A Travellerspoint blog

I'm Back!

Hello everybody, I’m back! So, I’ve spent the last 2 months back in the Western world, and after 16 months away boy was that a shock to the system! I remember the day I first got back to London, sitting there on the plane as we came down the runway in Heathrow thinking if someone offered me a flight back to Bangkok right now I’d rip the ticket right out of their hand and jump on the next flight. Safe to say I was not feeling good about being back in London and I can’t really pin one particular reason why, I think more than anything everything just looked and felt so different, and despite having flown into Heathrow millions of times nothing about it felt familiar or like home. But there I was back in dreary old London (actually it was a sunny day, but still.) and after meeting up with my family again and getting the train home right in the middle of rush hour, I was walking back home from London Bridge to my house, a walk which I must’ve done over a million times yet it all felt so bloody bizarre and unfamiliar. I have to say though walking along the river in the morning sunshine was bloody beautiful, London still has to be one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been. But that still couldn’t change my first impressions of feeling really out of place and not sad but just somewhat confused, especially when I got back to my home of 19 years and it all felt completely different and new. Then I had a fried breakfast with the family and my whole mind frame completely changed, bloody hell English food is so god dam delicious! That was my first full English of many! Then I got back and had a hot shower, got into some clean clothes and drank some water out of the tap (how incredible!) and I’d fallen in love with England all over again. Still my overall first impressions were that of complete confusion and feeling out of place coupled with a desperate need to get back to Asia, given how good a time I’d had my last few days (and the last 16 months come to think of it) that was obviously pretty unsurprising.

Even though I was home and dry, I still had my travelling boots on, and after only a couple of days I was off to Manchester, and no offense to anyone who lives up there but I really did not like that place one bit, to put it lightly it was a bit of a shithole! But I was there to see my mates and despite how I felt about the city I still managed to have a really good time, and the constant supply of food which wasn’t always bloody rice and noodles was a massive positive! One thing I took away from my time there was that contrary to my original plan, there was no way I was going to be able to stay in England for any longer than 1 or 2 months. I guess what it was was that I had an overwhelming sense that my mind frame on it all was completely different to my mates and there was no way I could see myself settling into the kind of routine they all had living in London. I can’t really say whether or not that was a good or bad thing, to feel out of place in your home country isn’t great yet on the flipside to have reassurance that I hadn’t wasted the last 16 months of my life was nice.

My next stop was a few weeks in Paris staying with my sister, I have to say being there was probably the only time I really felt that I’d be able to settle down somewhere, the main factor which made me feel that was probably the absolutely amazing flat my sister was living in and of course the nightlife which really is a hell of a lot better than England. Apart from partying too much, sleeping too late and eating endless amounts of pasta and baguettes I did manage to get a couple of cultural stops in, caught up with old friends and most importantly made it to Beckham’s last ever game which was emotional to say the least. All in all I had a bloody good time there and as I say it’s definitely somewhere I could see myself living if I do get tired of Asian culture in the future. After a quick weekend stop in Luxembourg, a country I’ve always found really nice if not a bit slow for my tastes, to see my uncle I was back in England again and the crappy weather had followed me home too! Forgot to mention just how bloody cold Europe was, Jesus Christ that was a shock and a half and I soon had a pretty bad cold which never really went away!

Back in England I made another trip up to Manchester, despite my views about the city itself, uni life is pretty attractive as you can spend all day chilling with friends, drinking far too much and most importantly eating bacon sandwiches and pasta (can’t emphasize how much I missed food when I was away!) After a few days up north attending as many end of exams parties I could, I was back in London for good (well what turned out to be just a couple of weeks) which gave me a chance to really sit down and reflect on everything and catch up on sleep and put back on all the weight I’d lost whilst being away on a diet of bloody rice and noodles. The main epiphany I had was that I would be back on the road by the end of June, latest start of July and I’d be heading back out to Asia rather than South America as I’d previously thought. My main reason for this was that I really didn’t feel like I was done with Asia and I had somewhat of a life there, ie places I knew very well and people I very much wanted to see again. On top of all that, Chris (the last travelling partner I had) had managed to set himself up in Hanoi and from everything he told me it sounded pretty awesome and I really wanted to go and check it out. Plus he was on the hunt for English teaching jobs and it all sounded pretty good, more than anything after so long just spending money it was about time I actually made some! So I sorted out a new passport (the old one was full) saw my friends and family as much as possible and booked myself a flight back out for the start of July.

Once the time came to go again, I was obviously very excited with all the prospects of a new chapter of my life in Vietnam but still not completely comfortable with leaving England. Towards the end of my time there I’d definitely settled down and felt completely comfortable in Engalnd, having a stable residence and being able to cook for myself as well as being able to see all my friends and family made it bloody difficult to say goodbye once again, especially considering how rushed everything was! But compared to how I felt back at the start of 2012, about to embark on what turned out to be a pretty insane adventure, it really wasn’t that bad that was up until the point that I had to actually get on that plane once again and wave goodbye for god knows how long! Still if all goes to plan and I start making some money it won’t be so long till I’m back again, the idea of being away for yet another birthday and Christmas all feels a bit strange and the way I feel now I doubt I’ll be able to stay away for so long. At the end of the day it was a nice little holiday in a country that I once used to call home, how weird! To think that since January 2012 the country which I’ve spent the least time in is England, only 2 months and actually only a month and a bit if you take into consideration my trip to Paris. All in all it was just another country on the tour and I had a really enjoyable time and a lot of very enjoyable meals!

So I was back on the road again, and after a few emotional goodbyes, I got on my plane from Heathrow to Bangkok with a brief stopover in Mumbai, where it all began those many moons ago. It was actually quite a bizarre experience walking back through that airport in such a different mind frame to the state of complete terror back in January last year. I also got to experience a bit of Indian culture once again, the art of not being able to queue for shit, despite their being so few people trying to get through customs at the transit terminal they all still made a big song and dance of it and the usual sense of having to push your way past people rather than wait in an orderly (and most definitely quicker fashion) is completely lost on the locals.

I made it in to Bangkok in the early hours of the morning and got stuck into the rush hour train network into the centre of town, back to Nana where I’ve stayed so many times before, not actually sure but I think this must be the 7th or 8th time I’ve had to spend a night or two in Bangkok and the place definitely feels like home. Saying that it felt a lot more quiet and subdued to the last time I was here probably owing to the fact that it was now low season whereas I left it at the end of high season. After a bit of grief and a huge surcharge, the new management (none of this would’ve happened if the old woman who worked here still did) let me check in early and I went straight to bed for a long nap. I was originally going to stay with Ter and his wife Jane, my Thai friends who put me up in his bungalow resort for 2 months back at the start of the year, but due to my insane tiredness I just headed straight to a hotel for some sleep. Once I got up I got some food and hung around in the unusually empty hotel for a while before heading straight back to sleep. I was woken up the next morning by the same woman (bitch) who overcharged me by so much forcing me to check out on time despite me not taking up any extra beds as the place was deserted. This meant that my morning was spent having a huge argument with her trying to get some money back which I eventually did before phoning Ter and getting in a cab to his place. The journey took quite a long time as he lived right up in the Northern outskirts of Bangkok and so I had some time to reflect on my situation which only made me feel down about having not just got a flight straight to Hanoi, I really hated this feeling of being in purgatory for a couple of days in a city which felt a lot less to my liking than when I’d last left it. But getting out of the cab and meeting Ter put all that to bed and I just felt bloody happy seeing his stupid smile again. Unfortunately he was working all day and so I was left in his house with his wife who speaks very little English, and when there’s only one room it definitely feels awkward pretty quickly when you’re sitting there in silence. On top of that she’s just had a spot of plastic surgery, something which is a lot more common out here which is very sad as she is stunning and younger than 30, and so she was sat there feeling petty ill and in a lot of pain and in no mood to go to the outside world with her puffy cheeks and black eyes. And so the feeling of wasting time in Bangkok returned and I sat there and spent the entire day polishing off a book, something I hadn’t had time to do since leaving Thailand. I also had a nap! By the time I’d woken up we were both starving and so we headed out for some food and managed to actually force out a conversation as we sat there waiting for Ter to finish work before he came and joined us with a couple of his colleagues who were very excited to meet me. We then spent the next few hours knocking back the whiskey and catching up on all my escapades since I last left him. Being the fucking useless idiot I am when it comes to alcohol (especially free alcohol at that) I drank far too much and by 12 was starting to feel pretty shit and so we headed back to Ter’s room and I tried to pass out on his bed, unfortunately the gods weren’t on my side and I was soon on my knees in his toilet throwing up. I was always good at making a first impression, deary me!

