BootsnAll Travel Network

What's It All About??

I guess 2007 is my mid life crisis........making the decision to leave a good job, friends and family to show the world to the kids some might say is a bit mad but it just feels so right. They say you only regret the things you haven't done, not the things you have - I want to have something to talk about when I am old and grey! 9 months, 14 countries and 2 teenagers, how intact will my sanity be on my return??

April 9th/10th Last Days In Bangkok.

April 13th, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

As the bus arrived in Bangkok early we got back to the hostel and slept. In the afternoon it was last minute shopping at MBK and the Suan Lim (?) night bazaar. It makes a nice change to be able to buy things as this is our last country but having got back to the room and seeing the number of bags we have now got I think we are going to have an issue packing!

The next day sees an early rise for me. I wanted to go and see the bridge over the River Kwai but funnily enough the kids did not seem that interested. The trip included the floating markets which meant a nice early start of 6.10, God I felt so tired. It felt strange to be on my lonesome but I soon got talking to people and it felt nice to just have yourself to worry about, I didn’t have to think about entertaining the kids. They went to the Oceanarium with my sister in one of the shopping malls. Complete with 4d cinema, glass bottomed boat ride they had a whale of a time (boom boom).

The floating markets were a tourist trap but I did enjoy the boat ride. There are stalls on either side of the dirty canal and some boats that go up and down selling souvenirs, fruit and other food. You pay 150 baht to be taken up and down by paddle boat and the sellers hook your boat so you can’t escape. I bought some lovely fried bananas with coconut but have seen enough souvenirs to last me a lifetime. A stop that was not on the itinerary (so of course cost extra) was the Cobra show. “Brave” men wind up cobras and other snakes by hitting them on the head and then dodging the bites. It’s a good chance to get very close up to some magnificent snakes but not very humane. The lowest point of the show was when a glass caged mongoose was wheeled in and several snakes were dropped into his cage so the audience could see how he managed to attack them. The snakes were then prized from his jaw – all you could wonder was do snakes feel pain and did the mongoose ever get fed, it was actually pretty horrific.

After much swapping around of minibuses we arrived at the Death Railway Bridge on the river Kwai. It is a very clam place and the river flows quickly under the bridge – does it sound silly to say the bridge is smaller than I thought it would be – the famous metal rounded arches not as tall. I walked across it with my dripping ice lolly and contemplated all the hardships and death that had happened here – it seems a world away. We claim to be a civilised world now but how quickly in war would we go back to treating our fellow man in such an appalling way. I guess you just have to look at places like Africa to see we never really change.

Last stop (right over on the Burmese border) was the Tiger Temple. The kids baulked at the idea of another temple when I suggested going on the trip. O had asked if there were real tigers there and I said no – probably just statues. How wrong could I be? Yes there are real tigers there, just rolling around in the canyon and you get to have your photo taken with about 6 of them. The monks that lived there helped nurse a tiger back to health and it just went from there. The tigers couldn’t care less that you were there – they were docile and you could tickle them and pat them until you chickened out. There was one large fella there – the size and weight of him were a real eye opener. He stretched upright against a tree to scratch his front paws and you could just imagine the weight of his front paws on your shoulders – you wouldn’t stand a chance. We had a very talkative group on the tour and we all had a fab time here – it was a little bit surreal. At 4 the tigers are walked back to their overnight accommodation (cages). The tourists are all caged in a huge pen with the tiger cubs while they pass the head monk make this “call” and all the other animals, now sensing that it is safe come to feed. It’s like Noah’s Ark – oxon, wild boar complete with piglets, chickens, horses and cows all descend from nowhere. It was an amazing sight and something to remember over the 3 hour journey home. As the minibus was full and there was no room for a guide the driver talked more. He earns 180 baht a day (£3), gets up at 4.30am and does not get home till gone 9 and works 7 days a week. It was a reality check that’s for sure and makes you wonder how they keep smiling. He also said that that the girls in Bangkok aren’t interested in local man – they only want farang boyfriends. I guess it’s no wonder with that and the view of old, fat lechy westerners in local bars who have come over for some “entertaining” we are unliked.

