Tag Archives: accommodation

Sangkhlaburi

I decide to change my plan and miss my flight to trang. I had too much pleasure being in nature and wanted more. My decision is reinforced when I go and talk to zita on her yoga mat on the lawn at her resort. Also it means I will avoid Fran for a while…I hope.

The mini bus to Sangkhlaburi isn't too painful at all and takes about 3 1/2 hours, the road getting lessons less busy and winding up the mountains and last lakes. In fact I'm the only passenger going to the end of the line. The midday. Sun is hot as I walk down to the lake and try to find a room. The resorts are either full or inappropriate. I get a room at the burmese in , which has bad write-ups, yet is affordable, has a great open restaurant, a chatty thai owner called Mel ( who is divorced form her Austrian husband, and dotes on her 21 year old daughter), and my room has a view of the narrow bridge that goes over to the non settlement. Very happy with this.

Even more happy with the area. The bridge is cool, and the mon village iss friendly and full of characters. I play football in the street with songporn,11, barefoot and his 10 year old brother, one shoe whilst a granny sews in her doorway. Dusk on the bamboo floating bridge. Kids swimming and fishing. Tour long tail boats coming in. Very relaxing.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Kanchanaburi

Early start, for me anyway. Eggs and lemongrass tea, and oh my god Fran is already moving into my guesthouse and planning to follow me…..

The minibus to kanchanaburi is rapid, too air-conditioned and a bit bumpy. Only 3 passengers, so lots of space. It’s easy to get a room, and I soon discover there is a long farang stretch of pars and guesthouses. This one ain’t so bad, and I’ll keep the name hidden for the time being. I have the option of a bungalow on stilts on the river but take the cheaper option, online, which is free. Renting a bike is full of issues. They are all knackered in some way and the one I take in the end, going for something with gears rather than the usual rickety basket at the from number. Typically it’s too small and the seat is stuck so can’t be raised….

I cycle up to the fabled ridge over the river Kwai. On the way I look at a Japanese obelisk monument and enter the front yard of the kitschy war museum, a rusty steam locomotive with a car on its roof…for some reason. The bridge is a tourist magnet you can walk over it, and I attempt to cycle over it at night time. It’s kind of creepy and scary so I only get a third of the way over. 200,00 prisons of war and enslaved Asians died building the death railway for the Japanese in world war 2. What I don’t get is how the Thais let this happen on their soil. The weird thing is that now where there was death, disease, beatings, slave labour there are now luxurious floating restaurants. I know time moves on, but it seems totally perverse. I haven’t come her for this, but it’s fascinating. So are the huge allies cemeteries. Next door there is also a rather bizarre Chinese one full of pointy spires and a large outdoor crematorium.

Lunch is at on’s Isaan thai restaurant. A tiny place with 4 tables and where the kitchen is on the street in front of the shop, and On cooks non-stop. The food is terrific. Full of flavour, packed full of diverse and interesting veg; Chinese mushrooms, sweet potato, thai aubergine, to name a few. My green curry and red rice is amazing. The food is so good I return for dinner and have a banana leaf salad and sour large flat noodles with pak choi (perhaps). It is here I share a table with Jo, a professional poker player from Switzerland, a job which is location non-specific and, he says, allows him to live wherever he wants and earn all he needs to exist for a year in a couple of months…he is quite intense and has a curious stare. After a while our conversation has got incredibly deep and we examine the concepts of knowledge, understanding, being…..there were odd moments when it almost felt like I had entered into a scene from a film. Could it be Hitchcock? 2 strangers meet and decide to swap identities. It doesn’t go that far…but it’s true that when you meet someone for the first time you could, if you wanted pretend to be anything you wanted. Who knows if he was telling the truth. He could be some crazy guy on the run from Interpol…..anyway, it was an entertaining lunch.

Afterwards I cycle through the area that all these towns seem to have: a school zone with. 3 or 4 large school complexes, the buildings with an open space on the ground floor level, where kids often congregate politely sitting cross legged reciting something with a teacher. The kids are all smart and somehow noble looking in crisp simple uniforms. Their parents pick some of them up from school on their mopeds. It’s not untypical to see mother plus little son plus little daughter all on the same little bike puttering home. There is a new temple complex being built by the river. It’s very unusual. The central temple is still plain concrete, and the embellishments along the eaves and ridge of the roof are being attached. Some, strangely have been painted already. Dragons. Seems strange to be finishing the decorations before the structure is complete. There are 2 completed smaller temples. They are Chinese pagodas, and round with 2 levels. Garishly painted and with a recording of chanting resonating within.

