Trip Report Thailand 2019
When we have our trip planned and there are two weeks to go, I usually start to think “why should we bother”. Wouldn’t it be better to just put another log on the fire and my feet up? But with two days to go my emotions change to impatience. Now sitting up at 34,000 feet and 5 hours into the flight all seems surreal and calm. Leaving home gets more difficult as the years pass.
The taxi ride into Bangkok proceeded slowly in the early morning rush hour. A haze lay over a town renowned for its poor air quality.
A change of clothes at the hotel and we then walked to Wat Pho which presented an overflow of golden Buddhas and collections of identically clad students taking group photos. The main attraction is an enormous lying Buddha which symbolises him having attained Nirvana. We walked through an elegant university, markets selling religious symbols and narrow streets in which extremely poor people lived in very distressed conditions. I took no photographs of their discomfort. Lunch by the river was deliciously and painfully spicy. We dined with two monks and an attractive young Western lady in a split dress which regularly showed an elegant leg much to the distraction of one of the monks.
After an afternoon snooze we decided to explore our neighbourhood. We found a broad Street that had been turned into pedestrian only. It was filled with a noisy collection of street restaurants, shops, foot and back massage, and tourists, mainly from Asia, drinking beer and eating street food. A gang of police arrived and cleared the street of stalls etc that infringed on the tarmac. As soon as they left it returned to its original state and the music was turned. Anna and I were members of a small group of grey hairs. The great predominance of the participants were young. A Singha beer and Pad Thai was consumed and at ten thirty we retired to our hotel. We are well pleased with the day.
The hotel breakfast was acceptable. Some guests seemed to think it would be their only meal of the day. A woman ate 7 bowls of fruit and salad with much of it spilling around her to the dismay of the serving staff.
We decided to take a long tail boat ride through the Klongs (canals). It was interesting to see the water side houses which ranged from luxurious to the dilapidated. The bottom ranking of the latter was the most prevalent.
Bangkok is an environmental disaster. The schools were closed today because of high air pollution. It has very bad air quality, traffic fumes complemented by fumes from the boats on the river which was itself speckled with plastic rubbish. We only saw one rubbish recycling collection point in the University campus. The city is like a puppy that pees everywhere and eats your furniture but is nevertheless adorable.
We took a Tuktuk to China town to wander among the red hanging lanterns that celebrate the Chinese New Year on Feb 5th. The rules are simple here. The pavement is for resellers and restaurants whilst the streets are shared by pedestrians and traffic. Swedish like food hygiene rules have no place. Thank goodness it is mostly stir fried and quickly on your plate. We stopped on the way for a cocktail in a hotel foyer and listened to a lady singing jazz standards in which she had difficulty with the letter “r”. The musicians were however talented, and it was worth the time spent drinking a “Tom Collins”.
A Tuk-tuk home cost two thirds of the price of the one we used to get to Chinatown. But in the end, he missed the hotel so we walked a couple hundred metres home. It’s been a nice day.
Thursday: Today may be a relax pause. Our feet are suffering from the 34c and we have sensory overload. We spent some time by the pool and then found a noodles soup restaurant for lunch. We were the only Westerners in the place and the soup was excellent. In the afternoon we both took a massage. It is not a soothing relaxing experience but the after effects are wonderful. Dinner was outstanding at Peeps. The Chicken with a peanut sauce and morning glory was wonderful. We then found a bar and listened to blues sung by a thin American.
Friday: We took an express river bus to the Flower market. On the way we saw yellow boats picking up rubbish and floating plants from the river so there is some attempt to tidy up. The flower and fruit market are mind blowing. Fruit I have never seen before, Mimosa’s by the ton and lots of ladies making floral arrangements. On the way back by Tuk-Tuk we passed the Grand Palace and the Supreme Court surrounded by immaculately cut lawns.
Beside our hotel is the Thai intelligence services HQ.
Lunch was Pad Thai in a one-man restaurant near the hotel. We returned to Peeps for dinner which was excellent one more time. After dinner we wandered in the old town area and marked the variety of restaurants, shops and services on offer. Coming as we do from a village with two shops, one restaurant and a part time baker’s the contrast was from the sublime to the ridiculous. There were a disproportionate number of elderly Westerners who looked like aged hippies who were alone or in small groups. I suppose the available services at a low cost make a pension go further. Our excellent and relatively expensive dinner including beers was under 150 Skr per person and lunch 50 Skr.
Saturday: We flew down to Phuket and took a taxi to Kamala. I have been here 4 times the last time 5 years ago. It has changed in that time and I am not sure it is for the better. We walked on the beach took a beer and watched the sun go down followed by dinner in a popular but rather bad restaurant.
