Koh Phangan – day 376

I feel that today’s blog should begin with a lighthearted poem. Not much else happened and it is a bit of a filler, but once you read it, I’m hoping it will lift your spirits. 

‘Come to the beach

Where the sea is blue 

And little white waves 

Come running at you. 
A wave comes splashing 

Over your toes. 

You just stand still

And away it goes. 
We’ll build a castle

Down by the sea

And look for shells

If you’ll come with me.’
Fruit, muesli, yoghurt and honey is calling to our fruit & veg deprived bodies and it’s filling us up happily until lunch. But, getting up at a leisurely hour, sitting on our ass and flicking through a mag, swiping candies on an iPad, reading posts and news articles on social media and such… isn’t very taxing. So we easily arrive at lunchtime for Pad Thai noodles. 

So, today is the day of the Full Moon party. My spidey senses think the full moon was actually the night before, but yesterday was a holy Buddhist day and the sale of alcohol was forbidden in shops. Maybe it was respectfully moved to the next night. Thus, with respect in mind, the full moon party itself was cancelled. The death of the Thai king, His Highness Bhumibol Adulyadej, has meant the country is in mourning. All organised festivities have been cancelled, with concerts organising refunds, bars and business shutting up shop for the foreseeable future, etc. There is a 100 day of mourning period and everyone needs to be on their best behaviour – articles even cite a local being forced to their knees to show respect to the king’s portrait. Hemming and hawing about whether or not to join the party has been decided for us. We don’t want to be present at an event (which everyone seems to be getting ready to go to), out of respect for the Thai people and when there’s a chance of people getting arrested. Everything we had read on the internet has said that the full moon party had been cancelled but we’d overheard several tourists stating they were going to ‘go there anyway and get something started’… Slightly disappointed by the lack of cultural insensitivity displayed by some people. But, we have unfortunately met our fair share of ‘tourists’ like this during our travels. 

Showing our respect, avoiding the potentially difficult situation, we stayed at the resort. We were rewarded/vindicated when the heavens opened for several hours, downpours of torrential rain that was deafening and flattened the footprints in the sand. Knowing that the staff weren’t overloaded with food orders and run off their feet, we ordered chilli cheese fries and tacos. 

We had seen them being prepared several times in the kitchen and we envied the platters being served to others. Tonight we feasted and it was fantastic. Waddling back to our hut, we had had a perfect day. 

Monday 17th October 2016

Koh Phangan – day 375

The mattress is amazing. I know this is a trivial matter – who cares about a mattress. But, weeks and months of soft beds, hard beds, beds that envelope you, single beds, mosquito infested rooms, night buses, etc. only to have a double bed that has a nice soft top layer to it, but support for your back… bliss! A semi decent shower, a scrumptious breakfast of muesli, fruit, yoghurt and honey (pushing the boat out) and we were ready for the day. To do, pause for dramatic effect, diddly squat. Exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Hours of reading books, filling in magazine puzzles, watching tv episodes, interspersed with fried rice, shakes, and the pleasure of an ocean backdrop. It was time to unwind and our bodies didn’t really know if it could handle it. I banged out another job application in vain attempts of being productive and hopeful. Katherine caught up on some WordPress blogs.We went for a stroll out to the sandbar in front of our shore. It was relaxing walking out in the shallows, seeing baby crabs wiggle their calcareous little bottoms into the sand and worms retracting from the shadow we cast over them. The umbrellas on the sandbar were a little out of place. Nobody had used them all day, but perhaps it’s the impending bad weather and not so pristine water conditions that are keeping folks away. I can imagine deck chairs arrayed in the high season and a drinks menu being brought out several times a day. For the present, it was nothing how it could look, but we have good imaginations. The same hotel next door that provides the umbrellas on the sandbar are the same same ones that rake the sand and leave the detritus in front of our hut and plays films on the outdoor screen. Not to worry, we enjoyed the flame poles they stuck in the shallows and the giant, illuminated ‘love’ sign on wooden platforms. It’s a nice feature and probably for the benefit of the honeymoon suite right next to us. So, we’re doing pretty good with cheaper accommodation (presumably), fresher food (we can see it cooked from scratch) and the same views (albeit ours has a bit more rubbish). Not bad work on Katherine’s part to find us this pad. Score!Sunday 16th October 2016

Travelling & Koh Phangan – day 374

No great bus journey is complete without a conductor shouting at you at 1am to get off the bus. The restaurant that we had conveniently stopped in front of, along with 5 other buses, had a selection of stale and rancid curries on offer. However, this worked to their advantage, with a storming trade in Pringles. It was a unique stop, in that they offered to charge your phone for 20baht. Must be a desperate situation to need to charge a phone for 30minutes before being whisked off again. Katherine was hitting it off with the 2x Belgian girls. A mutual dislike of the NYC girl the night before and everyone smoking in our vicinity when we had found a quiet spot, meant for an talkative 40mins before being allowed back on the bus. 

