|Final Statistics: Alex & Maz||Total distance: 93,550km|
|Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ||Now settled in Sydney, Australia|
|Final Statistics: Martin||Total distance: 79,698km|
|Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia||Now settled in Bristol, UK|
The water fighters continue to party!
Thailand, Country 19, Diary entry 14th-21st April 2006, Total distance in Thailand (first pass): 4099km
After saying 'bon voyage' to Max and leaving Martin to venture further North, we also headed to Si Satchanalai after brekkie. Again ploughing though all the water fights it took us a while to get there and after hiring bikes again as we found that the best way to get round Sukhothai (Martin obviously didn't see them!) we began to venture round the site. Not having as much restoration, removal of trees or manicured lawns that Sukhothai has, Si Satchanalai has more of an element of surprise. As you wander round the wooded complex, you never know what Wat you're going to marvel at next.
We managed to wander round a few beautiful ones including Wat Chang Lom - an elephant girded shrine which took 6 years to build to house some exceptionally holy relics of the Lord Buddha. It is a large bell shaped spire in the Sri Lankan style standing on a two-storey, square basement. The upper tier contains niches for Buddha images, now mostly gone, while the lower level contains 39 elephant-shaped buttresses.
As the afternoon progressed, we ventured out of the massive walls of the city to have a cycle round the Wats further afield. We didn't get very far before we came across loud music blaring from outside one of the modern temples and stopped to have a closer look. We were pounced on by the partying locals and dragged in to share a drink with them.
It was all very surreal. Song Kran is a very family affair, all the family is out from the babe in arms to the 70 year old grandma. As soon as we were in the courtyard, we were offered a drink. It was a shot (and a large one at that) of rice whiskey. Bl**dy awful stuff, but we drank it down thanking them for their kind hospitality. It didn't take us long to decipher that all the adults were drunk and the children were the ones behaving themselves! The music was coming from a stage with six girls dressed in skimpy cowgirl outfits and six inch platform, knee high boots miming to a song. In front of the stage, was a mud pit from where a huge hose was on constant full flow with someone holding it spraying anyone in sight. Every 5 minutes we were offered more drinks and after about the third (it was now mug size), we began to decline as I could feel the alcohol burning my insides as it went down!
We had a dance with the locals who'd befriended us, a soaking by the cheeky kids while we were at it and a few more drinks offered, to which we had perfected the 'pretend to take a sip and pass on' routine. Suddenly, the music stopped and everyone walked up to the steps on the outside of the Wat which was set up as an altar and the monks walked out. Everyone began to chant and pray, and we were shown how to hold our hands respectively and bow our heads in prayer. A huge contrast to the party we'd just been a part of.
After the religious ceremony was over, it was on to the next party. I was bundled into the back of a truck along with one of the money trees which is used in the religious ceremony and about 15 other people, leaving Alex behind with one of the locals. They assured us all would be fine (in the limited language we had between us) and off I went. Every 100 yards or so, people wait at the side of the road for you to give you a soaking. I thought I was going to get away with it, as it appeared that water is never thrown on a truck which carries one of the money trees. This is true.....however they just pull you off the truck and give you a soaking before allowing you to get back on again! I was paraded at every stop by a lady who seemed to have adopted me and we had a dance and a beer, well she forcefully made me drink some (yeah, hard to believe I know!) before taking it off me and drinking most of it herself and then pulling me back into the truck again to carry on partying elsewhere.
In my naivety of the morning, I had put on a light coloured dress which when dry is fine, but when wet shows the little you are wearing underneath!!! Thankfully, one of the ladies gave me a coat to cover my modesty (as by this time it looked like I had just stood under a shower) and I could fight the fight again!
As we were getting back on the money tree wagon, Alex pulled up in another truck, along with the bikes tucked away in the back, to join the fun. We came to another Wat where the next party was to be had. Truck loads of people turned up, the getoblaster switched to loud and to show the locals who were now all just staring at us, that westerners knew how to party, we began the dancing! Soon enough, the 'dance floor' was packed with people stumbling around to the music, eager to have a dance with us and feed us more drink.
The next day we headed south to see more ancient Wats in Ayutthaya. After a long, rainy, slow drive where everyone was heading back south from the fun of Song Kran, we arrived in the dark but managed to find camp just outside Wat Phra Ram so woke to a great view in the morning. Ayutthaya was laid out at the junction of three rivers; Chao Phrya, Pa Sak and Lopburi. Cutting a canal across the loop of the Chao Phrya an island was created. In its day, Ayutthaya was one of the richest cities in Asia, exporting rice, animal skins and ivory, with a population of one million. Unfortunately its decline was as fast as its rise to greatness and with the Burmese armies triumphing in the 1700's, burning, looting and destroying much of the city and its monuments; Ayutthaya never recovered.
The ruins are on the west side of the island, while modern day Ayutthaya has been built on the east. Again the Wats are fantastic, grand in their structure, impressive in their size and some amazingly preserved relics, but you can get a little 'Wat'd'out after so many. The last Wat we visited was Wat Phanan Choeng, a huge seated Buddha, so tightly crowded against the roof that it looks like it's holding it up. We turned up just as they were covering it with orange cloth to make the sash which adorns so many of the Buddhas we've seen so far. This is no mean feat; lots of worshippers are sat on the floor, giving money in return for purchasing a yellow bit of material to throw up at the guys stood on the Buddha, who in turn tie them to some rope. At the end of this ritual, all the strands of material are draped out over the worshippers and then the rope is heaved and the sash is pulled into place. It was fascinating to see the process.
