A Travellerspoint blog

Night train fully booked! a seat to chumporn anyone?

Turns out I've been far to relaxed about booking my ticket to Koh Tao and all the night train sleeper carriages are fully booked, my only other options would be A a seat for the entire nights travel or B an expensive flight to Samui island with a follow up ferry. Before we go in I better explain my reasons for wanting to visit Koh Tao. Firstly Ive never been there, secondly there is a dive school here called New Heaven which offers a reef conservation project. I don't really need a good excuse to dive but I figured why not dive and do some good at the same time. Planting chorals, releasing sea turtles and picking up trash from the ocean bed seems like a worthy cause to me. The only problem is I want to spend a month on the course and a thai visa is 28 days, plus I've spanked just over a week already, plus a day to get to the island and a day to get back. Based on this and with me wanting to check out the school itself before I commit to an entire month in there company Ive decided to spend a week or two fun diving with them. I ended opting for the cheap seats on the train...

I take a visit to Siam mall and purchase a super cheap mobile and sim so i can contact the dive school when I arrive, then I take the BTS and Subway to Bangkok train station to await my train. Now a thai mobile might sound like a good idea but I can't get the fucking thing to register the sim and all the instructions and messages I'm receiving my service provider are in thai, not much help to me. As i board my train I make way for a thai girl who smiles politely and accepts my gentlemanly offer of boarding first. Turns out she is in the seat next to me, perhaps this lady can help me with the phone, problem is she doesn't appear to speak much english. After about an hour of stunted communication, hand gestures and attempts to translate I finally appear to have the phone working. great news, the thai girl suggests I check its working by calling her phone. Sure why not and lo and behold the call connects. Success the phone is in fine working order after all. What I didn't realise was that this chick was mental and now she had my number. I managed to grab perhaps an hours sleep on the train before disembarking for my ferry and transfer at about 6 Am and I'm due to arrive on the island at about 8 45. In typical thai fashion the transfer coach is holding about 20 people more than it should and I'm too late to get a seat so I'm sat on the floor with my bags. No biggie its only 30 mins or so to the ferry and they pass in hurried and bumpy fashion.

On the ferry I make myself comfortable and again fall asleep for about an hour, when my phone starts to ring. its the thai chick from the train...I answer but as already mentioned she can't really speak english so I have no idea what she wants to be perfectly honest and after a minute or two i hang up. She calls again, another minute or so and again I hang up. By now I'm at the island and I transfer to the mainland and call my contact for a pick up. Its nearing 9 Am and by the time we reach the dive shop its closer to 10. I quickly organise another very basic room in the resort right next door for 400 baht. Dump my bags and hit my new bead for a few hours kip. Ive had two nights of under 3 hours sleep in a row and I'm toasted and need a few hours kip. Its not to be as crazy thai lady calls me a further 6 times in the space of 2 hours. I wouldn't mind but honestly she can't make it clear what she wants, I have no idea where she even lives or for that matter what her name is, I really don't get why she keeps calling me but I do get that I need to sleep. Phone goes off and I finally manage a couple of hours of rest. That evening I explore the immediate surroundings, sign my life away for insurance purposes at the dive shop, eat a light meal and crash back into bed early.

While diving the next day crazy chick calls me a further 3 times WTF? I decide I'm not going to answer any more calls from my random telephone stalker!

Im pleased to say the guys at the dive school are a great bunch, and in particular two of the guys doing there dive master internship are great fun. Besides some great diving, very relaxed, nothing too deep or into too much current Im meeting some great people here. An american couple are at the same resort as me and doing there AOW cert. There is a swiss girl here also doing AOW and then moving onto the reef project and a british girl also doing the reef project. Evenings are time for chilled out meals with a beer or two and in general I'm loving just how great this island is. What more can you ask for besides good diving, good company and a relaxed ambience? great bagels for breakfast? Koh Toa has it directly opposite the dive school in a place called Koppee (which is Thai for coffee). I have transferred ob day three to a resort up in the mountains for 600 baht along with the american couple. Its a lovely resort and 600 baht is still well within budget but the only problem is its miles from anywhere, and its hard to find a taxi driver that is prepared to take the bumpy and treacherous road up to the resort (paticulary after dark or after rain). Im fine with it to be honest, I'm not here to be pounding beers and partying anyway but on my next visit I will stay more local so I have the option of partying when it suits me. Time is passing all too quickly here and its the first place I've stayed at for more than 4 nights in almost 5 months its also the first place I've felt like I wanted to stay longer. i can only thank New Heaven dive School for making me feel so welcome, like one of the family and for the good fortune I had to meet some other great travellers while i was there.