A bit of restless sleep and we were shouted off the bus again at 6am – this time in the bus companies own personal depot, complete with toilets they charge for and a shop that sold sandwiches, more Pringles and cigarettes. Of course, the mark up was worthy of a Sheikh. A further hour sat on our ass, twiddling our thumbs and we were ferried back in the bus with other arrivals to go to the Donasak ferry terminal. This terminal was proper nice, i.e. clean, free toilet, comfortable seating, glorious views and food that was affordable. We got chatting with Claire and Caroline again and sat together for the ferry to the island. A rather leisurely (and not so painful) three hours later we only briefly stopped at Koh Samui before arriving at Koh Phangan. Oh the joys of travelling. Almost 18hours to get from A to B. The taxi tuktuk drivers charged us 100baht each for the privilege of 6.7km and we arrived at our charming little resort. Pad Thai noodles with the waves crashing on the beach. 

Our beach is not the picture perfect postcard setting that one might expect. It has seaweed, rubbish and the low tide reveals silty areas with coral fragments. But, the herons munch on the sand fleas, crabs hide in our stretch of vegetation between neighbouring resorts and the view is still pretty awesome and the sound still magical. A delicious dinner later that evening, a few episodes of tv and the day ended pretty damn well. Saturday 15th October 2016

Bangkok & travelling – day 373

Sniffing all night, constant wriggling and when she did get some sleep I’m sure it was with bad dreams – fitful and restless. Then there was the beeping: a car honking away from someone who had clearly blocked in him/her and they were pissed. So it continued for at least 15mins. There was always the hope of falling back to sleep and getting an hour rest, but no, the brain had clearly written off any decent rest for the night. A cruel joke and I’m now pretty tired writing today’s blog. 
A few hours adding photos to blog, a leisurely shower and we finally descended to reception to continue work on the laptop and iPad. I found a nice vacancy for January 2017, so even though the deadline isn’t for another fortnight, it was best to plough through it and that way have the opportunity to apply for something else at another time. Katherine went and got us lunch. A nice treat of a toastie sandwich AND a pot of noodles. It kept me going for the afternoon and even when I wanted to throw the little netbooks across the room – the little blue circle constantly spinning, but not loading my gmail to send the application. I think the combination of guests watching Power Rangers and the staff watching a live stream of events was crippling the poor wifi. I do not for one second begrudge the staff this streaming – watching events and mourners after the loss of their king. Suspicions the night before were confirmed and the sadness was felt in the city. 

I grabbed us a take away dinner from our restaurant. The streets were relatively quiet, but traffic was already a nightmare. I think businesses are closing early and everyone is off to pay their respect to the royal family. 2x sets of red curry later and we hailed a taxi to get us to the station. Leaving earlier than necessary for precaution, we were there with almost an hour before our bus should arrive. The railway station seems more organised than we remembered it from 3 years ago and the air conditioning was blissful. Sticking our heads outside before 18:50 at the rendez-vous, we waited another 40minutes before a rep appeared to tell us the bus was severely delayed in the traffic. Go back inside and enjoy the cool air. I love this rep. 
We noticed that somewhere between 70 – 90% of the Thai nationalities were wearing black. Staying out of the way in the main hall we watched the throng of tourists flit about with the stickers we had been tagged with. Now on a bus at 21:10, Katherine has had her toes rolled over, an elbow to the tummy and a reclining chair bang her knees… all from the same obnoxious girl from NYC. My ears are bleeding from the mixtures of loud laughter, incessant coughing, constant chatter and the rattle of the overhead luggage compartment. I did say I was tired, I may just kill someone during the night – I have been watching a few episodes of Dexter, I’ll only take out the ones interrupting my serenity and calm. 😜 Enough petty talk and jest, I’m going to watch something on the iPad and hopefully get some sleep. 

