Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Desert island digs

With three weeks of my Asia trip left I’m more or less killing time now. Lounging around in hotel rooms. Surfing the net. Watching newspaper-giveaway DVDs I brought with me from England. Even a spot of sightseeing.

I’ve been back in Thailand nearly a week. It’s nice enough. With hindsight, my worries that I’d be trapped among permanently stoned beach bums were a little overdone. Although, having said that, my visits to the island resorts have only just got underway.

Crossing the border in a minivan from Malaysia last week, the first thing that struck me was how scruffy everything was. That and the fact that every second or third business was a massage parlour or go-go bar. Picking my jaw up off the floor, I checked my Rough Guide to Southeast Asia and found one paragraph that reluctantly mentioned “the seedy brothel town of Sungai Kolok” right on the border. It’s a knocking-shop for Malaysians, apparently.

Hat Yai, Thailand’s third-largest city, is 60km away. It's utterly characterless but at least it’s a modern city with modern amenities, so I stayed for four days. The one time I went out was to visit the neighbouring coastal town of Songkhla, which is marginally more interesting. Only marginally, mind.

Sometimes I wonder if I might have missed a vocation as an architect, not because I’m interested in designing buildings - I’m not - but because I love to take pictures of them when I’m abroad. If the job of foreign-building-photographer existed, I’d totally be up for it.

Next stop was Koh Lanta, a west-coast island that’s pretty much closed down from now till October due to the rainy season. To be honest I’m not sure what all the fuss is about as regards the monsoon. Sure, maybe once or twice a day it’ll bucket down like crazy, but in my [very limited] experience these showers rarely last longer than a quarter of an hour and five minutes later everything’s dried in the sunshine.

Arriving in yet another minivan, fresh off the car ferry, I was met by a couple of young men from a family-run resort overlooking one of the popular beaches. They gave me a lift there, I liked the look of the bungalow they showed me (room A13 - fortunately I’m not superstitious) and I agreed to stay at least a couple of nights.

I’ve been offline since then because their internet charges were outrageous… as were some of their restaurant prices, come to think of it. That’s what comes of having an almost-captive clientele. In any case, even though the island is low on facilities and choice at this time of year, I did have an enjoyable day exploring the coastline on foot.

So now I’m back on the mainland in the port of Krabi, pondering my next move. I might go to nearby Koh Phi Phi (that's ‘Pee Pee’, not 'Fifi'), where The Beach was filmed. I might even brave the package-holiday mainstay of Phuket, which to my immense disappointment is apparently pronounced ‘Poo-ket’.

In the meantime, I’m adding something new to the blog: musical slideshows. I’ve been making these for months, ever since I discovered I could download Windows Live Movie Maker to my laptop. Each day that I take photos, there’s a corresponding slideshow to go with it.

Here’s one for Songkhla. I‘m not in it, but various buildings are.

Koh Lanta, on the other hand, is full of me being a narcissist, and a beardy one at that.

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