Tag Archives: motorbike

Nakhon Si Thammarat

14 hours of train to get here, and now I'm having a few days off!

The city is exclusively Thai. Barely a sign in English, and I've only seen 2 non-Asian faces. There is a Chinese presence, however. Finding vege food except for fruit and banana fritters is proving a bit tricky. My hotel is like a luxury business hotel, with huge room and an expansive view from my 9th floor window, but the prices the cheapest I've paid for so far! The hotel is on Alitalia market lane and on the corner of the main drag. There isn't much going on. It's quite quiet here. I have managed to explore about 4 blockes, as I've been held back by the bursts of heavy rain, that's been causing flooding in the province, and which was evident from the train. It's been great for photography, so I'm quite happy!






Day 3 Sangkhlaburi excursion

My pink motorbike has a sticker that says “I love dogs”. Not true. In fact there are packs of quite scary ones on the roads. At least they would be scary if they were nourished enough to have the energy to chase you.

I take the road to burma. This follows much of the route of the mostly disappeared death railway. I take a detour down a windy empty jungle road to a forest park, which is deserted, and the gate is open. Tentatively I enter the park, park and begin a magical walk through bamboo groves, crazy unidentifiable vegetation until the path gets denser and follows an increasingly bubbling stream. Up stream is a myriad of low cascades, water falling in clear sheets in sparkling deep green pools, flanked by gnarled trees with complex twisty root structures. I'm in the middle of the river. On a little island, in fact. Cascades and pools all around me. Peace, the only sound is the rushing water. This is truly sublime. Not a soul present. Just me.

The spell is slightly ruptured when I meet a couple of rangers coming to check out who it is that's in the park…but they quickly disappear.

My ride continues to the Three Pagodas Pass. This is historically an important place, where the death railway enters burma, and where the armies of ayutthya fought the invading burmese. The pagodas are small are sited on a grassy island, with immigration offices on one side, orchid stalls on another. There is a couple of Hindu burmese selling little samosa in small oil boilers that they can pick up and walk around with. There are some fresh faced languishing soldiers in full uniform carrying assault rifles ostensibly guarding the border, but they look rather disinterested. Their posture and expression changes when I ask to take their pictures, and they stand rigidly to attention. To my disappointment, I discover I'm not allowed to make the short walk into the neighbouring burmese town. Apparently it's only for Thais. It's not a proper frontier.

Immigration is clearly an issue here. In the 20 miles or so I cover i pass at least 3 checkpoints.being a white face I'm greeted with smiles, waves and laughs. Has I been in a longyi, darkskinned and huddled in the back of a pickup, I'm sure I would have been subjected to severe scrutiny.


Sai Yok national park

Filing in time while I'm sitting at the mouth of the bat cave in sai Yok national park waiting for dusk and the assumed swarms of bats that are going to emerge. I've already claimed in and poked around. It's a little bit scary with the floor of the cave being slippery and the only light I have being from my phone. So, better to sit outside. I'm still sweaty from 3 hours of walking through the jungle, not a soul in sight. Unfortunately no wildlife visible, but I can hear bird song, some kind of frog, perhaps, the buzzing of bugs. No human sounds. I had fun staring into tunnel spider webs, getting lost in the details of tree trunks and admiring the grace of the foliage. Crunching across dead bamboo trunks and their peeled away curled husked barks.


A long motorbike ride getting here. The only interesting thing was seeing a number of saffron swathed monks bare foot walking the highway, some making camp in the woodland by the road.

The park includes a section of the death railway, the remains of one of its bridges. Eerie to think that there were many hundreds of British men here before me toiling, getting bitten by bugs, beaten by Japanese, building something that has long since disappeared once more back into nature.

This is my third day in kanchanaburi province.

Day 2 got off to a slow start and once more began in On's restaurant, where once more I met Jo. On made him cook his own meal on the wok in front of the shop. I watched her make my rice soup. She's good at what she does, but to be honest I think with the same availability of ingredients I make a pretty good fist of authentic thai food too.

After lunch I cycle around and visit the jeath war museum. It's on the grounds of a temple, pretty scruffy and in a reconstruction of a pow hut. The place was founded by a Japanese man who was sent to thailand to act as translator at the end of the war. He was so shocked by what he saw that he converted to Buddhism and founded the museum. Anyway it was poignant and saddening.

