diaries made in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Koh Samui
THE FAR EAST DIARIES
First day in Hong Kong 05.12.06
A mad, brain melting and at times surreal experience. Not made it to Hong Kong island yet, dont even know where it is, we are staying in Kowloon and spent our first few hours walking around the busy streets until night with wide eyes not knowing or caring if we were lost or not. We have lots planned and will start exploring more tomorrow.....
Some things I noticed on day one;
- All chinese people look young and the only way you can tell them apart is by whether they wear a school uniform or not.
- Its no wonder Chinese parents are only supposed to be allowed to have one child because theres no room for any more of them, the streets are a constant swarm of people
- In downtown area I was several times followed down the street by blokes trying to sell me custom made suits. Maybe I look scruffy.
- Went for a meal in a nice restaurant, they just bring the courses in any order as soon as its ready, delicious food though and proper Chinese tea of which Becci had approximately eight cups. Used my chopsticks with great skill, think the locals were impressed.
Got ferry to Hong Kong Central in morning, it cost $2.2 which is about 15p. On the way to the ferry watched people doing thai chi in the parks - any open space during the morning such as little parks, playgrounds or basketball courts has a few people doing some nifty moves. Tried to imagine that happening in Crewe but couldnt picture it. Got to Central and mooched about around all the sky scrapers, saw the Bank of China tower and the twoIFC tower which is apparantly the 3rd tallest building in the world, its massive.
Ate breakfast in Hong Kong Park which is really scenic and peaceful but surrounded by huge skyscrapers, it felt weird. A load of school children on a school outing of some sort were well chuffed to practice their English on us.
Got on a boat to Cheung Chau Island which is still more traditional like old China, went to the temple there and lit incense sticks and then had fortune read, the man said my small sticky out ears meant I am wise and intelligent and that my flat forehead and big eyes means i am bold and like to learn new things. From now until the end of the Chinese new year will be a most prosperous time of year for me and my situation will change and improve greatly, then between ages 31-40 I will become very successfull. This guy obviously knows his stuff.
Had lobster for dinner, had to really at the price they had it but ordered to much other stuff and couldnt eat it all. We realised that the dishes are supposed to be shared between a few and we had ordered a couple of things each!
At night time we went to Happy Valley Races. I got two winners and Bec got one, we would have made a profit if we hadnt lost $200 on a horse in the first race, didnt wager a lot overall anyway but managed to have a few beers and had good fun. The promo girls were nice but I didnt take any pics cecause although Bec said it was ok I thought she might not approve. Got subway home and went to a noodle bar in Mong Kok on way back, it was good grub and very cheap, I am now a master of the chopsticks!
Things I noticed today;
- On Cheung Chau Island there was an old people's home at the top of a steep hill and a basketball court infront of a temple.
- There is no litter anywhere
- Fat people are rare
- At night the streets still look like its daytime because everything is brightly lit up.
Day 3 Hong Kong
Struggled to get up this morning due to late night but managed to get down to Victoria Park on NE of Hong Kong Island not long after 9am, the park is full and I mean every little bit of space with people doing thai chi, some in groups but mostly in their own little corner lost in concentration. Wandered around the park doing some intense people watching (at a discreet distance of course), some people are doing their thai chi waving swords and sticks around, they are exercise mad especially old people so its no wonder all the elderly people look about 14 years old. Went to watch the noon day gun being fired in Causeway Bay, its basically as it sounds- a cannon being fired at noon, but the fella doing it really milked it and made it last ages which was quite funny.
Went next up to Victoria Peak to get a birdseye view of the city. We got the peak tram to the top, then walked the 3km down to the bottom on a trail walk and then walked back up to the top again (another 3km but more difficult) so neednt have got the tram but it killed some time. Stayed up there until dark so we could see the city all lit up which was very impressive and worth the wait. Got the tram back down.
Got lost on the way back to the hotel after getting off the tube, was right confused, me and Bec both blamed each other but it was her fault. Went back out for the night to Temple St night market, didnt get there until 10pm due to being lost earlier but as it happened it was busy and bustling until well after midnight. Got food and beer sitting outside down a sidestreet, I had a big plate of clams fried in black bean sauce and then some steamed whelks and Bec had sweet n sour pork, it was delicious.
Some things I noticed today;
- The man firing the noon day gun's watch must be slow because it was 12:05 when he fired it, think he was trying to build anticipation, wonder if he does that everyday.
- People eat noodles for breakfast
- Old people do loads of exercise and are surprisingly flexible
- Still not seen any fat people
- mobile phones work underground on the tube, didnt know this was possible
- When you get used to it chopsticks are actually easier to use than a fork although they wouldnt really work so well on a roast dinner so maybe the knife and fork still has a future.
