Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Welcome to 2009

So it's officially arrived! The New Year. After picking Beck, my sister, up from the airport at 3pm today I took her to our digs/guesthouse, it was Orchard Guesthouse on Koh Sam and was close to all the action for a great night out.

After checking in we had a quick drink, some food from a vendor and then caught a taxi for another meal at Youval's and Sing's house where I had been staying for the last couple days. It was a gorgeous meal and spirits were high. Once 22:00 came we ventured back into the heart of Bangkok for a night we wouldn't remember. It was fantastic and a great atmosphere everywhere.

After several buckets and a relaxing conversation with are Canadian friends, who had also been staying at Overstay (Sing's and Youval's), we returned back to our guesthouse for some much deserved sleep.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


No entry for today. I've been walking around 'the other side of Bangkok' and just been taking in the atmosphere and preparing myself for a New Years Party of my lifetime.
I've noticed people commenting on the blog and sending me emails about it and my travells and I'd like to say thankyou to you all. It is nice to know such a wide variant of people from all over the world are reading it and encouraging me to keep it going.

Thankyou, hope you had a nice Christmas and am looking forward to the New Year and 2009!

My Couch Surfing Experience/ Staying at Overstay

On the Internet their is a website called Couch Surfing. The idea is simple, sign up and then travel going to fellow couch surfers houses and stay in one of their spare rooms or sleep on the couch. What a great idea.
This is where I met Sing (Taiwanese) and Yuval (Israeli), they have a bar on the out skirts of Bangkok. It's called Overstay and it has a relaxed, social downstairs area and then 5 floors above it. It used to be a 'freelancer house' (brothel). What happened was, they brought the lease and are converting it into a arts centre with Music Studio, Cinema, Club, Bar, Restaurant e.t.c e.t.c It's a lovely building with an extraordinary amount of space and potential.
I arrived at Overstay at around 3pm and introduced myself to them, they're lovely people and most accommodating. They had just brought a pool table and were anxiously watching it get set up and put together whilst talking/teaching me about the area. It's across the main river of Bangkok, which in my mind separates the tourists from locals. Khao Sam, Siam Square, hotels and all the tourists are one side and the other is the working mans/Thai Peoples area.

Personal Plug in: I don't know why, because I can't even draw, but though out Thailand my artwork is cropping up and being displayed. If you ever go to Overstay in Juran, across the bridge, you'll see a canvas drawing of mine to your right as you enter the door. As for what it is..... well because I''m not any good, it'll always be a poisonous mushroom and the sky. This one for some reason has monkeys on it as well as people dancing on top! I should stick to my day job.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

On The Road to Bangkok

Enough of Pattaya, time for me to hit the road. So at 10:00, I checked out, walked to the Bus Station and started my trip to Bangkok. Arriving at 14:30.
On my previous visits I've stayed in Siam Square in Bangkok. Straight in the centre. That however is not the backpackers area though, so this time, I thought I'd change my mindset. I ended up in Khao Sam a popular stop of point for people coming in and out of the country. It's cheap and has backpacker wrote all over it.
I was exhausted from travelling, it wasn't far I'll admint, but the heat had taken it out of me. So after checking into my new guesthouse I had a lie down reading my book. Awaiting an evening of site seeing and socialising.
Once I'd gone downstairs and out on the street a new world had developed. Vendors had flooded in, people were on the streets and music was heard all around. I met a traveller from Nottingham, UK, and we started talking. He had been travelling for 9 months and was on his way to Australia but had spent a significant amount of time in Khao Sam to 'get in with the locals'. So the hospitality started, Leo after Chang we spoke as a group 4 Thai's, the Brit and myself.
Deciding I best move on and see some more I bumped into a Welsh couple, also on their way to Australia. They befriended me and took me out with them allowing me to beat them at most bar sports (pool e.t.c).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Good Guys go to Heaven, Bad Guys go to Pattaya

Now I'm not going to do an individual story for each day, telling about my time in Pattaya, it'd take too long and might offend.

It's an interesting place, firstly you need to know, the town doesn't sleep. As soon as you enter the borders of Pattaya your body clock automatically adjusts itself without you knowing. Next thing you know it'll be 6am in the morning and your on the beach with god knows what! In my case it was always just friends (Brits, Europeans, travellers and such) but in most cases people here end up with a different Thai girl every night of their 'package holiday to Thailand'.

Now I won't judge, or form an opinion, of whether it's right or wrong, but it's a major serious factor that plays a part in this place. Firstly there's not to many foreign tourists here as couples, they're all groups of lads, mostly 40+, and all these men have Thai girls with them. The girls line up along the street enticing you to spend time with them, and take them out. It's all quite sad (sorry.....I judged). I mean literally it's pub, next door to pub/bar, and in all of these places they'll be 10-15 girls outside dressed up waiting for patrons.
Ok, so I've got that of my chest, you now know the 'seedy' side of it, now for the other. I'm staying in a nice hotel! Yes, that's right, it's Christmas and accordingly I've decided to stay somewhere a bit fancy and enjoying the luxuries of a flushing toilet, soft pillow/mattress and a tv with a controller. It also has a swimming pool here.

