Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I am a creature of habit!

I'm certain that everyone has heard of the phrase:  "Who moved my cheese?"  Well, this morning someone moved my cheese - well and truly!

Sometimes, we go through life mundanely without having to think of what will happen next or without having to make any major decisions - particularly when we are on vacation and things just seem to flow.

For me, my vacation to Thailand and consequently all that followed, went without any hiccoughs and before long I was in a routine and extremely happy to move along just like all the other cogs in the engine.

The hardest decision, I guess, would have been whether to get out of bed in the morning or not!  But since this was a vacation and I was keen to do as much as possible, getting out of bed at the crack of dawn was a prerequisite - it was only what happened after my exit from slumber that the decisions were faced.

My regular routine was as follows:  

6 am.  Awake with hunger pangs and a huge thirst that suggested that I had definitely not had enough to drink the night before.  Reach out to the bottle of water strategically placed next to my bed the night before for some very long swigs of lukewarm liquid to quench said dehydration and replenish all liquids, which probably evaporated during the night due to the extreme heat and an inadequate air-conditioner.  (or more accurately, that the big guy turned it off as soon as I closed my eyes prior to my comatose slumber)

Open blinds, squint eyes in order to allow bright lights into brain gently, search roof-tops for monkeys.

Remove camera from safe in preparation for said monkey visitation and photo-shoot.

Wait at the window with camera in hand, still in post comatose state and clearly still dehydrated, staring out to sea at the impending weather forecast.

Stretch, yawn, become instantly bored when monkeys don't arrive within ten minutes, but wait regardless.  Monkeys arrive.  Excitement.  Take photos of said monkeys.  Watch as babies enter room to create havoc.  Pretend anger, clap hands softly and whisper to monkeys: "Out!". Watch as they defy me.  Smile, then immediately frown in mock anger.  Watch monkeys as they leave.

Place camera back on table and get dressed and ready for the day, still dictated by hunger pangs and the need for copious amounts of filter coffee.

7 am.  Walk to breakfast lounge.  Sawadee Ka to lady waiting behind podium, who insists on taking me to my breakfast table - even though I go to the exact same table every single morning.

Enter the breakfast lounge, stop.  Look around for familiar faces, spot piano player sitting on his own at table on the right.  Greet said piano player and have a brief conversation about absolutely nothing - just small talk to prove that I'm still awake and alive.

First things first.  Coffee - keep it coming and keep it hot.

7.45 am.  Piano player stops by my table for brief conversation before he takes his position in front of the upright piano to play sweet music that will ease me into my day and have me feeling human again in no time at all and making a mental note to ask him if he has released a CD yet so that I can purchase it.

After three cups of caffeine induced awakeness, walk around to the kitchen and grab breakfast.  Same routine applies every day:  omelet consisting of two scrambled eggs, one teaspoon of Swiss cheese, one teaspoon of finely chopped ham, one teaspoon of finely chopped tomato.  Take plate from chef, tell him "kop kun ka", walk to next table.  On the side of the plate, place:  three slices of extra Swiss cheese and three slices of Danish salami.  Smile at piano player on the way to (and from) the kitchen.  (Piano playing becomes elevated as I approach each way).

Return to breakfast table and consume gourmet spread in front of me.

8.30 am.  Walk out of breakfast lounge feeling fully human - with a fixed plan for the day, a belly filled with nourishment, veins filled with caffeine, and a readiness and excitement for said fixed plans.

But this morning nothing felt right.  Nothing went according to plan (well, the plan that seemed to work itself out every day anyway).  Instead, things panned out as follows:

5:30 am.  Awake unusually early with hunger pangs and a huge thirst that suggested that I had definitely not had enough to drink the night before.  Reach out to the bottle of water strategically placed next to my bed the night before for some very long swigs of lukewarm liquid to quench said dehydration and replenish all liquids, which probably evaporated during the night due to the extreme heat and an inadequate air-conditioner.  (or more accurately, that the big guy turned it off as soon as I closed my eyes prior to my comatose slumber). Feel total annoyance at having to end vacation today.

Open blinds, squint eyes in order to allow bright lights into brain gently, search roof-tops for monkeys.  See absolutely no monkeys, no evidence of monkeys, and no evidence that they will arrive one last time.  More annoyance.

Remove camera from safe in preparation for said monkey visitation and photo-shoot, regardless of realization that they may not arrive.

Wait at the window with camera in hand, still in post comatose state and clearly still dehydrated, staring out to sea at the impending weather forecast.  Sigh.  No monkeys.

Stretch, yawn, become instantly bored when monkeys don't arrive within ten minutes.

Place camera back on table and get dressed and ready for the day, still dictated by hunger pangs and the need for copious amounts of filter coffee.

