THIS BLOG CHRONICLES A FAMILY MOTORCYCLE TRIP FROM CAPE TOWN TO SINGAPORE, FROM JANUARY TO APRIL 2012. THE GROUP COMPRISES MAL, SON JULIAN, DAUGHTER SHANNON, AND JOHN

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Day 119 – Palian

Thailand

26.04.2012

Jules writes:

It seemed almost unreal to actually be able to take a day off from travelling. It’s not that we haven’t had breaks; the last few months have been riddled with delays, but always they have been because of some problems with the bikes. But today was the first time since Khartoum in Sudan that we’ve been able to just stop for a day because we wanted to, and weren’t racing the clock.095 (640x473)

We had arranged with the manager of the hotel the previous night to go for a snorkelling trip out to one of the islands off the coast, and so after an alfresco breakfast, we followed the manager down to the pier, where three fishermen (or two fisherman and a friend, or three friends, or just some guys he met that morning, it was never really made clear) were waiting for us. We loaded the packed lunch that had been prepared at the hotel, and headed out to the islands. The sky was looking somewhat tempestuous in the distance, but overhead, it was all blue skies. The sea was quiet and featureless, apart from the occasional flying fish, and once or twice a hat, swept off the head of one of the unwary travellers.107 (800x600)

At one of the larger islands we stopped for about ten minutes and had a swim while someone ran off to find some snorkelling equipment, and when he returned, we cast off for a small island a few hundred metres away. This section of the Thailand coast is world renowned for it’s crystal clear waters and stunning marine life. So it was with some puzzlement that when we put on the goggles and swam out into the water, we found ourselves in water murkier than an ANC disciplinary hearing. Oh, there were rocks, and many shellfish, with razor sharp edges, but that was pretty much it, and after about twenty minutes, we called it a day, and headed back to sit on the rocks to enjoy the meal, where the prawns in the salad gave us our only glimpse of sea life for the day. After about an hour, the storm clouds that had been interesting features on the 101 (800x598)horizon were bearing down on us, and so we quickly packed up, and bundled ourselves back into the boat. Back at the main island, one of our guys ran off to drop off the snorkels and goggles, and Shan, Kath and I took a quick walk into the village, where we saw in a single street a wedding procession, a prepubescent biker gang, a large dead monitor lizard (they taste so good cuz they EAT so good) and crowd of kids playing pool using pieces of bamboo, elastic bands for the side, and marbles, and several other great glimpses into life in the village.

With the clouds still threatening rain above us, we jumped back into the boat, and made for the mainland. The rest of the afternoon was spe111 (800x562)nt relaxing and lolling in the pool, until we were summoned for supper, which turned out to be a serious seafood spread involving huge crabs, a mountain of prawns, and several types of fish. We only just managed to defeat this cornucopia of food, and the next few hours were spent down in the restaurant chatting and listening to some dusty old CD from the 60’s, with some songs that EVEN DAD AND JOHN had never heard of, so, you know, old! With less than two weeks to go, it would hopefully be straight riding through Malaysia, and then on to Singapore.

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Day 118 – Lamae to Palian (338 km)

Thailand

25.04.2012

Jules wri509 - Copy (640x427)tes:

Last night was actually the first time that we had slept right at the East coast of a country, so with this one chance to see the dawn, we woke up at 5:30 and headed down to the beach (literally a journey of 20 steps). The sky was still the colour of a dark bruise, but gradually lighted, catching the clouds in a magnificent display of colours. The sun finally peered over the horizon just after 6:00, giving us the signal to head back to grab another hour’s sleep.

We were up again for breakfast a073 (640x480) (640x480)bout an hour later, with bacon on the plate for the first time since we’ve been on the road. Once we’d finished up, we were soon packed and ready to go, and the manager escorted us out onto the highway on his bike. It had been a really great stay, just another reason to sometimes leave the guide books and internet forums behind and just look for a place yourself.

The riding in the morning was pretty easy, with thick jungle on either side for most of the way, and the occasional hill rising vertically from the jungle, its sheer sides and thickly covered top making it seem like a giant had simply shoved up a wedge of the land from underneath.