And now for some other info/stories of Pattaya....
*The prices here are generally 2 or 3 times more than anywhere else in Thailand (maybe excluding Bangkok), there's a lack of vendors as well, just Western food and, dumbed down, Thai dishes. I had a curry this morning (boxing day, 26/12/2008) and it was so bland and lacked any spice, if I told a Thai chef up north about this, I'm sure he would be ashamed of it!

*The beach is relatively nice, it's normally busy, but you can sit and relax in the sun. They also have Jet Ski's at £15 a go, for 15 minutes. That was damn good fun!

*The night life.... well I don't need to answer that one, Pattaya is built on tourism and alcohol. Met some decent people here as well. Met two nice guys from Manchester who I chilled out with and stayed out late with on Christmas Eve, till they 'boxed of' ( I won't explain the expression, it's a Northern thing, just think about where we are and then think why you might choose to stop hanging out with mates and focus on something else). I also met Kevin and Em, Kev met Em in Thailand and now they have a house out here, so he was here on holiday.

All in all, I think/know I would never come back to Pattaya, it's not because I'm anti-it. It amused me and was nice to just relax by the sea. It provides a service and does a good job of it, it's just that, in my opinion, Thailand is a beautiful country and after backpacking most of it for nearly two months, to then see Pattaya was a great shame. The thought then crossed my head that this is what people, then think about, when they come to Thailand, that package holiday brings them straight here, they spend a week or two and then go to the UK and have 'informed' opinions of Thailand. Which they don't! There is little, to no, Thai culture in central Pattaya and I hope I never meet someone that tells me they've been and know about Thailand, when they've just done a trip to Pattaya.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Lazy Day

Now....I'm not going to lie, I didn't really do much today. It's close to Christmas, I was tired and I needed a plan and was on a budget. Therefore I planned where to go/be for Christmas, had a little wonder around and got some food.
I've decided to go to the original Sin City of Thailand this Christmas. The world famous Pattaya City! A sea-side resort to the South East of Bangkok (165KM or 2hrs).

I will tell you about something however, an interesting fact if you will. Did you know that bamboo is used frequently as an alternative to metal scaffolding?? Well they do. Have a look at the photo to see for yourselves. Please also bear in mind they normally climb them like monkeys with no shoes, helmet or protection. Nutters!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Shopping Mall

After a good nights' sleep, I woke up refreshed today and ready to see the town some more. Korat has the same problem many working towns have all around the world. It isn't as open and depentant on tourists, therefore finding and seeing their 'best things' often takes some time. By saying that, I mean, I had to walk a lot today.
I started of by visiting some more Wats firstly, there was one I hadn't seen, rumour has it that it had a cave (pictured top left)there as well! It took a while but I found it and it was worth the walk. It was more of a complex then a single Wat and what's more..... there was a little cave shrine/place of prayer. This was interesting due to the fact that the room was only about 6ft high! I had to crouch the entire time.
After visiting that I proceeded to walk down it's main route out of town and see some of the 'locals shops', I then bumped into a massive shopping mall, named "The Mall". Now I'm not really a fan of shopping malls, to be honest, but this one was different, it was so grand and spacious, it actually worked and was a pleasure to walk around. Saying that I still didn't buy anything!

After doing the 1hr 30min walk back to my hotel, I was thoroughly knackered by now, so a quick drink and some noodle soup placed me in a right mind to read and sleep.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Relocating and Walking in Korat

366Bh was way too much for accommodation, although I was getting a good deal and it was a lovely room, I must save money and get something for less! So I woke up at 07:00 this morning and started strolling for accommodation, I found 3 cheaper options, all pretty much just for Thai's, no 'farang' (travelers) were to be found at these places!
  1. The first one at 180Bh had rats everywhere outside, obviously a no go!
  2. The second one at 150Bh had no power sockets for my MP3 and the halls smelt like urine. Possibilty of staying here was 50/50.
  3. Result!!! 150Bh for a double bed, fan, en-suite with flushing toilet and cold shower. "I'll take it!"
After returning back to the previous hotel, I slept in last night, I checked out, grabbed my stuff and trekked back to option 3, once again in a no-go tourist area. But it was great! I unpacked, planning to stay a night or two, cleaned some clothes and set out around Korat to visit some Wats (temples) and see what was on offer.
The first thing I went to was about 10mins down the road and I had walked past it three times already and was curious as to what it was, it was the 'Thao Suranari Memorial' and the old Chumphon Gate, the only gate still standing in Korat, the other three are just re-builds/fakes.
After that I walked around some more visited one Wat and got some food (rice + chicken) from a local vendor. It sounds rude, but I'm starting to think....'Why fall for one of these freelancers? when a Thai vendor would be so much better!'.
I then returned to my hotel, read for a bit, had a wash and then ventured out to the famous Korat Night Market and wondered around for a couple hours.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Time to Relax

