49278 kms travelled so far
01.11.2009 - 27.11.2009 30 °C
After the Vegetarian festival we spent a few days in an island called Ko Phangan which is famous for its full moon parties. We had missed the full moon party but were there for the half moon party. We went along and had a good time, it was set inside a jungle clearing and was decorated with lots of UV, it reminded me of an illegal rave in England, but without rain or with no police trying to shut it down.
We spent the next couple of days exploring on mopeds, snorkelling, relaxing and winding down to island time. During this time we realised that we’d be travelling almost non-stop for over six months and that we felt a bit tired of all the buses, trains, planes and waiting rooms and wanted to settle down for a while, kick back and take in the atmosphere of somewhere for more than a few days. Ko Phangan seemed like a good place to do this. Unfortunately before we made this decision we had already booked tickets up to the other end of Thailand to go to a festival called Loy Krathong, we decided that as we had paid we should go so undertook a massive journey to go to the festival and then travelled back to Ko Phangan where we are now. I don’t think we fully realised how much travelling we would need to do, we travelled for 35 hours each way, covering a total distance of over 2,200km to spend a couple of days at the festival!
Two 15 hour train journeys and a boat ride later and we arrived at the festival, in Thai Loy Krathong means “to float” and Krathong is a small decorated raft which the locals add incense sticks , candles, decorations and a small amount of money. The act of releasing this raft acts to pay respect to Buddha and is also symbolic of letting go of all of your grudges and anger. Millions of them are released down the main rivers and onto lakes and it seemed like everyone was involved.
Along with the krathongs, paper lanterns are released and the whole of the sky was filled with hundreds of these during the evenings creating a new floating orange cosmos.
It all sounds very idyllic and it definitely was, but naturally an element of Thai chaos was injected to make it a little more interesting. The lanterns were lit and people waited for them to fill with hot air before releasing them, lots of people weren’t patient enough so they slowly took off and then came back down to earth on fire setting fire to people’s heads, telegraph wires, trees, market stalls and motorbikes. Some of the more adventurous Thai’s took to attaching pyrotechnics to the lanterns so that as they took off they shot off fireworks and firecrackers at unsuspecting bystanders. This was a health a safety workers worst nightmare but the Thai’s loved it and had a great time! Only 14,598 people were maimed so no real damage was done.
On the main evening of the event we went down to the river to watch the fireworks and people release their krathongs. As we sat peacefully a really wrecked Thai man wobbled over and asked for money, I gave him 10 baht to get rid of him as he had a funny look in his one remaining eye. He wobbled a little further and then jumped into the river where he proceeded to rip apart as many krathongs as possible to get out the money. People were symbolically releasing all of their grudges and anger only to have some drunk idiot pull it all apart 10 seconds later, which no doubt didn’t help with their grudges and anger. In true Asian style no one confronted him about this and even when people saw their krathongs destroyed in front of them they just looked a bit sad and then left. Christy and I were about the only people there who seemed to be annoyed, I wished that an English mentality lynch mob would come and dispose of him but they never came. Where’s The Sun when you need it?!
Whilst this was taking place a thousand fireworks were being let off all around us. Think of all the fireworks that have been banned in England since the 1800’s and then give those to under 7’s to set off as they please! “Grenade” fireworks were being thrown into the river which exploded throwing the water up into the air, fireworks on string were being spun around and then released to shoot off in a random direction and firecrackers were being thrown all over the place. It was quite a scene, and the noise was deafening. After a couple of hours of being in this war scene we retreated, thankfully with all limbs and major organs intact, but with mild post traumatic stress. We spent a couple of days in Chiang Mai, looking around and enjoying the incredible cheapness of everything in Northern Thailand.
We then had the monster journey back to Ko Phangan to undertake, we decided to mix it up and got 2 buses back instead of the train. We arrived at the port exhausted only to find there had been a storm for the last few days and that the water was rough. The 3 hour ride over to Ko Phangan was choppy, but sitting on the front of the boat as it rocked around seemed to help with sea sickness. Finally we arrived on the island, happy in the knowledge that we were here for a bit and there would be no more travelling!
We searched around for houses later on that day and what we found wasn’t encouraging, we were beginning to think we would be stuck with a Korean style one bedroom, one kitchen place when we found Lakeside House, which is where we have been for the last 3 weeks, we only have another week left, it’s gone so quickly! It’s a really nice house, with two bedrooms, a kitchen which opens on one side to look over the lake. It has a nice area outside which we can relax. As the name suggests it sits on the edge of a lake, which backs onto mangroves, followed by the sea, perfect!
Most evenings we go down to “our beach” and watch the sunset and the fishing boats head out to sea for the night.
We have hired brand new super mopeds, 100cc of pure power (£2 a day!) so we can scoot around the island.
The island has pretty much everything we need, including the plague-like Tescos (bad, although good for cheap rum!) and an even an English pub, which looks a bit odd sitting amongst palm trees but serves a mean proper English sausage sandwich and gammon and chips!!
We even have a major branch of HSBC bank on the island, which is great for our banking needs....
We can get about nearly everywhere on the island, apart from where the roads give way to mad paths or have fallen into the mountain!
We’re just a few km’s away from the best snorkelling spots on the island so we’ve spent lots of time on the beach. Our favourite beach in called Coral Bay, it’s in a cove and has a perfect sandy beach. The water is clean and clear and if you swim out a bit there’s a reef with lots of fish and according to Christy a few great white sharks, although we haven’t seen any of them quite yet. This beach also has a resident pig that snuffles around and occasionally attacks women for no reason which I find quite funny, and the women do not. The owner of the pig told us a bit about this; the pig was brought up with an old dog, so it thinks that it’s a dog and behaves in many ways like a dog. When the old dog died they got a new puppy, who now thinks he is a pig and snuffles around the beach digging up the sand with his nose like a pig does. So there’s a dog who thinks he’s a pig and a pig who thinks he’s a dog. To add to the confusion they’ve now got another dog, which looks very much like a wolf – I wonder what effect that will have on the trio, maybe a killer pig!
Apart from the beach we’ve been to a Muay Thai (Thai boxing) match, where we saw 7 fights. It’s not much like normal boxing, they can kick and punch, and they are much more agile and they had music playing when they were fighting which they almost danced to. It was like Swan Lake apart, apart from the fact that they beat the crap out of each other. Fighters start young here, at 13 days old they take their first steps in the ring, by the time they are 2 they can disable a man from 15 metres away, and when other children are just starting first school they are killing buffaloes for fun with their bare hands. The first fight we saw was very young fighters, they were actually pretty rubbish and one of them fell over in the 2nd round, I think even I could have beat him. The fights progressively got better and better until the last one was a frantic full 5 rounds of pounding and I definitely wouldn’t even consider looking directly at the fighters let alone sparring with them.
This morning we went and had an archery lesson which was fun. I hit the target quite a few times (although not as many times as I missed it), as did Christy - there is Robin Hood potential yet. I’m going to hunt down the shooting school and have a go there sometime this week too. I will be combat ready! We are also hoping to go fishing one day with some local fishermen, spend some time with our friends the elephants and get lots more beach action in over our final week.
Once we leave here we head down through Malaysia and Singapore to spend the next month in Indonesia. We’ve just booked our Christmas and NYE accommodation in a tiny island called Gili Trawangan, which has no cars or motorbike, excellent snorkelling (apparently there’s thousands of turtles there) and possibly most importantly, suckling pig!