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Fri 17th Nov. Ko Samui, Thailand.
Meet Celia after a brief exchange of email crossfire, hindered only slightly by the Thai habit of smilingly and confidently giving directions to places they have no idea of the location of, and by needing to dodge a rather obvious ladyboy who tries to follow me about for a bit (nice dress, great legs, shame she/he hasn't yet saved up enough for the Adam's Apple operation). Spend the rest of the day gorging on news from home and Britain.
Sat 18th Nov. Ko Samui, Thailand.
Rain, rain, and more rain, broken by intervals of torrential downpour. Grey waves that should be sparkling turquoise break sludgily on a grey beach.
We finally snap at a combination of the filthy weather, and sickness with Ko Samui as the heart of darkness as far as package holiday hell in Thailand goes. March in to a travel agency to buy a flight to the non-monsoon bound north.
Find a taxi firm to book a cab to the airport in the morning. The owner calls us through to the back yard, where the staff are eating dinner. As he writes down the booking, our gaze wanders over his desk, where a large and purposeful looking catapault rests next to what looks like an amunition clip and a telescopic sight for a high power rifle. And behind him on a shelf is the rest of the rifle. And a sub-machine gun.
What do you call a Thai taxi driver with an Uzi? "Sir!"
Sun 19th Nov. Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Get to Ko Samui airport - a collection of bamboo huts - just in time despite a roundabout route required by severe flooding, and our booked taxi failing to arrive (not that we felt much like hammering on the door to complain)
With a couple of beds in Chiang Mai sorted, hail a songthaew - a pick up with benches in the back - up the hill overlooking the city, to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the most important Buddist pilgrimage temple in northern Thailand. As the sun cools, the hordes of pilgims and tourists ebb away, til in last light there are only a final handful of kneeling people left to watch a procession of orange draped monks singing round the Chedi.
Mon 20th Nov. Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Tour-by-numbers through the hills of northern Thailand. A ride through the jungle on an unflappable all-terrain elephant plodding through rivers and along steep muddy paths that I'd hesitate to walk along as a human, much less as a several-ton pachyderm. Followed by a couple of slightly disturbing village visits, where we are bussed in to stare at (and be stared at by) some hill tribes. With no time to make any connection with the people beyond staring, these are deeply uncomfortable and hard to see any justification for.
A wet ride on a long narrow bamboo submarine (supposed to be a raft, but I'm certain 'rafts' are supposed to float on the surface of the water, not several inches below it) down hissing rapids is a good end to the day.
Wed 22nd Nov, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
In Wat Chuan Dok, Celia and I are swooped on by young orange clad novice monks, looking to practice their English. Mine is a studious young chap, but Celia's is a giggling joker from Laos, who collects western girls email addresses and is a Manchester United supporter. In retrospect, we're not convinced he is really cut out for life as a monk. As we talk, a group of children play hide and seek round the ornate royal graveyard of old Chiang Mai.
Walking back in to town, every internet cafe seems to be wall to wall orange robes, checking their email. If only I had the guts to take a photo...
Then, on the night train to Bangkok. Last time Celia was on a night train, she had a couchette opposite a monk, and spent some time trying to discretely oggle at his night attire - saffron pajamas, perhaps - but dissapointingly he just removed the top couple of layers of robe leaving identical layers underneath.
Thur 23rd Nov, Bangkok, Thailand.
Wander round Chinatown looking for a restaurant without a window full of bits hacked off shark. Once found, and a steaming bowl of not-shark in front of us I think to check the departure time of my train to the south. Which was a quarter of an hour ago. Looks like I'm in the market for a cheap bed.
Therefore, it's into a (suicidal, but no more so than average) Tuk Tuk and off to the pumping disco and neon of the legendary Khao San road, where it is rumoured you can buy anything, at any time of day or night. Indeed, shortly after we arrive, a man tries to sell us a glitterball. Is there no limit to this depravity???
Missing the train may have been a kindness of fate: Not long after booking into a tiny, noisy, overpriced plasterboard cell of a room, and saying goodbye to Celia on her way home to real life and j*b, I get an unmistakable lurch in the guts and have to spend the rest of the night no further than a minute from the nearest toilet. Darn those prawns!
Fri 24th Nov, Bangkok, Thailand.
Risk nothing more provocative than bottled water in my stomach til mid afternoon, when activity seems to have calmed down a bit, and I offer it a veggie fried rice.
A couple of hours later, this seems to have had no serious repercussions, and I try some fried vegetables, before catching the night train back to Surat Thani, en route to Ko Pha Ngan to meet a travelling buddy, Kat.
The diarhhoea doesn't help, but today the garishness and noise of the Khao San Road gets me down, and for the first time I feel tired of travelling. I'm also down to fumes and promises in the bank account, it feels as though this trip is starting to draw to an end.
On to Thailand: Beaches.
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