KOH KOOD (KUT)………………

I am now on the truly beautiful island of Koh Kood, sometimes known as Koh Kut…………..it is so quiet and chilled, this must be one of the few Thai islands to have retained this degree of tranquillity; it really is heavenly…………I am staying in a beautiful hotel “Horizon Resort” that is built on a rocky headland overlooking a magnificent bay…….it consists of just 20 detached bungalows, scattered around the huge grounds……………all photos in this post are taken from the hotel

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.15.20

Above and below……….early morning view from the balcony of my bungalow

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.16.34

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.15.37

Above……….my bungalow, centre………….

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.12.57

Above, top right, the hotel restaurant where you enjoy breakfast and any other meals that you choose to……………

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.07.43

Above and below……….views in different directions from the restaurant……………..

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.21.18

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 12.06.47

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.07.18

Above………table No 6, my chosen table for lunch yesterday; just waiting for somtum jae and a freezing glass of white wine to be plonked on its surface…………..ekekekekeke

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.14.21

Above………taken using the “Panorama” feature of my camera………which I am not a great fan of, but it does offer a sense of perspective to the wonderfully  huge bay……….

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.08.08

 

Above and below…………my private bathing and swimming platform………….oh, stop it will you, seriously, stop it !!!!!

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.10.04

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.12.31

Above……………..not sure what he is, but he stands on a rock near my bathing platform every afternoon………….and below, the hotel’s massage room………..full one hour oil massage 400 Baht (£7.65)   …………….. and she is excellent………..

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.14.57

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 13.20.36

 

oooops………nearly forgot, one aspect of the headland on which the hotel is built faces west, so we get to view the sunset everyday……………….

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 13.20.51

TRAT TO KOH KOOD…………….

On Sunday I took the ferry from Laem Sok Pier, near Trat to the island of Koh Kood, sometimes referred to as Koh Kut; I used a company called KohKut Express, and they provide a pick-up service from your hotel in Trat, which takes about 30 minutes, to the pier for the 12.30 sailing, which takes 90 minutes…………….. the pick-up is by a Songthaew, which is a pick-up truck with 2 bench seats in the back, and is a very common form of “taxi’ in Thailand…………the company provides a shuttle from the landing stage in Koh Kood to your hotel on the island and both of these services are included in the price of your ferry ticket, which at 350 Baht (£6.80) is very good value for an excellent service……………

This caveat is mainly for the benefit of Malcolm and Linda, who will be using this company to go to Koh Kood in January; when you book with KohKut Express, the ticket informs you that if you require a pick up from an hotel in Trat, you must call them on a provided number between 10.45 and 11.15, to confirm the location of your pick-up, which will be circa 11.30……..fine, I bought a Thai SIM for my iPhone on arrival at BKK airport, which is 0066(0)813532796………in case anyone needs it, so to play it safe, I called the number at 10.10 and got through to a voice mail, fine, I thought, I will try again at 10.45 as instructed; ten minutes later at 10.20, I opened my hotel room door in response to a knock, to find the pick-up driver there………fortunately I had taken both breakfast and a shower and was more or less ready; I indicated a couple of minutes to him and his body language replied “no problem”………but you would not want to find yourself in this situation still needing half an hour to get ready……………

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 01.22.01

 

In the Songthaew on the way to Laem Sok pier……………..

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 01.22.28

 

Above………..the pier at Laem Sok; many places in Thailand have very shallow water, with a gentle slope into the sea for hundreds of metres …………..Laem Sok is no exception, which has necessitated the pier to be built at more than 500 metres in length, to accommodate the draught (depth between waterline and bottom of hull) of any reasonably sized vessel, but, don’t worry they shuttle you to the end of the pier by Songthaew…… …………..it is the reason that you see “long-tail” boats everywhere in Thailand, allowing them to operate in very shallow water………….

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 01.23.24

 

Above………ferry ticket that you receive at Laem Sok in exchange for your online booking (below)

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 01.29.55

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 01.23.43

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 01.23.55

Above ………….the modern ferry from Laem Sok to Koh Kut, and below the 126 seat cabin complete with fans, life-jackets and a toilet at the rear…………..

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 01.23.10

BANGKOK TO TRAT

I have just traveled from Bangkok to Trat to stay overnight before taking the ferry to Koh Kood, or Koh Kut as it sometimes called; I made the journey by bus using Chrodchai Tour, a company that operates from Bangkok’s eastern bus terminal (Ekkami) to the bus terminal in Trat…….. Ekkami bus station is situated 50 metres from Ekkami Skytrain station so it is very easy to get to.