On the bank of the Kwai at this end of town are scores of floating restaurants. Later I see one being towed up and down the river for a private karaoke party. At the end of these places there is a modern road bridge, under which I spend a while nosing around some dilapaded old floating bar and watching some poor local guys trying to fish for their supper.

I spend a long evening with an Austrian woman who I meet in on's. She has cycled down from chiang mai via mae sot. She is very interesting and has had a full life. Lived 20 years in India, worked with mother Theresa, caring for the dying, which sounds gruelling. Teaching massage and yoga wherever she goes. She tells me about how the prayers broadcast from the Hindu temples every morning pissed her off so much that she ended up cutting the cables to the tannoy speakers one day. We switch to Italian when she learns I lived in Italy. I would like to say my Italian came flooding back, but it didn't. Enough to talk about my experiences in Bologna and Sicily. The she tells me she lived on a beach in Sicily, and of the strange protection rackets and organised crime. We have a drink at her guest house which has a nice vibe apart from the ubiquitous karaoke on this stretch of the river.


So where are these bats??

I can't wait any longer. Back to the waterfall that empties into the Kwai river. Lots of floating houseboats. Kind of tranquil twilight. I don't enjoy the ride back 100km in darkness. The thought of getting a warming curry at on's spurs me on.




Wednesday 4 sept, chiang mai

Motorbike to doi suthep.

Windy mountainous road.temple full of rituals. I dedicate some tiles, I sign the yellow scarf. I shake a stick. I am to have a baby boy according to my stick….

Stick a coin on the money wall

Stick shaking and pray

Inscribe the scarf to be wrapped around the chedi

Donate and inscribe a tile for the roof

Spooning oil on candles

Circle the chedi with lotus buds, incense and mantras

Taking photos

Have your picture taken by roving photographers holding garish samples: families smiling in front of chedi

Be blessed, holy water sprinkled, holy cotton tied round your wrist

Odd English signage..look:!

Group of army officers out for the afternoon

Ice cream shops

Trinket and cd stalls

Dragon flies

Hornet overpowering and devouring one.

Motorbike back, walk into the national park to a spot with pooling fast flowing water under an overhanging cliff. Eyrique does some yoga in the water. The light is beautiful.

Back into town and buffet at gap. No other customers.

Back at riverside, a lot of introspection.

An uncomfortable evening at the night market.

Si satchanalai

Well I worked it out. Those guys in chopper bar ( what a name) are the local bikers. Yesterday they turned up on their Harleys and cut off sukhothai city black shirts. They seem to be always the honoured guests with the young boy and girl, the kids of the owner, I guess jumping to attention. The boy’s job is portable barman. He has a trolley full of whiskers and mixers and ice and he regularly pours out new ones for these guys….no measuring….I saw one of them using his brick like Motorola.what is it with these? Over the road, from the veranda I see a group of cops stopping, searching then taking away in the back of a pickup a couple of I don’t know what’s.

Sunday morning a I have a lie in til 9, a quick breakfast, and rent a motorbike, for the measly sum of 150 baht. It’s manual, it tattles, the speedo doesn’t work and the mirrors are floppy, so I can’t see a thing behind me. Fortunately the roads, even the main ones are not too scary. There is a motorbike/ bike lane which doesn’t necessarily get used by traffic just going with he flow. It’s quite common to encounter a bike of motorbike or tricycle coming towards you. There isn’t so much traffic, the road is mainly straight, but a bit pot holed. There are so many stray dogs lolloping around. They look like foxes, and my weedy horn is unlikely to rouse them. In fact on my return journey I very nearly did hit a dog, but this one had an owner. It crossed the road at its own pace. Even when seeing me neither sped up nor stopped. A big black thing a bit like a Labrador. I came so close to hitting it..full on braking…

Transportation in hail and deserves a mention. Motorbikes, ie 100 cc Hondas are the main form of travelling herein the north. I saw a sign indicating that helmets are essential, however, I saw maybe 3 people wearing them, some carrying them…and bikes carrying up to 4 people. I passed a husband carrying his wife pillion, she was cradling her new born baby between them. I don’t know what the age is, but there are certainly 12 year old kids riding these bikes in heir flip flops and Chelsea football kit.

