A Travellerspoint blog

Surprise!

I said I'd explain and fill in the missing bits soon, well here they are.
I knew I'd not be able to do anything for a few weeks and any job would now be starting in the new year. So I had a choice; to stay in Bkk (where the new year would have definitely been a good sight, they make a lot of it and the preparations are already well in place) or wait out the time somewhere else. As Rachel has put lots of things on facebook about me not being there for Christmas, I thought I'd do something about it.
I flew back to London on Monday night, or Tuesday morning Bkk time, making it an incredibly long day and saw Sarah and David. Then, on Tuesday afternoon I went out to Essex and turned up on Rachel's doorstep. As a surprise it went very well. There were a few tears and a lot of smiles, well worth a twelve and a half hour flight and a 31 hour day- i'm still not sure about the 30 degree drop in temperature!
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I'll be back in London for about a month and I'll try to run around and see family and as many people as I can while I'm here. Then it's back to travelling and hopefully a job in the new year.

Posted by chaosity 03:16 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

one, two, skip a few...

There are two entries to go here, and I've decided to put them in the wrong order, for a very good reason that I'm not going to mention- just yet.
This will be my last day in Bangkok.
So the blog sub-title should really be ... Spain, Thailand and then- South Korea.
The Job scene is still dead here, so with a growing need to be doing something other than spend money as a tourist, I've decided to go where there is work on offer. At the moment it looks like South Korea is the best option. So I'm sorting myself out to go there.
Bangkok has been good fun and very educational and I'm sad to leave when I've just about mastered the days of the week, speaking to taxi drivers and counting well enough to be able to haggle in Thai. I've met some brilliant people and had a lot of fun, even though the job-hunting has been frustrating.
I came upon the idea of Korea by broadening my job search and googling the places where there is work, having never in my life thought once, let alone twice about wanting to go there, I really like the look of the place. In any case, the realisation that I wanted to go and work there was a big one- in the form of the 'I'm not thinking of going back to England after a few months any more' sort.
I looked out from my balcony this evening and thought back to the rant I had in an early blog. Right now I don't want a permanent job with lots of security, just a chance to work in a few different places and see a bit of the world. Believe me, that is a big leap forward. I know Korea will be hard work, they're very demanding, but it should also be a lot of fun. I suppose that Thailand has been most educational for me in putting myself back at the centre of my own life, doing things for me, not as part of an intricate web of existence. I had got so used to playing my part in so many people's stories, I knew I needed to re-focus and make it about me, not my responsibilities or other people. I've been told that so many times- just didn't think it was likely to happen. Well I finally realised that's exactly what I'm doing, and it brought a big smile to my face. I'm really looking forward to doing something, just because I want to, for the first time in years.
Meanwhile, Christmas isn't celebrated here, but Christmas shopping is. The Thais put England to shame with their decorations for someone else's festival!
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The enormous shopping centres are filled with enormous christmas trees and decorations, the hotels are bedecked with ribbons and every sound system plays corny christmas songs, either western originals or Thai vocal covers! Even the barbers has decorations up all over the place.
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Thais love bright, shiny, light-up decorations and spare no expense.
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Another exhibit snapped whilst touristing around was an exhibition of guerilla knitting, notably vehicular and Volkswagen themed.
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Ok, so that one's a Vespa.
It's been nice to have company too, in the last entry I told you that Ni was off to Singapore, well that lasted all of three days before she decided she didn't like it and came back to keep me company. I said goodbye to her today, which was sad but you never know, she may come and visit me in Korea- I've already had 3 people ask if they can!
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The next entry, which has news that should really come before this one, will happen within a week when I promise to explain why I left out so much important stuff. In the meantime, back to the decorations.
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Posted by chaosity 11:59 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Meanwhile in Bangkok


View Back to Bagkok on chaosity's travel map.

I spent a lot of the last week worrying about getting an apartment for the next month or so, longer if I do find a job (next weeks worry) and browsed the internet, phoned lots of places and spent two days walking round areas of Bangkok asking prices and availability in every block. They were frustrating and by the end of tuesday I was fed up and had given up hope of getting anything for about 5,000 baht, which would normally be not too hard. Because of the floods and because I cannot commit to longer until I know I have a job and where I might be working, my projected budget had risen, I thought I probably wouldn't find anything half decent for less than 15,000 baht until february, when everybody thinks the floods will have disappeared and the short-term market opens up again.
At the end of this frustrating, tiring time I was ready to go to bed early and be miserable. But decided, with some advice too (thanks Sarah), to go out and have a drink. In the bar I met Ni.
Ni, my tour guide

Ni, my tour guide


She has fairly good english and wanted to chat. She certainly brightened up my evening and agreed to take me sightseeing round Bangkok. She also told me she had only ever played pool twice and asked if I wanted to play. I started out casually expecting to be playing down to her- but she was a real hustler- maybe she meant she had only ever played twice... a day for at least seven previous lifetimes :)
Very competitive tour guide

Very competitive tour guide


Bangkok has a lot of shopping centres, not really worth photographing but we had some good food at one of them and saw a movie. Then we went to the park nearest to both our places, Lumphini. A nice park in the middle of Sathorn
Welcome to Lumphini park

Welcome to Lumphini park

You didn't think I'd let you photograph the park without me in it did you?

You didn't think I'd let you photograph the park without me in it did you?


