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.