5 weeks in Thailand

Thailand-Travelogue  |  Travel time: February / March 2002  |  by Martin O.

The south

[Eddie: ] For a change we use the night bus and make a short stop in Bangkok - the GOOD AIR!!!

Riding a bus in Thailand is really fun. Thais don't read, since reading is neither "Sanuk" (to translate with "fun") nor "Sabai" (coziness). And fun and coziness are a human right here and probably guaranteed by the constitution, just like the right for happiness in the USA. If Thais read, they read Mangas or "191" (the emergency number of the police), which shows photographs of dismembered bodies. So, since reading isn't that popular in Thailand, there's no need to keep the light on in the bus after 8.30 pm, which results in sleeping Thais and us not being able to read. But since the bus carries VIP customers, the air conditioning runs at it's best, therefore it's freezing cold. As a special service the light is turned on again sometimes after midnight, after stopping the bus the driver runs screaming up and down the aisle and everybody leaves the bus (except for us, of course, since we don't understand Thai). After a while even we find out, what's going on and are served a bowl of rice in water. Delicious! Obviously this is the traditional Thai breakfast. For us as tourists it's all very obscure, let's see what the ride back will bring.

Eventually our bus brings us into the Khao Sok National Park, where we at last (see last chapter) find a real, 160 million years old, jungle. But first we find the three merry girls from our guest house, the Jungle Huts (which is really recommandable, by the way): Spiderwoman, Monkeywoman und Chickenwoman, who seem to be fed up with stupid farangs being unable to remember their real names. At least they don't bother to memorize our names either: Martin is Adidas Man (because of his T-Shirt) and I am Blond Hair. From here we make differnt hiking tours. First we walk about 8 kilometers into the jungle, which is more like the picture that the Eurpoean has in his head: a small path between two green walls of biomass leads up the mountain, passing some nice waterfalls. We proceed further and meet less and less tourists. After all, this path has a dead end and one has to go all the way back again (fortunately we can make it back just before dusk).

Waterfalls as reward for the long hike.

Waterfalls as reward for the long hike.

[Eddie: ] Even some wild animals show up (despite our smell after eight kilometers hiking), amongst others a whole horde of monkeys, a black snake of three meters length and a lot of smaller creatures. What a delight for the Hobby-Tarzan in us!

Again, we have a commercial tour on our program. For me it's too lame, but it seems to please most of the other participants. For over an hour we drive on a boat (that mean sitting around passivly) over the huge reservoir lake: A huge waterhole, impounded above several former jungle valleys. The former mountain peeks tower as islands out of the water as high as 960 meters. The planning of this reservoir seems to have been quite chaotic: One just started impounding the water masses in the belief that there would be enough time for logging trees, resettling people and saving animals. Well done - the lake filled with water in a single rain period and the rangers had a lot to do picking up surviving animals from the tree tops. Today one still can see dead, giant trees protruding out of the water.
The trees that we see (not only the ones in the water) are in fact giant: the roots need the space of a soccer field, if one follows a root running along the path and stops after 50 meters, it still has the diameter of a human leg (even of a fat person), even if the tree is long out of sight.
The highlight of the tour (after the long cruise and a short walk in the forest) is a really cool hike into a cave (dramatized): half naked and only equipped with hand-made torches we make our way through bat shit, piled up three meters high, while being attacked by these mean creatures, which DEFINITELY aren't as afraid of us as we are of them. After a few meters the last daylight is gone and we know that the last thing that will keep us alive is the memory of the last sun beam. We hold each other tight, aware of the always-present danger of attacking bullfrogs. We can hear them forming up around us. Fortunately we fall into a deep gap, finding ourselves in black, ice-cold water which has never seen daylight. Eyeless, angry creatures touch slimily our naked skin, the ladies scream. By jumping into the water our provisional torches were extinguished, but we have no choice, the way back is blocked by the frogs, we have to swim. Craggy rocks graze our feet until they bleed and we know: it doesn't matter if they bleed or not, we will die down here anyway. Suddenly a painful scream: daylight, as bright as a thousand suns, blinds us and we find ourselves again in the deceiving safeness of the jungle of Thailand.

Our INCREDIBLE dangerous cave transition.

Our INCREDIBLE dangerous cave transition.

[Eddie: ] On our last hike the next day we are on our way with two girls we met in the dark cave when I am attacked, chased and hurt by a real fierce animal of the jungle!!! And I haven't been stung by a bee in years.

Our journey goes on. We really liked being in the Khao Sok National Park, but we have to go on, after all there's not too much time left. Besides, we're not here just for the fun of it!!! Therefore the two girls and us leave for the beaches of Thailand, finally, after three weeks of culture. We decide to go to the West coast of Thailand, to Ao Nang, north of Krabi (no, not Capri, Pizza and Blue Lagoon, but that would have been nice, too). Ao Nang turns out to be very touristic, somehow there are no "authentic" Thais around, only vendors of shades, souvenirs and Rolex watches.