The sunset was fabulous and during the trip it really started to sink in that I am actually going home tomorrow – 1 day left. I am excited and nervous all at the same time. The daunting prospect of finding both a job and a home hangs heavy but the excitement of starting again brings me up and deep in my soul I just feel that everything is going to be OK. Ask me again in 6 weeks and I might not feel the same way!

Tags: ,

April 5th – 8th Busy Doing Nothing

April 13th, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

Because of the poor uncomfort of my sister we took it easy. Needless to say the beach was not our top destination. She looks like a lobster with stripes and the aloe vera gel has been slapped on religiously. To amuse ourselves we did other things………..
Let’s see as I am trying to remember
Played a round of golf. As my Dad had to bring his Sunday morning round to an early stop due to a snow storm in the UK we played 18 holes of mini golf amongst the dinosaurs in blistering heat. Despite getting a hole in one I lost to Josh who just kept on managing to get the ball in – he made it look so easy. We took the bus home and found a market to have a browse – it was so hot inside no wonder the stall holders were all a bit arsey. We managed to find one nice guy and found 2 pairs of jeans one for O and one for Josh. Once we got back O had to try on everything she had to work out her “Airport Outfit” for going home.

Took in a show. We paid a lot of money to go and see a Thai extravaganza – complete with 30 elephants, Thai dancing, illusions and acrobatics. The kids really enjoyed it but the animals left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. The elephants were all lined up as you went in and you could pay extra to have your photo taken with one. I swear one of them looked like he had contact lenses in – may be to protect against all the flashes from cameras I don’t know. During the show the elephants perform and stand on their hind legs putting their front legs on the one in front of them in a long line if that makes sense, it just looked a bit cruel. There were also tiger cubs in the entrance for that “photo opportunity”. They were being distracted with a bottle of milk, they looked so out of place. We did not have our photo taken as did not really feel this was right – the queue for that unfortunately was massive. The tickets did include a buffet dinner as fortune favours the brave I got my first taste of sushi. The little rice rolls are yummy but although the texture of the salmon was quite surprising – it’s a bit like very moist cake – it’s not for me.

Toured Patong. Patong Beach is famous in Phuket for the clubs, Go Go bars and general seediness set next to a beautiful beach. You can imagine why we didn’t stay here but we thought a wander around the town had to be done. The evening did not start well when a local Tuk Tuk driver decided to vent on us. The Tuk Tuks here are like little open vans and the prices seem to have been fixed to be extortionate – basically on a par with UK taxis. I understand that locals have to make money but what they seem not to understand is that every farang (Westerner) is not made of money and some of us are on a budget. We started walking down the road towards Patong and flagged down a TT, this guy on the edge of the road said “no no, I take you” and waved off the one we had flagged down. When we asked him how much and he said we said “sorry, too expensive” and continued to walk on. We were not confrontational or rude but this guy then just raged on at us about the price of gas in our own country, that we come here and don’t want to pay and he has to pay the same price for bread that we do. Well – I very politely said that the price of gas is 3 times more expensive where I come from but the taxi is the same price as here (with a polite smile) and left it at that but he still raged on. It really spoiled our experience and is not the only example I have heard of. It feels like if you ask how much something is, you have entered into a contract to purchase already – despite what the price will be. This is also the same for shopping. Talking of shopping Patong is a nightmare. You get called by every stallholder to come and see – “just looking, I give you good price Madam”, it’s exhausting as you try and smile as I know people have a living to make but OMG. O got called Miss Harry Potter by someone trying to get her attention which did not go down well at all! As the stallholders all try to guess your nationality we got so fed up we ened up pretending we were from Sweden, Australia, Canada and even Chile. The evening finished with a huge downpour so we got into a Tuk Tuk daring not to say anything about price and watched the torrents of water wash down the hills and the lightning in the sky on the way home.

