some may ask, where are tom and joel these days? well here, you can find out.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

A series of events ending in a reggae bar on a duty free island

In the last week we've been all over the place, after nakkkon se thammart we got a bus across to the west, and then a boat to the beaches of Railay, with towering cliff tops cutting into the horizon in the middle of the sea. Makes great sunsets. Even though i most definitely couldn't afford it, i spent a bit of money on scaling these rocks for half a day. The most exercise I've done, probably since the bike ride in Nepal. Sweat was literally dripping off the end of my nose, and i had a sweaty little moustache too. But certainly worth it, as always when i do exercise, felt really happy for the rest of the day. And the views 25m up are much better.

actually, to get this photo, i had to do a rather dangerous and stupid freeclimb

The next day we left for Hat Yai, the border town for people crossing into Malaysia. Good for shopping, but as that's something i shouldn't be doing, we escaped into the national park nearby for a climb up another waterfall, this one with perhaps even more spectacular views than the last. After descending, i found another 4 fat leeches all over my feet. Peeled them off, but two of the wounds wouldn't stop bleeding...for about 30 minutes. I think you're meant to burn them off.

this was the moment joel turned and looked at the view

Our hostel in Hat Yai was a classic. To get to our room you have to go down a long empty corridor with dim lights, which looked like something out of the shining. Our room itself had all the cliche 'crap hostel' features; cracked mirror, solid beds, strip light, dirty walls, squat toilet and a sink which just had a pipe which poured out onto the floor. Guests wake up early, and drink early. We saw someone enjoying a beer before 9am, and someone opening up a new bottle of Leon with 2 empty ones already on the table before 10. These arnt just regular size bottles either, 660ml...

Staying there two nights was fun, anymore and i might have resorted to the morning drink as well.

Right now we're on Langwai, in the very north of Malaysia. For some reason, the whole island is duty free, which makes everything very cheap, especially after the massive dent that commercial thailand made in my bank balance. Found a great place to stay, like Silvery Moon in KPN, it comes with an honesty beer fridge. Last night, down the road, we found an excellent reggae bar, with an even better live reggae band playing. Danced until about 3.

In about three days, Bernie, Oonagh, Sam and Ed come all the way from Kuala Lumpur to give us a hug.

more photos to come. soon, hopefully.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Jungle Boogie

[New photos are up...but no recent ones at the time of writing. Watch this space.] We finally managed to tear ourselves away from Ko Pha Ngan (no thanks to Koi & Beat at the Silvery Moon Bungalow, who supplied us with the best food, beach and hospitality we could ask for) and made our way to Nahkon Si Thammarat, a southern town near the east coast. We don't have long left in Thailand before we have the long-awaited meet-up with Oonagh, Bernie, Sam and Ed, who decided to buy a ticket out here because we're such good fun. This means, then, that we're leaving Nahkon tomorrow after a fairly action-packed two days. Yesterday we saw the most famous temple in south Thailand (it was all right) and then went to a shadow puppet museum, which was great. We had the place all to ourselves, but they still put on a show for us and showed us how they make the puppets. A brief but lovely experience.


Today we went a little out of town to the Khao Luang National Park, which is HU-UGE. We know it was huge because we spent the entire day looking at one waterfall. You'd need a year to explore it all. We climbed the hill up the waterfall, occasionally stepping onto the rocks or having a little swim. The jungle here is real, hardcore jungle. The trees go up so high you have to walk away from them a little bit to look at them, and the paths aren't really paths, they're just masses of tree roots and rocks that vaguely resemble steps. Needless to say, my shirt was drenched in sweat before long. We went as far up as we could before the path stopped altogether and we just got lost in some very thick jungle. On the way down we fell over a couple of times, because it's so darn steep. We didn't see any tigers, but that's probably for the best. We saw a leech. It was on Tom's foot.



Nahkon Si Thammarat is a pretty nice place - barely any tourists, which is nice after the craziness of Bangkok and the British Colony feel of Ko Pha Ngan. Tomorrow we hopefully go to Krabi (the other side), back to the beach and the possibility of rock climbing. We're not entirely sure how to get there, but I'm sure it'll be fine. Vague plans are forming for the aforementioned meet-up, possibly on an island off the west coast of Malaysia, but bringing together people from different corners of the globe at the same time is just as hard as it sounds.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

'Taxi?' no thanks... 'Person?' no tha...What?