Last night Syndrome strikes again! On my final night on the island both of my dive master buddies successfully complete there respective dive master courses by going through a stress test, this involved two instructors generally fucking with there gear while they try and exchange wet suits under water. BCD's are inflated to max, air sources turned off, masks pulled off or flooded and all the while they are struggling to get out of and into each others wet suits without loosing there fins or taking in giant lungfuls of water. it was fun to watch and we had set up a snorkel test for the after party. This involved downing a bucket of cheap ass thai booze through a snorkel in one breath. Need less to say it certainly kick started the guys night and we all had a good few beers in the dive shop before hitting up some bars and having a bit of a boogie. Once again I found myself half cut at 3 AM with no way to get to my resort and a full days travel ahead of me in a few short hours. Why o why do I keep doing this to myself I wonder?

I ended up sleeping on the roof of the dive school, seemed like a great idea at the time but when I awaken at 7 AM turns out I have been an all you can eat buffet for the mosquito population of the island. I mean I have been utterly demolished by mozzies its a wonder I had enough blood left to wake up. I have bites on my feet, face, arms, back, ass, neck, stomach and even between my fingers! I was wearing long trousers and a T shirt but these giant special ops mozzies have managed to bite through my clothes. Thank god there is no malaria here or id be a certain candidate for a blood transfusion.

Need less to say the ferry back to Chumporn was uncomfortable and I was looking forward to my bunk on the night train, before that happy moment i had around an hour to wait so I headed to a nearby restaurant and had a good feed to some what mitigate my lack of sleep and hang over. On my return to the station I was informed the train was delayed by unto 3 hours! Well this is Asia right and these things happen. i can over hear a lot of other tourists getting pretty irate about it but personally well I think you have to expect this kind of thing once in a while.

I get chatting to a thai girl who i also waiting for a train that delayed, she speaks far better english than crazy lady and she doesn't try and trick me into calling her mobile so Im more relaxed about this encounter. She tells me she is an mathematics teacher in Ratchuburi which I happen to know is a little north of Bangkok and quite a distance away. Her husband and 3 month old daughter live in Chumporn and she only gets to see them once a month she tells me sadly. She is not too unhappy though as being a teacher is a good job. We have a pleasant conversation but all the while I'm scratching away like mad at my mozzie bites. We both end up laughing at just how badly I've been bitten and she explains that Farrang (foreigners) must be more arroyo (delicious) for Yung (mosquitos). She asks me to please excuse her a moment and off she goes. A moment later she is back and she has bought me some tiger balm from a local store, which she explains, is made in thailand and is the best thing for mosquito bites. it was a genuinely warm moment for me that touched my heart. I can't think of a single instance of a stranger being that friendly or charitable back home and its another great reason why I dearly love thailand!!

My train arrives, actually it was almost 4 hours late but I'm not concerned I have plenty of time to make my fight and I'm just grateful to have a bed for the trip....

Posted by cd108 22:14 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Off to Bangers and Chang Mai

sunny 31 °C

My next flight takes me direct to Bangkok and I'm looking forward to getting back into Thailand, my flight has also provided me with a great offer on a serviced apartment. of course being thailand its cheap compared to the uk anyway but 20 quid a night is about the max I will spend on accommodation for this trip.....I usually stay in Banglumphu when I visit Bangkok as its cheap and close enough to Koh San if you want to party for an evening but this time my awesome apartment with 2 plasma TV's giant king size bed and hot tub are located between Asoke and Nana. Not an area I've really visited before but its close to Siam which I'm familiar with (shopping malls and cinemas located here). My room is awesome and just what I needed. I only plan to spend 2 nights here before heading North to visit my friend in Chang Mai. Having already done pretty much all there is to do touristy wise in Bangkok I take my days easy. A Thai Massage, some good food and relax in my room watching TV for the first time in 4 months. Having an apartment is almost like having your own place to chill in and its nice to just spend a little time as a normal human being. I even take in a 3d movie at the cinema. To make my life even more convenient the Thai government have helpfully installed a nice new express train service from the Airport to Piya Thai BTS interchange. For about 2 GBP i can skip all the traffic and take a nice air conditioned train from the airport to within a 2 minute walk of my room! Thank you Thailand, theres a reason I love you so!