On our last day we did a tour to Phi Phi Lei island. A fleet of sleek shiny new air-conditioned minibuses tours the island picking up the tourists and arrives at the pier en masse. There were so many of us you get given a bingo sticker and your number gets called for your boat. The leaflet for the tour states the max no of people allowed per boat – put it this way we were 9 people extra so a little bit cramped. The first stop was Maya Beach – the beautiful sand where the film “The Beach” was filmed. The reality was somewhat different from the film. We counted over 40 boats parked up in the small bay and there were so many tourists you could only stand – there was absolutely no room to sit. This was mass tourism at it’s very worst I have never felt more like cattle in my life and just feel quite sorry for my sister as it is not like we have experienced this anywhere else.

The day also includes passing by scenery from the film “The Man With A Golden Gun”, a trip to Monkey Island where there were so many people at the front of the boat you could not get a look in, lunch at Phi Phi Don (another number calling cattle market) and a stop at a small island in the afternoon to snorkel. Don’t get me wrong the scenery is still amazing – turquoise waters with cliffs that just rise vertically out of the water topped with green trees. It is just all the tourists that ruin it! It was exhausting being shunted from pillar to post and not very enjoyable at all. The only highlight was the snorkelling – we saw some great fishes and black sea spiky anemones.

Karon is a lovely little village and has a cozy atmosphere. It is full of Scandinavians and nowhere more than at the lovely Little Mermaid restaurant. The menus here come in about 8 different languages and do the best ice cream milkshakes. We took an overnight bus back to Bangkok – a government one which was direct and took 12 hours. We had a small wait at the bus station so O and I amused ourselves guessing names of foreigners and their life stories. As Josh was sitting far away from us we thought he looked like a “Marcus” from Germany who had come to Phuket to go clubbing and wore neon clothes when he was out! The bus even served food on board and entertained the kids with a Mr Bean video. The humour translates into any language.

Tags: ,

April 4th – A Day At The Seaside

April 13th, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

We all slept like logs – no surprise there. The rooms are very quiet and the hotel does not seem that busy. The lady has already discounted our room so if you plan to stay here do not be afraid to haggle. We have swimming pool privileges at a nearby hotel but the beach was just too inviting. There is a long sandy strip with 2 lines of parasols and sun beds that stretch for miles. 2 sunbeds and a parasol cost about £3 for the day. On the way we bought a blow up ball and a big rubber ring – well you have to look the part don’t you. The water is calm and there is a shelf near the edge that has some great waves so we spent the day floating on the ring, playing in the waves or 3 of us hanging onto the ring and floating off. The water is so clear you can see your legs and it looks more shallow than it is. The blow up ball was lost as the current took it very quickly out to sea. A motor boat collected it but Josh was too embarrassed to go and get it.

“Entrepreneurs” went up and down the beach selling everything from ice creams to suit cases. I can’t imagine anyone sunbathing wanting to purchase a suitcase but you can’t blame them for trying. I love people watching on the beach – the array of unsuitable swimwear is astounding. Why do women over 50 go topless and men over 40 wear the tightest Speedos? There’s a reason that swimming costumes and boarder shorts were invented. We kept trying to persuade Josh to go for a Borat thong and parade up and down the beach but he wasn’t having any of it.

The kids were slathered with sun cream and my sister was gently reminded to be very careful but by the end of the day I had burnt my bum (again and this is always were I put most sunscreen), my sister was red basically all over with a couple of nice white stripes, Josh’s face was on fire and he had a rubber ring shaped mark on his back. O escaped completely. The Aloe Vera (where did the Vera bit come from?) came in very handy and was kept in the fridge for extra comfort. By the evening my sister was really suffering but O kept us amused with her descriptions of the famous English dish Toad In The Pole – don’t ask

Tags: ,

April 3rd – The Longest Journey

April 13th, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

We only stayed 1 night in Bangkok as wanted to venture South to the islands. We have decided on Phuket as it is our first time and it looked like a good base from which to explore. Just before we set off we finally managed to persuade Josh to tame the Gardens Of Babylon which are growing on his head. He almost looks human again. I don’t think the Thai lady who gave him his hair cut quite understood what we were saying but a style has evolved. The hostel arranged a bus trip and so we started our journey being picked up by mini bus at 4.30pm. Having been advised that the trip would take about 13 hours we had no idea as we set off what a nightmare we were in for.

