Days thirty-six and thirty-seven in Thailand – 2015

Day 36 – Fri – 10th July:

Today was another slow day. We met Ryan and went to the cinema for the 1.50pm showing of the new Terminator movie.

The cinema was very modern and busy. They had self service ticket machines but you needed a member card to use them. We started to queue for the manned till but a member of staff kept coming and drawing people out of the queue and serving them using the electronic ticket machine. He was taking cash and then using his own ‘unlimited’ staff members card (specially for the purpose I assume) to buy and print them off the machine.

The movie was very good but I like to think of it in a parallel universe as it contradicted a bunch of things from the first three movies.

It was also very interesting that we had to ‘stand for the king’, and watch a 120 second film about his good deeds around the country. Namely the laws against opium fields and various charity works.

We visited a lovely park, which we stumbled across on the off chance while on route to the night market. It was like a small Eden after the rush of the city and also not unlike Central Park. There was also a butterfly farm we wanted to visit but it closed at 4.30pm and we were too late.

In the evening we went to the ‘weekend’ night market which of course not very open as it was a Friday and they are only open from late Friday, then Sat and Sun nights. I arranged to meet the Dutch girl (whom I met on the train) here tonight and although we tried to speak on facebook we were unable to find each other in the large market.

A couple of interesting things we saw today:

On the way to the market there where hundreds of people (Thai’s), who appeared to be queueing in the street. We managed to ask a Thai girl (who was also on holiday in the city) and she said she was surprised at first too, as she had never seen anything like it but they were all waiting for a bus home. It seems multiple buses will pull up and pick them up in an hour or so.

We though they were crazy, they could easily walk a couple of streets, in the hour that they would have to wait, it was like hordes of zombies blocking the way.

The second thing was the market itself, we sat and ate our food while watching a very bad performance with three men dressed as Batman, Robin and some other strange character. They did some crazy dancing on their own constructed stage and a bunch of kids were watching them. They were throwing bangers (floor fire crackers – they just make a loud noise) down on the ground and trying to make a bit of a show for us. We didn’t bother putting anything in the donation pot.

The market also had a bunch of stalls selling toys and junk from the ninety’s. I recognised quite a lot of childhood favourites. Another thing they seem to sell is second hand shoes?

We passed, but didn’t go in, a bar with hundreds of lamps made out of old plastic and metal drums and various upcycled seats.

 

Day 37 – Sat – 11th July:

So the plan for the next few days is to hike in the nearest national park to Bangkok city, which is called ‘Khao Yai National Park‘.

This was Ryan’s idea but I love hiking so it was good with me.

We spent much of the morning trying to find Ryan, a supermarket and a place where the two of them could buy yoga mats to use as sleeping mats. It was all rather rushed and last minute.

We finally found Ryan and dropped back via Glur for our bags. Ryan made homemade trail mix on a counter in reception, using the stuff he had bought from the supermarket while we were looking for him. Another small downside of not having a working phone outside of wifi.

We hunted for a Tesco Lotus (the Thai brand of Tesco) and bought some more odds and ends. We then got the Skytrain to the Victory Monument station and met Silja’s friend Ryan from the USA (same name lol, this is USA Ryan in the post).

We got a bus from the small bus station next to the monument. We asked for four tickets to Khao Yai National Park and all the Thai people roared with laughter. It was a pretty universal thing so we understood, they had all had a bet on how many people were going to turn up next and where they would want to go etc.

Anyway it was 160 baht each and we filled the last seats in a mini van. These vans don’t leave until they are full and I have heard Facebook tales of people waiting for hours for the bus to fill up.

The four of us were crammed into the back row, and it was really uncomfortable, the only plus side is that the bus departed almost straight away for Khao Yai National Park.

After 2.5 hours we arrived in the town of Suphan Buri and they turned round to us and said 200 baht each for the next part of the journey. We knew that was a rip off, so we got out and walked a short way to where there was a Songtheaw waiting, nearly full.

They said 40 baht each to the park, so we got in. We chatted to a German guy and girl who where also headed to the park. The guy only had a little English and the girl even less. We waited a while for the Songthaew to leave and then it took about 40 mins to get to the park.

When we arrived they had just closed the gates and it took a lot of broken English and Thai to get them to let us in. It was 4.30pm and the sign said they closed at that time. We said that the bus told us they would get us here on time so they should let us in. I’m not sure what got across but in the end they let us in. We paid the standard 400 baht foreigner ticket price.