There are even bushes here <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

There are even bushes here :)

Just a Ni-ce picture

Just a Ni-ce picture


My shiny Thai silk shirt

My shiny Thai silk shirt


with a boating lake full of catfish, which come up to the surface if you buy a bag of fish food- and obviously plenty of people do, some of them are massive!
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Lumphini park boating lake 1

Lumphini park boating lake 2

Lumphini park boating lake 2

Lumphini park boating lake 3

Lumphini park boating lake 3

Lumphini park boating lake 4

Lumphini park boating lake 4

Feeding the catfish

Feeding the catfish

more catfish

more catfish


There are also public exercise classes in the park, run after work, with an instructor on a stage, a hundred or so people turn up to do dancercise, a nice sort of community activity, was great fun.
Exercise class in the park

Exercise class in the park


The evening saw me soloing with a group singing English songs, which I just happened to know all the words to. Once the singer saw that he kept coming off stage and thrusting the microphone at me. It was a lot of fun and they didn't seem to mind my singing. Note to self; must remember most Thais are either 1) tone deaf, or 2) too polite to complain.
Very cute tour guide

Very cute tour guide


Everybody wants to make money here so when a photographer came up to take our photo I thought I'd get in on the action, after all, I had a better camera. He didn't pay me though, must be doing something wrong.
The man who wanted to charge me for taking my photo but wouldn't pay when I took his!

The man who wanted to charge me for taking my photo but wouldn't pay when I took his!


In revenge for my pool defeat we went bowling.
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She beat me at that too. But only because she got the mixed up and I scored my only strike of the game... on her second shot. So I'm calling that a draw.
As it happens Ni is on holiday in Singapore from the weekend and needed someone to look after her apartment for a month... for 5,000 baht.
So the moral of this particular story is; if you need an apartment, don't trudge the streets getting frustrated, go to a bar, meet a nice girl and enjoy yourself for three days, then a nice cheap, short term apartment will fall in your lap!
So, now how do I go about finding a job next week then?

Posted by chaosity 08:53 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Koh Phangan and back again


View Koh Phangan on chaosity's travel map.

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
My Birthday
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,
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which was inestimably better than full moon,
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(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)
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(Though I met some nice people there too, Vitor and his friends, from Sao Paulo)
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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.
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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.
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Posted by chaosity 21:26 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

The oriental express

I’ve been in Thailand exactly a month. This is written as I sit on my upper-bunk, on a train to Surat Thani, but more of that later, because this is where the story really starts…
I started my CELTA course the day after I arrived in Bangkok, jet-lagged and tired, and finished yesterday. The jet-lag went away after about 5 days but I still wake up at three every morning and with the intensive nature of the course, the tiredness has remained. It wasn’t necessarily the best time to visit Bangkok, seeing as large parts of it are underwater. But my apartment block, and the daily skytrain journey to Saladaeng were mostly unaffected, apart from the ever-growing barricades of sandbags in the doorways. As I left my apartment this morning, there were two-foot high boards masticked across the lift doors on the ground floor, as well as the sandbags across the entrances, a new earthwork barricade across the entry roads and the canal-banks were lined with a three foot barricade all through the complex. I was told the water was now ‘just around the corner’.
I booked the overnight sleeper to take me to Koh Phangan, which was supposed to leave at 3.10 this afternoon. Because of the flooding, several stations are underwater so I had to get a rail-replacement bus for three hours of slow, grinding, traffic to start the journey at a suburban station. When we finally arrived, the train sat for another two hours before starting it’s journey. But it’s a cool train. I think we should arrive at Surat Thani at about 9 O clock in the morning, so I’ll try and get some pictures to show you what I mean.
Firstly, despite being a mainline service, it’s narrow-gauge. The rails are one metre apart, 39 inches compared to the sixty seven and a half of the British ones, and the second class sleeping is arranged into cabins of forty bunks.
When you get on, there are wide seats, about a metre across, with the whole carriage divided into back to back booths on each side. There’s a table, and a two course meal with a beer is served to you at a time of your choice. Then the table is taken away, and the seats folded down to make one bunk. Above it, another bunk is swung down from the top of the carriage-side. An attendant does this, and makes up the bed. He clips on a curtain to pull across the bunk, unrolls the mattress and makes up the bed with sheet, pillow and case. It’s all a bit 1930’s. As well as that, the inevitable chain of vendors selling drinks, food and snacks snake past every few minutes. You can stand in the space between two carriages, open the external door and have a cigarette, if you fall out, I guess it’s your look out. The toilet has an open hole to the track below and at about sixty miles an hour, you can pee for half a mile or so! Although it’s only ten o clock, most of the bunks have been pulled down and occupied for the last two hours. I’m the only one with the curtain still open, and I’m definitely going to explore some more before I think about sleeping.

By the time I return to Bangkok, I hope, the flooding will have passed. In all they estimated that four hundred billion cubic metres of water would have to pass through the city to get to the gulf, and it’s so low-lying that even when released, there’s not a lot of gravity to make it want to hurry. I have seen a little of the city, but not many of the tourist attractions. My friend Nok has promised to show me round when I get back. Last night, as a bit of a celebration, Dustin, Jay, Nok and I went on a bit of a photoshoot round Bangkok, taking in the sky-bar, an open-air, stylishly modern bar with live music and spectacular views down over the city. A little tour round in the amazingly cheap taxis and we took in some monuments as well. A very pleasant evening to end the course with.
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Posted by chaosity 16:25 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

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