We then spent the next 2 days heading south; got lost round Bangkok, found a nice camp by the beach and ate over-fried prawns as that was the only thing the lady understood we wanted. After leaving the fast roads, we headed on the remoter roads which took us to the small car passenger ferry, to finally reach Ko Lanta where we had organised some diving before the end of the dive season.
We drove directly to Ko Lanta Diving Centre where Christian and his team Kerstin, Stephanie, Andy, Sascha, Reinhard, Pae, Bert and Ita to name a few gave us a true German welcome by shaking hands and handing us a beer! We chatted for a while and the early evening passed by, with more Chang beer being passed over for us to consume. After three beers (this is really strong stuff) Alex and I were feeling a little squiffy, so Christian showed us to our beach side bungalow. We were happy to find camp, but he thought it would be much nicer for us to have a shower! Not sure what he was suggesting, but we were more than happy to have air conditioning for a change :o)
We then met up with some of his friends and we all went out dinner. Having told Christian of our penchant for Tesco's as soon as we entered the country, he decided on the Red Snapper, a Swedish owned restaurant with food to die for! We had a few nibbles to start followed by duck, beef and fish. The food was amazing. To top off this dream night, we had RED WINE! Something I didn't think I'd get again until I reached the sunny shores of Australia. Completely stuffed and knowing we had to get up for diving way too early the next day, Christian dropped us off at the bungalow.
Blurry eyed and not quite with it at 7am the next morning, we were picked up to go to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, two of the main attractions off Ko Lanta for a days diving. A 3 hour sail out, it's not for the faint hearted in rough seas, but we were lucky and with a smooth crossing slept for most of it. The first dive was lovely, corals, lots of reef fish and the odd Moray eel, we floated in our underwater world for an hour or so. As we came back from the dive, the sea had picked up and it had become quite rough. Not feeling great, I think from maybe a little too much red wine from the previous night, I tried to sleep between dives. The second dive was just as nice with lots of soft red corals adorning the reef. With our guide Stephanie showing us round the reef, we followed behind taking in view.
We suffered the waves on the way back to land and met up with Christian in the shop for the obligatory after-dive beer, before heading to the bungalow to freshen up before meeting him again for dinner. This time we stayed local with prawn and crab cocktails for starters, I ordered fish, Alex had a sizzling dish of beef and Christian had the local chicken and noodles. We shared them all and were completely stuffed by the end.
Having originally planned to head up towards Phuket, we ended up staying in Ko Lanta for another couple of days relaxing and catching up with things. It is such peaceful island, it's hard to drag yourself away from it. Christian had kindly offered Ita's services to paint a banner for us, to take around the diving community willing to help us with fundraising. Ita began the long process of designing and creating the banner, while Christian headed for Phuket to attend a Thailand diving association meeting.
The next morning we went for brekkie and met up with an English couple Chris and Pip who'd packed their bags a year ago and were out looking for paradise too. Having both worked for charity organisations before leaving the UK, they offered their condolences knowing the hard work fundraising is and options and ways to help with our efforts for CARE. We spent the morning catching up with them and arranged to meet up for dinner after we'd explored the island. We had lunch at viewpoint, overlooking the remoter islands to the east and then drove to the very south of the island where only 4x4's can get through. It's a national park and very nice. Unfortunately, as we explored round the old lighthouse, the heavens opened, so we continued round the island and then headed home. Returning to one of the restaurants Chris and Pip had already frequented, I had a lovely curry, wisely recommended by Chris, which was delicious.
The next day we waited around for Christian to return from Phuket by passing the time on the beach front and catching up with admin. Ita was busily painting away and we went to have a look at how she was getting on. The banner is amazing and with Ita being so small, she cleverly used her own hands for the CARE logo! Christian returned and we had a photo session outside the shop to show off our new banner. Ita had truly done a fantastic job. We had a great time diving with Ko Lanta diving, thank you so much Christian for your very kind and generous hospitality.
We waved goodbye with little sunlight left and headed back on to the mainland towards Krabi which is where we decided to stay for the night to camp up. Turning up was like a slap in the face with regards to 'tourist city'........When we were on Ko Lanta we thought it was nice, but tourism was definitely making its presence, arriving in Krabi, Ko Lanta is still comparatively in the dark ages which is where I would like it to stay! We had considered diving while we were there as we still had a few days until we had to be in Phuket. We enjoyed a nice meal and found camp further round the coast on some disused land (there isn't much of it about) and fell asleep to the rumble of trucks carting loads to and from the port.
The next morning we decided to head to Phuket rather than venture out to sea as we remembered from times previous, we had a luxury hotel waiting to be utilised.....
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|Comment from Taimur Mirza|
You guys been having lots of fun but are far far behind in actual work ..... :-) give some finishing touches to the website also..... time to update the pic album...
Wishing you all the best from the "network"
|23 May 2006 @ 06:18:39|