Christmas in Thailand: Lao Liang & Bangkok
Trip Start Feb 04, 2008
36Trip End Feb 03, 2009
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After a night in Bangkok we headed to the airport to meet Louise and quickly found that Thailand can also be like all other SE Asian countries. Clearly told that there was only one arrival gate we waited patiently for an hour (breaking my flip flop in the process - not sure how whilst just standing around?!) before Louise appeared from a completely different direction looking flustered wondering where the hell we had been. Obviously when the information booth lady said there was just one arrival gate we were clearly supposed to understand that one means three........and we had naturally picked the wrong one
We quickly settled into our seat/beds and settled even quicker into the restaurant/bar carriage. Nestled under a random cut out of Wayne Rooney we set about having a drink and a catch up whilst the train pulled out of Bangkok just as the sun was going down. To be able to have the windows on the carriage fully down whilst having a beer as the scenery rolls by and the sun sets is a great way to travel and maybe something the Health & Safety Executive at home need to revisit on the Midland Mainline (weather permitting). After being introduced to local brandy by a Russian (?!), hanging out of the doors as the train pulls away from stations (Hollywood film esque) and catching up on life at home from Louise, it was time to end our most bizarre train experience and hit the hay.
We arrived in Trang fairly fresh and quickly booked the ferry to Koh Lao Liang which was to be home for the next 5 days. After speaking to fellow travelers we were slightly apprehensive about finding our perfect island due to the level of tourism in southern Thailand, however the hours spent online researching it certainly paid off. Our choice started to make even more sense when we noticed all the Mother Earth wannabies, aged Hulk Hogan look-alikes and 60 year olds in Singha beer vests going to the other, more popular islands
One hour offshore it consists of one huge limestone rock jutting out of the ocean, leaving the island inaccessible from all sides except for one 200m long beach on the other side hidden away. To get from the ferry (which cannot get to the island), a longtail boat takes you around the island to the beach where you disembark by jumping off into the water trying to look as cool as possible as you stagger onto the beach. Then the silence hits you. The beach is THE only liveable part of the island (unless you're a rock climber), there are no paths, roads or indeed permanent buildings. The only structures on the island were made of bamboo and consisted of a roofed area that was the restaurant, an amenity block (cold showers & practically outside), a very small bar and two small structures used to hang hammocks! The only accommodation was in tents - albeit luxury ones (think Eurocamp tents in France) and the only way on or off the island was via a lontail from the beach. The islands limits numbers to 40 at any one time and therefore it is perhaps as close to being 'shipwrecked' as is possible in this part of the world. It was bliss and the perfect way to spend Christmas. After sitting Sarah down and pursuading her there was nowhere to use her Boots Advantage card on the island we grabbed some sea kayaks and snorkels and head off to explore, and herein lies the real beauty of the island. The only exploring lies on the water and it is small enough to kayak around in 20mins, there are ropes hanging down from the cliffs where you can tie up the kayak and dive off to go snorkeling (superb snorkeling), you can rock climb, eat, drink, read, sleep and do absolutely nothing else...even if you wanted to. Christmas day was spent kayaking and snorkeling in the morning, reading and drinking in the afternoon, eating seafood for dinner and swinging in a hammock drinking beer with a cigar into the early hours with some people we had met
After 5 days as Robinson Crusoe we were initially going to visit some waterfalls on the mainland, however as it is the dry season they were apparently just a trickle so we headed back to Bangkok to do the city in detail and see in the New Year.
The girls intended to 'shop until they dropped' ( I dropped at the thought of it) but thankfully they were fairly restrained and after a day picking up various items for Lou we had a very interesting tour of Jim Thompson's house. Sounds random I know, however if you do a google search and read about this character it will start to make sense - this is not the time or the place for a history lesson. It was then time to see in the New Year Bangkok style. Firstly we went for a lovely meal and a few drinks before heading to Th Khao San Rd (predictable I know but great fun and cheap!) for more drinks and the midnight countdown. It was a great night (usually New Year doesn't really bother us) which ended at 7am playing snooker in a shed by the side of the road with some Thai's, singing Karaoke in between shots.....very bizarre
Without any forethought we had booked onto a cooking course the following/same day and so nursing major hangovers the three of us set about creating Thai curry, a spicy salad, Pad Thai and a spicy coconut soup. Unintentionally we found a great cure for a hangover (Thai food) and had great fun in preparing it. Naturally my curry was by far the best dish with Sarah and Louise coming a close joint second.
We had one day of recovery left before Louise flew home to reality (new job - congratulations - and a new house), which we spent wandering around a huge park taking in giant lizards and turtles. A very pleasurable end to a great couple of weeks.
It was then time to say goodbye to Louise and head off ourselves to get another overnight train up to the Laos border with a view to crossing into Laos the following day.......
I hope this chapter finds you all well and you had a great festive period. I am guessing that the January blues have set in for many of you and you are currently taking part in New Year resolutions that will last approximately 2 weeks (or possibly until next pay day for those of you with a little more willpower!). I have none and therefore I can't disappoint myself. Bye for now and we will be in touch in a few weeks...............