Around mid morning, as we were riding along at about 110 km/h, Shan turned her head to look at something at the side of the road. As she did, the front visor caught the wind, and one of the mounting points ripped off completely, leaving Shan to be blinded and mildly throttled by the strap as the helmet fought to pull itself off her head. We quickly pulled over, and I went back to pick up the part that had flown onto the road. A thorough inspection revealed that it was pretty easy to fix, and John soon McGuyvered it back into full working order.

Which was when we noticed that one of the mountings on Shan’s new hybrid shock absorbers had broken.

Now, this is not a catastrophe, and what we needed to find now was a welder who could stitch it all back into shape. We had pulled over next to the gate of a big factory complex, and so we thought we might as well see if there was anybody there who could help us. As GOPR4209 (640x467)it turned out, we hit the jackpot. Just inside the gates, Dad and Shan came across two guys busy doing some serious welding. When we brought the bike over to them, they could quickly see what needed to be done, and once we had the wheel off, they happily set to work fixing it. While they worked, two little kids sat watching the whole thing. Shan entertained them by letting them play with the camera. When the guys were done, they wouldn’t even accept payment, but just waved us on our way.

Continuing on our way, we passed through some of the larger towns, and while waiting for Dad to get through a traffic light, we noticed that we had stopped right under the sign of a Kawasaki dealership, the first that we had seen since leaving South Africa. For an Asian bike, Kawasaki’s have been surprisingly scarce.

Around the middle of the afternoon, we finally arrived at the Palian peninsula, where we started looking around for accommodation. I had been particularly keen to see some of the islands in Thailand made famous by innumerable movies, and this area had looked like our best chance of seeing some. While driving along, we startled a large monitor lizard, at least a metre long, which scuttled off into the bushes.

When we got to the road running along next to the coast, we saw a decent looking hotel and stopped to enquire about rooms. Kath took it for the team and wenOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAt with the manager, who took her on a tour that lasted about 15 minutes, and had her back to the bikes muttering under her breath. Meanwhile, Shan and Dad had taken the bike further up the road to look at a second option, which was cheaper, but not quite as nice, and required some serious Pictionary skills to be able to communicate. Somehow, the guy didn’t even understand when we were asking for the price, apparently stumbling over the sign for baht, the Thai currency. In the end, the deciding element was the swimming pool, and we settled into our nicer, only slightly more expensive option.

After dumping our bags in the room, we made straight for the pool, and floated lazily around for almost an hour, while in the pool next door, four foot aquatic monstrosities lurked in the murky depths. Over the edge of the pool, we could make out limestone islands rising straight out of the sea, picture perfect.

After heading back to the rooms to relax for a while, we decided to take a walk down to the pier, a few hundred metres further dIMG_8675 (800x600)own the road, to see if we could find some food. We arrived just as the sun was about to set, and while we enjoyed a meal of kebabs, and salad, we watched as the sun and the clouds created whole landscapes in the sky, even tricking us for about fifteen minutes into thinking that there was a pyramid shaped island in the distance. Unfortunately, with the dark came the mosquitoes, and we beat a hasty retreat back to hotel.

John hadn’t eaten with us, and so he went to the hotel restaurant to order some food, and I, basically a stomach on legs, decided to get a snack of cashew chicken. The lady who took our orders seemed to find herself incredibly hard done by, and would sign loudly and disconsolately at each enquiry into the menu. Due to some confusion, John ended up getting both a fish dish and a plate of chicken and rice, which we happily helped him to finish off, and the rest of the evening was spent playing darts and reading on the Kindle. Occasionally we would glance up to see faces at the window, looking to see if we were gone, so that they could lock up the restaurant. Finally, our feeling of guilt at keeping them from their sleep were to strong, and we made our way to our room to get some for ourselves.

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Day 117 – Hua Hin to Lamae (294 km)

Thailand

24.04.2012

Jules writes:379 (640x427)

It seems that after almost four months on the road, we still haven’t managed to get our morning starts right, and some of us were up really early, only to find that the others had thought we were getting a later start. Finally, once everyone was up and awake, we had a breakfast of fruit, and after an enthusiastic photo-shoot from the guest house’s owner, we were on our way out of town. The roads in Thailand have all been really good, and we made fantastic time. While we are actually riding, the temperature is really nice, but when we stop, we are immediately aware that we are driving through tropical countries in the heat of early summer. Just 20 km outside of town is a nature reserve, and we sto033 (640x480) - Copypped to check out some of the magnificent Thailand coast. From there we continued along what were considered secondary roads on the map, but still in great condition. The bonus of having a passenger on the back is that they sometimes spot cool things that you’ve missed, and a couple of times Kath and I stopped to check out some hidden temples for a few minutes, then race020 (640x480) - Copyd to catch up with the others.