[Martin: ] The ocean is VERY calm here, one has to walk several days by foot until the water is about two feet deep, unfortunately during these long walks the rising tide comes in several times, so eventually one drowns. With this - admittedly a little bizarre - cause of death prospected, we decide to leave for Kho Lanta the following day. Unfortunately, one of the gals is awaited at home, so we were only three then.

The mandatory picture of the dream beach - but it really looks that way!!!

The mandatory picture of the dream beach - but it really looks that way!!!

[Martin: ] Kho Lanta is a really beautiful island in the West of Thailand. Here aren't as many tourists as in Krabi, therefore the people are much friendlier. We find a room at the hostel "Where Else", a guest house complex consisting of small, hand-built (and therefore very lopsided) huts. The huts are amidst a palm grove, the impact of falling coconuts is made clear by the hole in the leaf roof of our bathroom. Here we relax for two days and finally find time to write emails, to read and to get a sunburn to make the folks at home envious.

[Eddie: ] We really eat a lot and make sure not to get up before 11 am (what sometimes is really hard because of the tropical heat) and to make any unnecessary movements. An ambitious goal since we sometimes have to walk about 50 metres to another restaurant, which is really tiresome after a while. Therefore we decide to change the location again, after all there's always a possibility to be lonlier. So, off we are to the next island - 2 villages no cars, no internet, maximum lack of exercise. Perfect.

Sunset.

Sunset.

[Eddie: ] The evenings we spend in the FU-BAR (= "fucked up beyond any recognition"). This bar is "managed" by two guys from England who spent their last vacations on Kho Jum and decided to open a bar here. Now they lead a quite relaxed life, consisting mostly of going swimming in the daytime and drink beer with the few tourists in the evening.

Being lazy.

Being lazy.

[Martin: ] After a few days we run the risk to lapse into total laziness, since, besides the long beaches and some coconut groves, there is no distraction on the island.
So we decide to swim over to the neighbor island. It really doesn't look so far, so we tell Anna, that she doesn't have to be afraid until maybe after three hours. Well. After one hour hiking on the beach we finally reach the spot right opposite of the island. Unfortunately the tide goes out by now, so we are pulled out to the west, away from the island that we wanted to swim to. When we finally reach it after 70 minutes we are totally exhausted, but: there is no way to get out, since the ground is spangeled with sea urchins. Everything is black, the water gets more and more shallow and it becomes harder and harder to avoid the poisonous stings. So we decide to swim back right away without rest. While Eddie lets himself carry by two Swedes in a canoe I make it quite fast back to our beach (thanks to the current). After that we first have to deal with hunger, thirst, sunburn,...

The next day we leave for the mainland. We explore Krabi and even can make out a restaurant where they sell Bavarian bread. Tasty.

[Eddie: ] Very recommendable is a trip to the templeWat Tham Seua, situated north of Krabi. Besides some very interesting meditation practises one can find a tempel on the mountain top with a great view. To get there one has to climb the 1272 steps to the top, after all it shouldn't be to comfortable ...

Here one meditates over bowels, an efficient method to overcome one's lust.

Here one meditates over bowels, an efficient method to overcome one's lust.

The scaffold in the background is a Buddha construction on the top of the mountain.

The scaffold in the background is a Buddha construction on the top of the mountain.

[Martin: ] Finally we have to say good bye to Anna, our fellow traveller, and go back to Bangkok. The alleged VIP bus has narrow seats, unfriendly staff and a leaky AC (which of course is dripping on only my head). So we are glad to reach our former guest house in Bangkok to relaxe a little bit. Here we also meet some people we got to know during the past weeks.

Buddha transportations on the streets of Bangkok.

Buddha transportations on the streets of Bangkok.

[Martin: ] We take our time to find a good tailor to make us made-to-measure suits, after all it's really cheap. But it takes quite a lot of time, since one has to let take the measures several times.
At one of our visits at the tailor we run once more the risk of making the deal of our lives, this time in form of a money transfer over 1.2 million Dollars to our accounts. More about this? See chapter "Scams".

Very impressing is Bangkok's Grand Palace, which almost holds to many sights to see at a single visit.

Very impressing is Bangkok's Grand Palace, which almost holds to many sights to see at a single visit.

