Bangkok, Thailand

Monday April 14th

Here I am again, and I have been here in Bangkok since the 8th with Harry, Tony, my mother, Nok, Om, Aoy and even Sean, so you can see it was a good time to come back. Sean was one of the two Irish guys on the original trip with the girls last year, he's been back already to have a look again! Sorry to everyone I was far too lazy to see in England, but I have a feeling I'll be visiting there often as I probably still have work to do for the Psychic Museum in York amongst other things!

Yesterday Om and Aoy her sister went back up to Chiang Mai, my mother has already gone on to Australia, and the plan is for the rest of us to visit Koh Chang after the Songkran festival is over. Most Thais take a holiday over Songkran so especially with the Sars virus now the islands are full with Thais on holiday, and very long queues to get the boats. Any Thai wanting to fly out to affected countries faces a 14 day quarrantine on return, though as a result Thailand has much less than it's fair share of people with the disease. When I arrived at Bangkok airport last week it was more like a hospital with the number of nurses there checking the passengers.

Sean's just got on the plane back for Ireland, so just Harry, Tony and Nok here now. When everyone's gone I'll go up to Chiang Mai to see Lewis before he goes back too - and all the Thai people I know up there.

We've just found a place where the rich go shopping in Bangkok... Just around the corner from our hotel is a supermarket with only BMWs, Mercedes and sports cars in the car park. Even a nice converted mini, a kind of mini-estate! But l prefer the normal girls though, they seem much happier!

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Koh Chang

Thursday April 17th

Taking an early bus to Trat for the island of Koh Chang, Elephant island. It couldn't be called anything else, its shape looks just like an elephant's head. It's supposed to be beautiful like Koh Samet but bigger and has more things to do. It's a 5 1/2 hour bus ride from the Eastern bus teminal at Ekkemai in Bangkok, and then a songthaew (blue pickup truck/car thing) ride to the jetty.

After an hour's boat ride and another songthaew ride over the steep rainforested hills we arrived at the largest beach which is where we are staying, White Sand Beach. Not exactly white, and quite expensive for Thailand: I have a large bungalow near the beach for 800 baht (£12) a night, cheap for around here.

Friday April 18th

Anytime you can walk a few metres onto the beach and eat fresh barbecue food right on the water's edge. It's a mixture of Thais on holiday with farangs (their derogatory but widely used word for us foreigners!) The road behind has loads of good places to eat and the usual shops and tourist market. A few people have said it has changed a lot since last year, a lot more developed, but it's still a great place to be. Someone was on his phone cancelling the next few days' travel so he could stay longer.

Sunday April 20th

Koh Chang was busier than Koh Samet, but with more to do and plenty of cool memories like Cambodian guys almost burning themselves with the beach fire shows, and something about being in the back of a pickup with 4 Thai girls on their Songkran holiday driving fast up the road late at night...

Today we're on our way back to Bangkok from the island. Lucky again with the boat, nice calm sea, but it takes about an hour, somehow going down the coastline towards Cambodia managing to cover three times the distance of the car ferries but plenty of island and jumping fish to see. A guy at the jetty on the island has the easiest job in the world. Walking ankle-deep in water he's just picking up fish that are swimming there with his hands and a small net, maybe for sale at the seafood restaurant next to him.

It's Harry's last night in Bangkok before he moves on to Australia. Then we'll fly up to Chiang Mai to show Tony and Nok around and for me to find a permanent residence in Thailand...

Chiang Mai

Tuesday April 22nd

Arrived in Chiang Mai in the evening. No luck with the guesthouses, there are rooms but not great! We found a good hotel for 550 baht a night for a bit of luxury, but that includes a full breakfast and superb view of the mountain.

Friday May 2nd

I've moved into my 10th floor appartment. Have my own home now, and for all my stuff so I can travel light. Money can't buy this in England, I'm on the 10th floor of a tower block with 360 degree panoramic views of all the mountains here, the last foothills of the Himalayas. Nepal and Tibet seem to be a lot better for trekking though, so that's something I'll have a go at later. Oh and the rent is 4000 baht, or £60, a month!

Friday July 18th

Another friend falls off a motorbike (second one since I came back to Thailand). Last November two people I knew died on motorbikes here. So it'll be a car, eventually, for me then. For now walking is ok as everything is so close and taxis cost only 10 baht, 15p.

Sunday July 20th

Today's toilet rolls: 'Sit and Smile' brand !

Usual kind of Thailand maintenance problem... water flowing down from the bathroom light! I reminded the Thai caretaker it wouldn't be a good idea to switch on the light, then while I was standing in there barefoot with water covering the floor (as is normal in Thai bathrooms), he switches on the light with water still dripping... You don't have to ride a motorbike for danger in Thailand!

Monday July 21st

Well it's July again, somehow a year has gone past without updating the site. Even my levels of laziness have limits... so here we go, people are still reading so time to add to the blog...

By the time you read this there might be some stuff filling in the gaps and also for the pictures of the first trip, you can see what I've done on the updates page.

Chaing Mai is my permanent base now, though staying with the free monthly transit visas. While I've been sorting things out here I've just done the monthly trips up to Burma, and the next one will be Chiang Khong for Laos like last year, but after that I'm going to be more adventurous. One of the early trips will be to head to China. It's been laziness rather than SARS that's stopped me from going there, I mean there was less chance of getting it than winning the lottery. I can understand the psychology on that one as everyone seems to think they've a good chance of winning the lottery...

The best way is to work in (or for) England and spend the money here!

I've learnt enough Thai words to get me by. My girlfriend last year, Om, was perfectly fluent in English so I hardly learnt any Thai. This year I've had to learn more to get by, but I can see my progress levelling off already.

It's a great time to come out here if anyone can, people have been put off by SARS and the doubling of visa charges on August 26 won't help for the long-stayers. I'm quite happy to carry on with the free visas each month and do plenty of travelling, but the government won't be helping the low tourism numbers. The idea I think is to reduce corruption, well that was their excuse for doubling the speeding ticket fines! Immigration will be happy.

I hear it's still important to know the right people in times of trouble. Apparently a friend knows the local head of police, which shall we say is a lot more useful than in England... This person observed in his more reckless (sampling things from the hill tribes) days how all his friends ended up in prison and somehow he was left off the list.

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