● For full details on our route, transport info, hotel details, etc, look at our Google Maps page

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Nong Khiaw

28th – 29th November

We mentioned earlier that a popular way to travel in Laos is by riverboat, the most famous of which is the cruise down the Mekong. A lesser known and equally stunning trip is to travel down the xxxx river from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang.

We travelled via Udomxai to Nong Khiaw with the intention of taking this trip downstream, as well as the opportunity to spend a few post-trekking days relaxing by the river. Nong Khiaw and it’s neighbour, Muang Ngoi Neua, one hour up river and completely void of vehicles are the ideal places to do this. We stayed overnight in Nong Khiaw at the Riverside bungalows, watching the sunset and enjoying some Beer Lao with Jo and Guy and another couple we’d met, aussies Jonny and Ally. There wasn’t a lot to do in Nong Khiaw other than watch the world go by. The scenery is completely out of this world, but when the sun drops behind the limestone karsts around 4.30pm the temperature suddenly plummets and you’re left wondering how to keep warm!

We took refuge in what looked like a warm cafĂ©. I think we were fooled by the posh glass doors, the cosy leather sofas and candlelit ambience. Oh how wrong we were… the place had no side walls and even our hot chocolates were cold by the time the cups touched our lips! The saving grace was the best piece of cheesecake ever !

The following day there were two boats scheduled to Muang Ngoi Neua. We took the later 2 o’clock boat and spent most of the morning waiting for the warmth of the late rising sun to thaw out, before exploring a nearby cave. The cave was interesting enough but we spent more time on the journey home where we stopped at some neglected lily ponds watching dragonflies, Ady camera glued to eye, after the elusive “money” shot!

In hindsight we probably should have taken the earlier, quieter boat. A boat normally used to ferry 8 people was packed with 22 well fed westerners and their big backpacks, each the size of an average Laoation alone! Unsurprisingly the waterline rose alarmingly close to the top of the boat! As soon as we moved there was seepage. The seepage turned into a trickle… how long would we stay afloat!? It was a tense journey and we were all fearing for our cameras, laptops and bags, if not ourselves!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Luang Nam Tha

25th – 27th November

After an afternoon of research we agreed on a two day/one night trek to the Akha village of Ban Phouvan. Tourism in Laos, though still in it’s infancy is extremely highly regulated, with strict, ecologically sound guidelines set up and enforced. In addition to protecting the national parks, the Laos government quite rightly is keen to avoid the exploitation of the Hill tribe people, or the “human zoo” effect, as is the unfortunate case in some parts of Thailand. The frequency of visits to hill tribes are restricted, as are group sizes. Other rules include not handing out gifts directly to the children, so as not to promote a begging culture, but instead passing on to the village ch
ief or teacher who ensures fair distribution.

We were under the impression that the total trekking distance over the two days would be 35km, possibly the longest we’d both ever walked under our own steam. The itinerary was to spend the first day walking through dense jungle, climbing steadily to the village, and the second through open countryside and agricultural fields.

Perhaps Laos methodology of measuring distance is as warped as that used for time keeping, but after just two hours of b
risk walking through the forest we stopped for lunch, Laos style. Nobody was really hungry, having eaten our fill of slow burning carbs at breakfast. Still, the food was delicious; sticky rice, barbequed meat and lots of very spicy Jeow (a bit like tomato salsa but with 10 times as much chilli), served on banana leaves.

A couple more hours of (not so!) hard trekking and we arrived at the village where we’d spend the night. The adults were all working in the fields but the children were happy to say hello and keep us entertained with their antics. A large packed heap of soil, dried out in the sun had been furnished into a mini slide, the plastic containers used for the kids to sit on polishing the surface to a high sheen and providing an even more slippery run! It didn’t take long for Ady and Guy to get involved,
though only able to fit one arse cheek onto the small piece of plastic, they didn’t look quite as graceful, nor land quite as softly!

Towards sunset, our guide took us for a full tour of the village. Some of the adults had returned, but not that many. Either that or they were hiding out in their houses. Of the few that we said hello to, it was difficult to gage whether or not we were welcome, even though we’d been told by our guide that visits by tourists were seen as a good thing – whether this was solely for monetary gains (a percentage of what we’d paid for the tour goes directly to the village) we’d prefer not to know. The gifts our group had brought along were given out – marbles and animal masks seemed to go down particularly well.

