18 January to 24 February 2012
…Well that’s what it felt like anyway as I’ll soon explain! After returning from Burma and spending a day or two in Bangkok sorting ourselves out we felt the need to chill out a bit. I realised we’re not going to get much sympathy on that score but as wonderful as Burma is it is a tiring country to travel in – long hours on cramped buses over terrible roads, paper-thin walls in guesthouses, early mornings (OK, and early nights to compensate) and although constantly being covered in red dust and dirt can’t necessarily be deemed tiring it certainly contributed to the feelings of needing a relaxing couple of weeks.
The lovely town of Si Racha
As our first port of call, we decided on Si Racha, a seaside town just over an hour from Bangkok and the small island of Koh Si Chang just off it, described by Lonely Planet as the “anti-Thai island”. I think what they’re trying to say is that you won’t find any of the things you may stereotypically expect to find on a Thai island (e.g. gorgeous white sand beach, chilled bars or full moon parties or hoards of foreigners) and not that they are against Thai visitors! In fact in the entire week we spent in that region we only saw a handful of other ‘falangs’; this is traditional Thailand at its best and it still amazes me how easy it is to get “off the beaten track” in this country and be somewhere where there are no tourists, no English menus and where it can even be difficult to find people who speak much English at all. And only less than 2 hours from Bangkok. We stayed in a traditional, old wooden house on stilts over the sea; no beach but beautiful sunsets. After the average food in Burma, we topped up on amazing Thai food – huge prawns, freshly caught and grilled on the water’s edge, green and red curry, Pad Thai noodles, mango and sticky rice and traditional Thai BBQ.
Thai BBQ is an all-you-can-eat experience usually costing little over £2 where you select your raw ingredients – fish, squid, chicken, pork, noodles, and vegetables and cook everything yourselves over a tabletop charcoal filled clay pot. On top of the coals is a convex grill for cooking the meat and fish and a trough around the edge into which you pour in stock from a tea-pot to cook noodles and vegetables. It gets a bit warm cooking at such close quarters in the tropics but plenty of rum and coke help you keep cool.
After a regenerating few days in Si Racha, it was time for a further few days relaxing on a more traditional kind of Thai beach; one with white sand beaches and swaying coconuts palms. But first, it was time for some social studies! As we had to pass through Pattaya, famed for its seedy visitors and accompanying seedy nightlife.
The only good thing I can say about Pattaya is that we got a damned good English breakfast including a proper cup of tea!
I guess that reflects the number of Brits that have previously visited and settled but this area definitely now seems to be the domain of the Russians ……. that new breed of travellers that is starting to take over much of the Thai coastline.
Mark commented that he’d never come across so many Russians in one place before and I pointed out the only reason I have, is that I’ve been to Russia!
Mark probably has a few more to add, but here are some of my observations:
- Swim attire is for the beach and pool – why do people think it necessary or acceptable to walk down the street in nothing but a pair of budgie smugglers? Come to think of it, why do guys think it is OK to wear this kind of swimwear at all?!
- Bright red dyed hair is alive and kicking in Moscow.
- In Russian couples, it seems to be the woman who makes the decision on which ping-pong show to attend – walking down the street with Mark it was always me who got the Cyrillic menu of delightful activities thrust in my face.
- Beer is a nutritious breakfast supplement (OK, so it’s not just the Russians who believe this).
So after our brief social experiment in “Russia” it was time to get the hell out of there and on to better things …..
Our destination was the island of Ko Mak. There’s not too much that can be said about a week sitting around on a gorgeous beach doing nothing except reading books, listening to iPods, drinking Sang Som (Thai rum) and fresh coconut, watching the sun set and meeting nice people, so I won’t! Do check out the photos though!! OK, so to make you feel better I’ll come clean. We did have to share paradise with rather a lot of sand flies, or, “those evil little [email protected]*#ers” as they quickly become known. The hottest topic of conversation on the island was the bites of those unfortunate enough to attract the buggers (me) and the best ways of reducing the itchiness. So heeding all advice most days I went to the beach plastered not only in factor 50 but also insect repellant and coconut oil and most evenings out to the bar with little calamine lotion-style white/pink dots all over my legs! Mark also got bitten but not quite to the same extent. The price we pay eh?
So in order to bring you up to speed with our travels, we’ve just spent two weeks back in Cambodia in Siem Reap, spending a bit of time catching up with friends, enjoying more good food and drink and plotting our next moves …