7 am.  Walk to breakfast lounge.  Sawadee Ka to lady waiting behind podium, who insists on taking me to my breakfast table - even though I go to the exact same table every single morning.

Enter the breakfast lounge, stop.  Look around for familiar faces, spot piano player... No wait... What the feck?  No piano player!  Shake head.  Look again.  Definitely no piano player...

Waitress waiting at my table for me with my napkin in hand wanting to place it in my lap.  Stare at said waitress, incredulously.  Take one more look around the room - just in case piano player wasn't spotted first time around.  Nothing.  Very annoyed now.  Walk to waitress, indignant.  "Where the hell is my piano player?" I rasp at waitress, hands on hips for effect.  Waitress has an Indonesian meltdown, pretends no comprehension.  Shakes head, replies with emotion in voice, which suggests she may burst out crying at any minute: "'scuse me madam?  What?"

Me - more annoyed now than ever (and anger rising):  "What happened to my piano player?  Where is he?".  Still, Indonesian waitress playing with my own emotions, replies with coy, tiny voice:  "No understand".  Bitch - the lot of them.

I slump into my chair, heavy.  Want to break the chair as I sit down.  Who cares, never liked that stupid chair anyway.  Waitress disappears.  No coffee.  NO COFFEE, NO CAFFEINE.   What the hell?

Another waitress arrives.  Some calm restored, she has a coffee pot in hand.  Pours a cup quickly.  Asks what problem is.  "Where's my piano player?"  "He no in today," she answers, all nonchalant and stuff.  Big mistake.  "What? What do you mean, he no in today, is he sick?"  "Madam, he day off today."  Silence.  The blood drains from my face.  I'm light headed, nauseous in fact.  Losing my will to live.  Then an idea...

I jump up, run around the corner to the piano - piano player has to be there.  In fact I'm sure he's there, the girls are wrong.  Get around the corner.  Nothing.  Piano stool empty.  What -The - Hell?  Annoyance.

Back to table.  Flop down, hoping to break chair.  Chair too resilient.  Pout.  Pout a lot.

Second cup of coffee arrives.  Starting to feel a little better.  More human.  Who cares about piano player anyway?  

Third cup of coffee.  Feeling great.  What piano player?  Time for breakfast.  Breakfast is, after all, the most important meal of the day.

8 am.  After three cups of caffeine induced awakeness, walk around to the kitchen and grab breakfast.  Same routine applies every day:  omelet consisting of two scrambled eggs, one teaspoon of Swiss cheese, one teaspoon of finely chopped ham, one teaspoon of finely chopped tomato.  Take plate from chef, walk to next table.  On the side of the plate, place:  three slices of extra Swiss cheese and three slices of ... Oh my goodness... No Danish salami.  NO FECKING DANISH SALAMI!!  NO MONKEYS, NO PIANO PLAYER, AND NO FECKING DANISH SALAMI.

Retrace steps back to chef, Danish salami has to be there, perhaps somewhere else?  Nothing.  Blood draining from my face.  Weakness returns.  Light headed, nauseous in fact.  Can't move from stupid fast food hall.  Incredulous.  Dumb founded.  In shock.  Tears filling eyes, threatening to overflow and cause precipitation on face.  No longer hungry.  Never wanted to get out of bed in the first instant.  Want to go home.  Oh wait, today is the day I go home.  Thank god.  Who needs monkeys? Who needs the piano player? Who needs Danish salami?

Who needs Thailand anyway?  Time to go home.

Walk past empty piano stool with silence exuding from said piano.  No piano player.   No Piano playing becoming elevated as I approach each way.  Return to table, omelet on plate, minus Danish salami, still no monkeys around.  

Vacation has come to an abrupt end.  No piano player.  No CD purchase.  No goodbye.  Just nothing. A void.  Silence. No monkeys and no Danish salami.

Indeed, the party is over.  It's time to go home.

Feel free to comment (as I return to Sydney with a heavy heart and a lack of memories).

~  Vanessa

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thai Massage

Thai Massage

If you've ever gone for a massage - and I mean a remedial massage - to relieve tension and stress, you have a general idea of what is involved.  If you've had a proper Thai massage, you will know exactly what I mean, but for those who have never had a Thai massage in Thailand, I bring you MY rendition!

I was rather apprehensive about what kind of massages one was being offered on the streets, so opted for a couple at the resort instead.  I'm not sure that was such a great idea now, but it certainly was a learning exercise.

The first massage I booked was for a neck and shoulder massage.  I arrived 15 minutes early - good etiquette... and was given a cold, scented towelette and a glass of ice cold pomegranate juice.  A few minutes later, my massage therapist collected me and in broken English asked me if I needed to use the bathroom before our session.  I thought it was a little strange at first, but reconciled that it probably made sense since I had booked a 90 minute session.  I declined regardless.