After dinner, a game of cards and the obligatory shots of Lao Lao whisky, the young women from the village arrived to give us a massage. It was a nice touch, but after the expertise we’d experienced from our massage teacher Joy, we probably didn’t appreciate the poking and prodding as much as we should and were quite relieved when it was over!

As our hut was next to the village school, we spent another hour or so with the children the following morning. There were two sessions each day, so that each child attends either morning or afternoon classes. Sadly only the boys are educated; the girls are sent to work in the fields with their mothers as soon as they can work. At least this is the explanation we were given; we only saw three girls in the whole time we were there, in contrast to the hundred or so boys. When you look at the photos you’ll see how letting the kids take control of the camera meant that we got some great shots of the locals, very close up.

Top Traveller Tip #5 – Get a different perspective in you photos by being brave and handing over your camera to the local children.* Some have never seen or used a digital camera and they love to take close up pictures of their friends. It also avoids you feeling bad for exploiting the locals! *Disclaimer – we will not be held responsible for stolen cameras as a result of this idea!

Our return hike passed down through a valley and then up a long, very steep climb, the months without regular exercise finally taking toll. We passed over the summit and followed the path of a river, crossing it many times via fallen trees, makeshift rudimentary bridges or slippery stepping stones. Amazingly no one fell in, but our trainers were pretty soaked by the end of it.

All in all it was an enjoyable and rewarding trek and gave an insight into another culture and way of life, in a very untouched part of the world. Long may it stay that way.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Into Laos - Huay Xai

24th November

We crossed the river which constitutes the Thai/Laos border in minutes, and breezed through immigration, encountering none of the expected “fines” or pleas for dollars. Huay Xai is nothing more exciting than the border town it is, unfortunately the earliest buses or boats to other destinations are all cunningly scheduled for the following day, meaning that we and every other traveller has to spend the night there. Every cloud has a silver lining; we met Guy and Jo from East London and feasted on curry from Nazim, a great Indian restaurant - we later found this to be a chain and to feature throughout the whole of Laos.

The usual route from the border is to take the two day slow boat directly to Luang Prabang. To do so misses out some of the more beautiful and untouched parts of the country. We decided to head to Luang Nam Tha in the far north, home to the Nam Ha national park and it’s clouded leopard, elephant, gaur and tigers. We also looked to take in a trek to one of the minority hill tribes. It turned out that Jo and Guy were set to do the same so we agreed to link up and trek together and hopefully force the costs down too.

Until recently the journey between Huay Xai and Luang Nam Tha was possible only by two day boat or an 8 hour bone cruncher of a ride on dirt tracks. Now the road was sealed and a comfortable 3 hour ride was promised.

We were woken by loud banging on our door at 7.15am; someone was telling us that our bus left in 10 minutes. Confused (we weren’t due to leave until 9) we found the mini van outside waiting. Other travellers equally baffled but clearly the driver wanted to get somewhere quick. Just ten minutes out of town we pulled over and the driver took a bundle of papers into a nearby building, leaving us by the side of the road. Around an hour later he returned and found us milling around the roadside like a flock of sheep, having evacuated the van. No explanation was given, but then I guess his English was as good as our Lao. Or maybe, in his eyes, none was needed – after all …this is Laos! After this delay, we were on the road by 9am and heading east.

Chiang Rai

22nd November – 24th November

With Laos in our sights a stop over in Chiang Rai was in order to break the journey and allow us to check out the famous Golden Triangle. 70kms north east of Chiang Mai, it was an ideal opportunity for us to rent another motorbike and spend a day on two wheels.

After carrying out some research on the area by visiting tour operators, we cobbled together a plan for where we could visit in a day. It was difficult trying not to look too shocked at the 1500 Baht price tag (per person) for the day trip in a minivan!
Top Traveller Tip #4 – If you want to save money on a day trip, go to the agents and get them to tell you where you can see in a day, then hire a motorbike and follow their route!

