First back to Hong Kong...
On the Saturday i headed off to the International Dragon Boat Regatta...i thought it would be this massive event, loads of people there, stalls, things to see etc. the flyer said it was a 10 min walk from the mtr station.......an hour later i was still walking along the river!!!! finally found the area where it was being held. There were lots of teams there, probably about 50 different ones from all over the world they had small gazebos for each team.........and that was it!!! it was almost like it wasnt a public event, there wasnt really anyone there apart from the teams taking part...alll very strange. also there wasnt any information about who was racing or anything so you couldnt really tell what was going on, i watched a couple of races and headed back into the city a bit disappointed!
ooh one good thing did come of it though, i found a place that sold jacket potatos at the shopping mall where the mtr station was........it was so nice, i've really missed not being able to eat jacket potatos!
That evening i went to watch the Sex and the City film, really enjoyed it, all the women in Hong Kong are obviously big fans too!!
Sunday i went to the market area there are 3- the goldfish, flower and bird markets....pretty self explanatory what they sell!!!!! the bird market was probably the most interesting, lots of men selling little birds in gold cages...it seemed to be a boys club..whether the birds were status symbols or something i'm not sure...there seemed to be a bit of 'my bird is prettier/sings better than your bird' going on!!!
I took the Star Ferry over to Central again and went up to the Peak on the tram...it's so unbelievably steep!!!! the view from the top is amazing, i was really lucky to get a clear day, the first one since i arrived in hong kong.
Walking around central after going to the peak i saw lots of women in a skip i was wondering what an earth they were doing when they started flinging piles of clothes out to women waiting on the pavement. turns out a shop had been damaged by water (not sure how) and they were dumping all their old stock into the skip so the women had jumped in and were pouncing on all the soaking wet clothes...very bizarre!! these were normal women, dressed pretty well etc....they obviously love a freebie in Hong Kong!!!
The next day i flew to Thailand! It was my one and only cathay pacific flight...unfortunately it was only a couple of hours, i wish it was one of the long ones as it was the nicest plane i've been on i think!! really good inflight entertainment too. we even got a full on meal i was surprised as it was such a short flight. Landed in Bangkok, i wasn't sure what to expect and i think i was more nervous landing there than in Beijing! Having gotten used to the Chinese way of doing things i was wondering if it would be difficult to adjust. turns out i neednt have worried at all, everything here is very easy as most people speak english. got the airport bus into the centre of bangkok....the journey took 3 hours- longer than it took to get from hong kong! (its meant to take 45mins). there was a big storm and apparently when it rains in bangkok the traffic gets really bad!
the hostel is lovely (i'm back here again now) probably the nicest place i've stayed, more like a hotel really, its very new and clean which is nice as when you walk down the road there are massive rats and cockroaches so its nice to be able to retreat to somewhere spotless!!
Went for a walk to the river with my new dorm mates and had some street food in the evening.
its funny getting used to the drivers in each country. in china there are lots of cars but as there are also a lot of bikes they tend to drive at a reasonable speed so if they do get into a big crash no-one gets that hurt... in Hong Kong and Bangkok however they drive like mad-men! in Bangkok you have the added variety of lots of mototaxis and tuk tuks.
Got my vietnamese visa no problems, very excited to be filling up my passport with lots of different stamps and things!
Traveling around Bangkok is quite quick if you go by skytrain but its quite a limited system s stop-wise so you can also use the ferry which stops at lots of piers along the river. i took the ferry up to Wat Po and saw the famous reclining Budda which was very impressive...its so big!! the feet are beautiful, they are inlaid with budda images made of mother of pearl. just up the road is the Grand Palace so headed there too, the temples are all so colourful with lots of mirrored glass tiles which make them twinkle in the sun.
made my pilgrimage to Khao San road....it wasnt actually as crazy as i thought it would be, lots of stalls and western orientated bars, it was the day time though so i think it gets livelier at night! went to Boots, stocked up on cucumber cleansing wipes! there are lots of boots all over bangkok actually...i feel the need to go into every one i pass...not sure why? i got like that in hong kong every time i saw a marks and spencers, i think it was a good job i left hong kong when i did because i was spending my entire budget on percy pigs!!! (i cant remember if i said but i had fish and chips in Hong kong at a proper chippy!!)