Once in my private room I was told to sit down, while my therapist sat on the floor directly in front of me.  She took both my feet and placed them in a stainless steel bowl with hot water in it and began to wash my feet.  It looked and felt like she was using a mix of course salt with herbs, and it felt great.  Her hands were soft and for a brief moment I wondered whether she was strong enough to massage me effectively, but only briefly.

I was then given a pair of disposable underware and told to strip off completely, don my new undies and lie down on the table, face down.  When my therapist returned to the room, she clarified that I was having the neck and shoulder massage, then I settled my head into the hole in the table and took a deep breath, fixing my eyes onto the purple bouquet of orchids strategically positioned just below the table with a view.  I wondered if that was a subtle way of collecting drool or if the orchids were actually scented.

My beautiful young Thai therapist began at my feet, pouring oil into her hands and gently rubbing it into my very obviously calloused feet.  Then she started pressing her thumbs into my heels and I was able to realize her strength - she had hands of steel!  I was determined not to show her that I was in pain, so took a deep breath and held it until the pain subsided.

She moved up to my calf muscles and within seconds I was in excruciating pain.  My muscles went into involuntary spasm and I gritted my teeth.  Another breath - shallow this time because if I didn't take full control of my breathing, my therapist would hear the rasping pain that was about to escape my chest and would surely exit like the breaks of a ten-ton truck on the downward spiral of a freeway.  I kid you not.

I could feel her sharp little elbows as they ran their course up and down what remained of my calves.  Little drops of sweat dripped into the drop-tray beneath my face - I wasn't entirely sure if it was indeed sweat beads or tears, but it was evident now as to the reason for the orchid bouquet.

More inflicted pain as the little bitch climbed onto the table and dug her unattractive spiny elbows into my hamstrings with the force of Moses.  This time she was really getting stuck into her routine of pain giving and torture.  My eyes had rolled right back into my skull and I now had a different kind of pain to contend with.  Have you any idea at all how difficult it is to concentrate on involuntary eye movements, pain thresh hold, dripping sweat beads (which were now causing the liquid in the orchid bouquet to over-flow), a spikey, spiny bitch taking pleasure in her torture ritual and the now almost loss of bladder control?  Sweet Mother Mary!

My face was screwed up in agony, and just when I thought I could handle no further pain, the fecking hard-assed bitch was climbing onto my back with her boney knees digging right down to my precious bladder.  If you've ever pressed your fingers into a piece of raw animal liver and noticed that when you press hard enough, your fingers will eventually touch each other - you can imagine what was happening to my insides as the nasty piece of Thai flesh dug herself into me, leaving no part of my body untouched.  Still, I refused to show my pain and reveal my weakness. 

Breathing normally was no longer an option for me, I was in fact barely breathing - this time it wasn't from the pain, but by the sheer fact that by now she was baring down on my chest region and it was impossible to extend my lungs at all.  I felt like an emphazema sufferer, gasping short shallow bits of stale air - struggling to expell the old, yet definitely finding it impossible to replace the carbon dioxcide with fresh air.  In essence, I was dying - a slow calculated death.  This little bitch definitely had it in for me!

I was about ready to release my final breath and let the gods receive my sweet and pure soul when Hitlers little helper asked me:  "Madam, everything is okay?". I was incredulous.  Dumbstruck.  Ready to give up, yet from somewhere deep within me, a voice replied:  "Yes, of course.  Everything is just dandy". There was no way I'd allow this four-foot Thai torture machine to beat me!

After what felt like an eternity, the four-foot, 250 kilogram hulk climbed off my back and I began to feel the blood re-enter my body and consequently, life returned - albeit very briefly.  All my senses were heightened.  I could hear what sounded like boiling water, and I could hear Hitlers little helper fiddling with something.  I took a deep breath to replenish that which had been taken from me earlier on.  A faint bell rang and then I could sense my torturer was near... 

She pressed something against my calf muscles very briefly and when she lifted it, I could feel heat settle on my delicate skin.  A poultice.  A very hot one at that.  She continued to press it into my skin all the way up my back and over my shoulders.  The poultice must have been steam heated because the heat had an after-burn that bit right into my flesh.  My face screwed up into a painful grimace and that liquid drained from my face again.  This time I wasn't able to fight the agony.  I screamed out in pain and a tiny voice hollered out, "ooohhh, sorry for pain madam". She immediately dug her thumbs into my burn spot to add insult to injury.  This time I could feel a tear drip from my eyes.

She leaned down, lifted my towel and instructed me to turn over, bearing all my vulnerability.  I was broken and immediately obeyed her.  I really had no option - it was clearly 'do or die'.  A towel was placed over my face - clearly no surprises here, she definitely didnt want me to see the happy expression on her face as she continued to inflict pain on me.  

