06.02.2008 - 26.02.2008
Hello all! Been a while! - We've mainy been chilling out (what a suprise). It's good - we do very little and spend very little. Can't be a bad thing. We've explored a little more and found a free Wi-Fi cafe up the road. I fixed their wireless network for them so the lady owner is a major fan now. She brought me out her cell phone the other day to fix - she's got me sussed. It's been useful and gave us the chance to Skype Mum & Dad and Steve. It also gives me somewhere to play poker without constantly getting disconnected. I went up the other day and managed to win enough to cover our rent for four days :-)
I can't get access to any of my poker funds though. I accessed my online poker "bank account" and got immediately suspended for trying to access it in Thailand - a banned country. Marvelous - my poker winnings all locked up until we get to China. The support people were infuriating - I explained that we are travelling for several years and they kept saying "so, you've moved to Thailand then?" - nope! - "So you don't live in London any more?" - YES we do! etc etc. Futile. Ahh well - at least I'm winning :-)
We found a shortcut along the beach to the wi-fi cafe which ends with us walking through quite a poor suburban area. We spotted a communal outside toilet which is the exact polar opposite of private!
Bear in mind that's a "squat" loo too - you don't sit down on it. You get the picture!
Still loving our accomodation. We've got on top of the wildlife issues now. I'm still a little twitchy in bed at night but we seem to be OK and we don't run at the sight of bugs. Saying that, we have a resident woo-woo bird that lives in a coconut tree above us (K called them woo-woo birds as she knows them from HongKong and they constantly go "woo woo"). Their woo-woo's escalate in pitch and ferrocity until it seems like they should explode in a ball of feathers. But they don't , they just start again. The one that lives above us wakes up at about 5am. I'm getting some earplugs. I've been woken every single morning. There is also a bird that sounds exactly like our old alarm clock, and another one that sounds like a burglar alarm. Oh, and one that makes "computer" noises. No other way to describe it really.
We also have a sand crab in the bathroom, it's dug a hole in the floor round the shower. We've never seen it but we know the signs. Hole, large pile of sand. The pile of sand has progressively got bigger to the point we think we may actually have a sand lobster instead. There is so much sand I actaully checked the outside of the wall to see if he's managed to "get out". No signs of that yet.
It's so relaxed here, yet funny little things happen here and there you don't expect. I was lying in my hammock one afternoon, soaking up the sun. Our resort was basially empty. No one around. Then funky house music started coming from the bar area and we were sure it was being mixed on decks live. I wandered over to the bar and discovered a small DJ booth I'd never noticed before and Lap, one of the staff here, was donning his "cans" and mixing up some mildly cheesy music with a grin on his face. Didn't really expect that.
Kirstin spends a fair amount of time searching for waxing salons. They don't seem to keen on it here and we can't figure out why. Still, it keeps her entertained. I'm saving my next haircut until I absolutley have to.
We did what's called a "Visa Run" yesterday. Basically our visas run out a week after Matt and Justin arrive tomorrow so we payed £20 each and got an aircon minivan down to the Malaysian border. Our driver, a hobbling Thai, was drinking Red Bull and popping caffeine tablets at 7am when he picked us up. Not a good sign. We reckon he hadn't slept the previous night. So off we zoomed (it's a 12 hour round trip including ferry crossings and the actual visa part) with terrible DVD movies playing. When we approached the Malay border we drove through a 1/2 mile of street market that is there purely to feed off the visa tourist market. It's a surreal experience. You go to a booth, get stamped out of Thailand, then cross the border, stamp into Malaysia, then about turn 180 degrees and immediatly stamp out of Malaysia at a window right next to the one you stamp in. Then you walk back into Thailand and stamp back in again and get a new 30 day visa exemption. The whole process takes about 30 minutes. As always, one of the police stopped me and examined my passport and I got all the usual questions....
"You from London?", "yes", "you know David Beckham". "no", "you Roger?", "yes", "you Roger Moore!", "haha, yes, that's right, I'm Mr Bond". They all do this. But this time he added a twist when he looked at my passport photo...."you Mr Bean!" - haha - git.
This is the border - you can't see obviously, but the market is behind. I had a choice of border or market pics and well, a marked is just a market.