on the way back to the hostel i got caught in a massive storm and got drenched, looked like i had stepped into the shower with my clothes on...! we went out for dinner to a korean bbq place which was nice, you cooked your meat on a little bbq in the middle of the table then we headed to patpong the bar area near to the hostel....it used to be notorious for the sex trade but now its more of a tourist attraction with a big market and lots of bars..it is still the place for men to go and find 'company' and you get lots of men trying to get you (they arent fussy about which sex you are, i was with 3 guys from my dorm and they would still be asking me aswell!) to go and see ping pong shows....we declined of course!
The next day we went to Jim Thompsons house, an american man who fell in love with thai culture, moved here and introduced thai silk to the west, it became really famous after it was featured in the film the King and I. He built a house from 6 traditional wooden thai houses which are up on stilts. the house itself is really beautiful, all dark wood and open balconies he obviously had an eye for interior design, its filled with all the original furniture and i'd quite happily live there! its also surrounded by a thickly planted garden which he called his 'jungle'. Jim Thompson disappeared in the 60's in Malaysia and his body was never found...! still a big south east asian mystery
went out for dinner again, it was one of the guys birthdays...we were trying to find a traditional thai restaurant but ended up eating vietnamese! i seem to have eaten everything but thai food! it was very nice though.
the next day i travelled to Ko Samet which is a 3hour bus journey from bangkok. bought a boat ticket for the 30 min journey to the island and asked when the next boat left....when there were 20 people! i was the only person in sight!!!! the different attitudes are so contrasting, in china and japan everything was like clockwork and left on schedule but in thailand they are a lot more 'manana' about things! after an hour they had scraped together about 9 people so we headed off. wasnt sure what to expect from my first thai island, i hadnt booked any accommodation so just named one of the places in the lonely planet when the driver asked where i was going. we headed off along the dirt track on the songthaew (basically a pick up truck with bench seats in the back songthaew literally means two rows). there had been a bit of rain and the dirt track had turned into a bit of a mud fest...felt like i was doing the wild and woolly!! got dropped off at toks little huts, it seemed a bit quiet and no-one was really around but it was late so i paid for one night and decided to look for somewhere else in the morning.
the next day i headed down the road to naga bungalows which is also home to the island post office. its run by an englishwoman who moved to ko samet 26 yrs ago and is married to a thai man. her grown up children were visiting so it had a real family atmosphere to the place. it also had a large open lounge area and they showed dvds in the evening and served good food. they also had a bakery and had fresh croissants and rolls every day. a 30 second walk and you were down onto the white sand beach and into the clear calm sea......this explains why the next 5 days literally went...sleep, read, eat, sunbathe, swim, read, eat, watch films, sleep....! i was really lucky with the weather and it was bright sunshine all the time i was there.
paradise comes with bugs though!! i went and bought a little plug in bug repellent thing and that seemed to do the trick, as the bungalow was made out of bamboo and not sealed there was a mosquito net too which i was glad about! also the showers were cold!! even though it was quite warm i still wasnt the biggest fan but i got used to them in the end. the fresh water has to be shipped over from the mainland so they are big on water conservation!
forced myself to head back to bangkok yesterday, the boat ride back was a bit hairy, lots of waves and when we pulled up at the pier, it was low tide so we had to climb up the pier legs to get onto it!
didnt do that much today, went to see Get Smart, its really cheap to go to the cinema here, only 1 pound 50! (i have no pound sign on this keyboard!) in thailand they have a monarchy obsession and they love their king so much they play the national anthem and a little king montage at the start of each film...everyone stands for it...the cinema was mainly full of schoolchildren and every one of them stood up...you'd never get that in england!!
flying to vietnam tomorrow so getting an early night.
phew this has been a long one!!
have uploaded some photos, unfortunately i got a virus on my flash drive so i lost some of my HK photos and my bangkok ones but i've put some up of HK and ko samet