Christmas Day in Koh Muk, Penang and return

I start the day quite early and walk around the headland to cut across the island to Find Sabai beach. The path climbs through rubber plantations. The trees have a groove spiralling down which channels the white dripping sap into half dried coconut shells tied around the trees with wire. Loads of bright beautiful butterflies, a zipping green grasshopper the size of my big finger. A rustle in the trees and I spy the face of a macaq. The path turns into jungle, the track about a metre wide, yellow rutted path used by the motorbikes of planters. No other foreigners. Palms with leaves up to 3 metres long. Dead brown palm leaves hanging in swathes, dry and brown and rustling loudly in the breeze. Past some rubber planters houses, crudely shaped white sheets of pressed latex hanging on lines to dry. Under the house I can see a couple of hand mangles. The path peters to breaks in the bushes and navigation is a bit harder. As I pass another house A voice cries out ” hey my friend, where are you going?” I look up and see a cropped grey head, brown shoulder, brown-orange robed monk. He beckons me over. His friend is swaying next to the house ( it is his house). I join the monk, Ajairn and spend the next hour or more gazing out over the jungle and talking about the directions we have chosen in life. He tells me to be careful not to get lost. I tell him, philosophically that you never get lost. You take paths and the path is either the right one and you continue or you realise it is not the right one, so you choose another one. He is 55 Has been a monk for 5 years. Is from Chang mai and travels Thailand. He works in a foundation that promotes Buddhism to foreigners. He has been sent to Koh Muk to serve the island. One temple, one monk. The island doesn’t seem too interested in Buddhism. I see no shrines, prayer houses, wai-ing. He has had a normal life of working for an airline company in hotels, marriage, children, money, divorce. Turned to drink and women. Says he did bad things and he was damaged. Becoming a monk meant he gave up and away everything, and was supported by his family totally. He has a new name, as do all monks, and even his family must dress him with a higher more respectful language. His friend has also been a monk. He is now married and living on this hill in the forest. I notice a long scar with stitch arcs right down his belly from his navel. He goes down to the neighbouring house where his wife is, and comes back with a flask of hot water and some cups and sachets of instant sweetened white coffee. After a while we go down the hill to a bend where he sends me on my way, suggesting a mark my path with scratches on trees. He invites me to his temple in the evening.

The path to the beach is indeed almost invisible. After anotherc20 minutes it arrives under a pineapple tree at a stagnant pool of flotsam and jetsam which I negotiate on a wobbly plank bridge onto the beach. It’s about 100 metres wide flanked by craggy mountains on each side. Accessible only by boat or by my path . There is nobody there. The plan had been to have a final dip in the sea. Though the beach is soft sand the edge is littered with sharp protruding and underlying rock. I test the water. It’s a bit unpredictable to negotiate the sea bed. I walk in a little way, the sit down, letting the swell wash over me. I spend. A little more time on the rocks then begin my sweaty return journey. A startled dog runs back into the bushes. There are some beautiful flowers, in 2 parts. A red thing like a rubbery red open pine cone and out of the top a delicate long white trumpet of a flower with a yellow stimen.

When I get back to my beach the sun is out, it is around 3 pm. Actually I have no idea, and don’t care. Though hungry I lose myself on the beach. The tide is way way out. You can walk about 500 m out over the sand and rocks. There is a popping sound. I think it’s the crabs, maybe the shell fish. Hoi nam (sea snails), dap (starfish). Little bright sand crabs scampering around and back into the myriad of holes in the sand. Women are banging rocks, and collecting shells, big inky blue grey long legged birds with yellow feet swoop down and wade the pools looking for dinner.

I go back to the Coco Lounge for an excellent green curry with tofu and aubergine. Perfect level of spiciness. The lady asks me about why I’m vegetarian. It’s a question I never know the answer to. Every year in October there is a vegetarian festival in Phuket and Trang. I really should plan a trip around that. At dusk I go to find the wat. It’s actually behind Coco Lounge. And next to the health centre, in front of which teenagers are playing volleyball and a group of older guys are playing a game with a wicker ball. Standing in a ring and passing it around in the air by foot and head. The wat is an open modest affair, in a little square surrounded by houses and sitting next to a diminutive red Chinese temple which only opens for Chinese New Year. Ajairn is sitting freshly shaven and in brighter orange robes. I remember him joking about different types of Buddhist monks. Red shirts and yellow shirts! He is at a table with a small boy who is a tiny 11. He immediately notices me and calls me over. Delighted to see me.

He sends the young boy off to buy him some cigarettes. The boy comes back with a slightly bigger one and they have some fire crackers,which they take glee in tossing in the bushes to bang loudly. They play with a box of matches and I film their antics.

From then on the iPad takes over the evening. Suddenly it is dark and the mosquitoes are ferocious driving us into the temple where the 2 boys and a little sister cluster around the iPad looking at pictures of places faraway and of houses and faces they know. They watch the film I made of the boys playing football. They know them all. Interesting to see how intuitive and easy it is to use this iPad. The younger boy picks up navigation, zooming, speeding up and slowing down film very easily. This evening Ajairn doesn’t make too much sense. He asks me to help him with a website. I will do, but I’m not sure how. He insists I come by tomorrow before leaving to donate a coffee. I say I will, sadly knowing I won’t have time. We say goodbye.