An early wake up occurred again this morning. It was going to take about 15 minutes to get to the bus station and I had a long journey in front of me, I was going to go to Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima), so it was best that I get going sooner rather than later. Luckily though the bus to Korat left every hour, it was on route to Bangkok, so a popular journey.
After buying my 11:40 ticket and having caught a quick something to eat (pork + rice) at a local vendor I boarded the bus. Although it was nice on the outside, the inners weren't as elegant, but who am I to complain? The journey took 7hrs and was relatively straight forward, the only problem being was that I had no battery life on my MP3 so I had to just sleep and gaze at Thailand's many mysteries as they passed my window.
Getting in at 19:00 I was now tired and a stretch of the legs was needed, so adamant not to get a Tuk Tuk to a hotel I started strolling. Shame for me the bus station I got dropped of at, was the 2nd terminal, 3km from the city and a further 1-2km to the accommodation area. Arriving at 20:00 I took the first room I found, expensive at 366Bh, it had air-con, a toilet that flushes and a TV, so I had a wonderful, relaxing night! It was a bit strange however, you kind of forget home comforts quickly enough, so having a TV I didn't know really what to watch, BBC News was the only channel I could get into.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Leaving for Ubon Ratchathani

Awoken early once again by the noise of Khon Kaen (my room has no windows, just mosiqutio net sellotaped over the gap in the wall) I left to go to Ubon.
Arriving at the bus station, tired and aggravated, I hopped on the bus, which luckily was their waiting for me. It was a sign from god!
I hopped on board opposite two bike rider travelers Mike and Michael from Canada and started happily speaking about each others journeys. The trip was a long one, slowed down by morning traffic we arrived at roughly 3pm in Ubon Ratchathani. It was a nice place, busy but pleasant, one of those places you wouldn't expect to see many travellers. As one of the less favoured crossings to Laos, the only real users are the locals.
With my bag on my back, and a skip to my step, I headed to the nearest travel agent. Who, without me knowing, was about to bring bad news.
The Visa laws have changed in Thailand, land crossing Visa's now only last 15 days and my current three month visa is a single entry visa. Calculated cost to go to Laos and come back £60, not to mention on January (10th) I'd need to do another Visa run to validate it for a further 15 days (extra £35), or face a £20 per day cost and possible jail time, if caught. Laos for Charlie.
A bit disappointed and frustrated with the new law, implemented two weeks ago, I started the search for accommodation for the night. So I hopped on the nearest Saamlaw, two bench taxi, till I saw a cheap looking guesthouse. After a 15minute wait, I found one, this time for 150Bh I found a 'hotel' right opposite the train station (pictured top right). It was empty and looked dangerous (if you've seen the film 'Hostel' you'll know what I mean, just look at the pic to the left, this is what it looked like at night, and I was the only one there!). The price was right however, so I took it, drinking a couple beers placed me in a sense of security. After a brief stroll around the 'locals' area and further harassment by Thai ladies wanting to 'be with me' I slept a heavy sleep planning to leave the following morning.

NB: The last couple days I've been budgeting and walking around looking for rooms, opposed to using the Lonely planet. This way I get cheaper rooms, however normally they're empty and in the parts of town where tourist's don't go. Which is a fantastic experience, but the amount of attention you get and the amount of girls that look at you and try to 'interact' with you is somewhat tedious! Even though I love girls!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


So yesterday may not have gone to plan, luckily though as a backpacker, there is no plan. Today, therefore, I needed to create a strategy.
I woke up early, realizing why my accommodation was so cheap, it was hideous, disgusting and revolting. I walked around for a couple hours looking at the Wats (temples) and Khon Kaen's park, finishing of my wonder at the local hypermarket 'Big C's'.
I then returned to see that my hotel was the only place I had seen with a healthy supply of cockroaches. It was cheap however, so I decided to stay another night before catching, and continuing the other 5hrs of my bus trip to Ubon Ratchathani.

