Thailand was so easy to get around that it was hard not to feel at ease there and I have never seen so many naturally beautiful people in one place before. Not a pair of baggy jeans in sight! Also because pretty much anything goes in Thailand, my tattoos and piercings didn't set me apart from anyone else and no one batted an eyelid at me which was a nice change. I know, I know... I've brought it on myself, yawn. The Islands we visited in the South were fine, but full of holiday makers so prices were inflated and offered little culture. The North was very beautiful and I wish we could have stayed a bit longer in Pai, but by the time we left Thailand I was definitely ready to move on. It was nice to relax, but I felt a bit guilty on the days we did nothing but go to the beach. Thailand just didn't make me feel things the way that India did.
Day 51 - Sat 31st January - Bangkok
I really, really like Bangkok! It does stink though. We had some street food in Khao San Road last night. It was a hot, tasty pad thai and a lot cheaper than a sit down meal. It's all cooked in front of you so you know it's not sitting around cooling down. Probably shouldn't say this but I can't believe I haven't been ill yet. At home I can't even have a Bridge Balti without feeling sick and getting the shits for the next 2 days, but I've felt super duper whilst travelling! Khao San Road is crazy. Lights, music, cocktails and crispy scorpions everywhere. Definitely not our thing but a great experience just wandering around looking at everything. We've booked a bicycle tour of Bangkok for later today which should be interesting seeing as I can barely ride one.
Khao San Road - The stuff that nightmares are made of
Pad Thai Street Vendor
Get all your deep fried bugs here
Bangkok Railway Station
Day 56 - Tuesday 5th February - Bangkok/Koh Samui
'Matthew Haigh - Sucking the fun out of museums and king of being underwhelmed by history!' We visited the National Museum of Bangkok which was great and Matthew behaved himself so he got an ice cream for being a good boy.
Then it turned out I wasn't a natural cyclist either! Although to say I haven't been on a bike in about 20 years I did alright in the end. The tour was ace, loads of back alleys and through little neighbourhoods that we would never have seen otherwise. The next day we took a night train to Surat Thani. It was ok, I managed to sleep on the lower bunk a bit but Mat struggled on the top as it was smaller and the light was shining in. Serves him right for demanding the upper bunk when we booked it. After the train we got a coach to the ferry port and then a ferry to Koh Samui and then a mini bus to our hostel. We've got a private room which is probably more expensive than a proper hotel and it's fairly average. We're trying to work out what to do next but there's so much choice and information that we can't decide!
Some photo's from the National Museum of Bangkok
Here's Mat, pretending to be interested in this display. We were only ten minutes in here
Cycling Tour through the streets of Bangkok
Me feeling sick on the ferry across the river
Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The Buddha measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf. Wat Pho, the temple complex where the Buddha is housed, is one of the largest and oldest Wat's in Bangkok and is home to more than 1000 images of Buddha
Sleeper train from Bangkok to Surat Thani
Mat's tiny top bunk
Day 58 - Thursday 7th February - Koh Samui
We ended up getting a scooter and going to Chaweng beach. The beach itself was really nice, but crowded and the restaurants were expensive. Mat did ace to say he'd never ridden a scooter before and we only had 1 hairy moment when he headed for a ditch wobbling all over the place. I thought we were goners! Although we were probably only going about 20mph the whole journey so we'd have been ok. We must have looked ridiculous. And don't worry Mums and Dads, we both had helmets on! Chaweng was pretty gross at night, reminded me of the Acca and smelled like it too. Loads of tourists. Top heavy, muscly guys who had neglected to do any kind of leg work since they started in the gym. Fisherman's Village in Bophut was nice though, they did a night market one day where Mat managed to buy a guitar. He's played it every day since so I can't really complain too much. Ko Samui overall is overrated and I wouldn't come back.
Chaweng at night
Chaweng beach. Nice sand but really crowded
Mat's soup was nice though
Cocktails in Bophut Fisherman's Village
Mat's new guitar
Another day another burger for Mat. I paid the equivalent of £6 for a fried egg sandwich here...
Ko Samui ferry and ferry port. Not a bad journey actually. I've heard people say the journey is really uncomfortable but I just slept through it all like I usually do
Day 61 - Tuesday 10th February - Ko Lanta
Absolutely love Ko Lanta. The beach is beautiful, the sand fine and white and the sea calm. I love our hotel, in fact it might even be my favourite of our trip so far. The wind has blown millions of baby jellyfish on to the shore They look like little squishy diamonds. It freaked Mat out and he won't go in the sea now. I went in to cool down but I could feel them all over my skin and it felt weird so I got out. Although I didn't get stung and there were still people swimming.
