A little sceal from SE Asia, pictures to follow...
My 38th birthday, I mean my 30th this year was truly international! This was our first experience of staying in a hostel and we couldn’t have chosen better. The FWD Hostel is brand new and the owners are full of energy, it’s obvious they are fresh to the game. They always seemed to be ten steps ahead. I came back from my birthday bash only to find a little birthday present and card on my bed, from wait for it, Wan, Phon and Win or Thai’s answer to the Brady Bunch!
The hostel itself is a very clever design with simple wooden fabricated cubicles in the shape of a right angle, sufficient enough to maintain a decent degree of privacy. Phon, the Bean an Ti of the establishment is inclined to step into your space. One morning, she with her cleaner in toe, were feverishly searching the dormitory. It was a major operation that involved climbing up on the resting/ sleeping apparatus with torches. Not exactly what you hope to awaken to, after a night on the tiles….. I couldn’t help but question their actions! The response was a blend of animated moves and broken statements in English. The fact is that they were on the prowl for bugs. Seemingly in the initial weeks after opening the hostel they encountered an awkward Polish guest. She claimed that she had been bitten by bugs while at the hostel. She bawled, kicked and screamed and couldn’t be calmed no matter how Phon tried to comfort her- “quote, unquote!!!” She lodged herself in protest at reception, and shared her ordeal with all the incoming guests. Now poor Phon by her own admission is paranoid and wants to guarantee each guest the best of care. Thai hostesses generally are there to serve and there is no denying it they do it, whole heartedly. Having stayed there three nights we’d have to say that the hostel deserves its well -earned status as the best hostel in Trip Advisor for 2012. It’s definitely one for future reference, for anyone touching down on this side of the world.
The upside of hostel sitting is that you meet so many travellers who are genuinely open and up for anything. It’s an ideal way to share traveller information, the pitfalls too- like the German tourist, Eva who had spent two weeks in an elephant sanctuary somewhere outside Chiang Mai. She spoke of the cruelty inflicted on these animals who are beaten into submission and all for entertainment. It did make us think. We met extremely decent interesting backpackers, all having left behind their lives temporarily in search of sunshine and a spot of good old adventure!!! Jeff with the friendly smile was from LA. At the prime age of 23 he had recently qualified into the financial world but decided he needed to get away and explore. Oh yeah and when he returns he hopes to settle in San Francisco. I told him I was otherwise hooked but I’d keep him posted! He was a staunch Obama fan and was “super excited” on his re-election. In the best of spirits we celebrated Barack’s victory, in a Reggae bar on the third floor. Obama never made it! Not that there was a Marley tune to be had. Chiang Mai citizens have a soft spot for such liberal and bold characters like Che Guevara- they should consider twinning with Kilkee!!. Harry and Sian from Sussex two great people and Dan a sound fellow Brit came along for the night and we had such a blast. What a nice way to celebrate my birthday, peering out over the edge of a bar which had a view of the night bazzar. Not bad, indeed…
So hear is the deal on these travels, we like to accommodate each other’s interests as a pair of mature adults would naturally do! Richie decided that mountain biking would be great exercise and he opted for the beginner’s route, bless him. Now I like a challenge but I had a sneaking suspicion when I read the 50 pages of regulations that this sporting endeavour might not be so straight forward. To Richie’s credit he told me that the main thing was to pull the right brake and I’d be fine. Not so simple. The course turned out to be all downhill ,a little akin to the black stage on a skiing course, springs to mind. In admirable fashion as only the Crowe would, I managed to rise into action half way through the course and cycle or should I say hurtle through the air! It was in a downhill manoeuvre that I collided with the side of the ditch, dust rising and I lifting myself from the ground in humiliation, all bones intact. Your man later, tells me that it was far from a beginner’s track and that a few others had crashed too. Not to draw attention to myself but my body has decided to exhibit some rather beautiful bruises, the size of the continent of Africa…..so my profile this week Doctor is- I am smathered in bruises with the characteristic mosquito marks from our expedition in the mountains, having just faded. Is there no rest for the wicked?! Suffice to say, it probably is something I would do again, having learned a trick or two from the experience.
Royal images are everywhere. Be it in massage parlours, private homes, restaurants or on bill boards on main roads- caught only at a glimpse when you are the pillion passenger of a rather novice driver of a moped , who thinks he is Joey Dunlop. I’d like to point out that you do not have to produce your driving license to sign your death warrant. Traffic lights serve as a suggestion to either stop or go, depending on your mood. DRIVERS ARE CRAZY! Now where was I, yes, the imposing portraits highlight the importance of the royal family in the Thai culture. Equally, there are little altars dedicated to Buddha adorned with golden and white flowers and burning incense everywhere. This dedication and sense of respect epitomises the culture of this race.
This wonderful country full of contradictions in a way is a great place. It holds strongly to tradition. Rarely do women frequent bars and if so, tend to be there to “work”. The social distinction is difficult to recognise but what we have learned is this, that the more coloured you are the lower you reside in the pecking order. Hence, the compulsion of the Thai woman to maintain or should I say achieve white skin; doing everything in their power to achieve the desired white effect from using chalk substances to wearing balaclavas on their mopeds. Those from the country are perceived to be at a ‘disadvantage’. I know it doesn’t sit comfortably with my thought line.
So now we have achieved our visa pass into Laos, we are ready to take the slow boat to Luang Prabang…we will keep you posted- Motilum and Arret and plastic bags are somewhere in the backpacks…. This gem of a city is recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site due to its striking French colonial architecture. Tony Honan, take note!! We’ll regroup later and tell you more… have to really go now my knight in shining armour is on his hands and knees over the toilet bowl and it ‘aint pretty believe me…… Tonight’s accommodation- The Friend Ship GC is not of a star rating and definitely not a place you want to feel queasy in. Trish Russell our dear advising medical consultant, you never mentioned that those Malaria tablets would cause us ill….. more penance- now 3 stone lighter…..