I’m sat on the top bunk of the overnight train again, this time on the way back to Bangkok to look for work, an apartment and some daylight sightseeing. I do like these Thai trains, excellent place to write a blog and every bit as much fun as the way out here- I, like all small boys, said I wanted to be an engine driver. The thing is I don’t think I ever grew out of it! Perhaps, looking at the news from London, I should re-train (sic) as a tube driver. The 4 hour (supposed) wait for a train in Surat Thani- which turned into more than 5 hours, added to the fact that I had to book 3 days early to get on it or, like Fraude, a Dutch guy I met who didn’t book early, have to wait an extra 4 hours if I hadn’t, might perhaps give whinging London tube travellers pause to wonder why they complain about the rather good service there. The train I am on is the 21.36, which is, I think, a kind of joke in Thai- or maybe it’s just quicker putting that on the timetable than; ‘the train that may arrive any time between half past 8 and half past ten and leave somewhere between 2 minutes and 3 hours thereafter’.
The last two weeks haven't exactly flown by, on Koh Phangan. The first one was a slow, empty week of sightseeing and the second one a wet, exciting one. Firstly, the island is really beautiful and even though it's crammed to busting round the beaches with hotels and touristy stuff, there's plenty of unspoilt land and virtual rainforest left.
I got to whizz around on a hired scooter and can see why it is such a tourist attraction for couples, groups and sun-worshippers when the weather is good. But at low season it was not the best place to be on my own for the first week. There's a few tourists moving through but none staying for more than a couple of days, wanting to cram in Phuket, Krabbi, Kohs Samui, Phangan and Tao and then head up-country or go to Pattaya. They all have their own agendas and are not all that sociable. Having said that, when I dispensed with the motorbike and wandered around trying a few places I did meet some excellent people and spent some good days with them, chatting, playing pool, eating and partying. The best days were spent in the company of Sid, Noi, Kob, Pim and Apple, who were truly lovely.
They made my birthday really special and took me to places the locals go to have fun, which really was worth it, I'm sorry I only met them in the second week but I am equally glad I got to spend a few days with them. If you happen along there, look for the apache bar at Haad Yao bungalows. The weather has been a mixed bag- when it was hot, it was very hot, and when it rained it absolutely flooded down. I went over to Haad Rin, the other end of the island in brilliant sunshine and got caught in a six hour monsoon rainstorm. After the first couple of hours sheltering in a restaurant watching family guy re-runs in English I decided it wasn’t going to stop and I’d better just suck it up. So I rode the 25 km with stinging rain bruising my face, in a totally ineffectual rain-cape, through floods that were so deep they came over the footboards and covered my shoes- I kept thinking the engine, which was almost totally submerged, would die and leave me pushing the bike home, but I made it (big up the little Honda, you did me proud) albeit wetter than I have ever got before whilst wearing clothes. Wrinkly fingers and toes and even the money in my wallet, in a pocket under the rain-cape, was sodden. I thoroughly enjoyed that day!
The hotel was ok, boring and mostly empty, except for a day either side of full moon, when you couldn’t get served in the restaurant, it was so busy. It was that though that led me to wander around looking for alternatives and I’m very glad I did, as I tried a few before meeting Sid, a ten minute walk along the road at Haad Yao bungalows. I was made very welcome the first time I went there and so returned, and then we played pool, cards, or just talked.
The place is run by Sid with the help of Noi and Kob, and you couldn’t wish to meet nicer people. So I spent the last four days visiting them, going with them to local markets, barbecues and on Friday, the half-moon party.
I was determined to do something for my birthday rather than sit in the hotel. So Noi, Kob, Pim and I went to Half moon,
which was inestimably better than full moon,
(Full moon in November is Loi Krathong, where you lauch all the bad bits of your life out onto water to sail away and leave you with a new start)
(Though I met some nice people there too, Vitor and his friends, from Sao Paulo)
It was better probably due to the fact that I had 3 lovely ladies with me who were equally determined to make it a good birthday for me. We left the party to go and see Noi’s son’s band play at a local bar and were made very welcome there, then returned to half moon to dance until 5. As the others had to be up for work at 7 I thought they really made an effort! The following day we went to Thong Sala, with Apple, another friend, to a barbecue restaurant, which is like a cross between a wok and a raclette and looks a bit like a giant, charcoal powered lemon juicer. The rim you fill with water, coconut milk, spices and the odd prawn, bit of squid, noodles, vegetables or whatever. The cone you fry things on. An excellent meal, both Noi and Kob are excellent cooks. Afterwards we went back to Mango, the bar Noi’s son plays at for another excellent evening.
Did the holiday relax me? I definitely needed a break after my course and I thought about this very question as I sat coming home at two in the morning, pillion on a scooter driven by someone I’d just shared half a bottle of whisky with, knowing my share had been maybe 3 shots, shorts, vest top, no crash helmet and smiling happily without a care. I think the answer was obvious.
Now back to job-hunting etc. If I stay in Bangkok I now have a reason to re-visit Koh Phangan and would gladly do so, it’s not a great place to be on your own, but it’s amazing if you’re with friends.
I’m booked into a hotel close to the Taksin river and looking forward to meeting up with the friends I made in Bkk, So I plan to do some boating and proper sight-seeing while I look for a job, flood situation allowing.