Our plan for the day was to head South, and then once we had passed one of the big towns, we’d head towards the coast and look for a resort or hotel. At lunchtime we stopped for petrol, but then ended up having to drive about 10 km before we found our way back to the road. When we did, we stopped to pick up some food, including a really interesting treat that we had been keeping our eyes out for for ages: sweet rice pudding stuffed inside hollow bamboo and then roasted, the perfect biodegradable packaging. 451 - Copy (640x427)

We had originally thought that the journey today would be just over 250 km, but it seemed that today we be a lot longer than that. At around 4:00 PM, we turned off the main road, and started towards the coast, passing through light and much welcomed rain showers. We were now in rubber tree plantation territory, and we made a brief stop to see how it is produced, making covert slashes in the bark to see the sap run out.

By about 4:00, we had arrived in a tiny hamlet by the coast, and after a few enquiries, we found accommodation right by the ocean, an impressively decorated place, with some of the most original, stylish furniture we’ve seen on this trip. First order of business was to head for the lukewarm sea for a swim, dodging s2012-04-24 Kath's pics 021 (640x480) - Copyome scary looking jellyfish on the way.

When we finally emerged, with Shan, Kath and I sporting wrinkled old man fingers, and Dad sporting pretty much his regular fingers, we showered up, and relaxed for a few hours, which for Shan were spent playing with a little girl who although very cute, seemed unable to draw anything. Maybe the mother should look into this…

We then settled down for a seafood feast of several types of fish, prawns, squid and a couple of unidentifiable denizens of the deep. After supper we spent a couple hours trying to plot our route for the rest of the trip. It’s always tricky to try and do this, as any breakdowns can really throw off everything, and on this trip, it seems more prudent to just assume that something is going to go wrong, and be pleasantly surprised if we can have a clear day of riding.

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Day 116 – Kanchanaburi to Hua Hin (367 km)

Thailand

23.04.2012

Jules writes:

We had decided the previous day that we would spend the morning exploring the town a bit and then try and be on our way by around 11:00, as we didn’t have that far to travel today. Shan and Kath were keen to spend some time relaxing at the boat house, and maybe take a walk into town a bit later. John was keen to visit some more of the sites, and Dad and I wanted to drive to the Erawan National Park, which contained the Erawan Falls, said to be the most beautiful in all of Thailand. It wasn’t clear who exactly it was that was saying this, presumably the tour guides in the area, but we decided to take a chance. The series of pools there were the home of the same fish that were used in the foot massage, so actually swimming in the pools promised to be an experience to remember.

Although the park was only 65 km away, we were not certain of the road conditions, and 002 (480x640)so by 6:30, we were both awake and ready to go. I had forgotten, though, that the bike had been struggling to get into first gear, so we had a look at the bike, and it turned out that the gear shift lever was hitting the bash plate for some reason. We decided to adjust it, a relatively simple task. We popped down to pick up the tools, and then wheeled the bike into the shade. Now, my foot has up until this point been a very unmemorable part of this trip, and clearly tired of this state of affairs, chose this time to intercept the side stand of the bike, ripping most of my big toenail off. The following is a rough transcription of my words and thoughts :

“Aaargh!” (What just happened?)

“Aaaargh!” (Oh hells, it’s just taken off most of my toenail)

“Aaaaargh!” (Oh, the agony. Wait, all this moaning isn’t helping at all.)

“Ok, well that sucks, let’s start fixing this wretched bike”

And so we set to work on the pedal. It took a bit of wiggling, but after a few minutes we managed to get it off. And just to make sure that we got today’s bike problems over with nice and early, we saw that the pedal was cracked most of the way through. Well, that’s the end of our plan. Although it would be a fairly simple thing to weld back together, it was still very early, and now with the waterfall plan out the window, I just headed straight back to sleep.

The others emerged at various intervals over the next hour, and John was soon off to go exploring, and the girls set about reading and relaxing. Dad had also gone back to sleep, and at about 9:00, he went up to the road to see if he could find a mechanic. Very fortuitously, as he got up there, a guy on a motorbike pulled out of a nearby driveway, and when Dad flagged him down to ask about a workshop to get the pedal fixed, the guy said that he would be able to do it right now, and disappeared with the pedal back into his house. A few minutes later he had brought the pedal, completely fixed back to our guesthouse. With that now out of the way, Dad decided to make the most of our time here and went into town to visit the museum.