After that embarrassment of last night coupled with the heat of that morning in Bangkok I wasn’t able to move from my bed until well into the afternoon, and even then I felt absolutely horrendous! Still I’d organised a date with one of Ter’s friends last night and after a succession of calls from her I couldn’t keep ignoring them and we met up. Owing to her English being very basic and my head feeling like it was about to explode this was certainly not something I was looking forward to, plus Ter had made a bit of a fool of me last night relaying all my stories to the rest of the table, some things really shouldn’t have been said with ladies present but what can you do. In the end we actually made quite a good day of it, first stopping off at her bar for some refreshments before heading off to a huge lake where we bought some bread and fed the birds and fish. Despite the absolutely insane heat it was a really pleasant afternoon and we managed to actually have a couple conversations, very basic ones though. Forgot to mention her complete obsession with pigeons, I get the impression they must be some sort of exotic bird here as she kept trying to get them to feed out of her hand and must’ve taken a hundred pictures of the ugly buggers, then when one fell in the water she almost jumped in to rescue it but managed to reach it without getting wet and then dried it off on her t-shirt. Couldn’t believe my eyes, not only was she picking up this thing and stroking it but wiping it all over her shirt, jesus crazy woman! After hanging out there a while we went back to the flat and her and Jen went shopping and left me there to finish off my book and have a nap. When they did make it back we went out for some dinner with the same gang as last night I decided to give the whiskey a miss today owing to the fact that I still had a hangover. Then at 11 I said my goodbyes and hopped in a cab to the airport, Ter did offer to drive me at 4 in the morning for my 6am flight but I felt that he’d done more than done enough for me and I didn’t want to put him out and so I spent the night in the airport. Unfortunately a tour group of about a million Chinese people were doing the same and so there was nowhere to sleep and I spent the whole night still feeling rough, just watching movies.

The next morning I got on my flight to Hanoi which was uneventful, sorted my visa at the airport and after a bit of waiting met up with Chris again. Really good to see his face again and we obviously had a lot to catch up on since we last met, most importantly I wanted to know how well he was settling down as I need a lot of help from him to sort myself out while I’m here. Luckily we had a long wait and subsequent long trip on a bus to get all the important information out of the way before we arrived at the house, and boy was it a shock! Firstly, the place is on the edge of Hanoi next to a huge lake, West Lake, so it’s really serene and beautiful and on top of that the house itself is fucking INCREDIBLE! Never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be living in such a place when I was only 20. So its 4 floors; ground floor is dining room, kitchen and small garden, first floor is big living room and balcony with views of the lake and Chris’ room, 3rd floor is my huge room with king size bed as well as Annie’s room (English girl who’s sharing the house) and then top floor is spare room and big roof garden, with a bathroom on each floor. It’s bloody huge and there’s only 3 of us it’s completely ridiculous! Forgot to mention the waterfall showers in the bathrooms as well and of course AC in the rooms. And all this for a mere 250 dollars a month, god I really am living the dream! Just need to sort out a big HDTV, an xbox and sky+ and the pad will be complete. Long story short I bloody love this house and I’m definitely looking forward to getting stuck here for a few months, the only problem is I have no inkling of getting out and so not a lot of motivation for getting a job which is the only reason I’m here. I’m sure once I’ve bought myself a bike and I’ve settled in a bit my laziness will pass and I’ll get a couple teaching jobs on the go, I get the impression it’s not too hard to find work anyway. Once I was settled in and showered and things, I had a nap before me and Chris went out for dinner at a newly opened place serving free beer all night; hold me back! We made the mistake of leaving right before a storm hit and I got my first taste of this year’s rainy season sitting soaked on the back of his bike as the strong winds blew us all over the place. Got to the restaurant completely drenched but quickly perked up with a really good meal and some beers as I met a few of Chris’ mates who all seem really cool, the whole community seems really friendly and helpful here in Hanoi and I definitely feel that it should be easy to settle in here; especially with that house to go home to. As both of us were completely worn out after the lack of sleep last night, we headed back to the crib for an early night.

The last couple of days I haven’t really been up to much as I’m still trying to settle in and despite my huge and comfortable bed I haven’t been sleeping whatsoever and so I have absolutely no energy to go out and do anything. So for now, I’m just writing off this week and from next week onwards I’m going to start sorting everything out first and foremost I really need to buy a bike as we’re not in the middle of town so everything is a drive away. After that I’ll get on the job hunt and hopefully I’ll have a few interesting things to write about! Hope you all enjoy the blog, I do want to write properly about how I feel about the difference between the East and West culture in the future so keep an eye out. As always, thanks for reading guys I do really enjoy sitting down and writing my thoughts on life.

Posted by travellingjoe 00:48 Archived in Vietnam Comments (3)

The end of the world as I've come to know it

Day 464 – Wednesday 1st May

Got up very late this morning feeling pretty shitty after the big night last night. Started off with some cheap noodles and an ice coffee at the place across the road and then came back to the safety of the room. Then bang on cue a huge storm hit (monsoon is supposed to start around May) definitely one benefit of going home is that I’m missing rainy season, having experienced 2 now (Thailand and Indo) I’ve had well and truly enough of these crazy storms! At least it gave us an excuse to spend the entire afternoon just sitting in the room on our laptops. We did venture out at one point to get a burger and play some pool which also gave us the chance to see a pretty incredible sunset where all the light was bouncing off the clouds and the entire city was yellow, the locals were all pretty dumbfounded by it too. After playing a lot of pool, we came back to the room to spend the night watching a movie and writing the blog.

Day 465 – Thursday 2nd May

After another bad night’s sleep last night, we got up bright and early to go and see M before we leave Chiang Rai later today. So we packed up all our things and jumped in a tuk tuk back to our old stomping grounds of M’s house and the delicious food of his Mum. We spent a good few hours just hanging out there and catching up with both M and Tamara, really good to see them again and for the first time in ages they were both in a good mood and really chatty. Also went to pay for the electricity for the room we were renting last month and get our deposit back, pretty annoying to see that the woman who owns the place was in the middle of tearing the room apart and replacing everything, would’ve been nice had she done that last month for us! We eventually got going from M’s around 1, a good few hours behind schedule, and after stopping off at a few places in town for M to sort some things out, don’t think he was happy about us leaving and he wanted to spend as much time with us as possible, plus Tamara is going to leave with us. So after all his errands we didn’t get to the bus station until 3 and couldn’t get a ticket before the half 5 bus. Still it gave us a chance to hang around and chat to Tamara more, something I really haven’t had a chance to do since this whole relationship between her and M began. Come 5 o’clock, another absolutely insane storm hit and everyone was freaking out as the thunder tore through the air and lightning hit all over the place, actually saw a bolt hit the ground about 3 metres in front of me which was nothing shrot of incredible! Unfortunately it scared the hell out of Tamara and she was in no mood to get on a bus, so M came to pick her up and me and Chris said our goodbyes and got on the bus back to Chiang Mai. Luckily the rain and wind eased up by the time we left and all that remained was a non stop lightning storm on the drive home which is always beautiful to watch. Once we got in to Chiang Mai we first went to the train station to book a ticket on the overnight train tomorrow and then went back to Nocky house, a place I spent 2 weeks at all that time ago. So funny to think I left there just to do a visa run at the start of April and ended up spending a whole month with M in Chiang Rai. Best thing about coming back was getting my hands on my big bag again and all the things that come with it, most importantly fresh clothes and a towel, so first stop was the shower and a much needed shave with my clippers. After that we headed out to get a burger at this really tasty American diner place, I seem to have western food on my mind all the time as I’m so close to being back in England now. After that it was back to the usual drill of a bottle of whiskey and a night out, just trying to get my fix of Asian nightlife before the dreaded flight home! Ended up having a really good night with Sonja (a girl we met in Chiang Rai a couple of weeks ago) and Chris in a reggae bar and then after that a trashy club. Met a beautiful, really interesting girl from London of all places and spent the night hanging out with her, didn’t get to bed until about 7 in the morning, yet another late night!