Back at the beach the tide is very very high. I chat with William about my day, then pack. Later in the evening I go to the bar by the beach. There is some live music, a few foreigners, William and some locals. There is a mixture of pro performers, marked out by their sunglasses after dark and long hair, who play a couple of covers including Hotel California, but much much better are their Thai songs, many of which the locals know. They sing about the islands and the sea. The show is interspersed by some of the locals who sing and play too. Very talented and mournful lilting voices. These rough moustached guys by day are fishermen. William takes the mic to sing to some of the tunes. Everyone gets up and dances, the beer flows and some strange crunchy sweet cookies are passed round. It’s a beautiful night, and I’m reluctant to say goodbye and goodnight.

Boxing Day

I wake up with a cold, oh my god. It doesn’t seem to get worse during the day. I have my last breakfast as the sun comes up then walk with Dada to the pier with bags following with her husband in the motorbike and sidecar. At the pier I meet one of the singers from last night. He works the boats lugging boxes. He has a cowboy hat and looks funny lassoing the rope to tie up the boat. Waving goodbye to Dada and husband from the deck of a heavily laden ferry boat. Koh Muk slowly receding, sun beating down, exhaust belching noise and smoke. Lulled into a reverie, next to some weather beaten brown locals and a young lugger with the eyes of an old man. We are transferred to Trang where I go back to Rungtip travel. The girls remember me and I buy them some mangosteens from a very friendly fruit stall. Share a ride with some Dutch girls full of stories about Koh Muk to the bus station, where I kill 20 minutes buying sweet meals. Each bus counter has big bunches of bananas which they hand out to the waiting passengers. The minibus is piled high with bags and the stereo booms past my own headphones. Wafting smell of those menthol nose sticks so many Thais sniff obsessively.

27 December and my time has taken a whole new slant and perspective.

Arrived in Georgetown around 9.30 and the Hang Chow hotel had kept me a room but it was seedy, grotty and on the ground floor. I look at a couple of other places and remembered my trudge 2 years ago trying to find a room. I end up at the Hong Ping hotel, a big place on Lebuh Chulia. Chinese, smells a bit smokey, lacking in atmosphere but ok. I shower and get the long wished for masala dosa and mango lassi.

Phone and meet E and this is where things change. After some stalling he tells me about his illness and I still can’t take in it in. Sitting in a Chinese temple, a chanting cd and on the verge of tears. Slowly now I’m uncovering his layers. Layers he is ashamed of. Man, he has done some bad things and I can only begin to imagine how he is dealing with this. Can’t tell his family. He called it the death sentence.

What else is there to say? The minibus from Hat Yai was driven by a git who spent several stops smoking and chatting to his mates, leaving us waiting. He even got a bit lost. Hat Yai had rows after rows of stalls of dried nuts, porn DVDs, and I ate some vegetable rice salad. The waiter was gay. Shit, so what? Who is reading this? I want to change as a person, but I don’t know what I can do. I love E. What can I give him?

The afternoon ends with heavy rain and I edit pics and doze. I arrange via dodgy Internet to meet Eyrique for dinner at the food court near his hotel. His mum and brother and sister will be there. On this day the 15 th of the lunar month, his mum is vegetarian. Se treats me to dinner, rice, aubergine with garlic, water spinach, we have some beers. The entertainment on the stage is 3rd rate karaoke Carpenters style. Eyrique and I go off on our own initially to find a gay bar, but Georgetown has none. We sit in the side street at the Monkey Juice bar. Same guy, same menu, same prices as 2 years ago. We have a juice, Eyrique eats more, I photograph an old guy with his poodle. We leave as the market is closing. Back to my room. Eyrique has already picked up my cough.

The next day we were going to spend together, but his mother wants him back with them to do family stuff. We have a dosa for breakfast. Seems to be some tension around him being with me. We say goodbye, I’m a bit tearful. Weird how little we know each other, how fleeting our meetings are, how big an effort it is to reach each other. Funny how much I like being with him.

Final 2 days

Yesterday I walked around, hung around some temples, chatted to an old Chinese lady in her medicinal tea shop. Walked the malls, bought nothing. Oh, I forgot about meeting William Orchard from Singapore. A small guy in a baseball hat guarding a pile of flight cases next to the row of ruined heritage buildings I investigated last time round. They are still there, but I think the row behind has vanished. The is still one occupied by a Chinese grocer. He insists they won’t pull them down. Doesn’t seem to be much substance to rebuild though. The guy from Singapore is there making a film. He is the producer and it’s a self financed student film. A sci-fi ghost story and they have come all this way for these cool locations. We chat quite a long time, then they load up their fancy coach and drive off.