We also had to pay for a taxi 500 baht for everyone but then in the end just me, AUS Ryan and the Germans came in the taxi and US Ryan and Silja hired a motorbike and followed us. This is because they wanted to do some of the longer trails and US Ryan only had one day before his flight home.

Then it turned out that the Germans didn’t have much money on them. They thought there would be an ATM at the park. This was rather frustrating for the rest of us, as we had planned in advance and actually when the topic came up, everyone said they never traveled without at least 2,000 baht hidden somewhere and I travel with around 5,000 in case I cannot draw money for several days.

The taxi waited while the others went to hire the bike. Then US Ryan did a quick run with the German guy to the nearest ATM somewhere in town.

So finally off we went. Another really bumpy and speedy car ride in the back of a truck. The scenery was lovely but it grew dark about half way into the 30 min drive to the campsite.

At the main building we (me and AUS Ryan) decided to hire a two man tent and put it up and then wait for the others. You could hire all the gear there, tents. mats, blankets, sleeping bags, the lot. I only went for a mat and a pillow as I had my silk sleeping sack.

Then the others arrived on the bike and hired another tent. The Germans and me went to bed and the others took a short walk around camp.

There were deers wandering around all night poking at the tent, quite unafraid.

Just to summarise, we had to leave a copy of our passport to hire the gear and the costs for two nights are as below.

Tent around 200 baht, pillow 30 baht, mat 50 baht, then double that as those prices are per night but we split the tent fee between two so that was 360 for the gear for two nights and then the park entry fee 400 baht, one payment for any number of days.

So that is 760 baht for two nights in the park without food, the same price as a hostel so not too bad in terms of value.

Now there are a few restaurants in the park serving a limited menu but they all close at 4.30pm or earlier if there are no customers, so bear this in mind. We managed to get some really gross canned food and crisps from an elderly couple who had a small makeshift shop (table with food for sale) at the campsite.
You can hire camping stoves so I would advise bringing all your food for the trip or staying at one of the other campsites that has a small restaurant (ours just had a coffee booth).

Also trip adviser says you can do this as a day trip but I think it would be a tight turn around. Four hours each way and then the hiking as well. Tomorrow we are hiking to some Waterwalls.

Basic two man tents at Khao Yai National Park

Basic two man tents at Khao Yai National Park

Next up: days thirty-eight and thirty-nine.

Previously: days thirty-four and thirty-five.

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Days thirty-four and thirty-five in Thailand – 2015

Day 34 – Weds – 8th July:

I packed and left the Bounty Resort in the taxi I had booked yesterday.

The taxi turned out to be the hotels own service and car. The manager (I think) whom I had spoken to before, drove me. She spoke to me briefly, again (very common) she thought her English wasn’t very good, but I said it was. And our conversation touched on my travel plans etc.

She kindly dropped me off at the ticket companies office (which was also next to a bookshop). The office didn’t open until 9.30am so I had to wait in a cafe until it opened.

Now I was sure that I had my ticket I went to browse the shops. I popped into the bookshop (of course) but is wasn’t a very good one. The hammock shop was also not the same one described in the blog but it was ok and had the hammocks I was looking for. I bought two, one, one man in purple and one large (same as the hotels provide) for two people (I actually posted the larger one home, read this post).

I sat and waited for the ferry at the pier. There are three different companies supplying the island, Songserm, Seatran and Lomprayah and they all run at different speeds.

I got a little lost in Thong Sala on the way to the pier but I managed to ask for directions in Thai, Merry and Sherry would be pleased with me (my Thai Language teachers).

They were playing the classic Mr Bean episodes on the boat again. I like these but I have been on several ferries in the last few weeks and they just seem to play the same DVD over and over. I think is it the only disk they have.

I had to wait for the night train to Bangkok at Surat Thani as it was delayed by two hours. I bought some meat skewers off the street and a fruit smoothie and then sat in a posh western cafe above the station for a couple of hours. While I ate my meat skewer a very hopeful looking dog came and sat opposite me and gazed at me.

Tip: I followed the locals to the street stands when buying food. I think speaking a little Thai helps but I managed to get some great food for next to nothing. 25 baht for a strawberry smoothie and 20 baht for a large meat skewer thing.

At the station a random Thai man came and chatted to me for a while. He wanted to know where I was going etc. I think they are just curious and I didn’t mind but he also wanted to know how much I paid for my train ticket etc. He was probably interested in what level of commission the tour company had given themselves, but I bought directly from the train station.