Day 466 – Friday 3rd May

Started off the day with a bit of a falling out with Nout (the hotel owner) as we had a bit of a fiasco with the rooms last night with all of us getting back late and separate times (and with girls) and so Chris was forced to spend a couple of hours in a different room before being kicked out bright and early, and yet she still wanted to charge us full price. Either way we all had a good night last night, and an extra 3 quid out of pocket is nothing to worry about. After that Sonja went to get all her things from her old guest house as she’s decided to come down with us to Bangkok later which is really good news as she’s really easy going and just a bloody nice girl. Me and Chris then had 2 servings of fried pork with garlic and sticky rice at the place next door, ate here every day for 2 weeks straight last as it’s fucking delicious. Dropped off some books at a book shop and then packed up all our stuff and got ready to go on our long journey back to the capital, just desperately hoping it’s not as boiling as it is here in Chiang Mai! Noi popped round just before we left to say goodbye and then we left just before 5 first stopping off at 711 to get stocked up on some drinks for the journey. Made it to the train station with seconds to spare and so began my last long journey (17 hours) here in Asia. I must’ve spent about a month in total on transport since I left which is just such a crazy thought! Anyway, the train journey was really fun, the 3 of us get on so well and a bottle of whiskey always helps to pass the time, we also managed to get a bit of sleep (Chris on the floor) so all in all it was a pretty decent journey in 3rd class.

Day 467 – Saturday 4th May

The train didn’t make it in until about 11 this morning, only 3 hours late (which is technically early!), first things first we went out to get some food and see if Bangkok was just as hot as Chiang Mai, it is! After that we hopped on the sky train and went back to my old Bangkok stomping grounds of Nana, must’ve stayed in this area like 4 or 5 times now and it feels like I’m back home, at this point in time it feels more like my home than England probably. After all of us had much needed showers, we put on the TV and sat relaxing in our air conditioned room and then had a 4 hour nap. Once we did get up it was already around 7 in the evening and we have plans for tonight, so we got some food and then started to get ready for what is to be our last night out before I go home. We went out around 9 to meet up Will who is one of Chris’ mates from secondary school who went off travelling and has now settled down with a wife and job in Bangkok (sure I won’t be too far behind). Good to chat to him as he’s definitely succeeded in living the dream and he’s still a proper northerner, as were his mates, which is always funny. We spent a good few hours just sitting in this bar with the football on in the background, all chatting the night away and knocking back drink after drink. Once we were satisfied with the level of alcohol we drank we went out to a club, first stopping off at our hotel as we needed to put shoes on to be let in to the place. Had an absolutely mental night overall, they really take the clubbing seriously out here and the whole of Bangkok seemed to be out enjoying it with us. Potentially one of the best nights out I’ve had away, and certainly the best music I’ve had on a night out, a perfect way to sign off what has been a pretty insane time in my life! Got back to the hotel far too late after a compulsory stop at mcdonald’s at 5 in the morning, Bangkok definitely has its bonuses.

Day 468 – Sunday 5th May

Couldn’t sleep yet again last night, I’ve just got far far too much on my mind at the moment, really can’t wrap my head around the whole concept of being back in England and just how different the culture is in the West, it’s terrifying! Plus there was an absolutely insane storm which sounded like the whole building was going to collapse, if the last 4 days are anything to go by this year will be a pretty bad monsoon season. Sonja went off to Bangkok’s famous weekend market when she got up but me and Chris were far too lazy to do something that proactive on a Sunday morning. Instead we just hung around together all afternoon, really gonna miss Chris the last month we’ve had has been fucking amazing like probably one of the best I’ve had in the whole time I’ve been away, and he’s just a fucking legend who seems to just get my crazy mind. Anyway yeah we just hung out, got some food and mainly sat in the room with the beautiful AC to keep cool. Sonja didn’t make it back until around 5, girls just can’t seem to stop when shopping is involved! And after all getting ready we were off out once again for a quiet night at skybar, Bangkok’s most famous rooftop bar at 55 floors right in the middle of the city with some of the most amazing views. Plus it was happy hour so despite the drinks being a complete rip off they were well worth it given the incredible views we had and we got one free! Really fucking special time just sitting up there in that bar looking out over Bangkok just jazzing ourselves at how our lives have got to this point, me having been doing this for so long and now on my way home and Chris completely new to it all and just in complete awe of it all. Can’t really put it all in to words but yeah it was a good night and we all really appreciated it in our own ways, safe to say it’s making me want to go home even less! After we were done there we couldn’t call it a night as it had started too well and so we went to a bar and did what we do best for a couple hours whilst watching the United game somewhat distracted by how much I’m gonna miss Chris and Sonja and my whole life in general. I’ve actually made it, this is my last fucking night, what the hell is going on!!! As it was a Sunday, when we left there; there weren’t too many options on where we could go out for the night, but a friendly cabbie took us to this dive club which was completely empty. Still the 3 of us pissed was enough company and we tore up the dance floor and slowly slowly got more and more people to join in. Just had such a good laugh as we literally always do when we’re together and danced the night away. Hate to talk about women on a public site but I can’t hold my mouth and let’s just say both me and Chris had a good night tonight, and I was with a beautiful local girl just to put the cherry on top of the icing of what has been a fucking amazing 16 months or so! Going to miss Thailand like fucking crazy!!

Day 469 – Monday 6th May

Up all night last night as I didn’t get to bed until around 5 and the alarm was set for 6 so I decided to just power through. When the alarm did go I had my shower, packed my bag, said my goodbyes and got in a cab with Chris to the airport. Don’t really want to write too much about this last day, I was in a terrible state having not slept or not been hungover for a couple of weeks now plus I had no desire to go home and yeah it wasn’t a very fun day whatsoever. Had to fly from Bangkok to Singapore to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) to London, where I arrived on Tuesday morning to find my parents and sister. And there we have it I was back in the West and everything seems completely upside down!

I want to give a detailed account on how I feel about England as a whole but it’s pretty much impossible to put in to words as I have to assume that those I’m writing to won’t have the experiences I’ve had in Asia and therefore might not get all the little things I’m talking about. But the easiest way for me to put it in to words is that within 24 hours of being back I would’ve gladly got on a flight straight back out there, and now having been back for almost a week my view has not changed whatsoever. I find life far too…unsatisfying I guess and just not right for me, plus I really can’t get my head around the whole culture here, I’ve definitely been brainwashed by the Chinese to fucking love that place (and every other country I’ve been to) and I want to be straight back out there living the bloody dream. So give me a couple of months, if I can get my thoughts straight I will try an upload a long detailed account of what I miss about the East and what I don’t understand about the West but I can’t promise anything, and I’ll be back out around August most likely. Thanks to everyone for reading the blog, and watch this space as it should be back up and running soon but while I’m home I won’t be updating it on a weekly basis anymore as life here is just NOT interesting enough to write about!

Posted by travellingjoe 06:14 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

One week holiday in Laos

Day 453 – Saturday 20th April

Another late and long blog update for you guys, hope you enjoy! Woke up today feeling a little bit worse for wear after last night’s antics, still a few missed calls and a couple of texts from the various girls I met last night is always a good way to perk up (sorry to sound like such a cunt!). After some food, we went off to a waterfall for some hangover relief, half way there though the bike started complaining most likely due to the fact that we’ve been driving with 3 on it at all times for the last couple of weeks. So we were forced to stop a bit early and spend the day at Chiang Rai beach instead which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not so much a beach as a river bank, they’ve set up a load of little bamboo huts floating on the water’s edge with lots of nice women selling drinks. As usual it was very hot and so a day spent swimming in the river and sunbathing was the perfect thing to do. Spent a few hours there just chilling out before coming back home to write yet another mammoth blog entry, to think I managed to keep up with it every 3 days for the first 6 months or so! Noi and Chris sat watching a film as I did that and then we all went round to M’s to get some food, surprise surprise Tamara still hadn’t managed to make a move back to Chiang Mai (3 days after she’d originally planned to go) but she’s got a ticket sorted for tomorrow so we’ll see. Got chatting to M about our plan to go to Laos for a week and he’s on board which is good news, really looking forward to it now. More than anything it means no more girls! Being in a relationship definitely changed M, plus you all know how I feel about Noi and I’m very much looking forward to not having to listen to her anymore! Stuck around M’s for a couple of hours playing snooker with Chris before heading in to town for yet another night out. Started off in the night market again with a bottle of whiskey before going to our usual hang out of Face Bar. Unfortunately tonight seemed to be the gay night so even if there were some beautiful girls around they all had about 5 gay guys looking after them. Still the 3 of us had a really good night, not on a level with last night’s craziness but still a lot of fun!