2 nights of chilled relaxing in Bangers and I fly to Chang Mai for the absurdly cheap price of about 20 GBP return, find myself a room for the princely sum of 500 baht (about 10 GBP) clean, with a fan and a cold shower the usual mod cons. Arriving at about 8PM I head straight to the bar my friend works in for a beer and to say HI. Wow this place has changed in 2 years, its rammed full of french teenagers dressed like Ali G, as if that wasn't absurd enough the owner who was a dick when I met him 2 years ago has managed to become a super dick and despite no one waiting at the bar for serving enjoys bitching at my friend every time she stops for a chat with me. She seems depressed and tells me she doesn't like to work at the bar anymore, also her Boyfriend (my brother funnily enough) is working in Vietnam mostly at the moment and she says she is lonely at night. I ask her what time she finishes work and she says most nights now its not until 5 or 6 AM, so thats about 12 hours a day working for an arrogant retard of a boss while surrounded by Ali G lookie likies. I think we can agree that would be hell for most people.

I ask her if she can get a day off and she tells me she has just taken all her leave to visit Vietnam so won't be allowed a day off again for a month or two, The treatment from her boss and the general dispirited mood she is in (which is highly unusual for any thai person much less one I know is usually always happy) is making me feel quite sad myself. The following night plays the same old tune so I call it quite early and head off to find a bar with less Ali G's and perhaps meet some fellow tourists to chat with, its around high season in Thailand right now but all the expat and backpacker bars seem dead with no customers?? Hmm whats going on here. Perhaps everyone is drinking in the less reputable area of town? I head down the strip of Pool bars and I'm shocked to find even the girls here look miserable and bored with no customers. This is the first time I've walked through this area with multiple calls of "helllloooo where you go". I do eventually find a British couple sippingg a beer in one of the bars on this road, it also has a number of very drunk (read vomiting on the sidewalk) girls and a group of scottish guys who look about 4 sheets to the wind. I strike up a convo with the brits who are from greater manchester and we spend an hour or two having a few beers together (while I politely fend off the advances of a bar girl in her mid forties! jesus Do I look that old already?). As the night draws in to around midnight my new friends make a move for there rooms as there flying tomorrow and I decide to call it myself and head back to my own place (with an offer of company from a passing lady boy politely declined!). Ive arranged to meet my friend at the bar tomorrow and we will go to a club when she finishes work. I hope I can cheer her up a little if nothing else.

Spend the day taking some snaps of some of the many many temples in Chang Mai, Chang Mai is one of my favourite cities. Its got an Authentic Thai Flavour with lots of attractive temples you can visit, one of the best places for food or a massage is the womens prison which operates a day release program allowing inmates to get work experience and training. The food is great there and I always make sure I visit it, the massages can be a little rough. Perhaps depending on what these girls are in for haha! Generally though they are pretty good and if your not man (woman) enough to take the pummelling you can just ask for them to tone it down a little. Its also easily possible to rent a motorcycle (scooter to those of us in the west) and take a trip into the mountains around Chang Mai. I had done this before and wasn't feeling in the mood for any lengthy journeys so I contented myself with the Old city temples, moat and general ambience. Later that evening I head to the French bar and find my friend, I deliberately get there quite late since I don't want to drink too excessively and I know her boss won't let her finish much before 2 Am at least. In fact its gone 3 Am before he lets her finish and we head to a club with a few friends of hers for a bit of a boogie and hopefully she can let her hair down a bit. I don't really know if she had much fun or not but again she seems strangely subdued to be honest, Telling me she thinks she and my brother should finish since it doesn't feel the same anymore between them and she is too lonely every night. I don't really want to get involved in this discussion since I can't side with either party, I just advise her to do what I would do, whatever makes me happiest. I don't think its that easy of a decision for her, they have been together now for around 3 years so I guess its hard to break it off. Either way we have a good number of drinks and a pretty solid few hours of partying before getting back to my room, a little worse for wear, at around 530 - 6 AM

