Monthly Archives: February 2013

Chilling out in Koh Chang

Our journey to Koh Chang began at 6am on Saturday. After around 2 hours sleep we were both feeling a little delirious but still managed to drag ourselves up in time to grab some quick breakfast before getting on the mini bus. Unfortunately there were only 2 seats left and they were in the front next to the driver. Being the gentleman Gary is he insisted on me having the good seat by the window and took the raised seat in the middle with no neck rest. He was not impressed!

Around 7 hours later after some very uncomfortable, dangerous and painful driving (I was desperate for a wee for 2 hours before he stopped) we arrived at the ferry port. By this time Gary was not happy and was questioning our decision to leave Bangkok (I had explained it would be a shame for him to go to Thailand and just see Bangkok but warned him it was a lot of travel time – he had to make his own decision and I wasn’t taking credit for it!).

His doubts disappeared when we boarded a tuk tuk to Lonely Beach and got talking to everyone on it. He immediately formed a bromance with a guy from Chichester who was travelling with his girlfriend and their friend, and then we arrived at our bungalows and he knew it had been the right decision. Our room was basic but just what we needed. I’m happy as long as the room has aircon and no bugs! We have had the occasional lizard but I can deal with that.

Our first night was spent finding our way around and exploring the cute, quirky little hippie bars that lined the streets. It’s full of stoners and probably the most chilled out place I’ve visited in South East Asia. Like the islands I’ve been to before nothing much happens in the day and then everyone comes out at night, which is fine by me. We spent our first night searching for the rugby. I was angry to find out there was a premiership football game on at the same time as the Welsh match so my chances of finding anywhere playing it were low. We had just about given up when we stumbled on a little bar who told us we could put whatever we wanted on. I was so happy!

Being rugby losers!

Being rugby losers!

We ended up there for the whole night. Unfortunately the commentary was in Thai so we watched the game in mute but it was way better than nothing! by the time it had finished we were both really tired (I had been falling asleep by the end – it wasn’t the best game!) and went to bed pretty early by Thailand standards, getting up pretty late the next day.

I seem to have adopted a schedule of going to bed at around 2am and getting up at 12, which suits me fine because by the time I’m sorted I’ve usually missed the most intense midday sun. Plus, why not be lazy when I have the freedom to do it? and also the later I stay up the easier it is to catch people on Skype. So anyway we spent that day at the beach. Lonely beach is okay but a little over populated. The water is clear but full of pebbles and I have to admit it’s nothing compared to the beautiful beaches I’ve seen in the southern islands, but lovely nonetheless.

Lonely Beach

Lonely Beach

Chilling out at a beach front bar

Chilling out at a beach front bar

We had our first night out in Koh Chang that night and headed to the bar on the beach. There’s something pretty liberating about dancing around barefooted with minimal makeup, so I was happy. We made friends with a couple of girls and up until a certain point it was a lot of fun. That’s where things go a bit hazy and led to me feeling very ill the next day, oh and having a 2 hour Skype conversation that I had no memory of afterwards – not good!

So the next day I was unfortunately too ill to do much. All I did was lie in the hotel restaurant watching films and drinking fruit shakes, which was unfortunate since it was Gary’s last day. He left yesterday morning and I had a pretty lazy time. I basically wandered to the beach and back, sat on the seafront and then watched a film again. I think I’m coming to terms with the fact I’m not going to do much while I’m here! I am planning on heading back to Bangkok on Friday. I had thought I would stay here longer but for several reasons I’m not sure how safe I feel here on my own and so would feel better being with Jess again. It’s something to do with feeling Thai men’s eyes following me when I walk around alone and worrying that they know I’m in my room on my own.

the narrow streets of koh chang

the narrow streets of koh chang

For now I’m going to spend 2 more nights here and basically do nothing. Today I have big plans to walk to the beach and get a massage, then head back, watch the sunset then chill out and watch a film in the hotel restaurant again – it’s a hard life!