Friday 14th October 2016

Travelling – day 372

We’re notorious for getting up early on a day of travelling. Nervous of sleeping in and missing a bus/train/ferry/flight we prefer to be up and chatting or surfing Facebook than stressing about packing and running late. But, after a year of travelling, we should give ourselves a bit more credit. Washed, dressed and packed within the hour, we hit the street at 7bells to look for breakfast. We say look loosely, cause we knew we were going to make a beeline directly across the road to the bakery. Some pastries, donuts and cakes for the day (not just brekkie) and a wander through the market to look for loo roll (just in case) we were back in the room with plenty of time to kick back, relax and wait for the bus. The mini van turned up just as we were leaving the hotel lobby. Perfect timing! We were at the ticket office only a few minutes later to transfer to another bus. Well, they called it a bus because they fit 5 foreign adults in to the vehicle, but it was a small jeep. Katherine luckily had the front seat – advantages of being polite to the ticket office staff – and 4 of us got ‘familiar’ in the beak seat. The 40mins, typical Cambodian time, took 1hr20 to arrive at Sisophon. Half way to Siem Reap in a fraction of the time as he drove like a lunatic, we were now only 57km from Poipet. But, we had to wait for the main bus to arrive first. Almost an hour later we jumped on the bus, nestled our ass in the air-conditioned seats and chugged along to the border. We got through passport control and immigration without a hitch, but we did sigh a lot at the people taking photos and videos in areas where it said not to, and people managing to get to the front of the queue after 45mins waiting, to then stand aside and fill in their immigration form that they were presented before entering the building. WTF!!??

A small bit of a wait in the car park for everyone to get back on the bus, we had now safely traversed the notorious Poipet border crossing twice without hassle. A weird moment when military got on the bus and demanded to see passports was about the only bit of drama before we stopped at a nice garage with a 7 Eleven, shops, restaurants and sparkly clean bathrooms. Oh to be back in Thailand. We got off at the railway station, a more convenient stop than Khao San Rd where we were destined. As such, we built up an appetite by walking to our hostel. Dumped the bags and enjoyed noodles, curry and salad at our usual restaurant. We tried to watch a bit of telly, but every channel was showing the same piece on the Thai King. An unusual thing to do on tv, we were unable to check what that meant with the poor wifi in the room so we turned off the lights and passed out. Thursday 13th October 2016

Travelling – day 348

Neither of us slept very well. I think we were both anxious about the upcoming border crossing. We had booked to leave at 8am from the nearby Mo Chit bus terminal to the border market town, Rong Kluea, in Sa Kaeo just on the Thai-Cambodian border. We got up early enough to take our time getting ready and having breakfast. Leaving the hotel, we made our way to the local bus stop and caught the 77 bus to the station as neither of us wanted to spend the entire day sitting on a bus having been all hot and sweaty. The bus was easy and, before we realised it, we were at the bus terminal. Jayne picked up some custard buns as a snack before we found our bus. The bus driver was a brilliantly funny guy, having a joke with the cleaner by throwing rubbish on the floor every time she swept it. Jumping on the bus, it was an easy drive along the road. The bus wasn’t too busy so the air conditioning worked perfectly as we passed the time with monopoly and watching TV shows. A petrol stop after about 3 hours meant we got a chance to use the toilet and treated ourselves to a fizzy drink and a chocolate bar. Back on the bus we carried on passing the time with ‘Game of Thrones’ as the bus got busier and busier, meaning that the air conditioning becomes less and less effective. Also, as we got closer to the border, more people got on the bus and with each new passenger we were worried that they might be one of the aggressive visa pushers that kept getting mentioned on the Internet forums. Fortunately, we arrived at the border market with no problems. As soon as the bus had stopped, the luggage compartment door was pulled open and a handful of men stood close by. As Jayne looked after the two smaller bags, I grabbed our big bag and put it on. One man asked if we needed passport photos and when we said ‘no’, we had no more hassle. Walked through the Thai border section to get ‘stamped out’ with a total of 3 people in front of us. Took about 5 minutes maximum to officially leave Thailand before taking the path to pass by the casinos in ‘no mans land’. Arriving in Cambodia, we had to cross the road to go to the ‘visa on arrival’ office. Filling in the forms, we were the only tourists in the room with a dozen Cambodian officers. As we went up to pay for our visa, there was a clear printed sign stating ‘$30’. So when one officer showed us a scrappy piece of paper with ‘$30 + 100 Baht’ scrawled across it, I questioned it. He only insisted once more to pay the additional 100 baht before taking our $60 dollars for 2 visas. I asked if I could use the toilet, at which point he told me ‘no water’. I’m guessing that, had we paid the 100 Baht, there would have been water in the toilet!! Got the visas in our passport within minutes and we walked towards the immigration point to get ‘stamped in’ to Cambodia. Despite all the experiences that other people have had with this border, we didn’t have the same issues. Even the guard that tried to get the extra 100 Baht each out of us didn’t try too hard! We didn’t get on the ‘free’ shuttle bus as, after nearly a year of travelling, we know that nothing is really free and opted to walk the one kilometre to the bus station instead. Tried every ATM we came across but none of them accepted our card – Jayne thinks it might be a way of getting tourists to exchange money at one of the hundreds of exchange shops in the town. Fortunately, we had extra US dollars with us so we were able to pay for our mini bus ticket to Siem Reap. 