     

Day 35 – Thurs- 9th July:

In the morning I woke up early (read the end of this post for more about the the night sleeper train and pictures), and ate a little food I had put by the night before for breakfast.

As we neared Bangkok I struck up a conversation with a Dutch girl (from Holland) and she told me that she just had a couple of days in Bangkok as an intro to Asia to reduce the culture shock on her next stop which was China or Singapore.

We had an interesting discussion about learning foreign languages and I mentioned that I was learning Thai and she said ‘ok’, and I think she was thinking a few phrases not properly and was quite surprised when I got out my workbook etc to show her.

She said that it is always hard to express yourself in a foreign language, even if you are fluent. It is partly because you have a limited vocabulary and have to supplement words for easier ones. Much like a dyslexic person does when they cannot spell the word while writing. Some of the original meaning is lost along the way.

We decided to head to the hostel she had booked and I had nowhere to stay so I thought I would have a look at it too. She wanted to walk, which I was happy to do, but as usual everyone we asked for directions said it was impossibly far for anyone to walk (see day 23 of this post for walking and Asian culture).

In the end a nice member of the railway staff said we could get the number 35 bus (I have only just started using these and they are awesome and so cheap). So we flagged one down and paid 7 baht each. But even with my limited Thai is was crazily hard to explain where we wanted to go. A young Thai (19ish) helped us using her iPad but no one could really understand where they where going. I really can’t understand how they cannot know their own bus route and streets. My sense of direction isn’t brilliant but I do know what street I am going to in England. And I may be exaggerating but I do believe I have seen Thai people look out of the window (like I have been doing), see that they have gone past and then get out at the next stop and walk back. Like they don’t even remember their own home stop?

In the end the conductor gestured for us to get off and we walked in what we thought was the right direction. We asked many people and in the end we spoke to an awesome Thai lady (and her mother) who had lived in a England for a few years and spoke excellent English. She gave us directions and then a leaflet for some Christian Belief spread the word thing. I am using it as a bookmark.

Anyway we reached ‘Boxpackers’ which was her hostel and she checked in. It was 600 baht a night and I was being tight as I was hoping for nearer 400. We did stop for their continental buffet breakfast however, for about 150 baht which was alright.

Sijia messaged me and let me know where she was staying and did I want to join her. She was staying in a hostel called Glur Bangkok so I decide to go and meet her. I arranged to meet the Dutch girl tomorrow night before she left for China. I pointed out some good spots for her to visit in the city.

I got the Skytrain to station S6 ‘Saphan Taksin’ and walked the two minutes to Glur. Silja was not there but I asked and she had checked in earlier, so I did the same.

Glur Hostel advertises itself as a ‘new design hostel’ and there are a few like it in Bangkok. This new style dorm room features ‘pods’, which can be anything from complete pods, wooden or plastic enclosed boxes or just beds with curtains. It is a twist on the traditional dorm and I really like them. Glur is a mix of box and curtain, with three sides of the bed up against the wall and the front being a curtain, see picture.

The hostel is very narrow and on six floors: the reception which is also the coffee shop and restaurant, the common room floor, which features sofas, a breakfast bar and a common fridge, the next floor is the female dorm and is pink and also has its own name (I can’t remember), and then there is the shower floor, then the ‘tuk tuk’ the blue themed floor which is a mixed dorm, and finally there is ‘the pad thai’ a yellow themed floor that also hosts a mixed dorm.

The dorms are very nice with only 12 beds/pods in each room. You get given a key card which had a sticker on the back explaining the floors and a real key for the lock box under you bed. A very large roomy box and the beds at roomy too, even the single beds (upper is single and you can get two people in the lower bed), are very wide.

The only thing I didn’t like at first (I am used to it now, sneak peek, I have since gone back and stayed at Glur again) was the 18 degrees air con in the dorm rooms. For someone who has now adjusted to Thailand temperatures and has been living in a fan room for the last two weeks, it was too cold. But they supply duvets so it was ok.

The shared fridge is also awesome. There is a shelf of things you can buy, they are labeled with prices and then they add it too your bill (like a mini bar), the next shelf is included in the price of your dorm room, and has bread, jam, and soy milk in different flavours. The next shelf is labeled ‘foods not for shared’ (bad translation) and is where you put your own food, and then the top shelf is where you put food you don’t want any more and is a free for all. This is labeled ‘food for other travellers’.

