August 15, 2010

Bye Bye Bangkok! Back to reality...

We spent the final days of our trip in Bangkok on the exact same road where it all began 2 months ago :)
Kao San Road is a hive of activity; bursting with dodgy bars and crazy people selling everything from ‘massaaaage’ to vest tops, fake ID cards (and fake degree certificates!) to glow sticks, fake shades&bags, amazing Pad Thai cooked right in front of you and (my favourite) side stalls where you dip your feet into small pools filled with small fish who eat the dead skin off of your feet.
We spent our days shopping in MBK (our favourite mall in the WORLD!), haggling and picking up touristy trinkets to bring back home to family and friends. We treated ourselves to a room in a nicer (bit pricer at US$13 a night) hotel on Khao San Road, with a roof top pool :)
We spent our last night in Bangkok airport, as the last bus we could catch to the airport was at 11 pm and our flight wasn’t until 6 am :( Such is the life of a budget traveler!
These months have flown by. Chris and I have been lucky enough to have this opportunity and I can’t say I would have done South East Asia on a shoestring with anyone else but her. We were like chalk and cheese at times but it’s not easy to spend 24/7 with someone for two months, no matter who that person is! We took our differences in stride and enjoyed each others company; I’m grateful for the interesting conversations (we never got bored), the sense of humor we share, the ridiculous situations we found ourselves in (and laughed about later) and the ability to have fun in any situation. I’ve had such a great time! All good things must come to an end and it’s time to go home…I must admit, I’m tired of living out of a suitcase and hand washing my clothes!
(Who am I kidding? In a month’s time I’ll be ready to do it all over again…)
On that same roof top we met a couple in their late 70’/early 80’s from New York. The wife was nearly crippled from an overdose of radiation to her spine (a medical mistake whilst treating her for cancer) and she was in constant pain. Her husband helped her everywhere and made sure she was comfortable, translating the conversation for her whilst she was in the pool without her hearing aid. He told us of all the places they had been together over the last 40 years; the Caribbean, Africa, South America, Europe…you name it, they had been. She had been in that physical state for 10 years and yet they continued to travel. Here they were at a budget hotel in the middle of Bangkok, talking about what a great time they’ve had around Asia and how they love meeting young people like us.
‘It makes us feel younger, being around people with a hopeful, positive attitude. People who travel have a different way of seeing things, they’re interesting and more open to ideas, you know? I just love it. We caught the travel bug years ago and no matter what, we’ve never been able to shake it off.’
I hope that I’m able to do what they’re doing at their age. This Travel bug still has lots of places to see, people to meet and things to do between now and 90!
Until then I’m hoping for a heavy dose of reality as I prepare for my next adventure. Watch this space.
Thanks for following me on this blog everyone, it’s been a pleasure keeping track of this wild and wonderful summer.
Until next time,
xoxo Malou

Travel Stats

On our umpteenth bus ride I decided to (Try to) work out exactly how many hours we were spending on travel. One thing lead to another and I’ve since calculated hours, miles/km, etc of my whole trip beginning in Oman! It may seem a bit chaotic and the numbers are a bit much but I wanted to show how I came to my exact figures. Math is not my strongest point so it took a lot for me to keep at this! Hope someone out there finds this interesting!

  • Air miles
London- Oman: 3,689 miles/ 5,935 km,
Bangkok - Oman: 2,902.02 miles/ 4,670.22 km
Total airmiles flown = 18,986.08 miles / 30,555 km
Total hours spent flying (from beginning to end, including Oman trip) = 40 hours total (not including stopover time!)
Total hours spent travelling including waiting time = 68 hours 

  • Buses
Bangkok- Kanchanaburi : 6 hrs
Bangkok- Vientiene: 16 hrs
Vientiene- Vang Vieng: 4 hrs
Vang Vieng-Vientiene- Hanoi: 36 hrs
Hanoi- Hue: 13 hrs
Hue-Hoi An: 4 hrs
Hoi An- Nha Trang: 13 hrs
Nha Trang- Saigon: 14 hrs
Saigon- Phom Penh: 7. hrs
Phom Penh - Siem Reap: 6.5 hours 
Siem Reap - Bangkok: 8 hrs
Bangkok- Koh Tao: 8 hrs bus + 3 hrs ferry
Koh Samui - Bangkok: 1.5 hour ferry + 2 hour bus ride + 8 hrs ‘VIP’ bus

Total hours spent on buses = 145.5 hours (6.0625 days!)
Total hours spent travelling (including ferries) = 153 hrs (6.25 days!)

