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Thailand

This cooking malarkey is easy...

sunny

Today we had our Thai cooking classes. The course was held in Patong with a kick-off time of 3pm. As such, we were told to be at our hotel lobby for 2:30 for pickup. Ever the cautious pair, we arrived at 2:20 and waited in the lobby. And waited. And waited.

After waiting 40 minutes, we decided that the course had started and we should go to the tour agent that booked our tickets and get a refund. Just as we got up, a car pulled up and 2 people leapt out looking for us. After a quickly checking it was us (we looked the same in the mirror this morning), we got into the car and sped off to the course. Well, at least that's what I would have done - driving in Phuket is interesting as no-one seems to go over 40kmph (unless they are a moped with 4 people on it) and they don't like to go above 2nd gear. On the trip I was muttering to myself that I didn't really want to walk in to the class late and miss most of the lesson (it was only scheduled for 90 minutes). To shut us up, they fed us a Thai snack which is banana kebabs with a coconut milk, sugar and honey dunking sauce.

We arrived at the cooking school (called Pums) and signed ourselves in. Until this point, I had been expecting that we were going to be in a class of up to 10 or so. Bzzz, wrong! Instead, we got private lessons of just Heather and I and the "teacher" - a nice result! The course itself, was structured in to 2 parts: the first was an introduction to the main herbs used in Thai cooking. This was given by a bloke from Yorkshire, who had been in Thailand for about 4 years and has a passion for cooking. Following him, one of the Thai chefs taught us the 3 dishes we were going to learn: Green Curry (chilli, basil, coconut milk and chicken), hot & sour soup (prawns, chilli and more chilli) and white curry (chilli, coconut milk and chicken). Each dish took no more than 3 minutes to cook, and (as the English guy said) if you freeze small bags of the ingredients and you can have dinner ready 5 minutes after getting home from work. As part of the course, they also gave us a mini cookery book which contained the main Thai recipes (pad Thai, hot & sour soup, etc), so when we eventually set ourselves up in the UK, I will be experimenting :)

Posted by jefranklin 04:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking round_the_world foodie Comments (0)

I'm the king of the world!

sunny

Ok, wrong movie quote but it still had Leonardo De Caprio in it...

Today we went to Phi Phi island (pronounced pee pee) which was used for filming the movie "thee Beach". Phi Phi actually has two islands Phi Phi Don, which is the main island with all the tourist facilities (and was absolutely hammered by the Boxing Day tsunami) and Phi Phi Low, which is an uninhabited, and was where the Beach was filmed.

The day started with the alarm going off at 6am (aagghh!) and we wandered down to breakfast. We were picked up by shuttle bus and driven to the sea terminal on Phuket (can't remember the name of it, even though we landed there during our honeymoon cruise). Then it was on to a high-speed ferry and the 1hr 20min trip to Phi Phi Don. On arrival, we didn't get on to the island, but cross-decked to a smaller tour boat that was going to take us on our bay tour.

The first anchoring was actually still on Phi Phi Don, and at a spot called Monkey Beach, which (subject to weather and their moods) monkeys hang out and can be fed, if you're feeling game. There were monkeys there for us, however it is also a snorkeling spot, so we threw ourselves overboard with the appropriate gear and took in the underwater sights. In contrast to the Great Barrier Reef, the fish seemed to be a lot smaller and more inclined to swim up to you. This meant that there were decent photo opportunities, but nothing like a grouper or a shark. Nevertheless, the underwater camera case got a good workout.

Following the first stop, we were taken to Phi Phi Low (we were not allowed off the boat though) and taken around the island to look at the major features (e.g. Viking Cave, the film spot for the movie, etc). We also stopped at a second spot, where again we got in the water for some more snorkeling and pictures.

Afterwards, we were taken back to Phi Phi Don for lunch and a spot of sun-bathing on the main beach there. As mentioned, Phi Phi took a lot of damage in the tsunami, but they are rapidly rebuilding. Already, there are a number of backpacker hostels and a couple of 4 star hotels open (getting both ends of the tourist spectrum :). It is well worth staying on the island, as from there you can hire a speedboat or a long-tailed boat that will let you land on Phi Phi Low.

Posted by jefranklin 03:39 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches backpacking round_the_world Comments (0)

Patong Beach, Phuket

sunny
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The resort that we have been staying in is located on Karon Beach in Phuket. This is a quieter area than the most popular destination on Phuket (for backpackers) which is Patong Beach. We decided however, that we were going to need to see some of the island otherwise we would spent the entire time lazing by the pool - nice and relaxing but necessarily a good use of our time.
The hotel where we are staying runs a shuttle bus service twice daily to Patong - one at 10am and one at 3pm (return times being 10:30 and 3:30). As we planned on spending the evening in Patong, we decided to get the 3pm shuttle and make our own way back.