Bear in mind: The accommodation was so nasty and foul that the 'landlord' admitted to me that not only was he broke, but he had invested in a prostitute (better known as a 'freelancer') to live their to try and make extra money!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Travelling to Khon Kaen

Last night I started calling accommodation and guest houses in Northern Laos and started believing the rumors. Due to the fact that I'm on the border to Laos and just across the 'Friendship Bridge' is Vientiane, the capital of Laos, many people had been telling me about it. Basically, in their words, it's incredibly expensive, very touristy and over populated. When I started calling around the cheapest budget room I could find was $14 dollars, which instantly meant it was a no go for me.
Although I know I could cut across and go 'Tubing' and see the 'jars' I didn't think it was worth it, even bus transportation there is about triple the price, whilst the road network is close to none excistent, meaning trips take double as long.
Therefore this morning, I woke up, packed my bags and started heading to the East of Thailand to another border crossing to get info as to whether it'd be worth going to the 4000 islands and Southern Laos.
I boarded my bus at 11am and started heading to Ubon Ratchathani, planning to get of there. Once again this didn't go to plan. The busses here are slow at the best of times and you get checked frequently for terroists onboard. All due to the Airport problems of last month and 'safety in Thailand' principle. Much to my surprise however, it was for good reason today, when we got stopped they actually found something of danger on board. I still don't know what it was but it ended up two people being taken away by police over a package stored in a lower compartment. Orginally I saw the women trying to bribe the police man, but this didn't work at all. She was taken away with the gentleman she was with, a couple other people got of the bus and then we continued an hour later.
By now it was 15:00 and I had nearly had enough for a day, it had become stressfull and wasn't working out. To make matters worse it was the end of school so every 100metres we were picking up/dropping of school kids, so at 19:00 I got of at Khon Kaen a major city to the South of Nong Kai. Once I arrived I walked around for 1hr with my backpack in search of the cheapest accommodation, once I found it (100Bh a night, £2) I slept!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Art Theraphy and Mediatation School

So I apologize in advance about the lack of information and detail I give for the last three days of this school. The thing is however, it's private, there was a class of 8 in total and the school/classes were our sacred place and I've got to respect that.
I can however tell you the general idea of what we did. The classes were about 7hrs a day, and we'd meditate 4 times during the day as well. The concept being that we'd have our own space and think about life and our current situation and then just paint, no thought needed, just the feeling you have inside. Granted I think I was the exceptional case, my happy/go lucky mentality keeps me 'with it' and a smile on my face, so maybe I wasn't to benefit as much as the others. Still however I learnt a lot from these three days, I focused myself and realized what goals I want to achieve, who I'm grateful to and who I'm resentful against and need to get over.
Outside of class it was the same old story, socializing and relaxing with great people, I even met two young individuals from America who I played chess against. They were only ten years old each (twin sisters, pictured left) but they were incredibly clever. You know your opponents are gifted when they start speaking Afghanistani to one another so I don't understand! They were travelling for a year with their mum and dad.
Above is the last photo I drew at my course. It represents Freedom whilst the mushroom represents dangers that still excist. No perfect world is perfect, you still have temptations and dangers. Laugh if you will, but it means a lot to me.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting Lost in Nong Kai and Mut Mee

OK, so when you travel you aren't meant to get attached to anything. The basic law. But here at Nong Kai it's impossible to do so, three days in and I'm relaxed beyond belief, I've got my best friends here, Pat (my trusty Irish mate), Solomon & Nicola (mad Swizz people, feeding me chocolate to my hearts content) and Deno and Lyndsey (my temporary parents from Detroit, Michagan). All in all it's wonderfull. I trust them and we work together and chill together.
Granted, I'm not acheiving much accept for just enjoying Thailand like I should be! I mean look at the photo to the upper left! This is the bar/communial area where I've spent my time teaching everyone card games such as Shithead as well as the ones my Grandparents taught me. Now when I wake up, come back from walking around, or just return to the communial area I'm guaranteed my friends will be there waiting to play cards with me. A fantastic feeling, suddenly I have a home.
Today I just relaxed and socialized but tomorrow I start my Art Theraphy School and Meditation Classes (Deno & Lyndsey offered me the oppertunity so I took it), it was a great day and now I understand why people say they "Got lost in Nong Kai".

From left to right:
Top- Solomon, Lyndsey & Deno
Bottom- Nicola, Charlie, Patt

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Visit To The Sculpture Park

After a relatively late night, speak to Irish, Germans and French I woke up early this morning to go on a walk to the famous Sculpture Park, named Salakaewkoo.
It was built over a period of 20 years by a Laos Sculpture by the name of: Luang Poo Boun Leua Sourirat. He came to Thailand in 1974 with fear that he was was going to be prosecuted and punished if he stayed in Laos for his 'extreme' thoughts and art as the country turned communist.
The park itself is an eye opening, mind boggling area of trees which has a heavy sprinkle of concrete masterpieces around it, towering normally around 7-8 storeys high! Here I saw some fantastic sights, dramatic images and, since he died in 1996, I even got to see his mummified body in the main buildings' top floor.
I got there by walking 7KM, as I've decided I need more exercise. I was not aware however how much of a local celebrity I'd become doing it. Firstly I was stopped by school girls wanting pics and to ask me questions and then for the latter half of the walk I was followed by a local man wanting to help/guide me to the Sculpture Park.
Upon returning I went to the garden of my resort where I read my book, before heading out for some chicken & rice followed by a Leo Beer.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Relaxing/Hectic Couple of Days

