On to Thailand - 27th April 2011
Neither of us has previously visited Thailand and as my brother Gary and his wife Nid maintain a part time home in the small south eastern coastal city of Hua Hin, we decided to make that our first stop. It was a difficult and painful journey for me because somehow I'd damaged my left shoulder just prior to departure. No doubt is was the result of moving my stupidly oversized and overfilled bag from here to there after leaving Nambucca Heads.

After a flight of 10 hours or so we exited from Bangkok Airport a few minutes before midnight and stepped out into the hot steamy evening. We were grabbed by the taxi van driver my brother had pre-arranged and we settled back for a 2 hour drive south to Hua Hin in the dead of night. After the usual arrival greetings we collapsed into bed and slept like logs until 9am next morning.

Lynn, Nid and my brother Gary

Lynn and Gary in the backyard garden

Gary and Nid have a lovely home in Hua Hin and the star attraction is their  beautiful tropical garden, swimming pool and fantastic outdoor cabana. It was great to lower ourselves into pool for a refresher before enjoying a breakfast platter of chilled tropical fruit next morning.

Lynn and I are feeling pretty lethargic this morning but Gary has plans to take us to lunch at a vineyard and restaurant up in the hills. This is surprising because firstly we haven't seen anything remotely approaching a hill during our drive down to Hua Hin last night and we can't imagine making wine in this hot and humid climate. We got away around noon and 40 or so minutes later we were sitting on the balcony of a very nice elevated restaurant overlooking rows of grape vines. We had some of the local wine with our meal and it was very acceptable.

Young Thai guy takes poodle for a ride.

A Full Monty English breakfast in Thailand? The mind boggles!

Our next stop was at a small beach near Hua Hin where Nid coaxed us into having a Thai massage. I had some reluctance due to my bad shoulder but then I thought that maybe a back, neck and shoulder massage might actually help. The price was especially attractive at only 300 Baht (a mere $10) for 90 minutes. Lynn opted to have the works which was a full massage plus a manicure, pedicure and foot massage.

The position was ideal as we lay on a thin mattress under a grass thatched lean-to beside the the sand with a nice sea breeze and the sound of surf in our ears. Gary brought me a Mai Tai from the tiny thatched bar next door and although it seemed very light on the rum side of things, it was pleasant and exotic to get the straw in my mouth and have a sip at various intervals during the course of the massage.

Then it was home for a swim, a few drinks and a fish barbeque under the cabana before we crashed into bed.

Lynn and Nid cool their feet in the family pool

An evening seafood extravaganza at a beachside restaurant

Next morning we had a pleasant outdoor breakfast buffet at a bayside resort hotel before driving along the bay taking in some of the sights. There were lots of small fishing boats drawn up on the sand and we saw groups of women squatting in shaded areas under the trees mending fishing nets. Some of them where also offering an off the cuff motorcycle taxi service to anyone needing a lift. This extra enterprise didn't seem to be attracting any customers.

Pray for a job and then buy a chicken. Don't worry, it's complicated

Lynn discovers the ocean temperature is about 26 degrees!!

Driving through a nearby town I spied a series of roast pork restaurants. Each had a large open charcoal fire out by the street with a whole split pig spread out in butterfly fashion and rotating over the fire. It looked and smelt delicious so we stopped and bought some hot roasted pork to make up sandwiches when we got back home to Gary and Nid's place.

The afternoon was very hot so we just lazed around in the shaded areas of Gary and Nid's pool all afternoon. It was just what the doctor ordered and we could feel the holiday departure stress and sleep deprivation starting to drain away.

Following a lazy afternoon we went to an outdoor seafood restaurant on the edge of a beach. We had a fantastic and very  inexpensive dinner of fish, calamari, crabs and prawns as we watched dusk change to night beside the beach. A tour bus load of out of town university students then arrived at the restaurant and filled up all the adjacent tables and more. It was very festive and the students were all highly excited. Nid told us that some of them were saying that it was the first time they'd ever visited a beach or seen the ocean.

The girls pose after breakfast in this resort

Road rules?? What bloody road rules??