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Hangovertinis at Bangkok Sky Bar

I’ve been a bit useless on the blog front the last few days but that’s because I’ve been with Gary and I haven’t wanted to waste his time waiting around for me to write an entry. So I’ll just pick up where I last left off. Like I said, we had all good intentions of seeing things that day apart from Khao San road but we failed miserably until the evening (a common occurrence for me in Bangkok!). Our day consisted of wandering up the road for some lunch and then wandering back an sitting at the hotel pool for a few hours. While we were there we got talking to a girl from the UK called Claire who was excited by the prospect of coming to the Sky Bar with us (it’s actually called Lebua). Ever since I saw the Hangover 2 it’s somewhere I’ve wanted to go so on this visit to Bangkok it was top of my to do list.

So we got dressed up (which isn’t that posh backpacker style!) and flagged down a taxi. A taxi which proceeded to drive us to an alley way in the middle of nowhere to what I can only guess was his family/mates restaurant. It was like he was hoping we would just get out and not notice that it wasn’t the sky bar! That’s the second time I’ve had issues with taxi’s in Bangkok so I’m not sure how much I trust them any more. Anyway so eventually we rocked up at the right place and got in the lift, feeling a little confused as to what floor (out of 64) we were going to need. Eventually we decided on the Sirocco level which we hoped was the same as the one in the film.

Drinking hangovertinis at Sirocco

Drinking hangovertinis at Sirocco

Somehow they managed to rope us into getting a meal indoors. The outdoor seating was fully booked and we were under the impression we needed to eat before we could see the view. They lead us to a rooftop viewing point which was crowded and not great, so we ate in the hope that they’d take us somewhere better afterwards. I ordered one of the cheapest things on the menu and the meal and the one hangovertini I bought came to around £45 (I just had to order the hangovertini even though I had no idea what was in it – it turned out to be some kind of whisky/amaretto concoction) That might not seem like too much in UK standards but for Thailand that is an absolute fortune! The meal was good but as standard with gourmet food the portion sizes were tiny. I filled up on bread and free olives but I had to laugh when Gary ordered just a starter which was basically 3 cherry tomatoes and a tiny piece of mozzarella. Gary is a chips and pizza guy and was not impressed in the slightest! my fillet of fish, however, was a lot better.

Gary's meal

Gary’s meal

My meal - not bad!

My meal – not bad!

After eating we asked if there was a better place to see the view. That’s when they led us around the corner to exactly what I was looking for – the restaurant and viewing deck from the film. It was at this point that we realised we had been conned slightly – we could have just gone out there straight away and ordered a drink but they tricked us into thinking we needed to eat. However, at that point I didn’t really care because the views were absolutely stunning. It was by far the best thing I’ve seen in Bangkok so far and I’m so glad I went. I had a real ‘I can’t believe I’m here’ moment and took about 50 photos while trying to work out the settings on my new camera.

Epic view from the sky tower by night

Epic view from the sky tower by night

They won’t let you take photos from anywhere other than the viewing platform which does mean you’re a little crowded and uncomfortable, but if you want to just take in the views and skip the photography you can easily stand at the side somewhere a bit quieter. I think if I were to go I would reserve a spot outside in advance as then I think the £45 would be totally worth it. Or I would just go straight in and get one £10 drink.

Part of the cocktail menu at Sicorro. 570 baht per drink (about £11.50)

Part of the cocktail menu at Sicorro. 570 baht per drink (about £11.50)

After feeling like I’d well and truly taken in the epic views we headed back to Khao San road (this time with no issues from the tuk tuk driver). I was tired and not really feeling up to drinking, luckily I think Gary was on the same level, especially as we had to be up at 6 in the morning for our bus to Koh Chang. So we ended up buying some drinks and heading up to the pool again. This time we bumped into a confused looking South African girl in the 7/11 who explained she was alone, so of course we dragged her back with us too. That’s what I love about travelling – you make friends in 7/11’s and they become your best friend for a week or so (those two are still travelling together now as far as I know).