The bus left from a road near Khao San road. We had to queue on the road and wear stickers. Everyone was a tourist – I was already a bit wary and should have known to trust my instinct. The coach turned up and looked fine – the seats were a bit of a squeeze and you were told where to sit – no choice but ok. I sat next to Josh and behind us we a German couple – the guy had such long legs that there was no way Josh could put his chair back at all. This did not stop the couple in front who put their seats right back giving poor Josh hardly any room at all. I had to tell her to stop pushing her seat as she was going to break Josh’s knees but that didn’t stop her. The German guy behind us said he could put his knees up on the seat and it was ok fro Josh to put his seat back but bless him he would not and tried to sleep completely upright. The couple in front who were of course English and very young had eyemasks and earplugs and kept giving us filthy looks, I really could have smacked her for being so selfish.

The bus stopped at 2am and people got off which meant we could escape from the Mighty La’s in front. 3 hours later though and a very loud boy in Thai accent comes up and shouts everyone off the bus! We had to change, bleary eyed and tired we stagger off and look at the bus schedule – there is only one and we seem to be in the middle of nowhere. After my eyes had focused and registered what it said I was sure I was reading it wrong – bus to Phuket 10am. Only 5 hours to wait then. OMG it was awful, some guy turns up and opens up the tourist office so you can exchange your ticket from your onward journey. Of course they try to sell you an earlier time and accommodation at your destination. The whole thing is such a rip off and makes me so mad as we have travelled on the government buses and they are excellent.

We squash in some kind of taxi and get taken to another bus station at 9am. The bus is not as advertised, stops to pick up anyone who asks along the way and has no air conditioning. The conductor also plays Thai music so loudly my head is vibrating. We finally arrive in Phuket at 3pm – yes that is correct it takes 6 hours. It has been an awful journey in the heat but the kids have been great – my sister looks a bit bewildered though! At the bus station in Phuket we immediately book our VIP government tickets for our journey home – direct and 12 hours.

We had not booked anywhere to stay but luckily the first choice in the guide book had free rooms. We have chosen Hat Karon as it is away from the strip clubs and go go bars of Patong but busy enough to have some life. The place seems to be filled up with Scandinavians who are browner than the locals. Little stick markers are posted intermittently along the road “Tsunami Evacuation Route”, apart from these there is no clue to the devastation that happened here. On the trip down I saw a huge expensive looking building “Samsung Centre Of Hope” – it looked completely deserted and as though it had not been used since it had been built. I wonder how many goodwill projects have been devised by westerners and because they did not really take into account the needs of the locals are just standing unused – it is such a shame.

We walked down to the beach and my sister ran straight into the water to have a splash. The view of the bay is nice and the waters are unbelievably clear – looks like a day for the beach tomorrow.

Tags: ,

April 2nd – Hard Rock

April 13th, 2008

Thailand 005

Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

Having realised that our trip has to end soon we try and make the most of our time in Bangkok shopping. It’s back to the MBK shopping centre and we split up. Josh goes to the electronics floor complete with compiled list, O goes with my sister and I amazingly find myself alone to shop – one word, heaven. How fabulous it is to wander round on your own browsing when you want! I end up finding that elusive Mulberry bag and treat myself, well I must look the part for interviews! Josh gets his computer games and my sister has found a bought a new camera, amazing what you can accomplish separately. We decide that it is time for a nice meal so head over to The Hard Rock Café – instantly recognizable as it has a Tuk Tuk protruding from the wall outside. Inside it is full of kids and waiters covered in badges who have shares in Wella hair products. The meal is the same as any other Hard Rock café but the food is not really why you come – it’s to see the all the stuff on the walls. There is lots of Beatles memorabilia here and an Elvis stained glass window that my sister loves (she’s a big Elvis fan). Upstairs is closed but we manage a sneak around and find the other half of the Tuk Tuk inside the restaurant.