Ok, so maybe I haven't done much the last two days. Yesterday I just returned my scooter, had lunch with Pee and then swatted up on Nong Kai, the location where I am today. Then today I just caught an 8hr bus ride up to the NE border to Laous to the town of Nong Kai. It's a nice place, quiet, cheap and relaxful. So just what I need before I start trekking and go to Laos.
I arrived at 7pm this evening and checked into my guesthouse it's called Mut Mee Garden Guesthouse and costs 140Bh a night (just under 3pounds!) so I can't complain, it's also straight on the river so you look over to Laos from the restaurant which has a beautiful view.
I've seen/read about teaching English and I.T here to both children with H.I.V and to those who simply can't afford education, so I'mprobaly going to do that tomorrow and stay here a couple days before crossing the 'Friendship Bridge' into Laos.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Last Supper

So here it is, the last day of the ''2008 Thailand International Balloon Festival''. I woke early this morning (5am) for an AM flight with John Wigglesworth in his Broody Balloon. It was a great morning for a flight as well, winds were relatively strong, but in the right direction so we went for it. The flight itself was perfect we got a great direction and did some contour flying, my favourite type!
Sadly as we landed, we cancelled our first possible option for a field further on, with better access. As we approached and committed however we noticed a spikey, cactus looking field, taking up half our landing site! Best efforts were into motion but we still unfortunately got the lower quarter of the balloon onto the plant tearing small holes. A mistake that I think it's fair to say we both learned from.
After returning to the launch site/festival site we had a quick breakfast then returned to our separate hotels to get some much need sleep. After sleeping I returned to the festival site to see whether I would be fortunate enough, once again, for another flight.
Entering the site I bumped into Matt Nicholson who offered me a flight luckily. Matt who I've been fortunate enough to meet in the past (tethered with the previous night and attended Filzmoos Balloon Festival 2008 with) offered me the whole flight from start to finish and once again it was a fantastic flight. The scenery here is just gorgeous and the lack of S.A's meant, once again, it was a great opportunity to try low level flying as well as level flight. The flight lasted an hour an upon landing once again local kids from all around came to meet us and take photo's/talk to us.
After the flight I met Pee once again who offered to take my motorbike to his house, so I could go on to the final night party in Korat at the balloonists hotel. Extremely grateful I took him up on the offer and hoped in Russell and birthday girl Emily's bus (owners and operators of High Rode Balloons).
The night was fantastic we had a great buffet supper as well as a nice supply of alcohol and then we all retreated to our hotel rooms. Although I didn't have a room, an US pilot by the name of Mr Ed, offered me his spare bed which I took.

During the Balloon Festival I was lucky enough to meet a great group of people and get 3 flights in as well as one tether. I'd like to specially mention the following people and thank them.

John & Sue Wigglesworth- Thank you for the flights and best wishes for the future, hope the balloon works out fine and looking forward to seeing you soon.
Matt Nicholson- Thank you for the flight and tether opportunity. Best of luck with the future and forthcoming child! Hope it all works out.

Also thank you to Derek & Maureen, Dave Seagar-Thomas and Nigs Pertwee for making me feel so welcome and allowing this 'backpacker' to tag along!
Also thanks to Pee, Pool, Jah...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Windy Day with a Great Tether

So as this front passed through the winds continued sadly today. Morning flights were canceled and I took to the road admiring Khao Yai and Pak Chong till 15:30 and then proceeded to the festival. The front was just dieing down however late afternoon but now the wind direction was a problem. If we flew we faced crossing a large (massive lake) and then having to land in either trees/jungle to the north or we could try and have a challenging flight of trying to get the right wind direction at certain heights and try to steer to the South West where there was better landing opportunities. We decided consequently not to fly.
Luckily for me however, a B.A 747 pilot and balloon pilot named Matt Nicholson had just arrived. I had flown with him earlier on in the year in Filzmoos, Austria, and he was tethering so I offered to help him with that. His set up was spot on! We tethered for 2-3hrs and slowly got through half the Thai Population pleasing both the crowd and passengers.
Pee, my Thai friend from the night before even showed up with his sister Pool. I managed to get him a quick flight for which I piloted. He was extremely grateful and felt honored to have the opportunity whilst I was just happy to get more burner time in an British Airways balloon!
We finished the tether in the dark with fireworks in the background going of, which the organizers and press loved! Afterwards Pee showed up again offering to take me for a meal and he also brought a drink for myself and Matt. We went to a local restaurant which a friend of his owned, it was gorgeous, we cooked a soup ourselves in a large bowl with charcoal beneath whilst eating shrimp, pork and rice.
I then returned back to my hostel again for a drink and good nights sleep.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Windy Day on the Kings Birthday