[Martin: ] When we visit the Grand Palace I'm not really fit, I have fever, a headache and nausea. Uhm, it's probably because of all the Singha beer I consumed the past night or maybe because of the heat. After a Thai massage at Wat Pho, which is by the way VERY recommendable, I feel a little better, but I take the resolution, not to drink any alcohol this evening.
The next day we use to catch up with our shopping and in the evening we meet up with Valentin, Eddie's nephew, who incidentially also spends a few days in Bangkok. It's a small world after all.

[Eddie: ] Valentin already knows some Thais so we have the chance to go out for dinner with three local students. We go to the Union of the Chulalongkorn University. Of course that's not like a usual Union, it's more like a collection of cookshops and very inexpensive restaurants in a big hall. After the girls having ordered for all of us we find ourselves in front of several pots with different dishes: spicy (i.e. very spicy), sweet and sour, soupy, vegetarian, lubricious, charred (but still very good) and with ginger (not so good). Paying the tab turns out to be a little complicated, since we read in our travel guide that we rich farangs are expected to pay the bill. But this won't be tolerated by our Thai friends, so we give up.
For those who are interested: this Union is situated in Thanon Phayathai, a few hundred meters south of the MBK Shopping Centre (Siam Square) and then on the right.

[Martin: ] It's really nice to hang out with locals, even if I'm doing badly again that evening. Fever, nausea, and so on. Probably I didn't drink enough water. It can't be Malaria, after all we've been to the North (the allegedly only region with risk of Malaria in Thailand) more than four weeks ago. I estimate my temperature to be about 39° Celsius, put a cold wet towel on my forehead and try to get some sleep.

The next day I feel better, we do some last shopping, meet up with the nice Thais again and leave for the airport. Somewhere between Kuwait and Frankfurt I get fever, ague, nausea, etc. again.
Having arrived in Frankfurt, I am cold. Very cold. Not even hot chocolate does help. By now I pity Eddie almost as much as I pity myself, the poor guy has to deal with my continual complaining ("Iamcold", "Iamsick", "Ihaveheadache", "Shit"). It's not until I arrive at home when I finally feel a little better and the next day I feel fit enough for lunch at the Union. But the night: fever, nausea, you know what I mean. So I decide to act on the advice of my doctor (who I went to see the previous day) and go to the department for tropical deseases in the Missionsärztliche Klinik in Würzburg.

After ultrasonic tests, x-rays and blood testings we have certainty: I have Malaria, advanced stage, and I obviously was infected in the South (although there isn't any risk of Malaria, officially. My luck!). And that's not all. Since I'm already there, they tell me that I might also have a fungus on the lung (due to the bats), worms in my dejection and louses on my head (due to the monkeys). At the end it's "only" Malaria and they put me into intensive care.
There they attach me to several cables (electrocardiogram, infusions, blood pressure, what do I know...).
Totally exhausted I fall asleep. Suddenly a big hand rouses me ruggedly: at the bedside stands a big, huge, not to say giant nurse with a mouth full of brown teeth and hands big as plates. She introduces herself with the words: "Hi, I'm the nurse for tonight, if you don't make it to urinate into that bottle in the next half hour, I will use a catheter!" I almost fell out of my bed. The next half hour is the worst half hour in my life. Desperately I try to imagine every situation that could help me on my mission: Waterfall. Liters of beer. The tree in front of my dorm. Even more beer. The rest rooms of several bars. Eventually I make it, since I graduated from high school I haven't been that proud.
The following day they put me upstairs into a normal room and I'm allowed to go the toilet on my own. Well, you know, when you're having a hard time, you're thankfull for the little things.

[Eddie: ] We learn that Martin's desease was the malaria tropica, the worst type of malaria. Fortunately it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Besides, it doesn't come back, over means over.
The doctor who gave us our immunizations before our journey and who is very recommended, only told us about the possible Malaria risk in the North of Thailand (near the borders to Laos and Myanmar).
Result: We didn't get one single mosquito bite in the North, thanks to good prevention.
In the South, on the other hand, we didn't care so much about mosquito bites, after all they just itch a little bit. So we both had our share of bites, it's part of the trip. Most probably, Martin got the infection at the Khao Sok National Park, on the map the southmost red area, and besides, the only red area where we've been.

Areas with risk of malaria.

Areas with risk of malaria.

[Eddie: ] The medical prevention obviously isn't recommended for Thailand, today we would think twice about not taking any prevention.

© Martin O., 2002
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The trip
 
Description:
Winter 2002 - we didn't have a good start: after a little accident with a drunken dancer one day before our departure my finger has to get sewed with five stitches. The stitches I gonna have to take out by myself. And although it is clear to us that the risk of malaria is existent in Thailand, ... ... it wasn't maybe clear enough.
Details:
Start of journey: Feb 17, 2002
Duration: 5 weeks
End of journey: Mar 25, 2002
Travelled countries: Thailand
The Author
 
Martin O. is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 16 years.
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