(700 Sea Gypsies, 52 Islands, & 1 Bad-Ass Angry Langur!) A right Boomeranga-rama Drama!
13.04.2008 40 °C
Farang be afraid, very afraid... (Temple, Koh Lipe)
Voila! Our newly knocked up lo-fi route map. Travellerspoint, you know your Flash app. can't touch this!
Location presently the island of Koh Lipe, Thailand. 5 degrees north of Equator, a stones throw from Malaysian border, and home to a 700 strong community of Chao Leh villagers (and a crazed Langur monkey, see below). No more than 6 square km's of tropical amazingness, and just too...Too. Damn. Hot!
EDIT: South Thai/Malaysian internet censorship barred Travellerspoint log-in from Koh Lipe. Real pain in the ass, due to large amounts of blood sweated at the time crafting this fine blog post (Couldn't believe it - net access and mobile network out here. Is it now officially game over for the "traveller", in S.E.Asia at least? Sounds it. Just met a guy from Devon who was the only caucasian here 20 years ago. Ta for the bifters Les.) . Post has been uploaded from Bangkok, where we are now for 'Songkran' (read on).
So March has been and gone (congratulations Gavin & Glenda on the birth of Jake Doherty), and for us it certainly has been as mad as the ol' hare. Sarah had to temporarily return home because of serious family illness, (quite the mad dash: Sydney - London (via Singapore) - Belfast, London - Bangkok, and a lesson on the importance of sourcing quality insurance - John, our thoughts are with you) whilst I rendezvoused with the Viking (yo Oyvind!) in Bangkok, before hitting the island of Koh Samed to await the Missus' return (where I got to witness the hilarious spectacle of Oyv 'turning' a lesbian! I hope your leg has recovered from that brutal dry-humping hombre Ha Ha!).
Consequently the Australian leg of this R.T.W. shenanigans has been somewhat truncated, but c'est la vie. Urulu, we will meet another day (though we do now have a few days to kill in Sydney around April 24th, on route to Auckland, New Zealand).
But now we're fully balls-deep back into the serious business of hunting down that perfect beach. Tough we know, but somebody has to do it. Pretty damn close too where we are right now - azure skies, white powder sand and crystal water, plus a little gem of a reef chucked in for good measure. (Why only this very day on said reef, I enjoyed the company of an inquisitive ray whilst snorkelling. Ace.)
Looks like this is far as we go south now. Was a toss-up between shooting on down into Malaysia (really wanted to try a 'real' Laksa), or back up the Peninsula towards Bangkok. We settled on the latter, as Thai New Year ('Songkran' - in Sangskrit, 'Move Into') is 12-15th April'ish (absolutely love the non-specific date. Though 15th is the 'official' first day of the new year). Sounds quite the week of partying too, with everybody hitting the streets for what is possibly the worlds biggest water fight (really am going to regret not asking Sarah to bring out some kick-ass water pistols!). Although the water element does actually have a very real religious significance - most importantly purification. (Need to put some serious strategic thinking into place regarding how to capture the madness, considering the amount of water that will be slung around...maybe the third camera purchase imminent?)
Unbelievably Songkran will also mark 7 months on the hoof for us, and mean we've been back and forth through S.E.Asia from around the end of, to almost the start again of the Thai Monsoon. The mullet development goes on! We must thank Rufus (see you in Sydney on the 24th comrade - again!) for hooking us up with Alain De Botton's 'The Art Of Travel', very auspicious, considering the development of our own philosophical thinking about just what exactly the hell we are doing! He He! (Note to self, must research these Baudelaire & Flaubert cats.) Anthropological field trip? No. Honeymoon? Yes. Still. 'Gastronomical beach odyssey'... damn right!
Okay, now the (hopefully) short and succinct introduction is drawing to a close on this latest post, it's time for the pics. Not exactly in chronological order, but hey, sue us! Let 'em roll...
Just had to kick off with this. Couldn't help thinking of 'Dusk 'til Dawn'. Patpong, Bangkok - on a session with the Viking. (Did we mention in the last post we wouldn't see the 'City of Angels' again? How wrong we were...)
Island-Hopping. Having a bad run with hats (see previous post), minutes after this was taken it blew off my head. Last spotted bobbing around in the Andaman ocean. Have put out an A.P.B. for any Sea-Gypsies rocking out a red Quiksilver cap...
Good to see the ol' faithful again.
Just some of the 52 islands comprising Tarutao National Marine Park. Koh Tarutao itself used to be a prison island, until everybody (screws included) decided the pirates life was more agreeable. Free reign on plundering the straights of Malacca until the British Navy came along and shut the partay down. Bastardos.