After stopping my alarm at 5am this morning I decided not to go to the festival, although their was no real reason, energy was low and winds were a bit high. Luckily/unluckily however there was no flight this morning, there was an excess 0f 10kts on the ground making it unsafe to fly.
Instead once again, at around 08:30 I had some more knocking on my door with Thai ladies informing me that balloonists were here for me. It was John and Co., they told me about the winds and offered a coffee, they were on their way to Khao Yai and wondered if I fancied it, I leaped at the opportunity and boarded their private chauffeur driven, air-con bus!
After the coffee we went and had a ride on a elephant closely followed by a tour around the park, it was gorgeous and we visited one of their largest waterfalls' named Haew Narok Waterfall. Khao Yai is also where they filmed the scene from the beach when Leonardo DiCaprio dives of the waterfall, we didn't visit this one however because it's smaller (25m) and is crowed with tourists 24/7.
Now, with time becoming an issue, we started the 1-2hr bus journey back to the launch site. Once again with wind becoming an issue the balloonists instead tried putting on a display in the form of tethers. There was however 4 balloons launching for short flights just to please the press and organizers. We were all done however by around 18:30 and then proceeded to the BBQ at the south end of the site.
The BBQ was nice, as well as being free, so it was great for me to be at. The only problem now however is as time progressed I was becoming stuck outside of Pak Chong and my resort with no transport so I needed to sort something out. In the end I organized, with the help of the festivals organizers, a lift back with the catering company. This is where I met Jah (a girl) and Pee (a man), they were both lovely and I ended up going for a drink with them, then to Pee's house and then lastly I got dropped to the resort around 22:30. The wind's were strong by now so no flight was happening in the morning so I went to bed planning in a lie in!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My First Flight In Thailand

Morning launch was at 6am today and I was still a bit short of local knowledge and very hesitant with riding my bike in the dark so decided to avoid the journey and sleep today. That was until 8am when I starting hearing knocks on my door. It was Jimmy Two Toe, the resorts tour guide. He had just found 2 viper snakes which he was keen to show me! So I put my Sunday best on and came outside to have a look.
The nutter had them in a box and was playing with them! He had just retrieved them from his friends house and had brought them to my backpacking lodge. The snakes were beautiful, he taught me that the triangular heads showed that a snake is poisonous and gave me a brief explanation/lesson on snakes. Jimmy and I get on extremely well especially because I'm the only real tourist (in Thai.... 'Farang') at the lodge we also share the same passion, music.
After playing with the snake I took to exploring again, travelling along the National Park taking in the scenery, to be honest it is great having the bike. For the first time I feel 'free' to go where I want, when I want, without asking anyone.
After exploring I set out for the afternoon launch, meeting John from Somerset at the launch field he asked whether I could help him with the retrieve. Which I eagerly agreed to. He then, just before takeoff offered me the task of piloting the balloon, his wife Sue had mentioned it and sacrificed her flight to me. Which I was extremely grateful for.
The flight lasted an hour and was amazing, the great thing with flying abroad is the lack of S.A's and resentment to balloons which you get in the UK. Out here you can fly as low as you like over animals and everyone just waves and chases after you wanting to watch. A majority of people out here have never seen a balloon so they love it when they get the chance to.
Upon landing we had the whole village come out and greet John and myself which was overwhelming. From the young to the old, they were all there to speak to us and smile, another benefit of flying out here is that the retrieve crew (local Thai's) object to us helping pack up the balloon after the flight, leaving us to deal with public relations and speak to the locals. After finishing the pulbic show we went for a drink and returned to the festival where I got on my scooter and returned to my lodge.Upon returning back I met two Dutsch girls which I played cards with, a game called 'Shithead', and had drinks with untill the early hours.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My First Scooter

So after a lazy first day in Khao Yai I needed to now get a bit more active and with the Balloon Festival coming soon I had to sort out transport, taxi's to and from the Fiesta would cost me around 500Bh a day which I simply couldn't do, so I went on the search for a scooter.
I eventually found one in Pak Chong for 300Bh a day I booked it till Monday. Although it was more pricey to rent here, compared to Chang Mai + Koh Panghan, I had to do it. So i did and it gave me instant freedom.
After a 1hr ride I found a lovely Thai Vineyard and naturally curiosity got the better of me and I explored. So after a taste of their white wines I had a sit down in their premises and got talking to a Thai Business man who gave me loads of tips/recommendations for travelling Laos, which was incredibly useful. He had taken his family there recently so had the pics on him which he went through with me whilst buying food/snacks for us to eat, which naturally I ate.
Now, time becoming an issue, I had to leave. Launch time at the festival was 4-5pm and I wanted to be there, so after excusing myself I got back on my scooter with my map of NE Thailand and set out the search for the fiesta, a task harder than I originally thought! After failing to find it, I started seeing them in the ear, initializing my retrieve skills I trekked them down to the launch field, slightly to late to see any take off so instead I played the waiting game to see them return. Which they did by 6pm onwards. I then proceeded to linger around the pilots and introduce myself to them, trying to strike up conversation with the only pilot I knew Dave Seagar-Thomas. I was then introduced to John from Somerset, a friend of my dad's who knew him well so naturally with in 30mins I knew them all by first name and all was going well. I arranged to meet them the next day and help out with retrieves e.t.c.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Landing on my Feet

