Category Archives: Our travels

Our adventures on the high seas and ashore

Last Few Days in Thailand

LFDIT 1

LFDIT 4

 

 

 

 

 

All too soon, our days in sunny Koh Tao with our darling daughter, were coming to an end.

 

 

We begaLFDIT 5n to measure time in terms of the number of remaining meals we could take at Tukta’s. (The most fantastic, authentic and reasonably priced Thai food on the island!)

 

 

LFDIT 7

 

We had so many things to fit in to the last remaining days… Ian wanted to dive with Erin.   We had booked to help out at a beach clean up with the delightful Josh from Master Divers on Mae Haad. There was yoga-ing, shopping, tanning, reading, eating and games playing to do.

One day, we walked over to Haad Tian beach and half way up a vertical hill were thankfully offered a lift from a local fisherman to the beautiful resort hotel there.

LFDIT 2

It was gorgeous; land to sand luxury!

Since we were complete interlopers, only getting through the security-guarded gates by virtue of being best pals with the local fisherman and restaurateur (Eagle View), we were banished to the tiny, narrow strip of sand under the gnarled roots and trunks of the mangrove trees along the edge of the beach.  In this way, we were not encouraged to set foot on the green and hallowed turf of the sun-lounging area round the infinity pool, darling.

However, we had an interesting hour of tide-dancing, desperately trying to avoid the waves as they crashed up the beach on the incoming prevailing wind. So, with our second set of exercise completed for the day, it was time to relax and read…bliss.

On our return to Chakok, we came across a great vantage point to watch the sunset at the bar ‘Natural High’.  It has a huge, open patio which offers amazing views  of Chalok and its environs.  From so high up and through the haze of spliff smoke,  man, all you can see is tree canopy below. It’s tricky to identify landmarks and makes it seem all the more ethereal and remote, hovering there on its unique peak.  We had a delicious dinner here and enjoyed some people watching before sand sliding down the hill. LFDIT 9

During our last few days we spent a happy couple of hours helping Erin source the items she needed to decorate and equip her home.  There are some great road side stalls and market places in Mae Haad and we spent time in them all.  LFDIT 6We spotted many bird cages en route complete with song birds that apparently Thai people take to bird singing competitions.  That takes X Factor to a whole new level.  The ‘Chick’ Factor perhaps?

We tried road side barbecued chicken for a snack on the walk back and for lunch I tested my paltry Thai at a food stall for Thai people (only Thai signs, no Englishified food, no English spoken),  where we were assured we wouldn’t like anything they had to offer.

Well, as much as I’d like to say I eat anything, my digestive system and taste buds are not quite ready for chicken offLFDIT 11al curry, and marrow spicy soup.  I had fish curry and it was delicious but highly ‘prik’, as the vocabulary is here. My mouth was on fire.  The centre of the table displayed a huge basket of vegetables and spices.  Raw long beans, Thai basil (hot) Thai basil (sweet) and a variety of egg plants in every size. Ian had freshly deep fried fish in little batter clouds. Toptastic.  However, I wasn’t brave enough to try meal worm and other delicacies offered at this road side stall.

We enjoyed our last lunch at Coconut Monkey in Mae Haad with Erin and Paul, also saying goodbye to Anne-Marie (our yoga teacher from Ocean Sound Yoga School).   During our wait for the boat there was just time for Erin to secure victory in the traditional Holiday Back-gammon Championships.

Then we were heading back, bumping through lumpy waters, on the bilious Lomprayah Catamaran,  to the mainland pier and then, by bus past the beautiful, unspoilt, deserted coastline beaches of Chomporn, to the town’s railway station.

We took LFDIT 3a stroll round town and came across this well loaded motorbike, a fascinating police box and one of many gorgeous spirit houses.
LFDIT 12 LFDIT 14After yet another other lovely roadside stall supper, we were back on the sleeper train which left Chomporn at 8.30pm so most passengers were already prone, tucked up in their little bunk beds behind twee, coral coloured curtains.  Our beds were already made up and, soon, we too, were happily ensconced.