Day 4 Hong Kong
Went to Kowloon park early morning, struggled getting up again after another late night and too busy to do much sleeping. Lots of people doing thai chi in the park and a group of old people were singing some warbling type song, apart from them it was very peaceful, relaxing and scenic and in huge contrast to the busy street covered with neon signs accross the road.
Got the tube to Central and then a ferry to Lantau Island. Fell asleep on the ferry.
Lantau island has a big temple, monastry and a MASSIVE Budha statue at the top of a big hill, although statue is not really the right word to give the right perspective of size, colossal monument maybe works better. Listened to some monks chanting, they carry on for ages and dont get bored. When in one of the temples a monk saw me with a camera in my hand and grunted "no photo" which was fair enough but unfortunately I think he broke his 20 year vow of silence.
Looked for a beach called Tong Fuck beach but we seemed to be in the wrong part of the island so went to a different beach with a boring name, something like Blue Mine Bay, it was nice but it just wasnt Tong Fuk Beach. Got ferry back and fell asleep again.
Night time planned to go to Chai Wan for a drink on east side of HK island but we were late getting back and fancied going to Temple St Market again. I bought an adidas tracky top which is brown with orange and white detail on it and kind of retro style, I love it but Bec hates it, bought it anyway for HK$349. Couldnt find the goldfish market but putting a fish in my suitcase wouldnt have worked anyway. Had food and beer in a street restaurant again, I had a plate of mantis shrimp, nice big things but not much meat on em, Bec didnt like the look of them but took lots of photos of me eating them. The street food we've had here is fantastical, its as good as any restaurant and way way better than chinese food back in England.
Things I noticed today;
- hardly ever see police but also never seen any trouble of any kind. Although Hong Kong is supposedly more liberal than mainland China I reckon the communist influence keeps them all in line and well behaved.
- Some people wear face masks, not sure whether because of polluted air or if they're still scared of sars and bird flu.
- Some places sell pigeon, not had any yet but apparantly its delicious, I'll see if you can get it in Bangkok tomorrow.
- Saw first fat people, two schoolgirls, bet they get some stick
Day 5 Hong Kong/Bangkok
Went to Nathan Rd in Kowloon to do some shopping in morning. Bought some clothes and a bag for Bec, she was really chuffed with her purchases and I was chuffed because the prices were really good. Last day in Hong Kong, its a shame to leave we were just getting into it, its an amazing amazing place! but the adventure continues...
Got flight to Bangkok in the afternoon. When we arrived the hotel had a problem with our room, we were annoyed so they upgraded us for free and now we have an extra big bed, a large corner room with a panoramic view accross the area and a nicely furnished room so it was worth being a bit grumpy.
First experience of Bangkok was when we went for a walk around the streets and wandered a bit too far i think, there were food stalls in dirty streets with cockroaches and rats scurrying around, Bec got rather hysterical when she saw a rat "the size of a cat". We found an open air beer and food place with live on stage music, watched some Thai band belt out what seemed to be all the big Thai hits, couldnt understand a word of it it but the locals were lapping it up singing along and punching the air. I had a spicy squid salad which burnt my mouth out, Bec always goes for the safer option and often benefits from not having the shits afterwards! That said my digestive system seems to be playing a blinder at the moment considering I have been eating anything that looks curious or unusual or to be honest I'll just try absolutely anything.
Things I noticed today in Bangkok;
- Bangkok is hotter than Hong Kong
- Bangkok is dirtier than Hong Kong
- Thai people bow with their hands together when greeting or saying goodbye
- Heard a gunshot near our hotel, was very loud and caused a very busy bustling street to come to a standstill for a short while with everyone stopping staring and wondering whats going on. Bit worrying.
Day 6 Bangkok - Sunday
Things I noticed;
- Seen several middle aged European blokes with young Thai girls, think we all know whats going on there.
- Thai boxers always do a ritualistic dance wearing flowers before they fight. I cant imagine Ricky Hatton ever doing that.
- The parks seem a great way to experience local culture and its free to do too.
- Freshly squeezed mandarin juice is delicious.
