Sunday 28 July 2013

Sunday, last day of freedom. Location Lamai Beach, Koh Samui

July 28, 2013 I awoke early and had a walk along the beach. At this time the day was cool and the water felt warm. A solitary fisherman was casting his line from some rocks, joggers ran by and the local dogs lay there protecting their territory. The water was calm, the sky overcast, there was little or no wind and the sun had not yet risen to heat the air. Despite this it was warm and I built up a sweat walking along the sand which is quite soft underfoot.
At this time of day there is little open and I ended up in a bakery for a breakfast of omelet and a plate of fruit. Getting breakfast before study looks like it may need some forethought and preparation as the hotel does not include breakfast other than Tea and Coffee and some bread and a toaster. Later I took a longer walk and visited a nearby waterfall and a viewing platform part way up the nearby hills. It was a slow walk up the hill due to the heat and my lack of fitness. The view was not spectacular but worth the effort.

At the viewing platform I noticed a man coming across the valley on a flying fox. Until then I had not noticed the cables. After dismounting he came up to the platform and we talked for a while. It turned out that his family own the property and have an extensive section of the mountain side that they are turning into an adventure park. The flying fox was in process of being installed and he was testing the run. He took me up to see the start. At this point in time it is a series of cables bolted into the rock, but he explained that they were going to build launching and landing platforms and stairways to make the climb easier. I made my way back to the hotel and picked up a selection of fruit along the way that will become tomorrows breakfast. At lunch time I ventured out for a healthy meal and ended up having an excellent Green Papaya Salad at "Grill Bar". I asked for it spicy and they got the chilli just right not too hot to start with but by the end of it my lips and mouth were on fire, but not overly so.

After lunch I had a massage that was not very good. Despite saying no sex I spent the entire hour warding off the advances of my masseuse. Then it was time for a swim and I spent some time in the Ocean. Tick in the box I have swum in the Gulf of Thailand, both from Vietnam and Thailand sides.It was so hot that by the time I had walked back to the hotel, which is not far, I had to cool off in their pool.
In the evening we had our first function for the TEFL course. It was a social evening for us to get to know each other. We assembled at 7pm and walked to a nearby restaurant where we had a reserved area and an open bar. There was also a huge spread of finger food consisting of fairly typical Thai nibbles including Fish Cakes (Tod Mun Pla), Deep fried Prawns, "no name" - which is a vegetarian patty and a few others. Pretty good all up.
After that first night madness ensued and people were seen at various bars over the next few hours.
The Bludger behaved himself.

Saturday 27 July 2013

Ayutthaya to Koh Samui

In Koh Samui I will spend 2 weeks obtaining a TEFL/TESOL certificate. I have already done several hours of online training. The next 2 weeks are the practical side.
To get to Koh Samui at reasonable cost was a small challenge. A direct flight from Bangkok was more than I wanted to pay.
I packed and left my Hotel first thing in the morning. After a quick breakfast with PeaPa, consisting once more of Pork Noodle Soup, we walked to the ferry to cross the river to the train station. PeaPa had to work so we parted company there. The next available train was at 8:27am and the trip cost 11 baht, not even 50 cents. The timing was well within my schedule and I had a good buffer for possible delays.
The train arrived on time and I found a seat, sharing a booth of 4 with a Thai couple.
Images of Thailand: The ticket collector came by and punched my ticket. He then moved on, stopped, came back and spoke with the couple in the other seats. I could tell by the actions that he was telling them that I was heading for Don Muang airport and asking them to make sure that I got off at the right station.
I love those small unexpected acts of kindness.

As it happened the train was delayed one stop short of Don Muang and it was after 10am when I arrived at the Station. The airport was a short walk, basically on an overhead walkway across the tracks and main road to the terminal.
Checkin was quick and easy. My water bottle was removed at the security screening and I made my way to the departure lounge.
I was having flashbacks to a previous visit to Thailand. I have only used Don Muang airport once before on my first visit, all other entries have been through the new airport. But I had these strong flashbacks of a restaurant that I had eaten in and I am pretty sure that I ended up in the same departure lounge at gate 73.
It is spooky the way memory works. I could not have described these areas at all immediately prior to visiting them again.
My destination was Surat Thani. Surat Thani is on the coast of southern Thailand with nearby ferries to Koh Samui. The short flight was smooth and without incident. I scored a set of 3 seats to my self in the emergency exit row. I wished that I was 3 foot taller so that I could have used all that space.
The next part of the journey was to get to a ferry terminal. There are several. I did this with a bus/ferry combined ticket and I was led like a sheep to the terminal. All up that took about 2 hours from the airport to the ferry and cost 350 baht.
The ferry trip was nice. I love being on the ocean. Safety was a concern however. It was a car and passenger ferry a "roro" i.e. "roll on roll off" or "roll on roll over" as they got renamed after the Herald of Free Enterprise (google it). I could not see any life jackets, nor lifeboats and only a small number of life rafts that were so degraded I doubted their ability to stay afloat.
And I have to trust my life to that in an emergency?