By this time I was up and about, and so the girls and I decided to look into breakfast. Although breakfast was advertised at the entrance, it seemed that the chef’s wife had given birth to a daughter a few days before, and so was off 355 - Copy (640x427)for the week. We were told that the baby had been born early and so was “in a box”, which we hoped meant an incubator. Undaunted, we asked if we could cook for ourselves, and when we asked where we could buy some eggs, the ever-smiling manager sent a friend of his off to buy some. As he was leaving, enquiries were made about getting mangoes, which was summarily delegated to the friend again. Shan and Kath got to work cooking the breakfast and twenty minutes later, we were sitting down to a great feast of eggs, toast, mangoes and yoghurt. The one surprise was that he then brought us the bill which was actually more per person than it would have been if the chef had made us breakfast himself. A bit of a cheek considering that we had cooked the food ourselves, and then did the washing up afterwards! His laugh was great though, so we’re still ok with him.

As we were finishing, Dad returned from the museum, and we set about putting the pedal back on the bike. Within no time it was back on, and we were ready to start packing. Half an hour later, we were waving goodbye, and started on our way. We were soon heading South along some fantastic highways, chalk and cheese compared to the roads in Nepal and India. We sped along, and a couple of hours later, we had arrived in Phetcharburi, famous for a series of caves, as well as the palace of one of the past kings situated on the top of a hill, accessible by funicular and offering unrivalled views of the area. Due to the delays caused by our repairs, we were a bit short and had to choose one of the two. Dad and John were content to wait by the bikes, guarding our stuff from the local simian thieves, while Kath, Shan and I took a guided tour of the caves. There are five different caves, all connected to each other by narrow corridors, and they have become something of a religious experience for the locals. Several of the caves had opening to the sunlight above, and at the right time of day, shafts of sunlight, o289 - Copy (427x640)ne in the shape of a heart, would stream down onto the seated golden Buddhas in depths below. The story is that when the king at the time discovered these caves, they were already filled with many Buddha statues, the makers of which vanished without a trace over a century before. Even down here, under the earth, trinket sellers did a brisk trade amongst those coming to pray. We were told with some pride that Nicholas Cage had been here to film the movie Bangkok Dangerous. In the corner of one room, we were asked to take turns facing a seemingly random section of wall while our guide took a photo using the flash. When we looked at the photos, we saw to our amazement that the flash had illuminated a section of wall that made it seem as if we were staring right into the face of Buddha, a very optical illusion. Right at the back of the last cave, we were greeted by a statue of a Hindu God, adorned with flowers and surrounded by offerings. Both religions being very syncretic, the locals had decided to just pray to Buddha and this Hindu deity.

Back in the daylight, we were soon loaded up, minus one water bottle that a monkey had made off with, and hit the road, now just 60 km from our destination. As we travelled along the highway, we realised that we had never passed a section of road that did not have continuous building on either side of the road since leaving Bangkok, essentially making this town feel like an outer suburb of that massive city. This was clearly a holiday town, with resorts packed on top of each other on all sides. We were keen to find a place close to the ocean, as Thailand is famous for its beaches. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter searching around town for fifteen minutes, we managed to find a reasonably priced place close to the beach, and lugged our bags inside. After a quick shower, Shan, Kath and I took a stroll down to the beach. Most of the beach was covered in umbrellas, but we managed to find a spot for ourselves and grab a quick swim in the tepid water. There was very little difference between the air temp and the water, and in fact all you could say for the water is that it was…wet. Still a nice change though from the cloying heat, and in fact this was the first time we had seen the ocean since Turkey.

