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Entries about asia

Back on track

See what I did there? Man, I'm hilarious

So after 3 days back in Bangkok, with very little to do but sit around all day whilst venturing out each evening looking for food, I was looking forward to moving on Northward to Chiang Mai. I had somewhat of a credo before I left the UK, at least an Idea of what I wanted to do and sitting around doing nothing all day was not part of the plan. It's beautiful here and the weather is lovely, if a bit hot (41C here today, a bit of rain would be welcome at this point), but whatever your view, a lockdown is still a lockdown.

I had researched the various ways to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and the sleeper train seemed like the best way. Way longer than a flight, but much easier and I wouldn't have to pay for a hotel for a night. I'd been on a sleeper train before, from Goa to Mumbai, which was fine (and much better than the hellish sleeper bus from Mumbai to Goa!!) so I was happy to go that way.

I stopped off outside the station at a 7/11 to get supplies (which turned out to be a good idea as the food on the train was very expensive!) and boarded the train. It was really nice, the seats were big and comfy with a light and a plug socket just beside me. There was room in my area for three other travellers, but they weren't used, the train was pretty empty. I was happy to be travelling properly again. The train started and I gazed out the window watching the country go past for a short time before it got dark. There wasn't really anything of note, apart from a building that looked a lot like the Gherkin! Apparently it's called the Pearl.


The train journey was long and pretty uneventful, almost all of it taking place after dark and very few passengers on the train, but it was comfortable, I got a few hours sleep and it got me to where I wanted to go. Good tip though, book a bottom bunk bed, there are lights above the top bunks that never turn off, I don't know how they slept (if they did).

The most annoying this was that I somehow managed to lose another pair of glasses! I know I do this all the time, but I have no idea how this happened. I was using them before I went to sleep, woke up, the guy got rid of my sheets and turned my bed into seats again. Shortly after, I realised the glasses were gone and went over the whole area. Nothing. Then the porter who had taken the sheets went through all the sheets for the whole carriage to find them and found nothing.

It's so annoying, not only do I have to pay out for a new pair, but have to find a place that sells them, which isn't easy, I bought this pair from a weird little mart in the middle of nowhere. They only cost a fiver, but that's almost two days rent at the hotel I'm staying at, I'm trying to keep costs down!


I arrived in Chiang Mai around 7am and got a taxi of sorts to my hotel. The taxis are called Songthaew, which apparently means red car and they're essentially a red pick up truck with benches on the back and a roof on top. They're the cheapest way to get around here. My hotel is very nice, with quite a lot of travellers here considering how quiet it is everywhere. Unfortunately, I was wearing my Captain America shield T-Shirt, which grabbed the attention of the world's most annoying American, who now whenever I do downstairs for food or a drinks, will grab me and tell me how the virus was created by the deep state, or how Trump saved the world by defeating Clinton who would have started a nuclear war. You know the type I'm talking about. Believes in secret cabals running everything, every bad thing that happens has been caused by some seedy dark organisation. He may be right, what do I know? I don't need to hear about it 5 times a day though, which is why I went out to eat in the evening rather than stay at the hotel.

Everything was closed.

in Bangkok each evening, loads of food stalls would open up and shops were still serving food, here almost everything was closed. I walked around for ages trying to find something, eventually heading up to the night market in the hope that something would be open there, but almost everything was closed, the market, the street food area, even the Hard Rock cafe! I eventually found a Burger King and ate there. It turns out all restaurants are closed apart from take aways, so most places have just stayed closed. It was pretty depressing. I had hoped that moving away from Bangkok would mean less restrictions, but this felt like the opposite.

I did however get propositioned by a prostitute while on the phone to my Mum, so not all business is closed here!

After my call home to cheer myself up and a quick beer back at the hotel avoiding the annoying American as much as possible I went to bed early, hoping that there would be temples open in the morning for me to visit.

And boy were there!!