So with the visas renewed we jumped back in the minivan and headed off back to "home". We were supposed to stop at Tescos in a large town (Trang) so we could stock up on UK things like wine and also... a KFC!!! - when I mentioned it, one of the people in the van moaned "some of us have to work tomorrow" - it turned out 3 or 4 of our fellow passengers were working the season on the Island and could not bear to add 30 mins to a 12 hour day. For pete's sake. 12 bloody hours and they can't wait for 30 mins. This turned out to be the least of our worries. (p.s. they were happy to hold us up with fag breaks!)....
About an hour or two into the return journey one of the girls in the van told me with great alarm that the driver was falling asleep. Sure enough, looking at him in the mirror I saw him constantly blinking and then slowly closing his eyes, then nodding down, then waking with a startled look, then repeating this. We both agreed this needed to be dealt with BEFORE he crashed so I called forward to a German chap at the front who spoke Thai and asked if he could ask the driver if he was OK, and that I'd be happy to take over the driving. This German chap was the same chap who protested at the KFC stop, looking at me with great distain. He refused to help , telling me that interfering with a Thai chap's work was offensive to them. "I don't give a F**@! who is offended - our lives are at risk!" - he still refused to help and didn't even bother putting his seatbelt on. In fact, to our amazement, only three of us put our belts on - bear in mind he's doing up to a ton on bumpy roads. People can be incredibly thick in an attempt to be "cool".
At this stage I shouted at the driver, "STOP NOW! - you are not awake". He refused and said he was OK. We got him to pull into the next service station and bought him more Red Bull, and I moved to the passenger seat and spent the rest of the 4 hour drive looking him in the eye and occasionally taking to him and moving my arms about to catch his attention, all the while being prepared to grab the wheel and knock it into neutral should he drop off. Not the most relaxing journey.
We never stopped for shopping and KFC - we just wanted to get back alive! - bloody idiot passengers. I still can't believe how many people are prepared to "see what happens" rather than stand up and be vocal.
Anyhow (deep breath) - all sorted now! - next time we are hiring our own vehicle.
Did I mention we get island-wide power cuts? Sitting under candlelight right now. Hope it does not last - all the water stops without power so we can't flush the loos, and no showers - in this humidity.
..back - it's the next morning now. K went out with some girls staying here to a beach party last night. Got back at 4am tsk! :-) - I bailed out - I've got a cold (how the hell do you get a cold here!?!). She's just woken up with a mega hangover and my cold.
The Thais round here are really into their songbirds. As I mentioned before the owner, Kun, had lots of song birds in cages dotted around the "resort" and yesterday we found out why. They compete with all the other bird owners each monday. It's very bizarre. We went to see it hapenning - he came 2nd out of 100 last week so was hoping for his first win this time.
They hang all the bird cages on three rows of lines, and then a man with a whistle, a bucket of water, and a pot with a hole in it blows his whistle. The jusdges then watch the birds, one at a time, and mark on their score card how many times they sing. The whistle-man puts the pot with a hole in it in a bucket of water and when it sinks then that's his cue to blow the whistle again. Between each whistle blow your bird must sing 8 times or you are out. They have two heats. The 1st lasts about 40 mins and the second round for the finalists lasts anything up to 3 hours depending on how stiff the competition is. You see all the owners encouraging their birds to sing with a plethora of sounds, body signals, etc. It's quite fascinating. Kun didn't make the final this time, his best bird is growing new feathers so he had to use one of his "backups".
Kun and Lap on a not so successful Bird singing day.
It was a good experience doing something with the locals and it was kinda nice that a fair few Thais there recognised us from when they come here to play football so we felt very welcome. The "taxi" driver was also rather suprised we wanted to go to the song bird competition. They clearly don't get much tourist interest. Then again, it's not much of a spectator sport :-)
We found a movie on their computer here of the Tsunami hitting where we are staying. It's fascinating to watch. The sea rushes sideways along the beach in a manner much like the Severn Bulge - but carrying fishing boats and debris. Everyone is standing on the shore line watching, then it comes back, then all of a sudden it comes inwards, decimating three bungalows and any other things in it's path. The wave was only a metre high at the most but it's relentless nature gave it it's destructive power. I have a copy but I won't upload it until I've checked with Kun that he's hapy for me to do that. It even has a shot of him running like hell with the wave behind him.
Just been on the phone to Matt. He and Justin are at Bangkok Airport and will be with us early this afternoon. We've organised a BBQ and some fireworks for their arrival.
Wil sign off now. Here is a little pic of the spider I mentioned in the last post. Notice her lovely sack of eggs. Euchhh!
Oh yeah - also, below should be a travel map of our journey so far....