Also included in the price is dried cereals and oats and instant coffee and iced water.

There is also a cabinet full of pens and tape, labelled something like ‘get your bag ready for the road’ and in one corner of the room there is a tub where you can put clothes, toiletries and travel gear you no longer need, for other people to take.

Anyway is is a nice place.

After a shower Silja appeared and said hi and updated me on what was going on. After she had a rest and I made use of the food in the common room, we met her friend Ryan (from Australia) in the reception. We got the Skytrain to the Victory Monument stop where there is a famous (well known really), Jazz bar called ‘The Saxophone‘.

It was nice and the music was good, although more blues style rendering of modern pop songs than jazz and the killer was the drinks were extremely expensive! And it was a bit like the sky bar (read day two in this post), as the place was so popular you couldn’t sit and take up space unless you were ordering drinks.

250 baht for a tiny Black Russian and it was all ice! The water was 90 baht for a tiny bottle. I not sure it was better than the Blues Bar that I went to a few weeks ago (on day ten).

The modern pod style hostel - Glur Bangkok

The modern pod style hostel – Glur Bangkok

Next up: days thirty-six and thirty-seven.

Previously: days thirty-two and thirty-three.

Days thirty-two and thirty-three in Thailand – 2015

A very short one today but I don’t want to skip any days, and no pictures sorry.

Day 32 – Mon – 6th July:

Last lessons today and a final use of the swimming pool at the Bounty Resort.

      
Day 33 – Tues – 7th July:

Today was a sad day as it was my last full day on Ko Phangan. I have been here 13 days, the longest I have spent in any one place here in Thailand.

I’m glad I came and I was totally planning to skip this island completely because of its reputation for the Full Moon Parties

Now I am going North again to Bangkok to meet some friends of mine. Silja who I mentioned in this post and this post, from Denmark.

I cycled off to the bike hire shop and returned my hired bicycle. I then asked in the nearest tour office for a ticket to Bangkok on the sleeper train, with a combined bus and ferry from the island.

The lady told me I could pick it up tomorrow at 10am and the ferry was at 12pm. This would still have given me time to get to the pier but I wanted to leave the Haad Yao area early at 8am and take a look at the town Thong Sala. Namely to buy a hammock after reading about a special Hammock shop I had read about in this blog post.

I explained that that was too late and in the end she gave me a receipt so I could pick the ticket up myself from the ticket branch in the town Thong Sala.

There was a rustic giant wooden swing on the mini private beach at the Bounty Resort. I had a swing and read on the beach but it looked overcast so I decided to go and have lunch.

In the afternoon I made use of the hammock on my balcony again (one of the reasons I would like to buy one as a souvenir) and read my book. There was a really heavy thunderstorm with lashing rain and lightning.

I pre-booked a taxi with the reception staff for 8.30am to the ferry pier (this was the earliest she would book it for).

     
Next up: days thirty-four and thirty-five.

Previously: days thirty and thirty-one.

Days thirty and thirty-one in Thailand – 2015

Day 30 – Sat – 4th July:

Today I think was another day off for lessons but I can’t remember. Maybe I had the normal lessons at 8am? Oh dear, my handwritten diary is a bit spotty for these days as I was concentrating on learning Thai.

I do know that today I spent some time taking account of what I have spent so far and since I have nothing to write for today I thought you guys and other backpackers might be interested in how much my trail has cost me so far. Also we are on day 30! which is sort of a milestone.

Ok so here goes:

Expenses before I flew to Thailand:

Flights: £454.95

Student pass: Included in flight price above (£12)

Gecko trip (see this post for info on this trip): £440 – credit card

Visa: £25 – cash at embassy

Insurance from Insure and Go for three months: £130

Malaria prescription: £20 – credit card

Malaria tablets: £45 – credit card

Rabies vaccination: £150 – cash

Hep B vaccination: £35 -cash

First two nights in Bangkok booked because I was leaving on my Geckos tour from this hotel: £60

Total: £1,359.95

Whew that’s a lot of money before we even leave! This is all in GBP just so you know.

So then in the first thirty-two days (I am starting my re-budget from the 8th of July so this is from the 4th June to the 7th July) I spent a total of:

£528.74

This is of course not including hotels for the first ten days which were included in the price I paid for the Geckos tour (see above).

