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Well then. Fleeing Thailand we enabled our early morning escape from Phuket by taxi to the airport from whence we ferried ourselves to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We are now in Laos but more on that in another post!

Air Asia. Wonderful low cost airline which we have used and abused mercilessly. Flights from all over the place to all over the place in Asia at rock bottom prices. ~NZ$70 inclusive from Phuket to KL. ~NZ$120 from KL to Vientianne, Laos. They even fly from KL to London for cheap! I know I am expanding my personal carbon footprint at a furious rate but the outrageous excess capacity of the airlines here has driven fares everywhere to the ground. It’s either that or 24hrs in a bus with a/c that doesn’t work and drivers that pickpocket you at night… They were voted world’s best low cost airline in the latest poll so not a bad airline at all. Main hub is in KL but also fly from Bangkok a lot. Interesting business model whereby they’ve gone vertical with their own buses to and from the airport (NZ$4.50 for an hour) and airport hotel chain.

Kuala Lumpur. KL was pretty neat. We arrived and promptly went straight to a Lonely Planet recommended guest house in the Golden Triangle area. Basically there are two main areas for backpackers to stay, Golden Triangle and Chinatown. Bowing to an apparent wisdom (Chinatown allegedly crawling with bedbugs) we bypassed Chinatown for Bukit Bintang (inside the Golden Triangle). Nice place apart from the demolition with jackhammers starting at 8am the next morning in the adjoining building (and on the same floor and shared wall!). Only a deep and abiding state of hangover allowed me to suffer till 10am. In other respects KL is cool especially for shopping (not something we were really interested in). We visited the Mentara (KL’s Sky Tower sans casino) from where we took in the sprawling metropolis with its light haze. Other attractions included the monorail (everyone loves a monorail!), Batu caves (Hindu shrine where you climb up 272 steps into a massive cathedral-like cave) with monkey’s trailing your every step just waiting for you to slip so they can pounce and rip out your larynx with their sharp little teeth… I digress… , Aloha Bar where they had NZ$0.50 beers (most beer in Malaysia being expensive), delightful English lads keen for a couple of nights on the town and 10% Luxor from the shop when not, recently retired Dennis the Ozzie keen to get his Cambodian girlfriend back to QLD and of course the bed bugs.

First contact. They came out of nowhere, rappelling down the walls, rolling onto the bedcover and lunging fiercely for a sup at my veins. Yes. The dreaded scourge of backpackers everywhere, Cimex lectularius, is making a comeback worldwide. Very difficult to get rid of, the advent of international travel and an inexcusable reduction in the application of DDT in urban areas, has caused places of high turnover like backpacker hostels, turn into breeding grounds for this parasite. When you squash ones which have been feeding recently, bright red blood explodes out of it all over the white sheets, whose blood nobody knows. Ok for Quentin Tarantino movies but not for my sleeping area! All in all not the most successful four nights but we are now on the guard for such beasties and will spare not the rod in punishing these harbingers of evil.

Malaysia. Not a lot I can really say apart from KL is a modern city in a hurry and its not super exciting. I have heard from other travelers that outside of KL, Malaysia has a lot to offer. The old capital at Melaka (2 hrs drive from KL) is supposed to be very cool. Also the Genting Highlands are neat with a massive theme park Tristan desparately wanted to see and ride the rollercoaster.

Laos update coming soon. It’s still very hot and the food continues to be wonderful!


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Dear readers, you will no doubt be delighted to know that I am still alive. Over the past few days we’ve been in Ao Nang, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. We are now ensconced in the party capital of the west coast, Patong Beach on Phuket island.

Low season.To summarise our trip in Thailand, Tristan wanted to call it ‘I went to Thailand and there was nobody there’. It has been somewhat surprising to experience the lack of tourists in many places we went. We are now entering the low season which starts in May and is mostly due to the monsoon rains which are already starting to fall. We were the only people staying at our resort on Koh Lanta which was kind of creepy so we had to eat all our meals at the neighbouring resorts seeing as they had closed their kitchen. The bars and restaurants are of course desperate to retain our custom and the tout attention is at times smothering! One guy reckoned that business was down about 40% on average, pretty severe!

Crime and corruption. It may not surprise you to know that Thailand ranked 80th in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (though Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia are all worse). Of the Thai people who spoke to us candidly (but guardedly) they bemoaned the corruption endemic in politics, the police and generally in the civil service. Every island we went to had at least one appalling building built against all common sense planning rules allegedly because someone had paid someone else off. The resort we stayed on in Koh Lanta, the owners husband was shot and killed by two Thai assassins in front of the resort guests over a land dispute! Often we rubes from far off NZ got shafted in some way by having to pay extra charges we were unaware of for whatever reason. C’est la vie, but not a state of being the Thais really aspire to.

Marijuana. Is rife in Thailand. One Thai guy reckoned that over 80% of Thai men smoke, albeit not every day. I have to say that I have smoked more in Thailand than I have smoked during the rest of my life! The most popular band that we heard was Job 2 Do – a Thai Bob Marley. In actual fact we saw the band live in Koh Phangan at the Half Moon party – they were very good, and Tristan can’t get one song out of his head…

The eastern side aka Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.The water is so clear here. Scuba diving and snorkelling are the two main activities. My favourite island was Koh Tao partially I think because it isn’t as developed (only first being settled in 1980 or so). Very laid back atmosphere and the scene of the infamous ‘Chang-over’ incident. Samui is far more developed and also the scene of my Koh Samui tattoo (i.e. local slang for scrapes from scooter crashes! Koh Phangan is basically known as the party island where once a month over 10,000 ravers arrive to party at the Full Moon party on the beach (Haad Rin).