Sunday: We were early to the beach today. There was a cloudless sky and a slight breeze. I laid watching the rich variety of homo sapiens parade in front of me. A Japanese family with head to toe bathing suits. Grandmother’s vibrant blue and red costume made her look as if she was in the circus and was the intrepid lady about to be shot out of a cannon. A Norwegian pair seemed to know everyone and shunned the shade of an umbrella. Their skin was the colour of saddle leather. They bought a roasted corn on the cob from a vendor just to feed the few small birds. We both have a fine pink skin colour somewhat like the plastic flamingo a little girl was riding in the sea today. This evening we ate at Popeye’s. The owner greets customers with an annoying overly loud enthusiasm, but the food was excellent.
Monday: Our over indulgence with the sun yesterday led us to decide to hire a car and drive around the island. We visited five fine beaches, Phuket town and Patong. Lunch was excellent at No 24 near Nai Thon beach. After we laid under the trees with the sound of breaking waves, but we were not tempted to bathe. Anna says the water is too warm. It is not cooling enough. Patong is a horrible busy place so we did a quick in and out. Dinner at Popeye’s was a disappointment. The food took a long time to arrive and Anna’s was low on taste. We were given free drinks to soften our displeasure.
Tuesday: Back on the beach today and then lunch at Duck Spicy which was as I remember it, delicious.
On the beach I do not read but instead spend the time gazing at the passing fauna. It sends me into a dreamy state of mind spiked with lots of fantasy. Today I reflected on obsession. For example the two Japanese girls who spent a half an hour trying to get the perfect selphy picture fully clothed with dresses, hats and handbags whilst in the sea or the father also in the sea pushing his child on a floating toy while smoking a cigarette and finally the couple strolling nonchalantly to exhibit their all over tattoos which now are almost undecipherable against their tanned skin. Of course, the Old Englishman who just lays and gazes is probably in the same class.
Another old favourite for dinner. Five years ago, the cook was the man of the family but he died. His wife and son now run the restaurant. Not bad food and very friendly service.
Wednesday: Beach again I think today.
Last night we took a beer at Danny’s bar. His Thai wife recognised me. It has been 5 years since I have last been there and played bowling on the big TV with their then 7-year-old daughter. She beat me every time.
Thursday: Beach again today. The Norwegian man had a thermometer and measured 36c in the shallows and 32c in water chest deep. We bought some fruit for lunch as we have begun to gain weight. My Buddha impersonation is quite convincing. I ate ice cream this evening made in front of me on a very cold plate. Lots of chopping and spreading with the result in the form of rolls. It was very good. It’s noticeable how the tourist mix has changed in Kamala. Many more Japanese, Chinese and less Russians and Swedes but still lots of Norwegians and Danes. In February it is mainly pensioners and families with pre-school children and some whole family groups combining both. It’s a charming combination.
Friday: Beach of course and then a massage. For dinner Anna ate crab in a spicy sauce and I took chicken with fresh ginger. Today’s interesting event was watching two (a boy and girl) slim, pale, gawky young teenagers playing with sand and throwing it at each other for hours. Were they siblings or was this pre mating courtship? Either way it was quite annoying. I hope they grow out of it fast.
Saturday: Life on the beach is easy. Relatively comfortable sun beds, umbrella and just need to lift an arm if you want a beer etc. The umbrella is moved regularly to maintain the shade. Beach sellers offer you fruit and ice cream plus some less desirable items such as carved elephants and ostrich lamps. Quite heavenly! I tried sticky rice with mango this evening. It was also heavenly.
Sunday: Today is our last day in Kamala tomorrow it’s Ko Samui. We will miss the man selling “Popcom and Dono” and the Japanese that come to be photographed in their bridal clothes on the beach. Perhaps they also get married here? Well I wonder what the next island has to offer.
Monday: Our flight from Phuket to Ko Samui was on time and uneventful. The airport we arrived at was cute with open buses to collect and deposit us at a small but elegant baggage reclaim. Our taxi was waiting and delivered us quickly to our hotel. The bed was given the OK it was much softer than our last hotel. We unpacked and found the beach which was very different from Kamala. It is relatively narrow with swim depth water a few metres out. We found a bar to sit and take in the scene. Dinner was excellent at Ma Yom in the Maenam walking street.
Tuesday: We awoke to rain, wind and cloud so we decided to hire a moped and see something of the island. Big Buddha, an enormous statue, was impressive especially as planes landing at the airport flew low over it from time to time. We had an excellent lunch by the beach at the south of the island. On the way back to the hotel it rained very short time but hard. We managed to stop and find shelter. In a couple of kilometres, we were totally dry again. Back at the hotel we swam and sunbathed. Dinner was in the Moonhut bar which is near our hotel. It was terrible both due to the enormously painful chilli content and the miserly quantity of fish. I made sure all were aware of my opinion, but no discount was offered. This place is off the eating list big time. I consoled myself with sticky rice and mango in a part Swedish driven bar.
