Same Same, but Desperate

The Bionic Salesman
A Journey around Thailand

So that’s the end of another tour of Southern Thailand. We arrive back in Bangkok for a final three days. A month’s accumulated junk litters the baggage carousel. As if this is not enough, Misty heads straight from the airport to Chatuchak Market in search of more, coming back with bagfuls, including, for me, three pairs of unusual shoes and a dozen T-shirts.

None of the tourist T-shirts with the lame English slogans (Same Same but Different, iPood, etc.), these are tasteful shirts with arty Thai squiggles on them. I wore the first one around Bangkok for hours before some kind soul stifled her guffaws long enough to point out that the squiggles meant something along the lines of, “I’m a sad mug who’s desperate for a girlfriend”.

“My wife bought me this,” I said by way of explanation. The shirt came off.

It has been an amazing trip. We’ve got into the habit of using the car to take us away from the main beaches and then shopping around for bungalows. We were almost the only guests at a great place on Bang Rak beach in Samui.

Sabai Resort

Sabai Resort: Little Scandinavia's Little Italy

Ao Nang in Krabi is Little Scandinavia, but we found ourselves in Little Italy at the Sabai Resort, where Italians come on their scooters from all over to air kiss, drink wine and punctuate their conversation with vigorous hand gestures. The owner looks uncannily like an Italian Basil Fawlty.

In Phuket, we took a random turn off the coast road and found ourselves at the Baan Armeen, a new and pleasant little resort on Bang Tao Beach. I find the Phuket beaches from Kamala up far more attractive than the most famous beaches – Patong, Karon and Kata – and we particularly took to Surin Beach, with its string of beachfront bars.

From Samui to Khao Lak, it was good to see the Waboba Ball selling so quickly, but disconcerting to see how often it goes out of stock. We arrived in Koh Samui to find only one shop with balls.

If you have had difficulty finding a shop that has stock, you have our sympathy. This is a problem we are working to resolve.

Meanwhile, in Bangkok, finding a Waboba Ball is a bit like playing Where’s Wally. The ball is available in Supersports, but the shop apparently won’t allow the product displays to be rearranged, so Waboba is often included as an afterthought, balanced on top of some other display. But if you find yourself near the Mares sign, you’re probably getting warmer.

The Pro Ball is particularly hard to find. Our Thai stock sold out in the time it takes to say “bounces on water”, but we should have stock again in about two weeks, and this time we are also getting the baseball glove to go with the Pro, so you should watch out for that.

Return of the Bionic Salesman – Koh Samui

The Bionic Salesman
A Journey around Thailand

Ahh! Thailand, land of banyans, backpackers, pork with basil, and other great things beginning with B.

I am traveling around Thailand for the next month – on Koh Samui with the family today, then Koh Lanta, Krabi, Phuket and Khao Lak.

I have my camera equipment with me, so if anyone wants help putting together a Waboba video for the Waboba Video Contest 2012 (and can catch us as we’re passing through), just give us a holler.

Bangkok Airways chopped us up at ‘bumi airport and put us through the mincer. The family arrived on Samui like grim survivors of the apocalypse, two in one plane, two in another, and our luggage in a third. It seems to be a general rule that staff in Thai companies spend their time troubleshooting a system that just doesn’t work. We’ll be choosing a different airline on the way back.

We’ve settled in a beach hut in Bang Rak, where we can lie, four in the bed, and watch the propeller planes sweep in at tree height over the sea. I’ve come to the conclusion that Bang Rak is a better beach than Lamai, which is better than Chaweng.

Our beach hut looks like this.

Samui Beach Hut, Bang Rak

More later.

Moonies Find Life’s a Gas on Thai Party Island

The Bionic Salesman
A Journey around Thailand

Koh Phangan Full Moon Party

Koh Phangan

Birds fly south for the Winter. Salmon swim upriver to spawn. At full moon the lesser-spotted backpacker, doe-eyed and bulging with hormones, flocks to the island of Koh Phangan for a night of ritual jiggery, eyes wide and body painted day-glo technicolor rainbow.

The Wiki tells me that the monthly full moon parties on Koh Phangan’s Haad Rin Beach started in 1985 and grew quickly, to the point now where they routinely draw in as many as 30,000 revellers.

The party has got so big that it has spawned dozens of imitators, advertised on sign boards all over southern Thailand… the No Moon Party, the Half Moon Party, and my personal favourite, the “Ample Moon Party” (which presumably comes somewhere between half moon and full moon). But the full moon bash is still the original and best.

I was a bit late for me, not just because the party doesn’t really get going until midnight, but also because I am at the time of life where a full night’s sleep is just so much more appealing than a night of semi-naked gyration and waiting for the sun to rise.

So I skipped the party but bought the video of the party. I took in a pre-party party on Koh Samui, then went to bed, got up the next day and rode the ferry to Phangan to see what it’s like when all the island has a sore head. Continue reading

Driving by Numbers

The Bionic Salesman
A Journey around Thailand

So much for the rain. The newspapers were full of flood warnings as I set off on the second leg of my journey around Thailand, but it rained only three times on a three-week trip.

Those three rain storms all came on the first day as I drove down the east side to catch the ferry to Koh Samet. The rain came in blocks of sky, an aggravated shout that soon ran out of breath. For a while it was like driving through a liquidiser. Mostly, there was brilliant sun. Continue reading

Big Blue Room with a View

The Bionic Salesman
A Journey around Thailand

There’s a dive shop every 20 metres in Phi Phi Town, and each one has a tattooed dude from Croydon or Helsinki just dying to sell you a half-day trip to the local dive sites.

But many of the people in the know just keep on walking past these shops and on out to Blue View Divers in the Viewpoint Resort at the eastern end of Loh Dalum Beach. Continue reading

Island of Two Ps and a Queue

The Bionic Salesman
A Journey around Thailand

phi phi island

In the hierarchy of traffic accidents, a ding is smaller than a bump, and a prang is bigger than both of them. I dinged the hubcap on the hirecar. To take a break from driving, we took the boat to Phi Phi, chocolate-box island of upside-down cliffs and impossibly concave beaches. Continue reading

The Swedish Beach

Hakans BarThe Bionic Salesman
A Journey around Thailand

Pattaya is Russian, Phuket’s Kata Beach is French and Karon Beach is Swedish. Certain beaches pull in certain nationalities.

At Kata Beach, this is easy to explain. Club Med dominates the seafront.

Waboba being a Swedish product, we were pleased, but somewhat bemused, to see the mini-marts at Karon Beach doing brisk business selling what looks like a local Swedish newspaper.

But what draws the Swedes to Karon Beach? It was a mystery to us until we found this (see picture). If you’re Swedish, you don’t need me to tell you that you’re looking at Håkans Bar, one of the most famous (to Swedes) landmarks in all of Indochina.

It was, apparently, the base for some kind of Swedish television program. Was it a documentary or a reality TV show? I haven’t a clue, but I’m told it was immensely popular and it keeps the Swedes coming here.

There are bits of the TV show on Youtube here. Maybe someone Swedish can tell us what it’s all about.