I'm writing this sat on our balcony at dusk with a beer and thinking about how lucky we are to be able to travel like we have. I can't help feeling annoyed at myself for not doing this sooner and thinking about all the money I've pissed away in pubs in Halifax on average nights out. Anyway I'm here now. We've booked a Thai cooking class for tomorrow night which should be amazing. It's quite expensive but we're allowing ourselves one big thing we really want to do in every place we visit and then just spending our other days on the beach. We're going to Phuket in a few days time and we've got a hotel with a pool because Mat hates sand and he's fed up of constantly finding it everywhere. I'm compiling a mental list of all the things Mat hates since we came out here. Some of them are totally acceptable, such as 'Not having a pocket in my swim shorts' but lots of them are directly related to travelling such as 'the sun' and 'the sea...'
Ferry from Krabi to Ko Lanta
Despite not looking very happy here the journey was fairly comfortable and fast
Long Beach, Ko Lanta
Room with a view at Hotel Dreamy Casa
Thai reggae band. These guys were amazing
Tofu red curry and brown rice from our favourite Ko Lanta restaurant, Irie
Day 65 - Saturday 14th February - Rawai, Phuket
The Time for Lime cooking class was awesome! Really enjoyed our time in Ko Lanta overall. The beach was probably my favourite after Tangalle. I feel like we should be getting out and about a bit more but tours cost quite a lot out here, although we've just booked a snorkelling tour to Phi Phi. It wasn't cheap but should be good and I've never done any snorkelling before really. Not sure how Mat's gonna cope in the open water though (because he hates open water. And seaweed. And sharks) We weren't having any luck getting on a privately owned boat trip because we'd left it so late and we thought we were gonna end up squashed onto a dangerous speedboat like sardines and rushed around all the islands. Luckily a French company called La Moët came through for us and their boat looks really cool. I'm not sure about Phuket. We're staying in Rawai which is supposedly one of the least touristy places on the island. We went for a walk on the main strip last night and tbf it was a bit grim. Empty bars with tiny Thai girls and boys with even tinier clothes on trying to get people in. It all felt a bit tragic really.
Time for Lime Cooking Class
The profits from Time for Lime all go to Lanta Animal Welfare. This was founded by Junie Kovacs who has been cooking and teaching Thai food for 20 years in Europe and Asia. Although it was expensive, we wanted to contribute to this worthwhile cause
Mat's fish cakes and chicken stir fry
My veggie versions with sweet potato and tofu
Mat's coconut and lime soup
My coconut and lime soup. The term 'Time for Lime' comes from the time that the lime is added to the dishes. The dish must be taken off the heat and lime added just before serving to ensure it keeps the limey flavour and doesn't turn bitter. I learnt loads in this class!
Mat in the pool at our Hotel in Rawai, Miracle House. We really felt like we were on holiday here
Valentine's Day in Rawai 2015. This rose was given to me by a café, not Mat
Me being silly in a shop with a bear hat on. This shop was mental, we had no idea what anything was and we almost ended up with dog clippers for Mat's beard instead of a beard trimmer
Watering can milk dispenser
Awesome pizza from Modena in Rawai
Me teaching a little French girl to play pool. I was absolutely steaming at this point and thought I was proper good chatting away in French. I bet I was talking absolute bollocks at her. Cringe!
Drunks. I do have other clothes than this dress I swear
Day 71 - Friday 20th February - Phi Phi Islands
Absolutely loved the boat ride. It was a big, beautiful wooden thing with loads of space to sunbathe and relax and there weren't too many people on it. We had yummy food on and off all day. We saw the beach where the film 'The Beach' was filmed (worst sentence ever written that) and it was absolutely packed with tourists so I'm glad we only saw it from afar. Then we jumped off the side into some really choppy waters to snorkel. I inhaled loads of sea water, was struggling with my life jacket and my mask was steamed up. I was annoyed at myself for not being able to do something so simple! After lunch we went to a different spot, I ditched the life jacket and managed a proper snorkel, it was absolutely unbelievable down there. Mat was fine until he saw a ginormous sea slug and then he got out because he hates ginormous sea slugs. I can see why people get hooked on diving.