The bus had comfortable seats, air-con, an on-board toilet which was clean and disinfected, and the one-way ticket cost 265 Baht (£5.00) which I booked a day in advance by going to the bus station, which I believe is the only way to buy an advance ticket…….. because I was staying overnight in Trat, I was not under any time-frame pressure, as a consequence of which I booked the 11.30 bus, which was not full………

The bus left at 11.40 and we made 8 pick-up stops on the way, and somewhere in the twenties, I lost count of the number of drop-offs; but despite making more stops than the H37 from Hounslow bus garage to Peckham Rye, we arrived at Trat exactly five and a half hours later……..

On several previous occasions, I have used a mini van service from Ekkami on my way to Koh Chang; their drivers (all of them) drive like demented, partially sighted ambulance drivers on an emergency call, only to then stop for half an hour at a petrol station with a large store where you are supposed to shop, in return for which the driver receives some form of commission, a free lunch or whatever (when all you want to do is stop for five minutes to point percy at the porcelain)……….. so if you are just going to Trat and don’t need to catch an early ferry to Koh Chang, this bus does not take much longer, is very comfortable and you negate the ordeal of putting your life into the hands of some incredulous, maniacal, wannabe Tornado pilot…………
I had pre-booked 1 night at the SA hotel in Trat and I arrived there at 17.30 where I found the most unfriendly welcome that I have ever received in extensive travels in south east Asia; at the reception desk I offered my well practised “Sawadee Krub” accompanied by a friendly smile, when the receptionist finally turned to look at me, she gave me the kind of stare that I think has only ever been witnessed before by serial killers, peadophiles or traffic wardens, and having been none of these, I at least discovered a new experience……….she did not utter a single word, she just looked at my printed reservation and slammed the key for room 511 down on the counter…………..as for the Hotel, it does what it says on the tin; most people only stay for one night, using Trat as a springboard for a visit to Koh Kood or Koh Mak the following day………..the room was large and clean as was the bathroom and the new (2011) air-con unit worked quietly and efficiently, so for 500 Baht (£9.50) it suited. The hotel is well situated very near the centre of Trat and a short walk to the wonderful night market, where I went in the evening ………….hundreds of stalls bursting with colour and vibrancy accompanied by the usual cacophony of banter, as locals negotiated for the mostly takeaway food of all descriptions; the market opens up over to one side with stalls that have tables and chairs, where I sat and ate some wonderfully delicious and cheap food, pak boong fai dang (morning glory) and kapow gai sap (chicken chop chop)………….. and drank a nice cold bottle of Chang beer………..

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 09.40.54

 

Above……….Ekkami bus station in the Eastern suburbs of Bangkok………and below, my air-con bus to Trat……..

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 09.40.36

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 09.43.25

When I arrived in Trat, there was a great storm raging and some beautiful sunshine……….and you all know the consequences of that combination……

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 09.41.15

 

Above and below, the night market in Trat…………

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 09.44.44

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 09.41.34

Above, I spotted this lovely little bottom, well yes, two actually, but the one I’m referring to belongs to the little dog and is protruding from the floor-pan of the scooter……………

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 09.42.22

Above and below, this is him the little scallywag……….I shall never forgive him, he completely distracted me from the other lovely little bottom…………ekekekekekeke

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 09.46.02

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 09.45.39

 

Above………the food stall in the night market where I decided to eat……….and below, dinner and a cold bottle of Chang…………..the good decision making is on a roll……..

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 09.42.46

 

 

 

 

Back On The Road Again

Well, here I am back in Bangkok, the capital city of La La Land, after the usual tedium that is the customary accompaniment for any 12 hour flight; the tedium amplified this time by an early morning email from British Airways, informing me that my 15.40 flight had beed delayed until 19.00, but requesting me to arrive at terminal 5 at the original time because they would endeavour to bring the delay forward………….at 19.37 the big bird trundled down runway 2 into the prevailing west wind, weighed down by a full payload of passengers, luggage and aviation fuel; and after what seemed an eternity, we rose slowly from the tarmac and started to bank into a 180 degree turn as we climbed towards cruising altitude and headed due east……………….next time someone tells me they love flying, I will apply to have them sectioned under the mental health act.

