Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Maybe Tomorrow..... I'll find my way home!

I woke very early to catch the airport shuttle and had a slurred goodbye with a sleepy Penny before starting the first leg of my return journey. I flew from Krabi to Bangkok and grabbed a taxi to Khao san road the site of my transition from West to East and checked into my overpriced and dramatically so-so room on the strip. I had lunch at a redecorated Silk bar where they were playing the Labyrinth in Thai which, as I have yet to see it in English, was a very difficult concept to follow. When I was trying to keep myself busy and avoid those bloody grabby tailors I went in search of street food and I bumped into Korean Rachel from my room in Koh Phangan, which was an odd coincidence (odder still when I found out we met in Queenstown several weeks earlier and she made me do drunk press ups). I went for a swim about an hour before the rooftop pool closed at my hotel and I was naive to think that in the cooling Bangkok evening the pool would be heated. I knocked out a few hastily sprinted laps which ended up being just to keep warm as fitness was abandoned. I watched License to Kill which is one of my favourite Bond films and then hoped very much for a long sleep, but as usual it was broken. 

I mulled around in the room before packing and hitting the Khao San for breakfast. It was around 8.30am and there was already a very pissed Englishman who couldn’t pay for the beer he had ordered and was yelling at passers by for assistance. This embodied everything I dislike about tourism both in developing countries and not. It may seem like I got to Thailand and decided to have a long moan but to an extent that is fair, it’s just very sad that such a beautiful place has been torn to pieces and rewoven for the western world to take advantage of. I checked out and got a long and thoroughly soothing massage and did some light shopping for the family. I tried to buy my older brother a fake Spanish league team replica top, as he likes that sort of thing, but the Thai folk advertised a reasonable looking one but when it came to sale time that one went away and a truly terrible one emerged for the same price, so that was that. I bought a pre-film paperback copy of ‘The Beach’ and grabbed a light snack and a beer. The snacks never came so I left the beer money under my mug and slipped out, especially as I was sat next to some very dodgy Thai pool hustlers betting obscene amounts per game of pool with each other. I grabbed a foot massage in the hot falling sun featuring an overpriced beer and it was a lovely way to end my Bangkok experience, or so I thought. I bought a beer in my hotels coffee shop and waited till the raw shriek of airport in the makeshift outdoor reception to summon me to my carriage. I was lead down some Bangkok alleyways to the bus, as is the custom, with some very talkative Germans. On the bus, in thick Bangkok traffic, I reminisced on how great a trip I had but how happy I was to be going home to surprise the family for Christmas. The Germans continued to chat away in their first tongue and my understanding of the language kept me thoroughly entertained especially when words such as ‘opium shake’, ‘opium tea’, ‘kopf schmerzen’ and ‘sheisse’ broke through the monotone. After this quite enjoyable time I started to panic, I had been advised by the travel agent to get the later bus but was now caught in almost unmoving traffic. We managed about two hundred metres in forty minutes and then I like my bus comrades started to really worry about making my flight. I conveyed my concerns to the cute Danish girl opposite and we helped increase the others anxiety by constantly cursing at traffic or the endless red lights. After sitting in traffic for a further ninety minutes I was still within walking distance of the hotel and seriously considered going back and throttling that bitch who told me to take the later bus. We finally got a break in traffic and we set off at alarming speed and proximity to the car in front. We ended up making it with plenty of time thanks to the dangerously fast veering in and out of traffic the driver did with some level of expertise. 

I checked in to my flight and went through to security where a Thai kid did what Thai people do best and walked past all the people waiting at security to the front of the queue, to the disgust of all the westerners who muttered there distain. I however took the high road and when the kid hadn’t removed the ridiculous amount of metal on his person and his bag was stopped at x-ray I grassed him up and he was taken for extra screening. I wandered through the overpriced food court and went to the gate. I had my bag researched at the gate and I was patted down my a little Thai lady, with no happy ending. It was a little bemusing that they don’t trust their own security earlier in proceedings but as there was a bomb attack three days in earlier in the capital I didn’t complain. The flight was reasonable with an old school entertainment system. I watched Home Alone to get in the festive spirit and then had a Grants whisky to get into the real spirits. I sat a space apart from a Dutch girl who ordered a cosure meal but as they forgot to heat it she got the non-heated part of that meal and a whole regular meal and decided to share with me to create a combined feast, which left me stuffed. We arrived at Mumbai, where it was 28C at 12.30am, and went through the bother of a international transfer. Basically the metal detectors were redundant as they fail everyone regardless of metal on your person and you have to go through to a more vigorous pat down and hand held metal detector scan.  When the circus was over I checked the exchange rate and finding it dramatically in British favour with 92 rupees to the pound, I headed to duty free where I got a litre bottle of Captain Morgans rum for US$10. I continued my tour of Mumbai airport and saw a British Indian guy lose it at KFC and scream at a guy about chicken then went and waited for my flight to be called.  It was a quick turn around and I spent most of the home leg sleeping which made me grateful I had selected a red eye. When I got out of customs, which included a quick change into warmer clothes, I avoided the touting of the Heathrow Express at a whopping £18 and got the tube to the same destination for £5 and with time to kill was a much better idea. It’s quite funny one of the reasons I left for this trip was that I was bored of the same types of people as well as the buildings but it was that rogue individualism and charm that makes Britons different to the rest of the world and made me happy to return.

I got to Paddington three hours before my train and decided that instead of risking a penalty fair and getting an earlier train I settled into the Fullers pub; The Mad Bishop and Bear (a pub I know very well) for some breakfast and rest bite from being constantly on the move. I was pleased to think that in six hours I would be home. The festivities from Heathrow to Paddington had ignited my attraction to Christmas and I couldn’t wait to get involved. I devoured a full English breakfast and then did something very British, no I didn’t invade any country, drunkenly destroy property or impregnate a single mother of twelve, I ordered a pot of tea, sat back and enjoyed. When I was done, all too quickly, I wandered around looking for something to do, even embarking on a trip outside of the station, to no avail. I ended in WH Smith reading the foreword and first chapter of the biography Madeline McCann’s disappearance by her parents. It was dangerously obsessive with their self preservation rather than what had happened and left me once more wondering why, in leaving the kids home alone while they had dinner, they had not been done for neglect. I mean if they were a working class family they probably would have lost their other two kids and been charged.  I mulled on this thought as I return to the main station and people watched until boredom once again set in. This time I considered changing my ticket to an earlier train but when they told me it cost almost the same as the initial ticket cost I didn’t bother and returned to people watching. They may be the cause of a number of my grumbles but British people and people in British surroundings are an interesting and entertaining bunch that is so different from anywhere else. I had a few mulled ciders when the pub could start serving alcohol just to keep me warm and pass the time before boarding the quiet coach of the Swansea bound train. Unfortunately the oldies had taken it back and either got in the way or voided the quiet coach by moaning for half the journey about the minimal luggage space. Knowing it was two and a half hours to Cardiff on the express train made me feel better, all I needed now was some rest.