So after a couple of drinks and conversation I headed to the room to call it a night, leaving Gary with the girls for a bit. He came back at around 3 and I was still up (after my jetlag I seem to have adopted a sleeping routine which means going to bed at 3, waking up at 5/6 and then getting up at about 1 – not the healthiest!). Getting up at 6am was not fun – I’ll write about that in my next post but in conclusion, if you’re going to Bangkok please go to the sky bar! and also, be open to meeting new people anywhere and everywhere!

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Familiarity on Khao San road

I survived my first day in Bangkok and it was pretty good. Surprisingly I haven’t felt half as bad as I thought I would feel. I think the fact that I actually managed a bit of sleep on the plane paired with the fact I had no cancellations or issues like last year made the whole thing a lot easier. If you add that to the fact that I’ve been here and done it all before and it wasn’t half as daunting as I thought it might be.

I reached Bangkok at around 11pm, getting off the plane kind of felt like walking into an oven even though it was the night time! I think they said it was around 27 degrees so a massive change from the freezing cold temperatures back home! I cleared customs and picked up my bag in no time. Before I knew it I was being dropped off at the side of Khao san road and weaving my way through pissed up westerners with my heavy backpack. The taxi driver attempted basic conversation with me and I had to laugh when someone almost got run over by a motorbike and he laughed and simply said ‘Thailand!’.

Khao San by night

I thought I’d hate having to find my way up a crowded street in the heat but I walked with a smile on my face. I know a lot of people hate khao san for it’s tacky bars and binge drinking culture but I’ve always loved it. It may not be Thailand at it’s finest but I love the atmosphere and I’ve had a lot of good times there – they were all coming back to me and I felt as though I had never left. I reached my hotel and felt fine (if not a bit too awake – I stupidly thought I could beat the jetlag but ended up staying up until about 4am). The homesickness had been replaced with familiarity and it was such a relief to feel that way. Sitting in a hotel room on my own felt fine too. I remember my first stop in Dubai last time and how horrible and lonely I felt – all those feelings had gone.

I woke up at around 8, surprisingly, and got up in an attempt to beat the jetlag. I was meeting Jess at 1, a friend that I’ve known pretty much my entire life. She has been out here teaching English for 6 months but now it’s come to the end of the school year she’s more flexible with her time. She’ll also be the one I travel to Cambodia and Vietnam with in a few weeks. I was excited to see her after so long and it was great if not a little surreal seeing her in Bangkok. We got lunch (a very cheap massaman curry – love it!) and waited to hear from Gary (who was flying in from Newcastle that day to spend a week here on his way to Australia). i was a little worried when I still hadn’t heard from him 2 hours after his flight was due to land. He got lost once meeting me in Birmingham so I didn’t fancy his chances with Thailand! but eventually he rocked up at the hotel reception and my little group for the day was complete.

That just about sums it up!

That just about sums it up!

When I think about what we did it wasn’t really much. Last time I was here I did a whole lot of nothing too! the heat makes me lazy and obviously both me and Gary were pretty knackered. So we just got our bearings and wandered the streets around Khao San for a bit, getting a few drinks as we went. We booked our transport to Koh Chang on Saturday and eventually walked up the river. I was keen to try and see a sunset over it which was a pretty stupid idea considering how cloudy it was! we ended up buying a Chang (beer) each and sitting at the top of the bridge (which was basically just the side of a motorway) while basically watching the sun disappear behind some clouds. Everyone who drove past was looking at us like we were insane and it was a little funny! I forgot how strong the cocktails and Chang are here and they hit me pretty quickly.

chang
After that we basically just found a few bars to drink in before a total fail on trying to find somewhere called ‘The Deck’ which had views over Wat Arun. We picked up a tuk tuk and showed them an address I’d found on tripadvisor. Well thanks to Tripadvisor we ended up being dropped at the wrong place in the middle of nowhere as clearly the address was wrong! We cut our loses, got a drink and some food and caught a tuk tuk back to Khao San road. But that wasn’t before I managed to eat and entire chilli whole. I really should be more careful with that! My mouth and lips felt like they were on fire for about 10 minutes and it was so painful! so I decided to inflict the pain on jess too and paid her 100 baht (£2) to do the same thing! Never again!