Chiang Mai has over 300 temples and today I saw a good few of them! The Old City is a square area about 1.5 km each side surrounded by a moat that's about 200 meters from my hotel. I decided to start there and looked sup some of the temples on Google Maps giving myself some sort of plan, but by the time I'd reached the 1st temple on my plan, I'd already visited two others that were just on the way. They are everywhere! Mostly Buddhist, all beautiful and interesting, some with fairly creepy wax monks sitting in halls that you think are real at first, but lots of actual living monks around all happy to talk and lots of places with shade to sit and let the day go by. It really lifted my spirits, as did the delicious iced latte I bought from a stall at the side of the road.


I've no idea how long I can carry this journey on, I may have to leave here on the 26th or even earlier unless Vietnam or somewhere else close opens. everything changes daily and sometimes it feels like the walls are closing in, but I'll carry on as best as I can, I haven't given up yet and I'm determined to make the most of it while I can!


This is my new motto, being beautiful isn't enough :)

Posted by cblanc102 00:31 Archived in Thailand Tagged temples train thailand vietnam chiang mai visa asia journey solo_travel Comments (1)

Trying to get a Visa Extension in the middle of a Pandemic

The day from hell

The past 13 hours have easily been the worst of this trip, and I'm including the day I sunburned myself so badly I could barely move for 3 days. I have never had a day when I felt so confused, so frustrated, at times terrified, but mostly bored.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The day started as normal here. I woke up, had breakfast and coffee and a shower. Checked out the page that told me how to get a Visa extension. It all seemed easy enough, should take about an hour, with an hour getting there and back.

I left the hostel at 9 .30 and walked to the subway, following the directions from the website I'd been using earlier, which were pretty spot on at that point. I left the subway and decided to call a cab the rest of the way, opting to go by bike to save a few Baht, I'm on a strict budget don't you know!

This was my first mistake.

I've ridden many a moped, the last being just a fortnight ago, but nothing prepared me for the sheer terror of zipping through heavy traffic in the middle of Bangkok on the back of a tiny bike, weaving in between trucks and cars on a motorway, speeding down tiny, bumpy alley ways avoiding pedestrians. When we finally got to the destination I almost kissed the ground.

But we were at the wrong place.

We were in another road, with the same name, about two kilometers away from where we needed to be. The poor driver had no clue, as I spent the next 15 mins with several locals, none of whom spoke English, as we worked out where I needed to be. We eventually found the place, I was a lottle less petrified this time, but still glad to be off the back of the bike.

It's a running theme of today. Things seem terrible at the time, but are OK when you look back on it. Am I glad I got a moped cab? Sure, it was an experience and I lived to tell the tale. Would I do it again? Sod off.

So inside the Visa place, I'm told to fill out a form and get some photocopies of my passport, This was easier said than done. The form was confusing and the photocopy place was at the back of the basement floor of a sprawling building with no sort of signage. But I got it done (eventually).

I'm then told that I'm in the wrong building, they've moved the Visa extension place to another complex, some 8km away. It takes me a while to find it, finally getting some help from a nice lady who works there and I call a cab (a car this time).

I should say at this point, that I have in the past been less than patient with people. People who don't speak the greatest English needing something, people having issues at work, even my poor Mum and her adventures with the tv remote. I get irritable very easy when people don't get what I'm saying right away. How I ran Silver Surfers for 10 years and kept my cool (mostly) is beyond me. It's only when you're on the other side of this, feeling helpless, needing just someone to give you a hand, that you realise what an arse you've been to others in the past. I got the help I needed. Hopefully, I'll pay that forward next time someone comes to me.


I get to the second building about 2pm and it's absolute carnage. Hundreds, if not thousand of people standing around, no one knowing what's happening or where to go, beleaguered staff trying to direct people with a multitude of languages to the right place. It was a mess.

After standing around for about 30 mins, not knowing if I was in the right queue, or even any queue at all, I walked over to a helper, asked what was going on, they didn't know, I saw someone walk past straight into the building, so just followed them in, bypassing everyone else. Result!! This is just how I got past a 2 hour queue at comicon a few years ago, this is how I ended up in the pit at the front of a Prince concert at Wembley in 1993. Brazenness!