My personal pain giver poured more oil over the front of my body and began to massage again.  She included my throat, which caused my entire body to tense up, then she moved to parts of my chest - I kid you not - and she ended her ritual by massaging all my internal organs back into place (a necessary task, since she'd totally moved them out of alignment when she was knee walking up and down my back.

Another bell chimed and Hitlers torturer instructed me to keep my eyes closed.  She sprayed some kind of liquid over me and then she told me she was finished and I need to get dressed.

When the torture was over, she took me to an outside balcony overlooking the resort with chairs and an infinity pool directly in front of me.  She sat me down and gave me a cup of hot liquid to drink.  It smelled like ginger and I was definitely not going to drink that - who knows whether it was a poison potion or not?

Believe it or not, the little runt didn't go near my neck or shoulders, yet this was a shoulder and neck massage, and believe it or not, since I wasn't very satisfied with the disastrous first massage, I actually booked another!  

I'm such a sucker for punishment!

Feel free to share your stories on your massages here.

~  Vanessa

I blog with BE Write

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Monkeys Galore!

One thing - as an animal lover - that I'd highly recommend is going to the monkey show.  The monkey show is actually part of the snake show too, but the highlight for me was not the snakes at all.

The big guy and I caught the boat into Ao Nang, then caught a motor bike taxi to the place where the monkeys are - about 20 minutes out of town.  He waited for us while we went into the show and when it was over, he took us back into town.

The monkey show was delightful, they had a selection of monkeys who had been trained to do different things.  One rode a bicycle, and one would do many different poses.

At the end of the show, we were able to take photographs while holding the monkeys.  

After the monkey show, we were ushered to a different part of the property, where the lady-boy put on a show for us with a few Cobra snakes and a few other very dangerous snakes.  If you are that way inclined, you can get the lady-boy to teach you the formula of how to handle the snakes without them biting you.

For the remainder of the day, we walked around Ao Nang.  The weather has been incredibly hot and humid, and not really good for much more besides sitting next to the ocean drinking adult beverages, even swimming is a little too strenuous!

We decided to walk back to our resort via the monkey trail - this time there was no bad weather and the steps were not wet and slippery.  No matter how you do it, or what the weather is like, the monkey trail is not easy.  Incidentally, the resort staff walk this trail twice a day - going to and from work!

Our German friends left the resort today, so it was sad to have to say goodbye.  We've made many friends though and of course the staff have been amazing too.  Most nights have been spent sitting at the ocean bar socializing with the staff and other guests.  On occasion we've gone down to the Blue Bar, where the big guy would play a couple of soccer games on the Wii with the staff.

Today is beach care day at the resort.  Most of the staff are involved in cleaning the beach after all the bad weather we had when we arrived.  There has been a lot of debris wash up on shore over the past few days, including bits of glass, concrete and wooden slats from broken walkways. 

This morning a team of men were restoring the banks of the resort, and last night the sea started to bring back the beach sand.  The resort is starting to look awesome again.

It's another day in paradise!

Feel free to leave a comment.

~  Vanessa

I blog with BE Write

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Four Island Tour

Four Island Tour

Sawaddee Ka,

We've had the most fantastic time so far and it will be so sad for us to have to say goodbye to Thailand and its people at the end of the week.

Today we caught the ferry into Ao Nang, where we then hired a private long tail taxi (boat) with our own driver.  It cost us 2,200 budt for the day, which entitled us to instruct our driver to take us wherever we wanted to go.

We chose to do a four island tour, stopping off on a few of the islands to walk, swim, eat or... my favourite, shopping.  The sea is a hive of activity during the day, there are many long tail boats in the ocean doing tours, ferrying people around and netting fish to feed their families or to sell at the local markets.

The sea in and around the islands is jade green in colour and is rich with fish and jellyfish, coral and volcanic rock.  Our taxi driver had absolutely no fear and obviously understood the capability of his boat very well, he took us to places that I'd even be afraid to kayak around.

The big guy took his fly fishing rod with him to do a spot of fishing from the boat and our taxi driver was very accommodating - he even gave the big fella one of his own flies to use and before long, the rod was hanging out the back of the boat as our driver trolled the boat between the islands.  Needless to say, if we were relying on fish for dinner, we'd have gone hungry!

Some of the memorable islands we drove around were,  Poda Island, Si Island, Tup Island and my favourite, Chicken Island, with a rock jutting out that looks like the head of a chicken.

A few days ago someone had told us that there was an island with a huge cave on it.  In the cave is a restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner so we decided to ask our driver to find it.  We had a general idea of where it was, so it wasn't too difficult to find.