Them there is the Toyota pickup, the fancier ones with cab with 2 rows of seats. The pick up section is used for carrying animals, machinery, vegetables, and people. Sometimes a group of kids, sometimes a whole gang of workers from the fields.

The public transport are saewthawn, which in some places are pickups with the back area covered, but open at the sides, with 2 wooden benches face to face, and a step at the back. Luggage goes on the top, can be flagged down, goes designated routes, used by school kids, workers, traders. In sukhothai these are more like trucks with the same wooden benches, and a wooden floor. They drive incredibly slowly. The tuk tuks here are back to front, more like a ricks haw. Motorbike section at the back, front section is a 2 wheeled affair open at the front and containing 2 benches face to face. The hole thing covered by a flat roof.


There are motorbikes with side cars. The sidecar being more like a box on wheels, suitable for anything and anyone.

Some of the vehicles in the countryside are weird looking too. Something which reminds me of a horse and cart, except it is based on a motorcycle. It’s a tricycle with very long handlebars, which reach back to the driver who has a seat on the cart area.

Today’s trip to si satchanalai was cool. I missed the park entrance to. Begin with and explored the area, finding several ruined temples near the road and one with a massive chedi on top of a forested hill. Here I glimpsed a local family rooting for some kind of bugs, the father was banging trees with a stick, taking a drag on his cigarette and breathing the smoke into bore holes in the tree. I don’t thing they were succeeding…and anyway I don’t know what they were looking for exactly.


I rode out of the archaeological park, and found myself on a road flanked with paddies reflecting distant mountains. A woman was. Harvesting some rice, her daughters bagging it by the road. The paddies were swarming with birds, many of them large grey and white wading birds with long legs and beaks. A bit like storks.

When I get back to the park, I’m parking my bike and flagged down by woman from the restaurant shack place. She gets my order wrong and I have to send back the rice with pork.

I decide to ride round the park rather than cycle. It turns out to be a good idea as there is quite a lot of distance to cover. There is hardly anyone here, and each ruin I have more or less to myself. It rains a little, there is a swarm of dragon flies gathered over the road at wat Chang lom…the one with elephant chedi. On approaching I thought these were falling leaves, so big and so profuse were they. Wat chedi ched thaeo blows me away…the complex is vast and has enough ruins to last anyone a lifetime.



The final stop is outside the wall of the park. It has a Khmer tower and some bayon style carvings. Not much atmosphere though as there is construction going on around it.

The journey back is punctuated by a stop to gawp at this place ( see below ). Buddha Buddha everywhere. It’s funny that I have seen so many ruins, yet I passed a number of places where temples are still being built.


Dinner is in a chilled out bar that does me a tofu Penang curry and a mango shake..awful lounges cover cd of Beatles songs and carpenters etc. etc….but more relaxing than choppers!

By the way I think I have had enough of ruins now…perhaps you have too? To finish, here is a missing Buddha!



Travelling thoughts day 2 through to day 4

Actually as usual getting out of bkk is a headache and there never seems to be a simple way. The various mods of public transport are poorly linked, don’t get you where you want to go, and the roads are impassable most of the time. I get a boat down to thaksin bridge to pick up the sky train. This is actually going in the opposite direction from the one I need, but I figure it will be more relaxing, maybe Ben quicker, certainly cheaper than sitting in a taxi. After getting on a train that went the wrong way, in spite of the signage on the platform, I do get to mo chit station. With a name the same as the required bus station you would think they would be reasonably near. Not even within walking distance. A 20 minute bus ride away, but at least there was no fare…no conductor on the bus at all. Mo chit bus station is a sprawling and confused mess, and I need to go from one sides to the other,through a rabbit warren of market stalls, and end up at a terminal building of 3 floors. After asking at several counters I finally find the counter for nang rong. Whilst waiting I get a soup and end up chatting with a Thai woman with a young child. She has an Australian husband and is back in Thailand on a visa run and trying to get her daughter to Australia. I get the impression it’s a marriage of convenience. She gets a life for her daughter, he gets an obedient pretty woman. She’s is already saying she plans to go there only for around 5 years. I guess there is nothing wrong at all with this. I’m sure in faring marriages both parties know it isn’t real love. I wonder if its the same with gay marriages….from the Thai guys I have met, I can see that their are always ulterior motives. Take what you can get then thanks and see you.