Un surprisingly I dont surface the following day until about 2 PM having slept off the previous nights revelry, Its my last night in Chang Mai before I head back to bangers and get ready for my night train to Koh Tao. I decide to pop into the french bar only briefly to say good bye for now to my friend and then to take it easy as I have an early flight the next day. That was not to be, I seem to have a habit of getting outragesouly drunk on my last night in any town. I actually end up meeting an attractive german girl in a restaurant and we get chatting over food. Since things are going pretty well we head to a bar to get further acquainted! The night progresses steadily, we visit a go go bar for kicks, take a tuk tuk ride to a club (both of which my new german friend tells me she has never done before despite being in Thailand for 3 weeks already) and end up dancing quite saucily at about 3 am in "spicy" which if you have been to chang mai before is new spicy since old spicy burnt down. Things get pretty hot between us but when I let slip that I have a flight to catch tomorrow it all goes tits up and the girl looses interest. No idea what she was looking for in a holiday fling but well it was hardly going to be love and romance in any case. its gone 4 am and I need to be at the airport in 3 hours, holy shit how did it get this late and how on earth did I manage to drink this many beers.....I shoot back to my room and grab an hours ZZZZ before up and packing, shower and hit the airport with about 35 mins for check in. Plenty of time back to Bangers we go......

Posted by cd108 21:32 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Charmless Sharm

overcast 18 °C

Ive arrived in Sharm feeling pretty exhausted to be honest, and not in the best of moods after my ordeal in Jo Berg and a flight where a toothles old frenchman seemed to think we were pally enough for me to be his pillow (get the fuck off me old man). Im tired and the weather seems to match my mood, its grey and colder than I have ever known sharm to be. Even my friend Beth my OW and AOW and EANx instructor is telling me its brass monkeys right now, like never before in Egypt. My first dive doesn't go too well, I go through my air way to fast Of course the sites at sharm are stellar as always but I'm struggling to get comfortable in the water. Some thing I haven't really felt since I was doing my certs over a year ago now. 2nd day and lo and behold I'm spanking my air again, I'm literally shivering in the water after about 20 mins and to be honest its spoiling my enjoyment of the dives. I have paid for 2 dives per day but I'm struggling with 1 dive per day. In the water the temp is robbing my body of heat and on the surface the cloudy and windy conditions are not allowing me to warm up. All the staff are diving in dry suits but I have only a 5mm wet suit and its not enough for the environment and the conditions. Im cold and dispirited in the water and it is showing in my diving. Of the tourists there I seem to be the only one noticing the cold (thank you 3.5 months in Africa) and I'm the first to use my air up despite moving to larger 12 litre tanks.

So whats Sharm El Shiekh like in the evening? Its a pretty average tourist resort with everything that brings to the table. Authentic egpytian it is not with restaurants from TGI fridays to KFC on offer. Im spending my evenings in the divers bar where the food is reasonable and I can socialise with the instructors and other students...In all honesty I wasn't really sorry to be leaving when I left. Perhaps in future I need to consider a dry suit course or just accept the fact that I only enjoy diving in tropical conditions. Either way these dives have knocked my confidence concerning my air consumption and I'm worried that my future dives will also be poor performances, time will tell.....

Posted by cd108 21:25 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Africa had one last sting in the tail

So if you don't already know Cape Town is a pretty useless airport to actually leave africa with. You can fly to Jo berg or the middle east of at a push south America. None of those were my destination of choice so Jo Berg it was. After a few hours on a plane I arrived in Jo Berg. Politley asked my British Airways baggage handler which terminal I needed for domestic flights. I was informed it was terminal 1. 15 minutes later terminal 1 is clearly domestic flights so resignedly I begin heading to terminal 2 pausing only to check with a security guard if my assumption are correct. "yes terminal 2 is international departures but its closed" I was informed..."really the terminal is closed even though it has scheduled departures?" I enquired politely "I don't know, just go and check!" So much for customer service! At terminal 2 my flight is indeed posted however immigration is back in terminal 1...FFS I'm getting frustrated here and to make matters worse despite checking in I now have 15 mins before my flight is boarding. Rushing back to terminal 2 I find Immigration is basically empty and with relief I rush through and head to my gate at terminal 1 (what a lot of fucking about this is). my Egyptian air flight is in fact delayed! by an hour! then 2 hours! then we beging board only for the captain to come out of the cockpit shouting in arabic (fuck knows what is going on here). regardless we all herded back off the plane and informed some what uncertainly the flight is now delayed indefinitely.

