Archive | November, 2011

22nd November – Ban Chun beach

23 Nov

What had attracted us to this area was the fact that it was not on the way to anywhere other than the beaches and the Cambodian border, we thought it would be undeveloped and quiet. We were not disappointed.

On the way we turned off the main road and onto some side roads. There are some lovely lakes behind the beaches and where there is a river,  stilt villages where the fishermen that fish in the gulf are based.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We carried on to Ban Chun to a little resort called Bancheun Beach Resort that has cabins and a restaurant and is owned by Joseph and Payear. They were happy for us to stay in the camper next to the restaurant, right on the beach, use their facilities and plug in to the mains electricity. They are really friendly and also own and run a hotel near Pattaya.

Having come through the Gobi without getting stuck, I was maybe a bit cocky driving onto the sand …. it is very fine and very soft …. we were soon digging ourselves out, and even got to use the high lift jack!!

 

 

 

 

Back on firmer ground, we attached the awning to the camper, went for a swim in the warm calm sea (just like getting in the bath) and in the evening had a meal in the small beach side cafe next door. So nice and relaxing, might even stay here a few days …..

 

 

 

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21st November – Laem Klat (coast south of Trat)

23 Nov

In the morning the security guard called us over to look at a big snake. It was in a tree over by the main building trying to catch the squirrels that were eating fruit. Unfortunately it had gone by the time we got there …. good to be reminded that they are around though! We left at 8.00am just as the staff were having their morning briefing outside on the grass. It was quite formal, but as we drove off, they all smiled, waved and shouted goodbye. Again we are amazed at the Thai hospitality. The people are so lovely.

All along the roads in Thailand there are flags and pictures of the King, particularly near the National Parks. It seems that he is really popular and is very much involved with the development of Thailand. It is said that he is a very clever and well educated person who has expertise as an engineer and architect.

 

 

 

Today was basically a day of driving, we were ready to see the coast! We had not seen the sea since we left the Baltic. On the way we stopped at a Big C supermarket to stock up and buy a new camera card. Marjool had left her flip flops on the grass at the last coffee stop, so we needed some replacements ….. These were tempting, but a little warm!

 

 

 

Late afternoon we arrived at a small beach at Laem Klat. There were cabins at a small resort, but plenty of space for us to park right by the sea. We had arrived at the Gulf of Thailand!

 

 

 

 

 

In the morning we would continue down the narrow strip of coast here that has sea on one side and then Cambodia on the other. You can cross into Cambodia at the southern most point at a place called Khlong Yai. We will not be doing this as we are due in Chaam to meet our friends Keith and Frances in a couple of weeks and don’t want to rush the tour of the coast up to Bangkok.

 

 

20th November – Dong Yai Wildlife Reserve

21 Nov

We left the cabins at 7.15 am after a cool air conditioned night (better not get used to that !) and went straight to the elephant stadium. All along the road to the stadium are food stalls and plant sellers.  The plants for sale are all tropical garden plants, many of them orchids.

The seats we had were high in the stand and so were shady. You can pay as little as 40 baht on the other side, but right in the corner of the stadium, and in the blazing sun. Our tickets were 800 baht per person.

The elephants are well trained and get lots of practice performing most days in a village north of Surin. The music started and believe it or not the elephants started dancing! They also threw darts to pop balloons, walked over volunteers from the audiences laid out on the ground (we didn’t fancy that), and played hula hoop on their trunk while sitting or balancing on two legs!

It seemed as though they enjoyed themselves, and were proud when the audience clapped … maybe just wishful thinking?

It does seem that because of tourism, the elephant numbers in Thailand are increasing again. There were certainly loads of babies around.

One of the groups of elephants then had a game of football. No rapid changes of direction, but they were surprisingly quick.

There was then a re enactment of a big battle. Canons mounted on the backs of elephants, lots of traditional costumes and big explosions. It was really well done.

In the final stages of the show there seemed to be hundreds of elephants in the stadium!

It was a great show and we all really enjoyed it.

We had some lunch with Aree and her son, Chris and Mary and then headed out of Surin towards Buri Ram. Turned south on the 2208 to Prakhon Chai and then followed the 24 to Nang Rong. We planned to drop south right down to the coast on the 348.

In the evening we stopped at Dong Yai Wildlife Reserve and asked if we could sleep there. Once again lovely people and very welcoming. We were even given a socket to plug into. They offered us the use of the toilet area too. The security guard was armed, so we were well protected!

It cooled down really well in the evening, so it looked like being a quiet and cool night. Thailand has proved to be an easy place to stay overnight so far, though it may be different in the coastal areas. We’ll see!

19th November – Surin

20 Nov

In the morning we set off to buy tickets for the Elephant Round Up show. This is held only once a year and has been held every year without a break since 1960. We got there shortly after 8.00am to find that it was all sold out for the day. At this point we had met up with Aree and her son, Chris and Mary, who had come down from Mukdahan for the show. We decided to book for Sunday show and go down to Phanom Rung Historical Park to see the temples built from volcanic rock on the site of an old volcano.