Next, we arrived in Bangkok at 5.30am…. The best time to be taking a taxi ride since there is virtually no traffic.  We headed for Silom but somehow just struggled, in the Thai language department, to communicate sufficiently to find our friend Don’s apartment!  Our fault, of course.

We had a wonderful day in Bangkok, catching up with friends and then it was silly o’clock again and we were heading to the airport at 4am to catch our flight to Doha.

So sad to be leaving Erin and Paul and lovely Thailand but looking forward to the next phase.LFDIT 15

 

Trying to Free Dive

Whilst waiting for my morning coffee to arrive, I couldn’t help noticing an arresting photograph of a lithe, slim and elegant female who was gliding along, deep underwater, propelling herself with huge fins as long as her legs, without being encumbered by an air tank, regulator or tubes.

On further investigation, it turns out that such diving is called ‘Free diving’ and basically involves the participants being able to hold their breath under water in order to swim free from the restrictions that having a full tank of breathable air on one’s back would present.

So enamoured was I with the thought of floating free and peaceful in the water, that when I came across a dive school on the island that held free diving beginners courses…I thought I’d have a go.

Somewhere In the back of my mind I imagined that I too would look lithe, slim and elegant when attempting to dive down deep under the sea! free dive 2A rather ravishing Frenchman booked me on to the course and, after assurances that I was by no means the oldest ever to sign up, I agreed to return the next morning for instruction.

After a quick round of introductions to the other students, we were straight into the nitty gritty…trying to convert our bodies from land-locked, air-breathing entities into, the more towards the dolphin end of the mammal species spectrum.

With the minimum of explanation about what we would actually be subjecting ourselves to, we immediately started to learn how to breath effectively. Now, there you go, after fifty four years on this planet and, recent yoga sessions excepted, I have managed to breathe without thinking about it at all. It has come so naturally to me. I, it can honestly be claimed, am gifted at breathing. But for this, I am being asked to breathe in a totally different way.

The aim is to maximise the amount of oxygen that can be taken into the body. The coach explains how to compress the air through pursed lips as we breathe in so that first we fill the belly and then the lungs. Then, we equally slowly, exhale.

After whipping off his shirt, the rather ravishing Frenchman (RRFM) demonstrates the technique. He Perches on the edge of his seat to create the maximum space for the air to fill his torso. He closes his eyes in order to fully concentrate on the job in hand. Anyone watching would be forgiven for thinking that this was some kind of mediation conducted by follower of some a dodgy religious sect.
We watch open-mouthed.free dive 3

Now, it’s our turn. I am somewhat perturbed to be asked to remove my top so that RRFM (afore-mentioned) can watch my belly and lung technique! Well, I’ve heard some excuses to take a glimpse of my tummy and chest, but that really takes the biscuit.

Please bear in mind at this stage, that among my fellow free divers, is Courtney from the U. S of A. The alacrity with which she pulls off her top, and bottoms, to reveal a toned, tanned and bikini clad body was, frankly, embarrassing. The rest of the group complied without a qualm. Thank goodness I had had the foresight to wear my black swimming costume under my clothes.

We practise, and practise and before we know it we are ready to go out on the water to try out our new found skills.

We head out in a small tender to the main dive boat. I am encased in a shortie wet suit and a rather fetching pair of neoprene socks. Some of the group have elected to wear long sleeves and leggings, as well as balaclava style head gear. I am puzzled that they think it will be that cold. It’s 30 degrees in the shade!

Without any delay we put on weight belts, masks and fins, jump into the water and swim out to a series of life belt rings bobbing about on ropes attached to the stern of our dive boat.

I am with one other trainee. We have Silvie to coach us.

The first skill is a duck dive. What I would call a surface dive. We have a go. There is the added complication of contending with a snorkel and fins, now pulled on over my glamorous footwear, and trying to equalise the pressure in our ears as we descend.

Next, we have a go at pulling ourselves down a rope suspended from the life belts to the ocean floor, 12 metres below.free dive 4

We have to tip upside down and pull ourselves, in even stokes, down the rope, equalising our ears every time we pull.