There were a few expensive items in there that I will explain:

£30.49 – posted a box home (read here about that experience)

£18.28 – a decent quality snorkelling mask

£10.40 – a 15 litre dry bag/shoulder bag for the beach

£92 – seven days intensive Thai language course

So if we take these things out I spent £377.57 on food, accommodation and transport. This includes ferries, trains etc everything. That’s £11.80 a day! But if you account the first week with the geckos tour (let’s say I hadn’t done it and I had paid for accommodation independently) I think that would be about £13.50 GBP a day.

This doesn’t include alcohol really as I only had about ten drinks in that lot (so it will cost more for those of you who drink).

I was spending around £25 on the days I was traveling, amounting to £10 on accommodation, £10 on travel and £3 on food and an extra £2 on snacks and coffee on arrival someplace to use the wifi.

On other days it was just £10 on accommodation and £5 on food and other items. This is all very approximated.

So my budget was £15 a day but I have gone way over by buying Thai lessons and on postage and other things mentioned above.

So from now on I am going to have to try and stick to £15 a day! I’m not sure it will work but anyhow. I have also stayed in private rooms for the whole trip so if you can stay in dorms then this same trip is totally possible for you to do under £15 GBP a day (not including flights or pre trip vaccinations).

So £1,359.95 before leaving and £528.74 in the country. A total of £1,888.69.

I hope that was interesting. I was going to write a separate post but as this was actually the point in my trip that I took note of my finances it seemed appropriate to put here.
 
Day 31 – Sun – 5th July:

So back to the trip itself. Today I moved to Bounty Resort which is next door to High Life Bungalow and is 400 baht a night instead of 500 baht (baby steps here with the budget :p ). I think it is actually owned by the same people anyway lol.

I also left my laundry for the first time with the hotel! This sounds gross but I have been washing my clothes in the traveler way one piece every night in the sink so nothing was ever left dirty. However although the clothes were clean the constant ‘leaving them to dry in the sun or in the room’ seemed to have left them with a musty smell so I decided to brave the laundry. It sounds daft but I wasn’t sure if they might lose items of clothing etc?

So I had lessons from 8am to 12 pm and again from 4pm to 6pm with a private lesson from 6pm to 8pm. Whew!

My private lesson was with Marie again and we ate again in the evening in the big kitchen, which, I didn’t explain before, is where they teach the cooking and is a large wooden roof on poles with a wooden floor but no walls. It is full of wooden work benches and free standing metal gas hob cookers, with large gas canisters next to each stove.

This is a perfect set up for the Thai climate as otherwise cooking in this heat would be unbearable.

Anyway we had a very interesting discussion about the economy in England and Thailand, minimum pay, that you would need only £2,000 to set up an entire business here in Thailand but £30,000 at home in England.

We also talked about the crossover between charity and business that is in the UK. I have also (sneak peek here) spoken to a German girl on day 55 and she said that she lived in England for a few years and was also surprised by this). It seems to only really be in the UK that we run charity’s as business’s.

Marie said she understands how it works but not the mentality. To her charity is something you do for free out of kindness in you spare time and business is your work where you get to keep all the money you make. It was very interesting.

Back at the Bounty I was late for my Skype ‘appointment’ with Mum and Dad because the discussion went on for a long time. So I updated them (another hour so lol) and then went to bed.

My new bungalow and the pool at the Bounty Resort

My new bungalow and the pool at the Bounty Resort

Next up: days thirty-two and thirty-three.

Previously: days twenty-eight and twenty-nine.

Days twenty-eight and twenty-nine in Thailand – 2015

Day 28 – Thurs – 2nd July:

Yesterday Sherry gave me ‘homework’ to learn all the Thai numbers up to twenty. I sat on the beach with some snacks from 7-11 and spend several hours reading the lessons from yesterday’s class.

There is no class on Thursday for beginner level so I spent the afternoon snorkelling on our beach (Haad Yao).

    

    
Day 29 – Fri – 3rd July:

Class at 8am again today. I sat through both classes and met two groups of different people. 

There was a Turkish guy (who I had met on Wednesday already), a guy called Olay who was Spanish I think, and a lady who was English, whom I also can’t remember the name of.

I went for lunch at a local cafe and ordered my meal partly in Thai! ‘Cow pat muu’ is fried rice pork but translates literally as ‘rice fried pork’.