So it had been a hard couple days trekking, great fun, but tiring none the less. So after a quick/rushed Thai Massage I got the night bus to Bangkok's North Eastern terminal and then the 06:30 bus to Pak Chong, the closest town to Khao Yai national park.
The park itself is a jewel, although only one day trips/visits to the area is recommended I thought I'd have a week here as well as partaking in Thailand's 2nd International Balloon Festival. So, after a brief look at the Lonely Planet book, I chose to stay at Khao Yai Garden Lodge which also offers a free pick up service from Pak Chong.
The lodge itself is gorgeous, surrounded by green gardens and flowers everywhere I had to stay here. Although it caters to the well of, they have one set of backpacker rooms, with a shared bathroom costing 350Bh a night (just under 7 pounds). It also offers free internet which is a massive bonus.

Khao Yai Garden Lodge Website

Trekking up North of Thailand

What a great couple days! Since Saturday morning, upto Monday late afternoon, I've been trekking around the North of Chang Mai, near to the Pai region and national park. Now to tell you what happened would take hours, the experiences and sights I saw were amazing though and below I'll try to summarize it.

Saturday 29th November
We got picked up from our hostels around 9am where we then proceeded to a waterfall 1hr North of Chang Mai, in the national park, the waterfall was amazing and incredibly cold!
After the waterfall we had a trip to the market and then a journey further up the hill to start our trekking, it was gorgeous up there, now about 2/3hrs away from civilization there was only the odd village and a fantastic lack of tourists in them. A meal later we started the trekking, it lasted about 2/3hrs but was amazing, all you would see it hills and trees everywhere, no roads and no buildings. We trekked to a village in the hill where we were going to stay that night.

The village where we stayed was amazingly remote, and by this time the group were really getting to know one another, it was a fantastic group of people, there was 8 of us in total. Two people from Denmark, 3 from Germany and then 3 from England (including myself).
It was freezing during the night, but well worth it because the stars we got to see were out of this world (that pun/bad joke is for you Ross!). That night I saw the Milky Way like I've never seen it before as well as 3 shooting stars in 5minutes, something I doubt I'll ever see again in my life. I didn't count, but a educated guess would be that I probably saw into the tens of thousands region, for the amount of stars.

Sunday 30th November
Today we woke up early, although I think really none of us slept due to the coldness and lack of insulation and fact that our beds were as solid as concrete.

After a quick breakfast, and way to much bread being offered to us, we proceeded to trekk through the forest for 4hrs to the elephant camp. Once again i was blown away by the scenery an
d how remote it was, we were walking straight in the forest now, paths were mud (about 50cm wide and overgrown), bridges were bamboo shoots and the sun was high up above the green growth.
Once we got to the elephant village/camp it was awe inspiring, we were at the top of a hill and just saw 3 huts with an elephant by it, when we got down it looked like a little community time had forgot. We were served some noodle soup and played their version of volleyball (bamboo football which you have to hit over a net via you
r knees, head or feet) this was great fun.
We then rode the elephants for 30mins to an hour up to our next checkpoint. My elephant was naturally the best, she was an elegant queen an strode with sure but steady feet through the streams and wood. Once we got to the checkpoint we walked to a nearby village where we played football with the locals, had a swim in the river and then us Brits convinced our European buddy's to drink the night away with Whiskey and coke, naturally it worked! We spent the night round the fire all telling tales, opinions and correcting the world.

Monday 1st December
We had a later morning today, waking up at around 8am and once again we got served an incredible amount of toast and then walked down (a couple of pounds heavier) to the river where our Bamboo rafts had just been made.
There was two of them waiting for us and the one which I was on naturally was less buoyant then the other, so after some quick modifications due to the fact that it sank once we all got on, we left.