Day 454 – Sunday 21st April

Woke up this morning with a cold, Noi’s been ill for a few days now and she seems to of passed that on to me, yet another benefit of having her stay here, not! We started off the day packing up all our stuff and getting the room all cleaned out as we might not be back in time from Laos to stay another night here before the month is up. After a lot of waiting around for Noi to pack up all her shit we all eventually got going to the bus station, Tamara had already left by the time we got up, so it was just me, Chris, Noi and M and M’s brother giving us a lift. Got to the bus station and said our goodbyes to Noi then got on a 2 hour or so long bus to Chiang Kong (the Thai town on the border with Laos). Despite being a bit of a quiet little town it was quite nice and we found a really good guest house on the river overlooking Laos on the other side of the Mekong. After dropping off our things we went out for some food and then walked around town looking for a bar with a pool table, and happened upon this really nice little bar with free pool and big TVs showing the football, haven’t seen a live match in forever seemingly and the 2 tonight were absolutely brilliant games. Long story short it looks like Man U should have the title wrapped up by tomorrow. All in all it was a really good night, first time hanging out with M and no Tamara for ages plus there were loads of other cool guys around, both Thai and western and everyone was very good at pool. Plus we could choose our own music so yeah a pretty good night and a very good send off from Thailand. For one reason or another I literally didn’t sleep a wink tonight, I guess I’m just feeling quite excited about going to a new country something I haven’t done in a really long time now!

Day 455 – Monday 22nd April

We all got up at 7 this morning as we have a few things to sort out before we go and potentially quite a lot of travelling to do once we get to the other side. M went off to the immigration office to see if he could sort himself a visa as he doesn’t have a passport and he might have a couple of problems with just an identity card. And me and Chris went off to find a bank to exchange some money into dollars to pay for the Laos visa, once again this turned out to be a bit of a mission. I just don’t understand why no Thai banks ever want to give you dollars, especially in a border town where on the other side of the river you need dollars to buy a visa! Either way after trying every bank we managed to get lucky on the last one and came back to find that M can only get a 2 day visa and he’s not allowed to leave Huay Xai (the border town on the other side) but we’ll try and sneak him on a bus as none of us want to hang around there. After that we went to the pier and hopped on a boat to the other side where we had the usual pissing about waiting for visas before getting in to Laos proper. First things first we went to a cash machine to get some Lao Kip and then bought a baguette, if there’s one thing I’ve been looking forward to in Laos it has to be baguettes but this one turned out to be a bit of a let-down. From what I hear though it’s the national dish so there will be plenty more to come. Got to the bus station and got M on the bus with no problems, first stop Luang Namtha where we change to another bus to Mueang Sing right up in the North near the border with China (and yes it was my idea, you all know how much I love anything Chinese). The first bus was around 2 and a half hours but it flew by as we had 2 beautiful girls sitting next to us who were very very interested in these 2 handsome blond white guys. The bus ride was bloody bumpy, another thing I’ve been told about Laos is that the roads are pretty awful and it’s almost guaranteed that at least 1 local will throw up on any bus longer than an hour. And sure enough one did and a few others looked on the verge! But the views on the way well and truly made up for that as the scenery here is jaw dropping and pretty unique too, well I haven’t seen too much like it before, and it’s a million times different to Thailand despite only being a couple hours away. Got in to Luang Namtha and followed those girls on to our second bus up to Mueang Sing, same story with the bad roads and good views, M slept pretty much the whole way though which seemed crazy to me as he’s only got a couple of days here and he shouldn’t really be missing it by sleeping. Eventually made it in to this very sleepy town and got checked in to a guest house, then got some food and went for a little walk to check out if there was anything to do. Given that this place is a tiny village in some sort of 50 year time warp it was unsurprising that there literally was nothing to do. So we were just forced to sit around the guest house, M doesn’t seem too happy with staying in a place as quiet as this and has no intention to join us on a trek tomorrow so he wasn’t in so good a mood and ended up just going to bed.

Day 456 – Tuesday 23rd April

M got up and left this morning at 6 without saying goodbye, so a very short lived holiday for him and another day spent on buses not too sure why he came when all he really wants is nightlife. No skin off our back and when we got up we did a bit of washing and then went off in search of some food. This place is so bizarre, it feels really Chinese but also just so far back in time with an almost North Korean village vibe. Ended up just walking through all the backstreets looking around and found a place to eat, then just went off on a walk around the surrounding countryside as we couldn’t afford to do a proper organised trek. It actually turned out to be a really awesome experience, not only was it really beautiful walking through all the rice paddies with the mountains in the distance but we happened upon a group of about 20 kids swimming in this little water hole. Really random thing to find out in the middle of this field and so I had to jump in and join in the fun. Got a few pictures of them as they shouted hello at us and did lots of backflips of the trees to give us a show before heading off deeper into the forest to see what else we could find. Ended up at a little stream hidden amongst the trees which we managed to navigate our way across and then we happened upon this little community of guys who gave us some water. Then we carried on our little jungle adventure seeing about a million butterflies all around us and loads of really creepy spiders. The jungle and the heat all got a bit too much and so when we passed the next village we decided to stop off for a drink at the local store where all the old ladies came out to say hello. Then we ended up just hanging out there chatting watching the village life go by with a couple of beers and some Chinese sunflower seeds (got addicted to this brand when I was there and it’s the first time I’ve seen them since I left China). Really random way to spend the day but we definitely had a way more unique experience than if we had just paid for a trek and walked up a mountain somewhere, and the best part of travelling has to be meeting all the locals which we did a lot of. We left there and came back to town around 5 when it started to rain and after passing a big wedding party we spent the rest of the night just chilling in the room recovering. Despite today being a good day there really is the square root of fuck all to do around here and so we’ll be back on the road tomorrow.

Day 457 – Wednesday 24th April

Literally didn’t sleep at all last night once again and we were up at the crack of dawn to get ourselves on a bus. Seemingly we weren’t the only people with that mind frame and we ended up on a packed minibus with about 16 people to 10 seats and given the horrendous road conditions it was a bloody bumpy and uncomfortable ride. Still it’s all part of the fun! When we got in to Luang Namtha we’d already missed the bus down to Luang Prabang (our next destination) and so we bought ourselves a ticket for the next bus to Oudomxay which is on the way. Hung around the bus station for a couple of hours having some food and waiting around before getting on yet another packed bus. The journey was pretty similar to all the others, very windy roads with incredible views and a couple of locals being sick on the way. One guy does deserve a special mention as he was standing up the whole way carrying his sleeping daughter whilst also having to take care of his very energetic puppy, impressive stuff! The driving probably has to be my favourite part of Laos, yes the roads are bumpy and the buses are terrible but the constant incredible views make it a pretty brilliant experience getting from point A to point B. Made it to Oudomxay which isn’t a particularly special town but it had a really nice and cheap hotel and it still had that China feel. Being here in North Laos has definitely reminded me just how much I miss that country and I’m really starting to think that I’ll be going there when I come back out rather than over to South America, but as with all my plans lots of things could change that! Anyway, found a nice Chinese restaurant and then went for a little walk around town but it really was far too hot to be doing anything and so we just ended up back in our room for cold showers. Chris then had a nap as I caught up on my diary, I’m definitely glad I’ve kept up with both that and the blog but given that I’ve been doing it for so long now they’ve both become a bit of a chore and it will be a nice relief to not have to think about writing when I’m back in London. Spent the night sitting watching a film while eating the very same Chinese pot noodles which I pretty much lived on for 3 months, I miss China!!

Day 458 – Thursday 25th April

Another night of barely any sleep and another ridiculously early wake up to make sure we got ourselves on the morning bus down to Luang Prabang. Got to the bus station with a bit of time to spare so we just hung around trying to wake up a bit, went for a piss in the bushes as I didn’t want to pay for the bus station toilet (biggest problem with Laos is that everything is just so expensive!) and a random Laos guy came round and walked pretty much into me quite literally with my trousers down. We had a good laugh about it! Bus left late, around 9 and the road was pretty poor, a bit surprising given that the last couple of hours on the way in last night was on really good roads, not really sure why they haven’t just done up the whole stretch down South as this is the biggest road in Laos. Pretty uneventful bus apart from one funny anecdote, had one stop on the way where all the locals were buying the same thing from these little stalls in a village and I decided to buy a bag assuming it was some sort of snack, but it just turned out to be some random uncooked vegetable so I looked like a right mug buying it. Ended up just handing off my bag to this girl that was staring at me and Chris the whole way. Eventually made it in to Luang Prabang and my first impressions were that it was much smaller and much less French than I was expecting, I was picturing some French Riviera town in my head (as this place is pretty renowned for having lots of French influence still around) but it was a pretty typical little touristy style Asian town with a few French remnants, but not much of an overwhelming vibe of the frogs. Went for a little walk around to find a cheap guest house and were soon rewarded with a fairly standard hotel for a good price right in the thick of the action. Both of us were starving and so we went out looking for baguettes, but we ended up just walking around town for almost an hour without finding anyone selling them, definitely not the picture that had been painted by other people for me of this place, and we ended up just having to have noodles as we couldn’t handle walking any longer. Managed to get bloody lost on the way back as well, always the best place to see a town properly! After that we had showers and a quick update on the internet for the first time since we got here, I say update but really it took about 30 minutes to load one webpage, definitely miles behind the Thai standards I’m used to. Then we went out for some dinner and this time asked for directions and got pointed towards the night market where there were baguettes galore (jackpot!) as well as an ice coffee with oreo and banana shake, way less sickly than it sounds! After that we went out to utopia bar, a place we’d heard a bit about, and it was really nice with a perfect setting overlooking the Mekong and the full moon, the only problem was the place was packed with westerners, something I’ve managed to avoid for quite a while now. I managed to get myself in the right mind frame for it and we got chatting to a group of guys and one thing led to another and soon we were all drinking more than I would’ve liked given the fact that I’ve barely slept for quite a while now. In Luang Prabang there’s a curfew at 11pm (bloody communists!) and so we all got kicked out then and everyone started jumping in taxis to the bowling alley. Still don’t really understand why but this place doesn’t adhere to the curfew rules and is where all the westerners hang out after hours to get royally pissed and stick up a middle finger to the regime and culture, my idea of a nightmare! But after a cheap bottle of whiskey and a couple of games of bowling I changed my mind and ended up having a brilliant night, definitely not proud of how wasted we all got but it was around other non-Laos people so I don’t feel too bad! All in all it was an experience and I won 2 out of 3 games of bowling so I can’t complain, still I’m not in a rush to go back there!

