Take a Chang on me!

Trip Start Jan 22, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, February 19, 2007

We left Malaysia on our prefered form of transport, the overnight train heading to Hat Yai in Thailand. The journey itself was pretty unevntful as most of it was spent sleeping except for a middle of the night border crossing into Thailand. Whilst we were at Cutsoms the train decided to go and have a rest of it's own and when we returned to the platform it was nowhere to be seen. The initial panic didn't last long as everyone else was still waiting on the platform and the train soon returned back to the platform.

Hat Yai is southern Thailands commercial centre. It's a funny place, a typical border town with lots of different ethnicities there. We had decided to stay there for a couple of nights and booked into a guesthouse recommended in the Lonely Planet. Thankfully this place was better than the last place recommended by the LP and was a nice clean and comfortable base for a couple of days.

Hat Yai saw our first introduction to the wonders of  Thai food and Beer Chang. Most of our time in Hat Yai was spent in the Post Laser Disc pub. A funny establishment which must have the worlds biggest collection of Laser Disc housed on its walls. Our main reason for stopping there though was happy hour. Well I say happy hour, but it was a bit longer than that as it ran from 8am - 8pm. With Beer Chang 25baht (90c for Australian readers or 35p our UK readers) a bottle we made ourselves at home.

Just when we thought things couldn't get any better, happy hour finished and we were treated to the resident house band. All local Thai's, they belted out a collection of classic tunes including Hotel California, Simply the Best and Eye of the Tiger. It was very funny hearing these songs sung with a strong asian twang. "Relcome to de Rotel Carifornia!" There was still more to come however as Hat Yai Harry, the bands own Lady Boy was brought out to sing when a deeper voice was required.

The only other notable thing we fitted in, in Hat Yai was that Lindsey managed to get her hair cut. Jinny's salon was across the road from the Post Laser disc so she didn't have far to walk. She came out with her new asian hairstyle after giving over the precise sum of 100baht.($3.50).

Our next destination was the port town of Krabi. We were hoping to catch a train there but it wasn't possible so we booked ourselve on the 5 hour government bus journey. It was a fantastic experience that included a stop off at a road side cafe for lunch. No service centre or robbing chef prices here, just 30baht for a very enjoyable chicken and rice.

We arrived in Krabi an hour earlier than expected and went to find a guesthouse recommended in the LP. After getting a little lost we asked a gentleman stood outside a shop. What we didn't realise was that it was the sexually transmitted diseases clinic. He was very helpful though, calling the guesthouse for us before returning to tell us that it was full up. Fed up of carrying our backpacks, we went in to the nearest hotel which had rooms for 400baht a night. The hotel was a little on the old side, but we only planned on being there for a couple of days.

We managed to catch the mens australian open final on a tv in a little resteraunt, where we had a bit to eat. That evening we went to the Krabi nightmarket, which basically consists of lots of different road side foodstalls serving up various thai dishes. We were dragged in by an entertaing local who kept shouting at passers by, 'Hello, Sit Down'. It's very hard to resist the friendliness of the thai people.

The following day we had decided to go and try and find somewhere to stay in the beach resort of Ao Nang. Hiring mopeds from the local internet cafe we set of on the half an hour ride through some fantastic scenery. The only problem was that the only helmet that would fit Mark's big head looked like something out of Dads Army.

The ride took us to Gastropod Fossil and then on to Ao Nang Bay. We decided that Ao Nang Bay was the place was we wanted to stay. After being quoted over 2000baht for a fan room in some of the more swish resorts we were a little bit worried we wouldn't find anything. However, we decided to make a turn in land and found a fantastic place The Won Won Guest house. Before Lindsey had even had chance to take a look at the room, Mrs Won Won repeatedly informed her that the door would be shut at 2am! So it was not going to be any late night partying for us.

Won Won was a little bit more expensive than we had hoped to pay, but we got Air Con, Satellite TV a fridge in the room and a nice friendly couple running the place. It really was the most perfect little place.

After booking in the Won Won for the next three nights we headed back to Krabi on the mopeds. After a simple ride to Ao Nang, we somehow managed to get lost on the way back and ended up driving round Krabi Town in rush hour. It was more luck than good judgement but we eventually found somewhere we recognised.

Our last night in Krabi was spent again at the night market. Unfortuantely, "Hello sit down" was not there however we still managed to find another place serving really good food.

We headed to Ao Nang on the local bus and walked up the hill to Won Won. Once again we were informed that the doors shut at 2am and told to take our shoes off before heading upstairs to our room. After enjoying the air con we headed out for a walk round town.

On our previous moped ride to Ao Nang we had spotted Miss Ya's Thai cookery school. We decided that it would be fun to do and booked ourselves on the course for the next afternoon.

After breakfast and a lazy morning, we headed back to Won Won where we would be picked up for our cooking course. A 15 minute ride in to the hills and we had arrived at Miss Ya's. We spent a great afternoon cooking around 16 or 17 thai dishes with two other ladies. The best thing about it though was that we got to eat everything we cooked afterwards. We also got a couple of recipe books so we'll be trying out or new skills as soon as we get a chance.

The next day after a banana pancake and smoked fish for breakfast we spent the day lazing on Ao Nang beach. After a quick shower and change back at the room we headed down to Bernies Place for Happy Hour and to meet up with Russell and Ian, Mark's friends who had been in Melbourne over Christmas and New Year.

The next day we met up again with Russ and Ian and all caught a long boat to Railay Beach. It was an absolutely stunning location and we spent the day relaxing, swimming and throwing the newly purchased American Football. Upon returning to Won Won they had the Australia v England one day match on. Not wanting to suffer another England defeat we headed out only for later to find out the the Poms actually managed to win a game.