I find that the remnants of a horrible cold in January are even more pronounced under water. I can’t equalise easily. I have serious squeaking in my ears as I come back up.

I am encouraged to try going down feet first in order to makes equalising easier.

As you descend the pressure of the water squeezes the air in the lungs and reduces its volume. The body’s reflex to breathe kicks in because it believes that the reduced size of the lungs is due to there being insufficient oxygen available.

In actual fact, there is, apparently, plenty of oxygen for the body to function well for a significant amount of time, as long as you can relax and persuade the brain that it doesn’t need to tell the body to breathe in!

All I can say is, that it is rather like trying to resist the urge to kick your leg up when someone whacks you under the knee cap. My reflex to breathe is very well developed. I discover that whilst I may know that I have sufficient oxygen, I don’t actually I believe it! I rush to the surface lungs bursting.

We continue to practise. Taking the obligatory cycles of belly and chest breaths before descending the rope as far as possible.

Soon, it is time to return. We head back to the shore ready for day two in the morning. However, it is as I am walking home that I realise that I have been burnt to a crisp. The powerful noon day sun has burnt my arms, face, scalp and knees. My skin is red and swollen. I have to make an ice pack to cool off my arms. Now I understand why some of the course members covered up so completely. Very wise.

On day two, a week later, I am with Camilla.

She is supremely reassuring, and, with her support, I am soon diving down to 15 metres. I feel much more confident than on my first day but still experience this overwhelming urge to breath in when I am about as deep as I can go, which is not the done thing. Camilla encourages me to relax and try to think about something else. AS if! She suggests that I descend, control the rising panic and then descend again! I try it and succeed, to some extent. I open my eyes momentarily to see a huge shoal of brightly coloured fish swim right by me, i am almost distracted from the bursting feeling in my lungs. The water is clear, even at that depth and I can see other course members diving down beside me. I feel like I have been under the water for ages, but it’s probably only 45 seconds. I panic all over again at the thought of where I am. Wondering if I have sufficient air to make it back to the surface. I do! Phew!

But, it’s not a comfortable feeling. I have to try so hard to stem the rising tide of fear and panic. As a strong swimmer, I have spent years trying to stay afloat and above the water. Despite assurances that we are built for swimming under the water; and explanations of how it is that we would definitely have sufficient oxygen to complete a dive for up to one minute at this stage in our training, I find that I still can’t persuade my body that it is a natural thing for it to be doing. It’s such a shame, because it looks amazing, doesn’t it?

free dive 5The lure of pearls, or shells, or fish would probably help. Certainly, diving down a rope in this ‘Constant weight’ discipline is seemingly pointless. The record, I am told, is 200m. That is the distance someone has descended on a rope. That is an awfully long way down should something go wrong.

I didn’t achieve my certification. I didn’t reach 20 metres, I didn’t complete the rescue of another diver. For the first time in my personal sporting history, I find that I am not equal to the challenge. I tried and it was interesting…but it’s just not natural, for me!

Sustainable tourism

Approaching Koh Tao on the Lomprayah Catamaran you can see lush green forest, coconut palms, turquoise waters and white sandy beaches.  A beautiful paradise island.  Along the Sairee beach front you can see a few cleverly concealed roof lines in amongst the vegetation.  It all looks lovely. Continue reading Sustainable tourism

Yoga Treat – Retreat

So, here we are on Koh Tao, staying at the Southern end of the island in Chalok, chilling our beans in tropical temperatures – not! (It’s a cool 30 degrees.)
Having decided we need to improve our general fitness and searching for boat friendly exercises, we signed up for weekly unlimited yoga lessons at Ocean Sound Yoga School reading that “Yoga’s combined focus on mindfulness, breathing and physical movements brings health benefits with regular participation.” Not to mention, better sleep, circulation and improved liver function. Who could ask for more?

At the appointed time we tentatively peak our heads in at the first session.

We are by far the oldest and greyest in the room. Sorry, ‘space’. I feel incredibly self-conscious as I spy other people are sitting in the lotus position, eyes closed, practically hovering off the floor, even before we’ve started the lesson.