Our plan was to head to fish and monkey cave, Mai Sae (the northernmost point of Thailand), The Golden Triangle, The Opium Museum, Chiang Saaen, a long neck village and then head back to Chiang Mai.

As you’ll see from our pictures, we accomplished all of our plan, apart from the Long Neck Village, which we couldn’t find. Still, we saved ourselves nearly 3000 baht by doing our DIY trip!

For further details on the route we took, look at our Google Maps in more detail!

A border crossing into Laos loomed, so an early night was called for. This was the last we would see of Thailand for a while and from what we had heard, things would only get tougher as we cross to one of the poorest countries in South East Asia.

Saturday, 22 November 2008


15th November – 22nd November

We moved in alongside Lucy and Rene at the Unicorn 2, just a little way out of town.
Once again they’d done the hard work for us and sussed out the best value huts in Pai. An added bonus was that included in our room rate of just 150 baht, we could use the swimming pool, sauna and wifi facilities at the newer, much posher Unicorn 1.

Saturday night was very lively in Pai. It turns out that the town, whose permanent population is just 3000, is a growing weekend destination for Thai tourists. We heard it had something to do with the a popular Thai film being set here? The streets were thronging with tourists and traders and we filled our faces on street food before enjoying some delicious thai veggie curries at a nearby restaurant.

For the first couple of days we chilled by the Unicorn pool, waiting for our war wounds to dry out in the sun, and to warm our aching “post-massage school” bodies. We checked out a couple of cooking schools and settled on “Lets Wok with Tee”, a informal set up in Tee’s home. It was a different arrangement to the traditional cooking class whereby you would spend the whole day cooking and leave by 5 o’clock. At Tee’s, we started the morning session at 10am and cooked Thai curries until lunchtime at 1.30pm. The afternoon was spent sleeping off our excesses by the pool before starting the evening session and preparing soups and stir-fries for dinner. As with all cooking schools we got to eat everything we made; with Tee we also cooked with lots of beer at hand and the company of his very cool friends, listening to his tunes. All in all a very “easy, easy” (Tee’s mantra!) day. The food of course was awesome and an added bonus was we got to return the following night to cook another recipe, for free, and join the party again!

Another fun day was spent riding to Sappong, half-way to Mae Hong Son. The road was a continuation of what we experienced on the way to Pai and again the views were stunning. We visited a cave and after travelling aboard a rickety bamboo raft on the river into the cave, spent an hour exploring the vast underground caverns of limestone stalactites and stalagmites.

Other highlights when in Pai are said to be the various hot springs and
waterfalls, though if you’re feeling tight you’d do far worse than to check out the Spa Exotica hot pools for half the price, and you can actually swim in these! We went at dusk, after spending time watching the sun set over the picturesque Pai Canyon. There was a film shoot taking place at the canyon when we were there, which was an added bit of entertainment! On that same night, we’d seen flyers for a bonfire and mini festival at a nearby art gallery. We popped in to warm ourselves on the fire, and were treated to some live music by a local band – funnily enough the same band we’d seen just the night before and one with an unforgettable lead vocalist – a woman with the deepest, most unusual voice imaginable (now I know what you thinking, but it was a woman for sure!) with the hugest head of thick backcombed hair. I guess the voice matched the hair quite well…

Despite our little mishap we’d enjoyed our ride to Pai so much that we wanted to take a bike back to Chiang Mai rather than endure the local bus. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be; the company we’d hired from plants a 500 baht surcharge onto the one-way rental from Pai to Chiang Mai, reasoning that there are more tourists wanting to ride this direction than towards Pai, and therefore they have to pay to bring the bikes back. We didn’t really believe this was the case but couldn’t get them to waive this fee, even though the bike we’d brought up from Chiang Mai was still sat in the forecourt! And so the bus it was. At least it was downhill!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Road to Pai

15th November

Despite our enthusiasm for going to Pai, we were both daunted by the prospect of the potential six hour bus ride into the mountains, a journey notorious among travellers for being particularly gut-wrenching! At the eleventh hour we had the inspired decision to travel a motorbike and take advantage of the service offered by Aya travel whereby we could collect the bike in Chiang Mai and drop off in Pai, whilst they transported our backpacks. Perfect, all this for less than the price of two local bus tickets.