MV Champagne Boat by La Moët. It is a converted fishing boat and took years of hard work to establish both the boat and the company. It is owned and run by Lotta and her crew
Mat definitely not posing here
Beautiful scenery around Phi Phi
Snorkelling in the amazing, clear waters
Day 72 - Saturday 21st February - Chiang Mai
We spent the rest of Rawai mostly by the pool and then we got a flight up to Chiang Mai. It was either a 2 hour flight or a bus, an overnight train, all day in Bangkok, followed by another train and a few tuk tuks, all the for the same price but 24 hours. Even Mat could see we had to get the plane, which then turned out to be the worst plane journey of his life, plus he hates planes... https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KnTA9PULLTc There was so much turbulence and because it was a tiny plane you could feel every bump. At one point he was drip white, sweating from everywhere and grabbing at the chair in front. Poor love!
Anyway, Chiang Mai is really cool. I've ticked about 4 temples off my list so far and Mat even seemed to enjoy them all. We cycled around town all day and then visited an insect museum. The owner Dr. Rampa, is an expert in the insect world and did so much for the discovery of insects that she has mosquitos named after her. We're trying to stay in cheaper accommodation to save some money and this guesthouse is a bit dingy really, but at £8 a night you get what you pay for and the owners are lovely.
Phu Wiang Guesthouse where we stayed in Chiang Mai
Me looking massive with the owners
This was the first time I trimmed Mat's beard. I got so fed up of trailing around looking for a beard trimmer that I said I'd do it if we could find some scissors. Was I any good? Well he's clean shaven now
Some pictures from our day of temple sightseeing. I'm annoyed at myself for not making a note of which one was which
We were lucky enough to stumble upon a parade celebrating Chinese New Year
Out and about in Chiang Mai. Mat looking all templed out
Amazing breakfast. Brown rice porridge with coconut milk, cashews, raisins, cinnamon and honey
Day 74 - Monday 23rd February - Pai
So after the worst bus journey of my life ever, we finally arrived in Pai. I swear I was so travel sick I thought I was going to die. When we finally got off the mini bus I could barely walk and I cried. Lucky that Pai was worth it! We've spent 2 days with Mat scooting us around and he's really good and I feel safe. But me, not so good, more on that later! So we visited Pai Canyon and Temple on the Hill and the Chinese Village which was a bit weird. Then we spent a few hours at a freezing cold pool called Fluid pool I think. We were going to go to the Hot Springs today but Mat's too hungover because we were out watching footy last night. Connor the owner of Oasis Pai where we were staying, had warned us about the dogs if we were walking back late at night. He said they're territorial but if you just stamp your foot they'll run off. So as we were walking back, a bit tipsy, this dog ran into the road in front of us and starting barking. Mat said 'don't run, don't run cos it'll just run after you.' So we started to try and walk past it, giving it a wide berth but the little bugger was coming towards me still bloody barking and Mat's just trying to walk briskly past it. I stamped my foot at it which had zero effect, at this point I started to panic slightly and sped up because it was gaining on me. Mat held up his arm blocking my escape saying 'Don't run! It can sense your fear!' So because he wouldn't let me past, by now I'm his human shield and I just thought, 'balls to this, I'm off!' and started trying to run. Mat was still blocking me though and I ended up tripping over my feet and his and started to fall head first into a massive cooking pot balanced on a table at the side of the street. I have no idea how I managed not to knock myself unconscious and to stay on my feet, but this dog must have thought 'what a pair of douchebags' and it just wandered off disinterested after that. Anyway it was a tiny dog.
Also, it turns out I can't ride a scooter either. Mat keeps telling people I drove it into a ditch and fell off but here's what actually happened.... I wanted to have a go because I knew that we were going to have to ride in Vietnam and it wasn't fair for Mat to keep carrying me around. Plus I wanted to get to Uncle Tom's Dirt Bike Tours in Laos with a bit of experience under my belt. Anyway I hopped on down a quiet dirt road and Mat explained the basics. Left lever for brake, right lever for brake, right handle for accelerating. Easy. I drove down the road slowly, I drove back slowly.