Day 459 – Friday 26th April

Woke up today with one of the worst hangovers of my life, drank far too much last night and coupled with the severe sleep deprivation and long days my body really couldn’t handle it. And so the first few hours of the day were spent lying in bed desperately trying to feel a bit better. After a good 4 hours or so lying around and having cold showers I had the strength to leave our hotel and me and Chris went on a little walk around to try and see what we could find. We ended up just going on a really long walk along the river where I jumped in, easily the best way to get rid of a hangover, a good dunk in a really cold river with a ridiculously strong current. We also found ourselves a really nice guest house on the river which we will move in to tomorrow and had some food on the river. Definitely changed my perspective on this place, it’s much calmer and way more beautiful down by the Mekong and I’m certainly looking forward to moving in tomorrow. After that we just spent the evening hanging around our place on the internet, as we had about an hour spell where it was working, barely! Then we went out to Utopia bar again but this time just for a relaxed drink as we watched the full moon come up over the Mekong. Only other thing to mention is the absolutely insane storm that woke us up in the middle of the night, the thunder quite literally rocked the guest house and the lightning completely lit up the whole place it was absolutely nuts and a pretty terrifying way to get woken up!

Day 460 – Saturday 27th April

Got up in time for check out this morning and then got ourselves moved in to our much nicer guest house by the river before having a very good pancake with ice cream for breakfast. Thankfully the internet actually works at our new place and so we both spent a couple hours catching up on everything, most importantly I finally managed to watch the highlights of the last Man U game and boy did Van Persie really prove his worth, potentially the best goal I’ve ever seen although Rooney’s bicycle against city is always going to be hard to beat! After that we went out on a little exploration mission and ended up finding this really rickety bamboo bridge across the river to a little island just the other side. There was a perfect white sand beach with one of the most beautiful views of the river and all the mountains behind, and absolutely no tourists! All the bloody westerners seem to hang out in the middle of town and completely miss out on the best part of this place which is the surrounding beauty. Safe to say it was a perfect place to spend the afternoon keeping nice and cool swimming in the river and sunbathing on the beach with the views of the limestone mountains in the background. My pictures really don’t do it justice, but we were so lucky to find this little spot. Had some food in one of the restaurants overlooking the river as the sun went down before coming back to chill in our room. Later on had dinner at the night market and had a quiet night in.

Day 461 – Sunday 28th April

Finally had a decent lie in today! Once we did make it out of bed we went off in search of food and bumped into Kate (an Aussie girl we were out with that first night in the bowling alley) she’s a really nice girl and so we went and had some food with her and a fruit shake. After that we walked around a bit looking for a bar with a pool table as it looked like the rain was coming in (rainy season starts around May and he we are!) and ended up finding this empty bar with a free pool table and very cheap bottles of whiskey. The rest as they say is history, we had 2 bottles and lots of games of pool and a bloody good laugh and managed to spend literally the entire afternoon hanging out in this really cool bar with the whole place to ourselves! Apart from a quick break to get a baguette (can’t stop myself) we must’ve spent a good 4 hours there as the rain poured down. Unfortunately Kate had to get back to her hotel at 7 for a bus down to Vang Vieng and so we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Unsurprisingly we were pretty wasted after all that and so me and Chris went and jumped in the river to try and sober up a bit, ended up clinging on to the side of a boat as the crazy current tried to whisk us away down to Cambodia. Once we were dried off we headed back out and ended up in Utopia bar once again where we met this really cool German guy, Sebastian, and had a couple of beers then chilled at our place for a little while before a very late night.

Day 462 – Monday 29th April

Had to get up in time for check out this morning as we will be leaving Laos on a night bus tonight. Once we were all packed and ready, Sebastian dropped by with a breakfast of beers to say thanks for last night. Then we sorted out our bus ticket for tonight which was easier said than done as we’d run out of the local currency and needed to pay in Thai baht. After that we went out for a proper breakfast, yes you’ve guessed it, baguettes, where we happened to bump into Bim who was a Dutch guy on our very first bus in Laos this time last week. As it was so bloody hot today we suggested going to that little beach we found the other day and spending the day there, the other guys were on board and so we hit the road. There’s no need for me to go into any more detail about this little piece of paradise so I’ll just say that we spent the whole afternoon there chatting and left just before sunset as some pretty mean looking clouds started to come in. After one last baguette, me and Chris got in to some dry clothes and headed off to the bus station to catch the 12 hour bus back to the border town and get back to Thailand. This week has felt very rushed and definitely hasn’t given me a real impression of Laos, but given the fact my flight is in a week and I have about 3 days travelling to get down to Bangkok I really don’t have the time to hang out here any longer without having to rush my way through Thailand and straight on a plane home. But it’s been a very busy and fun week!

Day 463 – Tuesday 30th April

We got in to Huay Xai around 8 this morning after a very long and bumpy bus journey which absolutely zero sleep! Got a taxi to the pier, then got a boat back across to Thailand, got issued with yet another 2 week visa and got ourselves back on a bus to Chiang Rai. The month is up on our room today and so we’ll be spending our time in a guest house in town instead, plus M happens to be in Chiang Mai at the moment and so there’s no real benefit to staying out in the countryside. After dropping off our bags and having a much needed shower and some food all we could really manage was a sleep. And so we spent the whole afternoon in bed! Once we got up, we went out to a little bar with a free pool table (yes we are addicted to it) and spent ages there strutting our stuff before getting a bottle of whiskey and going back out to the night market for free drinks and then back to Face Bar yet again for another night out with the local uni students. Certain things just have to be done when you’ve only got a couple of days in Chiang Rai! Didn’t get home until about 4 unsurprisingly completely knackered after the last week, but very happy to be back in Thailand!

Posted by travellingjoe 11:43 Archived in Laos Comments (3)

Songkran in Chiang Rai

Day 442 – Tuesday 9th April

I find Noi (our roommate) really tiring so I decided to take the day off today and let them all do their thing. So they all went off to a waterfall together and I stayed back at the room reading and chilling out, tried to write the blog but it was far too hot to work so I ended up just having a nap instead. When they did make it back from the waterfall I got going on yet another long blog entry. Once I was done we went round to M’s to hang out with him and Tamara, but those 2 were shattered so we left them to it and went in to town where we met up with Chris and Dre (2 of the guys we met a while ago who joined M for his live gig) and had a few beers playing pool. They’ve all been in Laos for a few days so it was good to see them again and our Chris was dominating at the pool table. Time flew by and it got to 2am and the place was closing but we weren’t ready to go back yet so we went to Face Bar, the local student club. Had a really good night hitting on all the beautiful women and teaching those shy Thai people how to dance, badly. We left there around 4 and got a bit of food before coming back to hit the hay.

Day 443 – Wednesday 10th April

After breakfast I went to get my haircut, turned out to be a pretty comical experience. As usual the woman cutting my hair was in shock that I’d want to cut my blond hair and she was terrified to be the one to do it. After pretty much cutting my hair myself and grabbing her hand to cut shorter we finally managed to reach a point where I was happy. Plus she was too scared to cut my beard, so there I was in this little Thai barber with 2 girls laughing at me as I shave my beard myself (due to my bag being in Chiang Mai I don’t have my clippers!). Luckily Noi has to go back to Chiang Mai and I was more than happy to give her a lift to the bus station, other than everything else it will be nice to have separate beds again as me and Chris have been sharing the last 5 days. After that I went back to the shop and me and Chris got cracking with the garden and the seemingly endless task of digging up all the weeds. As usual it was too hot to work, so after it got too much we went back home and got showered and had some food, then settled down to watch a movie. When it was over we went to the shop as we’d been told a party was on the cards, but turned out we were too late and the party was dying down until it was just me and Chris and the 2 lovebirds, M and Tamara. So we helped them close up the shop and then went off to get some snacks and settled in to the room which just feels like a much nicer, bigger space to be in now.

