Straight Outta Uxbridge

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Krabi is only really a port town that acts as a gateway to Phang Nga bay; an enourmous expanse of water that contains hundreds of small uninhabited islands and limestone rock formations that rise from the sea a random.

We stayed further up the coast, in a place called Ao Nang which, judging by the amount of fmilies/old people/normal suitcases we saw, seems to be a regular holiday destination. Athough I don't think I'd recommend it for a 2 week package break, it was quite nice to be back in civilization for a couple of days, and Kerri was exceptionally excited about her first hot shower in 3 weeks!

We took a tour of a few local islands by longtail boat and did a bit of sea-kayaking and snorkeling. It was about this time that Kerri was warned of the dangers of Sea Urchins by our guide. Subsequently I have been banned from saying the words "Sea Urchins!"in a Thai accent through my snorkel as, for reasons best known to herself, it immediately sends Kerri into several minutes of hysterical yet silent laughter.

We also took a trip to James Bond Island, the secret base of Scaramanger in The Man With the Golden Gun. The same day we visited a waterfall, some sacred caves and a "floating village" which, apart from not actually floating (it was actually on stilts) was a tourist trap and complete shithole.

At one point 2 girls came up to us and literally threw 2 monkeys at me, they then took the camera from Kerri and started snapping me. This all happened very quickly and as the girls became distracted by some Germans behind us, we took the opportunity to make our escape. It was far from a clean getaway as one girls spotted us aqnd chased after us demanding 100 baht for the privalage of holding a monkey for 10 seconds. Clearly she had no chance, I played the confusion card and started bartering for the sale of one of her monkeys. This worked a treat and before long she was successfully shooed away with a payoff equivalent to about 6 pence.

The next day we decided to lave Ao Nang and headed cross country for the Gulf of Thailand. After 2 busses and a ferry we arrived n the island of Koh Samui some 12 hours later. We fully expected to be greeted by the usual throng of room touts waiting to whisk us off to a bungalow somewhere. But nobody was there, so there we stood, at the end of the pier, wondering what to do.

And then the rain came...

Happy Doing Nothing...

Koh Lanta is an often overlooked island on the backpacker circuit - and long may it stay that way! Only 2 hours fom Phi Phi, and with a population of just 20,000, Lanta is the perfect place to get away from it all and do nothing for a while. Kerri and I had planned to chill out there for a couple of days, but 2 days rapidly turned to 6 - it's just that kind of place.

Koh Lanta is beautiful - at least the 200 square metres we saw of it was! Our days were spent at our local beach bar reading, napping, eating and enjoying the occasional ice cold Chang. Our evenings were spent at a different bar a short walk down the beach watching films and, more importantly, the Spurs vs Charlton game. You can see why we didn't leave!

On our first night we went and got pissed, but the Thai whiskey didn't really agree with Kerri and she was pukey-Laver all along the beach on the walk home. Still, I didn't fare much better; we got back to our bungalow and I fell arse-over-tit through small palm tree in the process destroying several branches!

Kerri was still laughing as she tumbled off the bottom step and smashed through a water pipe at the edge of the path. As we got to our feet, water gushing everywhere, we realized that this bungalow wasn't even ours, and quickly ran off into the night, laughing hysterically! Good stuff that Sang Som.

Anyway, apart from reading the Da Vinci Code in 2 days flat, watching some real Thai boxing and having a painful encounter with a jellyfish, we literally did NOTHING (hence this post being shorter)! Eventually however, we got motivated (ie. ran out of books) and reluctantly packed our bags to leave for Krabi...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi was hit hard by the tsunami, but according to an old Thai woman at our place in Phuket, this has actually made it a much nicer place, instantly washing away the myriad problems caused by overcrowding and waste disposal.

Phi Phi Don is made up of 2 hilly regions, connected by a flat bit of land stretching no more than 1km between the 2, and is a points only 500m wide, flanked north and south by golden sands. This effect of northern and southern coves must have acted like a giant funnel, pushing the wave even higher as it washed completely over this sandbank and emptied into the northern bay. At low tide, the beach on both sides widens by a couple of hundred meters and it is possible to see hundreds of giant boulders that got swept across the ocean that day. The northern bay in particular is completely littered by them.

As soon as we stepped off the boat, we were hassled by hawkers waving leaflets in our faces, trying to get us to their accommodation. Two of the world's most indecisive people, this was a little overwhelming, so we decided that pot luck was our best bet and went with the next chap that approached us. Unfortunately this particular Thai was wearing an Arsenal shirt - I was sceptical to say the least.