It wouldn’t come so I started reading The Beach in the weak winter sunshine as it flickered between trees and buildings into the carriage. We got held up by signal issues near Reading and an apologetic but familiar tone came over the intercom, an unmistakable Swansea accent. It started to sink in that I was going back to Wales and it made me smile briefly before returning my concentration to my book.  I got into Cardiff and got a quick connection to Penarth, from which I walked the four hundred or so metres in Nick Burkes house to set up my surprise return. After catching up with Nick he called my house as a wrong number to check if anyone was in and make sure I didn’t freeze on the doorstep, and he got the answering machine, so much for the return of the conquering hero (*disclaimer this was not an imperialistic voyage and I failed to conquer much else than climbing a few mountains and swimming a few lakes). This continued for the next four hours so Nick and I disappeared to the pub, eventually we got through and I showed up on the doorstep unannounced three days before Christmas. My sister opened the door and when the initial shock wore off she burst into tears, my mother showed similar signs of shock and when my father fell in a little squiffy in preparation for his Christmas party I got a solitary ‘What are you doing here?’ This was followed by a hug, which is a rare sign of affection from the big guy. I spoke to one of my aunties and my grandfather as news spread through the family of my return. It was the surprise I wanted but I was lagging terribly from fatigue, lack of sleep and the number of time barriers I had crossed. I caught the football then quickly passed out in bed.

I didn’t sleep long; a mere seven hours and I woke still feeling the tired pinch from behind my eyes. I sat up in my dark room not knowing where I was. As the light settled and my eyes adjusted my room appeared and what seemed like several minutes later my brain converted my presence to my location. I thought that I could hear Penny snoring in the dark, a noise I feel will haunt me until I am well rested. I put my TV on at 5.30am and got up at 6am to review my last six months on the road.

It was exactly what I expected and nothing that I could have predicted. I rode the emotional rollercoaster from the highest highs to some dark and tired lows. In the USA we ventured from coast to coast meeting old friends and making new ones and with a splash of drinking too much I was re-engaged with humility and adventure. We saw the highest peaks, the deepest lakes and vast expanses of openness that the country has to offer. I walked a similar path but took different turns that lead me to the furthest reaches and also a mixture of fleeting and permanent beauty, both in people and scenery. In Fiji I saw what I imagined paradise was and made friends that a week in bliss shouldn’t be able to develop, but the bond of the hobbit card, the 2am drums and a loathing but constant participation of the Bula dance created. I swam with sharks, mantarays and sea snakes with out fear, and was terrified by diving into a dark underwater cave that brought about such an unimaginable awesome experience.

In New Zealand I saw the Welsh rugby team go so far but fall short to the rugby community’s jubilation and horror. I stayed with family friends and distant friends that showed me such kindness that I wish to repay one day. I hitch hiked, commandeered a boat and called English referee Wayne Barnes a dickhead much to the pleasure of the travelling Wales fans. I travelled the length of both Islands taking in what the country had to offer from luging and hot spas to glaciers and lakes. I was prodded for every penny and occasionally treated like a refugee (Christchurch airport) but like John Mcleod once wrote
"It's the journey that's important, Not the getting there!"
In Australia we indulged the tourist experience and saw some of my Fiji friends which was like never skipping a beat. Thailand showed me that this world of ours is getting smaller and easier to get to. I enjoyed the bustle of south East Asia but I was also saddened of the bastardisation by the west. Although I had my grievances with the commercialisation I did enjoy Thailand, especially raving at the Full Moon party with an array of new friends, becoming locals at a hotel in Krabi and enjoying the stunning natural beauty of ‘The Beach’ and other surrounding islands around Phi Phi with great company.

On this trip spanning a reasonable proportion of the world I have camped in sub-zero temperatures and slept in hotter than hell rooms. I have re-established old friendships and learnt more from them in two days than over the course of our friendships. I discovered more about the world we live in and how it operates and how people live and what they do well and mostly don’t.

I witnessed some natural and man based effects that were unsettling. The first was the forest fire in Nevada where from the distance it looked like a volcano plume but driving a long side an entire mountain was ablaze. In Fiji there was still much political unrest that had spread to disappearing tourists who openly discussed the matter with criticism. In New Zealand I witnessed the crashed container ship, the Rena, spewing oil into the ocean and what was left of Christchurch after the devastating earthquake early in 2011. In Thailand I saw the after effects of the flooding that destroyed a large proportion of the countries businesses and roads and left many homeless and without livelihoods. There was also the aftermath of the red revolution in 2010 with anti-governmental graffiti yet to be washed away and the threat of more violent unrest with a bomb found on a Bangkok main road days before I flew out. It shows that amongst the great and spectacular things that the world and people have to offer we also have issues that cannot be triumphed by individuals or what we have, or what nature has provided us. There will always be imperfections and that is part of being human, although some people’s imperfections go as far as forgetting to pay a phone bill while others extend to drunken short cuts and crashing tankers.

While I was away the world changed, we lost dangerous tyrants like Colonel Gaddafi and Kim Jong Il , but also lost performers like the troubled Amy Winehouse, and the so far inexplicable suicide of Wales football manager Gary Speed to name but a few. The global financial crisis has gotten worse and the job market harder, a time I and Richard Branson would suggest entrepreneurial enterprise could be the way forward. Sport saw a personal hero in Shane Williams retire and the Welsh rugby union lose the stars of the World Cup abroad. Britain itself is unsure of itself with the coalition on tender hooks and Scotland and Wales coming closer and closer to devolution. But then again nothing has changed; the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Bankers are gambling with our pensions, politicians are lying and communities are still fracturing. The good are trying to no avail and the bad are still pretending to be good. The sun keeps rising, the bills keep coming and humanity will keep trying.

Regardless I am optimistic towards the future and whatever it may hold, I feel that any job will do right now with so many out of work and it could be five to ten years before I can get near ‘that’ job that so many of us crave. I left feeling that things were too complicated to comprehend and I needed space, but all I needed was space to realise that if you forget all the bollocks and bullshit things are quite simple, whatever you want in life should be your goal but have a plan and always strive for happiness and to be content.So I went there and I came back and I lived. Oscar Wilde said "To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all", I couldn't agree more and hope to take these words on to the next stage of my journey.

I finish with a thought on contemplation.

“Sleep on doubt, sleep with danger and if you can sleep under the stars.” A.Gill

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Beach: Phi Phi, Railey, Krabi

When we arrived in Krabi we booked our boat tp Phi Phi and checked into the charming Hello KR hotel which was incredibly friendly and casual with really nice rooms. A favourite part of my stay was that on the specials list they had chips, cheese and gravy, a personal favourite of mine that I used have at Mr Johns take away at University in Plymouth (it has since become a retched Kebab shop that likes ejecting me with or without food). I opted to see the Thai take on it and was pleasantly surprised. We had a beer at the roof top bar and the Thai bartender joined us and warned us of the commercialisation of our next destination, Phi Phi. He said that the competition for trade has led to the breaking down of family businesses and community spirit and left the attitude of every man for himself. We watched some South Park and then slept.

I was awoken by a rooster and due to my now customary patterns of broken sleep it was a groggy start but with seeing Helen (lovely Irish girl from Koh Phangan) later in Phi Phi I tried to be positive. This lasted all of six minutes when the travel agent in our hotel said the people had cocked up booking our taxi and boat and not organised one or given us the right tickets for the other. Penny was sceptical thinking he was going to try and resell us the tickets but it turns out she hadn't done anything right and this guy sorted it all out for free. The taxi ride was a test, it was short but cramped and hot with an older Belgian fella telling his life story including how he left his bag alone three times to use the facilities on a ferry and how he was shocked that he was robbed of around £300. When he arrived he left his bag alone on the side and went for a walk leaving everyone he had bored with his story shocked. By this stage I was getting sick of all the aggressive commercialisation and advertising but in coming to Thailand I know that I am part of the problem, as increased tourism pushes up prices making the Thai people feed our whims and luxuries, saturating the market and making competition harder and fiercer. It's upsetting that this once untouched country has become a place that I am struggling to enjoy travelling around and its continuing degradation leaves me little want to return. I have heard Vietnam is similar in the cities, thank you America, and I should very much hate to see Laos and Cambodia follow tac. The boat trip to Phi Phi was smooth with massive monoliths springing out of the water covered at the top with greenery. In the distance you could see where Scaramanga's cave/beach resort was based. The Belgian guy left his bag alone again to use the facilities and by this stage I was seriously considering robbing him as he clearly hadn't learned his lesson.The boat smelled funny and there were some serious signs of wear and tear but all was forgotten when Phi Phi came into view. It truly is a beautiful island.