The Bamboo Rafts were a fantastic laugh, we were doing it for 4hrs in total (including a brief 10min drink break in a village alongside the river) and I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone. As I said earlier though our rft was not the most buoyant at some points it was up to my groin when we were in rapids, not the most reassuring thing! Yet all the time whilst this happened to us the other group were having no adventures what so ever, as far as sinking went!
Laughing and jokes put aside though we did have a relatively serious moment when we went though the same scenario as H.M.S Titanic!
It was all fine and we were cruising at a safe speed of 4k
ts when we hit a massive rock as we entered the rapids, losing balance I fell from the back of the raft to the front, we then got jammed up against the rock whilst the rapids started pounding into an unmovable boat which slowly starting splitting up. At this point thinking it had all gone Pete Tong (terribly wrong) the tour guide, Ross and Myself went in the water to the back of the raft and tryed to push it against the current/rapids, we succeeded somehow but were all incredibly shook up and the whole event did result in some minor bruising to myself and Kylie.
After that the boat was somewhat more un-float able and hitting some more rocks further down meant repairs became a ongoing thing whilst going down the river. It was however....... BLOODY FANTASTIC!!!

Well enjoyed myself and it was a shame when it all finished, we had a meal afterwards and then got driven back to Chang Mai and our guest houses. I'm incredibly chuffed that I did it though because I'm sure those 3 days I had our going to be in my head for the rest of my life and I was incredibly fortunate to meet the people in the group as they were all fantastic fun and well up for a laugh! Hope you all enjoy your travells!

Friday, November 28, 2008


Hey all, sorry but I don't know whether I've lost or just can find my cable for my camera but here's some photo's I've been sent on from the Canadian mates I made on Koh Phang Ghan.

Me and Dave by the pool

Me 'Rocking' my New Fashionable Hat

Me and Krisy having a Bucket

Local info: A bucket is a childs sand bucket filled with a bottle of San Song (they're whisky), 1 amphetimine based red bull, 1 sprite can and loads of ice and straws.

Flight of the Gibbon

OH my god, what blooming fun! I got picked up today at midday to go on the 'Flight Of The Gibbon' adventure which was amazing. Although I was thoroughly disappointed I didn't take my camera. Your not allowed any bags, sun glasses e.t.c
The experience itself was great, you basically travel for about 2hrs up to a well remote part of the Jungle where you then harness yourself up, get a helmet and go exploring.
The set up is as follows, they have about 2/3km of zip lines between trees (about 30+metres from the ground) so you just go from tree to tree, then absail maybe to a new level and then carry on along the zip lines. All the time whilst working yourself to the bottom of the valley.
I was thoroughly impresses by the tour instructors though and the safety was fantastic. We also got to see snakes e.t.c as well as getting to see tea leaves, coffee plants and much more. I'd thoroughly recommend doing this to anyone!
After the 3hrs of flying between trees we then had a nice meal in the village cooked by the tribe and then caught the bus back to Chang Mai. Arriving back I was thoroughly tired so just chilled out at the guesthouse watching Bourne Identidy with a family from San Francisco. Ohh...I also had a nice conversation with a Deutsch man tonight. He's here for two weeks trying to find his brothers grave, the brother married a Thai and was buried out here and none of his family knew where he was buried e.t.c but he found the grave after the first week. So was enjoying some travelling now.

Feeling a Bit Rough

Granted today was maybe not the most productive day, but it was a great day none-the-less. I woke up slighly later than normal. Due to last nights escapades and I then decided to be pro-active and make a plan for the next week or two.
After speaking to June, my travell agent from the guesthouse, I ended up booking a journey tomorrow to go and do 'The Flight Of The Gibbon' as well as booking a three day trek from Saturday through to Monday to go up in the hills and spend two nights with hill tribes and then walk, bamboo raft and elephant trek during the daytime.
As for the evening, I had a girl called Ellen respond to my lonely planet advertisement for a travell companion, so i met up with her this evening and had some drinks and food with her. She was from Norwhich and had been travelling India and Thailand for the last 3months.

British German Relations

After a great day of talking to monks and visiting temples I decided to have a wonder round the town tonight with my new book to read. My intention being, wonder a bit, then have a drink and read. Sadly though I think Western Culture has affected Chang Mai even, the bars/pubs/clubs are all identical bringing much disappointment to myself. I even at one point found myself walking down some seedy red light district area. This meant I needed a plan B.
The guest house where I'm staying is incredibly friendly, reasonably prices and comfortable so I decided to return back there to read my book and enjoy a quiet drink. Here's where I met a fantastic German by the name of Stephan.
Stephan has 5 weeks in Thailand and is on his way tomorrow to go up to Chang Rai and Pai, villages further north of Chang Mai, close to the border to Laous.
We had both had the same problem that evening of just wanting to have a quiet drink and see what the locals/night life was like, but worth both thoroughly disappointed. After a couple drinks at the guest house we then went on to do some food tasting by getting some beers from the '7-11' and going along the vendors stalls and getting a little to eat at each one. Which was fantastic fun! We ended up staying out till 4 that night and although we both incredibly full it was a great night tasting all the different selections of food as well as talking to a like-minded traveller who was also in search of remote quiet parts of Thailand.
Stephan has a blog which you can read at he even speaks about me in it (i blush). haha

Stefan's Blog