That was the day before yesterday. Back to yesterday and my wandering. I don’t see anything new, just enjoy the familiarity of the place. Have several lassis at various cheap Indian restaurants, and buy a big bag of fresh samosa and bhaji for the homeward journey. I browse one of the several used book stores and chat to the missing toothed Chinese owner about my travels. It’s amazing anyone buys anything in these stores, and this is better than most. Sun-faded, sea-water-curled trash best sellers probably from airports around the world. I do manage to find Memories of a Geisha and hope I will get round to reading it. I’ve got money to burn and I find myself in a crockery shop buying discounted Japanese plates and bowls. Quite cheap, but no haggling possible. For dinner I go back to Sri Amman…whatever it is called. No free tables so I’m invited to share a table with an Indian looking guy who is actually British. Quit his job as a banker in Canary Wharf and travelling Asia. His travels are a bit mainstream, and he isn’t too keen on experiencing the real Cambodia I tell him about. Anyway, he is ok company. We share a passion for vegetarian food and fruit, but his comments about missing uk, eg soya milk irk a little. Soya milk is easy to find and deliciously fresh here. Hope he will discover this. When we part I go back to Monkey Juice bar for a series of juices, each different, each refreshing. Suddenly remember to print my boarding passes, then go back to Hong Ping to sleep.

Next day, ie today. Breakfast is impossible to find even at 9am. For a city so keen on eating and with a Chinese population so geared to making money I can’t believe there is absolutely nowhere open. I settle for snacks from the 7-11. The minibus picks me up and takes me to the bus station where I board a luxury cruiser with remote controlled footrest and massage controls. I actually only discovered this by accident. I must have leant my elbow on the button, as suddenly I felt a trembling vibration on the left side of my back. First I thought it was the throbbing of the engine, but then I pressed a few more buttons and found more areas to vibrate. The journey was longer than promised. That’s no surprise, and the traffic was snail-like. The bus got hot and the air fuzzy. I chatted a little to my neighbour, a Malaysian kid of 19 who lives in Penang and studies in KL. To my relief the bus goes to KL Sentral, which means an easy connection to the airport. However, the bus takes me to the Airasia terminal. Why didn’t they tell me? I wander around the terminal a while and only when I ask for help do I realise my mistake. Sweltering sun. Waiting for a connecting bus. Once at the right terminal the rapid drop in queue doesn’t move as a family of Arabs are checking in about 20 pieces of luggage. One of their kids opens a Coca Cola bottle which sprays sticky brown sugary goo all over the counter and floor. Once through to departures I get some Mango Absolut, and the girls in the duty free shop are in a quandary about whether I am allowed to take it into Abu Dhabi where I have to transfer. I buy it anyway, and later am told at boarding that it will be ok. The airport book shop has many peculiar looking books on Malaysian politics and social commentary. I would have bought one if I hadn’t changed the rest of my ringgit back to pounds. My media research continues with buying some newspapers to analyse.

That takes me back to last night. I don’t usually have any interest in tv in my hotel room, but I thought I would check out what is broadcast here. It was an English language news channel from Malaysia. Interesting coverage. No Chinese faces or Indians. Lots of minor dramas, deaths, incidents, all involving Malays. Crimes such as gang robbery of a tanker, a crime of passion involving a woman, her husband, her lover. An overturned pick-up which mowed down a couple of electricity pylons. Floods on the east coast, army rescues. Education reforms. The deputy PM emphasising mastery of Behasa Melayu and English. There were complaints and suggestions by Dong Ping, a Chinese campaigner for Chinese education, for inclusiveness for all students with the new policies. The deputy PM made some comment to the effect that “we cannot please everyone and these policies are not going to be changed just for Dong Ping”. Then he made some speech about how we must curb text language as it is destroying the beautiful Malay language. Basically we saw a portrayal of a single race nation, with a single language. All smiles and silk.

I saw many of these people in the evening, yesterday. I walked up to the town hall and the harbour wall near the fort. This is a Malay area. Funny how segregated they all are. Promenading families, headscarved mothers. Everyone creating meaning and moments by snapping each other on their phones over and over, silly poses, poor light. Rituals that give shape to their evenings. I dangle my feet over the wall and watch a mammoth container ship glide slowly in, then like a mirage a brightly lit blue and white ferry positively motoring into to the port.

Even on the plane, the guy near me. A black African snaps himself several times on his Blackberry. Why oh why? To show he is on a plane? Meaningless.

My god, what a long journey. Arriving in Heathrow at 6.30 am local time. I decided not to change my watch since leaving Malaysia. Time means nothing. Except I’m tired. I can see I have lost a day, or is it 2 and I have been travelling for 30 hours now. By my reckoning it. Will be 32 by the time I get home, mid-morning, and go to bed. It’s cold here, maybe 8 degrees, my sleep on the planes was drowsy and hypnotic due to my iPod streaming whatever it liked on shuffle mode.

Uk transport….well the District line isn’t running from Hammersmith, necessitating another change. The train from Victoria to Brighton should be quick and reliable. Crawling to East Croydon, taking half an hour. This journey is costing 25 quid. I just want to get home. Uk is miserably frustratingly crap.