We arrived and were immediately taxed to keep Phi Phi clean but the Thai people didn't have to pay it, another tourist piss take. We went to 'The Rock' to meet Helen but found out she was elsewhere and walked around for an hour sweating our bollocks off to find her and check into our cheap and cheerful hostel. We went for a swim with Helen followed by a long lunch featuring a few bevvies and fierce discussion about Irish and British politics. Then we booked a snorkelling day trip to 'the beach' for the following day. Pen and I chilled on the beach after we got ready then went to 'The Rock' with Helen and Shauna for a brief drink. We followed this by a trip to the Irish bar for the free buffet on purchase of drink, the food was reasonable and the drink was drunk too quickly but it really set up a good vibe. Our aim was to pub crawl to the beach but stopped at Banana bar and although it was raining we went upstairs because 'that's what you want mate'. We partook in shisha, buckets and other such luxuries the bar provided and settled in to a mellow evening watching the rain fall onto the roof metres from out shelter. Helen was wearing a hot black dress and it took all my might not to try and kiss her. We got pizza and went to back to the dorm for bed. During the night I heard snoring and drunkenly attacked Penny but found for once it wasn't him. I looked over and in the bunk next to me a guy who could only be described as a midget was snoring his lungs out. I clambered over and flipped him over but as I was very drunk and misjudged the midgets weight I flipped him clean right out of bed. All in all it stopped him snoring so regardless of injuring a sleeping midget I managed to get some sleep. This lasted twenty minutes until I woke and freaked out why I had flipped a guy out of bed, and not remembering his size I was worried he may be pissed off and beat me up in the morning.

When I woke the midget was gone and I felt guilty and also ill, probably due to lack of sleep. I mustered the troops, grabbed breakfast and set off on our day boat trip. We started with some snorkelling at Bamboo Island and I had to rescue Helen when she struggled a bit in choppy water. The fish types were stunning but there wasn't much diversity in coral. We returned to the boat and jumped off the upstairs into the sea, as my elder brother Nicki would say ' there is nothing better than jumping off high things into water'.  We followed this with a trip to Monkey Beach and saw monkeys scrap and make fools of the weaker minded humans by stealing there food and bags that they foolishly left alone on MONKEY beach. The snorkelling was stunning with deep alcoves that I free dived into and had the most stunning deep blue light piercing the gaps in the rock. Next stop was Phi Phi Ley scene of the 2000 film The Beach via Viking Cave. We kayaked into Phi Phi lagoon and enjoyed the hundreds of fish that mobbed the underside of the boat. The Beach was beautiful and we enjoyed some photo's copying scenes of the film and a bit of swimming. We made friends with Bee and Jade two lovely ladies from Croydon with some great, ahem, appendages. The problem with The Beach was although it was stunning there were hundreds of people and boats highlighting what a tourist trap it was becoming. We took the boat back to Phi Phi while the sun was setting and arrived just as night fell, it truly was a great day and got us all pumped up for a night out.

We all got ready and went for dinner as a group in a different Irish bar, I had fish and thoroughly enjoyed it. The owner who Helen had met before was a former London Irish player who blew out his knee and moved to Thailand. It wasn't long before I realised he was a little gone in the head and a bit of a perv but Helen fell for his charm and considered his job offer. A guy had a monkey he would charge you to hold and all the girls had to have their pictures taken with it so I wandered off. I started talking to a Swedish promo girl and made some Euro vision gag that I don't really remember but went along the lines of 'this is Stockholm calling we award Denmark 12pts'. It doesn't sound funny now but at the time it was hilarious. Pen and I went to the beach and chilled outside Slinky bar which was fun. They had a ten foot pole that people were climbing and I had a crack and very easily got to the top which was outrageously dangerous to allow drunk people to do but throughout the night I didn't see a single fall. Helen and I were really drunk and we had a really nice heart to heart and then headed back to the dorms. We bumped into two guys from our room on the walk back and one was doing a bad job of putting his mate to bed so I volunteered to walk him back and did so but when he immediately asked if he could go back out I told him I wasn't his mum and let him go back to boozing.  As an aside I must mention the idiots in our room who didn't know what initials were and the girl that got inoculations in Bali because a palm reader told her she didn't have enough.

I woke after a good six hours before the alarm and woke everyone for fear they would miss there boat to Phuket. It was hot and sunny although it was only 8am. We said our goodbyes and got our boat back to the mainland. By the time we got to Krabi it was overcast and we settled back into the Hello KR hotel in our usual room for a day of organising. I managed to get locked out of the room and had someone go through every key in the hotel to let me back in. I went to exchange money but when I talked to some people they shyed away from conversation it was only then that I realised I was wearing the offensive vest I bought to stop people thinking it was okay to attempt small talk with me. We watched the Inbetweeners movie, some South Park and finished off with Ong Bak whilst thoroughly enjoying some air conditioning.

We checked out and got the Long Tail boat to Railey which was a really pleasant crossing. When we arrived we avoided the resorts in search of the backpacker areas and in doing so had to hike through the jungle for about a kilometre which was humid and overgrown. When we emerged on the other side I was dripping with sweat and only finding run down, overpriced hotels I felt we had made a mistake. Fortunately the vibe on the beach was awesome and I had a very nice coconut curry for lunch. I had a shower and had a better outlook on the hotel and the area, it was so chilled out and the rock climbing looked awesome. I sat on the beach watching the sun fall behind the distant storm clouds whilst drinking to my last adventure and Pennys next.  When the sun was down we went on a beach pub crawl where I ended up helping put up a light fixture in exchange for Bamboo bong rum, ate chicken toast and got battered in pool by a Thai hustler. Somehow I had the thought that was vivid enough to write down, if you had a black and white picture of Richard Branson he would look a lot like Colonel Sanders from KFC.

We checked out early and on our walk to the long tail boats we saw a monkey raid of a row of bungalows. It was like Rise of Planets of the Apes where they all swing through the trees and in there hundreds (no joke) robbed anything that wasn't nailed down from porches and shower rooms ranging from left over food to soap and sandals. We got back to Krabi and took our usual room and I spent the day in bed with the most horrific stomach pains. It felt like someone was ringing out my spleen and I passed out several times through the pain. In the evening we watched Arthur which turned out like most Russel Brand films way under rated and thoroughly entertaining through his own personal Brandisms and harsh reality he can shine with a satirical view on addiction. I continued into a painful sleep.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