  • Total distance covered over land (including Muscat- Dubai trip) 
Muscat- Dubai: 272 miles/ 437.5 km ( x 2 : 544 miles/ 875 km)
Bangkok- Kanchanaburi: 68 miles/ 110.5 km (x2 : 136 miles/ 221 km)
Bangkok- Vientiane: 322 miles/ 518 km
Vientiane- Vang Vieng: 67 miles / 108.5 km
Vang Vieng back to Vientiane: 67 miles / 108.5 km
Vientiane to Hanoi: 299 miles/ 482 km
Hanoi to Halong Bay: 81 miles/ 130 km
Halong Bay to Hanoi: 81 miles / 130 km
Hanoi to Hue: 335 miles / 540 km
Hue to Hoi An: 63 miles / 102 km
Hoi An to Nha Trang: 265 miles / 413.5 km
Nha Trang to Saigon: 199 miles / 321 km 
Saigon to Phnom Penh: 130 miles / 210 km
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap:190 miles/ 308 km
Siem reap to Bangkok: 335 miles/ 539 km
Bangkok to Chumphon: 286 miles/ 460 km
Surat Thani to Bangkok:404 miles/ 650 km

Total distance covered over land: 3,804 miles / 6,122 km

  • Ferries
Chumphon to Koh Tao: 47 miles/ 75 km
Koh Tao to Koh Phanghan:31 miles/ 50 km
Koh Phanghan to Koh Samui: 7 miles/ 12 km
Total distance covered by Ferries: 85 miles / 137 km

Total distance traveled over two and a half months =
22,875 miles / 36, 814 km

August 8, 2010


We ferried and we bussed it back to Bangkok after (reluctantly) saying goodbye to Mamma Mac and Pappa Mac.
About two hours into our bus ride, after the lights had been dimmed and everyone was about to doze off, the brights came on and the airconditioning was turned off. At first I thought the driver had accidentally knocked the switches and buttons, so everyone sat there in stunned silence waiting for it to come back on. After 20 minutes it was apparent that this was not happening and people began to fidget and twitch, looking around at everyone expectantly like “who’s going to talk to the driver?”
The smell of feet, the malfunctioning toilet and sweat started to fill the two storey bus and I began to feel clausterphobic. I finally flew out of my seat and stormed down the aisle, down the steps to the ‘cockpit’ and looked at the driver.

Now, let me explain a few things about Thai bus drivers. They’re all clinically insane, erratic, dangerous and aggressive by Thai standards. They swear, they swerve and they make a bus journey seem more like the roller coaster ride of death.
I gently sat down on the steps and began fanning myself, motioning to him that we were hot and uncomfortable. I said, as politely as I could, that we were trying to sleep…before I could finish my game of charades, he interrupted with a scream: “NOO SMOKKKINGGGG!!!”
Me: “What? No one is smok..”
I could hear giggling from the passe
ngers upstairs as the bus swerved everytime he opened his mouth. I was clearly a dangerous distraction.
Me: “Please sir, no one is smoking anymore and we’re trying to sleep. It’s 1 am in the morn..”
“Yes I understand that but they’re not smoking anyumore…you can’t smell any…”
At which point I had to break things down into ‘Thanglish”:
“No smoke anymore. FINISH! (With hand motion) it HOT, no sleep! (More motioning) we pay for aircon..”
He was swerving in time with shaking his head at this point so I gave up and sat there for a while longer as it was much cooler than upstairs.

We finally came to a rest stop and we got out. A group of American boys were laughing about the whole thing: “Can you believe he was punishing the whole bus because someone was smoking? That would never happen in America…”
Of course not. It wouldn’t happen in most countries but This is Asia!
When we were getting back on the bus a few of us stood our ground and argued until the driver (and a translator) understood that we wouldn’t get on without airconditioning. FINALLYY he agreed, once there was NO SMOKKINGGGGG.
I stormed on the bus and asked everyone to refrain from lighting up at any point, at which point an American piped up, “Yea, or you’ll have us to deal with. It’s a bad day for Sam O’King!”