In contrast to the relative quietness of Karon, Patong is a heaving mass of hawkers trying to flog designer knock-offs, cut prices tailors and other souvenirs that the traveler needs. On arrival, we walked the length of the beach front road looking in most of these stalls as Heather was looking to replace the shoes that she broke while Darwin. This managed to take us upto 5pm, and for some reason no shoes were bought. We could have spent that time at the pub/beach. Eventually, I managed to persuade Heather that I was severely dehydrated and needed some Chang (local beer) quick. We found a beach-side pub and watched the sun go down of the ocean, taking a photo of it for posterity.

Once darkness fell, we decided to find somewhere to grab something to eat and then the problems started. As mentioned, Patong is the main backpacker resort, so we thought before we arrived that there would be plenty of cheap noodle bars where we could indulge our taste buds in wonderful Thai food. Bzzzzzz, wrong! We managed to find one small place, as everything was serving Western junk food - at one point we even considered MuckDonalds as an option, as there was nothing else appealing (common sense did prevail though). Again, a real contrast to Karon where you can't swing a stray dog without hitting anything from budget to expensive Thai restaurants. You probably wouldn't want to go near the stray dogs, mind.

After dinner, we explored Patong further and it is at this point we discovered the Lonely Planet was not exaggerating about some of the seedier sides. Having been through Patpong with no problems, we thought nothing could faze us - however we didn't expect Patong to be even more dodgy. It was an experience in itself (we didn't go in to any clubs though). At one point, we were at a bar that had been bought by a 25 year old guy from Manchester for about 43,000 pounds. He had only been in country for 3 weeks, and he was learning that getting the appropriate licensing was going to be a bit of a challenge for him. Still, he seemed happy enough - not too bad a way to spend a few years I imagine.

Posted by jefranklin 01:31 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches backpacking round_the_world Comments (0)

James Franklin is resting

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We have been travelling none-stop pretty much since 2 February, with only a couple of days respite here and there. When planning this trip, we figured that after 2 months of backpacker accommodation, we would need something to make us feel a bit chilled so I had booked us in to the Thavorn Beach Resort, in Karon Beach, Phuket for 14 nights. As such, since arriving here nearly a week ago, our only activities have been lazing by the pool, lazing on the beach and lazing in the room.
Karon Beach is a family-friendly part of Phuket, so walking down the main street does not require you to fend off touts trying to sell dodgy merchandise or advertise their bars. It also means that there are decent amount of restaurants to choose from, offering everything from Western (steak and pizzas) and Chinese (sweet and sour) t0 Indian, Malay and Thai (curry and curry). We have tried out a couple and generally have been impressed (a Panang curry that we tried was very similar to the recipe at Curry Frenzy).
Tonight, we are heading to Patong which is more backpacker-oriented and later in the week we're off to Phi Phi island (the island on the movie the Beach) for some snorkeling and Heather keeps bugging me to play golf, so I am sure we will be doing that at some point. If I can find an Internet cafe that we read CF memory sticks, you may even get some pictures :)
We're also planning on doing a cookery course where we learn to cook 3 traditional Thai dishes. I'll show that Jamie Oliver who's boss.

Posted by jefranklin 00:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches backpacking round_the_world Comments (0)

James Franklin is unwell (again)

sunny

Just wrapped up our last 2 nights in Bangkok. The first of these was spent visiting Patpong, which is the seedy end of town where there are numerous clubs designed to take the money of single Western males - as we went together, I wasn't hassled that much. The bars in Patpong vary from standard pubs, to pubs where bikini-clad women wander around and dance on stage, to the more "exotic" where ping pong balls and other paraphernalia come in to play. One of the bikini-bars that we visited did seem to have a few bikini-clad dancers that didn't seem to have double-X genes, favouring the X-Y sort. What was really troubling, was that the X-Y dancers seemed to keep looking at me and waving - maybe I do need to get my hair cut after all.

The following night, we caught up with a friend of ours (Adrian) that had been backpacking around SE Asia for the last couple of months. After a traditional Thai dinner, we did a mini-pub crawl around the area where our backpacker accommodation was. At about 2am, we decided to call it a night, so we headed back to our place for one for the road, as it is also a 24hr pub.

Well, one thing led to another, and before you know it was 6am and dawn was breaking. Our mate headed back to his place on the other side of the city, and Heather and I weighed up our options as we had a flight to catch at 2, and had to checkout at 12. Taking the risk, we both crashed and set our alarm clock for 11:00. Naturally, we slept through it but still managed to be checked out by 11:50. We can get a shower in Phuket...

Posted by jefranklin 23:47 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking round_the_world city_break Comments (0)

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