One of the many reasons we escaped bangkok for ko pha ngan, an island populated with even more white people than Bangkok.

what we step out to in the morning

A typical day on the island involves waking up reasonably late in the morning, perhaps wandering the 10 metres down to the beach for a swim in the bath temperature clear sea before putting some manu chao on and sitting down to amazingly cooked pad thai for brunch. Might go for an explore on the rocks afterwards, picking up nice looking shells and then throwing them away again. Might go for lunch in Hat Rin, but its unlikely as although its quite a small town, after deserted beaches its a bit overwhelming. Down the beach the other way is a small restaurant/bar, so i might go down that way instead, see if new friends Hannah and Gretha are there.

i ordered this sandwich a lot. in english money its one pound. dont worry, i also had thai food. thai green curry is a close runner up on saag paneer

The night is somewhat different. Probably in the evening meet with H+G at their bar, lie around on the sloping rock with cushions all over it and have a few beers. A normal evening might end there, as doing nothing all day is pretty tiring, but yesterday stood out slightly, as the Full Moon Party was on. A monthly occasion, it drags thousands (literally, sometimes up to 30k) of whiteys covered in neon paint to one end of the island, with ten massive soundsystems, and tens of thousands of plastic buckets filled with whiskey, coke, red bull and ice. To get there, most people quite sensibly get a taxi, Joel and I decided to walk. Usually the walk is ok, but tonight, the tide was well in, at some parts up to our waist. My jeans were stuck to me for the rest of the night, but i danced it off. By the end of the night, or when we left at 5, the entire beach is covered in bottles, buckets and bombed out backpackers face down and mouth open in the sand. We ended up getting back and lying on cushion rock for another 2 hours, as the light turned from pitch black, to a blue sheen, to bright daylight. Wandered back home and slept.

was like this for the whole beach, about a 15 minute walk from one end to the other
as shown here...

i got a bit over excited by it all

but so did most people

Will try and upload pleasant day photos soon, but at 3 pounds an hour this internet is too expensive.

Big love, Tom.

Friday, 16 May 2008

On gods, and the trees strangling them

For our last day in Cambodia, we rose early to go to Angkor, the country's proud district of temples, towers and shrines. First was sunrise at Angkor Wat, one of the most famous landmarks in the world (it's even on the Cambodian flag, and counted as a 'Travel Wonder of the World'). The word 'ma-hoosive' is thrown around a lot these days, but believe me when I say that this temple is MA-HOOSIVE, and surrounded by all kinds of lesser tombs and structures, as well as a gigantic moat. Arriving early meant that there were huge sections which were entirely devoid of people, which was well worth getting out of bed for. Everywhere in this place there is something to be amazed by - you'll be hopping through a stone corridor and suddenly discover inscriptions in the walls, or incredibly long and intricate murals, or the huge amount of carved female figures covering the entire complex, each of which is unique. On arrival we separated, a camera each, and eventually found each other around four hours later (like I said, ma-hoosive).


For the rest of the day we traveled around beautiful Angkor to see the seemingly endless temples - there always seemed to be something astounding in any direction. There are so many that it's easy to get one all to yourself, so despite the heat I soon got accustomed to running and jumping all over the rubble and ruins, and climbing the frighteningly steep (and tall) tower steps. It felt like I was in a video game, in particular the video game 'Ico', and if anyone has played then they'll understand how amazing this place is. This probably wasn't the architects' intention, but video games and religion are pretty much the same thing anyway.


Some philosopher (I forget who) once said something along the lines of 'it's impossible to imagine a tree so tall that God could not create it, therefore God must exist as the most awesome power'. Well. He obviously never went to Angkor. Some of the temples are overshadowed - in every sense - by the trees growing alongside, within or on top of them. These trees tower to impossible heights, and their tentacle-like roots wrap themselves around entire walls or insinuate themselves into the stones of steps - literally crushing these monuments to rubble. Could it be a sign of the nihilism at the heart of the universe? Nature's disregard for the efforts of man? Or just bad gardening? Whatever the answer, Buddha's face is everywhere in the walls, always smiling, eyes always closed.