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Christmas Eve

Nobody is reading this so I’m not going to say merry Christmas! Back at the coco restaurant we have school kids on 45 singing jingle bells etc etc. the Thais come round with basket of cards for each and all of us faring s,. Mine has Buddhist images on it. I guess I have to write it to myself. I also have a voice from a basket of gifts and opt for a little elephant decorated purse. I’m sure I can find a use for it.

The afternoon after the restaurant involved a stroll along the beach. I saw a couple of my football friends. Strange how smart they can look in their white pressed shirt, smart tan shorts and long socks. There are younger kids flying brightly coloured kites in the wind. The tide is very low, and I’m able to walk around the village and back towards the resort. The low tide reveals stumpy reeds and sand crabs. Stumps of whitened worm ridden trees, slanted orange slathers of rock. Amazing photogenic landscape. I rock some more in the hammock ver a beer then hunger draws me back here to the coco restaurant. Time to leave I think.

Koh muk day 2

Watching my pennies. Dada offers me free use of a kayak, I decline to preserve my burnt neck. Instead spen a sleepy morning in the hammock on the beach, reading a Michael Cunningham book which just feels wrong here: middle age crises in New York. For a late lunch I go back to the coco bar where I ate before. The lady there speaks great English and I have a spicy tofu basil dish with rice. A strong wind picks up and swirls us around under the porch. The lady shows me some blue flowers. Pea butterfly, used to make a herbal medicinal tea.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clitoria_ternatea

 

Last day in khao sok and on to Koh mok

I have good intentions to do a few things such as having a massage, but achieve little beyond returning the bike and after half a day of weighing up options getting a ticket to trang. The rest of the day is spent at the restaurant and bar talking with various people. The world is due to end. It’s the end of a cycle on the Mayan calendar. At around 7.30 thereis a blackout…so this could be it. The dark and candles provokes discussions about beliefs, religions, philosophies. Klaus tells me about the student movements and the badder meinhoff supporters. He had no political leanings and unlike some of his peers was not excluded from being a state school teacher for any ideological reasons. Ingo points out that we talk louder when it is dark. The Canadians further away at the bar talk annoyingly loud. I had already taken a dislike to their jock like poses and attitudes. Soon they are in the restaurant too, all drunk and jumping around, being twats. Bird says he loves these guys cos they are happy…well…..

I suggest we decamp from the restaurant so that the girls can get to bed. At the bar it’s quite busy. I join a table where Paco and kristian from 2 nights previously are with their friend klaus, I go and then Austrian lukas. Son we are disturbed by a Canadian who engages me with British associations and themes. How he loves the accents in snatch. East end gangsters. Wants to know my views on the. England football team. Then, the worst thing is that he sits down and joins us. Dominating physically and volume wise. Making crass statements about nationality groups and boasting how BASE jumping has meant he no longer fears death or life. Ingo says he does not need to do that to not have fear. I ask the Canadian how that relates to an unimproved peril such s a terminal disease. S with most of my retorts he fails to grasp anything. We have to do something to stop him dominating us, so I coax. Him into a guessing game. He doesn’t have the lateral thinking skills to guess our jobs, so I suggest we try to guess his, which blInd to him gives us an opportunity to discuss what we think of him right in front of him..he is not creAtive, he talks a lot at people,…it becomes quite fun. We never get near the answer: he is in rr&d……what he also manged to slip in is a detail about how he can’t bed all his fingers on his right hand due to a knife practice incident in the army. It takes a while. He never gets us, and never sees how we have been mocking him, but eventually he leaves. We drink and smoke some more then its time for bed, one by one of us.

The next day I get up early to have breakfast, but the power is still off, and the place is deserted. When the cleaners appear , they will not do anything for me until they have finished that Thai obsession of sweeping up. I saw today at khao mok that hey even sweep the beaches. I even make up my own bill, as I know I’m running out of time before my pick up. Fortunately I do mange to squeeze ibreakfastbedore I go. It’s mostly locals on the mini bus to Surat Thani, where I am helped out and pointed toward s a place to weight for a second minibus to trang. Spend some time at the bus station buying more mangosteens, and taking some pics. I discovered that the power blackout had been over a huge area, reaching phanom . Weird when you think we are right next to a hydro electric power plant. It did seem like this was a symptom of the end…..

I should recount my dream. I met jez and pete from Nottingham. I think. I was in my house in brighton. There was an orange flash, a mushroom cloud in the sky. Lots of talk of an approaching tsunami , me saying I wanted to be with those 2 guys, but had lost them. I opened the door, there was rising water. I go up to the top of the house, the water has reached this level, some people Re telling me I will be sauce if I grab one off the floating blackened logs. I realise hat hese are parts of west pier which has been annihilated by a a tsunami wave.just then the is a nearer similar mushroom cloud.i know it’s the end. There is that classic whaling fading to white and everything is gone.

The deem has even more provenance as I end up on an island called Koh muk, which does in fact have signs all around indicating evacuation routes nod tsunami instructions.