Day 7 Bangkok
Bangkok, the city that never sleeps. Got up at 5.30am this morning and got bus to Damern Saduak to go to the floating market. Had to travel by a long tailed speed boat through the canal system to get all the way there, it felt like we were gonna fall out because it rocked side to side all the time. The market was a bit mad with traffic jams of long tail boats and all the traders shouting over to us and pulling our boat over to them. Bec had some pineapple to eat and I bought some fresh coconut to drink from, the women I got it from was really grumpy so I only gave her 10 Bahts for it (15p). Had some more food but didnt really buy anything else. After the market got the bus to a place that did all these amazing intricate wood carvings, was quite interesting. Then went to see a huge gold budha inside an absolutely massive monument, there were plenty of monks in orange robes wandering around and incense burning a plenty. Went to watch a Thai cultural show in afternoon, it was ok but got fed up with all the dancing and stuff so went off for an elephant ride and had an albino cobra put round my neck and watched an elephant show where they do tricks, not sure how comfortable i am with using animals for entertainment. I think elephants are actually very intelligent and if they werent held back by bick lumbering bodies they could intergrate well with human society, although they cant speak using their trunk as an extra arm could give them advantage and they would end up with all the well paid jobs and take over the world.
Got back to hotel later and Bec had a Thai foot massage, it lasted an hour and they stuck needles in her feet, Bec is quoted as saying "it was nice". Went for a meal in a nice Thai restaurant and then watched some band whilst having a few beers.
Things I noticed today;
- Monks dont like having their picture taken
- Over here you eat with a fork and spoon but only put the spoon in your mouth, apparantly its rude to put the fork in your mouth, dont know why, dont think they should stress about it.
Time to leave the concrete jungle
Hong Kong and Bangkok have been amazing, bit of a culture shock at first and a constant buzz of liveliness everywhere. Would have liked another day or two in Bangkok to go to the grand palace and take in a few more places but its time to go to Koh Samui to relax after all the madness. Would like to come back someday, both HK and Bangkok are brilliant experiences, theres plenty we didnt get time to do plus all the stuff we enjoyed and would love to do again, but then on the other hand we have a whole list of other places we want to visit.
Day 8 Koh Samui
Four hours sleep and its 5.30am and time to get up and get to airport for flight to koh Samui. Flight is at 9.30am and we are both so tired that we slept through take off. Land in Koh Samui about 10.30am and its hot, very hot with no smog for a change - first fresh air I've breathed for a week. Koh Samui airport seems to be just a few wooden benches which is a refreshing change. The people here are ultra polite, bowing to us all the time, very nice people. Hotel is amazing, we've got our own separate bungalow which is absolutely immaculate, smartly decorated, spacious, ornaments in display cabinets and flowers placed everywhere, nice king size bed too. Down at pool and beach by 12, Bec enjoys some well deserved sunbathing whilst I went for a run across the beach. The beach is beautiful, very clean and lined with trees, theres shells and coconuts washed up along the shore line. had a good sleep in the afternoon by the pool. After a 20 minute burst of very very heavy rain went for a Thai meal at hotel restaurant, delicious local food and the waiters are very friendly and very funny when I can understand what they are saying.
things I noticed in koh samui today;
- After a day in the sun I go golden brown but Bec just turns slightly red much to her frustration.
- The people here are so over polite its like having servants bordering on slaves, it feels awkward at first but I'm beginning to enjoy it.
- Beer Chang gets you pissed, its Thai beer and I didnt realise until today its 6.4% so wonder I felt so pissed the last couple of nights in Bangkok.
- Beer Chang tastes good
- Beer Chang is cheaper than the imported beers, Heiniken and Singh.
- Me and Chang are becoming very good friends.
- Its a bad idea to eat whole chillies especially when in Thailand I should think, it makes your mouth burn like fire and makes you sweat.
Day 9 Koh Samui
Got up whenever and had prawns and noodles for breakfast, went for a walk across the bay and had a swim in the sea. In the afternoon Chang joined us on the beach. Went to see travel rep at 4.30 and booked a trip to go elephant trekking on Friday, Chilling is all very well but sitting in the sun all day long bores me, I like to see interesting things and do stuff, doing this thing on Friday but I'd like to do several things and keep on the go but Bec wants to sunbath and says and says we've done the busy part of the holiday so its time to relax and do nothing. Whilst on the beach asked Bec if she thought humans would eventually evolve into two different sub species with a super class and an under class, one being tall healthy and intelligent and the other beings short, less intelligent and lower life expectancy. She said she didnt know.