Wednesday: At breakfast we were entertained by a man picking coconuts from the very high trees in front of our hotel. He had a monkey with him but did not use it today preferring a long pole. Our normal morning routine is to check on “Bill” the water buffalo that lives in the field behind the hotel. Dinner was on the beach at the Nature bar. Excellent and quite romantic.
Thursday: Bill was not there today! he is missing? It’s a pity he has disappeared with the three white birds that always accompany him. Today was beach, lunch on the beach and then to the night market in a street near bye. I bought a shirt with a bamboo motive as camouflage and Anna a bracelet. After dinner at Ma Yom we made our way through the crowds back to our hotel.
Friday: We took a walk along the beach and found a place to take breakfast. A charming your Thai girl sat with an elder non-Thai lady and conversed in French before her mother put her on her moped and drove her away, we assumed, to school. There seems to be a lot of French influence here. Our hotel is run by a French man and the majority of the guests speak French. The hotel owner says there are 5,000 French people living permanently on the island. He bought the hotel from another Frenchman 3 years ago after running a restaurant on the French Mediterranean. He says he paid 70% business tax in France and only 2% here. Income tax in Thailand is in two bands 10% and 20%. The average income is circa 4 700 Skr per month.
A Japanese bride and groom were being photographed on the beach today. They seem to follow a well proven set of poses which are photographed repeatedly to reach perfection.
This evening we went to the big night market at Fisherman’s village. The traffic was crazy and there was too much of everything.
Saturday: Bill was back today. After breakfast on the balcony I walked to the local pedestrian street. Some workmen were painting green lines on each side of the street but missed where a car was parked. People queued to take a ferry from the beach to a local island. A man with shoes, socks, long trousers, blazer and a large suitcase was forced to disrobe and wade calf deep in the sea out to the ladder up to the boat. While this took place, a large plastic pink flamingo followed by an even larger white unicorn passed carried by three adult men and a Japanese grandmother posed for a photograph in the sea fully clothed with outstretched arms and fingers out in a double V.
Sunday: We took the moped back down to the Fisherman’s Village. It is in fact a collection of expensive restaurants and shops set each side of a street running parallel with the sea. We ate an expensive but very good lunch by the sea. An anorexic but beautiful waitress seemed to want to be somewhere else rather than serve us, but her colleague saved the day.
Monday: On the moped again for five hours round trip to an unimpressive waterfall and the South of the island. We found an area of mixed housing, some expensive villas and other humbler abodes. When we came to the beach it was littered with every imaginable variety of plastic. We found a temple by the sea and the beach was likewise littered. If there is not a restaurant or hotel etc. then nobody cleans the beach. It was very depressing.
Tuesday, Wednesday: Beach, excellent lunch, massage followed by dinner. It’s becoming “The same procedure as” but nevertheless very comfortable.
Thursday: Last day on Ko Samui. Tomorrow we fly to Bangkok. Of course, it was the beach early as we try to force as much sun into us to illuminate the “cold coming” (From “The journey of the Magi” by T. S. Eliot) of our return to Skillinge. Lunch was at our favourite restaurant on the beach. I have become enchanted by banana in warm coconut milk – “Bomull runt hjärtat”.
Friday: Bangkok is a crazy city. I could not live here for more than a few days. It prompts a lot of questions and thoughts about the environment and the role of tourism in the World economy etc. Lots to think about when I get back.
Saturday: We took a trip on a water bus, wandered the streets, swam in the hotel roof top pool, and bathed in the bubble bath in our room. It has not been uncomfortable. We ate great food at Peeps a Thai eatery run by two charming sisters.
Sunday: We took a Tuk-tuk to Chinatown. After wandering for a while, we smelt smoke and heard sirens. A motley array of emergency vehicles began to arrive. A black pickup with a man who began to direct the other arrivals. A small black fire appliance with a fireman clinging to the roof then more pickups carrying pumps, hoses and men in normal clothes, a fireman with an oxygen cylinder on his back and a large helmet arrived on a pink and white moped, a water tanker etc. etc. They all arrived at high speed and with intense energy. Meanwhile smoke blew down the street and people ran to avoid it. A large plume could be seen rising from a multi-story building. The equipment arrivals continued at a fast pace. We read later the fire was in a toy warehouse, one man had been injured and the fire was extinguished in an hour. What appeared initially to be comic seems to have been highly effective.
Later that evening we ate dinner by the river and then took a taxi to the airport for our flight. We slept reasonably well on the flight and drove home from Kastrup till Skillinge through morning mists. It feels like spring.