Heaven is a place in Thailand

How would you describe a little slice of heaven?
It’s arriving at a beautiful Thai resort, perched atop a hill overlooking a tropical bay with crystal clear water, white sands and picturesque fishing boats bobbing in the shallows. It’s being welcomed to stay with two wonderful, warm and funny people who treat you with a maternal kindness only found in mums and dads :)
It’s flinging yourself onto the most comfortable bed you’ve seen and felt in over two months. It’s being able to take a warm bubble bath, or even a shower for that matter, without worrying about running out of hot water. It’s having any hot water at all, with the added perk of fresh towels and bathrobes. It’s being treated to lovely dinners and lunches in restaurants you barely glanced at when you flicked through guide books and brochures, never imagining you’d ever be able to eat there.
It’s having great company with a wicked sense of humour and entertaining stories.It’s gossiping and sharing tales of life in Barbados, laughing at it’s quirky Bajanisms. It’s being able to borrow an amazing camera and take cool photos of great places and fun adventures shared.
It’s chilling by a eternity pool overlooking the sea with islands dotted over the horizon. It’s having nothing else to worry about but what you’re going to have for lunch today. It’s being able to relax and enjoy a beautiful tropical island in Southern Thailand. It’s have a real holiday at the end of traveling.
It’s having angels sent to us by the travelling gods. It’s going away feeling like you now have a set of Scottish surrogate parents, having pampered you and taken such good care of you. Its spending a week with Ken and Alison Mcintyre in Koh Samui. That’s how I define a little slice of heaven. 
Thank you :)

August 4, 2010

TemperMENTAL Thai tuk tuk taximan - Koh Samui

We made it to Koh Samui the day after the Full Moon Party. We were invited to stay a couple of nights with Ken and Alison McIntyre (The same lovely McIntyres I stayed with in Oman) and we were eager to get there!
We took a tuk tuk taxi to the Q Signature resort, which took about 45 minutes as it was on the other side of the island. We were then chucked out on the main road and the taxi driver told us we had to walk the rest of the way to the hotel entrance. This wouldn’t have been a problem were it not for:
A.) A 400 m road to the entrance of the resort, UP A STEEP HILL!
B.) My ever daunting 30 kg suitcase!
We argued with the taxi driver and demanded that he take us to the hotel as arranged. He refused and demanded his 200 baht. Instead we offered him 100 baht and this angered our little Thai taxi man.
We were tired, hungover and in terrible moods as we stormed off with our luggage in tow. Our little Thai Taxi man followed us on foot for about 50 m up the road and then began tugging at my bag, refusing to accept his 100 baht. He screamed, we screamed back and tried to get him to drop us up the hill. (His car was idling on the main road this whole time!) But it got a little bit out of hand.
We were on the verge of tears with frustration as this man refused to let me walk any further (he had a grip on my bag) and kept demanding his money. He even raised his hand to slap me at one point and I backed off, threatening to call the tourist police.
Eventually our hissy fit paid off and he let the two crazy blonde girls storm off with their crazy luggage in tow. We marched up the hill to the resort and were met by a friendly security guard and a golf cart for our luggage. Within 5 minutes we had calmed down as we took in the beautiful scenery around us.
The resort was perched on a hill which overlooked a huge bay fringed with reefs and coconut trees. A cool breeze and the sound of water fountains gave it a peaceful ambiance. The sun was shining over a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the bay. We had landed in Thai heaven and were soon to be met by the angels sent to us by the Travel Gods.

Full Moon Party*

Glow paint, fire dancers, buckets of Thai whiskey, more glow paint, a ‘pass out zone’ and thousands of drunken/drugged and spaced out tourists going crazy on the beach pretty much sums up the Full Moon Party.
I was never particularly keen on the idea of going to the Full Moon in the first place because of all the horror stories I’d heard of girls being drugged, people being robbd and sheer mayhem on the beach! Where’s the fun in that?
We soon discovered the fun was in the paint! Being the girls that we are, we spent almost triple the amount of time getting ready than at the actual party. I LOVE GLOW PAINT! We painstakingly painted and covered almost every inch of our bodies with flowers, swirls, blobs and splatters in every neon colour imaginable. There was no rush to get to the party at any point and we were joined by a few guys who were staying next door. They were subjected to our designs as well and left the building with a little more decoration than they had hoped for!
We were all a bit slow to get started on the drink as well as we were still hungover from the 3 previous nights! (A pool party, glow party and beach party does tire you out…) Chris and I were also taking the lead as the responsible ones for the night and made sure to only have a couple of drinks. A storm had been brewing all afternoon and it began to rain as we were getting ready. We got to the party around 2 am and it was still raining, which dampened the mood slighty (no pun intended).
As our paint began to wash off Chris and I realised this wasn’t all it was hyped up to be; previous parties we had been to were much better. Looking back on it I think we were a bit nervous and paranoid about so many things going wrong that we didn’t end up having a great time. (And believe me, do things ever go wrong. There are 7 hospitals on Koh Samui built especially to house the large number of people injured during the Full Moon Parties once a month! From cut feet to gang rapes…) We went in search of some food and I ended up having the most delicious chicken schnitzel whilst being entertained with card tricks by two silly French boys. The highlight of my night is always the food :)
The Full Moon was an experience non the less and I now know that if I ever fail at life I could always come back and make a living as a glow paint artist for the Quarter Moon, Half Moon and Full Moon parties on Koh Phangan!
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