Land Ahoy Cap'n! Coming up on Dong (see below), sorry Lipe Island.
Wild beach. Koh Tarutao.
Koh Lipe, immigration office. Seriously.
Looking out over this beach right now as I type (Koh Lipe).
Steve Zissou, suck on ma' ball sack!
Piss-poor reef shot, I know - really managed to make it look devoid of life, ha ha, but the point is to show the water clarity here. That pic was taken from above water, at a depth of around 13 feet. Hang on, there's a fish in that shot, Woo-Hoo, and some black spikey things, get in! (Honestly, I swear it's chocka down there with an expansive gamut of life, and colour. Nearly wrote the camera off too trying to prove it. Low-rent underwater photography = clear ziplock bag from airport security + mucho praying. Bloody lcd screen shagged now!
Any ideas why we refer to this place as Dong Island?
Main street, leading from the Chao Leh village. Rush hour... (Mind your ankles. A lot of aggressive cocks about. Not a joke.)
Major road junction. Said cocks straight ahead. Again, rush hour...
The best pancakes in Thailand. Worth the 900km jaunt to find 'em too. Lipe.
'Riskee'. Lipe. Birthplace of the most divine curry yet tasted on this trip. Like the pancakes, worth the camel hike to find. And here she is...
Ohh yess. The fruit of Irena's labours. Notice the lack of Thai staples (this is a Muslim restaurant), no coconut milk or lemongrass for example. The tomato influence putting us in mind of a rogan josh. Irena's secret curry paste/chilli oil combo being brought to life by the lime. Will miss this soo much.
Rock temple. 'Hantalay'.
What a name. Just had to stay here.
Apologies for poor quality. This time it's the camera's fault. Honestly. (Really maxing out the capabilities of this cheapo thang.) Eagle hunting off Koh Tarutao, taken from Tae Boo cliff.
Yeah, you might look all cute for the camera you furry sack of rabies, but believe us there was much changing of underwear after this encounter. (Or 'under-daks' if your an Aussie I suppose, you voracious corrupters of the Queens English!) The angry mofo bum-rushed us big time. Couldn't get past it on way down from Tae Boo (only one jungle path) - discovered later it was protecting it's young, so fair enough. Though next time you better run, 'cause I'm gettin' me a big ol' rifle offa these here sea-gypsies. We'll see who's the daddy then, when I'm rocking out a pair of purty Langur slippers! (Obviously I'm no David Bellamy (though actually the beard development is getting close), but I'm sure this is a Langur.)
Majestic sunset. Koh Tarutao.
Sarah. Getting rapidly reacquainted with B.E.A.C.H.L.I.F.E. (...it's the only life I know. Sorry.)
The 'real' beach soundtrack. No idea who this Thai dude is, but he got the F.U.N.K - have to purchase this on return to the mainland.
Better than pharmaceuticals, allegedly. The infamous Sang-Som rum. Perfect companion to the above.
Our latest abode. Hi San! Hi Asia! And Yo, thank you soo much for Sarah's perfume.
Sun down, after another strenuous day... (This is Sarah's pic, and she won't let me forget it.)
Reet proper big Christopher Lee, Hammer House of Horror style lightning storm that night too, forks spreading all out over the sky, like Jacko's mitts at a kids party. Trying to describe it's magnificence is pointless (especially with our retarded grasp of the English language), but probably the most sublime experience of this trip, and that's saying something after the Mongolian steppe/Gobi desert. (You'll have to trust us on that obviously, as (per bloody usual) the camera just was not capable of capturing any of it.)
Old-skool tuk-tuk (can't help loving their frog-like form, personally prefer them to the Bangkok version), plus traditional Thai style wooden house, Trang, Mainland.
Tangible difference in the Thai experience from here southwards, deeper into Satun province. Trang felt more like China (mmm, due to, eh, the heavy Chinese population), and the Muslim influence of Malaysia becomes quickly apparent - Bhurkas and Mosques abundant.
Random Mosque, poking it's golden onion dome through the jungle on route to Hat-Yai. Which Consulate advice states as bandito country, and not to visit. Sure a heavy police/military presence, roadblocks etc. but nothing unusual for a few Belfast ex-pats. (Seriously, the Thai government has killed more separatists down here over the last decade, than died in our own 'Troubles', spanning 30 odd years.)
Spent an afternoon hanging on Ao Pante Malacca beach with my homeboy Mohammed, cheers for the snouts big man.
EDIT: just found out the 'overnighter' train from Trang to Bangkok is full until after Songkran. Merde! Means the budget gonna get screwed again...
Remember kids, never cross the road without Mr. Dong (is he related to Mr. Hanky?)
Me and Oyv on-route to Samed, to party like it's 1999! Sorry, mope around until Sarah's return.