I walked into a building and was asked for my number. I had no number. They then sent me to floor 2 to get a number. At floor 2, we were told to go to floor 4, which looked like it had nothing there, but after a few runs up and down stairs, we finally got to where we needed to be. It was the start of a 6 hour wait to be seen.

We were initially sat on the floor on the fourth floor of a car park. It felt like waiting to go into Guantanamo.


At first there weren't too many of us, but the floor soon filled up and it became apparent how it would all work. We were on the 4th floor. There were 7 rows of about 20 people. once in a while, a row would leave and go downstairs. What we soon discovered was that you just go down one floor and go to that back of that queue. Then to the floor below, and below.. It took about 5 hours.

At this point I should point out that I had not eaten or drunk anything since 9am. At one point some guys handed out food to the people in one row of our floor, but not my row. Another time, some guys came around and handed out water. But that ran out before they got to me as well. We did at least get chairs to sit on. It's also worth noting that my phone was dying fast. I hadn't anticipated being there an age and so didn't bring my portable charger. I'd been on the phone to Jane for a while too looking for alternatives in case this all went to shit. I had to turn the phone off at 15% to save enough to grab a cab later. Boredom loomed.

FINALLY. I arrived back on the ground floor, the room where we got our Visas. I was pretty relieved. It was 7pm at this point and the office was supposed to close at 4:30. I do feel bad for those poor people who worked there today, I don't think they knew what they were getting into when they came into work this morning!

The room was pretty full, but moved ok, at first. Then it seemed that someone had told the staff there needed to be social distancing in the building and a strange game of musical chairs was played out. I didn't move forward for half an hour but was getting closer without knowing it as chairs were being taken away from the queue to keep everyone away from each other. I think it was pretty pointless though. The virus can surviv on plastic for three days. How many chairs did I touch today???

I finally got to the desk and finished around 8pm, breathing a sigh of relief as I wasn't sure I had all the documents I needed. But it seemed ok, I was done. All I needed to do was go outside and wait for my name to be called and pick up my passport. Bonus! So I sat and waited. And waited.

And Waited.

What I did learn was that there were very few 'Westerners' applying for a Visa extension. By far the most common nationality was Laos, but there were people there from the UK, Japan, The Philippines, Australia, Laos, Vietnam and many others. We sat and waited, in the end I waited for 1 hour and 50 mins. The whole process was supposed to take an hour. What bothered me as well was that whenever they called out someone's name to pick up their passport, they came up meekly, took it quietly and left. Had they not been through what I had been through? Sod that! Sod taking it quietly like I'd been there 15 mins! Not me!

When they (finally) called out my name. I stood up. Shouted yes and raised my arms like I had won an Oscar. We were all in this together. Me, them, the staff who worked so hard so long. I celebrated, I told everyone that it was like winning the lottery and we all cheered. They cheered for me getting my bloody Visa. It was amazing. It was quite emotional. I had been there for 8 hours, we had all been there 8 hours I'm sure. It was a celebration and a bit of letting the stress go.

So I have my extension, I'm travelling at least another 30 days, no worrying for a while.

That was 90 mins ago now and as I said earlier, it's done now. It was a pain, it was boring as hell, especially without my phone, but it's in the past and it was an experience. Good or bad, that's what this trip is supposed to be about.

Posted by cblanc102 08:46 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel thailand visa asia Comments (0)

Basically, I'm doing this all wrong

Updates blog #1

So a state of play so to speak.

As I end my 19th day of this trip (it feels a lot longer) and inch ever closer to my sisters' estimates of how long I'd last out here on my own (21 days both, thanks girls! xx) I've already learned some valuable lessons, some painful.

I've been on Koh Tao now for 2 weeks, it's a paradise, filled with backpackers, great food, amazing sunsets and lovely people, but I've been here too long. After a few days here I decided that once a month I should spend a week in one place, and I'm sticking with that. Have a chance to regroup, replan, recharge re other stuff. You need it after travelling a while. But I've been here two weeks now and it's too long.