3 hours later the flight is in fact cancelled, turns out Egypt Air were unable to locate a replacement part for an electronic failure, the hard part was in getting this information in any kind of understandable fashion. A bunch of passengers with a bunch of crew all yelling in Arabic did nothing for my perception of the situation. At some point I was herded into a hotel in the airport and told the airline would call me tomorrow if the fligt was going to fly, but it might be a day or two days, or maybe 3...WTF I've forked out for a 5 day diving package here and I'm about to miss 20 % of it....Too tired by now to give a shit (it was almost 3 am) I went to bed in my swanky hotel room courtesy of Egypt Air (useless airline don't fly them).

I awoke the following morning and checked with reception for any messages regarding my flight, nothing.. Breakfast and a swim in the pool sounded good so I took full advantage of my perks at the hotel. Shortly after i was just getting into a movie on the cable TV when I received a call. My flight was to leave at 12 or perhaps 2 or maybe 4 or it could be 5...wtf? i wasn't tired anymore so I resolved to have this shit out with the station manager of Egypt Air. This guy was as fucking clown, listening to my complaints with a half ear while shouting into his mobile (really do all Egytpians conduct all discussion in there best shouting voice?) I was politely informed as regards to compensation I could go and fuck myself, I was also informed the flight would leave when its was fucking ready to go and why didn't I go and fuck myself a bit harder. Disgusted I vowed never to fly with this comical airline again and headed into the airport to get my VAT refunded on my SA purchase of a MAC book Air. Not an inconsiderable amount of about 150 GBP. Some muppet stamps my receipt with the wrong date and proceeds to change it by hand, In my ignorance I accept it as just another expect of TIA (this is Africa). At the main office all goes smoothly until the guy noticed the hand made adjustment....now he starts to accuse me of having adjusted it myself in order to claim twice! fuck you buddy I'm not dishonest and I'm not about to give up my VAT. Im already mad from my encounter with mr fuck you at egypt air and I'm having a hard time keeping my cool here

REST OF THIS POST HAS BEEN EDDITED FOR DECENCY

About a hairs breadth from being arrested I finally leave with a promise from the manager that my Vat will be returned to england via mail......its 4 months on and has it fuck robbing bastards kept my cash. Im starving I'm thisrty and I'm out of local currency so of course now is a great time for my bank to cancel my cards right. Im fuming now, everything is tits up and I can't even grab a bottle of water......Lucklily I can grab some Skype time with paypal account and sort this shit, after about 28 hours 1 pizza and a lot of aggravation I can finally fly to egpyt and connect to sharm for my week of diving....or so I thought

Posted by cd108 06:05 Comments (0)

South Africa, the final countdown

We had made it to South Africa, after an odd border crossing where we said good bye the yellow truck of doom. Its illegal to drive vehicles in SA with a foreign registration. Red tape bull shit at it best... Regardless our first port of call was a seal colony, housing some 100000 fur seals. The noise was intense with the pups making a kind of sheep like baaaaaa and alduts making a sort of angry pig like squeal / howl. if the noise was the great the smell was worse. 100k seals pooping at there leisure its not a thing to be sniffed at, literally. I took the best shots I could with limited lungfuls of oxygen and after around an hour we had all had quite enough of the sensory input. We headed off to cape town...

Cape town, nothing special in my book. A bit over priced based on its popularity with tourists. table mountain is both a pain in the ass and a great hot spot. If you plan to go there be warned if you don't arrive early expect a giant Q for the cable car or an hour ++ trek in blistering sunshine...your call. Either way take plenty of water and try to arrive early enough to beat the crowds. For much of my visit to cape town it was shrouded in a perpetual mist. Beautiful in its own right. Again Cape Town for us turned into something of a party town. Every evening seemed to be someones last night and really we saw a lot of bars and little else. I was starting to feel the burn a little by now 4 or 5 nights of heavy drinking with little sleep (I had some truly crazy mo fo's in my dorm) was getting to me. i could really of used a day off but it wasn't to be had.

I met up with an old work colleague, checked out the malls, the docks, the mountain, the beach and the bars. It was a great place but also sad in its way. I was saying good bye to good people every day and the day when I would travel solo loomed closer each moment. i was a little excited, a little scared even a little relived to be away from the hectic schedule.

Next stop Sharm, I had booked a weeks diving at my old school camel, I wanted to relax and get my wits back together but it was not to be....

Posted by cd108 05:55 Comments (0)

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