Well, it wasn’t quite a “motorbike”, but one of the popular Honda Dream step through models we’d been using all week to pootle around town, complete with a front shopping basket! Unsure of how quickly (indeed, if at all) we’d make it up those mountains, we set out on the road to Pai. At least we had all day…

We actually made good time out of the city and in just over an hour started the slow climb into the sky. The scenery was absolutely spectacular and we pulled off the road on numerous occasions to check out the view or an interesting landmark (usually a temple!). Satisfyingly we also passed several local buses travelling the same route, whilst still managing to stop at the sights and for some lunch. The road was in surprisingly good condition and remained so for the entire journey to Pai. It turns out that the loop via Pai and Sappong to Mae Hong Son and back to Chiang Mai is one of the great driving roads of the world and one we’d like to return to in the future to complete. A better bike would be a must though!

The ride was going beautifully and the weather was perfect. With just another 60km to go we spotted a sign for some hot springs and so pulled off the main road to take a closer look. No sooner had we done this the condition of the road deteriorated quickly and dirt and gravel suddenly replaced the smooth tarmac. Not wanting to blame the road surface, the giant potholes, the rider* or the scooter with balding tyres, we hit a sharp bend after a steep descent and skidding on a heap of gravel, took a small tumble off the bike! The initial shock warded off the forthcoming pain of grazing knuckles and elbows – the dangers of riding without proper gear and something we know more than most…

*The rider came off much worse than the pillion so we can’t blame the rider too much either, even though the said rider has loads of off-road experience in far tougher conditions than this!

We turned the bike around and set off back to the main road, feeling a little sorry for ourselves and trying not to dwell too much on our oozing cuts and bruises. Though the bike was completely unscathed after our fall, Ady had badly ripped his trousers in several places and the biggest concern was now how to deliver the bike back without loosing our deposit. Not a good look for one whose journey was without incident! Fortunately our good friends Lucy and Rene were waiting for us in Pai, patched us up and leant Ady spare trousers to return the bike in.

Top Traveller Tip #3 – Without wanting to sound like your mother, cover up bare skin and feet when hiring a motorbike or scooter abroad. Even at very slow speeds there’s so much blood!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Chiang Mai

6th November – 15th November

Arriving after dark, we hopped in a sangthelew with some other people from the bus, and on their advice headed t
o a hostel called “Kim House” The driver drove around and around “looking” for hostel, giving us a free tour (well, we assume he wasn’t expecting a tip!) of the vibrant night bazaar to boot!

The following day we saw the friends that we had met at the Thai border and moved to the place they were staying at, the Sripoom 2. For 200 baht, we got an ensuite room with hot shower, fridge, television and a huge bed with crisp, clean cotton sheets and…best still, fluffy Tesco towels… real luxury on a shoestring! If you are in Chiang Mai, you could do far worse than staying here.

A day of research into Thai Massage courses beckoned, and after a shaky start at the large ITM school and one freaked out Ady (was it the free fruit, or just way too many wheatgrass swilling, “spiritual” types studying), we settled for a much smaller operation, run by the mother of the guest house owner of Sripoom 2! Our teacher was to be Joy and she would teach us privately for the whole week.

We spent the rest of the day checking out the sights in and around Chiang Mai. The city is home to more than 300 temples; we visited several of the better known, until temple fatigue set in and the temples all began to look the same. Having said that, two of the temples stood out from the rest. Wat U Mong; a picturesque forest temple on the outskirts of town features a series of brick-lined underground tunnels built into the hillside. The tunnels date back to 1380 and are still open for viewing by the public. Wat Suan Dok contains an impressive 500 year old bronze Buddha image and is well known for it’s scenic sunsets. Arriving shortly before dusk we bumped into our friends Lucy and Rene and had the opportunity to speak with a number of the novice monks studying at the monastic university.

