|Off to Thailand … yay!|
One door shuts and another door opens! Oh, how I love the travelling door! She is always kind to me; never creaks, never hard to open and always opens with the first push. So, in between jobs, I decided to sneak away to Thailand for a couple of weeks … as you do! Organising the gig? Yeh, that would be five days prior, and booking the cheapest flight I could, which ended up being on Royal Brunei. October’s not a bad month to travel through Thailand. OK so it’s the monsoon season, but seriously, worse things could happen in life!
I thus spent the nights of my last working week getting myself organised for Thailand. Yep, finished work on the Friday, and was flying to Thailand on the Saturday. Whoo, hoo!
I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go and I had just over two weeks to do it. Alex and Dad took me to the airport, and before I knew it I was off. In usual Ombi style, I introduced myself to the guy sitting next to me, and Daryl and I had ourselves some pretty decent conversations over the course of the flight. A brief stopover in Brunei and we were in Bangkok by 8pm. I would be spending my first couple of nights with my dear friends Link and Pong and their family. I met Pong in the early noughties when she was studying in Australia, and Alex and I attended her wedding to Link in 2007. They have since had two children, Grace (Nu Deang) who we met when we were in Thailand in early 2012 and Sean (Singh) who was only a couple of months old, and whom I would be meeting for the first time.
|With Nu Deang at the local market|
Luckily it did not take me long to get through passport control and Link was waving at me as I came through the doors and into the arms of my second home; a country I love, enjoy and feel so comfortable in. Ah, Bangkok! You either love it or hate it. I love it! Yes, it’s crazy, frenetic and muggy, but perhaps it’s the sensory overload that I find so appealing. Bangkok, you and I have the same personality, which is perhaps why I love you so!
It was quite late by the time we arrived at Pong and Link’s house, which is in the south of Bangkok, but at the glass door was Nu Deang waving, the adorable not quite yet one year old baby I had met last year, who was now two and a half. Bright as a button, she was not going to miss out on the action. She knew I was coming and was waiting up. It was so lovely to see Pong and Nu Deang again, and I was greeted with big hugs from both of them. Nu Deang introduced me to her baby brother Sean and took me up to my room and told me that that is where I would be sleeping. A bit of chit chat all round and then we went to bed. At least tomorrow was Sunday and I would be able to spend some time with the family.
To market, to market … on Sunday morning Link, Nu Deang and I went to the local market to buy some food. My love of markets, any market, is no secret. They are the pulse of a nation! They tell you so much about its people. And I just love that whole … when in Rome! This is the real Thailand. First up, some Thai coffee, complete with both evaporated and condensed milk! Oh yes, if you don’t like sugar … in Thailand you will have to build a very big bridge and get over it! I don’t have sugar in my coffee at home, but hey, I do in Thailand. We wandered around, had a look and bought some food. Link and Pong were so totally hospitable. I feel so honoured to have such special friends. Back at home we chatted and ate. In the afternoon Link’s parents and sister, Sung, came around. It was just really lovely to hang around and be ‘part of the family’. Nu Deang is a little doll, and her first language is actually English because that is what her parents speak to her in so that she can be bilingual. She is such a well-mannered and gorgeous little girl, and we really did have so much fun together.
|15 minute haircut … love it!|
On the Monday I went out to the local shopping centre and had my hair cut. Link and Pong recommended where to go and off I went. My kind of place … fifteen minutes, a funky haircut and $6.50 (200 baht) later, I was out! Edward Scissorhands had weaved her magic! I am not one for pampering and three hour hair cuts. Cut my hair and let me get out! I also decided to have a massage. Massage places in Thailand are everywhere and the Thai use them regularly. Thailand is renowned for its massages, which cost from $5.00 upward an hour, depending on where you go. Oh, it was soooooo good. When I come to Thailand I pack in as many as I can.
Pong helped me map out what I would do over the next couple of weeks. A few days on the island of Ko Samet, back for a night with Pong and Link, some time with her parents north of Kanchanaburi near the Myanmar border and then back to Bangkok for a few days shopping before flying back to Melbourne . Sorted! Link has an IT background like Alex, so I was technologically wired, so to speak. In my lifetime I have travelled so extensively alone but the boys made sure that I was contactable 24/7!
