Hanoi --> Ko Samui
Time top wrap up this little account of my Asian adventures and a few antics on the last section of my trip before heading home. I’ll try and keep this brief, not another 3000+ word rock-stomper, I promise. Why use 10 words when you can use 100, that’s my philosophy. ;)
Returning home in the south-east Asian sense. The last article spoke about the second half of my Vietnam experience and touched on my preferation (not a word? Should be) for Thailand. I won’t launch into comparisons but I just seem to find that places like Vietnam and Cambodia - on this particular trip anyway - were more for ticking off a list then actual, nice travel experiences.
Angkor Wat: check
Killing fields: check
Cu Chi tunnels: check
Phnom Penh, Saigon, Hanoi: check
Quick, what’s next?!
Traveling for the sake of traveling. Going through the motions.
This is all well and good but I never find I’m really present and enjoying a particular moment, just running around with my ‘list’. Thailand is a bit more chilled and leans toward a more idyllic kind of scenario. Depends what you’re after and all must be experienced by each individual to make your own decisions.
Then there’s the people. In Vietnam and Cambodia, they seemed somewhat cynical in their attitude. I’m under no illusion that a country is a business just like anything else. But there are ways and means. Thai people seem more genuinely friendly and know how to run the ‘business’ far better.
They also understand the concept of longevity and the overall affect it has on tourism. Perhaps the other countries mentioned will follow suit in good time but they are a little way off. They are there or thereabouts, just need a little tweaking.
“What do you expect?! Everywhere’s different. You’re not in England you prick. Who are you, Karl Pilkington?!” etc. Correct, but you need to call it as you see it. For the first time adventurer to Asia, or anywhere else for that matter, Thailand is the place. Venture further (or is it ‘farther’) if you have time or on a subsequent visit. My 2 cents.
Hanoi to Krabi
Leaving Hanoi was great. Taxi (pre-arranged, fixed price… no Travis Bickle this time) in the rain to the airport. Such a contrast to Krabi in many ways.
It was great to be back to air travel. My favourite means of transportation for the overall experience of it. Rarely have I had such a smooth journey; 2 flights, on time, efficient, pleasant, comfortable, relatively cheap. I was very impressed with Air Asia… the best ‘budget’ airline I’ve used based on this one experience. That Irish fella at Ryanair could take a leaf out of these guys’ book.
Back to flying. I love airports. A haven of energy and possibility. What’s not to like. People buzzing around heading off on an adventure or returning from one.
Also, flights are quite productive for me, so long as I haven’t had a couple of cheeky tipples in the bar… and as this was a morning flight I stuck with a couple of Vietnam rocket coffees.
I made a fair few notes about some plans about business etc. Whilst Mr Snorey was having a little kip beside me, I was getting something done. Far from being wasted time, I actually achieved something. It made me think about certain ‘secrets’ to success and part of a quote from Will Smith, “Whilst the other guy’s sleeping, I’m working…”
In terms of productivity: buses, not so much.
I really like Krabi. Nice little town, good vibe. I actually thought before I went that I wouldn’t go back there. About 5 years previously this was a scene for one of one of my more challenging travel moments. My travel companion and I had some money issues and found ourselves in a sticky situation, so it left a bad taste.
However, it’s a fairly quiet, relaxed place, nice scenery, great weather, cheapish accommodation. A great place to hang out and get some work done in my case. A nice ‘breed’ of traveler too… or maybe the travellers are the same but in a slightly different mode.
Next, I swung by Phuket.
In the minivan on the way there I found myself sat next to an ‘older’ Irish chap. Turns out this guy is from the same place in Ireland as my mum. Same county but different town. You don’t get many of them to the pound.
Phuket is slightly grotesque in my view. It’s a kind of underbelly and displays the worse side of Thailand. It’s commercial, loud, unpleasant, aesthetically displeasing. It’s relentless and doesn’t have a good feel. There are far better places in this great country and this is not a good representation of it.
Unfortunately, a lot of people see Phuket as Thailand and still has a reputation as a top Thai place to go, probably based on a reputation from years ago. It may have been the top place when tourism really kicked in and that may well explain how it is today.