Night time got taxi to Chaweng the busy part of the island. Had an overpriced Thai meal although the red snapper was delecious, then came a bit of an eye opener when we went out after, we had a few Changs at different bars and then found a lively area that looked good so went into one place and sat down with a couple of beers after briefly being chatted up by the bar girl. Looking around we thought it was strange the amount of young Thai girls sitting around the place alone, but it soon became clear that this part of town is one big pick up joint for fat, ugly English blokes. We watched as three fat, ugly blokes arrive at the bar and within 30 minutes the fattest one was in there snogging some attractive young Thai girl, whats going on? Shortly after one of the other blokes has pulled leaving the bloke sat in the middle looking a bit put out because he's not getting any action yet. Basically the bar is full of prostitutes, there must be about 20 of them hanging around the bar we are in. Along with all that sort of stuff going on theres swarms of small children pestering us to buy flowers from them and several men carrying monkeys or hawks trying to sell you a photo opportunity. Its all a bit seedy in the bars and parading the animals around is cruel and its uncomfortable seeing the small children out at night under pressure to sell, but all that said its still fascinating and good or bad its another mad experience we werent expecting. Some parts of this holiday have seemed like a dream and with all the unusual things we've seen and done so far I'm not sure how my brain is coping, maybe it is a dream and if it is does this little journal book exist? Am I spending parts of my dreams writing in an imaginary diary?
Things I noticed;
- Bec will back me up on this, the Thai girls who pimp themselves out in Chaweng, well some of them are absolutely stunning, so bearing that in mind how does an ugly, obese and badly dressed European bloke manage to pull? Me and Bec wondered how much they have to pay, we reckoned on 1000 baht to get them started.
- Enjoying my coconuts, not many people back home realise that coconuts are green with lots of coconut water and really really fleshy fruit inside, they are delicious and I dont understand why we only have the over matured ones with the hard brown shell in shops at home.
- Bec has loads of insect bites, feel sorry for her, I have a couple but hardly any compared so I must be lucky but actually I feel a bit offended that the insects dont like the taste of me.
DAY 10 Thursday KOH SAMUI
Tried to explain to Bec that the depth of your suntan is not an indicator of how good your holiday has been, she starts to panic if I block her sun, but its what she enjoys I suppose. Had a coconut from the man on the beach, he is a nice bloke and gave me some free bananas. Did nothing of notable interest during the day, had some tasty barbequed sweet corn and rice cakes from the beach man later.
Night time went to the Happy Elephant restaurant in the nearby fishing village in Bo Phut, I had squid as a starter, Bec had green curry soup. I had fried curried catfish meal, Bec had stirfried pork, had a few Changs and walked back.
Things I noticed today;
- Nothing - nothing really happened, we did nothing
- Oh yeh, one thing, apparantly somebody got murdered last night, shot twice in the head according to the bloke next to us in the pub he said he saw it up close.
Day 11 Koh Samui
Went to south of island. Went trekking through forest and bog land on an elephant, feels really weird at first with the way it moves, these fellas weigh several tons and so need to eat and drink loads, so he is stopping regularly to grab leaves or fruit from bushes and trees with his trunk, and then at the end I fed him some bananas. One of the lads here is a big footy fan, he says his favourite teams are Man U, Reading, Portsmouth and Everton and that all the Thai people cryed when England got knocked out of the world cup.
Next we went walking up to a small mountain top to get a view across the whole island and then stopped at some 'magic garden' thing on the way to a big waterfall in the hills. We swam for a while in a big rock pool under the waterfall is was well refreshing, I stood under the waterfall for a while, it was better than any massage you could possibly have, difficult to stay under it without getting washed away but was so good I didnt want to move.
Next we went on to some rice fields and got onto a cart and were pulled along by a water buffalo. Some people there showed us the traditional way to harvest and prepare rice grain which although it might not sound it was quite interesting I suppose, they also showed us how to make a proper Thai curry from scratch. Went and got some dinner next, had a nice piece of baracuda, curry, sea food and some fried vegetable ball things which are called 'no name', that is actually what they are called, their name is no name.
Afternoon went to a coconut farm where they use monkeys to climb the tall trees and throw coconuts down. The monkeys are tied on a long rope so they cant escape, but long enough so they can reach the top of the tree. I thought it was cruel but then what would life be like without coconuts? not as good thats what so theres always a compromise somewhere, but seriously though it was definately cruel.
Later in afternoon it was windy and cloudy and the sea was rough, Bec and me were hoping for a storm because its still officially rainy season and the rain storms here can be really mad. I suggested a tsunami may be on the way and Bec didnt like that idea so I said dont worry its not really because you wont get much warning if there is one. It rained later just for about half an hour then we went out for meal, nothing exceptional to report.
Things I noticed today;
- Elephants can pick up very small objects with their trunk.
- Had no name vegetables again at night which confirms that is actually their name.
- Swimming towards the base of a waterfall is difficult.... but not impossible.