Despite it only being a three hour journey, we had the obligatory ‘rest stop’ at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere with inflated prices. Whilst the other passengers ate some food (and paid for the drivers dinner) we found a quiet spot to sit down and wait until the bus left. The view was beautiful and there was a kid playing football (who didn’t want us to join in…). Back on the bus, we arrived at Siem Reap and, deciding to stretch our legs, walked the 4 kilometres to our hotel through the main streets in the town. Checking in, we headed to the nearest (and only) restaurant open and order dinner. One of the starters was fried tarantula, which Jayne wanted to try…Having changed her mind, she ordered beef with red ant instead. A nice meal, even if it was a little bit odd! Jayne had to pick through her meal to find the edible parts as it seemed that they had simply cooked the entire branch covered with ants!! I went for a less adventurous duck breast soup (which was amazing!). Walked the 50 metres back to our hotel and headed straight to bed, looking forward to a decent nights sleep for the first time in a couple of days.

Monday 19th September 2016

Travelling – day 347

An early start as we wanted to get an early bus to Bangkok, knowing full well that it could take forever to travel the 445km. An easy walk to the bus station with the usual TukTuk drivers asking us if we wanted to go to the historical park. I feel that the big rucksacks and walking towards the bus station might have been a give away that we didn’t really want to go to the historical site!! Arriving at the bus station, we waited by bay 2 for our bus to arrive. Stood up with everyone else (except 2 tourists) as they played the Kings anthem before boarding the bus. Slightly nicer than the one we caught the other day, we settled into our seats and played a game of monopoly before watching a couple of episodes of Games of Thrones. Stopped after about 4 hours for a lunch stop. Found out that we got a free meal with our bus ticket so we picked out a chicken Thai green curry and tucked in… It was enjoyable until I found a caterpillar in my lunch! Suddenly my appetite vanished and I just ate the free biscuits that we got on the bus. Arriving at the bus station around 4pm we slowly wandered through the streets towards our hostel. Was nice to stretch our legs after sitting for so long on the bus for so long although we were dripping sweat within 5 minutes of leaving the air conditioned haven of the bus terminal. Walked past the world’s largest outdoor market, dodging people constantly as we tried to walk around the outside and as they were weaving in and out of the aisles. Arrived at our hostel and got upgraded to a smaller room. We had originally booked a bed in a 10 person dorm where all the beds were doubles. Apparently, the other 8 people were from one family so they offered to move us into the 8 bed single bed dorm which suited us just fine! The beds were almost like the capsule beds you see in photos from Japan, all next to each other separated by a piece of plywood. Did some research about our crossing into Cambodia tomorrow, slightly scared by all the horror stories that are on the internet about being scammed and aggressive visa runners. Feeling a bit freaked out, we headed up to the TV room to watch a film and have a cup of tea. An irritating DVD that was scratched so we couldn’t watch the last 20 minutes of the film ‘Mr Right’, although the storyline was predictable enough to guess what was going to happen.

Headed out to have dinner although this area didn’t seem to have much except expensive western food outlets such as KFC. Eventually found a little street cafe in a backstreet where we ordered blindly from the menu with the help of an ex-pat who could speak Thai. Ended up with a soup, a type of curry and a salty egg papaya salad. Sounds strange but it was actually really nice. Treated ourselves to an ice cream before heading back to the hostel to watch another film before snuggling down into our capsules for the night. 