The trang minibus drops off athe bus station which is far out of town. I mange to work out that I need a sawntaewn into town, roughly to the station. The power cut denied me electricity to charge my ipad and I am mapless. The town quite clearly is not what I want. Big, traffic, grey, nothing of note. The taxi lets me off near a cluster of travel agencies, and I get the lowdown on a good place to go. The. 2 places I go to both recommend the same place. I book with girls who spend the longest trying to match my priorities. On going to collect my bag at the first agency, I have a brief chat with a Norwegian woman who has been staying on Koh muk too, and she leads me to believe its a good choice. I had around10 minutes to make my mind up in order to get the last transfer at 4 pm. A good decision. A minibus drives for a around 40 mins, takes us to a jetty and we cross the sea studded with dramatic looking islands in about 35 mins.

On arriving on Koh muk, I’m met by dada, the owner of the garden resort I’m booked into. She is on a well used scooter, her daughter on pillion, and a 70cm fresh fish draped across the foot well. As is followed by her husband driving a ubiquitous motorbike sidecar combination which has a bench seat, but doubles up as a goods carrier. He takes my bag and the fish and the daughter and some boxes, and I jump on behind dada. I’m shocked and delighted by the road, rather a narrow windy sany, sometimes paved track that weaves through Woden houses on stilts with fires outside and families poor he’s preparing food, watching tv or just watching the world. I’m struck by the amount of plastic trash under the houses, on the edge of the. Sea. Our path is blocked by a felled palm tree, sow we take an even less clear route. The resort is around 8 bungalows on an incline next to the family house with its big porch which contains the restaurant and lounging area. This is directly above a narrow curved sany beach. Very secluded, very peaceful. A number of shy smiley girls work ther nod one of them, Koh, shows Myers my large but primitive room. I need electricity, but the one PowerPoint is burnt out. I go to he restaurant area ad after ordering and eating a red curry, meet a Dutch guy, William who supplies n adaptor which enables me to plug in there. I have a little stroll through the village then back again. Spend a pleasant evening chatting to William, and sharing some beers at the bar he is constructing. His. 2 labouring mates turn up later. Brothers both from the island.

 

I still have some kind of muscular problem. I twisted a muscle win my side when I jumped off the motorbike back at khao sok. It’s weird that you need muscles to lie down and turn your body when you sleep, and that’s when the pain is.

Anyway I’m still on Koh muk. My first day was languid and did involve getting burnt on the neck and shoulders. Stupid European skin. Been here 2 weeks and been really careful, but my skin is so sensitive to sunlight. I walked along the beach and through the village, pausing to watch fisherfolk (sounds quaint) repairing boats, nets, pulling huge squelchy fish and starfish out of entangled nets, kids playing with kites. I see a lot of birds, and an eagle, and a goat type animal sleeping on a low wall in a school ground. I follow a track, actually the main road up a hill, past some bigger houses and snaking up past another village. Houses on stilts, interconnected by gangways and blue water pipes. A few stalls selling snacks and drinks, the occasional motorbike passing me by, usually with a smile or hello greeting. Lots of beautiful butterflies in the bushes opposite. The road carries on into some jungle and past some guys making concrete by a pool and dam. This is being transferred further down the path to where they are turning the track into a narrow solid surface. I found out this is because over the hill, past a Couple of woodland resorts with tents and bars at the shore there is a big faring resort. Clean white wide sandy beach accessed through a well appointed collection of bungalows, shops, Internet room, lobby and even pool. I get as far as the beach then turn around. I don’t want to be there. Walking back up I see a metre long monitor lizard in my path and some other smaller reptiles. Back past the village I linger some more. Cockerels running around, a boy and girl showering dressed with a hose. I take lunch at palace by the sea, which has wifi. Som tam and pineapple shake. Right in front is an open stretch of beach where a collection of young boys aged between 5 and 11 are playing football. Brightly coloured kick and rush and lots of shouting. I position myself in a hammock nearby to watch the spectacle. They spot me nd rush over to ask where I’m from. The talkative one in the yellow shirt and purple shorts claims he is kaka and shows me his stopovers. All the other kids are boisterous and try to hack him down. I beging to take pictures, then show them, which they love. The youngest understands pretty fast how to navigate pictures on an iPad. I make some video too and they play up to me, telling their names and showing me their party tricks. Kaka’ is an illusion of pushing a nail through the back of his neck, and it appearing on his tongue inside his mouth. They wave and shout goodbye as far as they can see me disappearing.

At the garden resort I drift asleep reading, then go down and swing on a hammock in an afternoon overcast breeze. Very very tranquil. A Thai girl from the next bungalow is on a swing nearby. She starts talking to me after noticing we both. Had iPads. We talk more about where we are from, illustrated by sketching places in the sand. She is called peas and is. A doctor in hat Yai. She is here for 3 days with 4 other doctor friends, who I saw the night before watching the Thailand soccer match. I meet them all later at dinner and we chat a lot about how the media reports events in Thailand, about my job, about being a doctor travel experiences, my dream country. I realise there isn’t one. It is a combination of Vietnamese landscape, Thai people, vegetarian food, Asian winter weather, tropical fruit, ruined temples, sea. The weather here is refreshing. It rained heavily the first night and in the evening it spotted rain, and was very breezy. The breeze is never cold. I love it.