However, I go with the flow.

We are asked to sit in a comfortable sitting position – I am struggling to sit comfortably. Crossing my legs is awkward and painful. My knees jut up insolently. I am conscious of excessive belly blubber being bunched up and out of my leggings, like rising bread dough.

yoga2

There’s lots of new vocabulary with quite a bit of Hindi thrown in. No mention of chakras yet, but we need to arrive in the place.

Anyway, I focus on my breathing, as I am encouraged to do, finding that despite my best efforts to concentrate wholly, I am constantly distracted by invading thoughts that randomly pop into my head.

We begin the session with some deep breaths and then we have to bring our hands to a prayer position at our heart’s centre and start the practice with an ‘Om’ – to get the vibrations moving around the space.

It’s all Ian and I can do to stop ourselves sniggering childishly, positioned as we are, at the back of the class, like proper delinquents. I try not to look at Ian – he’s a bad influence. No one else seems perturbed or in the least embarrassed, just us! We try to focus and be more mature.

Anne-Marie, our teacher, encourages us to be positive and grateful. ‘Gratitude is the attitude’ – which is a sentiment I like and can see the value in aspiring to. We are urged to try and think about what we are grateful for and dedicate our practice to somebody whom we love. Hmmm, who to choose?

So far, so good. Lots of thinking, focussing, positivity and gratitude. Love it! Oh, but don’t forget to breathe!

Gradually, the pace is picked up and we are swooping up to Down Facing Dog! Bums aloft, heads dangling down. From here, in time with our breathing apparently, we move to Cobra with a chest dip, slide and elevation to lift the heart up. Smoothly followed by a push through the pelvis, back up to Down Facing Dog.

Ian and I are struggling to keep up with the instructions and the breathing.

Once in DFD we are looking in the wrong direction, and in any case, our eyes are bulging with the strain, and sweat streams into our eyes to blur our vision. We can’t see what’s being demonstrated.

Come on! Focus on the words!

Excellent and clear instructions are given. Others in the room swiftly flow their movements. Legs kick back and up, then under and through, inhale, lengthen, fold, breathe, plant the hands, step or flow back, high plank!!!!, breathe, hold, lift, hold, lift the other foot, (but put the first one down first!) hold, breathe, lower knees, swoop through to Cobra, lift up to DFD. Start again! Somehow, we are always behind by at least a beat.

So we continue five! – More! – Times! (No wonder there are so many exclamation marks in this piece.)

We attempt poses like Warrior, Eagle, Crow, Triangle, Pigeon, Humble Warrior, all supposedly flowing without pause, one into the other. Sweat drips from my nose, sweat drips from my cheeks; I am glistening like a salmon. I am wobbling like a jelly fish. Limbs aching.

Breathe, try to forget that this practice goes on for one and a half hours!

Finally, we can relax in Child’s Pose or, if we prefer, we can do some fun inversions. Attempting to balance on our hands, our forearms, our head and hands.

Ian and I just rest and marvel at everyone else’s energy.

Gradually, the speed of movements begins to slow and we start stretching out every part of our body.

The mats are slick with sweat. Bare backs on the mat make squelching, trumping noises – further temptation to giggle from the immature amongst the gathering.

Lastly, we recline, completely supine and allow all our muscles to flop and relax, concentrating on the breathing. Aargh, this is more like it.

I am woken by a snore! I discover that the noise came from me and try to pretend I have a sniffle. We wriggle our fingers, wiggle our toes and stretch ourselves back into this world. Slowing sitting back up, we complete the practice with an ‘Om’ and three ‘Santi’s.

No further giggles from us…we haven’t the energy.

Namaste.

PostScript.

As a previous practicer of gymnastics, I am astonished at how the techniques and positions we are learning for the yoga poses are exactly the same as those I was learning for gymnastics. Every pose is a perfect example of excellent form. Whether it is splits, hand stands, head stands, planches, bridges, lunges, straddles and pikes. All the techniques are spot on. I wish I had begun to practice yoga at a much earlier age. By now, I’d be able to wrap myself up and tie myself into a Bowline; which might be quite handy on the boat, I believe.