R & R in Koh Tao

The ferry from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao was rough! We missed most of the post full moon exiles who went to Samui but the boat was still packed (although in my comatosed status I didn't know this). I was awoken by a kick to my leg, it was the women who had spent most of the journey moaning about everything and anything she could clambering over me to spew out of the window. I don't get sea sick, regardless of how hung over I was, but I can't do the smell of sick and she made the cabin stink. So I set off down the boat during a ridiculous swell and soon found myself tripping over the people littering the floor, bouncing off the walls and falling into seats whether they be vacant or not. I found a place to sit for the last part of the trip and hurriedly vacated the boat seconds after she moored up. Koh Tao has the natural charm of a Thai Island but with some of the best reefs and marine life it has become a mecca for diving, and as such all accommodation is pretty much a dive centre as well. We stayed in Sai Rei Cottages,  a shady and outrageously good value complex just off the beach and just out of ear shot of the night life but a five minute walk away...not that post full moon we cared about 'getting on it'. Our main aim here was to rest up and transition from full on to normal again (or as normal as a traveller can be). I showered and then slept until early evening where I met Penny in a cozy cafe style bar/restaurant. I had dinner and then went on a walk and discovered a much more laid back and chilled out vibe, exactly what we were looking for. It did still cater for the boozing party tourists but it was on a smaller scale and way more relaxed. The beach however had the bars and night life I craved with fire acts, beach BBQ's and good music. Penny and I shared a bungalow for B350 which is £7 and up the way we saw stunning air conditioned bungalows for B1600 (£32) a luxury which makes you wonder why we pay so much for crappy hotels with great car park views in the UK. This inspired me to return when I have made so money and this 'luxury' could actually become the normality. Not to say that I would go to 5* hotels, I would follow the tourist route but instead of budget rooms and dorms I would stay in a nicer room for a week for the same price as one night in a Premier Inn in Hull on a Tuesday in October.....breakfast not included. The change in attitude and mentality on this island made me feel like Richard and reinvented my search for paradise amongst the 'parasites' who go to and ruin these locations.

That night I couldn't sleep, not really a surprise considering I slept for the entire four hour boat trip and also all afternoon. I went for a walk and took my time to think through a decision. I had a chat with Penny and then after being awake most of the night making considerations I eventually slept on it.

We checked out of the bungalows the next morning as they had been booked out by the dive centre. We walked up Sai Rai beach and had breakfast overlooking the water which was rather pleasant and I was very confident of my decision to return home for Christmas and surprise my friends and family.  We checked into the Blue Wind and booked our forthcoming travel to Phi Phi. It was a relaxing day, we swam and exchanged travel anecdotes, we played cards on our porch and watched the sun drop into the Gulf of Thailand in a stunning orange and pink glow. We had dinner and a few drinks and checked out the beach activity before setting up the mosquito nets.....which turned out to be a waste of time. With the fan on the room was cool enough but the beds were so worn they would alert you to any minor movement even with my earplugs in, which disrupted any form of extended sleep.

We had breakfast, checked out and had the usually 200 person queue for the boat tickets which they send you from line to line, which I am sure is only for their own amusement. Fortunately this time we got the high speed catamaran that 'doesn't go from side to side'. It was a pleasant and fast crossing to Koh Phangan where we waited to be picked up by another Cat. When we were waiting a middle aged American came and asked us when the bus leaves to Phuket, when we were on a different Island.....on the wrong coast of Thailand, A for confidence but I think he is failing Geography. I had another experience of Thai people not queueing which really annoys me and then we got the ferry back to Surat Thani and connecting bus to Krabi. I somehow managed to sleep on this bus that shook rattled and was more likely to roll than Big Joe Turner and only seemed fit to go into circulation on the school bus run in South Wales.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Full Moon in Koh Phangang

So as part of our travelling to Koh Phangan we checked out of our 'hotel' in Bangkok and sat around all day in a free wifi bar waiting for the bus. I had a massage and went for a few walks before we were finally collected and made to stand by the side of a busy road in thick smog to actually get on the bus. The bus was a lovely experience of remote comfort and AC that if anything was too cold. I had some very vivid dreams of being on Robinswood Crescent with my brother Rob and having deep purple lightening strike and burn everything while we ran around trying to get people indoors and animals away which consisted of mainly dogs but also a camel and a bear. When it had finished and we walked up to our street the wind blew through so hard that it distorted vision in a white blur carrying chunks of newspapers and left hundreds of black umbrellas outside my door. When we got to the house we found it boarded up by the children versions of Billy the Kid and the hole in the wall gang. Back to reality; when we got to Surat Thani we were ceremonially shouted at to get off the bus and wait for the bus to the port. When we finally made it to the port it was a two hour ferry via Ko Samui to Koh Phangan, where the fun began. We had to fight against travellers to get our bags which were heaped into a pile dockside then push our way through to get the taxis and after the bouncy journey we had to slog our way through the streets of Haad Rin to find our accommodation. So after 20hrs of travelling we were finally there, so we took a look at the stunning main beach and the not so nice but good enough topless beach. We had lunch and I went for a swim leaving Penny to read his book. After my swim I went for a walk and ended up playing an hour of beach football, which left me blowing out of my ass. After I had cleaned up I met the boys I had just played footie with at Same Same their Danish hostel. We played some drinking games and met a wenglish girl and lost at the quiz. I bought Penny a pint of Stowford press and left him chatting up the wenglish girl while I went to a pool party in Coral View. When we got there one of the boys tried to push me in and after a brief wrestle spear tackled me at the water....and missed, crashing me onto the hard concrete spine first, then I bounced into the pool cutting my leg. I was pretty drunk so I carried on partying including being the base in a three man totem poll and wrestling with girls in their underwear, before calling it a night and heading to bed.

I had a long cold sleep and then watched Rome while Laptopping. Penny and I caught up and I found out his safety first approach let the fish of the hook. I met our room mates, a hot Korean chick and a Californian guy who loved to talk and turned out to be a rather lucrative drug dealer in the US and has done some serious time inside. I rented us a moped and Penny took to the bitch seat, but as we were dangerously overloaded we were constantly on a wobble. We didn't let this deter us and in true Che Guevara style we took off into the jungle toppling over left and right and centre on the badly beaten dirt roads. Eventually we made it to a beach that is supposed to be one of the nicer ones on the island but the wind and bad weather had come in leaving it cold and deserted, so we headed back. In the room we met pretty much everyone else including zee Germans, some Americans, a fellow Brit and the odd other vagabond all with their own story. The pretty standardised approach to meeting fellow travellers consists of the following:-
1 Hi! Whats your name?
2 Where are you from?
   - Follow up retort; I was there in............./ I love it there/ that's cool
3 How long are you in ............(insert country/place)
4 Where are going after this?
5 Where have you been?
This is not deep and meaningful but you realise its fairly standard, usually followed up by want to grab a beer/shag? I have not met many enlightened or deeply interesting people in Koh Phangan outside my dorm but they normally fall into the following categories of older hippies who never made a life choice, people who are avoiding making a life choice or gap yar time wasters putting off the next stage of their lives without learning anything, louts who are looking to get pissed and have a shag or fight, drug tourists and air heads who came because they were told to. It's a nice island and the revelling is fun but there is zero depth to this 'festival'. Penny and I walked along the beach seeing the hastily erected liquor stalls being prepared for the carnage that was about to unfold. We chilled in our room till late so as not to do my classic mistake of overcooking to early, we were thinking of hitting up our bar but these French arseholes who can only be described as louts, which I thought was a British institution were being lary and pretty much attacking women in the street to try and grope them. It was quite disgusting, next they will be claiming benefits, reading les Sun newspaper and pop out little french chavvy bastards. We ignored them and wandered down to the beach where the party was kicking off with thumping tunes, body paints and buckets of booze. On the beach we bumped into the boys from the other night, got some buckets and raved a little bit. One of the boys genuinely looks like Manuel from Faulty  Towers and we gave him the 'He's from Barcelona' banter. After a while he suggested we take a long tail boat to a secret bar away from Haad Rin. I didn't really have the funds but curiosity got the better of me and I jumped about the boat for a very choppy trip up the coast. It was a private and secret bar that some guy had opened away from main roads and had apparently paid off the cops to allow drug taking and even provide a drugs menu. Penny and I drank while the rest of the boys experimented with more illicit substances and we watched on and laughed as they tripped balls. It got late and we took the equally as expensive and dangerous boat ride back to Haad Rin and called it a night as it was 4am, although the beach raving purists were still going hard.