Sunday 18th September 2016

Sukhothai – day 346

Sukhothai is typically regarded as the first capital of Siam, although this is not entirely accurate. (The kingdom of Chiang Saen had already been established 500 years earlier). The area was previously the site of a Khmer empire until 1138, when two Thai rulers decided to unite and form a new Thai kingdom. Sukhothai’s dynasty lasted 200 years and spanned nine kings. The most famous was King Ramkhamhaeng, who reigned from c. 1275 to 1317 (Lonely Planet say 1275-1317, UNESCO say 1280- 1318) and is credited with developing the first Thai script – his inscriptions are also considered the first Thai literature. Ramkhamhaeng was one of the most important Thai sovereigns, as he brought Sukhothai extensive territory through his military victories. He invented the Siamese alphabet (Khmer script), as mentioned already, imposed strict observance of the Buddhist religion and instituted a military and social organization copied from his vanquished neighbours, the Khmers. But, before we saw the bronze statue of this legendary King we did the usual morning routine and grabbed a bus to the historical parks. 
The ‘night’ market was busier this morning than it had ever been and they were selling bags full of chillies and trucks full of pumpkins. An assortment of green veg, that would have made for an incredible jigsaw puzzle photo, was piled up a few stalls down from some slivers of very smelly fish. The patrons waiting for the doctor joined in the prayers led by the monks already inside the surgery and we took shelter in our little bus station until the joining others for the trip down the main road. Some jumped off at random places, but the monk, in his crisp saffron robes, and the three girls all got out at the big supermarket. We went all the way with a lady that must have been from France based on the text on her guide book. All three of us rented a bicycle to zip us around the grounds and between the various significant sites. Starting at the main temple of the central historical park, Wat Mahathat, we were starting our day at UNESCO World Heritage Site #55. We were looking for the atypical characteristics of the area with classic lotus-bud chedi, featuring a conical spire topping a square-sided structure on a three-tiered base. Obviously! Of course, I for one didn’t notice any of this. It was hot. At almost 28*C before 10:00 and the humidity to kill, we just wandered casually. This temple, completed in the 13th century, is surrounded by brick walls (206m long and 200m wide) (clearly the architect didn’t have OCD!) and a moat that is believed to represent the outer wall of the universe and the cosmic ocean. The original Buddha figures still sit among the the ruined columns of the old wí•hâhn (sanctuary) and the base of the main chedi is decorated with the relief-stuccoes of 168 Buddhist disciples. Just south of this impressive complex is Wat Si Sawai, dating from the 12th and 13th century, this ancient temple still retains it three Khmer-style towers and a picturesque moat. It was originally built as a Hindu temple but the sign describing all the evidence of it being such, with lingas, carved lintel depicting Vishnu and other designs were not obvious or no longer present. They were very nice and worth a visit before heading over to Wat Traphang Ngoen. Not mentioned in the guidebook, but recommended on our free map from the kind bike shop lady, the sign on the road describes its uniqueness as one without a boundary wall, with a main chedi, assembly hall (vihãra) and ordination hall (Ubosatha) in the middle of a reservoir. Continuing our culture tour of the park, we visited Wat Sa Si. The prevalence (and finally very obvious) Sri-Lankan style bell-style stupa – sometimes referred to as a chedi as well – is evidence of Sinhalese Buddhism in the area. The temple had a road going through it until 1978 and we sat away from the tree with dozens of smelly herons, looking at the new road next to the reservoir, as we had a break in the shade. We then carried on a bit and walked around the bronze statue of the King before thinking about lunch. A small distance from the main gate was the ever reliable 7-Eleven. A new big bottle of water, an isotonic drink and two ice lollies were in order to help cool down. The heat had probably reached it’s zenith of 33*C and we were feeling it. We cycled towards the North Historical park and got distracted by the Wat Sorasan/Sorasak (it’s hard to get reliable info these days). The main bell-shaped chedi sits on a base of elelephant structures. This concept is based on a belief that the elephant is regarded as a beast of burden for the emperor, and is a suitable animal to firmly uphold Buddhism through a period of 5,000 years. We took shade under a tree at Wat Mae Chon and took a breather and lunch. It can’t be said it was enjoyable as it can’t be said what it was we ate. We bought little tuna snack packs, but I don’t think there was any fish in it and the ingredients list was only for the crackers and a chilli mayo sauce. With limited time left to us before we turned into puddles we visited Wat Si Chum. An impressive mon•dòp with a 15m, brick-and-stucco seated Buddha. This Buddha’s elegant tapered fingers are coated with gold leaf from visitors and the effect was quite beautiful. No longer able to visit the tunnels of the structure to see the jataka inscriptions we made our way to Wat Phra Phai Luang. This 12th century temple is quite isolated to other sites in the area. It didn’t stop the Thai lady charging us an additional small fee to enter with our bikes. The Khmer-style towers are much bigger than Wat Si Sawai, but here only one of them looked to be in a good condition. It is thought to be the centre of Sukhothai when it was ruled by the Khmers of Angkor prior to the 13th century. The large site was the last we visited before throwing the towel in. Back we went!Dropping off the bikes we managed to get a bus immediately and the half hour in to town seemed much quicker than that morning. We probably should have rested inside and cooled down with several showers. Even though we weren’t burned we knew we had been in the sun far too long. We went to the pool to splash about. The idea was sound, except retrospectively it probably drained and dehydrated us more – we should have been drinking more and lying down. So it was that Katherine lay down with a headache and paracetamol and I stayed awake to keep track of time. Waking sleeping beauty we bought more isotonic drinks, collected our washing and had an early dinner/feast. Back to the guesthouse to pack we finally rested with some tv series on the iPad and sleep. 