Tags: ,

March 30th – Tuk Tuk Races

April 13th, 2008

A day of chilling and lazing around the pool. I don’t think my body could have taken another trip today. Both Josh and I have been suffering from colds and you forget how miserable a blocked up nose and sore throat can make you. I hope this will protect us a bit when we get off the plane back home. God it’s not long to go now and I find myself filled with excitement at the thought of seeing everyone again and then sheer dread. It is when I get back that I will need the most energy and luck. I can’t wait to get settled in a house with a job – the thought of attending business meetings again feels alien but in a strange and rather perverse way I’m looking forward to it.

We all trekked to the night market and were a bit disappointed to find stall after stall selling the same old crap. Lacoste Teeshirts, DVD’s, sunglasses and Tiffany jewellery are in abundance here. I actually treated myself to a new pair of sunglasses and look like a 80’s Top Gun reject but the detailing is actually very good. We keep trying to persuade Josh to get some but he’s just not at home with being cool, he likes to live on the wackier side of fashion – much to his sister’s annoyance.

We all squashed into a Tuk Tuk on the way back. It was just like wacky races and we did a Formula 1 style Murray commentary to ourselves. O was on my lap and at one point we raced with a group of 3 lads along a road – we won. They really are strange contraptions and I understand how Del boy felt in his van.

March 31st – Overnight Trains

Our journey back is later today so lie in and then a trip to Tesco – I know how exciting is that!! Tesco Lotus stores are everywhere here and it feels wrong that we should miss out. O gets some skinny jeans for £3 and we find my Dad an electronic fly zapper that swats and delivers an electric shock – who needs a Wii???

We managed to get spaces back on the train – although only top bunks in second class. The train looked like something out of WW2 and the fact that it moved was a pleasant surprise. The carriage is 2 long lines of bunks all the way along – they are converted into beds at night so you have 2 chairs on either side for day sitting. The very self important conductor comes round with security guard and checks you in. The security guard had been watching too many episodes of “CHIPS” and had on the tightest polyester brown trousers complete with sewn in crease, hat with huge visor and sunglasses. I pray that all that all the pomp is just for show and we don’t muck up by spilling something on the floor or snoring – I find myself being a little scared.

Each carriage has a guard and they come and make up your bed for you when you are ready – complete with sheets and blanket. It feels very Agatha Christie to sleep on the train and I am reminded of the time when I was a teenager we took the train with Mum & Dad from Rome to Paris. There were cabins instead of 1 long carriage and I remember some mix up with beds that involved us locking the door, pretending we didn’t understand and not letting anyone in. I can still remember how exciting the travel felt – I laid awake with my walkman and U2 “Joshua Tree” cassette watching the world speed by. I still feel that excitement now – it’s only when I look in the mirror and see the stranger looking back that I remember I am older now and supposedly more responsible. I wonder what the kids will remember when they are older?

Arrival in Bangkok is peaceful and it is straight back to the same hostel. How nice to see the same friendly faces but I told them ll what we thought of the hostel in Chiang Mai.

Tags: ,

March 29th – Karen In Thailand

April 13th, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

Tribal day today and a chance to see the much photographed Long Neck Karen tribe. There are actually many different types of Karen – white, red, black, big ear, big belt and long neck. Why Karen – who knows, maybe they heard “Top Of The World” by The Carpenters and thought t was quite apt. The day started with an American couple who decided that a minibus full of misfits was not for them and demanded to be driven back to their hotel. I really need to do something about my hair – I fear it is starting to make people scared. Other members of the group today included a girl from Denmark who had come to Thailand to play golf and a Birmingham couple of girls who had spent a year and a half travelling around – one set of parents had met them in Thailand and were also on the trip. What is it about Brits on holiday – the Danish girl was lovely and we spent ages talking but the Brits just ignored us and treated the guide with almost contempt. It was the same guide we had yesterday, named “Boy” (yes his real name) he was really nice and full of interesting info, just not good enough for the Brummies. How the girls managed to travel around the world with this attitude I have no idea!