I was woken by the drug dealer in our room offering me pills in exchange for some water, I declined but gave him the water anyway. I was again woken by the Korean girl asking loudly why everyone had been asking her 'how much?'. After the initial ruccus of people getting up I napped again until those French bastards started pumping music out of the bar downstairs. I found out that tonight was going to be a Lunar Eclipse visible in Asia as well as the full moon party this got us very excited. We had a curry lunch and booked our boat to Koh Tao on Monday and settled in to a chilled afternoon in prep for the BIG night. Eventually when we started getting ready for the Full Moon Party everyone started coming out of their shell and I realised that we had a good group in our room, especially when we started body painting each other, as is the custom. I exchanged Welsh words for Dutch with one of the girls and she wrote down my arm SWAFFELEN, and sang it to LMFAO everyday I'm shuffling. Look it up and have a good laugh. In the meantime I got chatting to this gorgeous Irish lass who was out here for four months to learn Thai massage enroute to Sydney. I asked her if it was erotic massage, thinking she had probably heard that a hundred times before to which she replied in her sexy Irish accent 'I don't have to go to Thailand to learn how to give a Happy Ending.' So we went out with our dealer friend, a guy from California, the Dutch body paint girl who is a Doctor in Thailand and the hot  Korean chick. We hit the beach and throughout the night we bumped into and lost almost everyone we had seen so far on the Island; we all drank buckets half full with vodka (the dutch doctor gave the dealer one of sea water when he was high and he spewed), I got propositioned by a ladyboy prostitute (if you were wondering I declined) and we raved the night away until I was completely seperated (as most stories the next day started) from everyone and felt I had contributed enough efforts to the Karma of the party and went to bed via a quick food stop. I must have made friends as almost everyone as they returned to the dorm woke me for a chat or say hi which was pretty cool, including hot Irish Helen.

I woke early to a scene that could only be compared to a Roman orgy, half the people in our small cramped dorm had brought back company and were going at it hammer and tong. I sat up, took stock, laughed uncontrollably and then went back to sleep. When I awoke again its because the two airhead American girls who claim that got in at 1am (lame) were chatting loudly with the company they had brought back. Using the word SO way too much and lacking a diverse range of adjectives to convey hilarity of the rather timid account of the English guys past. Penny had snored all night and this guy who wasn't a guest of the dorm kept throwing stuff at him so he woke looking like he rinsed a carnival of all its prizes. I no longer feel his snoring will be an issue as our dealer friend gave me choke him with. But in all seriousness I used them last night and they worked so well. I had random chats with people in the room as they departed including Mark a guy from Manchester who had been trying to sleep while our dealer friend was banging a prostitute right next to him. I went for lunch with Cooper and we discussed the fallout from the night before and all the shenanigans in the room in the morning. We went for a swim but the tide was high, the wind blowing hard and the shallows filled with sandals and broken glass so I gave up and went and chilled in the room. I chatted with Kyle the drug dealer and he informed me that he shagged the Japanese girl he was with on the beach and a Thai girl who asked for cash in the dorm but didn't pay her. He then offered a bounty of B1000 to get in touch with the Japanese girl from the night before as he had not got her details. I then had a lovely chat with Helen the fun and hot Irish chick about travelling and seemed to be on the topic of sea gypsies for way to long. This girl is kind of awesome, she gives me shit all the time and keeps me on my toes! We exchanged details with the possibility of travelling together at some stage. I really like our crowd and now that I have got to hear most of their stories I'm really enjoying their company but I still maintain my earlier comments about types of travellers to Koh Phangan. We had also met a guy that had been asked to walk a girl home as this English guy was following her and he got beaten up and gouged, the police battered the guy severely but his retina was detached and as there was no arrest just mob justice he probably won't be able to sue. Then the girl who asked him to walk her home called him a dick for fighting, I too have had doing the right thing get me beaten up with no gratitude so I fully sympathised. We chilled in Mushroom Mountain watching the sun go down over the main beach then after Kyle turned up stoned we got some beach bucket cocktails and went for a Curry. We ordered way too much but somehow managed to finish it. We went back to the room and played drinking games with Loes (dutch doctor) and Helen (hot Irish) which was a good laugh. Kyle came back to the room with a slashed toe and Loes dealt with the cut while I cleaned up and around 1am we decided to go out drinking on the beach. We did fire limbo and I unfortunately lost although I did make it down to the last few, guess I was just way too pissed this time. We danced the night away in the shallows and Penny spent a nice while spewing and when I checked on him he spewed on my arm. I saw Mars and stared at it quite a bit as was my liquor fixation. Back in the room I drunkenly flipped off Loes and can't remember why and she hit me while I was asleep and anywho we had a bloody great night, and I hope we're all still friends.

We got a taxi to the port still drunk and starting to hang, turns out the results were in and the final total for the party (according to fat nosey bitch waiting for ferry) was 632 injured 2 dead, good partying! I had walked away unscathed and felt bad about it. I got on the ferry and slept away my troubles in the cabin as Koh Phangan disappeared under the horizon.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Bangkok has him now

While sitting in Sydney airport we decided that in preparation for Asia we needed some safety rules to protect us  from basically dying. So here they are so far:-
1 Complete discretion, what goes on tour stays on tour
2 Do not let me get drunk and jump in a Thai Kick Boxing ring
3 Under no circumstance allow either of us to willingly or unwilling shag a ladyboy

At this point I started to lag as I was hung over and working off three hours sleep. Penny played KTB while I lapped the airport. I checked the extortionate exchange rates and tried my best not to buy airport travel porn. We decided to have a few drinks on the flight which turned into the most I have ever drunk on a flight ever....they just wouldn't cut us off, bless you Thai Airways. However in doing this we broke the cardinal sin of travelling don't arrive in a new city, completely different to what you are used to pissed, it can be a recipe for disaster. In our case we got lucky, we got an airport to a hostel, checked in and chillaxed. It's exactly how my imagery of a Bangkok twin room would be with two hard mattresses, a ceiling fan and just enough room to turn around with a shared shower/toilet/living hell. We went exploring (drinking) through Khao San, meeting a few characters but the alcohol and jet lag determined an early night.

I woke early to an odd smell and found a pile of human shit behind Pennys bed. It was early and I was still drunk so figuring what it was and more importantly who dunnit was not a fast task. It had dried so it was from the night before when we were both smashed so it became Sherlock Holmes messiest mystery yet. Of course Penny denied it, even though I remember coming back and passing out while Penny can't remember getting back. So it was left to a case of Cluedo and with my humble 'guess' I would like to go with Prof Penny Plum in the Bangkok hotel room with plenty of alcohol. We took a Tuk Tuk on a tour of the city getting a  cheap breakfast and joined some locals for a customary beer at breakfast, although it was 7am. We saw a few of the temples and other sites before seeing the extortionate side of the Thai people where we were taken to several Tailors so the Tuk Tuk driver could get petrol coupons and were heavily pressured into buying suits and making rash decisions. As neither of us would be swayed by their roguish trading tactics they became rude, then as did we. The Tuk Tuk driver then turned from being a friendly and helpful guide into a crook by not giving me change after the ride. It cost next to nothing and I was actually going to tip him what he took but these little shits love a scam. In the afternoon we took another Tuk Tuk to a few other sites but by now had learnt our lesson. We checked out the red light district in the day, as it is a realistic part of tourism in the city, it was quite unnerving and the idea of prostitution has never been my cup of tea but to see it marketed to sex tourists was rather sickening. I got a hair cut and shaved off my mo before we adjourned to a fish foot massage which is one of the weirdest things I have ever done. We had a nap then watched Shane Williams' last ever game for Wales, in which Wales lost but Shane had the last say with a try of his own. It may have been because the booze was flowing or that we just witnessed one final moment of Williams brilliance but it got a little emotional. Thank you for the memories Shane!