Arrival in nang rong after 5 hours. It’s dark, quiet, the taxi drivers chatty but not pushy, and they leave me to my own devices, ie walking to honey inn. Along a busy main road. I miss the turning, make a call, and one of the women from the inn comes and gets me on a motorbike. At first I get the feeling she runs the place, yet the whole time I’m there the one who is always there, and cooking, cleaning, renting motorbikes, trying to make communication, is the cute 70 year old, or so I guess, grandmother.

Phanom rung. This is the place I’ve wanted to visit several times but its always seemed too far or too complicated.

Phanom rung is a Khmer temple the same style as Angkor wat and its on top of an extinct volcano surrounded by rustling bamboo trees. Hardly anyone there other Ghana plethora of young painters from khon kaen university at each corner of the site. The place is calm, spectacular, relaxing, with lily ponds and monstrous red dragon flies. It follows the layout of a long bridge with lotus bud columns. Climb a steep flight of steps flanked by the naga serpent. More steps takes you to the plateau where there are lily ponds, extensive view to probably Cambodia and a view straight through the main entrance which carries on past the central silhouetted linctum stone to the opposite door. This is bisected in the middle by an east to west passage that similarly passes through several doorways, dark to light to dark. The roofs are mainly intact and the central carved tower with scenes of Krishna and vishnu. Fortunately the day is cloudy and I’m not going to get burnt. Famous last words maybe…

I carry on winding down the steep road to prasat meung tan, a Khmer sanctuary..impressively restored,the 4 l- shaped ponds with lilies buds are most enchanting


A posse of young school kids in blue shirts are sketching the ruins, many call out hello and how are you in English. I spend a meditative few hours here before a slightly uncomfortable ride back, the road now busy with trucks, overtaking each other willy nilly. I catch some glimpses of the rural life here. Old farmers wearing longyan with. Water buffalo crossing the roads, farmers planting paddies, wooden houses on stilts.

I decide to explore nong rung by motorbike. Not a lot here. The night market has a stall full of many new tropical fruits to me. The potato like one tastes of grapefruit. I get a banana pancake, recharge my phone and bump into Francois the French postman and his wife from reunion who are also staying at honey inn. I use my phrase book to point and show to manage to get a meat free pad thai, which is so so.




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!


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.

Day 24 – Khon Kaen

A long sleep…..and then success at finding a veggie meal at the bus station: exactly what I wanted – fiery spicy red curry with fresh lime leaves.

We head out of town to Ubonratcha Dam. Its around 50 minutes on the motorbike and fortunately not as hot as it has been. The dam is in a sculptured park of golf courses, trees, flowers, dinosaur sculptures, water features, a big Buddha on a hill (which we didn’t bother to climb to in the end), a huge reservoir and the dam. We take a stroll and chat a lot about relationships and goals in life, then have an ice cream.

On the return journey at sunset we visit a temple right on the main road which has rocks set all around it lined with 10’s of thousands on elephant statues of various design and size grouped together like families all facing the same direction and looking out over the road. As cars and trucks go by horns are honked. This is apparently the elephant temple and people come here with big sets of these little statues (some are also zebras and cockerels which are also in their own little family groups) and with a monk, they lay them out. The shrine has a statue of an elephant at the feet of the Buddha on its roof, at the road there is a lifesize and life-like elephant by the naga lined steps. Around the shrine peeking out between the pillars of the wall are more tiny elephants and next to them are rather cheesy saluting statuettes of armed guards, again placed there by the public. Inside the shrine are a number of cabinets with rings of flashing rd lights each containing a Buddha, a different one for a different day of the week. Each one a shrine for an offering.

Back to KK, I pack, shower, a friend of nick’s arrives to chat, actually he chats on line with some other guy most of the time. We bike into town, dinner at the night market again and a final shake.

The train is about 30 minutes late, but finally we say goodbye and I’m off on my own again.