I'm sure both of us felt like we had entered paradise when we got there.  The huge orange limestone boulders frame the cave and the restaurant is set up inside the cave.  On the side is a round building with a grass roof, the outside is a pub area.  The restaurant has the cave as a backdrop on one side and the ocean as the other.

We had a fantastic meal as we watched the boats come in and the other islands scattered in the sea in the distance.  To the side were a few rock climbers halfway up one of the limestone cliffs.

The sea was flat calm and the smells - a mix of awesome food and the breeze of the ocean.

We ended our day by stopping off at a few more islands to do some shopping - curio shops are found every where, so too are tourist centers and tour guides.  Restaurants can also be found almost everywhere, but most would generally be classed as take away joints or fast food diners.

Another day in paradise!

Feel free to leave a comment.

~  Vanessa

I blog with BE Write

Elephant Riding in the Jungle

Elephant riding in the Jungle

Thailand is fast becoming one of my most favorite countries, and I've been to many.  There is so much to see and so much to do, if one says that one is bored, then it's through no fault other than your own.

Now that the weather has fined up, the monkeys have come out in their hordes.  It's great to watch them - they are a pest to the resort staff, but an absolute novelty for me.  The monkeys here at the resort are incredibly intelligent and so funny to watch.

The staff walk around with kata poults to frighten the monkeys away, but the monkeys are too clever.  They hide behind chairs or balcony posts and peep around the corner until they see the staff leave, then they come out of hiding and cause their mischief again.  Today we saw a huge family, with about twenty babies.

They warn each other when they see the staff members looking for them and when the staff get close, the monkeys all keep deadly quietly until it's safe again!

I have not posted a blog for a few days because we've been so busy with no time for writing and no Wi Fi connectivity.  I'm now trying to catch up, and also remember all the things we've been up to.

We did elephant riding in the jungle!  It was awesome, I kid you not.  I love animals and was a little worried that the elephants might be mistreated, but this wasn't the case at all.  Our guide was a young boy, who clearly loved the animals and the animals seemed to respect him.  The guide rode on the elephants head for the first while, then he climbed off and walked behind the elephant until we got back to the base camp.

The elephant had a seat strapped to her back and we were lead to a platform where we had to wait until the guide brought her to us.  We climbed from the platform onto the elephants back and then sat down in the seat.  We were then taken on our ride.  It was not easy at first.  The elephant lumbars on with big strides, over rocks and into streams.  At times it feels like we will slip off the seat and fall to the ground.

I was amazed at where the elephant would walk and what she was capable of doing.  At one stage there was a broken branch in her way, so he picked it up with her trunk and broke it three more times and moved it out of the pathway -all while we were on her back!

Our guide spent most of his time speaking on his mobile phone and occasionally shouting out instructions for the elephant, who obeyed his every command.  We crossed a couple of streams and every time, the elephant would stop and suck up water in her trunk and spay it over herself (and us).

When our ride was over, we got to feed her some bananas before she was put out to pasture.  The guide then brought out a baby elephant, who did a little show for us.  They gave her a harmonica and she played a tune on it!  She then took a hat and placed it on our heads and did a curtsy for us.

The guide then told her to go to sleep and she lay down on the floor in the fetal position and slept until the guide told her to get up.  She was the cutest little elephant.

We were told that at night the elephants are let loose in the jungle, where they will sleep for about four hours a night and will eat for about three hours non stop.  They apparently do not try to escape or wander too far from the camp and will be waiting at base camp every morning, ready for a new days work.

Please feel free to comment or share your stories.

~ Vanessa

I blog with BE Write

Monday, June 11, 2012

Centara Grand Beach Resort

Centara Grand Beach Resort

I'm a firm believer that when one goes away on a vacation, there are three contributing factors, which play a huge part in whether your trip will be enjoyable or not.

1).  The people,
2).  The accommodation,
3).  Your own expectations and attitude

For me, if the staff at my hotel or resort walk around with an attitude or are not friendly, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  If the accommodation does not live up to the expectation that the advertising made it out to be, I feel like I've been ripped off.  

The above two points don't determine whether my vacation will be fantastic or not, that boils down to my own attitude and expectations.  I am responsible for how much fun I have and whether my trip is adventurous or not.

The Centara Grand Beach Resort has so far met all my expectations, and in some cases exceeded them.  The resort offers four different restaurants.  A traditional Thai, a Japanese restaurant, an International restaurant and the beach bar, which offers pub style food, that is of an exceptional quality.

The resort also has a pub called the Deep Blue, which is a sports bar below ground with a huge fish tank built into one of the walls, a number of private stalls where patrons can sit in little groups or intimately in pairs.  There is a big screen against one of the walls, which streams live sporting events, and there's a DJ station, from which they play all the latest hits.  The floor in the centre of the sports bar is empty for those who wish to dance.