We’d already hired a scooter for our week in Chiang Mai and took time over the weekend to escape the smog and ride into the surrounding countryside. Inevitably, we happened upon and sp
ent more time at another couple of temples, including the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of the north’s most sacred temples. Carefully constructed upon the Doi (meaning hill) Suthep, expansive views can be seen of the valley below and the temple is famous for watching the sunset. We continued the road north and climbed the Doi Pui peak for more panoramic vistas, before attempting and failing miserably to find the Hmong hill tribe village.

Massage Course

Monday morning came around swiftly and we began our intense 5 day, 30 hour course; Foundation of Thai Massage. Our teacher Joy has had over 1300 hours of teaching experience. We were looking forward to learning from her, as well as the added bonus of receiving a weeks worth of massage ourselves. The level 1 course involves a set sequence of 50 positions and we worked our way through the postures for the first three days, receiving the massage from Joy first of all and then practicing on each other and finally Joy to perfect our technique. It was quite amazing to learn the techniques and surprising how just a little pressure, applied in the right way on the correct pressure point could bring tears to the eyes, and of course promote relaxation and healing!?!?!

Towards the end of the week, Joy had successfully sniffed out each of our Achilles heels and set to work giving us “extras”! Lets just say the eastern approach to treating years of muscle build up (in our case, overly-strung hamstrings and tight shoulders) is very different to the softly, softly practice one would
experience at an Osteopath or Physio, and of course a tenth the price! The degree of pain felt (Sam speaking here…I’m sure Ady would put a braver face on it!) was unlike anything ever endured before, by choice…the kind of unrelenting pain (for once Joy got those elbows in…) that makes you want to throw up and pass out all at the same time! Personally I blame years sitting behind a desk…

Anyway, after a week of pummelling and prodding and the many bruises had come up black and blue we were declared proficient in the art of Thai massage, in theory, to the point where we could officially charge clients for our services!! Form an orderly line please!

Loi Krathong

During our week in Chiang Mai we were fortunate enough to witness the annual festival of Loi Krathong, a beautiful festival where on the night of the November full moon, small lotus-shaped boats made of banana leaves and containing a lit candle are set adrift on the river. The festival has grown in recent times and some say the real meaning lost with the festivities carrying on all week in order to generate bigger profits. Huge numbers of fireworks and firecrackers were thrown into (or simply in the general direction of) the river, or by bored youths at one other (and passing tourists) in the street. Scary stuff!

More peacefully (though not very green), thousands of paper lanterns are lit and set up into the night sky, burning brightly and gaining height as the air inside the lantern heats and expands…that is until the oil burner extinguishes and the whole thing falls back to earth. Mostly the blackened, burnt-out lanterns simple fall into the street or litter somebody’s back yard, but worse still, they sometimes set fire to obstructing trees or rooftops! The festival culminated in a procession of flamboyantly decorated floats, crowned with the towns young beauties. Both of us have a fairly short attention span when it comes to this sort of thing – on this occasion however, overhead electricity cables hanging too low at street level became entangled in many a float as they passed us by, forcing the floats to carry out an emergency stop! Amusing for us to watch, but less so for the poor participants…

Having spent an exhausting week in Thailand’s northern capital (and perhaps the longest blog post to date!) we were looking forward to travelling further north and onto Pai, a former hippy enclave from the 1970’s and supposedly a great place to chill out in the mountains.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Phitsanulok and Sukothai

5th November – 6th November

Our next destination was Phitsanulok from where we could easily reach the ancient city of Sukothai. To get there we had to find Bangkok’s North East bus station. We negotiated our way northwards across Bangkok with relative ease, thanks to the efficiency of the new Skytrain. On jumping off at the relevant stop for the bus terminal and ignoring persistent offers of tuk tuk and taxi transfers between the Skytrain and the bus station (we so don’t fall for this little trick any more!) we proceeded to get horrifically lost in some landscaped gardens, in the sweltering 40 degree heat for at least an hour, backpacks in tow, in our vain attempts to follow the path between the two. Maybe this is what bad karma is all about?!!

After a relatively short bus ride of around 4 hours we arrived in the transport hub of Phitsanulok and checked into some dubious hotel just outside the bus station. Our suspicions on how we were the only guests and why the owner had looked so surprised at our checking in were confirmed a little later when paying the Seven-Eleven a visit. Lets just say the neighbouring Karaoke bars were staffed by many more scantily clad young girls than they were budding X-Factor contestants… Ady was keen to flex his vocals but Sam persuaded him that it would cost more than the price of a drink if he entered!