Anyway back to the trip – short stop at a butterfly and orchid farm – not very interesting but did get a few pointers about growing orchids – charcoal is the thing apparently. Another drive and a stop at a cave system – complete with Buddhas and Japanese stonework – they ised the caves during WW2. It just shows how blasé us 3 have got – my sister was talking loads of photos and none of us did at all as the caves in NZ were more fabulous. I find this very hard and reminded myself to make a more conscious effort to get excited about the surroundings.

The hilltribe “village” was more like 2 lines of stalls with the villagers selling scarves, figurines and jewellery. 3 villages – Longneck Karen, Big Ears Karen and the Akai tribes live next to each other – it was hard to tell the difference in the villages boundaries. The Longnecks were amazing. As touristy as it was I was amazed that one of the women spoke English. I spent a while talking to her as discovered she was 40 with 2 kids. The brass coils they wear around their necks must weigh 5 or 6 kilos. A long piece of brass is wrapped around their neck every year after the previous one is taken off. The first coil is put on around the year of 6 or 7 and a longer one put on every year. The shoulders are pushed down and the neck lengthened as much as possible. The coils are also worn on the legs, just below the knee. It is a strange sight and you have to respect the elegance of these women. Of course the men do not have to go through the same thing – this just ensures that the women stay in the tribe. Sleeping and walking are done very carefully.

The villages have electricity but no schools – we saw children dressed up for us tourists, complete with full face make up and they certainly knew how to pose for the cameras. How did I feel walking around? Amazed as they were the friendliest people you can imagine, very demure and elegant and all smiles. I also notice bags full of beer cans so might have contributed to the smiles. No men were in sight – the impression given that they were working in the fields which just did not ring true – there were enough kids around to suggest that they at least made fleeting visits back here. I of course bought a scarf from the lady I talked to and every time I put it on I will always be reminded of her, her smile and how much we take for granted at home. God I am so lucky.

Tags: ,

March 28th – Nellie The Elephant Packed Her Trunk And Trundled Off To The Jungle

April 13th, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

Early start for our 1 day trekking adventure today. We were joined by a Belgian family of 5 and a couple from the Czech Republic (no relation to anyone from last night). The day involved a short hike to waterfalls – it was so hot everyone just about fell into the water. My sister and O went for a swim and tried to brave the falls but kept getting pushed back by the force. Another short exhausting trek to a hilltribe village to see some local handicrafts. Well they say village but it was tiny and you really felt like the word was out as soon as we wandered in – TOURISTS BRINGING MONEY. The kids were cute and we saw women weaving scarves (which of course you had to buy). It’s hard to know whether to barter or not, I did meekly try but she didn’t budge not even by 10 Baht.

The hilltribes have come from places like Myanmar (still known as Burma here) and Tibet. Th Thai government allows them to live with no paperwork in the hills for 6/7 years before they qualify for official papers and can move to the cities to look for jobs. It is a hard life and made worse by the fact that they no longer grow Opium as the King recognised this was bad and has taught them to make money from tourists, selling handicrafts. Hmmmm me thinks selling handicrafts does not pay for all the alcohol I saw. I also wonder how much tourism would be affected if the tribes were not resident in Northern Thailand – it certainly is in the Thai government’s interest to keep them here.

