice though, it’s to hire – and be sensible with – a motorbike in Krabi. I’ll leave you with some of the beautiful sights from along the way, and fill you in when I get to the internet next.

Some mysterious building on a hill near Krabi

Some mysterious building on a hill near Krabi

More limestone rock near Krabi town

More limestone rock near Krabi town

Me, on a motorbike! With beard!

Me, on a motorbike! With beard!

Limestone Rock near Krabi Town

Limestone Rock near Krabi Town

Just one of the beautiful limestone rock outcrops near Krabi

Just one of the beautiful limestone rock outcrops near Krabi

Beautiful scenery near Krabi town

Beautiful scenery near Krabi town

A random boat near Krabi town harbour

A random boat near Krabi town harbour

The river near Krabi

The river near Krabi