Still the seas were calm and I was seated on the open deck with the better chance of survival.
For the record this was a 4 beer trip, was tempted to make it 5.
At Koh Samui I walked through the barrage of people offering taxis and hotels and called for a minibus driver who would share the van. By the time he had rounded up more passengers it was the overloaded ark with 13 passengers, driver and a pile of luggage. Never the less for only 200 baht I was delivered safely to my hotel.
Note for future TEFL participants: The Holiday Park Hotel is lovely, based in the heart of the party district of Lamai beach. Even though we are in budget rooms they are comfortable, clean and roomy. They are air conditioned, have a small safe and a bar fridge. All that you need for your stay. The staff are lovely, warm, friendly and helpful also.
First item on my agenda was to fill the fridge with fruit juice and beer. Job done, there is a 7/11 across the road (technically a Family Mart, but you know what I mean). Then it was into the pool. A minor concern there - insufficient sun beds.
And that means that this post will have to be finished later as I am just having a quiet beer in the hotel communal area and getting ready for dinner.
Dinner was at the Bikini Bar, on the beach. According to the advertising it is famed for "jerked" chicken and ribs. I have no idea. I had some spring rolls that transmogrified into Onion Rings as they had run out of Spring Rolls and a Tom Yum Goong, hot and spicy prawn soup.
Images of Thailand: Two young boys were having a rough and tumble in the sand. Their mother moved to another table and shared "a fag" (her words that I overheard) with another couple. The boys stopped playing and one sat near to meet. I was disgusted to see him spitting in the sand. He moved away and then started to spew. I have done similar after eating a meal and then exercising so I didn't think it too out of the ordinary. His mother was still "fagging on" totally oblivious. Eventually I decided that she should be told so I attracted her attention. There ensued about 30 seconds of motherly concern, the boy was pronounced OK and mother went back to her fags. Daughter took a photo, no doubt for facebook.
I am  honestly not sure whether this was good parenting or not.

The Bludger ate too much and has left no room for beer so has retired for the evening.

Friday 26 July 2013

Sights around Ayutthaya

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Ayutthaya is the distinctly shaped Tuk Tuks. Some of their owners take great pride in them and there is one generally waiting around the Ferry terminal called Batman. These three look to be new.
Tuk Tuk's lined up and ready for action.
Of course all good Tuk Tuks eventually need to go somewhere to retire. These have not moved in 12 months since I first came here.
A deserted and decaying building provides a background for some very artistic graffiti.

And it would seem that council workers are universal.

The Bludger is playing at photography.

Thursday 25 July 2013

I wish I could understand Thai

I spent the morning trying to organise a Thailand phone number with Internet for my Smartphone. Technically not difficult but being me I tried to find the best deal which turned out not to be too easy in Ayutthaya as I could not find a store for the major service providers. I wanted a post paid service to achieve better per MB rates. Foreigners cannot sign up to long term plans, unless they have a visa that allows a long term stay. But there are some short term plans that you can get. Too hard to explain to people what I wanted, I eventually gave in and got a prepaid service from a local shop. I have no idea if I got a good deal or not.
Later that afternoon I discovered a whole range of phone shops that probably could have got me a better deal. Such is life.
Setting up the phone was not easy as all the instructions were in Thai and I relied heavily on the daughter of my girlfriend and various others to help me out. But I now have internet and voice & text working. In places where there is no free wifi I can link the laptop to the phone and use it as an internet gateway.
In the process of the search I had a long walk around the streets which helped with my orientation and getting my bearings.
Breakfast was Duck Noodle Soup with a drink for 35 Baht and lunch Pad Thai, which was really nice, for the princely sum of 40 baht ($1.50). That made dinner which was 2 large beers (60 baht each), 1 small beer and a red chicken curry for 290 baht quite expensive.
Pad Thai - ผัดไทย

The Bludger had an early night as both he and gf were tired.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Bangkok to Ayutthaya

The included hotel breakfast was filling but a reminder that my stomach is still tender. I have since learned that I probably picked up this bug while visiting a friend in the Intensive Care Unit before leaving Adelaide. As my symptoms are relatively mild I will rely on a good strong stomach flora to see me through.
I completed module 10 of the TESOL course over breakfast, I had done the readings on the flight over. So that is pretty much complete, the last module is about finding a job, not academically important as the real test of that course is finding a job.
I was driven back to the airport and then made my way by train and Taxi to Hua Lumpong train station. Here I booked a ticket to Ayutthaya (15 baht) and had a bowl of noodles before proceeding.
My gf who had promised to meet me at the station failed to appear again so I made my way by foot and ferry (4 baht) to her residence. There I was greeted by her friends and family and PeaPa eventually turned up.
The rest of the day was spent catching up with people and dinner in the early evening where I enjoyed a really nice Fish in Black Pepper sauce and then later drinks. I renewed a lot of acquaintances and met some more locals. I notice that I am now being treated as more than a tourist and gaining lots of approval from people as I am now considered the partner of one of the popular locals.
The Bludger had a traditional soldiers "welcome home".