Day 444 – Thursday 11th April

Had another great breakfast from the Mum and the Me and Chris headed over to the shop to meet up with Tamara and M, but as usual they were off doing something else, they disappear every 5 minutes it seems. Me and Chris opened up the shop and then tried to get started on doing dsome of the gardening work but it really was too hot today and so we just gave up. Thai new year lasts about 4 days each year between the 12-15th April in which time they get pissed and chuck water over everyone. Right there and then I was desperate for it to start tomorrow and then 2 of M’s kid cousins turned up with water guns and I grabbed a bucket and we played around getting soaked, can’t emphasize how good it feels when it’s this hot, plus all my life I’ve loved chucking water over people even got in trouble with the police that one time (remember Mum?). And then Songkran (Thai for new year) got started when Ohm (M’s brother) and a few of his mates turned up and we spent the next 4 hours or so chucking buckets over each other and any girls which drove past. As it doesn’t start proper until tomorrow, we couldn’t chuck water on everyone and if someone says they don’t want it you have to respect that. Although if they’re a hot girl, the rules go out the window and they get soaked. Around sunset we all went our separate ways to get some dry clothes and then meet up later at M’s shop where we had some burgers and booze till about 9 when it all started winding down and me and Chris ended up just staying in watching a movie.

Day 445 – Friday 12th April

This time last year I was in Pyongyang (North Korea) for my first night in what turned out to be the best trip ever. Started off the day with a drive in to town to get some food and songkran supplies, got well and truly soaked on the way in seems everyone wants to get us foreigners the most wet. God I love this holiday so much, it’s so much fun getting soaked and soaking others and it just brings everyone together, argh it’s so much fun!!! After getting water balloons and things we drove back to M’s shop where Ohm and his mates were already stuck in throwing buckets of water over everyone. After a while of sprinting back and forth filling up my buckets and chucking them over anyone and everyone, me and Chris went on a little road trip in the back of one of the guy’s trucks. Definitely the best way to experience Songkran, we got so fucking wet and not just normal water, most people had put ice in their water so it was freezing! Drove around town stopping off every 10 minutes or so to fill up the big bucket on the back of our truck and fill up our cups with whiskey and quite simply we just had the best time. Sorry guys just can’t really put into words how much I love Songkran. Eventually we’d had enough of being completely freezing and we got dropped off back at the base and drove home to get dry. Then I get a call from Noi, turns out she’ll be at the bus station in 10 minutes and she’ll be staying with us yet again, yippee! Really bothers me that she just turned up without even asking if she could stay having just been here for 4 nights as well in our small room with only 2 beds! Plus I really don’t get on with her and I don’t find her fun to stay with. I’ll leave it at that, but safe to say I was not happy about her surprise return. Had some dinner and then spent another night hanging out at the shop, considering we’re there all day it’s not really somewhere I like hanging out at night and so we didn’t stay there so long. Instead we left pretty early to come back and watch Red Dawn; a recent movie about North Korea invading the US. And yes it is probably the worst film ever made but absolutely hilarious at the same time. Random night.

Day 446 – Saturday 13th April

Back to the old routine of sleeping badly in our shared bed and being woken up early by Noi making loads of noise, how nice it is t wake up in a shit mood again. After breakfast went to the shop and I perked up straight away as soon as I laid my eyes on my buckets and I got stuck in straight away and didn’t stop chucking water at people for pretty much 4 hours straight. This is what happiness feels like! Drove in to town again today to give some of the locals a chance to soak a white guy, gotta take as good as you give! So much fucking fun driving through on a bike and having all the girls screaming as you drive by and shouting I love you as they pound bucket after bucket over you, wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world! I did lose my favourite earring today though which was a bit of a bummer, I’ve had it for like 5 years as well and it’s been all over the world, bummer. I felt like just chilling out alone for a while so I hung in the room as that lot spent another night at the shop. So when I did turn up later, all that lot were wasted (another very important part of songkran) which was a bit uncomfortable for me but we all had a good time hanging out together. Seems like forever since me and M were hanging out together, since Tamara’s coming we barely speak unsurprisingly. But it’s nice just to have our little group all together as we all seem to be on different schedules of late.

Day 447 – Sunday 14th April

Started off the day with a drive in to town to get me a new earring, as I’m still not with my bag that’s another thing I don’t have with me, along with pretty much everything else! Still it’s been good to live out of my little eastpak for almost a month now. Got soaked as usual on the drive! Came back to the shop to get my day started and I spent the next few hours hanging out with the 2 drunk uncles throwing water at anything and everything, those 2 took no prisoners and completely pelted anyone especially the ladies. Had another awesome day! When we got back, Noi and Chris wanted to go to temple, but I was worn out from all the bucket throwing so I gave it a miss. Not long after I got a call from them saying that all the family were at the shop and the drinks were flowing and I should come along. And so I did and we had a little karaoke session on the side of the street whilst drinking whiskey after whiskey with all the extended family, proper good laugh. Once they all left, me, Chris, M, Tamara and Noi headed in to town to go to a club and carry on the night. Everyone was pretty wasted and as usual there was an abundance of incredibly hot Thai girls around, can’t complain!

Day 448 – Monday 15th April

Another day of nonstop bucket throwing, plus today I had a little accomplice, M’s 13 year old cousin who is very beautiful and so with me and her standing in the middle of the road, everyone was happy to stop for us and get a bucket thrown over them. Ah man just writing about Songkran is making me so sad that it had to end, just the feeling in the air was so good and all the stunning girls giving little winks and stopping to say hello and the stream of ‘I love yous’ man am I going to miss being a celebrity when I go back to England. Anyway, me and the girl spent all day just chucking buckets, did go for a little road trip into town at one point but it was pretty quiet, funnily enough Friday was probably the worst day, I thought it would get progressively more crazy but that wasn’t the case. Stopped the water throwing around 5 and came back to chill and watch some TV in the room and have a cheeky nap. Then we headed into town and bought a shit ton of snacks and got started on a little movie madness night in.

Day 449 – Tuesday 16th April

Still no sign of Noi making her move anytime soon! Really don’t know if I would’ve rented this house if I’d known that this is what it would be used for, it’s just so frustrating to be living the perfect life but have this one really annoying thing constantly there bringing me right back down to earth. Plus Songkran is now over which effectively means my life is over, so depressing! Started the day off by driving to town with Chris to get our washing done and then going on a drive to a waterfall just to get some time away from Noi. Although Chris doesn’t feel the same way it’s still nice to have someone to moan about her to. As we’ve been to this waterfall loads of times already, we decided to check out something new and go on a mini trek to the top of the hill. Turned out to be really beautiful scenery and a ridiculously relaxing experience just sitting at the top of the hill looking out over terraces everywhere and having a good chat. After a while there just hanging with the cows, we came back down and had a dip in the waterfall before making our way back. Ended up finding a motorbike key on the way down but as Chris can’t drive there’s no way we could’ve stolen it! Just joking, I handed the key in to a nice family and they said they’d deal with it, they probably drove off with it! Then got told off by a policeman for not wearing a helmet and managed to dodge the fine by claiming that when someone threw a bucket over me it fell off. Somehow he bought it and let me off and we hit the beautiful road back home. Got a few more buckets thrown on us on the way back, sadly though it was just a few and the city streets are no longer completely soaked. Really nice afternoon after the recent madness. Got back and Noi was in a mood so we left her there and went off to hang with M and Tamara for a little bit, but as usual they were off in their little world whispering sweet nothings to each other. So we left them there and drove off in to town. Spent a while walking around the night market and then went to a bar where we had one of the best pool sessions ever, it was like Ronnie O’Sullivan had just turned up for the day. Got news from James as well and he’s back in the country so hopefully not too long before I see him but as Noi’s taking up his bed maybe not! Ended up staying up really late watching Pingu, brought back so many memories of my childhood, almost had a mental breakdown! Literally the funniest show though, and if any of you watched it as a kid I recommend having a little walk down memory lane and check it out on youtube.