You can have a good time. If you’re looking for Magaluf in Asia, sure, go for it… but it’s not quite my cup of tea. I could barely get to my hostel without the massage parlour girls dragging me in, “at least let me drop my backpack off”.
I went to Patong. The beach was packed and not all that nice. Middle-aged, fat, bald men everywhere and those advertising trucks driving past all the time announcing boxing matches and such like. There was a kind of aggro feel in the air, no-one was smiling. Odd. A less than desirable feel from patrons and locals alike.
Although, it’s good to see the mullet is alive and well amongst Thai men!
I checked in to my guest house and got upgraded due to the regular rooms being filled. Don’t you just hate that? ;)
Walked in, couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Big widescreen TV, desk, cupboard (with umbrella?), full mini bar, condoms (bit presumptuous), hair dryer, large bed, proper bathroom (with window view to bedroom), tea & coffee making facilities, dvd player, balcony, and a computer & printer. Never have I ever!
Consequently, I barely left the room.
I’ve never been quite so comfortable in my life. Felt sorry for all those people roughing it. Actually, no I didn’t.
Surrounded by all this opulence, I was waiting for the twist. You know, the thing that redresses the balance, makes the prospect not quite so glowing.
And there it was… the incessant noise.
I don’t know what it was, the plumbing or something but my room was located nearby. It started off as sounding like a printer, printing many pages perhaps in the next room. I now believe it was probably some archaic sewer system in the roof.
A couple of days there, then onwards.
Lanta is a nice island, far more chilled out than Phuket or Phi Phi. Also, slightly boring to a degree but you can find all you want easily enough.
Not much to report here, other than a pleasant few days. Walked the island, misjudging its size… much like a more subdued Forrest Gump – I just kept on walking. Next day, got a scooter and bombed round on that instead.
This was also the scene of my best cooked breakfast experience. I bashed the cooked breakfasts you get in Asia in my Cambodia piece so it’s only fair I should redress the balance. Credit where credit’s due.
This plate had it all and more besides. Potatoes in with the bargain along with the usuals, reasonable portion sizes and nicely done, along with an unadvertised bonus of a plate of fruit after I finished. All served by a really friendly guy, genuinely pleased for my custom.
Back I went to the mainland, Krabi once again. A painless minivan ride, other then one moment of high drama when the driver got out and went for a walk forgetting to put the handbrake on. As we started to roll forward the passengers started to look around at each other, and I thought ‘here we go’.
The guy sat in the passenger seat, lunged in dramatic last second fashion to find the handbrake but to no avail (it was on the driver’s side somewhere) and in we shunted to the minivan in front. A little incident just to keep us fresh.
In Krabi #2 I was treated to the sauna room. This was the hottest place I have ever stayed in. I’m not sure if it was the nature of the materials the room was built but it was boiling. There was a fan but that only persisted in pushing the hot air around. Although, when it was off I was literally dripping sweat, like something out of a cartoon.
Being that there was only one power point in total (including for the fan and there was no air-con) I had the unenviable decision of whether I had the fan on or charge my laptop. I sweated profusely and got on with some work, followed by a cold shower and standing in front of aforementioned fan which was now switched on. My mobile phone had to wait patiently in line.
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I decided to fit in one final destination before heading to Bangkok. As I hadn’t been the eastern side of Thailand yet I thought I would get over to Ko Samui. It’s the first island you get to this side, before Ko Phangan and Ko Tao. I visited here on my first Thai trip but only spent a couple of nights and in a different part, so I thought it’s as good a place as any to finish things off.
I was in the Lamai beach area. To be fair, Chaweng is where it’s at but this’ll do for me. A great island and I was right next door to a spa resort which I frequented for breakfast. Seems to fall in between Phuket and Krabi in terms of the type of vibe. Way better looking and feel than Phuket and more happening than Krabi… and beaches! A good all-rounder.
Final fun bus to Bangkok, then a flight home thus ending this little episode. Quite a ride. Question is, when will I be back??… as soon as I can!
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