Notes from a backpacker in Thailand - Thai time

Well it's a hot, sticky January by my usual standards. Here I am in the southern town of Trang . Honking and booming, a squawking orchestra warming up. Birds chip-chirping, dogs bawling, motor-vehicles clanking and clunking.

Tiny Thai ants are looping over my cotton mattress. Do you know where you are going? Do I? The Yamawa Guest House is superb. I am in a corner room, with two big windows curtained in emerald silk. Each is embroidered with dozens of golden-threaded elephants and when the wind flaps the cloth the whole herd charge.

Last night, on the sleeper train from Bangkok, I met a gorgeous and energetic old Thai lady,

Mrs C. I was, and still am wrecked. So I was caught between pulling back from her keen wish to engage and being drawn in by her dancing eyes. I ping-ponged between the two. She taught me some Thai words, then we shared our dinners and a new curiosity with eachother.

Was so zonked tho'. Have not slept a good eight-hour strait since the night before the night before I left Edinburgh. She made me orientated again. Now I need to warm up to Thailand (and stay cool!). Just got to get the strength, power and confidence pulsing again under this beating heat.

The night market is kaleidoscopic – food of every manifestation – parcels of sticky green paste, baby fried eggs, steaming cauldrons of burning soup, papaya, pineapple, melons and plenty of the yet indescribable.

A good six hour sleep has fixed me up better for today. Got given some green jelly seaweed from a bright market lady. It looked like rubbery gecko feet, nice and salty. I like this town of big wide streets, scrubbed out painted houses, wooden shuttered. “French colonial” says the guidebook. It's all a colourful rainbow – even the kitchen utensils – buckets, cups and mops beckon in bright candy colours.

The Chinese monk shop displays household “lucky buckets” – each containing a compact set of soap, toothbrush, washing powder etc. I am guessing these are convenient merit-making items to offer at temples. Like the monk's saffron robes, the buckets are yellow and gift wrapped in matching cellophane.

After sunset I went down to the temple – deserted apart from snoozing dogs. The stupa is tall and white and pierces the sky proudly. Photo-moment. I crept up to the main hall door and was met with golden-butter coloured Buddhas and a monk having a sit. So tip-toed a retreat.

Have had a pummelling massage from a brilliant woman in a back-street shop. I am enjoying the Thais very much – we are clearly enjoying each-other. Was knotted as a gristly old chicken – what demon's has she driven from my back?

Have been feeling sad tonight, not lonely or low, just sadness – rising up to the skin's surface. I will drink lots of water and wash it off. I called Mrs C to say I could not go see her at her sister's tonight, then felt bad at turning down such hospitality – I hope she understood. I will call her again after Ko Mook (next stop) and ask if she would like to re-unite. Must let it go cause I am booked on a 200B air-con bus at 10:30am tomorrow to take me out of Trang.

Another day

Pon is away to the mainland, he invited me, but felt I had to rest. But in fact I have had an active day of it, Ko Mook style. In the village two school girls, Nem and Nit, took me on a tour. We wound up at a beach restaurant and I bought them lunch. They were clearly chuffed and giggled into their lemon iced-tea. The village is a rumble-tumble stilt house affair – lots of rubbish, stinks and charm. Nit's house is decorated with flowers and on the outside wall by the front entrance, a sun-bleached poster portrait of David Beckham. Who else?!

Ko Kradan - National Marine Park

8:30 am. It's cooking-hot inside the tent. The flaps are down, the red ants are scampering in. Three bananas are hanging inside like a chandelier centrepiece at the point the four sides of the dome converge. The groundmat is dusted daily with fine sand that fastens onto my sticky skin. The beach is the doorstep, the reef the garden and the ocean an open field. I hear the chugga chugga of longtails, beginning their rounds.

When does the iguana wake? Saw it, a good metre long, slinking out from the crunching jungle wall behind the tent. But the beach dog's low growls spun it around in its tracks. The dog has guarded the last three nights, laying in wait in a sand bed three feet in front of the door. We've become friends without trying, but today I leave. Let us not be sad. Peter gave me a couple of scrap rib-bones for him. In return I will take pumpkin seeds for Nelson the parrot.

The tent canvas is green camouflage style, with a white bird design arching over it. If you look closely you can see deer in the foliage print. The ranger sometimes wears a matching t-shirt. I sleep with a big bamboo stick by my side, the door flap secured with a combination padlock and money and passport stowed under the floor. All this cause the tent is out on a limb at the end of the beach. My choice for gaining solitude but one loses out on communal safety.

By 7pm it is dark, the sea retreats, the stars arrive. I light incense, a mosquito coil and a candle. Sometimes a fly takes a suicide ride into the flame. Most nights sleeping is erratic, halted by a torchlight, a growl from dog, my anticipation for the sunrise, or distant Thais jabbering in their sing-song speak.

This is sunrise beach. She comes at 6.30. A crimson queen throwing jewels across the sea. Today I fetch water and breakfast on monkey nuts, a green orange, a banana and fresh tamarind, laid out on the beachmat before the door.


Took a dive down deep into the world of fishy wonder. Well, snorkelling – peering in the ocean window from above. I cast a gaze across corals and shoals of marked fish – parading in spots, stripes and flashes. Green, blue, stripy finned jewels. Streamers of light cascaded across the rocky sand bed. Tiger fish tried to take a nibble at me and soon I became just another sea creature in the warm ocean aquarium. How can I eat them again? Got to get well so I can wave them off my plate. You feed my eyes, that's good enough.


Last day, last hours, a weak coffee on the Kao San Road. Some place - a traveller's circus. The morning light unveils the clamour of Irish bars, ladyboys and beadshops. I become one of the backpacking stream of ants….the monks cut through in a silent line for morning alms, passing the Shamrock bar and the pissed hoots of the Irish girl and her friends, probably still partying from the night before. When the sellers open shop I can buy presents, then get myself to the airport, London bound, with a huge hug for muma.

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