The next day we were heading to Koh Lanta by ferry. After being informed that the ferry left at 10am we sat down at a local cafe for some breakfast. About ten to ten we headed over to the ferry terminal to get on the ferry, only to be informed that the ferry actually left from a different pier. We we're then thrown in to the back of a ute and made a mad dash to just about make the ferry.

We had arrived in Koh Lanta with no accomodation, so decided to take the offer of a free lift to a nearby guest house where we could look at the rooms. It looked quite nice on the brochure, however the room we were offered overlooked, a sewerage canal.

After politely declining the offer to stay there, we then set of to find somewhere else. We ended up staying at the Lanta Long Beach resort which was perfect. The next ten days were spent relaxing by the beach, where the hardest decision was whether to go for a swim in the pool or the sea. We even managed to find ourselves a local Australian bar, where we watched Enlgnad beat the Aussies in the first one day final.

We did however manage to drag ourselves away from the beach for a day, as once again we hired mopeds. What we didn't realise was that to reach any place of interest we had to ride on dirt tracks and by the end of the day we looked like something out of the Dakar rally. It was worth it though as we got to see a nice waterfall, went to the national park and stopped at the stunning bamboo bay. We also watched the sunset from the viewing point high up in the hills which was fantastic. We made our way back to long beach via Lanta Old town, before heading back to our resort in the dark.

We were soon joined by Lisa and Marie who Ian and Russ had met earlier in their travels. However, a couple of days after their arrival we had decided to move on to Phuket, with Sally and Mark a Mancunian couple we had me in the aussie bar. We did however manage to fit in a Sunday roast with everyone the night before we left.

Arriving in Phuket was a bit of a shock to the system. After the serenity of Koh Lanta, Phuket seemd mad busy and over developed. Once again we hired motorbikes to take a tour of the island, visiting most of the areas that were hit by the Tsunami. After not really falling in love with Phuket we decided to head back to Ao Nang and the old Won Won guest house.

We were hoping to get the ferry back to Ao Nang, however it was booked up for the day we wanted to travel. We were offered the alternative of an air condition mini bus for the same price which we took. The mini bus turned up the following morning and it wasn't exactly the luxurious vechile we thought we'd be getting. I think the young guy driving it was in a bit of a rush and proceeded to drive us to Krabi like Schumacher drove a Grand Prix. Thankfully we arrived in one piece and then got the total opposite as Driving Miss Daisy who drove us to Won Won took nearly an hour to drive the few kilometers.

It was valentines day and being the old romantic, Mark managed to pick up a rose from a local stall for Lindsey. We also booked on a snorkelling trip to Phi Phi islands for the next day. Valentines Dinner was spent at the local food court, with a delicious Thai meal and a couple of Beer Changs.

The snorkeling trip the next day is probably the highlight of the trip so far. First stop was Bamboo Island, where we spent a good hour snorkelling. Seeing loads of wonderful sea life and coral. Next stop was for a bit of open water snorkelling. Lindsey became good samaritan offering to hold Jan's hand, a lady from Sydney who wasn't too confident in the water. They had a great time though and even managed to see a couple of  Nemos. After this we headed to Maya bay which was where The Beach was filmed. After that we headed to Phi Phi for lunch. After lunch our final stop was Monkey Bay, where we managed to do some more snorkelling, including this time going under a low hanging cliff edge where the coral was fantastic.

The next day we said good bye to Won Won and flew with Asia Air to Bangkok. We'd booked ourselves a hostel away from the Koh San Road and caught the airport express bus there. The hostel was clean and comfortable with air con and satellite tv. That night we took a walk around the area our hostel was in and ended eating in what can only be described as someones garage. It was yummy food and we would be disappointed when we went back a couple of days later to find it closed.

Saturday we were planning on visiting some of Bangkoks many temples. After visintg the Golden Mountian we were heading to the next stop when a friendly local informed us that it was Chinese New Year and a government holiday. As such, tuk-tuks were only charging 20baht. We then found ourselves a tuk tuk driver who drove us around for the next hour or so as we visited numerous temples including the Lucky Buddha (where we drank supposedly holy water) and the 45meter high golden buddha. After being templed out, we headed back to the hostel for a quick shower and change before heading back to china town for the new year celebrations.

Here's where things started to go pear shaped. After visting the Golden Buddha, we thought we'd got lucky and managed to find ourselves a couple of seats in a temporary stand that had been set up in front of a stage for what we thought would be the new year celebrations at Midnight. After sitting there for a couple of hours we decided to give up waiting and as we were walking back to the train station a friendly local informed us that it was just the drees rehersal!! Oh I wish we understood what they were saying.

The next day we caught the MRT to the Chatchupak Weekend market. It was like a bigger more crazy version of Melbourne's vic market, however most of the stuff being sold was pretty crap, so we headed back without making any purchases. After being informed that last night was a dress rehersal for todays festivities we headed back to China Town hoping to catch some of the celebrations. Once again we would be disappointed as we waited for another couple of hours hoping to see a parade and all we got was a visit by the queen. All Lindsey wanted to see was the dragon!! No dragon, no street parade, just two hours wait in 35 degree heat for their beloved Queen. It was very official, and good to see, but all in Thai so couldn't understand what was going on. We did understand though that there was to be no photos taken of the queen, and no folding of arms, they had to be by your side whilst in front of the queen. Our map reading skills were again put to the test here, but thankfully it says in the LP that if you don't get lost in Bangkok you aren't normal. Bangkok was a fantastic city, which we both really enjoyed, and look forward to visiting again.

Next stop Chiang Mai and again back on our favourite form of transport the overnight train.
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