Monday, June 6, 2011

A Little Place like Kokomo

It's very exciting when someone cool gives me obscure travel advice and I can remember it years later, when time and finances allow, and follow it to the letter. Over two years ago a San Franciscan babe* told me that if I ever go down to the South of Thailand, that I absolutely must go to Koh Yao Noi (an island) and while there that I have to stay at 'Denny's' ("everyone knows him!").

Pictured above : our accommodation. 350 Baht a night. And it was heaven. (It's crazy when you have a vague idea of perfection in your mind, and then you go somewhere and it actually exists).

* The SF babe, who shall remain nameless, endeared herself to me with this amazing story:

She wanted to get a brazilian before hitting the beaches so looked into getting one in Bangkok - it was difficult. Most cheaper places don't offer it (it's not a Thai thing) and she didn't want to fork out for some Hilton-esque spa. She found a compromise, and went along to her booking, quite nervous as to what the results might be.

Now, getting a brazilian is always an (at least slightly) awkward/ hilarious affair, but this was made much worse by the fact she inexplicably had two beauticians in the room with her. They looked down at her Western girl bush in disbelief, talked Thai to each other and laughed fairly uncontrollably. She was awkward, but she'd already lived in China for a year and was tough. She got through it, while the two girls shared the job of ripping her hair out and sporadically bursting into fits of giggles.

At the end, after all the pain and humiliation, she is lying back exhausted when one of the beauticians leans in and asks, all business, "Miss, would you like a happy ending?"

No. Joke. Now, I can understand getting a happy ending to a massage, which is quite a sexy time, but to a brazilian wax?! I have never heard a story of someone being aroused by the experience (although, of course, I'm not ruling out the minority of people who undoubtedly are - it just isn't a mainstream sexual expectation).

Now, SF Babe is understandably shocked, but - quick as a bullet - she regains her composure and coolly asks "how much?"

The beautician gives her a quote of roughly 1000 Baht, or $40 nzd, and SF Babe tips her head to one side and declines, saying, "well, I can just do it myself."

NB: I tried to get a Brazilian in Bangkok, in the hopes of finding my own freaky story of weirdness and cultural misunderstanding, but I unfortunately found true weirdness on the way walking there, at which point the only Thai woman I've ever seen and not instantly loved pick-pocketed my dumb tourist self. I had to email the 'spa' in question and apologise for missing my appointment: "I'm very sorry, I met a thief on my way over!"

In truth, these photos don't do Koh Yao Noi justice and I don't even have any of the idyllic white-sand beach, limestone islands in the distance. Maybe you really should go.

Incidentally, what I do have a photo of is a GIANT bruise (acquired partying on Saturday night) ... on my ass. I didn't want to post it so, ahem, publicly (hi MOM!), but I have been emailing it left right and centre, because it really is quite impressive. The bruise.

(Some say it looks like Argentina, while others disagree and say it more closely resembles a lightning bolt).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Goin' Down South

Even though I'd been to Thailand numerous times and spent several months roaming around the winding sois of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, I had never made it to the much-famed South. So, this trip, I decided to right this wrong, and headed to Ranong to meet my friend Top (see previous blog).

Pictured above, ever beautiful ZamZam on the long bus journey, which we both found surprisingly enjoyable. We are both quite lazy, so sitting still and looking out the window for nine hours is quite appealing.

Ranong finds itself on the border with totalitarian maniac state Myanmar/ Burma and is therefore a reluctant haven to roughly 100,000 refugees. This number is a very sketchy estimate. Here was a conversation with a Thai girl:

ZamZam: What's the population of Ranong?
Girl: Oh, about 100,000.
Me: Oh, I thought it was much more.
Girl: Oh, there are the Burmese, and there's probably another 100,000 of them.

ZamZam pointed out how this off-hand statement showed the general distaste for and disinterest in the refugees living in their city. We spent some time searching for the Burmese market, as most Thai people either didn't know or care to tell us where it was. But we found it, covered by a massive corrugated shed, full of flowers, batik material and military clothing.