The resort is tucked away in a bay, which is framed by huge limestone cliffs and forest.  There are only two ways in which to get into the resort.  By boat or on the monkey trail. The boat option is by far the better way to come in (or exit, for that matter), unless the weather is bad or the seas are rough.

The monkey trail is a very narrow wooden pathway built into the side of the limestone cliffs.  The wooden slats are not even and the pathway is by no means level.  It would certainly be easier to navigate along in broad daylight and in perfect weather.  The pathway is not your friend when it rains or in the dark.

So far, since we've been here the weather has not been too great, which means that the boats have not been running to the frequency that they usually run at and most people have had to enter or exit the resort via the monkey trail.  The monkey trail is certainly not child friendly, and neither is the boat ramp really.

I would question why anyone would choose to bring children to this resort because it certainly isn't geared up for children.  Besides spending the day in the pool, I'm not really sure what kids could do to keep themselves occupied.

The villas are built up alongside the limestone cliffs, and the restaurants are all along the beach where there is level ground.  One has to be prepared to climb many stairs from your room to the beach area or restaurant area, so it's advisable to plan to do this only once a day.  Once you exit your villa to go for breakfast, don't bother going back to your room.  By the time you've had breakfast it will be incredibly hot and the strenuous walk back up the hill will be tiring - besides, there's no halfway stop where one can take a break and grab an adult beverage for relaxation and rehydration!  You're on your own, Jack!

When the long tail boats are operating on a regular basis, it's great to get out to explore the islands, spend a day or night in Krabi Village and get to know the locals, they are interesting people with interesting lives.

The resort has a huge spa, offering a wide range of services and different styles of massages and pamperings.  They also offer peticures (for those who are inclined), facials and body wraps.

We went for a regular deep tissue massage to alleviate stress and tense muscles.  What we got was a full body rub down, elbows in the back, shoulders and over every muscle group you know (and don't know) you have.  The girls climb onto your massage table, straddle your body and get down to serious business!  I kid you not, these little ladies are as strong as hell, so don't dare be fooled by their petit bodies.

One can choose from a 60 minute or a 90 minute session, I went for 90 minutes and I would highly recommend it.  One is given a beverage on entry and on exit, however the exit beverage is not as great as the first because it's probably a ginger infused (or similar) tea to aide the body in expelling toxins.  I took deeps breaths over the bowl hoping the ginger would do its trick that way, because there was no way I'd consume that liquid.

The resort has many monkeys all around it.  It is important to understand that as humans, we are in their environment not them in ours.  They come out in the early morning looking for food so it's important to lock up your room all the time.  They are incredibly intelligent and have learned to open doors and unzip luggage bags.  If they get into your room, they will destroy everything inside, so be warned.  Feeding them should be discouraged at all times because they will become aggressive and problematic.

Enjoy your stay at the Centara Grand Beach Resort and feel free to share some of your experiences here.

~  Vanessa

I blog with BE Write

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Krabi Village

Sawaddee Ka,

Let me not kid you, we're having a blast in Thailand!  I'm so impressed, since I certainly didn't expect it to be as good as its been.

Our five star resort is fantastic and the staff are really great.  Yesterday it rained for most of the day, so the big guy and I spent most of the day at the beach pub chatting with the staff and getting free language lessons.  

The guy behind the bar makes the most delicious pizza and I must admit if I close my eyes and take a bite, I almost feel like I'm back in Italy.  I think I had three pizzas yesterday!

We had booked into the Thai restaurant for dinner at 7:00 pm last night, but the big guy thought it was a little too early, so we rocked up fashionably late at 8:30 pm and for some reason our names were no longer on the list.  They could apparently accommodate us, but when we looked around, most of the patrons looked like they were attending a wake instead of eating a delightful meal, so I opted for pizza instead - hence three pizzas for the day. 

Last night we sat talking with one of the locals and he was telling us that he makes jewellery.  He showed us his wedding band and told us that he had made it, then he said he was going to make me one!  He measured my wedding finger and with great excitement and enthusiasm, told me that he would bring it to me in a couple of days.  I wonder if he thinks we are going to get married?  Oh well, let's just wait and see...

I can't describe how awesome it was today.  For one, the sun came out and it was hot as hell.  We had breakfast early, then when we saw that the boats were operating again, we booked a trip into town. 

The boat experience is classic.  From the moment one gets onto the moving jetty to the time the boat takes off, it's exhilarating.  The sea was still pretty rough this morning and all those going on the boat had to be escorted onto the boat.  I had a strapping young gentleman holding onto my arm to make sure that I didn't fall into the sea.  He didn't really prop me up and I'm sure that if I had fallen over he would not have been able to save me.