Sukothai was established in the 13th century and subsequently became the centre of rule for more than 150 years. It was the first independent kingdom of Siam.

Bicycles at the ready, we set off to explore. After 2 minutes Ady had broken quite a sweat as his bike wasn’t built for a 13 stone westerner! The chain guard scraped and the brakes jammed on making it harder work than normal. Nevertheless, the sights more than made up for the dodgy equipment. The photos here tell the story, with added captions where we can remember what it was we had taken!

Later in the day we were back on the road – next destination and Thailand’s second largest city, Chiang Mai

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


3rd November – 5th November

Arriving in the southern bus station (which it actually in the north west of the city!) at 6am and the traffic jams to get into the city centre were already in full force. As we had only 2 nights planned in Bangkok, Khao San road seemed like the easiest place to head for.

Khao San road wasn’t anything like we had imagined as we strolled down the length of it. It was only 9am however, and no
body was up and about yet - the party from the night before must have taken it’s toll! The Green Lodge (recommended!) had a room for 400 baht a night and came complete with little luxuries such as a fridge and a TV to watch the US election unfold!

We set out to find the main post office in order to collect a new laptop battery
that was awaiting at Poste Restante for us (thanks Liz!). It was quite a schlep across the city and we took a bus as far as we could, intending to go the rest of the distance by foot. Passing down a backstreet we came upon a low-key restaurant heaving with locals. The smell emanating from the doorway and the obvious popularity of the place led to our squeezing ourselves inside and finding a table. After wildly gesticulating to the waitress we were handed two bowls of steaming hot noodle soup and meatballs. Delicious, though they must of gone easy on us as they were lots of other very interesting ingredients being added to other customers soups!

Towards the end of our meal we were joined by a local doctor who had studied medicine at Kings College London over 30 years ago. He told us how he was very pleased to see us in such a local eatery so far from Khao San road. We talked for a while about how he’d enjoyed the hospitality of the English people whilst he was studying and what our plans were in Thailand. He very kindly gave us his business card and offered to help us out should we need assistance whilst in Thailand, and then proceeded to pay for our lunch! Thanks again Dr Wonchat!

Laptop battery in hand, the river was close by so we took a local riverboat back up to Banglamphu, where we were staying. The journey upriver took us past several landmarks that we don’t know the name of, but you can see them in the photos!

On our second day, we planned to see more sights. The tropical downpour delayed our start but allowed time for a slap up breakfast of Garlic chicken and Dragonfruit muesli (not together!) We eventually managed to
dodge the showers and jumped on a bus to the centre of the city.

Top Traveller Tip #2 – Get around Bangkok for FREE! Certain busses are free until end of Jan 2009! They run on routes throughout the city and although they take a while, they are a great travel experience! See this page HERE for more details

After sheltering in a bus stop, we ran into the nearest public building, which happened to be a huge Tesco Lotus store. Now armed with 2 Tesco Value umbrellas, we were ready for whatever the weather could throw at us!

The nearby Jim Thompson House is the former
residence of the famous American silk trader, Jim Thompson. He disappeared whilst on holiday in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands in 1967 and has never been found. His name lives on in the Thai Silk trade, and the brand has developed to become recognised globally. The house and gardens have been maintained as they were left by Thompson and are open to the public. We took a guided tour to find out more about the home life of this flamboyant entrepreneur, whose creative flair is still apparent in the way the house was furnished.

When we surfaced it was still raining so we ducked into another public building somewhere near Siam Square. This turned out to be a good call – this free exhibition centre, housed in a cylindrical shaped building was a little like the Tate Modern but rounder…

There were a number of exhibitions being shown and we wandered up through the spiralling floors, trying but failing miserably to interpret the various pieces of art.