 

 

 

 

 

The rock used for the main structure is like giant blocks of Aero chocolate. Even the roofs are made from solid stone.

 

 

 

 

A few kilometers down the road is another temple called Prasat Hin Mueang Tam. This one was different in so much that the original roof was supported on a timber structure rather than being solid stone.

 

 

 

 

You can see that the windows in the structure above have windows with turned stone pillars to provide a person proof barrier, but still providing ventilation. One of the windows had been filled. Maybe there was a window tax like in the UK?

 

 

 

 

In the evening we decided to stay in a cabin in the same little resort as the others. Normally the aircon rooms with en-suite are 400 baht, but as the show was on it was up to 650 baht. Still good value.

 

 

 

 

Elephant show tomorrow!

18th November – Surin

20 Nov

We had not expected to see little Austin in the morning as we had said our goodbyes to the family the night before. Unfortunately Austin had other ideas and made his way over to the temple at around 6.30 in the morning closely followed by his mum. He climbed in the camper and pointed to some porridge. We took the hint and served him a portion.

 

 

As we started packing up we realised that he thought he was coming with us in the ‘boomboom’ as he called Troopy. We thought this might end in tears ……. and it did!

 

A little way further down the road we had a chance to stop at one of the many charcoal burners that we had seen.

 

 

In this area most people cook with charcoal and make it themselves. Some people don’t re-use the charcoal burner, they simply pile a dome of clay over the wood and rice grass, and then when the burn has finished, they break open the clay case to remove the charcoal. Maybe another project for Graham when he gets home!

When we arrived in Surin we found another temple which was only a short walk from the elephant stadium. We parked the camper in a shady spot and found that there were toilets and showers just a few meters away.

There was supposed to be an elephant buffet somewhere in the town, and although we were not sure where it was, we soon saw signs that we were going in the right direction.

 

 

 

We were almost too late, and only saw the elephants eating the last scraps of food.

 


 

The night at the temple was not quite as quiet as we expected as we were camped right between two live bands …. It was also still 30 degrees C at 10.00 pm …… Finally drifted off to sleep wearing only ear plugs!

 

17th November – Tamnop

17 Nov

We had said that we would go to the farm and have a go at cutting rice today, so headed off on the scooters to the field. It was already hot at 8.45 am when we finally got started.

 

 

 

It was really hot and we only managed about 1.5 hours before we gave up, already feeling our backs! Nangs mother and father go a straight 8 hours, seven days a week, without complaining and they are over 60 years old. I think you need to build up to that sort of work in this climate …. that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

The average wage at the moment for a days rice cutting is 200 baht. Some Thais close to the border employ Laos workers as they cost a bit less.

When we got back to the Troopy at the temple we had a visit from a class of ten year olds. Marjool explained the trip in her best sign language!

 

 

 

We had arranged with Nang to have something to eat at a really small restaurant nearby the village. We arrived Thai style!

 

 

 

We had a nice chicken fried rice with Nang and Austin ….. it is so great to spend time with them.

 

 

 

Earlier in the day we had talked about locals eating rats from the rice fields. They feed mainly on rice and are not like our sewer dwelling rats that eat all sorts. I had asked if they were nice. Nang said that there are not so many now, but if they caught one, would I like to try. It seemed pretty unlikely and I thought little of it when I said I would love to try, but maybe not a whole one!

Imagine our surprise when Nang’s brother told us what the dog had caught at the rice field today!!

 

 

 

My already shaky appetite reduced still further when I smelt a funny smell coming from the BBQ. It was the process of removing the fur!

 

 

Once the hair burns it can be rubbed off by hand leaving a clean skin. A few chops with a sharp cleaver and its ready to cook.

 

 

The meat was dipped in soya sauce before cooking and some large chunks of garlic were added for flavour. It actually tasted nice! It was nice and crispy, and both Marjool and I ate some. Funny, it really does taste just like chicken!!

After the unusual snack, which I’m sure they only cooked because I had asked what it tastes like, we took a family photograph. They are really lovely hospitable people and Nang’s father asked us to come back again one day when he was less busy, then he would take me fishing.

 

 

 

 

We said our goodbyes and headed back to the temple ready for an early start to Surin tomorrow for the start of the elephant festival.

16th September – Tamnop

17 Nov

In the morning we decided to move Troopy somewhere a bit more breezy. We did not want to offend the family but the way the camper is designed it relies on a bit of through draft to change the air and cool it down.

Before we left we watched Nang flip the rice so that she could remove any black bits.

 

 

 

 

The local temple ( opposite the school ) was the ideal spot. We had looked at them before and thought that they would make good overnight stops as they are large open areas with lots of trees and friendly looking people!

 

 

 

 

We spent the day looking after Austin so that Nang could do some work. We played football and pushed cars and trains around in the shade of the trees around the temple. Great fun!

 

 

 

 

 

The school that Austin goes to is just next to the temple. We were there just in time for the school home run.

 

 

Later in the afternoon we borrowed Nang’s scooter and explored the local area. It is lovely around here.