It’s now Christmas Eve. This means nothing really. There are no carols, no shops, no tv, and no pressure. It will be low key. I have decided to stay here til 26 and just chill. Money is stretched so even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be having any blow outs. I settle up my rom in advance, to understand how much money I have left. Dada offers me a free kayak trip. She is great. Not sure if I will accept, being a bit of a landlubber.

 

Khao sok day 3

Trying to get all this down.Blog is becoming out of date owing to business spending time with people, no electricity, no Internet combinations.

Ingo and I rented a couple of motorbikes, as did Elizabeth and klaus, and even though we weren’t travelling together we kept catching up and bumping into each other on the same road. We were trying to get to the dam on the lake. The only accessible point by road. We. Discovered this as we tried in. Vain to cut through the jungle, only to keep looking back onto the main road. The ride. Was great, lovely winding road through the mountains with not too much traffic. We made a coupleofentertaining roadside stops meeting very friendly locals with no more than acoupleofwords in English. At. The roadside fruit stall a ladywantedto pose clutching a bunch of huge green legume looking thingsthenwantedmeto photograph her friend’s dour and dumpy little girl, who kept. Her thumb in her mouth the shoe time. We stopped late rattle phanom junction where therewasalarge temple. Though it itselfwasntopenwewitnesseda funeral gathering behind it andafodand clothes. Market where we bought some juice.

After passing a checkpoint where ingo was asked to put his impossibly small helmet (broken) over his huge thick dreads. As if it would save his life….we rode a bit further and finally got to the dam and the viewpoint above which gave a vast panorama of the lake and surroundings.hereelizabethand klaus found us once more and we decided to do a boat trip together. It wasn’t exactly cheap but it was a. Good 2 hours of. Speeding and drifting past limestone outcrops, drowned trees. The lake is artificial with the dam only having been built in 1982. The lake was beautiful, but thefactthat it was man made irked a little.ididnt swim. With the others, fearing deep water, but it looked fun..they swam out for the boat and around a limestone mountain, ingo climbing into a small cave. The sun was beginning to set as we returned and the water looked shimmery and metallic. Beautiful.

 

The ride back involved a lengthy stop over. A the market again, where things were in in full swing. Fried bugs which ingo tried, a bingo tent,and a concert, which we were denied entry to by some security guards who tried hard to make us buy tickets. There was a stall selling very tacky holographic pictures of Buddhist and royal themes. I was tempted, but didn’t buy,ingo did. The ride from there was in darkness and the road was a bit hairy, unlit in most places, broken hard shoulder and. My back light wasn’t working. My workaround of suspending my torch from my back worked well, as after that passing pickups gave me a wider berth.

Oh, I forgot. On the way out we also came across the temple that I didn’t find the day before!

 

Khao sok day 2

Nong’s house ain’t so bad. Not so Amy bugs, quiet, though did wake up to the sound of scratching scrabbling under the bungalow. I put my head out of the door to see daybreak with the mist on the mountains. Then back to bed to sleep off a hangover.

The previous evening was quite fun. Back at bert’s bar, Thai reggae on, and some German travellers, smoking and drinking and playing backgammon.

This morning learn some of bert’s stories. His mum is a nurse and discovered he was using Charlie on ko pegnan in fact had a habit. She made him do a urine test and sent him to a drying out clinic for 6 months. Turns out his dad is a cop ! H has many stories of corruption and drugs busts. Another of his stories involves his rayban sunglasses which were stolen along with his phone from his unconscious body at the scene of a motorbike smash. He says he amnesia for 2 months.

I take a walk along the other side of the river at the base of the cliffs. Looking for the local temple, which I think I discover. It has a gate with a sign and a guy dozing in a hammock nearby. I ask him if this is the way, but we don’t understand each other what I think is the temple is a room with a. Breakfast bar, a tv, a lot of Buddhist statues. No people, but a lot of removed flip flops. It could be some kind of local temple. I have no idea. It is where I was told it should be, and as I walk further nothing else materialises . I walk through some bush land full of big colourful butterflies and reach the river. Consider whether to wade across. It looks possible but I wimp out.

 

 

Lang kawi

Day 6

Made an effort to get up and get to the beach before mid- morning. Floating in the sea. Go off to hire a motorbike and cruise out of town (not really a town).nice to feel a breeze on my arms. Not much traffic on the island. Roads are quite good. No idyllic local scenes by the roadside, but there are stray dogs, fawn cows and a few monkeys. The countryside is green, jungle in places, shacks by the road selling the usual fried rice. After a few mis-turns and even coming across the first place I booked a rom at, then cancelled shortly before coming here. Glad I did that. The area looked tedious. I follow the road to the seven wells waterfalls. Climb up god knows how many steps and come to a serious of pools at the top of a big drop into the jungle. Don’t linger long, cross the river and head up he jungle path. Climb and climb for about an hour. many of those huge fig trees, butterflies, ants, and a mother of a termite mound. Hardly anyone on the trail and its very silent…but also very sweaty. It seems the peak could be a long way off and I decide I’ve had enough and descend. Back to the pools where a big group of cute young Malaysian boys come and try to chat with me. Our common language is Wayne Rooney, Manchester and Liverpool. They gather around me and I don’t know what to say. Then their leader arrives. He speaks better English. He is their scout leader and there is some jamboree that are participating on. H is amazed I am alone and I have to field the are you married question.