Thanks Link and Alex.
|See you soon Nu Deang|
So, on the Tuesday morning I set off nice and early with Link, and he dropped me off close to where he works in the centre, from which I caught the skytrain to the Ekamai bus station. By mid-morning I was on a bus to Ko Samet. Only 220 kilometres southeast of Bangkok, I chose this island because it was relatively close. To be honest I had never thought to do it before, as being so close to Bangkok, it has a bit of a reputation as not only being party-central but also totally overcrowded, especially on weekends. Not really my deal! With fairly low expectations, however, I thought I’d give it a go. After some five hours we were at Ban Phe pier from where the ferry ride was about 40 minutes across to Ko Samet. It was a lovely sunny day and the short ride across was relaxing.
On the ferry to Ko Samet
Once across, I made my way to the area where I had picked some potential places to stay. The island is only eightkilometres long and so the initial walk was quite short, possibly less than two kilometres. As I walked I noticed lots of muddy potholes and lots of water. It had obviously been raining quite heavily. This is not what I had expected, and I say this in a good way. Ko Samet seemed to be a pretty little island that had not been as damaged by tourism as I thought. Having said that, it is a national park and thankfully along with that has come some rules with not being allowed to build upwards. In this way the island has been saved from becoming the ugly monstrosity that places like Phuket have become! Sure, there were tourists, but it was also interspersed with locals, including fishermen. I could see where tourism had bobbed up its head, but I did not feel that it had taken over the island. Relief! And I must say, a pretty little island it is.
|My little bungalow, Tubtim Resort|
After checking out a few places, I settled on Tubtim Resort. Sounds pretty flash, but it was really just a set of comfy bungalows perched up on a hill with the jungle behind and a gorgeous view of the beach in front. This is where I would spend the next five nights … well to sleep anyway. You know what I am like, always up and about and doing something.
It did indeed rain quite a bit and although I did not get much sunbaking in (one two hour session with sunshine and another two hour session with clouds, but at least no rain), I did go on a couple of hikes and did a lot of walking. I met a lovely Dutch couple called Monique and Davey who were staying in the bungalow next to me, but as it was low season there were very few people actually around.
My Ko Samet masseuse, Aida
I had read a bit on Ko Samet, and I was not sure what to expect. I just don’t do doof-doof music these days (oops, I just inferred that I once did!), and Iwas hoping that my night times would be pleasant and relaxing. Fortunately, I was able to do this, but was told that in the high season this was most certainly not the case. Sure, there was music at night and some outdoor performances, like fire shows, but it was all rather low key. I found a few local restaurants where I indulged in one of my favourite Thai dishes, green curry, and the coconut shakes are always good! I found a great massage place, Aloha Samed Massage, run by lady-boy Aida, and boy did s/he give a good massage. Sunshine (well, a bit of it!), good food and good massage … what more could one ask for?
One day I decided to explore the island, heading south, and made my way right down to the southern tip. I must say the views of the sea beneath the jungle were exhilarating, and I weaved in and out of jungle and beach to maximise my views. Gorgeous white sand views everywhere. Thailand rarely disappoints! The many beaches and bays that I passed were spectacular such as Ao Vong Duan, Ao Wai and Ao Kiu Na Nok. The further south I walked, the more isolated it became, as the beaches are harder to get to. I finally made it to the tip, Ao Karang from which you could see the tiny island of Ko Chan. I sat down, breathed in the beauty and chilled … I was the only one there … just the way I like it!
Monsoon season … baby!
And so, my few days on Ko Samet came to an end. I would be catching the Sunday morning ferry at 8.00am, as I wanted to spend some time with Link and Pong before moving on once again. Of course the skies opened up and I had to trudge through the rain to get to the port, but hey, it’s all part of the fun!
|With Pong, Nu Deang and baby Sean|
|Some birthday cake Papi?|
|Nu Deang wants to go with Ombi|
|One of the many ‘sturdy’ piers on Ko Samet|
|Ko Samet National Park|
|About to catch the ferry to Ko Samet|
|Nuan Thip Pier, leaving for Ko Samet|
|Welcome to Ko Samet|
|Link at the local market near his house|
|Pong and Nu Deang|
|Pong and Nu Deang|
|Baby Sean and Grandma (Link’s mum)|
|With Link’s family|
|Green Thai curry and Asian greens on Ko Samet|
|Hello Baby Sean (Singh)|
|Ko Samet ‘roadhouse’|
|The random things you find on islands, Ko Samet|
|Another gorgeous Ko Samet beach|
|Mummy and Nu Deang|
|L to R: Nu Deang, Pong and Link|
|Happy Birthday to Ombi!|