I used the awesome hotel pool and then turned around to the study centre again for 4pm. I joined the group class from 4 to 6 and then had my second private lesson, this time with Marie (Sherry’s sister). This lesson went on till 8pm.

While we were finishing up an older guy turned up on his motorbike wearing a pink rain poncho, a Greek who is studying Thai cooking at the centre. Marie said he often turns up really late in the evening to eat dinner with her but she doesn’t always like to eat so late. He only spoke a little English and little Thai so it was a bit hard to communicate.

He was very nice and I sort of had a conversation with him about my trip to Greece last year, but I couldn’t for the life of my remember where I went for some reason. Duh. It was Chaina, Crete, and I had no wifi so I couldn’t look it up on facebook.

Anyway we ate dinner. One of the dishes was a sort of fried bamboo curry? But it was very nice, and I think the bamboo comes from their own garden.

I have a good handful of words now in Thai and have learnt some of the basic grammar which is essential if you are to form your own sentences. The second class today 5-6pm was a little more advanced and I got a bit lost, but it was good to hear the language spoken anyway. I just remembered, there was also a girl from Japan and a couple of other people. One couple was vegan and there was a little discussion about that when I said ‘Pom chob muu’ which is ‘I like pork’. Later at my private lesson Marie apologised for them (not for their belief which is fine but the fact that they were trying to force it on others, Marie said something about it not being polite in Thai culture to criticise other people’s lifestyles) anyway I am used to vegans etc and I didn’t mind.

After dinner I tried some new Thai fruits which I can’t remember much about now but one of them was Jackfruit.

Next up: days thirty and thirty-one.

Previously: days twenty-six and twenty-seven.

Days twenty-six and twenty-seven in Thailand – 2015

Days 26 – Tues – 30th June:

I requested a taxi to the study centre before breakfast and the hotel said ok for 9.30am. They have their own car it turns out and one of the hotel staff drove me and then didn’t ask for any money when I tried to pay. This was really nice of them, but I guess I have been there nearly a week and also it was only a five min drive.

So I asked in the office and the lady there directed me to her sisters office across the path. At the door to the second office I was barked at by a cream Labrador type dog. It was guarding the door, I think a lot of Thai people genuinely keep their dogs as guard dogs. The lady came out and laughed. She said it especially didn’t like men and that it look it a few weeks to get used to new students.

She introduced herself as Sherry (this is her nickname not her real Thai name) and asked me what my goals were regarding learning Thai. I explained how felt about it being hard to connect to the people but also that I just wanted some vocabulary to travel with for the rest of my time here (till the 9th Sept).

In the end we decided I should have around 1.5 hrs private lessons each day and then join in with the group class with the other students. The week would cost me 5,000 baht, which is about £92 GBP. This was no more than it would cost me in England and it was something I really wanted to try so I figured it would be worth it.

I went off for around 40 mins to get lunch from a local cafe and to draw money to pay the centre. I also hired a bicycle for a week so I could get to the study centre every day easily.

At 11am I started my first lesson, which actually ended up being around 2 hrs long.

Sherry started with a printout called ‘Lesson One’ and explained the basics of the language.

-Thai has five tones (to say a word correctly you need to use the correct tone, you can still be understood from the context but you may be staying the word incorrectly) for example ‘maa’ means ‘come’ but in another tone it means ‘dog’.

-There are no tenses in Thai and you say ‘today’, ‘yesterday’ etc to determine the tense.

-There are no plurals, you say the number of items rather than adding an ‘s’ for ‘dog’ ‘dogs’, you say ‘one dog’ ‘two dog’ etc

Ok so there are many more rules but it was very interesting but a lot to take in the first time. We also moved onto ‘Lesson 2’ printout and ‘Lesson 9’, with the aim to give me enough info to understand the first group class. She also went through how to pronouce each individual letter.

I also attended the group lesson which was fun and I’m glad that the ‘group lesson’ only has around 3 to 6 people in it so it is still a very tailored learning experience.

In the evening at the hotel I chatted to the Australian family that arrived yesterday. They were off to the full moon party and had been in Thailand for a few weeks already. The son only looked about 15 but I’m guessing maybe he was 18 or 19? But either way in England you wouldn’t go to a party like that with your 40 year old dad! I think it is a lot more causal in Oz though, that is the impression I got from the Australian couple on the Geckos tour (a few weeks ago).