We spent the next hour or two chatting, then with the stars starting to emerge, we took a walk back to the hotel to shower and change. We then went out to find some food. This is very clearly a tourist town, as most of the places we saw were proudly advertising their Irish/Italian/USA/French themes, and eventually we settled for an interesting Norwegian restaurant right by the hotel. Although the menu was filled with wonderful photos of exotic food, all they were actually offering was an All-Day Breakfast, burgers or toasted sandwiches. Breakfast seemed like the best value for money, and soon we were tucking into bacon, eggs, sausage and toast. The next four hours were spent in the most wonderful conversation. Having someone else to talk to gave us a real chance to really process some of our experiences, and be quite frank about things that we had done well, and areas were we still needed to grow. It’s also just nice to have a new perspective on events, and be able to share all of the stories. When the restaurant started closing their doors at around 12:30, we took that as a hint to be on our way. I went back to the room to get to work on the blog, while the girls took a walk around town. As they walked, they began to notice that almost all of the bars and clubs were 90% full of young (and some not so young) Thai women, while the remaining 10% was pretty much old white men. While Shan and Kath were keen to find a place to party a bit, the sight of some of the women having amorous encounters with poles and beckoning them to join the fun was enough to keep them moving on their way. The one advantage of the situation was that for once, there was no chance of being hit on by young Thai swains. In the end, they settled on the beach, and sat for almost an hour on the edge of the world. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves to make sure that we are not just dreaming that we have travelled halfway around the world in just four months. As the stars turned above them, they made their way back through streets as the practitioners of the world’s oldest profession made their final twirls for the night.

Day 115 – Bangkok to Kanchanaburi (124 km)

Thailand

22.04.2012

Jules writes:159 (427x640)

With the shocks now in our possession, all we needed to do was fit them and we could be on our way. Just after 6:00 dad and I walked down to where we had been storing the bikes and rode them round to the hotel. The actual fitting is quite straightforward, and after a few false starts, we managed to get all three of them on. Shan had decided to just go with her adapted shock system, and so finally by around 10:00, we were ready to go, and waved our final goodbyes to the tourist dregs of Khao San Road. We had decided to drive slightly Northeast first to the River Khwae/Kwai, the setting for the movie “The Bridge of the River Kwai”, but unfortunately, we missed seeing the sign indicating that motorcycles were not allowed on the highway. As we were 166 (640x427)about to join the main road, we were pulled over by a policeman, and had to spend the next half an hour waiting in the sun, while John tried to establish exactly what we were supposed to do. Eventually we were allowed on our way for the small fee of 500 Baht, making it quite an expensive oversight. After that, though, we moved swiftly through the traffic, but it was difficult to tell when exactly we left Bangkok, as, for the rest of our drive that day, we never left urban settlements on either side of the road.

168 - Copy (640x487)Sometime around 12:00, we had our next excitement of the day: while pulling up to a traffic light, my clutch cable snapped, leaving me to slowly shudder to a stop. A quick examination showed that it had gone right where it meets the engine. Fortunately, we were fully equipped with a spare cable, and within half an hour, we had the new cable on, and were ready to go.

We really didn’t have far to travel today, and within the next hour, we had arrived in Kanchanaburi, the town where the famous bridge is located. We drove around for about 20 minutes looking for a place to stay, before finally settling on a guest house where the rooms are all individual house boats. Walking through the room, the back door opens onto a small balcony right over the river, and after checking that it was fine to swim, we all jumped in.

And soon found ourselves several metres downstream. The current here is much stronger than it appears, and it took some deteDCIM\100GOPROrmined swimming to make it back to the room. Then someone had the bright idea of tying ourselves to the boat using the straps from the bikes, and so we spent the next half an hour awkwardly floating on the river, trying to avoid the water-plants growing on the barrels under the house, and the occasional flotilla of rubbish floating down from other houses upstream. I think it was when we saw that the toilet from the room just upstream emptied right onto the river, a few metres from us, that we decided that we’d had 210 (640x427)our fill of swimming.

This was one of the most idyllic places we’ve stopped at, and so we spent the next few hours relaxing on the decks, and making forays up to the shop on the road to buy food and drinks. John has a particular interest in War history, and so he went exploring town to find the museum there, and to see the bridge itself. It had been built, and then sabotaged,  by prisoners of war during the Second World War, but the facts had been muddied a bit by the movie, which museum officials assured us was highly inaccurate.

As the sun started dip190 - Copyping towards the horizon, the rest of us decided to take a drive down to the bridge and catch the sunset. It is clearly quite a local attraction, as a small market had been set up at one end of the bridge, with no other foreigners in evidence. We watched the sun set from the bridge, and after picking up some fruit from the market, we made our way back home, where we spent the rest of the evening chatting and reading. I had been very keen to visit a National Park about 60 km North of us, and Dad was up for joining me tomorrow morning, while the rest planned to lounge around the place and do some local sightseeing in the town.