The next day we woke at an ungodly hour to take a day trip out of bustling Bangkok. We started at the Floating markets about two hours drive away. It was a snapshot of how Bangkok used to trade with long tail engine boats and stalls on the water. It was more commercialised, aimed at the tourists but a good way to see how things used to be before the Western Bastardisation of the former simple ways. After the market we went to the Cobra show where we saw a man piss of a King Cobra my slapping it before we were allowed to touch it, a man catch snakes with his teeth as well as a Mongoose kill a bunch of snakes. There was also loads of snake exhibits as well as crocs, monitor lizards and turtles, a bit cruel but definitely worth a visit. We had lunch and then went to the Bridge over the River Kwai which was highly commercialised but and important piece of history. The guide book didn't have a lot of nice things to say about this area and I agree in terms of street sellers and stalls but the bridge was rather impressive and we took a stroll across it. We followed this up with a  final stop at the Tiger Temple, a Buddhist retreat where you can get up close and personal with Tigers, this was in short a once in a lifetime experience, sitting around stroking Bengal tigers and watching them interact with humans and other animals peacefully. We took a heavy traffic four hour trip back to Bangkok, for which Penny slept the majority of the way while I planned the rest of our Thai experience, got dinner at Silk before calling it a night.

We woke early, but not Bangkok early and spent the morning having breakfast, blogging and planning. Then after a lovely thai green curry we went to the park where they were setting up for the celebrations for the Kings birthday. There were loads of stalls and I ate deep fried bugs. We had a few beers then returned to the park to see the fireworks. After the fireworks they started setting off Chinese lanterns and a few rogue ones crashed into the crowd of trees. I saw one coming down and I tried to rescue it, but it caught on a fire and I looked like a twat trying to put it out. I bought my own and set it off with hundreds others into the Bangkok night. We went on to Lucky bar on Khao San and had some beers and due to the festivities we got free shots and free food, long live the King! We met some Aussies and some Geordies and I got incredibly drunk and autopilot set in and apparently I went home without saying anything.

I woke still pissed and as we had a day to kill I drank it away in the heat.

Feeling better but for the lack of sleep in the heat we checked out and had breakfast and prepared ourselves for the overnight bus to Koh Phangan.

Monday, 5 December 2011

I went to the Land down under, for a brief stop and plunder!

Our arrival to Sydney was smooth, we breezed through customs, received our bags quite quickly and set off to find transport to the city. This is where we felt the pinch of how costly this city can be with a $15 train to the city which was a 15 minute journey. We left the bags at the hostel and took the free bus to circular quay, visited the opera house and got the ferry to Manly, enjoying the stunning views that accompanied it. When we got to Manly we had 'ghost' chips and went down to the promenade where even though it was blowing quite heavily the beach was filled with beautiful people. We strolled the promenade, taking in the view and admiring how stunning Aussie women are (and the Europeans who have ventured over). Having been sleep deprived from the sty in the airport the night before I had a quick paddle then slept on the beach. It got really overcast and windy so I went for a walk, after a couple of laps of the promenade I felt groggy and excused myself to go check in, shower and have a nap. Unfortunately the boys arrived post shower and I didn't get the nap but we went on to a $3 beer establishment and had pizza after the hostels deals fell through. We had a couple of beers then got the party bus to Coyote in kings cross where we were promised a huge party, but even by about 11pm there was still little atmosphere and with Stoney falling asleep in the corner, and fatigue settling in, we decided to call it a night.

I went for breakfast by China town by myself while stone and pen had a lie in. I people watched and had a mean breakfast and met the boys and went for a walk through the botanical gardens. We walked the bridge and then went to century bar for beers o'clock and got pizza on the walk back. We met Ash from Fiji at his hostel and hit up our dive bar where Amy met us late, the drink flowed and very soon we were regaling Fiji tales and stories of lust and want! Amy with here 'huge' win at the casino splashed out for Hungry Jacks and we went to bed very drunk.

I woke early as I hadn't reset the time on my alarm and woke on New Zealand time. We checked out and wandered down to Darling Harbour, a favourite of Rachel and Amy, and actually her current! We had breakfast harbour side, I showed my class as the boys orderd fry ups I had Salmon Benedict, and it was good. We visited a lighthouse then returned to Century bar to pass the afternoon before Stoney departed back to England. As we had checked out we no longer had access to the lounge, so I came up with a cunning plan, we bought pizza and got in the lift with other people who would scan there key card and sent us to comfort, where we also got goon and per the hostels scheduled activity. We slept overnight in the cinema room which was a bit more comfortable.

We got up and collected the train tickets to the airport an returned to collect our bags from storage as if we were just picking them up and hadn't been there all night. It went off so smoothly it left me in a mischievous mood that dissolved as tiredness set in.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

New Zealand: The Beautiful South

We arrived into Christchurch and collected our car then picked up some camping supplies and drove down the beautiful snow-capped mountain range to stunning Lake Tekapo. The idea was for some budget camping, unfortunately this camp had other ideas and was similar price to a hostel just to camp, but after tent and cooking supplies etc we were quite down. On the plus side the facilities were the best I have ever had camping with full spa, kitchen, tv lounge, laundry room etc turns out it’s a ski lodge in the winter. Stoney got his bag off the carousel first and therefore was captain, and dealt out the drinks fines like a short guy with a god complex, over the top and unnecessary. We had dinner and drinks and then played some cards on make shift table and chairs made from chopped wood. We went for a icey cold walk to the pub and somehow managed to commandeer a fork lift. We watched some tv in the car and then had one of the coldest nights sleep I have ever had.

I woke at 6am, very cold and went for a walk with Penny where I saw him perform the most dangerous drunken no sleep shave in the history of man, I left him to it and went for a walk and took some pics of the sun coming up over the mountains before sleeping in the car for another 3 hours and then made breakfast. I spent about twenty minutes feeding the ducks that took the food straight from my hand…it was so fun. We went to see a Salmon Farm but the tour was closed and was quite disappointing. We went and saw Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand, and for some reason I had a picture in my pants with Kevin the shark in front of it. Stoney drove and had a high success rate of hitting birds, but all in all did a good job. We stopped in Cromwell to get Wine Tour info but decided to head straight down to Queenstown, as Penny was useless and slept the whole time contributing nothing I decided to swerve so he banged his head against the window, several times. When we arrived the vibe was immediately that of energy, youthfulness and fun. We checked into Base hostel. After freshening up we hit world bar to check it out where we discussed activities to do here. Unfortunately due to money constraints I realised I couldn’t afford to Jet Boat, something I really wanted to do, but gives me a great excuse to return. We played drinking games in Altitude bar, had teapot cocktails with hens at World Bar, then returned to Altitude where Penny met his Peruvian boyfriend and I chatted to a cute Canadian rugby trick to my horror when she started telling me her problems. Stoney kept disappearing for us to find out later that he was at the casino. I got drunk and went to bed, although stoney said we sat in the corridor for a while eating crisps, I have no recollection of this.