Yesterday afternoon after I had checked into my hotel, I took a walk to the local Kasikorn bank to pay some cash into my Thai bank account and have a quick look around the shops………….this only involved a 10 minute walk, but it is 32 degrees celsius here and until you acclimatise, the high humidity is a killer, so by the time that I reached the air-conditioned sanctuary of the Siam Paragon shopping mall, I was sweating like a footballer taking a spelling test…………

Today I have been to Ekkami bus station to book a ticket for the 5 hour journey to Trat tomorrow, where I will stay for one night before taking a ferry to the island of Koh Kood…………..

Today I used the BTS Skytrain to go to Ekkami and then back to the Siam Paragon shopping mall………..it is not a huge network covering all of Bangkok, but it has been very cleverly designed to go to a lot of essential locations, like bus terminals and land based train stations (oh, and all the best shopping Mall’s………..heheheheeh)

I have friends on Facebook that do not follow my blog and friends that follow my blog that are not on Facebook, so this is a one-off apology for those of you that will see duplications of posts to both …………

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 14.35.35

 

Above…………..the Skytrain walkway, above which is the elevated concrete section that carries the Skytrain track………..and below, my train arriving

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 14.34.17

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 14.38.13

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 14.36.21

 

Above and below…………tickets are easy to buy for this wonderfully efficient, air-conditioned service…………….there is an English language button on all machines and if you cannot read English or Thai script, just look over someones shoulder that knows what they are doing………………

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 14.37.10

Laos……………

Having travelled quite extensively in Thailand and Vietnam and to a lesser extent in Cambodia, it becomes immediately obvious on entering Laos, that it is a poor relation to these other southeast Asian countries; this difference is perhaps more pronounced crossing from Thailand as I did, where the infrastructure of the country is far more advanced………….The quality of the roads in Laos are not as good and unlike Thailand they do not have any rubbish collection system, so you notice a lot of garbage strewn by the side of many roads in this beautiful country………………….

Laos is home to only 7 million people (approx.)  but despite having such a relatively small population, a third of them live below the official UN poverty line, which is defined by those living on less than US $ 1.25 per day (75p)………..there are many different ethnic groups including a lot of Vietnamese that have migrated across the country’s eastern border with Vietnam……………..

The Vietnamese in Laos are immediately recognisable by their hats, which are worn universally by all Vietnamese, almost like some kind of symbolic badge of national identification……..

Frogs for sale in a roadside market…………

I watched her selling some and she sells them by weight, making sure that none of them are jumping in the air at the time of reading the scale…………..

……….a few stalls along, and some cooked ones, on a stick………..I’d rather have a raspberry mivi……………..

above and below…………….another of the waterfalls that we visited………….

These girls were flagging down all vehicles……………..they were collecting for the building of a new temple for their village…………..

 

above and below………….the ancient temples of Vatphu; constructed of stone and of Khmer architecture, they bear a resemblance to the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia………although not as vast and impressive as Angkor Wat, I found visiting them a lot more satisfying because they were free of the thousands of tourists that seem to be omnipresent at the vast complex in Cambodia…………

 

above and below…………more waterfalls, and although the many falls that we visited were not on the Mekong, with the exception of the falls at Khone Phapheng on my previous posting, they were all very beautiful and spectacular in their own right…………..

 

above and below ………….families from 2 different ethnic groups in their traditional costumes……………………

Children learn to mimic at such a young age………..the 2 young girls above have obviously been watching the ridiculous poses that teenage girls in Laos (and Thailand) strike in an attempt to look provocative in photographs………….

above and below…………….no such posing issues here………….

I saw this wonderful bamboo growing by the side of the road and immediately wanted to build a business empire making furniture from it……………..

On one of the large islands on the Mekong that we visited, Yada noticed a little, one room school…………so naturally, being a school teacher and speaking Lao, she had to go in and have a chat with the teacher, who, like all the kids was wonderfully friendly and laughing and smiling……………until I took my camera from my pocket, when, like most people in this region, they all put on their “passport photo” faces

 

Yada and our tour guide buying some fruit at the roadside…………..

…………from this Vietnamese lady…………..

Buddha ………….between the roots of two old trees………..

above and below…………in the grounds of an old temple by the side of the Mekong

Huge Buddha at another temple………..note the diminutive red shirted figure in the foreground…………………

Above and below…………..a small shop in Pakse is run by a charity for the survivors of human trafficking and their families……………they have 2 looms in the shop where they weave beautiful scarves and other garments from silk and wool; and where they also teach survivors and underprivileged youngsters how to weave…………..if any of you are ever in Pakse please support this wonderful enterprise…………… Dream Weaver is their label….