 

Day 27 – Weds – 1st July:

Today I had my second set of lessons at the language school. I had an early breakfast at 7am and then cycled to the study centre. It only took me 15 mins so I was very early, to kill some time I rode around the lake area for a little while, an area that seems popular for its inflatable obstacle course on the lake.

I cycled round some shacks which were people’s homes and there was a strong but pleasant smell of wood burning.

I had a group lesson from 8-9am and then went back to my hotel and sat and read in my hammock until 3.30pm, when I went off for the 4pm lesson. Directly after I had my private lessons from 6-8pm ish and then Sherry took me to the kitchen and I ate a meal with her and her sister Marie (again a nickname not her Thai name).

One of the foods I tried was bamboo. It was very waterey and not unlike celery, with some stringy chewy bits. I thought it was freshly broken off just above the ground but I have since learnt you have to boil it for several hours to get the soft texture.

They were so friendly and it was very nice for them to host me for dinner. One reason of course it that they are also a Thai cooking school (Cuture & Massage centre) and they always cook more food than can be eaten.

Below are a few pictures that I sole from their official facebook page because I forgot to take my own when I left at the end of the week. You can see the dog in there too!

C&M Language and Culture Study Centre

C&M Language and Culture Study Centre

Next up: days twenty-eight and twenty-nine.

Previously: days twenty-four and twenty-five.

Days twenty-four and twenty-five in Thailand – 2015

Day 24 – Sun – 28th June:

If you are an email subscriber, just to note I have written a few posts today so make a sure you read them in the correct order and not in the order in which you receive the emails.

Today we settled with the motorbike (scooter) hire lady.

We were down early for our pickup to the boat for our day trip to Ang Thong Marine Park and the manager came over and said that the hire lady was in today and ready to see us.

He drove up the little slope again on his scooter for about 20 seconds, (see my last post for cultural differences regarding walking in Asia) we walked up and the lady met us at the top.

She pointed out four marks we made on the bike and the full cost for replacing each of those items was 500 baht and the conditions of use were that we would be charged half that price. So four times 250 baht, came to only 1000 baht.

We were pleased that we only had to pay 500 baht each because we thought it might have been more, and Maren got her passport back :).

Then we had to jump straight into the truck/jeep that had come to pick us up for the boat trip. There were a few other people already in the back and we climbed in. We were sitting on the open back of the truck as normal.

We nodded to the others but they all seemed to be in pairs or groups of friends and this has a slight disadvantage when doing group tours, that often people don’t mingle because they came out to spend the day with their friend.

The car made a couple of other stops along the road to pick up people from other hotels. I did have one brief conversation with a guy when the car stopped for a pickup on a blind hill and bend. I am not a driver but this guy thought it was silly, as you would never be allowed to do that in England, but this is typical of drivers here.

After a bumpy ride we arrived at the boat. Three other cars and a songtheaw were also dropping off people.

As soon as we boarded we were offered fruit, coffee and yummy biscuits as breakfast and about half the group sat on the sun deck. There were a wide range of countries represented, Maren heard some Italian being spoken, French and also German.

As we set sail the English speaking guide came round and introduced himself. He was very entertaining. We later asked out of curiosity, where he was from, and he said he was Dutch. He spoke over six different languages and he said that you need to speak three languages to get a degree in Holland!

He opened with ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’ (about the day’s proceedings etc) and then barked ‘stupid question’ after every question people put to him. It sounds a little rude but was actually very funny. I asked if towels were provided as I didn’t bring one (the leaflet said they were provided), and they were, so that was handy.

This is the sun deck on the boat.

The sun deck of Orion boat tours

The sun deck of Orion boat tours

It took 130 mins to arrive at the first snorkelling place. The guy handed out the masks and gear, which were provided. He gave us all a number as you had to pay if you lost the gear. The leaflet said we would be snorkelling at either Koh Tay Plow or Koh Wao but I’m not sure which we were taken too.

We had fun jumping off the boat and going down the slide (attached to the back of the boat).

After we returned the gear (and had our numbers ticked off) we had lunch on the boat, as it sailed off to the next location. Lunch was great, several large pots with rice, tofu curry, veg curry, and fried chicken pieces. Afterwards one of the Thai boat hands came round with a metal dish of fruit, watermelon and pinapple.

I forgot to mention that when we boarded the boat we were all given string bracelets in different colours, depending on if we had paid to kayak or not. At the next stop, Ao Ka Beach, about 70% of the group got off to kayak to Talay Nai and the rest stayed on the boat.