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Day 114 – Bangkok

Thailand

21.04.2012

Jules write056 (640x480) - Copys:

We had now got word that the shocks were definitely arriving today, but a morning spent on the phone gave us very little clue as to what time they would be available for collection. Even more frustrating, it seemed that for some reason, on Saturdays it is impossible for civilians to collect cargo, and it would have to be organized by a customs official at the airport, who, coincidentally, would have to be paid. This is some seriously providential legislation for these customs guys. All of this ambiguity meant that we had to all wait around the hotel area and couldn’t venture too far afield, as we may need to be ready for action. However, it was a particularly hot day, and so there were no complaints about spending a few hours in air conditioned rooms. I killed some time by going to pick up my suit, which had finally been finished by the tailors. It fit like a dream, and they even hung onto my details, in case I ever wanted to order from them again. If you are ever wanting to get a good quality suit made for a real steal, I still have their e-mail address…060 (640x480) - Copy

It was only at around 3:00 that we finally got the call that we could go through to start the paperwork for collecting the shocks. Dad and John opted to go, and the rest of us read, slept, or took short forays out into the humid chaos. As the afternoon began to fade into early evening, Kath, Shan and I decided to take a last wander around town. We walked through temples and monasteries sheltered between tall office buildings, and poked around in tiny little shops, one of which was given over completely to huge, gilded framed pictures of the Thai King, who is absolutely adored by many of his citizens. As we walked out of that shop, we noticed a s124 (640x427)mall crowd gathered in a little bookstore. Upon entering, we discovered that there had just been a book reading by a local author, and although we had missed the reading, he was now going to entertain everyone with his jazz band. And they turned out to be seriously good. It was great to see many of the audience members, mostly locals, really getting into the groove. Afterwards, we were invited up for snacks and drinks where the author/muso was displaying some of his artwork, a phenomenally talented guy.

Now quite hungry, we continued our wanderings and fou071 (480x640) - Copynd a small food quarter, where due to the complete lack of ability to communicate, we had to order by pointing at things that looked recognizable, although in the case of dessert, we just had to wing it completely. It was all delicious, though, and after a final walk through the markets and backstreets, we returned to the hotel. Dad and John still weren’t back, and it was only after 11:00 that they finally returned victorious, shocks in hand. Tomorrow, we’re outta here!

 

Day 113 – Bangkok

Thailand

20.04.2012

Jules writes:

It has been over three years since the idea for our trip was first conceived, and one of the people who heard all about it was a friend of mine, Kathryn Gibbs, who was staying in the same digs at the time. She has been teaching English in Korea for the last couple of years and is currently travelling around South East Asia with her family. When we realised that we would be in the same part of the world at the same time, I asked her if she would be at all interested in joining up with us for the last few weeks of our journey. She jumped at the chance, and so for the last month or two we have been trying to co-ordinate meeting up in Thailand. Once we had arrive in Bangkok, she began making her way here, and this morning she was due to arrive in Khao San. I had given her the name of the hotel, and so at around 7:00, I walked down the alley of our hotel to the point where it meets the main road and sat down to wait. I was expecting to find a completely deserted street, but to my amazement, there was still a number of tourists going strong in the bars. A full battalion of cleaners and sweepers were hard at work picking up the mess from the previous night, the occasional newbie backpacker would wander in looking for a place to stay, with a few enterprising tour operators ready to scoop them up.

Also in attendance were a few of the Thai Ladies Of Negotiable Affection, making their way from various hotels and guest houses. As I was sitting on the side of the road, one of these brazen minxes walked up to me and crouched down next to me.

“Herro”

“Hi”

“Where you from?”

“South Africa”

“Mmm, Souf America”

“No, South Africa”

“You wan be my friend?”

“Not particularly”

“You want boom boom?”

“No, thanks”

Ah, the fabled Thai arts of seduction. When it became clear that I really wasn’t looking for “boom boom”, she wandered off to look for a more amenable gentlemen.

A few minutes later, while I was still waiting, I heard two guys talking behind me, one in an American accent, and the other British.

B: I don’t care you can’t do that

A: I don’t care

B: It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman, you can’t hit them

A: But she stole Simon’s necklace

B: Are you sure it was the same chick

A: Yeah, it was definitely her, I swear

B: That b!#&h! Quick, we gotta get out of here, right now!