The afternoon saw us all take a ride on an elephant. I had mixed feelings about this. My sister had wanted to go to an elephant training camp where you get to spend 3 days training with an elephant and learning commands etc but the courses were full and not running in April due to the hot weather. Each elephant for the ride had a trainer or Mahout who was equipped with a wooden handled instrument with a metal smooth hook on the end. I didn’t like to think why this was used. The elephants are chained up on the foot when not “in use” and as a Westerner again not something I like to see. Saying that the trainers all seem to have a relationship with their elephant and the hour long trek included stops, scratches on trees and lots of water from the river whenever the elephant wanted. Our trainer spoke English so we learned about our ride – Jokia a 20 year old female whose family was also in the elephant group – there were 5 elephants all together. The trainer asked Josh if he wanted to ride on her head – with his legs behind her ears – “you boy or lady boy?” he said but nothing would make him do it! The ride was very lurchy and unlike anything I have ever been on before. Jokia would spurt water in her trunk when he said “zoom zoom zoom” but she was nice to us and we didn’t get wet. We treated her to lots of bananas at the end and just hoped that her life is not too awful. I can’t help contemplating if we making it worse for them riding them, thus perpetuating the need for captive elephants or better as the money stops them being used for work or for worse things. I can’t deice and it keep me awake that night – never mind all the children in the hilltribe – it’s the elephant’s plight that makes an impact.

The second part of the afternoon is spent floating on the river on a bamboo raft. We have a guide with long bamboo pole at the front and Josh (with pole) at the back. The river in parts is so shallow the bamboo grates against the bottom but there are a few very small rapids and it a relaxing end to the day. Relaxing until you get soaked by the kids who are all playing in the river and love nothing better than to soak all the passing farang! We got a few good shots in between us – Josh fell over at one point and managed to trap his knee in between the poles – the guide had to prise them apart with his pole – meanwhile we were heading straight into a min rapid – it was all very exciting in a “River Runs Wild” kind of way – well more like “Stream Runs Quickly” way.

After all the fresh air we all fell asleep quickly and slept like logs.

Tags: ,

March 27th – On The Buses

April 13th, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

The overnight train to northern Chiang Mai was full so we decided to take the VIP government bus. The bus terminal is frantic with activity and at 6pm everything stops to stand for the national anthem – it feels a bit like that game you used to play in the playground – statues. As the outsider you feel like everyone is watching you so what do you do – pretend to know the words and lip synch rubbish or just smile knowingly? I just smiled like I knew exactly what was going on. The buses are as luxurious as Mexico and we managed to get a good night’s sleep before arriving in Chiang Mai very early the next day.

We had arranged at our hostel in Bangkok to stay at the sister hostel in town. Big mistake – the rooms were fine but it was sooo out of town, we would have had to take a taxi in just to get food etc. It also felt very empty like we were the only people staying there. We ended up staying there a few hours and then moved onto the lovely Top North Guest house in town – which also had a swimming pool and evidence of other human life. It was actually great staying here as they also arranged cheap trips and restaurants and night markets were all within walking distance. The pool was a great bonus and as soon as our bags hit the floor it was straight in to the cool water. It is still 34 degrees here and you just wilt in the heat.

We booked a couple of trips – the first one was that night to the night safari. It is held in a different place from the zoo but well worth a visit. You get to walk round a huge lake to look at various animals at night – leopards, monkeys, cats, white tigers and other smaller creatures. It really is a different experience seeing them at night as even the smells are different, you seem to use your nose more. Although we were the only people on the tour we had 3 tour guides accompanying us as a couple were learning and they were more excited than us as had never been before. 1 girl had come to Thailand from China to work – she had been here a year and was still finding it hard to pick up Thai with all it’s strange language characters and intonations. It makes you feel so guilty that I don’t even speak Spanish and all the characters are the same – it’s just the words that are different. Imagine how hard it must be to learn everything from scratch including all the characters.

The actual safari takes place in trucks through designated “drive through zones”. You actually get 2 tours – one for the big game and another African type tour. We met lions, tigers, hippos, bears, deer, antelope, giraffes, zebras that roamed right in front of you and the cutest wild boar with the tiniest little piglets. Of course everything is in the dark so you can see by spotlight and camera flash is banned. Well for most people – we had a huge group of Eastern Europeans – Russian I think behind us who thought it was fine to use flash all the time – everyone kept telling them off but they just ignored it. In the end the tourists and myself took it upon ourselves to explain in sign language that the flash was bad for the animals eyes. I’ll probably wake up tomorrow with one of the animals heads in my bed but honestly some people arrrghhh!