We’ve attended classes every day so far and are definitely improving in muscle tone and flexibility. Our initial cynicism has waned. Even Ian can talk about his third eye, his spiritual heart, enlightenment, manifestation, and the servant gliding up and down his spine in time with his breathing, without the faintest curl of his lip!

We aim to sign up for the remaining time we have here. At this rate we will be svelte, gorgeous and completely enlightened by the time we leave.

Time in limbo – homeless

Packed for return to Uni
Packed for return to Uni

We left Linton, on the 15th January 2016 and set off via Oxford to drop off a load of Keira’s stuff, but not Keira, on our way to France.  We were looking forward to staying with Nick and Claire at their place in the Alps for a little skiing, cavorting, consuming of the vins and generally eating too much cheese! A cheesy plug as it’s known in our house – although technically we haven’t got one anymore! A house, I mean, not a cheesy plug.)

The Rhone Valley
The Rhone Valley

Keira & Claire mountain top

The French Alps at their best
The French Alps at their best

A fantastic week was had! Thank you N and C!

Then a wonderful weekend with old friends from Bangkok and a straightforward drive back to the Shire. thank you A, P and J.

No messing – we are immediately off to do an RYA Diesel Engine Course so we can fix minor ailments to our engine when at sea.

Then we set too cleaning and redecorating a rental house which we manage to turn around in four days.  A record we think! (House available to let)All the while, staying with relaxed and hospitable hosts in Threshfield. Thank you P and L.

On the 1st February we drove to the airport, pulling in at We Want Any Car.Com  who do actually,  car was sold and for more than they originally offered! (That’s quite a few extra mojitos, as you rightly point out, Amelia,) and then into a cab and onto the airport. Smooth.

And suddenly, unbelievably, delightedly, after a very hectic few weeks, we are heading to Thailand to liaise with our youngest daughter, Erin, who is living on Koh Tao at the moment.

The smell of 2 stroke engine exhaust and diesel fumes hits us like an olfactory blast as we step out of the air conditioned bubble that is Suvarnabhumi, the new airport in Bangkok.  Memories associated with that smell flood back into our consciousness.  Happy times spent with the girls when they were young, from 1992 – 1996 living and learning about Thailand and expat life some twenty odd years ago.

Can it really be so long?!

We head for the taxi queue.  There is no problem finding a taxi these days. In the old days, the only way to find a taxi was to go to the departures level of the airport and grab a cab that was dropping someone off! We select a taxi ticket number and immediately step forward into our allocated bay to hand our bags, (incredibly heavy bags) to the welcoming arms of the friendly taxi driver.

We grin foolishly at each other! Glad to be back.

The taxi driver flicks on his meter (no persuasion necessary, no haggling, no bartering – how things have changed!) and heads off onto one of the many new highways that have crawled in all around Bangkok.  Standing up on thick trunks of legs like massive flat-backed, grey caterpillars.

Tall glass-fronted buildings blink a morse welcome as we drive by in relatively free flowing traffic.

“Rot tit maak maak!” comments the driver. Lots of traffic!

And suddenly, on cue, we are being funnelled into a much smaller highway.

Six into two, won’t go!

We marvel at our driver’s ability to squeeze his vehicle into ever smaller spaces.  We progress towards the centre of town and begin to recognise a few landmarks from the 90s.

Bangkok traffic
Bangkok traffic

photo 6

“Oh, there’s Soi 1, where Ian’s office used to be. That’s where the Buddhist centre used to be.  There’s Soi 3 where Miss Hong the dressmaker used to be. There’s Soi 5 where Foodland supermarket used to be! There’s Soi 11 where the Ambassador Hotel market and garden used to be. There’s Soi 13 where our apartment used to be!”

So much building has been going on we are using the past tense, a lot!

Finally, we turn into the Soi where we are to stay.  So much activity, so many lights, people, taxis, tuk-tuks, noise, street vendors, motorbikes, and more people.  sauntering down the middle of the road, as if it’s a pedestrian precinct.