 

Below…………..we happened to be in Laos for Songkran (Lao New Year) which is the biggest festival of the year in Laos; officially 3 days, the first being the last day of the old year,  the second being “the day of no day” falling into neither the old or new year, and the last day being the first day of the new year……………traditionally celebrated by the respectful pouring of water (usually perfumed with fresh flowers) over elders and monks for the blessing of a long and healthy life, before escalating into a manic free-for-all throwing of water over anyone you can……….

above and below…………….a lot of the youngsters in Laos, like these ones celebrating in Pakse, have modernised the throwing of water by using shaving foam, flour and apparently, whipped cream !! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FLOWERS AND BLOSSOMS OF LAOS………………………………………

Friends on Facebook will have already seen most of these pics, but for those of you that haven’t…………….………every country in southeast Asia has a national flower, and in Laos it is the frangipani…………but they also have many other stunning flowers and blossoms that you might like to take a peek at…………

………..Lotus

……….spot the red ants………………

This frangipani was on the banks of the Mekong, which seemed rather fitting for the national flower of Laos……………….

I just love the depth of colour of these climbing flowers, and the stark contrast with their green surrounding………………….

spot the butterfly………………………….

blue hydrangea, I believe…………..well it’s blue ………….

Orchids ??

Christmas thingamajigs !!

 

 

Overland From Thailand Into Laos……… (Lao People’s Democratic Republic)

I made the journey by car with Yada, her Mum, her younger sister Kak and her auntie (her Mum’s sister from Sakon Nakhon) to Pakse in Laos; we drove south to Ubon Ratchathani, in Thailand, where we had booked a taxi and a driver for a 6 day trip into Laos……….taking a Thai registered car into Laos is a logistical nightmare, and in the case of Yada’s car, impossible. You cannot take any car into Laos without full documentation to show that there is no outstanding debt on the vehicle, and Yada still has 2 years finance on her car, so the taxi and driver was our only option, an option, I might add, that we are now pleased that we were forced into…………..

Last winter I spent 3 hours crossing the border from Thailand into Cambodia at Aranyaprathet /  Poipet, so I was anticipating another protracted procedure at the Thai / Laos border at Chong Mek; fortunately, my fears were unfounded…………..firstly, this border crossing is nowhere near as popular and consequently as busy as the Thai / Cambodia border which is the gateway to Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor Wat, and secondly, I had Yada to negotiate the whole palaver for me, she speaks fluent Lao and consequently it was all very swift and painless……………..

This lady was just crossing into Laos for a day’s trading…………..

 

Lovely old motorbike and sidecar combo in Pakse……………..

Above and below……..this young rascal had been stationed outside the toilets at a petrol station, it is apparently the norm in Laos and he was charging 1000 kip (7 pence)………..

above and below………….the freshly pressed juice from sugarcane is very popular in Laos and stalls like these are everywhere………..I tried it once in India where it is also very popular, but it is a tad too sweet for my liking……………

……….some beautifully crafted offerings left outside a temple……………….

 

………..above and below…………..we made a day trip to the waterfalls at Khone Phapheng which are situated in southern Laos, very close to the border with Cambodia; the largest waterfalls in south east Asia and the widest waterfalls in the world, comprising of 6 main falls several kilometres wide……………..any photographs other than ariel, can never begin to capture the power and majesty of this spectacular place, as the full force of the mighty Mekong river cascades and thunders over the rock formations…………..

…………these magnificent waterfalls are the main reason that the Mekong river is not fully navigable into China…………..so they have been a key factor in preserving the integrity of the river and have been a massive help in protecting the river from the inevitable industrialisation that would have taken place many years ago if the falls were not there………….there remain some places on our planet where mother nature still holds sway……………..

Although Laos is a land-locked country, the Mekong provides it with an archipelago of over 4,000 islands, known as Si Phan Don which are situated in the river stretching northwards for about 50 kilometres from the  Khone Phapheng falls………..here the river splits into many channels and tributaries around the islands and sandbars, widening to 14 kilometres in places………….

We took a boat trip on this part of the Mekong around some of the islands……….some of the larger islands are inhabited, but the vast majority are not, and provide a wonderful refuge for the great diversity of wildlife that inhabit this huge pulsating artery that is the lifeblood for millions of people, fish and animals……………..this part of the Mekong is home to the rare freshwater species of dolphin known as the Irrawaddy dolphin…………we were not fortunate enough to see any of them (on this occasion)

Above…………one of the many restaurants along the banks or as in this case, in the river Mekong at Pakse…………………….and below, Yada and I on a rooftop just before a sunset dinner at the restaurant in the 3 pics below…………..