Saturday 17th September 2016

Sukhothai – day 345

Not the most energetic of mornings. In fact, I slept on and off until about 10am which never happens. Had to remind myself that we have been traveling for 11 months now and not a week. I think that Australia was so ‘easy’ that it felt like being back at home whereas, in reality, we have done so much that it won’t kill either of us to have a lie in! 
The town we are in flourished from the mid-13th century to the late 14th century. Known as the ‘Sukhothai (Rising of Happiness) Kingdom’, that period is often viewed as the golden age of Thai civilisation, and the religious art and architecture of the era are considered to be the most classic of Thai styles. The remains of the kingdom, today known as meu-ang gów (old city) features around 45 sq km of partially rebuilt ruins, which are one of the most visited ancient sites in Thailand. However, we decided to skip the ancient city for today as neither of us had the energy or attention levels to visit our 55th UNESCO site and really appreciate it so we decided to visit the new town instead. 
Slowly getting ready, we walked into town past the river with its banks almost at bursting point. The water was about a foot away from the top of the wall and there were sand bags placed at certain sections were the wall was clearly slightly compromised… As water started trickling out behind it! 
Stopped by the tourist information centre to ask if there was a laundry nearby for us to do some washing only to find that it was closed and they were pumping river water out from their garden back into the river as quickly as the river was depositing more water back into the garden…

Decided that we weren’t going to get very far with all the flooded roads so we opted for an early lunch (or late second breakfast) in Poo. The lady in the restaurant pointed us in the direction of a laundry so, as Jayne ordered our food, I went and dropped off our clothes. Walking through the town after lunch we watched men fishing in the relief rivers and people going about their everyday business. For a tourist town, they clearly aren’t used to tourists walking around the new section! Our walk brought us out near the bus station so we decided to buy our tickets back to Bangkok for Sunday before continuing our walk. 

Found a temple, but we have no idea what the name is as its not mentioned in the guidebook or on any map, which was a beautifully decorated Chinese style temple complete with dragons. Even though it was deserted, there was a chimney full of burning offerings and incense burning from sand pots. Around the corner and over the bridge we stopped at another temple, Wat Ratchathani, which was clearly also having issues with flooding as the monks looked like they were walking on water as they crossed the site. Even the chickens were using the planks of wood that had been placed down to make the path accessible. Another beautiful temple, we found a quiet seat to sit and admire it in the quiet and calm. The only other thing to do in town was visit the museum which was 3km away – deciding that it was getting too late in the day to walk there and neither of us wanted to begin negotiations with a TukTuk, we made the hard decision to go back to the guesthouse and use the swimming pool instead – it was a really tough decision!! We messed around in the water until the sun set before going back to our room to get dressed and head out for dinner. Tried to find the night market to get something to eat. Think we walked past it – it was a handful of stalls, nothing like what was described in the Lonely Planet. Not sure whether it has moved as our MapsMe app said we were in the right place, we decided to cut our losses and went back to ‘Poo’. A couple of curries and a game of monopoly later, we stopped by 7-Eleven to grab some ice creams and headed back to our room for some ‘Modern Family’. 