The taxi ride was very reasonably priced 300Bt (About £6) including the toll fees, for the 12km ride from the airport.  Amazing to think that the basic cost of a taxi ride had not gone up in twenty years.  The meter taxis, which are government controlled and regulated, start at 35Bt and increase in those jumps every 3km or so.  Fantastic value, and air-conditioned to boot.

We check in quickly and head out on to Soi 11 to explore relatively familiar territory.  We take a stroll round the neighbourhood.  It is evident that the sex trade, once reasonably discreet around what was a more residential part of town, has become much more overt.  The number of tourists staying in hotels, room, hostels, and serviced apartments has increased.  The small retailers and independent restaurants have gone and big buildings have been put on their footprint.  Presumably, this nightlife has sprung up to entertain the tourists.

We spot Cheap Charlie’s Bar; a blast from the past.  Not at all changed, thankfully.  We order a couple of beers at the bar which is decorated with drift wood, an electric toy train on a weaving track, baskets, bamboo, bird cages, woven items of all kinds; and stand within the chain that runs in an arc along the ground around the bar, marking the boundary across which we are urged not to stand.  We have just upped the average age, within the perimeter!

cheap charlies
We wander off down the street and find a street restaurant and shuffle between tables to sit on a platform overlooking the street.  So vibrant and busy even at this hour.  We eat a delicious Thai meal, with beers, only about £20 in total.

Afterwards, we continue on to explore the surrounding Sois or alleyways around here, weaving between stalls, bodies and pillars. Gradually negotiating our way along the uneven surfaces that are typical of Bangkok’s pavements;  Sky Train supports, paving stones and up-turned concrete slabs, like sneering lips.  Trees, giving much needed oxygen, steps up to shop doorways, signs and poster frames, stalls and umbrellas all conspiring to trip and poke and hit you as you move gracelessly along.

Before long we are overwhelmed with tiredness.  Hot and sweaty all over again, we head back to the sanctuary of our room, a cold shower, and blissful sleep!

Day one in the big city.

We have various errands to complete today.  We set off up Sukhumvit road but all the shops are closed until 1030hrs.  We duck into a MacDonald’s and order a coffee. (Expensive at 270Bt and we thought Mackie D’s was cheap!)  Soon we head off to the Sky Train and buy an all-day pass for the princely sum of 180B.  (About £3.)

photo 16

Hard working Tailor sign
Hard working Tailor

New SIM card – check.
Train tickets purchased for trip to Koh Tao – check.
Chicken noodle soup purchased and consumed (50Bt) New spectactacles investigated for Sarah -check.
Hair cut and pedicure – check.
Visit our old friends Jo and Tim Cooke to celebrate Jo’s birthday – check.

Sarah's feet getting some attention
Sarah’s feet getting some attention

Pedicure resultsFabulous day, calloo callay!

Day two.

Slept in ’til 1100 hrs, aaaargh!!!!!

Dashed to the Blitish Crub to meet old friend and colleague Don Smith.  This gorgeous old building looks like something out of the Indian Raj.  What a pleasure to sit in its spacious gardens and allow the memories to flood back.

British Club Bangkok
British Club Bangkok

photo 7

Back in the 90’s, I joined a baby group called BAMBI based at the British Club situated between Silom and Surawongse Roads (Babies and Mothers Bangkok International). A weekly social gathering for mums and babies which was a real lifeline for me, as I wasn’t working and therefore had few ways of meeting people.  We were allowed to use the facilities of the BC during the morning and it was through this that I came to know about the Neilson Hays Library which is right next door to the BC.

This neo-classical building completed in 1922, in which a huge collection of books is displayed and stored in gorgeous teak cabinets, is a jewel sadly overshadowed and utterly overlooked, by all the leggy high rises around it.  The library was set up in the 1869 by a group of thirteen volunteers including the Danish wife of an American expat Doctor, Jennie Neilson Hays. It currently has a collection of some 20000 volumes. A haven of peace and serenity in the mad bustle that is Bangkok – City of Angels.

photo 10

Neilson Hays library
Neilson Hays library

Back in the day, I was soon to join the committee of volunteers running the library and thoroughly enjoyed the experience it offered.  Not only did I meet some delightful friends among the volunteers but I was fortunate enough to meet Iris Murdoch, (Not that she would remember, as, by then, she was firmly in the grip of Alzheimer’s, much to her companion, John Bailey’s, obvious irritation and slight despair.) when she came to give a key note speech at a literary convention in Bangkok, in 1995 or 96 and we snaffled her for a Q and A and book signing.