 

…………..above………….sunset by the side of the Mekong at Pakse

Khanom to Sakon Nakhon………………

I left Khanom on 1st April to drive Yada’s car north to Sakon Nakhon in the north east of Thailand; with her Mum and Dad and younger sister Kak in the car, it was a leisurely drive that took us 3 days………….we had no reason to hurry and Yada and her Mum in particular  like to stop and visit temples along the way………….and there are an incredible number of temples in Thailand, so, much as I enjoy visiting them myself, I was grateful that they were reasonably selective……………..

Above and below, at this temple there were 2 huge statues, a perspective of their size can be gained by the 2 people in close proximity to the statue above…………..

Above ………….Yada beneath some pink frangipani blossoms………and below, orchids growing wild at the side of the road……………..

 

Above and below……….this hill top temple was reached by following road signs to the cable car, which was in fact a funicular, but the description was close enough………………..

Above………..we were greeted by this notice when we clambered out of the funicular carriage at the summit…………and it was not a hollow warning, there were scores of monkeys everywhere, and some, like the adolescent male below, were quite aggressive…

We stopped at this roadside stall to buy some of these lotus flower stems………mmmm, not very pretty I thought, then Yada explained that they were for us to eat…….I remained unconvinced until she started popping the pods out of the “shower heads” and removing the outer skins for us to eat………… another delicious snack…………..

………….. above…………the lovely smiling lady at the Lotus stall…………….and below, Yada’s younger sister wanted to stop at this place called “The Swiss Sheep Farm”…..a friend had told her that they had black sheep there…………….

They did not, much to Kak’s disappointment, have any black sheep, but they did have a lovely black swan, below………….

Below………….they also had a couple of swings and I managed to get a reluctant Yada to pose on one of them…………….as always, sans make up, and considering that she cannot afford to spend much of her salary on clothes, she seems to find some very pretty little dresses…………

Lazy Days……………..Hazy Daze

The leisurely and extremely lazy days that I have been spending in Khanom are drawing to an end; next week I will be leaving here with Yada and her family to drive her car to Sakon Nakhon in the north east of Thailand………..we will then make a trip of 5 or 6 days into Laos before I return to Bangkok on 16th April for my return flight to Heathrow the following day ……………

I have spent many days swimming and lazing around the pool of the Rachakiri hotel: I usually take fruit there for lunch, that Yada kindly supplies me with………..above, one of the beautiful and very sweet pineapples that she bought for me, and below an even sweeter water melon………..one of the additional pleasures is having the time to prepare the fruit that you are about to enjoy; though it must be said that I exhausted all my artistic flair on the pineapple, so my preparation and subsequent consumption of the watermelon was a far more rudimentary affair…………

 

Above, a lovely small temple that is near my hotel………..and below, it’s crematorium……

 

The lovely pool and sun terrace are never busy, but today I had the whole place to myself…………..well, almost…………see below

This little fellow makes an appearance everyday, climbing up to the terrace from the rocks below……………..today, however, we had a much larger intruder as you can see below

………..at least 4 foot long, I knew he had caught me off guard when I realised that I was standing on my sun-bed……………..with the left side of my brain telling me that they only eat insects and the right side of my brain asking me why then does he appear to have about two hundred teeth !!

………..this little fellow didn’t hang around either, he was straight over the edge of the terrace…………………

My good buddy Nick posted this photo of a tee-shirt on his Facebook timeline, and I’m sure that he won’t mind me sharing it with my blog audience…………as I said to Nick at the  time, much as I love it, I would never have the courage to wear it……………..based on the sweeping generalisation that most football fans, unlike rugby fans, do not have a sense of humour, when it comes to their sacred sport

 

Above and below…………………you know that you have reached chill factor ten, when you lie on your sun-bed and, not content with gazing at cloud formations, you start photographing them

He turns Imagine up loud…………he knows that face in the cloud    (^∆^)

oh, and you get quite excited when you find a frangipani tree with pink blossoms (most of them are white – see below)

and, above and below……you know you have too much time on your hands when you start playing with the settings on your compact camera, trying to create depth of field bokeh, just to see if you can achieve it with a compact…………….you can (*∆^)