Back at the carpark I wolf 2 fruit juices. I’ve been there longer than I thought. Can’t find anything worth eating. Back on the road. It’s fun racing and overtaking, then I hit rain and get soaked. I’ve put my electrical goods in the seat box, but in the end it makes sense to get into some shelter. A petrol station, where some others have pulled ove and are buying ridiculous 5 ringgit rain capes. Definitely not waterproof. After a snack and 15 minutes I head off along the north coast. The weather is grey, low clouds hanging over the mountains. More rain is imminent. I get to taming rhu, which is resort beach with restricted and limited access. The beach is combed and rather crunchy, not so nice to walk on barefoot. Hardly anyone there. A couple of boats offering a trip to the mangrove. I’m not tempted. The bay contains a number of limestone outcrops. Look great through my binoculars. Apparently this is the place for watching sunsets, but the sky doesn’t look promising, and besides they close he gates at 7. I leave and take an age getting back, taking many wrong turnings.

Discover the joys of editing photos on an iPad, and the tin roof begins to clatter with another torrential downpour. Several walkin hopefuls arrive then leave, all rooms are taken. So glad I booked ahead.

With the rain over..and there is no sign of water anywhere…where does it go…pop down for a thai green curry and singha beer. Watching the promenaders.

Buy some flipflops.back to the hotel to. Pay for sunday. takes a bloody long time to sort out what is going on with cit. tries hard but his english is poor. he didnt reply to my email warning that i would be late cos of my delayed flight dor 2 days. he’s not too efficient.anyway i share my druit with him and chat him up a little. he earns £200 a month! Not longan, but cats eye; mata Kucing. Mangosteen is mangi. I love these fruits.

Day 7, Lang kawi

Get up to return motorbike and have a little cruise first. Super duper inefficiency. to rent the bike i had to sign and check any damage evident on the bike, pay deposit, declare my type of licence etc etc. none of thos is computerised, so when i come to return the bike the poor girl cannot find my rental papers. In fact when we do find the right number amid a stack of forms, that number form has been completed by someone else. So ther system breaks down and she has to return my deposit without any records to match against! Do some reading in the heat of the. Beach. So hot almost deserted except for some burning Europeans. Read about narratives in films. I get a quick lunch of some Malaysian curry and bread in an open wooden shack by Babylon bar.

At 2 I get picked up for my island hopping trip. It turns out really good. Only 10 of us in the boat and the weather is nice. The seascape is dramatic lush limestone crags. We go first to the pregnant maiden island, which we spend an hour on. There is a massive deep green, almost black lake formed from a collapsed cave and with legends surrounding it about elves and babies. The are lots of warnings about the depth and the absence of lifeguards. Only the really brave and strong swimmers venture in. Everyone else suns themselves and dangles their feet from the assemblage of pontoons. It’s a bit boring in the end . Climbing back down the steps to the landing jetty- the only way onto the island is by tour boat – monkeys appear, one particularly savage that attacks a kid. As the boat readies to set off the skies open and the torrential rain reappears. The boat speeds off with rain and waves spraying and battering our faces. The weather clears as we reach the next spot, an island where around 30 eagles are circling and swooping for fish, and whatever food the tourists scatter over the sides. By exciting, and I’m so glad I brought binoculars. Our final stop is the island of wet rice. We spend another hour here and I spend much of the time floating, instinctively. I think soon I will be able to swim. It finally feels natural and unforced being in the water. I meet. An Indian guy called sati from Singapore. Lots of gold. We chat a bit in the water.

Spend. Around 10 mins drying in the warm air on the palm fringed beach, and get a cold beer. Watch the Malaysian kids playing in the water, t-shirts and long pants. A group of scarfed girls at the waters edge. Boat back and a refreshing shower. At sun down the rain begins once more. Almost like clockwork.

Day 8/9 Lang kawi and leaving for Thailand

reflections on sweet inns motel. Efficiency and modernisation not so important here. Cit may well have a spreadsheet of rooms, but when I Asked to pay one more night, it takes 20 minutes to sort out. He can’t work out what I’ve paid for, how much to pay. I try to negotiate a cheaper price and there is some debate about agency booking commission and corruption. His English is pretty poor. Shouldn’t really be running reception. The Thai cook works all hours. There at the death at 12. Up making breakfast at 7. I try to engage and I’m never sure if she is telling me Thai or Malay words. Skinny cats with mutated half tails. I’m sure I owe some money for breakfast eggs, but it never gets written down. Several young Malaysian boys. All soft eyes, black hair. Shy friendly smiles.