Day 450 – Wednesday 17th April

Tamara had a visa run today, so her, M and Noi all went off to Burma together in the morning and so it was just me and Chris today. After last night;s pool session we were hungry for more and spent most of the morning trying to find a pool house here in Chiang Rai which ended unsuccessfully. Stopped at some really bizarre places to find one, including a huge and terrifyingly empty North Korea hotel where Chirs learnt to drive in the car park. Ended up in a dive of a bar owned by some typical brit expats. Haven’t been to one of these places in a while and it was a fucking depressing place to be on a beautiful afternoon, but it was good to play some pool. After leaving there we went off for a little drive which just ended up with us back at home because there were too many police about and I didn’t have a helmet and didn’t want a fine. Had some dinner and then sat chilling in the room waiting for that lot to get back, which they eventually did very late. Turns out they had a complete mare this morning with 3 separate bikes breaking down and them running back and forth to sort out solutions. Tamara was not in a good mood and seems she’ll be off tomorrow which is sad but I haven’t really been speaking to her as she’s been so cooped up with M so it doesn’t change too much for me. The mood was a bit sombre in the room after that and Noi wasn’t feeling too good so I suggested we go to the cinema to watch the new Thai comedy that’s out. As with every other Thai film it was very slapstick comedy and the crowd loved it, always funny to see what stage there cinematic viewing is at compared to our style films in the West. But it was still a fun film and had English subs so we all enjoyed it and it definitely lifted the spirit in our room. Came back and chilled at the room watching TV for a while, then Chris pierced my ear before bed. The last couple of weeks my left ear has been feeling really naked and so I’ve now got myself a second piercing. Probably won’t be getting a tattoo now so need to mark my body in some other way!

Day 451 – Thursday 18th April

Spent the start of the day just catching up on my diary, the last week has been so busy and I haven’t wanted to miss a minute so it’s been hard to keep up with the diary and the blog. But as usual it always gets done in the end! Spent all day just hanging out in the room, I’m out of ideas on where to go so we had a proper lazy day off. Went to town for food in the evening and ended up going to a bar and playing loads of pool, fucking loving that little ritual at the moment. When we came back we all hung out at M’s place, Tamara ended up staying for now, and then we came back to ours we me and Chris came up with the genius plan of going to Laos for a week. Not that I don’t love Chiang Rai but it would be nice to have one last little holiday of sorts before I go back, plus I need to do a visa un on Monday so I might as well just hop over to Laos and see what it’s like. From what I’ve been told (mainly by Rob) it’s supposed to be a pretty special country and I’m very excited to go now. Plus I really need some time away from Noi as god only knows how much longer she would stay!

Day 452 – Friday 19th April

M’s Mum wasn’t around this morning and as Tamara was with us we couldn’t fit all 4 on the bike, having 3 on it all day everyday has started to take its toll, it’s still a great little runner though. And so we ended up going on a walk to find somewhere open in the stifling heat, that turned out to be unsuccessful and M found us stranded on the side of the road and took us home where he cooked some food. Ended up spending the rest of the afternoon just procrastinating at M’s, all in all very uneventful and boring. Tamara was supposed to leave and so we hung out to say goodbye, but she’s clearly not ready to leave and didn’t feel too well and so we just sat around waiting all afternoon and she never left! Came back to our place and spent a while watching the live manhunt for the Boston bomber, don’t know if I’ve ever seen a news story like it where they can just run a live manhunt, it’s pretty exciting stuff. Must be a news team’s wet dream as they can just sit a presenter in a seat and let her roll off the same speech over and over as all the pictures do the talking. The whole story is also bloody interesting, can’t believe how long it took them to catch the guy, bet he regrets that he made it out alive as life in prison in solitary confinement doesn’t sound too great, death penalty is probably a nicer way to go. Either way his brother quite literally got away with murder! Around 8 I managed to drag myself away from the story and we went in to town, where we bought a couple bottles of whiskey and went and sat in the night market polishing them off. Really cool vibe on a Friday night as the place is packed and there’s live music going on. After finishing off our pre drink session, we headed off to the first club where we got lots of free drinks and had a good old dance with these 2 raunchy older women. After that we got the night started proper and went to our favourite club, Face bar, the local university hang out place. Lots of free drinks, too many beautiful women to count and some good music, awesome night! Definitely going to miss the female attention more than anything I think, being able to walk into a club and just have your pick of all these stunning girls is just the best feeling.

Posted by travellingjoe 03:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Chiang Rai, still

Day 435 – Tuesday 2nd April

Spent the morning finishing off last week’s mammoth blog entry after being woken up by the bloody building work next door. When me and Chris got round to M’s, the whole gang (3 guys who played in the band with him Saturday; Chris, Steve and Andre) were there waiting to go to a waterfall, so they got in the car and we followed on the bike to the same waterfall as yesterday. Me and Chris (Newcastle guy I’m sharing the house with), different Chris to the one who’s just turned up (another Northerner from the band) anyway me and original Chris stopped off on the way for some food and met them there. As soon as we got to the waterfall, I went straight for the big cliff jump and completely fucked my ears diving so deep straight away into the pool. But everyone else was being too pussy to do it, so gotta show them how it’s done. We all hung out at the waterfall for a while just chilling out and left just before sunset. Me and Chris stopped off at a really random and really tacky modern temple where we met some cool child monks and had ice cream on the way home. After we got back, M’s mate turned up to get a coy fish tattoo on his shoulder, when M told me he did tattoos it got me pretty interested in getting one from him, and despite him taking forever doing this guy’s one it turned out really nice. Watch this space. But as I said it did take forever and was pretty boring to watch but it got to the point where we waited so long I just wanted to see it finished. But it meant we missed out on hanging out with the guys from earlier and instead just chilled at ours and watched a movie.

Day 436 – Wednesday 3rd April

After another free breakfast (M’s Mum is still refusing payment for food despite the fact I’ve moved out) we went round to M’s shop to get some more work done. Unfortunately it was far too hot to get anything done and so instead we just drove to a waterfall yet again to keep cool. Once again I jumped in the water way too much and fucked up my ears more than yesterday, got a sneaky feeling I might have ruptured my ear drum which is really uncomfortable and has no real quick fix, great! I’ll try and keep out of the water for the next few days. We spent pretty much the whole afternoon hanging out there, and after stopping on the way back to get a cake for his little cousin’s birthday, we got the party started. There was a ridiculous amount of different food, hot pots and lots of different drinks, not too many of them alcoholic but everyone got in the spirit and the kids and grown-ups had a good time alike. Had fun with M’s (always) drunk uncle who said he had love for both me and Chris and got offended any time we didn’t speak to him, despite the fact we don’t speak a shared language. Then M played a little gig for everyone and his other drunk relatives chimed in on the vocals, all in all a really fun time and a pretty random way to spend a Wednesday afternoon at a 10 year olds party. Once we’d all managed to stuff down enough food and the clean-up operation started; me, Chris and M headed out to a bar for the night. M was tipsy to say the least by the time we arrived and his driving was pretty suspect, but he insisted on us getting a bottle of whiskey as we sort of had to buy something just to sit at a table and watch the live music. Had an awesome time at the bar, the music was good, the whiskey was good and there were lots of beautiful (if not stuck up) girls around the place. But it all turned sour when M had had enough to drink and to cut a very long story short he tried to pick a fight with me. Can’t be bothered going in to detail but it completely ruined the night and we had to pack up and leave before he really took things out of hand. As I wasn’t in his good books, he refused to let me drive his car despite his state and despite almost killing a woman on a scooter and driving down a main road the wrong way, we somehow made it back alive. Easy to notch up his cuntish behaviour to drinking too much, but a 32 year old should really know their limits especially if they’re the designated driver and I was not happy with him to say the least. Plus the whole incident had really sobered me up and my ear was in pain so tonight was very much a sleepless night.

Day 437 – Thursday 4th April

Literally only slept a wink last night and was very happy once Chris eventually got up and we could get the day started. We went straight to M’s for breakfast and he said there was nothing to talk about last night, definitely not how I see the situation, but I guess he wants to just brush it under the rug and avoid an apology. Whatever, he’s a good guy and I know he didn’t mean all the shit he said but I still feel a bit edgy around him and wished we could’ve just cleared the air there and then but that’s not his style. Anyway hung around at his for a while, but he was just playing guitar and I didn’t feel in the mood to just sit around listening, plus a got a call from Tamara (who was having a little fling with M before, and who is at the root of M’s problem with me) and spoke it out with her which made the whole situation better. Chris was pretty hung-over so we just spent the afternoon hanging at our place as he napped and I watched a movie. After that we went for a Mcdonald’s, definitely the place to hang out on a hot day with good food and a really nice outdoor seating area. Not really anything else to report, M spent the whole day in bed pretty much and Chris wasn’t too different, a good way to cool off after last night’s drama.