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Adelaide to Bangkok

The first real day of my new adventure. I didn't sleep well due to an upset stomach and in fact could not face food. I forced down a meal just before the flight departed Melbourne for Bangkok on the basis that it was going to be a long flight without a meal.
I had spent the night at a friends and in the morning he took me to the airport for the flight to Melbourne. Check in was quick and so was the security screening. Fire alarms sounded while I was waiting for the flight but it turned out to be a false alarm. The flight to Melbourne was uneventful.
A longish wait between flights gave me a chance to settle the stomach a bit and the opportunity to complete another Lesson in my Online TESOL course.
We left 35 minutes late. Good old Jetstar, boarding was delayed a little at the Captain's request and then the Captain allowed us on board. We sat for 35 minutes while a "technical problem" was resolved.  I have a low opinion of aircrew and airlines that treat their customers with such lack of respect. Leave us in the departure lounge if you have a problem as there we can eat, walk, drink and use the toilets and electronic devices. But instead we are confined to our cramped seats with no air conditioning and other freedoms.
Other than that the flight was uneventful. Stomach behaved itself.
I decided to eat a snack on the plane. I had planned to eat in Bangkok but worked out that it really would be late by the time I arrived and cleared the formalities. As it happened that took a long time and then my gf was not around to meet me. It turned out that she had confused the dates and I would be waiting a long time for her - like until tomorrow night.
I organised a ride to a cheapish hotel, The Great Residence, and as my body clock was telling me that it was about 2 am I slept.
The Bludger has arrived in Thailand.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Griffith to Callington

Today was a day of uneventful car travel. The roads were free of traffic and well maintained. I set the cruise control as soon as I found open road and the car just ate up the distance. There was little to do except watch the kilometers tick away.
There is very little radio reception in these areas and what can be received I did not find of interest so I pulled out the iPod and grooved away to some old favourites.
The day was foggy and I felt cocooned in a private world with only occasional evidence of a greater existence around me. The road runs Westward and loosely follows the Murumbidgee river which rises in the Snowy Mountains and runs close to my house in Canberra. Eventually it joins the Murray which also flows nearby my parents property. This is a bit coincidental but also an indication of how important this river system is to Southern Australia.

At one stage I had to pass three caravans travelling in a loose convoy. My car has plenty of power and I accelerated and overtook the three with ease when the fog lifted a little. The speed was well above the speed limit by then and I felt a little naughty so kept the foot down. I was pleased to see that my car was still good for 160+ Kmh without straining. (The old "ton" , 100 Mph for you modern readers).
I had lunch in Ouyen a rather odd Lamb Yiros.The Lamb was soft tender and juicy, although cooked on a hot plate not a rotisserie. This area is famous for the quality of its lamb which eats a lot of saltbush and I also picked up a rib roast for dinner at my destination.
It was during this stop that I discovered that the property manager had found a good tenant for my house and that I had been rejected for my recent job interview. There are no impediments to me going to Thailand now.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and I rolled into Callington just in time for the sunset.

The Bludger is at a way station both in life and in his journey.

Monday 15 July 2013

Journey Canberra to Griffith

I closed the front door of my house at 12 noon and got in the car. Destination Griffith to spend a night with a friend, Anna.
I had a couple of things to do first, dump some rubbish which was left over from clearing out the house and cancel a post box and redirect mail. I also had a quick lunch and then was on the road.
I left Canberra on a cold wet afternoon. The rain and later fog was with me all the way to Griffith. It was an uneventful journey with a couple of brief stops to stretch the legs and one longer one for a power nap.

I arrived in Griffith just after 6pm.
Anna and I had dinner at the local Services Club and shared a bottle of wine with a good long chat to catch up.
The Bludger slept soundly in a real bed for a change.

Taking the Ring to Mordor

[Frodo hears the ring whispering ominously while the Council argues]
Frodo: I will take it!
[they don't hear him; he raises his voice]
Frodo: I will take it!
[they fall silent, looking at him]
Frodo: I will take the Ring to Mordor!
Frodo: Though... I do not know the way.

From the movie script of "The Lord of The Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkein

"I will take the Ring to Mordor"
Figuratively: To embark on a journey where you do not know the final destination and do not know the path to follow.

The Bludger is taking the ring to Mordor.