We all headed off early next morning and drove to the Myanmar (Burma) border to visit a market stuck out in the jungle beside the frontier. The Myanmar people are extremely poor and the Thai's allow them a one day pass to walk 200 metres into Thailand bringing bits and pieces to sell to Thai people and tourists. It was large, colourful and very busy market and we trekked up and down numerous alley-ways. It was both exotic and sad. These people are obviously so very poor. There was all kinds of produce and hand made products  to buy but the  things which captured our main attention were the incredible flowering orchids, ferns and other jungle flora. All the prices were unbelievably low. Gary and Nid told us that most of their beautiful garden had been stocked with plants and trees they'd purchased from this particular market.

Fantastic orchids in market beside Myanmar border

Oh boy, I'd love to take one home. The orchid.... stupid!!

We drove from the market to a very a very large Buddhist temple. At the foot of the temple steps was a full size carved wooden elephant. Nid told us it was good luck to walk under the elephant's belly, walk around this head and back under the belly again and do this circumnavigation three times. Now this was an Asian rather than an African elephant so I found it necessary to stoop a little in order to get under the belly. I wasn't careful enough and ended up smashing my head hard on the animal's  astonishingly large dooverlacky. After the stars cleared I ruefully thought "well one travels to acquire new experiences and that's definitely a new one to add to my collection!"

Well endowed timber elephant

Famous Buddhist icon called ????

We then headed on to a fantastic hilltop temple with fantastic statues and a great view of the sea. Then it was back down to another beach cafe for another huge meal on the sand under some palm trees.

These monkeys were poised to leap through our car window

Newly purchased Myanmar bush animal on chain

Drat.... Lynn has just told me that I have got some of the above described events out of order. Accordingly I made her suggested adjustments but I can see that there are still some chronological errors. Under the circumstances I'm sure you'll all forgive me for these transgressions and just let me continue on.

This spectacular temple guard was at least 15 metres tall

Hey Brian, I think you just put a bad bend in that tree!!

Next day was time to say farewell to Thailand. We needed to fly to Italy via Hong Kong and Nid had booked us a taxi van to drive us back up to Bangkok. She'd reserved the taxi for a conservative 10.00am pick up time giving us 4 hours for a 3 hour journey. It was a public holiday and traffic conditions in Thailand can often become grid locked even at the best of times. We felt that a 60 minute buffer should be enough to protect us from a catastrophe. Unfortunately the taxi van arrived late. Then 15 minutes after we set off the driver dived into a service station and got into a long queue of vehicles all lining up to get LPG gas or something similar. It seemed to take about 10 minutes or so to push gas into each vehicle and it took 50 minutes before we got to front and was hooked up to the gas thingie machine. Whilst we were waiting in the scorching sun waiting for LPG other drivers were coming and going through the diesel and gasoline pumps without significant delay. Our driver couldn't speak any English so I tried to call Gary and Nid numerous times to find out what was going on but my mobile just couldn't seem to reach them.

Finally we were on our way at last and I more or less gave the driver the "clear" understanding that we just had to reach the Airport by 2pm. This turned him into a kamikaze pilot and thereafter we hurtled along the freeway at breakneck speed weaving from lane to lane to grab any advantage on offer. The driver was completely without fear but not so his passengers. Lynn turned pale but I kept myself distracted wondering why this particular van had no seatbelts.

Blow me down, an hour later our driver dived into another servo and bought about $10 worth of petrol so this vehicle is obviously a hybrid and could have used petrol for the whole journey! Later on as we approached the outskirts of Bangkok he stopped yet again and spent another 10 minutes taking on more LPG all the while using sign language to indicate that we would reach the Airport by 2pm as required. He could no doubt see that we were highly stressed. And we did indeed make the Airport just in time only to find that our Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong was delayed by 90 minutes! All that wasted stress.

Our connecting flight from Hong Kong to Milan was not due to depart until 1.00am next morning so we still had a long wait in HK. It allowed us to have a refreshing shower, some tasty snacks and a good read whilst we waited for our 1.00am onward journey. By this time we were pretty exhausted.

I can't believe I wrote so much. I will have to seriously curb my enthusiasm in future instalments because I'm sure I won't have sufficient energy and you won't have sufficient patience. Until that time......

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