So we were back to drinking on Khao San again which suited me fine. We spoke to a couple of people including some guys who had been thrown into a jail in Laos for 4 days (scary stuff) and a Swedish guy travelling alone who we adopted for the night. Gary and I headed home at around 2am and picked up some pizza and some pad thai on the way home (I was still excited about the fact it’s so cheap!). I made some Skype calls and eventually went to sleep at around 4 only to be woken up by some sort of Italian convention going on outside our door (thanks guys).

So this morning I had planned for us to go to some temples. It seems to be a recurring theme while I’m in Bangkok. I plan to go to temples the next day but then I get drunk, wake up with a hangover and can’t be bothered. Last time I was here with my friend Amy we pretty much did that every day! At some stage I will make it to the temples but maybe not while Gary is here. It’s already 1.15pm and Gary isn’t up yet but I don’t care because I know I will have so much time in Bangkok that it doesn’t bother me to chill out in the hotel room. I’m in no rush. Plus I’m feeling the first horrible pangs of a Thai hangover and we have no water in the room so I’m feeling pretty rough.

I think the feeling I have this morning is that I will spend less time drinking in South East Asia than I did last time. I hate the feeling of a hangover in the heat and I hate how it makes me lazy. It also makes me feel more homesick in a way (I am struggling a bit with missing everyone but apps like Skype and whasapp are a godsend). So I may not bother drinking anything today. My only real plan is to go to the sky bar tonight (the same one that’s in The Hangover 2) for views over the city. It’s expensive but hopefully it will be worth it and force us outside of Khao San road. For now I just need to get past this hangover enough to move from bed – it’s a bad one!

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Everything will be alright (Kuala Lumpur)

I meant to write more yesterday but I had to make about 15 phone calls before I got on the plane. After getting on the wrong connecting Heathrow train at Paddington and being charged £13 to upgrade (in my defence it was pretty confusing and I swear they made it that way on purpose!) I made it to the airport with 4 hours to spare before my flight. After the problems I had last time I was amazed at how easy it all was and I found myself breezing through departures barely batting an eyelid. That’s when I stopped to think – last time I did this I was a wreck. I was absolutely terrified of being alone and as I walked through departures I was shaking with fear. That’s a phobia that I’ve clearly overcome and that was pretty liberating.

Then came the phone calls. Anyone who spoke to me at the airport last year pointed out what a contrast it was and how calm I sounded. I was. I felt pangs of homesickness in my gut and inside I was panicking this was the wrong thing to do. But the difference was that this time I knew it was completely normal and I knew that the feeling will pass eventually, so I was just focusing on that and calming myself down. I know now that it’s all about adapting to a new situation, which will hopefully take less time than I think.

Saying goodbye on the phone I didn’t feel too emotional. Just because I know I will speak to everyone pretty soon via the aid of social media – they don’t feel so far away, and also because I’m not sure I will be away as long as I expected and so the whole process doesn’t seem as daunting. I even have potential new plans to add to the mix which could be quite exciting.

All day I had been in varying stages of panic, wondering what I was doing and scared the homesickness would become overwhelming (I had started to feel that as soon as I left Birmingham), but surprisingly as soon as I got on the plane an air of calm came over me that I didn’t expect. I’m going away but I can come back whenever I want, I have people that care about me and a bit of money behind me. So what if I don’t have a job – It’s not like I’m ever going to be homeless! Things that were meant to work out would work out and things that weren’t wouldn’t. It was all for a reason and at this moment in time I was meant to be on this plane. Life was good.

So right now I’m still feeling relatively calm. It helped that I’ve had a whole 3 seats to myself on the plane. After hours spent on flights feeling cramped against the window and having to wait for people to wake up every time I needed a wee, this was luxury.