Koh Phi Phi has no roads, and so our chariot was a dodgy looking moped and sidecar combination. The two Thais organizing us seemed to want to pile 4 huge rucksacks, an Irish couple and Kerri onto this contraption, and as expected, when I got on it, it refused to go anywhere (queue much Thai hilarity). Still, after a bit of weight distribution we were away and eventually made it to our apartment, which was out the back of nowhere at the end of a walkway that Kerri dubbed "Poo Alley" due to its abundant rubble/rubbish/sewage stockpiles. Never trust a Gooner.

We ditched our bags and decided the best course of action was to get pissed, so off we went to the "Reggae Bar" to watch some Muay Thai - WWF style. I say that, because at one point one fighter fell out of the ring and the other jumped out and battered him with a conveniently located metal tray - I'm pretty sure that isn't in the rules! The highlight though, was when the MC asked for volunteers. The only taker was a big fat Irishman who could barely stand he was that drunk - he was quickly knocked unconscious by a tough looking Aussie in an amusingly one-sided contest.

Anyway, the next day we decided to leave Poo Alley and moved into a much nicer place nearer the beach. Having spent the day exploring, we booked a Sunset Cruise to nearby Phi Phi Leh. This island is uninhabited and is the main location in the film "The Beach". The boat cruised round the island and stopped at a cove for some snorkeling. Kerri was very brave and jumped all of 10ft from the top of the boat and into the sea - even if it did take nearly 10 minutes of persuasion!

The water was teaming with pretty yellow fish and Kerri was loving swimming with them, until that is, someone on the boat threw a bit of banana into the water in front of her. Kerri went to grab it at the same time as about 200 of these harmless fish, and they completely surrounded her in a split second! Kerri's head came up, eyes filled with terror as she frantically tried to back away from the banana whilst trying not to poo her pants, much to the amusement of several onlookers!

That night we went tat shopping and I bought a necklace to fit in more with the travelling types. To be honest what I really need is several more tattoos, some tie-dye trousers and dreadlocks, but a fishbone, coconut and buffalo horn bead string will do for now. (Personally I am dubious - I have seen plenty of fish, loads of coconut, but not a single buffalo as yet)

Later that night we saw an amazing Fire Show at a local bar. However, allowing a 10 year old boy to swing 2 blazing poi at high speed, within 5 foot of the customers, in a bar completely made of wood, would probably not have passed one of my Dad's stringent fire safety inspections!

Our last day at Phi Phi consisted of us getting a water taxi to a much quieter beach and chilling out. Kerri was brave again and I talked her into snorkeling around a rocky outcrop at least 200m off the coast. The swim out was exhausting, but the snorkeling was worth it. By the time we swam back, our route had become a busy shipping lane, but we made it back to shore in one piece with only a few cuts and scrapes to show for it.

The next day we packed our bags for Koh Lanta, hoping it would be the beach bum paradise we had heard it was…

Phuket with Franz

After a nerve-wracking drive from the airport by a taxi driver who stopped half way to neck half a bottle of pills, we eventually made it to our place in Phuket without being killed. Situated in the south of the island, away from the filth and seediness of Patong, our place in Ao Chalong was a real haven of tranquility and had a first class restaurant.

That night, I got chatting to a German called Franz who said he was going diving the next day. After nearly 8 days without a break, Kerri unsubtley suggested that I should go with him. She would have plenty to do, top of her list was some horse riding she had seen advertised.

So off I went with Franz, who proved quite amusing - for a German, but had clearly studied Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure as part of his English lessons. Franz, in his own efficient way, had decided to bring all his own dive gear with him. This probably seemed like a good idea back in Hamburg, but as I casually stood on the gently bobbing deck, wearing a 3mm "shorty" wetsuit and waiting for the first group to take the plunge, I couldn't help a silent chuckle as Franz stood there in 34 degree heat, wearing a full cold water, semi-dry suit resplendent with hood, gloves and boots.

As 5 minutes turned to 10, Franz was starting to turn lobster red and could take no more. He barged his way to the jump platform and announced "I need to get in ze vater NOW!". However, the look that greeted him from the bewildered Thai chap coordinating the jumps did little to improve his mood and without further a do, Franz backed into the side of the boat and promptly rolled off.

I had shuffled onto the platform by now and, barely able to contain my laughter called down to him "Is that better now Franz?"

"Awesome dude" came the reply!

Germans, you have to love them!

Anyway, the 3 dives were superb and I got back into the groove with no problems (except for that Sea Urchin). Upon my return I went and found Kerri, eager to see what adventures she had been on that day only to discover that the sum of her days activity had consisted of reading a book by the pool, and working her way through the menu. Still, that's OK, we're on holiday!!!!