I cross the river and cycle a few miles to Wat Tham Khao Pun, which is known for its caves. There is a serious of around 15 chambers, some requiring serious stooping to enter. 2 of these are used as temples, ie they contain Buddhas. The most striking and most beautiful thing was the sheer silence. Nobody else there, maybe 20m underground, I sat and listened to silence. Wonderful.

Brighton to Bangkok to ayutthya

It’s my first full day. I’m in ayutthya and it was a much better choice to decompress than Bangkok, though getting here was almost suicidal!

The trip started with a hiccup at brighton station with super officious ticket inspectors not letting me use my advance ticket without the reservation slip which I threw away weeks ago. That kind of set the tone for a fraught journey full of anxious moments and fears of near misses. The tube taking forever to get to Heathrow. Fran, my travel companion for the first hop, messing up with on-line checking in; the stopover in Doha being a hectic rush through the sprawling ultra modern terminal to get to the gate for the transfer with minutes to spare. I can never sleep sitting upright, so the flights sapped me. Arriving in Thailand where my body had to suddenly get used to being 25 degrees hotter than it had been was exhausting, not helped by by planned smart route to ayutthya being blocked. I was surprised with how militaristic the many people in uniforms here have become. I wasn’t allowed to get the shuttle bus to don muang, instead I had to take the underground then sky train into bkk. A 2 hour wait for a train, which left late, then typically took 4 hours for a two hour journey…but only 20 baht!

I’ve done this trip before. The first few miles are through shanty-like shacks. So close that you can touch them as the train goes by. I can see in kitchens, sleeping spaces, smell the people. The rest of the crawl through bkk follows extensive sky train construction. Concrete pillars half-finished, roads clogged with jams, workers in masks, the air heavy with dust, cement works, temporary shanty workers accommodation. There is a procession of women passing through the carriages selling prawn crackers, bananas, water. A very elderly monk sits across from me, the late afternoon sun ennobling the Orange robed form. He has some luggage, which he proceeds to open: a set of kitschy plastic statues of the Buddha on a horse before his enlightenment. The man across the aisle has a plastic bag containing some greenish water. He hands it on the window opener. Now that it’s backlit I can see it contains some small fishes.

it was dark by the time I got to ayutthya. With huge relief I get a room in the Chandana guesthouse. It’s a bit quiet, and I have to walk through reception cum living room of the very nice but not so useful thai ladies running the place. The room is 450, which seems fine. My jetlagged means I wake up at 2am. The water pump outside kicks in every 2 minutes and this upsets my sleep further. On the street are a number of low key and friendly guesthouses, bars, bike rental places. It’s certainly not khaosan road and there is no hard sale whatsoever.

Gubar seems to be run by a woman I thought was a man, and I’m still not sure, in spite of the breasts! Anyway she tells me I can’t eat as she’s too drunk to cook! I eat opposite and have what will be my first of many curries and excellent fruit shakes.

Mae sot

Im 5 km from the Burma border. A ride in 2 mini buses full of locals, up and down and round a windy mountain road. It’s misty and raining on the mountain top. Down the other side in the town it’s hot, sunny, the bus station is not full of the usual tuk tuk drivers and taxis and nobody is in the least bit interested in me, which is good and bad, as I am immediately lost and walk up and down in many wrong ways. Some schoolboys point me in the wrong way, probably not understanding what I want. Map reading in another language. Is impossible. Eventually a woman at an upmarket jade store helps me. I’m warned it is quite far,but actually it isn’t so far to locate the place in my guidebook. On a whim I decide to take a look at a neighbouring guest house.the room is big, airy, sturdy teak furniture and a bargain at 200 baht, plus renting a bike is 20. I. Take it, unwind, then cycle into town. The guesthouse is opposite a building site where manual labour is quite intense…I watched lines of young guys passing buckets of cement along a human chain. Later I saw them leaving the site getting paid cash in hand then boarding a pickup sponsored by man iunited’s Asian partner…

 

I searched for the Burmese restaurant I had read about but it had closed down. There are 2 main drags more or less parallel, I cycle up and down and criss- cross them too, looking for some vege food options. Nothing that seems open. Everything in Thai. There are brooding clouds over the school playing field where kids are gathered to watch some football game…the rain begins lightly then chucks it down for 15 minutes flooding some of the potholed roads. This is the province that experienced devastating flash floods only 1 month ago. . I try a new experience: cycling with an umbrella! I spend a while watching scooters and bikes laden with numerous passengers, holding umbrellas, shrouded in oversize brightly coloured ponchos. It all rapidly dries up, but obviously the bigger puddles are going to last a while