The western side aka the Andaman Sea. Ao Nang, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Phuket. Phi Phi is my second favourite island. It was severely devastated in the tsunami but is now rebuilt with plenty of signs pointing to high ground. We had to run a gauntlet of gravelly-voiced masseuses asking us ‘beefcakes’ whether we wanted our ‘sexy boy’-selves massaged and also offering to ‘eat me’ and informing she/he would ‘see me in my dreams’. Awesome. Beach and island were truly beautiful and we saw the beach from the movie ‘The Beach’ which was very ..  beach-like. As already mentioned, Koh Lanta was a little too quiet for us but it was clear that of all the islands, this place had retained the greatest ‘local’ flavour with a large population of Muslim and sea-gypsys not wanting to go down the route of over-development where greater tourists also equalled higher living costs and breaking down the traditional ways of life of fishing, coconut and palm oil harvesting and other agricultural pursuits. Ao Nang was alright – kayaking and also off to visit some incredible islands snorkelling. Phuket and PatongBeach in particular are overdeveloped and is you’re on vacation for a week you could have a lot of fun. Two Aussie guys we ran into were on a mission, a retired born again Christian and a guy with a full (and apparently it really meant full) pass from his girlfriend. The rest of the night’s details are censored but suffice it to say the newly debauched Aussie got naked far faster than I would have thought what he had consumed, warranted.

All in all, Thailand rocked and we are now on our way to Malaysia! After than Laos.

So. An eventful time so far and also a partial retraction from a previous post. Currently on Koh Phangan and tomorrow I leave to go to Krabi. Also, happy birthday Dad!

Anatomy of a scam.Previously I referred to two genuine Thais who appeared to assist us without profiting personally from the advice they were giving. I consider myself somewhat of a skeptic. This is how it went down. Went for a walk intending to see some Wats. Walked into a well dressed and well spoken man who was very helpful and noted that the temple we wanted to see was closed but we should see two other temples that were very nice (Lucky Buddha and some other one). He seemingly hailed a tuk-tukfrom nowhere and we were on the way in minutes through the steamy streets of Bangkok. Once at a Wat a nicely dressed man who claimed to be a teacher at the local high school told us some of the history of the Wat and engaged us in conversation. He then recommended we go to the ‘official’ Government tailor factory (not true). Our Wat tour over, the driver then asked if we wanted to see a tailor. Feeling sorry for the old man (in his fifties probably :)) we agreed and I almost bought a suit. Then on we went to what we thought was the Tourism Authority of Thailand (in fact a travel agency licensed by the same). We then paid for too much for a 21 day tour of southern Thailand. And the funny thing is we had no idea we had been scammed until we were on the bus trip south! Incrediblely complex and practiced scam with many disparate actors all seemingly not benefiting from the advice they give but in reality all ringing ahead to get the next person in the scam in place. Really quite entrepreneurial!

All gone Pete Tong. Seriously . Now ok!

Landed in Koh Tao and randomly saw Shannon who I had been sitting next to on the bus south from Bangkok. Decided wisely to have drinks with Shannon (an American former UK premier league soccer player) and met up with Matt DB (cheers Lauren and Ballinger!) – for drinks with the local scuba mafia (Koh Tao being the site of probably the cheapest PADI licensing and some superlative diving). Then onto dinner quickly followed by whiskey buckets at a salubrious Ozzie establishment called Choppers… suffice it to say Tristan went blind and just kept saying he ‘just wanted to get home’ and spewed black stuff quietly in the corner. Shannon decided in his vastly inebriated state he could drive and spun out in a puddle with me on the back. My Keen shoes have now saved my feet twice! Luckily the scooter was not too damaged but the key was nicked out of the machine while Shannon went to get his foot dressed at the local pharmacy. Not only that but some local Thai layabouts had wheeled the scooter 15m down the lane to make it look like we had crashed into another scooter. After a brief scuffle to try and retrieve the key, the guy who had them threw them to a friend who ran off up the road. They said they would call the police and duly summoned, a young guy with a fake police badge around his neck tuned up and informed Shannon he would have to pay recompense of 3000 baht (NZ$150). During this time I was  looking for Tristan and our scooter….

We finally managed to extricate ourselves from this situation (poorer and perhaps slightly more ropable) and Tristan hailed a ride on the back of a scooter with a Thai guy willing to drop him off for 100 baht. As we drove in font of him, we were unaware that Tristan had in fact been driven down some random driveway and taken into a one room house where he was asked to pay 1000 baht to be able to leave, before being offered the opportunity to buy drugs. In the end the only thing he could do was pay 200 baht for some “marijuana” also known as pot pourri.

After Shannon and I realised he had gone missing, we turned around and wisely deciding to walk, we were overjoyed to find Tristan being dropped off by the rouge ‘taxi’ driver but not after he asked Tristan to pay an extra 300 baht for his bag of pot pourri which we managed to prevent.

The next morning horribly hungover we returned to the scene of the crime and reflected on how it could all have been a lot worse. Shannon had to pay for damages to the scooter in the region of 3000 baht. In talking to the scuba crew they said that it was the first time they had ever heard of such a crazy story happening in Koh Tao. Even directly outside of, of all places, the local 7/11.

So, the learning continues and we are now much the wiser where whiskey (containing the local Thai stuff which is very dangerous when mixed with Red Bull concerntrate), helpful Thai people and scooters.