Thailand - the land of opportunity!

Trip Start Jan 29, 2003
Trip End Feb 01, 2004

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Friday, March 14, 2003

10th March 2003:
Happy Birthday Dad! The bus pass must surely be in the post!
Today I enquired about going to Khao Sok national Park which I really fancy, but it turns out its not straight-forward to get to. Instead, I'll have to go to Phuket first, and then get a bus from there. The only problem is it's now Monday, and I really need to get there by Wednesday if I'm going to manage to get to Ko Pang nang for the 14th. I decided to visit the local bookshop, and see what he could do in the way of part exchanging my India guide book for a Thailand one. He said I could have it if I paid 25 Ringetts, about a fiver, taking a tenner off the price. this was good, but I wanted more, and pressed more better discount. 'I tell you what, I will throw in a bottle of water', and he did, and the deal was done, and I walked away quite content with my new Thailand L.P. and even more so my big bottle of water!
I told Nick and Leah I was heading up to Phuket, and was glad to hear they would also like to do this, so providing Steve & Kelly were in we would all travel up to Phuket together! Though I said straight away that because my skin looks like I've been attacked with a cheese grater, I did not intend on staying there long!
This evening we all met in a bar, playing 'Gangs of New York' on DVD, and we had a few beers, then spoke about the route ahead. I agreed I would go and get the tickets, as the travel agent said he could stick around till later that night!
On my return, I sheepishly informed them that I had booked the tickets, though there was one problem in that the 8:30 and midday buses were both full so I had to book us on the 5am bus! Everyone took the news well, though I couldn't help feeling sorry for Kelly, who after travelling from London to KL, and then up to Penang has done the same distance we did in a week, in little over a day!
But it was agreed. Tonight, we would not sleep. We met up with Mike & John from Southampton, John of whom was already pissed, and promptly fell off his chair at my arrival. After a few more beers and a game of pool, we headed to the SoHo bar, which as Mike said, is just like a British pub, except warmer, and with more Malay people, and with less choice of beer, but you get the picture. We stayed here until it shut, then walked around Penang looking at the most amount of prostitutes per square km anywhere in the world (O.K. I made that bit up, but there was a lot). Though even Bud would probably say no out here. If they weren't dog ugly, they were men, and you really had to pity anyone desperate enough to hook up with these errr... hookers?!
At 5am the mini-bus turned up. All aboard for a 12 hour journey. Hurrah! Not. This was going to be a long day!

11th March 2003:
After an alcohol-fuelled sleepness night, the last thing you really want to be doing is getting in a rammed mini-bus with no air-con and pissy little fans which do about as much good as a chocolate teapot, and sitting in it for 12 hours. But no, we didn't have to sit in it for 12 hours, we were in it for 14!
After numerous tiresome stops, and what seemed like pointless changes of transport, we eventually arrived in Phuket at 6pm, which takes into account the hour we gained. (the time difference is now +7GMT). We were taken to a tour operator who had the most obnoxious man whose job that day was to annoy me! I told him I wanted to go to Khao Sok, and how do I do it. All he would tell me is that I could do a 1 or 2 day trip through his company and it would cost a fortune (not his words, obviously). I said I wanted to know where the bus was to get from Phuket to Takua Pa. 'The bus station is closed'! What bus stations shut at 6pm. I hated this man, and so far I hated Thailand! Begrudgingly, I went with the others to Patong beach, where I decided I would spend the night and get myself up to Khao Sok first thing in the morning and hopefully get there by sunset. Patong, Penang, Pangkor, they all sound like speech bubbles you used to see on Batman when he and Robin used to get into a fight!
As I have said before, i'm not really into beaches, but I had to admit this looked like a nice little resort. After a great meal, we walked down to the beach, and strolled along aimlessly taking in the fresh sea air. Then we walked up to the main strip.
If you've ever been to Tenerife, you'll have been to veronicas strip where everything happens. Though in Tenerife the neon lights only really take up one side of the street. Here, no matter where you looked, there was fluorescent strip lighting boasting massages, bars or tailors. This was not quite the peaceful little retreat I thought it was.
After buying myself a T-shirt, we all went for a beer to send me off (sort of), and it got worse. It seems like every ugly European bloke over 45, flies out to Phuket and gets himself a 20-something Thai girl. I'm not into the Oriental look at all, but you could tell that these blokes really didn't have a lot to offer, apart from a big wedge of cash.
Anyway, needless to say I was glad to be leaving in the morning!
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