Friday 16th September 2016

Travelling – day 344

A rather non eventful day filled with buses! We’d organised our mini bus back to Bangkok at 7.30am with the aim that we would have plenty of time to get a bus up to Sukhothai, North Thailand, without any issues. Quickly had a flick through emails and Facebook whilst we waited for the ‘taxi’ to arrive. Driving down the road it seemed like the driver was playing a real life version of ‘Mario Kart’. I think the more worrying part of it was the sign that said ‘please wear your seatbelt’ – no shit! I really wanted to but the seatbelts were all wedged into the seats making them unusable. So clinging to each other instead, we weaved in and out of traffic clearly trying to hit the magical ‘?’ boxes to get extra mushrooms or lightening bolts. It was almost a joy when we stopped for petrol, obviously having used up so much petrol in our race car! Weirdly, the petrol seemed to be being pumped straight into the engine rather than into the tank from the side…As soon as we hit Bangkok, we could understand why the driver may have been driving like that… It was gridlock. Clearly with a fast turn around and deadline to drop off and pick up passengers, we made up so much time in the first section that we were still on time at the train station despite our crawling speed for the last couple of kilometres. Arriving at Mo Chit bus terminal, we headed to the hundreds of ticket counters to find the one to get us to Sukhothai. Apparently, most of them do so it was just a case of choosing one that suited our budget and time frame! Got the one leaving as soon as possible but it still meant we had an hour and a half wait. Fortunately, the bus terminal was air conditioned and clean so we settled down with our stuff in a seat whilst Jayne pottered off to look for a timetable to get us to Cambodia in a couple of days. We had sat next to the information hut which had a series of adverts for the bus companies, playing out like mini soap operas – the boy and girl who sit next to each other on the bus and fall in love; the old man who loses his basket of star fruit on the bus (don’t ask!) and the young man who ‘stole’ them and then returned them! Dragging ourselves away from the brilliantly poor acting, we headed over to the food court to get some lunch before the bus. We ordered the worst curry we have ever eaten, the meat was mostly gristle and even the rice was undercooked – it was really disappointing. Stopped off at the 7-Eleven to grab some snacks for the bus and headed over to our bay. The cutest baby boy was stood there with his mum. As we smiled at him, he threw up the pinkest vomit I have ever seen. Giving the mum some wet wipes to help clean him up, the kid kept throwing up… I had no idea that much vomit could come out of something so small! No one seemed particularly fussed that this little vomit machine was about to get on a bus for 6 hours as the bus driver just kept throwing buckets of water down where he had been sick. Of course, we were sat just behind the mum and child – and next to them was a military police officer in a pristine beige uniform…

The journey wasn’t too bad although the 6 hour journey did take nearly 8 (oh, how I miss the reliable time keeping of the Greyhound buses in Australia!). Managed to pass the time by watching ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ on the iPad. That’s right – I have succumbed to peer pressure and started watching GOT. I’m three episodes in and I can tell you three things… 2 character names (John Snow and Kaleesi) and that ‘winter is coming’ – that is all I know from three hours of watching! Anyway, I’m sticking with it cause I know Jayne really wants me to get into it before she starts watching the second series. Had a bit too much screen time so decided to take a nap… Foolishly stretching my feet out under the seat in front of me as, after 6 hours of nothing, the vomit kid decided to make a swift but effective come back – all over my feet… Damn me for wearing flip flops!Arriving in Sukhothai at about 20:30, we were happy to stretch our legs and walk the 1 kilometre to our guesthouse, even in the rain. Dumping our bags, we headed straight out to find something to eat. Not much open at that time but we found a restaurant called ‘Poo’. For the novelty factor more than anything, we went in and ordered Sukhothai noodle soup (a slightly sweet broth with peanuts, glass noodles and chicken). It was really nice and was probably the best thing we could have eaten as it wasn’t too heavy but it did fill up our bellies. Back at the guesthouse for a quick shower to wash off the days grime (and the remaining vomit that didn’t come off with the wet wipe) before crawling into bed. 

Thursday 15th September 2016