The waves were pretty high and those who were going to the airport got soaked - including their suitcases, by a couple of freak waves.  I'm glad no one got sea sick, I was watching the big fella carefully because I was convinced he'd be the first to get sick but he was okay.

We got dropped off about two kilometers outside of town.  We could choose to catch a taxi - a motorbike with a little cart or walk into town.  We chose to walk because our staff last night told us it would be an experience.  It certainly was because the heat was so extreme we had to stop at a few street cafes to rehydrate ourselves.

At midday it rained a little so we found a Thai/Indian/Italian/seafood restaurant (I kid you not) and had our lunch.  The big guy had a Thai curry and yours truly had a pizza for a change!

Krabi village is very colorful and vibrant.  The Thai ladies line the streets offering massages, peticures And pretty much whatever you like!  I'm not quite sure whether the massages they offer are the same kind that I'm used to, because I'm not quite sure how they'd do massage one on the streets - I also wonder if ... Never mind, it's best left unsaid... 

One can still smell that same old foul smell that is so prevalent on the streets in Bangkok and this certainly doesn't deter the street vendors who park their mobile motorbike food stalls along the side of the roads barbecuing fish or chicken wings on skewers.

Krabi village has a mix of authentic Thai restaurants, street vendors and American fast food outlets.  We had a choice of Starbucks, Mac Donald's, Burger King or Subways, or if we were a little more adventurous, we could choose from Russian food to just about any other food from around the world.

We caught a taxi back to the boat Harbour, although it's not really a boat Harbour, it's just a bunch of long tail boats pulled up on the beach.  Our boat was waiting to take us back to our resort.

All in all it was a fantastic day today, and we're about to meet up with our German friends at the pub.  It's a perfect evening and I'm sure the sunset will be awesome.

Feel free to comment.

~  Vanessa

I blog with BE Write

Friday, June 8, 2012

Krabi, Thailand

Sawaddee Ka,

The past 24 hours have been incredible.  There have been torrential rains and the weather has been wild.

We arrived in Krabi yesterday to flooding and mayhem.  The winds were strong and the rain was pouring down in sheets!  Houses along the way to our resort were being washed away with the floods, vehicles were tied onto trees to keep them from washing down the swollen river.  Our driver seemed unperturbed, mind you he couldn't speak much English so I imagine it would have been difficult to explain to us what was going on.

We were taken to a welcome area where we were told that due to the extreme weather we were not able to go out to our resort by boat but that we would have to walk a fair distance over the mountain on the Monkey Trail.  It sounded adventurous, although it was pouring with rain and neither of us were wearing hiking gear!  

We were told to wait in the lobby area for approximately 15 minutes since they were expecting another couple to arrive.  The four of us were then piled into a mini bus with our hand luggage and told that the driver would take us as far as the Monkey Trail.  Once we had reached the Monkey Trail someone from the resort would meet us there and walk over the mountain with us.

We were driven down a muddy narrow pathway until the mini bus could go no further.  There was a girl waiting for us when we climbed out of the bus.  She informed us that she would lead the way.

The Monkey Trail is your worst nightmare, I kid you not!  It is a narrow winding wooden structure along the side of the mountain that has no handrails in parts and is slippery as hell.  If one takes a wrong step and slips, one will fall down the mountain and that will be it.  Did I mention that there are a few shrines along the pathway - adding insult to injury?  I kid you not.

One of the other guests was wearing high heel shoes and instead of taking them off, she crept along the pathway at a snails pace.  I was behind her, so was thankful that she set the pace.  Ahead of us was a maintenance man with a hammer and long nails in his hands.  He was repairing the walkway as we were walking.  Some of the walkway had been washed away by the torrential rains.

The walk was immensely difficult and my legs were shaking from exhaustion.  The rain was pouring down and the algae on the narrow wooden walkway made the walk even more treacherous.  The walk was about a kilometer and in places, our guide held my hand offering absolutely no comfort since she was much smaller than I, and if I slipped and fell there was no way she'd be able to save me.  In addition, if she slipped and fell, she take me right down with her!

When we climbed over the mountain and down the other side, our resort lay waiting for us like a gleaming gem.  The torrential rains and extreme seas have washed away much of the beach and most of the walkway.  The waves were crashing up against the outside bar and sandbags that were strategically placed along the sidewalk to protect the resort were strewn across the broken pathway.

We were greeted in the lobby by a number of little Thai girls holding ice cold face cloths out to us and glasses of champagne - I had a feeling I might have fallen off the monkey trail and this was my introduction to the after-life!  It was a welcome start and whether it was the start of the after-life or a continuation of the current life, I was not about to complain.