 

I look some more at the town, an begin to wander through the market. It’s not quite Thai. There are men. And women with white streaks of ash rubbed on their faces, apparently this is a Burmese habit. There are men in longyis, a kind of Burmese skirt type affair. It’s a scruffy town, there are poor looking people. A Burmese man hunched in the doorway smoking a cheroot, a dirty boy dropping a banana skin as he trudges the street. A man on a scooter in a pith helmet.women in head scarfs, Muslim. Chinese temples, Burmese temples; to be checked out later. A big police station which is prominent in the town centre, perhaps not surprising as this place is famed for smuggling of every kind. There is a one way system, and amazingly for a town that seems so wayward, everybody obeys it..unlike elsewhere I’ve been in Thailand. I do not, and feel very self conscious!

I ride round and round looking for the Canadian bar. God knows I must have passed it several times already. Once there I take a pavement seat and order a masaman curry and mango shake. The curry is not really the best I’ve had, the shake is great. This is a faring bar with low prices, and the guys here I think are all working for NGOs here.

 

Day 4 leaving KL

Waking up and the sun is kind of shining for the first time. My stomach feels ok. The market is setting up and I browse in vain for a shirt. Breakfast is fresh soya milk, fresh pineapple and a red bean bun.

Catch the monorail to LLC aka the twin towers and kill a while surveying the mall full of Christmas trees and designer goods stores. Outside in the park it’s to hot to sit in the sun…but then down comes the torrential rain. Back inside I find the food court and miraculously there is a fast food version of the amazing organic vege place we went to in Melaka. Eating, watching the world then back to Chinatown to find an elusive Internet cafe to print my boarding pass. Now sitting on the bus waiting to leave for the airport.

Plane is late. The flight is disturbed by kids in front and behind kicking the seats and banging, tables, arm rests, anything that moves. Turbulence as we approach Lang kawi, passing through storm clouds. Domestic flights are interesting, no bag checks, no passport control. No buses on the island. Fixed rate taxi to sweet inn motel. The taxi driver is an ex-aeronautics engineer and tells me about Malaysian cars. The hotel is on a strip of restaurants, tourist info shops, resorts, fronting the palm fringed beach. My place is the other side of the road among a cluster of cheaper hotels. The boy at reception is cute, cit, but I don’t really think he understands what I say to him. The room has twin beds and a window with a partial, over the top of some houses, sea view. It’s 10.15 and I’m starving. I eat at an Arabic/Indian place and have a byriani and pineapple lassi. I slip down to the beach. It’s dark and there are a couple of reggae bars, bob Marley and cheap beer. I walk through the sea along to the further of the 2 and leave after a couple of beers and being unble to take any more of the singer massacring Marley, nirvana and radio head. Guessing, rather than knowing the lyrics. Lightning is flashing on the horizon. Very cool.  There is a fire swinger, not very good, she asks me for money. I decline. On leaving I bump into the waiter from the restaurant I was at earlier. He is called ismael and is from Tunisia, working here on his uni holiday from KL. I think about asking him for a drink, but he talks a lot bout girls, so I realise it would become facile.

Day 5, Lang Kawi

Breakfast: I seem to have missed most of the food, but have eggs on toast. I’m keen to see the beach, and get down there as soon as I can and spend an hour floating in tepid clear shallow water with a bed of crushed shells. There are screaming Asians being towed at speed on banana boats, and Malay kids bathing in shorts and Chelsea t-shirts. Later I even see mothers in full headscarf and dress in the water. Not wanting to pay for a lounger I walk the shore as far as I can, it’s all resorts and places selling jet ski rides. The other way is more fancy, with combed sand and tables shaded by umbrella shaped topiary. It’s getting hot. I’m taking good care not to get burnt.

afternoon, walk along the strip, an it’s roasting. I eat some sweet and sour japanese tofu dish and carry on walking ending up in a duty free shop with very cheap booze. Inadvertently I find myself walking through the exit of the underwater world. Some cool moray and zebra eels. Puffer fish, jelly fish. Buy some beer and sit on the beach and have a read. Floating in the sea at sunset. God there are so many sexy half naked young boys here.haha.

Dinner at the hotel, requires some translation. I’m having spicy noodles.