The night finished with a laser and light show on the water – very high tech and music sounded like it was straight from a Disney parade. You all know the tune – the one that will not get out of your head for days afterwards – no matter how hard you try.

Tags: ,

Come To The Cabaret Old Son

April 13th, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

March 23rd – And So The End Is Near

Our little trip with just the 3 of us is coming to and end today as my Sister is joining us for the last part of our trip. I am very excited to see her and so are the kids but I am also a little bit sad as it has been fantastic having just the 3 of us against the world for so long.

We made a huge sign and fought against the tide of other tour reps and their signs so that she would see us at the airport – it worked and there were lots of hugs all round. The kids bored her to death in the taxi I am sure with the tales from lands far away. It is only when I listen to them that I realise how much we have actually seen and done. You forget so much as you are constantly experiencing so much all the time. We have to be gentle with her as we have been used to this travelling lark for a while now and she is fresh meat off the plane! Oh and yes for once and for the record we were browner than her! I think this is actually the first time this has happened so was a big moment for us.

March 24th – 26th

Spent a couple of days trying to get acquainted with the city. Shopping for us is now all go – as this is our last country we can actually start buying some stuff to take home. O and Josh have both gone mad with the tee shirts and I found a stunning bedspread. We went to the night market and tried to see who could get the strangest key ring, little things please little minds! I have to say that the quality was much better in Bali and the DVD’s less than half the price so annoyed I did not stock up.

We took a tour of the temples – the huge reclining Buddha is enormous, the 3 ½ tonne gold statue Buddha (complete with fortune telling machines next to it) was cool and the little emerald Buddha complete in it’s winter outfit v cool. All the guidebooks say wear sleeves but they don’t mean long sleeves – tee shirts are fine to all those who wondered. The temples are amazing and everything that you would expect them to be. We have seen lots of monks too – dressed in robes from brown to orange and with mp3 players, at the cashpoint. Even on the Skytrain the sign that signs give up your seat for the elderly and pregnant women, here it also includes monks. The tour we took also included the visit to the gem factory, we had no intention of buying but had great fun trying on huge sapphires and rubies.

The heat did not deter us from visiting The Grand Palace too. We took a river taxi up and saw up close and personal the contradiction of the city. Plush hotels and futuristic business buildings lie next to old wooden homes on stilts. The city is sinking at the rate of 2” per year and you can see who is already suffering.

The Thai people absolutely worship their royal family. The King’s sister recently passed away and the city is in mourning. While we at the palace many women dressed in black had come to pay their respects to the body, it was a very sombre site. One of the older ladies took great pains to try and explain to me that with my colour hair I should cover up and put a hat on, she kept pointing to my head. Well it was either that I was having such a bad hair day that it was insult not to cover it up with a hat. The palace itself is unbelievable – there is gold and glass mosaic everywhere – the detailing very impressive. Just think The King And I and you are there. The dress code here was very strict and numerous people were sent back to go and hire clothes as they did not pass – even shorts just below the knee so beware.

The evening was spent broadening the cultural mind – we went to see a drag queen cabaret with the kids. It was all feathers, lip synching and sparkly lycra and less drag queen more lady boy. Numbers included Pussy Cat Dolls, Destiny’s Child, Blues Brothers (go figure) – no Diana Ross or Shirley Bassey in sight. My sister made me laugh afterwards and said she thought there would be more men dressed as ladies, O and I both replied that they were all men dressed as ladies! The reason for this mix up – most of the performers had had boob jobs so it is nearly impossible to tell. There was one rather large comedy queen that was very funny so we took our chance and had our photo taken with him afterwards – it will always make me smile, Josh looks like he has no idea what to do with his hands!

Tags: ,