'Great, you can do it! Enough now!' Said Mat. But I just wanted one more go. I set off back down the road slowly and as I tried to brake with my right hand it turns out I hadn't turned the gas off and HOLEY MOLEY I WAS ACCELERATING INSTEAD OF BRAKING! I veered off to the left towards a tree, onto a patch of grass (not a ditch) at the side of the road, dropped the scooter and jumped off to the right. Mat said he saw my head go down behind a parked car and all he could think about was the scooter. Cheers. So I was fine, the scooter was fine, Mat was a bit annoyed. Luckily he managed to scoop it up and get it back on the road before the nosy neighbours started to ask us what had happened. Nothing to see here. No drama. On the downside, my confidence was absolutely shattered and the thought of getting on anything else with an engine was filling me with dread.
We're just packing for an early trip to Chiang Rai tomorrow. I'm feeling sick just thinking about that journey.
Mat loved his pink scooter
Pai Canyon. Apparently there is a trek through the canyon but we couldn't see a clear track and there were massive drops everywhere. Being so clumsy we decided not to risk it
Love Strawberry, Pai. This was a café/strawberry farm which sold the strawberries in every way you could imagine. We got a smoothie and had a mess about on the giant strawberries
Temple on the hill
Mat at the bottom of the hill because he doesn't like hills
Memorial Bridge. This bridge was built in 1942 by the Japanese to transport weapons and provisions to Myanmar (Burma) during WWII
An actual pork sauasage
If only I'd seen this!
This kid was so cute!
This is the Chinese Village which was set up for tourists to come and see how the Chinese lived. It was very odd and not worth the journey
Day 83 - Wednesday 4th March - Chiang Rai/Chiang Khong
So we left Pai, drove all the way back to Chiang Mai, changed bus and went to Chiang Rai. I popped an antihistamine and an anti travel sickness tablet and plonked myself up next to the driver. I was asleep in about 5 minutes, woke up briefly for a cup of tea at the half way stop, then went back to sleep. We got on the next bus at Chiang Mai and I jumped in the front seat again and left Mat chatting to a couple called Nicola and Jessie so I didn't feel too bad about continually deserting him. I slept for another three hours and no travel sickness in sight.
Chiang Rai was pretty cool, probably didn't need three nights there tbf. We got a scooter for a day and Mat scooted us about everywhere. We went to see The White Temple, Khun Korn Waterfall and then a Culture Park. This park was so surreal because it was massive and we were the only ones there! It is dedicated to the Lanna culture with displays, exhibitions and pavilions and a big, beautiful lake.
From Chiang Rai we got a bus to the border town of Chiang Khong ready to cross into Laos the following day. The bus was hot and packed and we were so uncomfortable from starting our anti malarials. You know when you put drugs in your body and you're not sure if you feel weird because of them or you just feel weird and you're blaming them? Well anyway, Mat got a bit panicky because his body went numb but he managed to calm himself down eventually. I was worried I was gonna have to shout 'STOP THE BUS!' And we'd end up in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no water because Mat had guzzled every last drop during his episode. Since then I've had a bit of numbness in my arms and pins and needles too, so we're putting it down to the tablets. I hate taking this rubbish.
Chiang Khong was a lovely little town. The hotel was idyllic and overlooked the Mekong River with Laos on the other side. In the morning I sat on the balcony and watched the Alms Giving Cermony which is where the locals offer food to the Buddhist Monks. It was on a much smaller scale than what happens in Luang Prabang in Laos but was still nice to see, although I think it's become a bit of a tourist spectacle. There was one man with a massive camera, jumping about everywhere and clicking in everyone's face.
We got picked up from our hotel with another couple, Inti and Gabriella. These guys had so much about them I was a bit in awe! Inti is from Belgium originally, speaks Flemmish, Spanish and English and is a software developer. Gabby has just finished her PHD in something so awesome my brain couldn't grasp it and so promptly forgot. She is from Chile and speaks Spanish, Portuguese and English. Their grasp on the English language far outweighed mine and Mat's combined.
I'm ready to leave Thailand now and see what Laos is all about.
The White Temple or Wat Rong Khun. It was built in 1997 and is a contemporary, unconventional, privately owned temple which is free to the public
Khun Korn waterfall. The waterfall itself isn't anything special really but the walk to get to it was pretty nice
Chiang Rai night market
Mae Fah Luang Art & Culture Park
Old clock tower
Actually had a manicure!
View of the Mekong River and Laos from our balcony
Alms giving ceremony
Found a tasty Mexican restaurant
Mat's new vest
Happy toast in bangkok
Mat gave the tuk tuk driver his hat, he was so chuffed!