Huge storm! Mmmmassive claps of thunder and crazy terrential rain, hardest most persistant rain I've ever seen and lots of the island is now flooded. Went to Chewang for a few beers and to play pool, darts etc., Its too flooded to walk anywhere so we taxi around all day and with Bec being worried about her sun tan situation we ask each taxi driver for a weather forecast for tomorrow- first one says it will rain for the next five days, next one says its 50/50 but thinks we might see at least a bit of sun, next one says he doesnt know but its probably rain. Sat in a bar at night and watched Arsenal v Portsmouth which in a way is still an authentic Thai experience because Thai people are mad on the premiership and watch it all the time. Walked through the area where all the Thai bride wannabes hang around, theres a few bald, ugly blokes filling their boots around the various bars, we decide not to stop for drink.
Day 13 Koh Samui
No rain but very windy, the sea was really rough and the red flags are out meaning dont go near the sea its too dangerous! Sat watching the sea in the morning, its quite hypnotic after a while, then walked along the beach hurling coconuts and mangos back into the sea, it would be deadly to swim in it today and Bec keeps shouting me to come off the beach. Went to fishermans village and did some haggling on the market stalls, bought a few things, had few games of pool in a bar and after a few beers and a snack went off out to Chewang. Went to a place called Mango which had been recommended to us, it was a nice place and my food was barbequed alive infront of us, had some huge tiger prawns bigger than I've ever seen and crab. Bec said it was cruel because they were alive a few minutes ago and that I ended their life by being hungry. Bec had a duck thai curry which unfortunately ended the life of a duck. Went for a few beers and Chelsea v Everton game was on in the bar we were in, didnt realise until today but Chang beer sponsor Everton (probably beacause of how popular English football is in Thailand), it gave me hope that I may be reunited with Chang back home. Bec claimed I was 'oggling' the thai girls over the road, I said I was just people watching. Had a few beers around the bars then went back as we were feeling tired. Last night tonight unfortunately, time to fly home tomorrow, hopefully the flights will be cancelled due to unforseen circumstances and we'll have to stay a bit longer. Koh Samui has been good, its another one of them where you just get used to the place and find the best places to eat and drink and then you gotta go.
Things I noticed;
- When haggling its best to go for half the price they say or slightly less and stick to it and eventually if you stick to your guns they generally agree. Not quite got used to the bargaining lark but the more you do it the easier it gets.
- The sea is not to be messed with
- The waiters/waitresses over here whisk your plates away the moment the last morsel of food touches your lips which I admit is very efficient but sometimes I like to pick at the left overs for a while.
- How can one little island sustain so many suit makers which all look the same? I dont recall ever seeing anyone looking at them let alone buying one.
- Why are all the suit makers Indian?
- Saw some ladyboys knocking about, I'm sure thats what they were because as far as I know women dont usually have an adams apple.
- can you still get a sun tan when its cloudy? I think you can if its hot enough
- Some bloke trying to sell me a suit was wearing a smart shirt but with tracky bottoms and sandals, if this is his idea of fashion then no thanks mate i wouldnt trust you to make me a pair of socks.
Day 14 Last day
Did a bit more wind bathing in morning and afternoon, and Bec had a good sleep. Went to have an authentic thai massage, been meaning to have one all week, it lasted an hour and consisted of mangling and crushing my body to a pulp and a girl walking on my back and doing various wrestling type moves on me. After having each part of my body stretched, crushed, twisted and vigourously massaged (not that part) I felt fantastic afterwards, it really sorts you out. Time to go home today, its a shame about the last couple of days of weather but still had a good time all the same. Multi stop travelling is definately something worth doing again, think its the way forward for next year.
Three flights to get home; Samui-Bangkok-Heathrow-manchester.
The last things I noticed;
- When the weather is bad people still lounge around by the pool all day especially germans. Why dont they go and do something? even if its just a bit of shopping or a few drinks, but there is other stuff to do on the island.
- You see some real odd ball Europeans but I dont recall seeing any Thai or Chinese equivalents. For example two Germans wearing luminous clothes, silly haircuts, silly glasses, bum bags and just acting strange, we didnt see any locals on our travels who looked anywhere near as ridiculous.
- old people in the places we've been to seem very on the ball. the English women we saw dithering about, worrying, pestering people, fussing, getting confused and being generally unecessary doesnt seem to exist as an equivalent out here. maybe they do have their own versions of these people but I didnt see them
i can't claim to be a prolific traveller but i like alternative holidays, lying on a sunbed is boring. i want to be seeing amazing things, experience the culture, meet interesting people, be a bit outside my normal comfort zone, do things i've never done before, and if there's a story to tell i want to remember it, so the notes and observations i make on each trip can now be read here by anyone who has the patience.