P.S. We're in Bangkok now.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Cambodia - with a tasty photo update

So, we haven't blogged in a while, but we've had much more important things to be doing, like nightclubbing in Phnom Penh with Shakira and Justin Timberlake, and chilling out on the beaches of Snookyville with a mango milkshake in one hand and a book in the other.


Before we arrived from Vietnam, people told us that Cambodia was pretty 'Same Same' to 'nam. But it seems pretty different to me, and almost reminds me of Nepal a bit. Everyones skin tone is much darker, and the laws are all much more laid back here. Which is nice. However, prices have gone slightly up since we've stopped moving from the beach. Speaking to a few people, we've found many have come here, and just not left. The french hippie who runs our beach bungalow says he's been here for a year now. It seems like a pretty good job, the only difference between the daily events of us and him is that he has to pour the beers.

russian market in phnom penh. not russian at all, but the locals dont call it this anyway. we expected lots of russians really drunk smashing glasses and selling only vodka, but Communism is pretty out in cambodia at the moment.

Weather hasn't been too fantastic in Cambodia yet, here at the beach its pretty stormy, but like all of south east asia so far, the rain never lasts more than about 20 minutes. And although there's a bit of a lack of sun, the humidity keeps us warm in the sea. Which is also warm enough to run straight into, something i could never really keep up with Lucy and Max in doing in England.

The day after tomorrow, we (attempt to) get off the beach and head up to Siem Reap, do some more touristy things there for a day, then get into Thailand and meet old friends sam, bernie and oonagh. It seems like we havent spent enough time in Cambodia really, everyone is very smiley here and the beach is great place to meet people, as from 9am onwards we've seen great groups of people dancing outside their bungalows.

Will try and get some photos up soon. ish


Saturday, 3 May 2008

The Can Tho attitude

From Saigon to My Tho, and My Tho to Can Tho. Apart from some lovely islands, My Tho wasn't a very nice place. The people weren't very friendly and there wasn't much to see, so we left after two nights to come here to Can Tho, which is a very lovely place full of friendly people and quite a lot to see.

Today we woke up before dawn so that we could get a boat up the Mekong Delta. Going up the huge river as the sun was rising was pretty amazing, especially as we were given lots of little bananas. We stopped off for some tea and coffee on the way, and then continued further up the river until we reached the floating markets, something Can Tho is famous for. Merchants with boats packed full of fruit all meet in the centre of the river, bartering and trading across the water before the sun gets very hot. Their boats, some of which are also their homes, host a variety of pipes and mechanisms which provide a constant background of whirrs, splutters and putt-putts, making the whole place seem like some strange jungle steampunk dreamscape. After seeing the market we stopped off at a noodle farm, to see how noodles are made (we'll never give away the secret). We had some coconut and then continued up the long and pretty river to the second floating market, which was even nicer than the first as we climbed aboard someone else's boat and ate some pineapple.


After chilling out on their boat for a bit we travelled even further up the river, to a tiny little restaurant to get some lunch (or, rather, brunch). We ordered, and had massages while we waited for the food to arrive. Some more tiny bananas were had. This restaurant was, as well as massage parlour, a farm, so all of the food was fresh and tasty (although one of the pigs had severe mosquite bites, as a French man showed us when he noticed Tom's bites). We were in no rush so we lounged around in their hammocks for a while...and then the rain came. It's rained here almost everyday so far, and when it rains it pours. We just took shelter and then...well, lounged around in hammocks for a bit longer. Nice. Eventually the rain died down and we got the boat aaaaallll the way back to the hotel, having some more bananas on the way.


A good day then. Vietnamese food can't quite compare to Japanese as of yet. Tonight we went to a terrible restaurant where I ordered sauteed fish and received a sausage with raw mushrooms. However, I will say that Vietnam is very good for fruit. It's darn tasty, and people just give it away. This is good, as fruit is the one thing we didn't have enough of in Japan. We replaced that food group with Snickers bars instead.