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1. Haven't left yet | 2. Fiji, New Zealand | 3. Australia | 4. Australia, Indonesia | 5. Indonesia, Malaysia | 6. Thailand | 7. Cambodia, Vietnam | 8. China, Hong Kong | 9. Macau, China | 10. Tibet, Pakistan | 11. India, Nepal | 12. Nepal | 13. India | 14. Sri Lanka, India | 15. Pakistan, Iran, Turkey | 16. Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt | 17. Grand Finale

It's Thursday, 24th October 96, Bangkok, Thailand.

After KL (Kuala Lumpur), headed up the middle of Malaysia to Kuala Lipis, a place where you can go jungle trekking which I did for a couple of days. Wasn't lucky enough to see elephants but I did see the next best thing, elephant dung! It's big, no danger of stepping on it by accident.

On then to Kota Bharu at the very north of Malaysia and it's most Muslim town, not a bad old place. Secured a Thai visa here (US$13) and headed into Thailand. First decent destination there were the beaches north of Krabi, one of which is said to be Thailand's most beautiful (Phra Nang beach). It was quite a spectacular place with sheer limestone rocks rising up all over the place. Water was warm, emerald green, the usual paradise stuff. Was lucky enough to meet a couple of rock climbers who took me up on a climb on one of the cliff faces.

Stayed in the town of Krabi itself for a couple of nights. Southern Thailand was in the midst of a 9-day vegetarian festival at this time and there were lots of parades. Weird thing about this was the "self-mortification" going on, lots of young men and women who were in trances and had various things stuck through their cheeks. From lengths of barbed wire to massive skewers and tree branches, it made for a bizarre and bloody sight. Whatever turns you on!

Next stop was Phang-Nga where I did an overnight boat tour of the nearby bay, a beautiful place. Stayed in a Muslim village which was situated in the middle of the bay, perched on stilts. The seafood was good here natch.

Spent a little time in Phuket before a 17 hour bus journey to Bangkok where I've been for the last few days. Interesting city with lots to see, tons of temples, an impressive snake farm. Should be going to a Thai boxing match tonight and then touring the north of Thailand for a month or so and should make it back here again before I fly to Cambodia. After that my next Internet connection might not be until Hong Kong.

So long ....

Nov 28, 1996 Update

From Bangkok I headed to the north to tour around there for a few weeks. The stops along the way were: Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai, Mae Sot, Lampang, Chiang Mai, Pai, Mae Hong Son, Soppong, Fang, Tha Ton, Chiang Rai, Mae Salong, Mae Sai, Nan, Phrae & Kamphaeng Phet.

Highlights included the temple ruins at Sukhothai which were quite impressive. There was a festival here a week ago, Loy Krathong, the festival of candles and lights, and I saw a great sound and light show at the ruins followed by fireworks, really good.

The north has some beautiful hill scenery and is famous for its hill-tribe inhabitants who typically wear very colourful traditional dress and live in thatched villages. The popular thing to do in this area is to go on a guided 2/3/4 day trek to some villages which also includes bamboo rafting and an elephant ride. I didn't bother with this, instead I did day walks through local villages from where I was staying and in Soppong I hooked up with a Hungarian dude (hey Laszlo) and we did a 2-day trek through the hills on our own (cost us all of $3 each for the 2 days!). We stayed overnight in the Lisu village of Ban Na-On. The house we were put up in seemed to be the meeting place of the local opium addicts and I remember going to sleep that night surrounded by the eerie sound of opium being smoked! We got lost on the trail to the next village in the morning and by chance came across a hidden poppy field which we supposed was the village's source of opium. Trying to find the correct trail we bumped into a gun-toting villager and he pointed us in the right direction. He knew we'd found the field but he didn't seem too bothered (well, he didn't shoot us so I assume he wasn't that upset!).

The village of Mae Salong was quite interesting, beautifully situated on a ridge in the hills and set up originally by the Chinese Kuomintang army fleeing the communists 50 years ago. The main language spoken is Chinese but there is such a mix of people here that the place has a Buddhist temple, a Moslem mosque and a Christian church. The local hill-tribe women, Akhas, wear really interesting silver headdresses which, apparently, they virtually never remove.

Bangkok was also another highlight, there is a lot to see and do in this town (yah, yah, I know what you're thinking - did you know the name Bangkok comes from the Thai 'Bang Makok'? No, that is not an order). Got to see the Grand Palace at last, spectacular. Other unmissable temples are Wat Pho with it's colossal reclining Buddha image and The Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun. The phallus shrine in the grounds of the Hilton is also worth a look. My guidebook said the shrine was filled with massive wooden phalluses but, I dunno, they looked normal size to me!! :-) Anyway, I've seen so many temples and Buddha images in the last month or so that I'm virtually templed out!

No tour of Bangkok would be complete without visiting one of its famous redlight districts of which Patpong is the most popular among tourists. I only went there for the purposes of research of course, so I could report on the area in these pages. I'm sure you all believe me. Well, we (friend Andy and I) first visited the Firecat club where we saw some interesting, er, demonstrations which included: ping pong ball throwing, balloon bursting with a blowpipe and darts, extinguishing birthday cake candles with the same blowpipe, the extraction of a chain of two-inch needles, the extraction of a chain of a dozen (demonstrably sharp!) razor blades, cigarette smoking, a fire show and an interesting all-female show involving a giant squid!! I'll let your imaginations fill in the extra details as to how the latter feats were performed. Yes, very interesting! The Blue Sky bar featured a non-stop Thai boxing show and the bar was also notable for being frequented by bunches of "katoeys", very attractive transsexuals and transvestites. Of course there were also lots of other clubs with such subtle names as Pussy Galore, Lipstick and Super Pussy bar. The club with the best-looking show seemed to be King's Corner but half the roster of females turned out to be men, quite an eye-opener! The Crocodile Dundee test would be of little use in this place, the surgery involved here is just too advanced. Phew, yes, Patpong, quite an experience!

I was never a big fan of coconut before coming here but it's the way to go: my favourite drink here is a coconut shake, favourite meal green chicken curry in coconut milk and fave confectionery coconut cake.

That's all for now, next country should be Laos for a few weeks, might actually be there for Christmas. Yah, that'll be a happenin' place around then, NOT!

Mike, Bangkok, 28th November, 1996

1. Haven't left yet | 2. Fiji, New Zealand | 3. Australia | 4. Australia, Indonesia | 5. Indonesia, Malaysia | 6. Thailand | 7. Cambodia, Vietnam | 8. China, Hong Kong | 9. Macau, China | 10. Tibet, Pakistan | 11. India, Nepal | 12. Nepal | 13. India | 14. Sri Lanka, India | 15. Pakistan, Iran, Turkey | 16. Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt | 17. Grand Finale

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