Langkawi efficiency. Tomato restaurant is a good place to eat. Freshly cooked curry good prices. I thought I had left my money at the hotel. They don’t seem to mind. It takes me a while to go and get it, only to find I already had it tucked in my book, where I thought it was anyway. A the fruit shop I’m a little short, and the girl lets me off of 60 sens!

On the beach, stung by jelly fish, floating, and keeping an eye on my bag as the guys are packing up the loungers. No deck chairs here. A young boy swims by and says hi, and speaks quite good English, at least for a brief conversation. He is unusual in that he is alone and actually swimming the length of the beach. But in t- shirt, and later I discover, having got out and tracked him along the beach, he is wearing flip- flops. Actually, you don’t see many people really swimming, and the kids don’t seem to be able to anyway.

Haven’t really experienced much darkness. Though last night on the beach I noticed the stars for the first time. I don’t know where the moon is here, but in a whole week, I haven’t spied it. after my final swim at dusky a couple of beers at Babylon and chatted briefly to a beautiful long haired Malay called om(?), 18, born here. Like everyone here describes Lang kawi as paradise and never wants to leave. He compliments. My earrings. Funny one of them is 20. Years old. I remember I got it from rosé in Dorchester. Dorchester. Reading my film theory book, I’m beginning to see that giles studied from the same book: it’s full of praise for John ford and Truffaut and makes me realise how unoriginal giles’ views on film were.funny how expert I used to think he was.

Awake as the cock crows. Literally. It’s dark. Mat Lovegrove has a cockerel too. I’ve seen into his fb page.not sure how much I want to continue to communicate with him there. The voyeurism thing is safe. Distance. No commitments.

I’m getting the ferry to Thailand. It’s scruffy, dirty. Full of poor looking locals.

Some gruesome film playing with sound turned down, but subtitles. I’m thinking film theory, watching the edits. Facile silly subtitles. She is smart. Yeah. She is in control now. What’s the genre? Well it feels like alien. Lars be careful. They are not human.. The threat isn’t here. It’s out there. Sci-fi, siege,. Equilibrium, disruption, disequilibrium, new equilibrium.

Arrival in Thailand. It takes 5 hours just to get to hat Yai . Sprawling concrete frontier town, full of saewthawn and thoroughfare. Chat to 2 different English guys travelling alone and doing different things. Practise my Thai fruit vocab with the guy at the ticket office as I wait for my minibus. They tell me I will arrive in Surat Thani by 7.30, but my experience of buses so far today, stopping every 2 minutes to let on some old lady with small children and bundles of baggage leaves me dubious. Thailand smells different and looks rougher round the edges than Malaysia.

Arrival in Thailand. It takes 5 hours just to get to hat Yai . Sprawling concrete frontier town, full of saewthawn and thoroughfare. Chat to 2 different English guys travelling alone and doing different things. Practise my Thai fruit vocab with the guy at the ticket office as I wait for my minibus. They tell me I will arrive in Surat Thani by 7.30, but my experience of buses so far today, stopping every 2 minutes to let on some old lady with small children and bundles of baggage leaves me dubious. Thailand smells different and looks rougher round the edges than Malaysia.

The minibusi to surat Thani is crazy. Driver seems to be on a death wish. Weaving in and out at high speed, u dear taking, overtaking, tail gating. For a laid back calm country the driving is a contradiction. I think everyone drives on the belief that nobody wants to cause a crash, so cos of that crashes do not happen. Pickups loaded with kids in the back, pick ups with stacks of individually caged fattened pigs, the dark brown co-pilot gnawing a chicken bone. Sun is going down. The woman wedged in next to me has got off and I can stretch my cramped legs.

There is a video screen playing endless beautiful boy meets beautiful girl in idyllic locations. Period cars, vw camper, 50’s mercedes even a London cab, farm boy, mechanic boy, all very pretty and not very masculine. Maybe this is masculine here. The woman is definitely the helpless one who needs the man’ s help. A theme in them all is a longing look at old photos of her. And everything is in slow- mo. little girl takes care of injured boy. Meeting wondrous eyes, touching her chin, boy sitting there looking at girls photo.

Toilet stop. I can’t identify any of the snacks in the shop. It’s very Thai here.

Arrive in Surat Thani 14 hours after leaving Lang kawi. The mini bus stops all over the place and I”m the last off at a bus office. A young Thai guy working there takes me on the back of his. Motorbike to a large cheap hotel. It’s fine for the price of£8/ night. It’s opposite a “you want massage?” Place. The town is dead. Like Khonsu kaen. Not a pretty place and the nearby night market is tiny and closing. I get a bowl of soya milk with beans and jelly stuf and a donut type thing. Not satiated get some super noodles from the 24hourshop and sit in the large teak furnished lobby, full of massive chinoiserie urns, and eat and then drink beer. Watching qpr actually win a match. Going to turn in early and head for khao sok early tomorrow.