This isn't a holiday. I told myself this before I left. Some will say I worked hard (they're wrong), so I deserve it (they're right), but staying this long anywhere kinda goes against the whole idea of the trip. I picked two weeks in the first place, because of the scuba diving that would take up 5 days, but it was still too long here on this small island, I've done all I need to do and that with the last 3 days basically being laid up with a blistered back, which brings me to :

Injuries - These are pretty much all self inflicted, but ongoing. I still have 7 or 8 urchin spines in my hand, they look like they're getting close to leaving, but still painful at times. I'm covered with bites and unsure if that's because the repellent I bought was cheap shit or just I keep forgetting to use it. And then my back.

Before I left the UK I spent the last month or so moving boxes of book, bags of crap, bookcases, wardrobes, beds and more to charity shops, my Mum's and the dump. It turns out I'm no longer 25 and it had a pretty disastrous effect on my back. When I was finally ready to leave and i filled my backpack up with a load of stuff that I probably won't end up using, it went as you'd likely imagine, it was painful to stand with it, let alone walk.

I carried it around the airport. I carried it around Bangkok and I carried it here. I am obviously rock hard, but it took it's toll. The first week here I couldn't lay on my left side because if I did I could barely get off the bed. Rock hard maybe. Old and decrepit certainly! After a week of swimming, it was fine when I had to move hotels, I finally felt good again.... Then I went snorkeling.

I snorkeled for an hour, taking videos that turned out to be pretty rubbish because if the currents. It was fine, it didn't feel bad, for about 2 hours. At first my back was just hot, then very hot, then so hot I couldn't seven stand in direct sunlight wearing my t-shirt because it was too painful. The next day it was blistery, but ok, then today the blisters started popping like bubble wrap and it again became a thing. It kinda feels like I've laid in stinging nettles, and tomorrow I have to carry my pack down the road for half an hour to catch a ferry, then a bus. Ode to joy!

Which brings me back to travel planning and the Coronavirus.

It's still my plan to leave Thailand by the end of next week. As far as I know I can still get a one month Visa and enter the country with just a health check. That's today though. People warned me about coming here because of the virus spreading, but now ironically it's the Asians that are worried about catching it from me. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I still have options, which is good. They all seem to be in even hotter countries, which isn't great, but I chose to turn up in South East Asia in the hot season, so screw me.

Meanwhile everywhere else in the world is going to hell in a handcart. Italy is closed, Spain pretty much too. Austria is banning gatherings of more than 5 people, that's a good number for the Dartford Festival but terrible for anywhere else! I have friends travelling to Vegas in two months who don't know if they're still going. The US has banned all flights from the UK and no one is saying how long it will last. It's the same everywhere. Then there's the stockpiling of goods, mostly non essential to the virus, just stuff that the shops have told people they can only buy a few of. There's no need for it. They should tell people that there's a shortage of Rolexes and see how well they sell. Then what happens when we run out of toilet paper? Use kitchen roll? Normal paper? Sod that, just make sure you have a fluffy pet.

Right, I should go to bed. It's 12:30 and I still need to pack ready for the morning. It's made a little easier by the fact I keep throwing stuff away or losing it. So far I've:

Lost my water bottle
Broken my glasses
Thrown away a hoodie, pair of shorts and a compression packing cube (I was able to do this because I threw away the other clothes and can now fit all my clothes into one cube).

It's making packing and carrying a bit easier!

Stay safe everyone, please share and leave a comment



I felt bad about having no photos to add as I've been laid out like an invalid for two days, so here's a picture I just took of a lizard running around my light eating insects. Enjoy!

Posted by cblanc102 08:57 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel thailand vietnam island scuba visa asia koh khao sok tao coronavirus Comments (2)

Nature Boy

leaving the beach for a bit of relaxation

I'm in a pretty woody area.

Granted, there's a fairly busy road about 20 meters downhill from me, but it's all trees behind.

So far, my animal spotting has been pretty rubbish, and I'm quite happy about that! All I've seen so far are lizards of all sizes (though only one much bigger than your hand), loads of moths and butterflies, bats and bloody mosquitoes. Oh and I seem to have another cat. She's pretty scrawny though, which I think may be linked to her rubbish attempts at catching lizards as far as I've seen.