Next I woke and Stoney and I went for breakfast but Stones wanted to go via the casino, where I started to raise a concern about his gambling on this trip. Anyway we corrected course and went to a Deli instead for a nice brekkie and coffee. We followed this with a walk along the banks of the lake, I have been flipping off Green Juicy Rental vans for pretty much no reason and there were plenty for me to flip off here. I showered, Stoney went up to the room and watched people sleep and we went to Fergberger for lunch, a Queenstown must. We returned to the casino for Stoneys fix watched him win comprehensively. We had signed up for Amazing Race, a scavenger hunt and as no one turned up we won through default, then we found out there were others and were stripped of our title and made to do it. We needed pictures and items from around town including jumping in the lake, conga line, busking, shadow stalking and getting beaten up by an old person. We came 2nd but they split the tab anyway. The winners were two cute Irish chicks and an incredibly short Hoosier living in Tampa. I have noted that I must leave Queenstown soon or I won’t at all, it’s a really good laugh here. For the first time ever I saw Stones on the pull and doing well, I was so proud so backed off and let him do his work. Then he disappeared….casino. I later found out that the team that won, one of the Irish chicks was shagging the organiser….it was about as corrupt as Sepp Blatter Bingo, but maybe slightly less racist. Got wasted and went to Sky City Casino where Stoney lost and I won, then went back to the hostel before Gamblor insisted he could recover his losses and we went to Lassetters Casino where we both lost, however I left up overall. Stoney by this stage was quite pissed off and sulked in bed with a big bag of crisps.

In the morning I was rudely awoken by the French tosspots in our room, who had slept all day the day before and we had tiptoed around with the light off, they were loud put the light on for no reason and kept shaking my bed……there is a place in hell for you arseholes. I had breakfast alone and then had a walk with the boys. Later the hostel put on a BBQ and goon for free outside on the lawn so we chilled and chucked around the rugby ball and failed miserably to hackysack but progressed and got slightly better. To describe how much we were drinking, the liquor store attendant knew me by name and gave me a discount card. We followed this with $2.50 handles at Brazz and then bounced around until we got Stoneys fix at the casino. We had a faux stag do for me for no other reason than it would be a laugh….and it was. I was ejected from every bar on the strip at least once but mostly twice. I died my moustache blue, wore fairy wings and drank excessively.

I bothered the reception staff at Base until one, Helen, agreed to go for a lunch time drink with me, Penny joined, CB! I managed to get a locals tab at ‘Surreal’ a quirky bar with a wicked roof terrace. We moved onto Brazz for happy hour again, where Stoney joined us. We went to the casino and I eventually met Helz at World bar for a night cap and then back to hers for a film.

Without having slept I met the boys at 7.45am for our trip to Milford Sound, what they have labelled the longest and most epic ‘walk of shame ever’. I dozed to Milford Sound and then boarded the cruise, where we had a fantastic buffet lunch with everything from Pork Belly to Mussels, by far the best meal I have had in a long time. It was raining heavily which makes Milford Sound stunning with the dramatic waterfalls and cloud formations around the mountains. I had no coat so got soaked but it was worth it, I dozed on the way back in between watching ‘Love, sex and other drugs’ which turned out to be not too bad, especially as Anne Hathaway decided to be clotheless for most of the film. We got in, I showered and went to bed.

I had a long but broken sleep and somehow hurt my back but got up prepared to break out of the Queenstown bubble.. The aim was Wanaka but on arrival it was washed out so we made a judgement call to hit up the Franz Josef Glacier. It was soaking all the way there which made more waterfalls but for unpleasant driving conditions. We stopped at a few waterfalls and on the east coast beaches to enjoy the view but powered on to the Glaciers. We checked into Chateau Franz a chilled hostel with hot tub and small room numbers and finally a place where we can drink inside. We went to Monsoon Bar for happy hour, Penny left early to make dinner, which we missed as we entered a killer tournament. Just before this we met a German couple who seemed quite nice until they asked me what my Uni specialty was and I replied the WW2 bombing of Britain….to which he joked by who? We let it go. He offered to by us drinks which we accepted but then they never materialised, weird Germans making promises they don't keep, I feel like Poland.  We cracked on with Killer pool, which turned out to be 30 people big and filled with arrogant Americans, flukey, but hot chicks and a host that played Cancun rules, if he likes you you can’t lose a life and get rewarded with Booze for no good reason…..he did not like me, and I very much did not like him. After my first with the threat of a thirty minute wait looming I retrieved Penny but on arrival back Michael ‘Sell you out’ Stonelake was saying I had left and I should be scrubbed out…..cheers mate! Needless to say I once again received no shots that were on and although I potted I was swiftly out of the game and pissed off with the host. I threw a hissy, and the bars sign into the bushes and went back to the hostel where I had dinner and watched Legion before bed. I was awake most of the night with Penny and his snoring duo in the room with backup swearing by a pissed off French Chick, so I retreated to the couch in the tv room and slept there.

In the morning I was extremely tired and cold and made breakfast while Penny played laptop and Stoneboner slept. Penny later told me that it was me snoring and the French chick was shouting at me, which is hilarious as I was awake listening to it all and it was Penny and the other guy in the room. We prepped for our Glacier walk and set off. It was a lot different to what I expected walking up a river bed to the glacier with stunning waterfalls everywhere but the Glacier itself was a little disappointing especially as we couldn’t get near it. We got lucky as the weather held off until we got back to the car. We watched Donny Brasco with lunch while Penny showered and shaved (including sculpting his eyebrows and shaving a chunk out of one. We then chilled in the hot tub and picked up beer before what promised to be an interesting evening. After watching the shocking remake of Children of the Corn we went out to Monsoon bar again. In the company of twenty o so nationalities I reflected on missing out on Australia, something that had been masked by my excitement for Asia. Although I will be gutted to not see my Aussie friends I feel I was only going for them, and now that I'm not I feel good that I am finally doing something for myself, something I rarely do as I'm trying to appease the masses. I felt tired after dinner so went to the hostel and watched Tron legacy which accompanied with the Daft Punk soundtrack was enjoyable watch. Then I retired to bed for another night of restless sleep, where the girl who had bitched at people for snoring had night terrors and kept waking up screaming.....and before you ask, I checked Stoney was not accosting her, he was also trying to his own bed.

I woke early to the sound of workmen hammering and drilling in our bathroom next door which was ridiculous as we weren't even warned about it. We packed up and left, I drove excessively fast towards Queenstown on half a nights sleep, in heavy rain, not the wisest idea but ah well I made good time. We stopped by a river for lunch, big mistake, our car was populated by with flies. Penny tried to copy my excessive speed on the side of cliffs and with harsh corners. We stopped in Wanaka for pictures and Stoney droves us to Queenstown. On arrival we bumped into Martin the Base promo guy who invited us to a BBQ with free goon and free pool. We moved onto Brazz for happy hour and bumped into Helz and Johnny from Base reception. Four pitchers later swimming we decided to go for Japanese food. On the way Stoney faced his demons and went and blacklisted himself from all New Zealand casinos, but he was waisted and it was quite serious and all he could do was laugh, I was so embarrassed especially as I'm now his sponsor. We met Pen and Helz for Sake Bombs and the most expensive two piece of Japanese food I have ever had ($40 a head split bill, ouch!). The staff from Base took me to Altitude bar and used their staff discounts to get me wasted on Jaeger bombs. Helen took me for a late walk of the botanical gardens and we had some hanky panky on a large boulder in the park. We went back to hers where she promptly fell asleep and I left. In our hostel room I had to evict Stoney from my bed and then failed to sleep due to Pennys snoring and even worse some arsehole kept clapping, whistling or hitting my bunk with a cup when he snored, it was like being in prison, he pissed me off big time and I sat up cracking my knuckles ready to hit him and he stopped. 