Day 438 – Friday 5th April

Finally got back to working on the shop today and got down and dirty in the garden. It’s much slower progress now than when me and M first started sorting it, but now there’s 3 of us there’s a lot getting done even if it doesn’t look so obvious. Either way it’s nice to get a sweat going and anything I can do to help out M after everything he’s given me while I’ve been staying here in Chiang Rai is nice. By 5 we’d all had enough and lost about 100 litres in sweat and so we called it a day and had a huge meal at his before a much needed shower with soap, something I haven’t got round to buying for the past 2 weeks now, fuck I really have turned into a bloody hippy! We went round to M’s in the evening, originally to help set up a website to sell his many paintings, but ended up printing off and sorting out Chris’s tattoo. After I told him about M doing tats he came up with a fucking genius tattoo which I wish was mine, it’s the words ‘chaos’ and ‘beauty’ in Thai script. 2 awesome words to describe Thailand and Asia as a whole and a really good way to sum up my travels, bud the Geordie bastard thought of it first! Quickly it became clear that it was probably best to just do it tonight rather than wait around, as the design was sorted, and so he lay down on the sofa and M got going. Once again I was pretty shocked at how slow it was, but the detail came out really nice plus Chris seems to be iron man and felt no pain despite it being on his ribs! Fucking jealous that he came up with it and not me, I’m so desperate for a tattoo as it’s been almost 3 years from my first with no additions, plus I need something to commemorate this trip and getting a Thai mate to do it would be nice. So if anyone has any mind blowing ideas keep me posted, and if anyone knows the quote ‘don’t judge a man by how much he knows but by how far he has travelled’ and who wrote it could you please leave a comment, as I can’t seem to find it on the web but I’m sure the Dali Lama came up with it. After the tattoo was over, me and Chris drove in to town to buy some cream for it and get some dinner and some snacks and came back to watch a movie.

Day 439 – Saturday 6th April

Got woken up at 10 this morning by Noi (little Thai girl from back in Chiang Mai) saying that her and Tamara might be coming up today. As they’ve told me this time and time again and they’re still not here I wasn’t very happy that such irrelevant news was my wakeup call! Once again we spent the start of the day at M’s shop but as M was off every 10 minutes to buy supplies we weren’t really sure what to do work wise so instead just pissed about with the kids and tried some good old fashioned advertising of standing in the middle of the street with an ice cream sign. Despite all the funny looks from the locals, the only customers we got were Ohm (M’s brother) and his girlfriend and me and Chris. That’s the problem with this shop, it’s on a main road and so people are only driving past and they never stop, but that doesn’t faze M and he’s going into this business venture at a sprint. He’s now got a proper burger grill and all the stuff to go with it, as well as a fridge, a sink and lights set up with loads of other things to be crammed into the little hut on the way, as well as gates on the outside to keep it all safe overnight. My ear was really acting up today, having already had ear infections I’m now certain this is different and given the way I got it I know it’s some sort of trauma to the ear drum which means a long fucking wait for it to get better, and every now and again excruciating pain where I can’t do anything other than lie down, close my eyes and go to my happy place. I waited around at the shop for as long as I could as Chris was working and M made burgers, but after that delicious treat I really had to go home and just lie down for a while. By the time Chris made it back there were 2 new arrivals; Tamara and Noi had decided to turn up! So I went round to see them and we spent the next few hours all hanging out. Bloody good to see Tamara again, she’s a proper Spanish bull who’s always feisty and a good laugh, the same can’t be said for Noi who seemed a bit down all night. Unfortunately she also has nowhere to sleep and so me and Chris are sharing for the time being and being gentlemanly and giving her her own bed. Tamara’s straight back in to bed with M!

Day 440 – Sunday 7th April

Noi decided to put an alarm on for the crack of dawn this morning and then open the curtains and turn off the fan giving me and Chris no choice but to get up as well, not fucking cool! We all hung out at M’s this morning listening to music and messing about with his spray paint as he made a big painting/ sign for cheeseburgers to try and entice some customers to the shop. Eventually we got going to the shop, as M wants all this done by next weekend we sort of need to get going, and he needs to not be distracted by Tamara, which obviously isn’t the case. As soon as we got to the shop, they were off straight away for about 2 and a half hours leaving me and Chris to take care of the kids and get to work on the garden. Luckily the Mum came round to bring us food, she seems to be a bloody mind reader, even when we’re not at her house she knows when to feed us! Managed to get quite a bit done as M kept disappearing even after they got back from the original 3 hour trip (apparently burger buns are impossible to find) and they checked every shop in the city before coming back. The girls, unsurprisingly, weren’t in the mood to get their hands dirty so even when they were there they were no help and Noi spent the whole afternoon napping. The irony of her waking all of us up early just to spend the day catching up on sleep as we work did not make me laugh! M gave us a juicy burger to reward us for the hard day’s work which made everything better. Me and Chris called it a day around half 5 and came back for showers, our scooter decided to break down on the way and so the Mum took it off me and swapped me on to a manual, couldn’t be happier I’d had well and truly enough of that gay little automatic. After some dinner we went round to M’s shop to practice some fire juggling. Despite Tamara having paid for classes for the last month and being very good at it she still hasn’t had the courage to dip her ‘poi’ into petrol and juggle fire instead of just practice. But me and M are complete beginners and feel confident enough to do it so we had a go to give her some confidence (safe to say I was amazing and didn’t burn myself) and she gave us all a really good show and all the cars driving past loved it, plus we had a few beers and big speakers so it was a proper little party. Left the shop around 12 and had a couple more drinks before a late night.

Day 441 – Monday 8th April

Yet another visa run today! I managed to convince Noi not to put a fucking alarm on again and so we all slept in until about 11ready for what was to become a very long day. A couple of weeks ago I read about a place called Mae Salong, it’s right up towards the North border and has a population of only Chinese people as the Thai government let some Chinese soldiers settle here after they helped with some war or other, as soon as I heard about it I really felt like visiting and after chatting to Chris he seemed game for it so the 2 of us set off on a little road trip. First job was to go into town and exchange some Thai baht for dollars to pay for the Burma visa fee, harder said than done as they don’t stock them so that the border police can rip you off once you get there, corrupt bastards! Did manage to find the same guy who did it for me last time and after a coffee we hit the road up to Mae Sai (the border town). The drive was really nice and the weather was good today so it didn’t feel too bad cruising up on the main road and we made it pretty quickly. Then I left Chris in Thailand and hopped over to Burma and back in pretty quick time, managed to get the guy to accept my $10 without too much hassle (last time he straight up refused it for a good 10 minutes!). Got back to Thailand with another 2 weeks visa (only one more visa run to go before I come home) and after another ice coffee we got back on the bike and headed for Mae Salong. The drive was absolutely incredible, the roads were pretty steep and so windy and the views off the edge were jaw dropping, easily the best session I’ve had on a bike I think. It took a bit longer than expected to make it into town and luckily we managed to make the climb up there with barely any petrol. Felt so good to make it and fill up the bike. The highlight of this dusty little Chinese town is a temple on top of the mountain with great views of the town below, so we kept on climbing the road up to the temple. Managed to run over a chicken for the first time in my life, I’ve had a lot of close calls but this bastard was way too big to swerve around without having an accident and he didn’t want to move so all I could do was plough over him and hope the bike didn’t fall over which thankfully it didn’t. Plus none of the locals saw it and we managed to get away from the scene of the crime without any problems. Despite being a bit scary it was easy to laugh about afterwards ‘why did the chicken cross the road? To get run over’. We made it to the temple and the views were a bit impaired by all the smoke, it’s burning down the forest season; still not 100% sure why they do it but it leaves a lot of smoke in the air. Plus after all the great views we’d seen over the last 2 hours on the drive to get there nothing could really compare. It was just nice to stretch our legs for a bit. But with the sun on its way down and a good 2 hour drive back to Chiang Rai we hit the road home. Unfortunately the drive was in the dark and my headlight is shit, plus it meant all the bugs were out flying into my eyes and mouth, so the way back was more just a case of making it home rather than enjoying the drive. We got back to ours at half 8 and having left at 1 and taking into account all the waiting around and stuff it was a good 5-6 hour solo drive with a passenger on the back in the sun so I was fucking knackered! Needless to say I was very dirty as well, a shower remedied both those things and then a big dinner at M’s with everyone made everything better. We also had a good laugh at Ohm’s dog who’s just had a haircut to make it look like a lion ‘a retarded lion’ in Chris’ words it was hilarious. Watched a bit of TV at ours before an earlyish night.

Posted by travellingjoe 06:10 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

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