More beach porn. Koh Lanta, Nin beach.
Managed to secure this two-level palace on Kata beach, for the princely some of 500Baht per night (about 8 quid!). They threw in the bed bugs for free too - thank you team 'Coastline', it's still join-the-dots down the back, crack & sack for me! (Sarah just returning with a few groceries there, surprisingly not several Chang's)
Full moon view, from open air shower.
Sarah. Working on her back-stroke. (I later helped her with a few other strokes too, following our 2 week separation...)
Cultural shot alert. Thai football, or 'Takraw'. Played with or without net, using a rattan ball. Absolutely awe inspiring to watch. Points for style encourages some serious shape throwing. (Thanks Mr. Minsaas for the money shot.) Watched this game on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Lumphini park, Bangkok. And got caught out by the playing of National Anthem at 6pm (5/6th visit to this city and it's a new one on me) - armed security personnel are good visual reminder to get on your feet, and fix up look sharp (was on mobile at the time).
Wat Arun. Thonburi side of the Chao Praya river, Bangkok. Finally got to scale it (as mentioned, on only our 5/6th bloody visit).
Maybe mentioned in previous posts? Chatuchak market, Bangkok. The biggest, baddest market we've so far layed eyes on. Just some of the wares.
No, Sarah has not started tagging the walls of Bangkok. But it looks like the Rea clan might have some gangsta Thai relatives out here though ha ha!
Starting to really get hooked on this city (like you probably can't tell), and the Bangkok Post is recruiting right now too...mmm...
So, Australia then. As if we need to state it. You know what this place is.
Fairground, under Sydney Harbour bridge.
Bondi beach, Sydney. Rufus and Sarah. Where we encountered some scary rip-tides, and some bad attitude life-guards (stay away from the rocks? I'm drowning here mate! Bloody idiot!).
Random didgeridoo shot. Melbourne. Much like the god-awful human statues, you couldn't move for tripping over these muppets.
The nastiest looking gimp mask we've ever clapped our peepers on. Sydney.
Lot's of Dongs (is there a theme developing within this post?). Back of a van. Sydney. Competition time people - count all the dongs & first correct answer gets a pint (well, on yourself obviously). Just realised there's a double dong on there, does this count as one, two, or one and a half? Mmm... (can you draw analysis from this work of art, and the culture that it was created in?) By the way, has anyone watched Superbad? Deja Vu?
Speaking of pints, just spoke with a Finnish guy who pointed out the reason Chang (the virtues of which we may have went into in a previous post) isn't sold in the E.U. is due to it being deemed not suitable for consumption (E.U. pussies!) - mainly due to 'heavy metal' content (not sure if something was lost in translation there). Uh oh... Not exactly good news, when it's been about the only fluid intake for around 5 months straight. (Found out it's Everton F.C. that Chang sponsor - being doing my head in for ages that one. And they love the Premiership out here. Another avenue for the national pastime - gambling.)
Sarah insisted this photo went up! Sent this home in February to cheer her up. I mean, who wouldn't be cheered up by that Irish Beefcake dropping into your inbox? Eh? And yes, the T-Shirt is super cheese, I know.
One more thing before I forget (Fao. Mr. McComish and Mr. Maze), you guys heard anything from Gary 'the one handed hypnotist' Mitchell? Because I swear he's working at Healesville Sanctuary in Melbourne, chucking boomerangs, under the name of Murrundindi (of the Yurrundjeri Aboriginal people). Absolute doppelganger. Said he was half Aboriginal, half Scottish. Claimed he don't know no pot noodle either. I smell a wombat...
Well, it's almost time to split. Do a Michael (Bolton, not Jackson). This coral reef not 50 yards from where I'm sat right now needs further exploration I'd say. Again, somebody has to do it. After I order just one more Chang you understand...
Trying to work our way through this. Thai marine life poster. The Holy Grail is the turtle though (any species accepted!). Nesting season very soon (Tarutao) - still no sign of 'em, and we leave for Bangkok in a few days. Goddamn!
So before we depart, we warn you all now, only those of a Ray Winstone'esque disposition should proceed any further with this post. In keeping with the intellectual tone of our scribbling, and the Flaubertian thinking on life's duality, ladies and gentlemen, we present you with a very character building asian squat toilet (just don't say we didn't warn you!):
The End. Fin. Until next time, until after Songkran,
All our love,
Steve and Sarah
PS- Gav, you have any pics you can email on of the little 'un? And ta very much (as always) to everyone else for the text's/emails etc. It really means a lot (as always). Au revoir!
Remember, 'no money no honey', and everything is always, always, always the 'same same...but different'. You just can't help loving this place!