After barely sleeping I got up and saw what I thought was his stunning girlfriend get up and strip off to change, dropping down to just a thong, it was so hot! I was going to tell him to see if I could get a reaction, shame it wasn't but great views. When the prick woke up I eyeballed him, hoping he would say something, give me any little excuse to punch him but he didn't. I went for a walk to clear my head and returned to find out that Stoney went to the casino the night he was meant to be blacklisted, and was given his only warning, next time he will get a $5000 fine and spend a night in the cells. We had lunch at Turdburger (Fergburger) and we packed up ready to go, I picked up two new nicknames in Queenstown, Mr Sex and Shagpalace......I'm not sure why I just checked into events under those aliases.  Pen drove us to Dunedin and chilled out when we got in with the simpsons, futurama and family guy. I made dinner and the hot San Diegan in our room informed us that Elton John was playing Dunedin the next night so there was no accommodation, so we had a little dillema but she advised us of a Penguin place to stay at 30mins we thought we would look into it in the morning. I started to feel rough and decided staying up too late wasn't the best idea, and as Penny was not staying in our room I might actually get some sleep. I didn't! I felt rough and combined with the ho We walked for 45mins to ascend the worlds steepest residential street and at first we were all sceptical but when we finally got to the top our scepticism dissipated. We had a pizza and beer lunch to celebrate our most pedestrian of achievements, which included my first actually pint in New Zealand, the rest are a smaller measure known as a handle. We walked through Otago uni campus but in their off season it wasn't as fun but grabbed several beers before prepping back in the hostel for the Speights brewery tour. We arrived early so I Celtic dashed to the nearest pub and sculled a drink before making it back for the tour. The boys dared me to lick items on the tour as we were told we couldn't touch and I obliged. At the end we had a beer 'tasting' session and on hearing the record was 18 beers I rushed to 16, got bloated and the shakes and asked the guide the record for inspiration to crack on, which he told me it was 35....shit! We went for a curry and read that it was BYO, so we picked up some beers only to be told on arrival that it was wine only. We wolfed down the blandest curry ever (apparently they don't do spice in New Zealand) and went back to the hostel for drinking games including drinking blackjack. We headed out to some dead bars, as Elton was hoarding the people of Dunedin and returned to the Octagon where it started to pick up and we got to listen to some live music and hit a club. Stoney lost on the second round of street fighter and spent the rest of the evening sulking. He was so distraught when I called it a night he demanded we leave we did.

After a groggy start to the day we headed off on the peninsula to see the Penguins and Albatross. The peninsula was blustery but stunning. We arrived at the albatross sanctuary where we were told it was free and had several signs around saying free, until we entered and it said there was a charge to see the birds. Apparently the exhibition was free but viewing the birds was expensive, which would have been ok if the exhibition hadn't been less popular than a pig farmer in Palestine. The penguins were never promised for free but I don't see how the government allows these organisations to charge you to see nature as they are wild birds and do not belong to them. We got supplies and lunch and shot on up the coast. Stones claimed that I keep vomming however that has only happened twice in New Zealand, both in Queenstown. While Stoney secretly voms and covers it up with strangers hats. We went off road to find fuel and found a quaint little seaside village that would not have been out of place on Marthas Vineyard. We also found a place called shag point and saw some seals but still no penguins. We quickly viewed the disappointing moaraki boulders and headed on to Omaru, the birthplace of All Blacks captain Richie Mccaw. We were alerted to another penguin colony and suprise suprise they were charging again, I mean when did nature become a tax? We cracked on to the Banks peninsula and after being turned away from the first place we went through Akoroa and up to the Onuka farmstay which turned out to be an awesome hostel. Penny made a curry for dinner and then we watched tv in our caravan.

When we got up I cooked eggs for breakfast and we booked stargazers (tiny huts with glass roofs) for the night. We went to Akoroa for supplies before hitting the beach with some beers. Stoney decided to bury a beer to keep it warm then practically excavated the whole beach to find it again as he refused to mark where it was buried. Pen and I went skinny dipping and then we all went back to the hostel to set up for the next night. I unfortunately found out we had been done for speeding whilst driving on the North Island and therefore have to pay out a fee to the sodding NZ police. I drank away my disdain and helped make dinner with Penny as the Sous Chef. He made a wonderful fajitas mix, a personal favourite and we spent the rest of the evening smoking cigars, drinking and watching tv before retiring to our quarters to stargaze.

I woke with the sun and decided to go and scare Penny by looking through the glass roof as he woke....he shit himself, it was hilarious. I found out the unfortunate news that Gary Speed had hung himself and was stunned. We rushed back and managed to get the car back to the rental place just on time. We stored the bags and took the bus into town to see the damage caused by the recent earthquake. Although it wasn't totalled the city centre was a mess. We lightened the mood with a stroll through the botanical gardens and had lunch in the hot sun before chilling out in a nicely air conditioned shopping centre. I went on a solo mission to view the AMI Stadium where some world cup games were meant to be held and there was a huge crack through and I heard the quake tour the pitch in half. We got the bus back to the airport to begin our twelve hour wait to check in. We played hackysack shirtless on the green outside arrivals until we exhausted ourselves and went in search of where to try and get a bit of kip that night. We nursed cups of tea in a cafe so we could watch the football, including Cardiffs 1-0 win over Nottingham Forrest. We had overpriced airport food for dinner and then food a reasonable place to settle in. Minutes after arriving the bastards evicted us from departures saying that it shut at 9pm and wouldn't be open until 3.30am the folllowing morning, the guard advised us to seek refuge in international arrivals, so we did. Then they tried to herd about fifty people into a tiny corner on the dirty floor as international visitors would not see people sleeping. There were two issues with this:-
1 They put us in the International Arrivals when now one would have known we were in departures
2 They put the people who actually listened to them next to the only exit meaning that the visitors would have to see them sleeping on the floor anyway.
These fuckwits couldn't organise a chil molestation cover up with the pope, another case of management positions being given to by the book beurocrats instead of logical thinking. I was very tired and sassed the bint who was sent to try and move us on and we stayed put. I vented a few times then went on  long walk to calm down. I then hit on the Vodafone promo girl and got swiftly knocked back.I settled in like about twenty others wherever the hell we wanted and got a little bit of sleep.

We woke at 3.45am for check in at 4am but after our tickets failed to print we were told that we would have to wait for the ticket office. I had asked very clearly the day before if we needed a visa and the answer in the group was a profound no, so I didn't chase it. $30 dollars each later and we have our premium visas and were allowed to check in, I swear I haven't seen organisation this bad since the Greek Governments Treasurer allowed his goldfish Terrance to do the countries budget......with an abacus. Anyway heading through departures we were wondering where the next tax would come in, an escalator tax, a breathing levy perhaps? No it was a tax on our time having to fill out an immigration card to leave the country, by this stage I was done with Christchurch and after three months New Zealand as well. I got on the plane and didn't look back.

Please don't let this final tale sour you on New Zealand, if you have good spending money come and visit and you won't be dissapointed! And to all my contacts and friends made.....and lost along the wa,y I couldn't have done it without you!