We left the English speaking guide on the boat so there were a few small communication issues but off we went. Me and Maren shared a kayak and saw some beautiful islands but the kayaking was only for about 30 mins which was a shame. I think this is because they have to cater for everyone and people’s attention spans are short. Also an inexperienced kayaker might have trouble paddling for a long amount of time. I normally go for four to five hours :p.

We met the boat at Talay Nai and pulled the kayaks up on the beach.

A short climb up some very steep wooden steps later, we could see the Emerald Lagoon (Talay Nai). It was nice but not as impressive as it is described.

We passed a lot of Chinese/Japanese tourists and all the women were fully covered in long trousers, sleeves and hats. We think this is in order to keep their skin white. It was an odd contrast to our group which consisted of many European girls in bikinis, trying to get brown.

Here is me by the lagoon.

Emerald Lagoon Ang Thong National Park

Emerald Lagoon Ang Thong National Park

The next stop was to Koh Wua Talap Island and there were three choices, two different hikes, one an hour and one 45 mins, or you could just relax on the beach. Me and Maren took the 45 min one and climbed about in some limestone caves, it was a fun climb but I think if could choose again I would have chosen the hour climb which went to the top of one of the lower mountains and apparently had an awesome view.

There was a bar on the beach so we had a drink and a then back to the boat. We saw a couple of monkeys in the distance as we walked off the beach.

Back on the boat we washed the salt off and I actually changed completely into the spare clothes I had brought. I am glad I did because the ride back was over two hours and salty swimwear is not fun to sit in for that long. We were also given tuna buns and salad as an afternoon meal.

The boat was actually carrying about five large tubs of fresh water for drinking and washing etc. I’m talking about massive barrels, you could fit two people inside. These were wedged into each other on the deck and didn’t spill over which is surprising considering what happened next.

We were lazing in the sun deck for about an hour into the journey back (I took some nice pictures) when we could see the sky becoming overcast.

Our Dutch guide came and asked us to go downstairs inside the boat to join the others who were already inside. The storm slowly built up behind us, getting more and more windy. The rain lashed at us for a while but the captain managed to keep just ahead of the storm. The boat was not designed for bad weather and although the we were within its limits the whole time, our guide and a few Thai boat hands went up to the sun deck to talk to the captain at the helm a few times, they did look a little worried.

I stood at the back of the boat with a handful of others (the biscuits from this morning were back here too!) and watched the storm. It was great fun but later when I popped back into the boat to see Maren I learnt that there were a few people crying and pretty scared. The boat windows were not sealed so water was pouring in the front, and if you are not used to boats I guess you would have thought we we’re going to sink :p

Anyway it was fun and we got back fine.

The tour company was Orion Boat Trips/Cruises and wasn’t cheap at 1,900 baht per person but they provided gear, towels, all meals, kayak hire and park entry fees, so it was ok.

This is my own review and not endorsed by Orion in any way.

Maren at the Emerald Lagoon & the boat

Maren at the Emerald Lagoon & the boat owned by Orion Tours

Day 25 – Mon – 29th June:

Today Maren was leaving 😦 so she checked out and kept her stuff in my room until 4pm when her taxi came to pick her up and take her to the ferry port. She had two days in Bangkok and then was flying back to Germany after four weeks travelling around South East Asia!

We spent the day by the pool again and in the evening while eating dinner (on my own now) I made an exciting decision. I was reading a free mini book on Ko Phangan that Maren left me and I found a place called C&M Study centre. I recognised the name (it was only a tiny advert in the corner) because we drove past it yesterday on the way to and from the boat dock.

The only thing I have found to be a shame while in Thailand is how hard it is to communicate with the locals. Many of them are leached by tourism and don’t have the time of day to talk to another ‘farang’ like they might have done twenty years ago. So I sent them an email and said I only had a week but I would like to study some Thai! They replied and said could I drop by tomorrow. So depending on how much it costs I think I will give it a shot.

This is quite ambitious for me because I have always found learning languages hard (I was taught German at school) but it is something that has started to interest me ever since I went to Africa in 2012, where the locals were so keen to teach you some of their language. The problem with the English education system is they don’t teach you why you are learning a foreign language and it is just a chore. Of course the reason is to communicate with other cultures and it may sound daft but it took me many years to understand this because it is just not brought across in English education.

Anyway that was a long one. So long.

Next up: days twenty-six and twenty-seven.

Previously: days twenty-two and twenty-three.