And with that they both ran off down the road. We’ve got to get out of this place soon!

At around 8:00, I saw dad wandering around, it seems that he is a really early riser, and when he went out for a walk earlier, hadn’t seen me sitting on the corner. We sat and talked for a bit, and then at 8:30, just I was about to go back inside, I spotted Kath walking down the road. I ran over to meet her and show her the way back to the hotel. It seems I may have spelled the name incorrectly, which meant that she might have struggled to actually find the place on her own.

The next couple of hours were spent catching up, and after everyone had a chance to shower, we decided to enjoy what will hopefully be our last full day in Bangkok. It sounds like the shocks should be here by tomorrow, so if we can get them onto the bikes in the morning, we might be driving out of here tomorrow afternoon. One of the highlights of the area is the Grand Palace, a colossal complex which houses the previous Royal Palace, and a temple area famous for being the home of the Jade Buddha (at least, famous in the circles of Jade Buddha enthusiasts). Getting there was just a quick river taxi ride away, although it did mean putting up with the whiniest usher in Bangkok (Come insiiiiiiiyyyyiiiiiid. Come insiyyiiyyiiid). At the entrance, we had to first rent some more appropriate clothes for visiting a temple, which included lon009 (640x457) (2)g pants for the guys and covered shoulders for the girls.

We were picked up by an elderly guide as we left the building, and he gave us a full tour of the place, earnestly pointing out the spots for the “good photo”. Thai temples, it seems, are decorated to the point of ostentation, with every surface panelled in mirrors, glass, gems or just straight out gilded. Sometimes the reflecting sun would make it just too bright to look at. And this is not just some ancient monument left to moulder quietly in the heat. The entire surface of every building in the complex is redone every fifty years, presumably at a staggering expense.

John and I had decided to sign up for a Thai cooking course, and so once we had finished our tour and taken our water taxi back to the hotel, we took the short walk down to the cooking school. We were met by an older Canadian gentleman. Older than me, anyway. His wife, Lee, was the resident chef of the school, and she showed us the program027 (640x480) for the afternoon. We were supposed to be joined by a few other people who had booked online, but after waiting fifteen minutes for them and no show, we decided to just start. First on our order of business was a trip down to the local market, where we picked up fresh supplies. The real challenge back home will be finding some of these ingredients, or at least passable substitutes. I’d imagine finding “rats ear mushrooms”, which look exactly like their namesake, will be a particular problem. Once we were all stocked, we returned to the kitchen, where we spent the next three hours preparing course after course of the most delicious Thai food I’ve ever tasted, learning the secrets of combining tastes and balancing aromas. After each dish had been prepared, we would sit down to eat our creation, and when you’re cooking seven different courses, that’s a lot of food.

Thoroughly stuffed, we made our way home as evening brought the unwashed masses out into Khao San Road. Shan and Kath had gone out to do some exploring and were still gone, and John and Dad spent the rest of the evening at the hotel. I sat down to do some blogging, and ended up chatting on Facebook to the girl that had been on our flight from Nepal. She invited us to go out with her and some of her friends to a blues bar not far from where we were staying. I was keen, but wanted to wait until the others get back. After a couple of hours, and no sign of them, I finally decided to find the place myself. It turned out to be next door to the cooking school. I looked around, but couldn’t see anyone I knew, so sat down to enjoy the music. The band was all Thai, with the exception of the old Canadian vocalist, and together they played some of the best blues I have ever heard. These were some serious virtuoso’s, and when I started chatting to one of the other patrons, I was told that a few of the guys in the band had played in the big circuits in New York. One of the guitarists was only sixteen years old, but played like a master. One does not typically associate Thailand with awesome blues bands, so this place was a real find. After about an hour, Ruby, the girl from the flight arrived, and we sat down to enjoy the music and chat. About half an hour after that, I looked up to see Kath and Shan sitting in the corner. It turned out that they had got the note I had written telling them simply that I was going out, then had looked on the computer and seen a webpage for a bar still open,  and had put two and two together. Thanks to Google maps and intuition, we were reunited and the rest of the evening was fantastic, with several of the other people in the bar getting up to do a few impromptu numbers. Finally, after 1:00 AM, we said goodbye and tottered back to our hotel.

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