Back to lunch at the British club…We had a great catch up and chat with Don and soon it was time for hasty farewells.  We grabbed a taxi to take us to Hua Lumpong train station – another beautiful building in Bangkok designed by Italian architect Mario Tamagno, the same architect who designed the NHL.

Finding our train and platform proved to be a very straightforward task and we climbed aboard onto the first carriage conveniently situated at the end of the platform. Sitting down in the wide chairs on either side of the carriage.  There are four chairs facing each other, divided by the aisle.  Later in the evening the attendant will come and transform these seats into two parallel lower bunk beds and he will lower the upper bunks from their tucked away positions against the walls of the train.  The air conditioned (freezing cold) sleeper compartment was positively chilly!

photo 11

We attentively watched, from the relative seclusion of the carriage, the goings-on on the platforms around us; people waiting with mountains of luggage in boxes tied up with the ubiquitous red nylon string; backpackers staggering along under the weight of their enormous packs; hawkers selling every kind of goody and snack. (Everything except alcohol, since an unpleasant incident on one of the sleeper trains, the sale of alcohol, in stations or on board trains, has been banned.).

We saw the impressive transport policemen in their perfectly starched, pristine uniforms; complete with obligatory pips on their epaulettes and coloured ribbons, military style, on their top pockets.

Suddenly, Ian nudged me to look in the opposite direction and I was just in time to see, but not photograph, a trolley being towed upon which was precariously balanced an enormous sitting buddha, completely swathed in orange robes!  Fantastic!!!

The lady in the ticket office had warned us, matter of factly, rather than apologetically, that the train would be late leaving and late arriving! However, it left bang on time and soon we were jogging along as if in a vehicle with one corner on every wheel, bumpetty bump, bumpetty bump! Through the centre of Bangkok and out to the suburbs.

dining carWe ordered our dinner from a chatty Thai lady from the dining car, and at 1930hrs toddled along to eat.  We were the only people there.  Fair game for being stared at whilst we ate!  A pleasant enough meal.  Then back to our seats where the train attendants had set up our top bunks, made up with crisp white sheets, pillow and starched case and comfy, brilliant white waffle blanket. Bliss.

 

And so to ablutions…Sinks, soap and mirrors were in the corridor. Not sparkling clean but perfectly serviceable for a lick and promise and teeth cleaning.  The loo was a squat toilet which drained directly on to the tracks below.  It had a hose for bottom washing (no loo paper here) flushing and washing any unintentional splashes!  (Only to be expected when you’re balancing, yogic style, as you tonk along – clicketty clack!)  Furthermore, to add to the luxury, I noticed that there was even a shower hose if you wanted to go the whole hog and have a complete dowsing down.  Although, you’d have to be extra careful not to drop the soap, of course!

We ricochetted back down our carriage to our bunks and heaved ourselves up the ladders attached to the luggage racks,  Up the hill to Bedlington. We snuggled in behind our coral coloured curtains and were gently rocked to sleep by the motion of the train by 2115hrs.

Thai sleeper train
Tucked up on the train
Sarah in her bunk BKK to Chumphon
Sarah in her bunk BKK to Chumphon

Up and at ’em by 0318hr when the train pulled into Chumporn Station.

We sat enjoying some serious people watching for a couple of hours and then took a quick bus transfer to the pier and thence on to the Lomprayah High Speed Catamaran to Koh Tao.

By 1015hrs we were ensconced having a top, healthy breakfast of muesli and yoghurt overlooking the sea eagerly awaiting the arrival of our welcoming committee in the form of Erin and Paul!

Arrival on Koh Tao

Bliss!
view 3 view 1