Thoughts of a Flowertot…Thailand (with Compact Camera Snaps)

(Part of a series of articles by Fi trawling the archives for photos taken on the tiny compact camera way back when).

Bangkok grew on me slowly and it had plenty opportunity to as we ended up staying there 4 times. Our first impression of the city was with V and Colin after enduring a long, sweaty, plain uncomfortable border crossing from Cambodia. We arrived late and checked into a depressing windowless room with cockroaches and damp. We wandered out around Khaosan Road only to find’ Blackpool meets Benidorm’ trash . The kind of place that gives foreigners a bad name. The second time was no better so we nursed ourselves with cocktails. By our fourth visit – enforced in transit to the Philippines – we treated ourselves to a swankier hotel (maybe £5 more a night!) and saw a nicer side of the city. Anywhere with a Ravi’s Tailors is sure to be a winner? We also met some nice poochies who we enticed with leftover meat & sausages from our dinner & breakfast. Happy poochie, happy oldsnfi !:

Ok, so Kanchanaburi.  You’ve quite possibly heard of the ‘bridge over the river kwai’ – well this is where it is. While I had heard of the bridge I am shocked to say that I knew nothing of the death railway and the hundreds of thousands of labourers and POW’s who died building it in WWII. The museum was interesting and pretty harrowing. But on a lighter note – for us at least – we were not visiting for this reason nor were we visiting to just stay in our fantastic pool – although it was pretty awesome – we were here to meet some wellyphants!

http://elephantsworld.org is a non-profit organization looking after retired elephants overworked in trekking camps and circuses and also elephants saved from mis-treatment. We went along on a volunteer basis for the day where you essentially work for the elephants rather than the other way round. The bonus being that this is a hands on experience where you wander around amongst the elephants throughout the day.  If there was one thing we learned it was that elephants like to eat, then eat some more, and some more & what-ever else is going.  Unsurprisingly for their size they are insatiable. We cooked up pumpkin rice balls – they were snaffled within minutes. A truck load of fruit arrived for what we assumed was maybe a week’s delivery – no this was just a mid afternoon snack. Munch, munch, munch, mnom, nomn, mmm! There’s nothing quite like having a greedy elephant trunk sniffling all over you searching for food. It was one of the most heart warming experiences I’ve had during the trip. After lunch we swam a few K’s down the river to cut down banana trees donated by a local farmer. Loaded up the truck and returned on a pile of leaves. Mnom, Mnom all immediately gone. More food please. Our final task of the day was bath time in the river giving us the opportunity to climb on the elephants for a cuddle & a good old scrub.  I shared an elephant with V that loved to dive bomb under the water!

We also saw the sad after effects of tusk removal by poachers with one poor elephant.  Pla – Ra had gone blind due to the infections caused following the removal. He was receiving daily treatment where the wounds were flushed with a detergent by a guy wearing what looked like a bug termination kit on his back. The hoses were used to insert into the wounds and a metal tubey- thing to remove the puss.  It must really hurt but also relieve the pressure of the infection as he sat there so still while they did this for him. Sadly I’ve just read that Pla-Ra died from his injuries a few weeks after our visit. Poor wellyphant!

After a seemingly endless journey strung-out over 24 hours, in a way that can only be done so badly as in Thailand, we arrived in Koh Phangan to meet Rob & Gilly. Yey, a few cocktails later & an afternoon of poolside laziness helped us to forget our woes & thus ensued a week of beaches, pools, booze & a belated b’day cake for Robbie.

With the exception of yet another shitty Thai transfer, our time in the islands was feeling less like travelling & more like a bloody lovely holiday with friends. We spent a little energy kayaking through the mangrove forests, the rest of our energy was concentrated on what we do best – relaxing, drinking, scoffing!  It was lovely to be able to spend some time with friends from home & brought us a slice of well needed reality for a while. Sadly, as the end of the week drew in we waved off Rob & Gilly – off to continue their travels in Malaysia and then V & Colin the following day – back off to blighty after a glorious 3 weeks with us. Suddenly it seemed very quiet! Not quite ready yet to roll back into the traveller lifestyle we spent a good few more days lounging around with a lovely couple from the UK, Anna & Jeremy, before heading back across the mainland and on to Koh Tao. I briefly considered hiring a scooter to explore the island but a quick test ride put paid to that idea – you know something’s wrong when a normally money-grabbing sales guy would rather see you safe & walking. Instead, I went for an adventure with Lucy the spotty-tongued wonder-dog from the nearby animal shelter. We had a lovely afternoon exploring and chasing crabs on the beach before I had to begrudgingly drop her off back.

I’d had reservations about Koh Tao but left with such a positive feel for the place. It is a divers haven, the excitement is infectious and it’s difficult to not fall into it. Learning to dive is a very trusting experience, or at least it was for me. There was a strange claustrophobic fear & fear of water up my nose & in my eyes but after 5 days Paul, Ariel & I were certified as Advanced Open Water divers. Laughably this means that we can dive without being accompanied by anyone grown up / knowledgeable / experienced hmm. 20 dives on I’m still not keen on the idea of me & Paul navigating our way around under the sea ha ha! See Paul’s earlier blog post for more info on our time in Koh Tao here.

Click the pics to see our Koh Tao gallery of underwater adventures and some fantastic friends we made along the way!