AMAZING

As a result of being able to lie down I’ve actually managed the impossible and had a few hours sleep. I can’t say I feel great or particularly awake at the moment but it’s better than I’ve felt before after a long-haul flight. I am feeling a bit sick though which is a mixture of tiredness, the turbulence we just hit and the fact that I accidentally ordered a dish with prawns in it (the staff have strong malaysian accents and so I just nodded my head at the second option and hoped for the best). I have an irrational hatred of prawns and being faced with a massive, slimy one at 7.30am in the morning really didn’t go down very well (who serves prawns for breakfast anyway?!).

I’m really hoping South East Asia doesn’t let me down on the free wifi front and that Kuala Lumpur airport has easy access when I get there for me to post this. Somehow writing everything down makes me feel better and more in touch with everyone. I am missing people a lot already, more than I’d imagined, but the good thing is that I have faith that they’re not going anywhere and will still be there when I get back. I’m actually pretty proud of what a massive contrast this post is to the ones I made at this point last year. It just goes to show how facing your fears effects you in a positive way. Now let’s just hope this time I don’t get lost in Bangkok and I find my way calmly and easily to the hotel. I’m really not looking forward to navigating my way up a pissed up khao san road at 1am with my backpack in tow but hey, I’ve dealt with way worse and now I can sense more than ever, everything will be alright.

malaysian sky

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There’s beauty in the breakdown

I’ve meant to write in this blog for a while but I can only describe the last few weeks as a blur of emotions, organisation and productivity. I haven’t really had time to think or do anything that I didn’t feel was completely necessary. So now it’s reached that stage and I’m sat on the train to Heathrow wondering how I can sum everything up in one short post. I can’t. So today I’ll write a few.

When I started this blog I wondered whether I should keep it as personal as my last one where I somehow ended up pouring my heart out for the world to read. Maybe I should reel it in and write more informative, generic articles on where I’m going and what people should do if they go there too. Surely that would make it more successful and more in tune with the rest of the many travel blogs that are out there?

But I decided against it. Last time what started as a simple record of what I’d done and where I’d been turned into and outlet for everything I was feeling at the time – and as a result it enhanced my experience. So I’m not going to write about what I think I should write about but what I feel like writing about. If people want to read about it and follow my very personal journey then so be it, but if not then I am writing this for my own benefit and that’s the only purpose it needs to serve.

I can honestly say the last week or so has been one of the most emotional times of my life and I’ve felt conflicted between anxiety and excitement and sadness and happiness all at once. I’ve been mourning the loss of the life that I’ve known for the last 4 and-a-half years whilst simultaneously getting excited for my new one. On more than one occasion I’ve felt completely overwhelmed and felt like canceling the whole thing so I can just feel settled and comfortable again. Life has surprised me in more than one way and as a result my perspective has changed. That’s something I don’t feel comfortable going into at this stage but one thing I’ve realised is that you can plan life out all you want but it never works out the way you thought it would, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Saying goodbye is never easy, in fact it’s the hardest thing about this experience and it was last time too. I wish I could do this without having to leave anyone. I feel guilty for removing myself from their lives when I know if it were the other way around I would hate it. I’ve said so many goodbyes and cried so much in the past few days that I’ve started to feel numb to it. By the time I left Birmingham and reached Cardiff on Sunday I felt drained of emotion and unable to feel anything, which has led to some cold goodbyes to the people who mean the most to me. I hope they realize that it has meant nothing other than I don’t have time or energy to process leaving them right now but I will at a later date. And the good thing is that I have facebook/skype/whatsapp to make that possible.

So how am I feeling right now? Still conflicted, still sad and still scared – but excited too. So that’s progress on the state I was in at Birmingham airport last year. This year I feel the pangs of homesickness already and predict I will still feel that pretty strongly for a week or so. But the difference is that this time I know it gets better. I know I’ll get over it and that things will get really great and I know that being on my own isn’t as daunting as it once was. I got over that hurdle last time and now it doesn’t seem so impossible.

So for now I’m going to take advantage of some time to myself to relax and think – something I haven’t had the luxury of for a while as I’ve had so much to sort and worry about. I know I have to get used to time alone with me and my ipod and now is a good place to start. Next stop – Heathrow

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