ASEAN reloaded

this isn’t as simple as in the old days. back then you’d pour your heart out into an anonymous screen in some dingy net cafe in some dingy alleyway in old delhi or somewhere equally smelly, and press send. 3 days later someone would be guilted into writing back, even though they have ‘nothing to say, home is home, same old same old.’ these days you have to set up a travelblog, then you have to get everyone to bookmark it, and check it, and then leave comments so that you know you’re not just writing to the cybergods who never listen anyway, and of course your parents, who don’t really count (sorry folks). and to be honest, travelling with two people is, i suppose quite obviously, completely different to going it solo. i mean, someone already knows about the hell 17 hour ferry bus train trip you just did, so the imperitive to inflict, i mean share, the experience with others is just lacking.

but you know what? 3 days in bangkok in 40 degree heat is just the tonic for someone lacking the writing bug. (net cafes being airconditioned and all, and you might as well use one of the computers, as the proprietors tend to look at you funny if you just sit in the mercifully drycoldairflow, naked.)

so, after the somewhat waffly preamble, let’s get started.

ok so, what have jo and i actually been doing? good question, with a short answer – not a hell of a lot. leaving melbourne in ablaze of glory – thanks to all those who turned up to the golden monkey and kicked on into the wee hours – we alighted in singapore and crashed with my new boss-to-be. kicking in a couple of wines to his collection as rent for dumping some bags there (i think this could be a liquid appointment, judging by the stock already amassed), we winged it out for krabi the next day on tiger air. a lovely brandspanker of an A320, with about 30 people on board… for about 70 bucks. you people better pray they set up shop in melbourne, and give jetstar the spanking it deserves.

from krabi we hot ferried it to phi phi, and there the wheels started to fall off, to mix a metaphor 3 ways. some of you will know that i spent a lot of time on phi phi in ‘01,and to put it mildly, the place has changed. with the exception of a cleared piece of landin one corner of the village (which could be an ordinary construction site), some twisted and distorted building materials, and a heartbreaking baby’s grave halfway up to the viewpoint, you’d never know there’d been a tsunami. until you speak to some of the locals, who talk about it quite freely – where they were and what they were doing… some of whom have missing or mangled limbs. so, that was different, but not markedly so. what struck me was the rampant development going on. phiphi was always"touristy". i knew that. but this is different. this is a 4 storey mall (!) being built where "charlie’s" used to be. it’s tour boats from phuket lanta and krabi converging on phi phi ley at 9.30 in the morning, disgorging orange lifejacketed snorkelling japanese tourists from the back of huge vessels, like they decided to return all the whalemeat in a "molecular food" form. we were lucky to get to phi ley bay by 8.30, and have 15 mins of uninterrupted bliss. but still, who wants to get up early on holidays just to enjoy an island cruise in peace??

so, instead of taking to the water, we took to the roads. hiking down to runtee bay, then over to ton ko bay (or trying to – we got lost and ended up on a new road above town, a massive swath cut into the hillside that bodes only ill for the coming years…). tiring of being tired, we alternated with some serious beach time, but really, unless you can escape the main village, the beaches at phi phi aren’t all that crash hot.

so, we bailed to ko lanta, south of phi phi, which is only accessible in the dry season.

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