All the blog entries that I've managed to scratch down, while travelling around the world.
You can view these blog entries in reverse chronological order (below), or you can browse them in a monthly archive. You may find the monthly archive more convenient for catching up on older entries, or for finding specific entries or ranges of entries.
Yesterday I was halfway there. Today I made it all the way — I've landed in paradise, on the scuba-mental island of Ko Tao. Only took two nights, two buses, and a 5-hour ferry: and let me tell you, it was worth it. My second night bus left Bangkok yesterday evening — after my little pre-bus adventure had concluded — and the ferry from Chumphon to Ko Tao departed at about 6am this morning. Now that I'm here, I've got a feeling that I won't be leaving for a while.
Alex is a dutch bloke, who's currently studying finance and economics at university. Caroline is a half-Swedish, half-French girl (she's lived in Sweden since age 12), who works as a secretary back home, and who's here in Thailand for a one-month holiday. I met these two great people on the bus to Chumphon (very early this morning), and I stayed with them on the ferry to Ko Tao. The three of us ended up sticking very close to each other, for almost a week on Ko Tao — we signed up for our dive course together, and the rest is history.
Bangkok would have to be the absolute least suitable place in the world to go running. Unfortunately, however, that's exactly what I was compelled to do this evening — when I was being led on foot to my next tourist bus, and I suddenly realised that I'd left my small bag on the side of the street near Khao San Road, I had no choice but to sprint back for it. The city's searing heat — and, far more pertinent, its horrendous air pollution — left my lungs feeling somewhere in between a wheezing petrol pump and a burning car tyre. And that was after a mere five minutes.
I bought it because I'm going to be lying on the beach for the next three weeks, and because I need a nice big hat to shade myself while in the sun. But it's a cowboy hat: and so, despite my intentions, it does plenty more than just give me some extra UV protection. A cowboy hat is a fashion statement. People see me wearing it, and they know I'm an Aussie (if only they could witness me wrestling with some croccies :P). They see me wearing it, and they know I'm a seasoned traveller. They see me wearing it, and they know I'm tough and ready for anything. And all that, just from a little piece-of-junk shmontse, that I picked up at a market stall today in Khao San Road. Oy, how people think!
It's 6:30am, and I've just pulled into Bangkok, tired and hungry after a night on the road. I'm wandering around the streets near Khao San Road, looking for a quiet café where I can grab some breakfast and read a book, while I wait for the city (and for myself) to wake up. I'm armed with my hefty backpack, and perusing the menu of an early-bird café, when a scantily-clad Thai girl runs up to me (out of nowhere), drapes her arm around me, and starts caressing me. I pretty much literally had to run away from her, before she gave up on offering herself to me, and left me in peace. For heaven's sake: if a bleary-eyed backpacker at the crack of dawn isn't safe from assaults by whores, when who and when the hell is safe?
My brief stint up in northern Thailand is now complete. Trekking and elephant riding are all well and good for a time — but let's face it: romping through tropical jungle is bollocks, when compared with lying on a gorgeous tropical beach. And if it's beaches you're after, then the direction to go is south, and the place to find (and there are plenty of them to be found) is a nice, idyllic island. My destination is one such island: Ko Tao. And after the overnight bus that I caught last night, from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, I'm now halfway there.
Mark's a chatty bloke whom I ended up sitting next to, during this evening's long bus ride from Chiang Mai down to Bangkok. Mark's an Englishman; and like myself, he's also a seasoned traveller of South America. So the two of us had a good ol' chinwag on the bus, sharing our (all-too-similar) stories and reminiscences of backpacking in the Latin World. Sadly, from Bangkok Mark's headed out of Thailand: his plan is to gradually make his way home over the next few months, by way of India and various other countries.
He was with me omnipresently, during my sojourns in hippie-thronged Mexico and South America. He abandoned me in North America and in Europe, where nobody can fit so much as a pony-tail into their hectic modern lives, let alone a daily dose of stoned inner peace. But now that I'm in Thailand, I can most definitely say that my old friend Bob Marley is back, and that he's bigger than ever. Bob is, of course, the undisputed king of all Reggae, the mascot of all hippies, and the master of all chill-out music. His red-yellow-green, dreadlock-infused banner flies tall and proud, everywhere you may go in Thailand.
These two girls, and myself, all met each other randomly (and all at exactly the same time), in the staircase of my guesthouse in Chiang Mai today. Adi is an Israeli girl who works full-time for a non-profit organisation back home (and who lives on that organisation's kibbutz), and who's currently volunteering here in northern Thailand. Maria's a physiotherapist from the city of Graz, in south-east Austria — I didn't make it there back in December, but by Maria's accounts I should have. Maria was volunteering in a remote community up in Nepal, and now she's cruising around Thailand on a motorbike.
After a quick brekkie, this morning I jumped on the 8:30am minibus out of Pai, and headed back to Chiang Mai. For the third time. I'm getting to know this city quite well: too well, in fact. But what can you do? It's the gateway to northern Thailand — there's simply no avoiding it. I was pleased to find, upon my return, that all my old haunts are still alive and well in this city: I found the same good-value guesthouse that I stayed in last time; and I returned to the same cheap Internet joint that I previously frequented. There wasn't much left for me to see here: although I did meet Adi and Maria, so I spent a bit of time with them today. I also booked the package ticket, which as of tomorrow night will get me started on my long journey south, direct from here to Ko Tao. Chiang Mai's a nice enough place; but I think I'm just about over it.