I'm not sure what I think about the new place yet. It's very pretty, but at the moment my biggest worry is about breaking the damn bungalow. I'm not sure it's meant from an adult male, it creaks a lot when I walk on it. I spend a fair amount of my time thinking about weight displacement.


I arrived pretty late in the afternoon and by the time I'd had a kip it was about 5pm, so I haven't had a chance to look around. I'm only a couple of km away from where I was staying before, so if the worse comes to the worse, I can always just head back to familiar territory, but that's not really the point of the trip, which is to explore, right?

I'll rent a moped for a couple of days (It's a few quid a day) and really explore the island. I need to do something, I only finished the scuba 9 hours ago and already I'm feeling a bit lost. But then I also need to learn to switch off. To really relax. So, I'll have a day or two of doing that as well. I also found a leisure park round the corner with large screen sports, a 24 seat cinema (showing the original Star Wars this Sunday!) and a giant mini golf course!! I'm gonna have to give that a go.

Fast forward a few days and it's now Thursday. I really like this place. I've done pretty much nothing for two days but get some washing done by a woman round the corner, eat and relax. It's been great. I've arranged my travel on to the next place (Khao Sok National Park on Monday) and the only other beasties I've seen have been a bigger lizard with an enormous tail and what I think was a praying mantis, but it was very small and when I tried to get in closer the dumbass tried to fly away straight into my head.

Last night I went out to eat, I wanted a Pad Thai. I went to a busy cafe (always a good sign) down the road and ordered my dinner. And waited. And waited. And waited. I waited ages to get a menu, but when I ordered I waited at least another 45 mins. A guy had come in after I ordered, got his menu, ordered, got his food, eaten and paid and still I was sat there with nothing in front of me. I had asked the waiter a few times where my food was and he just kept saying it was coming. In the end I left before it came out. I walked to another place down the road and again ordered a Pad Thai and was told that it would take 45 mins so I left there too! At least he told me, but why does Pad Thai take so long to make there?? I've had it before and eventually had one at the pier last night, both of which only took 15 minutes and the lady last night gave me a free banana. Winner!

My winning Pad Thai. It was almost worth the wait

This morning I went out to rent a scooter. This is a very easy thing to do on Koh Tao, but also a very easy thing to do wrong. You hear all manner of horror stories about people getting charged loads of extras, or getting charged for non existent scratched when they bring it back, that sort of thing.

I asked the manager here for a recommendation and she suggested Oli's Motorcycle Shop back at the pier. I looked them up and while they're a little more expensive, they have a great reputation for not conning people, always good. To be honest, it was a little too easy! I turned up, gave them my money and driver's license, which is standard, some ask for your passport. No chance! I took photos and a video of the bike's existing scratches (there are many) and then I was off. Barely any training (Here's where you open the seat, here's where you put in fuel) and I was allowed to leave.

My history with bikes isn't great. When I was a kid I had a couple of pretty bad accidents on a bicycle and didn't sit on one again for about 20 years. I tried to have a go on a friends dirtbike in my 20s and was thrown one way while the bike went the other. But I did ride a moped around Goa for a week, mostly with my friend on the back and at one point drove on the motorway there for 45 mins each way (although I was following a taxi with my friend in as I didn't want to risk that. I did have a minor accident that ended up costing me a fair bit, but mostly it was alright.

So on this bike I get, driving around like an 80 year old but enjoying it immensely! I'm being overly careful, and I'm not great at doing a U-turn yet, but it's opened up the island for me!

But I'm sitting here typing this out as it's too damn hot! Seriously, it feels like my butt is on fire every time I sit on the damn thing. I'll go out a bit later and put a wet towel on it to calm the seat down, but I think I'll just sit here and drink coffee while watching a movie this afternoon. One thing I've found with this travelling lark, is that you're far less bothered about rushing around seeing everything when you don't have a time frame.

My ride

Posted by cblanc102 23:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged animals travel thailand island asia thai koh scooter pad tao solo Comments (1)

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