One of the must do sights on many a travellers itinerary is to see a Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) match. There was a regular Tuesday night fight and we decided to head to the stadium to see some blood being spilled. Apparently an English boxer had been fighting at this stadium just a few days before which would have been great to catch. Unfortunately for us and damn the lousy Lonely Planet again but we’d been ill advised as to the ticket price. We didn’t even have enough spare cash left to buy a ticket for seats in the outer circle, much less a ringside seat for the full gore, unless we could pass as Thai nationals and pay a fifth of the tourist price. Lacking so much as a credit card between us we took solace in finding and swiftly downing a pint of cider each (a bit of a rarity in SE Asia and didn’t we know it at just shy of a fiver a pint!) before heading back to the delights of the Khao San road.

It was certainly a whistlestop tour of the city and we hope to have more time in Bangkok to see things properly at some point.

Sunday, 2 November 2008


Across the border - Satun and Hat Yai
2nd November

We took a boat from Langkawi to Satun, Thailand and were across the border with no dramas. After much deliberation, we changed our plans and decided to head to the north of Thailand and skip over the islands of the south. Having caught the end of the monsoon the weather was pretty abysmal, but we plan to return to the south in February. The sleeper train up to Bangkok was full and we had to downgrade to the overnight bus instead – a wonderful 11 hours in chilly air conditioned hell! We travelled with Lucy and Rene who we had met at the border, who had also made the decision to skip over the islands for now.

We killed several hours in Hat Yai with our first taste of Thai street food, and for Ady at least, plenty of Fanta! Fed for 10 Baht each, a sticky rice and pork treat, in a mini thai size portion, we knew we were going to enjoy Thailand. After that, we put into practice the ancient art of making one drink last for hours when we have time to kill, and 2 drinks and 4 hours later, it was time to get the bus.

Saturday, 1 November 2008


29th October – 1st November

Our final stop in Malaysia, the island of Langkawi, aka Langwaki as Ady calls it, is situated a short distance from the mainland and just south of the Thai/Malaysia border. Reached by fast ferry from Penang, we arrived into Kuah and searched the crowd for likely candi
dates to share a taxi. Heading to Pantai Chenang, the main area with budget accommodation, the taxi sped along a dual carriageway – not what we had been expecting for an island!

Lonely Planet recommended the Gecko Guesthouse, and it wasn’t a bad choice - we dropped our bags and took a walk out to find some food. Ady was gutted that it was just past 12:00, as Roti Canai was now off the menu… Nasi Goreng it was then! At this point, it started raining and we whiled away a few hours doing some trip planning.

As we try to write this blog entry, we are finding all out days running into one, mostly involving lots of torrential rain. One night was spent at a local restaurant with a group of people from our guesthouse. This turned particularly messy when the playing cards came out and a drinking game began! We did manage to pick a dry day to rent a motorbike and visit a couple of spectacular waterfalls, and a very nice beach, with lunch off the tourist strip at a local buffet restaurant. We don’t know what we were eating, but it tasted good and didn’t make us ill! The second waterfall, The Seven Wells, involved a hike up over 500 steps and by the time we got to the top we had to take our second dip of the day. This waterfall is slightly different as you visit and swim at the top of it. It turned out to be less of a dip and more of a battle against the strength of the rapids, as the water tried to push us over the edge!

On the night of Halloween, two of the people we met, Andy and Jamie, pulled together some wood and lit a fire on the beach. Trouble getting the damp wood going was resolved with a small bottle of petrol, and before long a small crowd had gathered. Jamie was the only person to have made the effort with fancy dress, coming as a Mummy. His costume didn’t last too long as the bandages were too itchy to wear. The costume wasn’t wasted however as Ady used the bandages to make his own fire twirling baton! The left over petrol was soon alight and flames were leaping across the beach. Thankfully Ady was sober at this point, and everybody escaped the fire show unscathed!

The night before we were due to leave, we were persuaded to go to a hotel in the evening to talk to a film director about some potential work as Extras in a movie they were shooting. We turned down the offer as we didn’t fancy standing around for 4 days waiting for our five minutes of fame! Some of the guys we met did stay on, and are now movie stars, as their roles developed and one of them got a speaking part!!!

As we wave goodbye to Malaysia, we move on to the land of smiles – Thailand!

Visitors Since 19th May 2009...