Check in was a breeze and we were then taken to our villa in a golf buggy - just as well because there was no way I'd be able to climb anymore.  We were able to shower and wash off all the mud from our climb and then it was time to hit the bar for a couple of adult beverages to induce relaxation.

We went to the beachside bar for a continuation of champagne for moi and something equally tantalizing for my companion and met up with a bunch of delightful Germans.  There was no sunset - only torrential rain.  We had no need to get dressed up for the restaurant or even make a booking - we ordered wood fired pizza from the bar.

At some point after midnight, together with the Germans, we decided to get our bodies into the sea.  We wet our feet only because the sea was far too rough to swim in.  We walked onto the jetty that was bouncing up and down in waves.  We crawled back to solid ground.

All in all, our first day in Krabi was awesome.  Let's face it, it's not for the feint hearted.  It poured with rain all night but today the sun has come out in bursts.

The boats have not been operating due to the rough seas, but at lunch time during a reprieve in the weather, a couple of boats came in to pick up and deliver people to the resort.  Our only way out to the village or anywhere else is over the mountain on the monkey trail, which I refuse to do while it's still raining.  This is a good thing because we've been forced to relax.

We have two deck chairs on our balcony overlooking the ocean and we've spent a few hours lounging around reading.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day - weather wise.  I'm looking forward to going to see the Elephants and doing a jungle walk! 

But for now it's time for a sundowner with our new found German friends.

Feel free to leave a comment...

~  Vanessa

I blog with BE Write

Confucius say: Man who walks through doorway sideways is going to Bangkok!

Sawaddee ka!

I'm loving Thailand.

Bangkok was a blast, I have to admit.  It's a city filled with contrasts.  Our walk around the city revealed some of the beauty and a lot of the poverty.  It's perfectly safe to walk around and I didn't feel threatened at any point of my stay. Thais are not very friendly, they are extremely helpful though.  If one is walking around the streets and is approached by a friendly Thai, then there's a pretty good reason for this.  They are probably touts or they want something from you.  They do not beg but they are very respectful of others - whether it is of foreigners or their own people.

Walking around the streets provides an insight into the Thai people's lives and culture.  There are little street restaurants on every single road and there's hardly a street without some kind of buzz going on.

Street vendors set up their little gas burners, plastic chairs and tables and begin cooking their food from early in the morning - day after day.  There's a huge selection available, from seafood to stir fried rice.  one can "dine in" or get take away!  It's remarkable how many people sit at these little restaurants and eat a meal - from as early as 6:00 am.

There are street markets set up in various places dotted around the city.  "Fresh" food is displayed on tables.  Nothing is covered, whether it's fresh fish and chicken or open pots of soup and stews.

Meal portions are shoved into plastic bags and tied to prevent the contents from spilling out.  Soups are presented in the same way.

There are stray dogs all over the side walks.  Some belong to the street vendors, others run from vendor to vendor begging for food.  All are deathly thin and mangy looking.  They defecate on the sidewalk and no one cleans it up.

There's a terrible smell in the air, one would expect it to be of rotting food, but it smells more like sewerage - even though there's not any evidence of any.  It's incredibly hot and monsoonal and when the rain falls in the late afternoon, it's torrential.  The humidity is stifling.

Modern buildings are among graffiti laden slums.  There's no such thing as a modern street, but there are new building between those that appear to be falling down.  The countryside is very tropical and lush green.  Banana plants are everywhere and coconuts are piled up in huge mounds - its difficult knowing whether they are piled up for consumption or discard.

The infrastructure is amazing.  Concrete freeways and fly overs are everywhere and although the traffic is heavy between 8:00 am to 9:00 am and from 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm it flow, albeit rather slowly.  Drivers are polite and there's no evidence of the "Western" road rage.  Most drivers decorate the inside of their vehicles with hanging ornaments and toys.  It's a sight to behold!

Getting from the airport into the city will take between 40 to 50 minutes.  We were transported by a private limo and when we climbed into the vehicle we were given an ice cold face cloth to wash our hands and faces with and a bottle of iced mineral water.  It's a welcome and most required due to the excessive heat.

We are now on our way to Krabi ... Pop back onto my blog soon to find out more about my trip in Thailand.

Feel free to leave comment, if you'd like to.

~  Vanessa

I blog with BE Write

Thursday, June 7, 2012



I don't sleep, not even a wink.  I've been so excited that this trip was on the cards.  The night before I flew to Bangkok, my companion, driver, chef, and most esteemed husband and I went out to dinner with friends.  

Usually my companion doesn't like going out the night before we go anywhere - don't ask me why, I've never been able to ascertain why, but this time we did.  Of course, it makes perfect sense to me because seriously, who wants to cook dinner the night before you get on an international flight to anywhere?

So the dinner only adds to my excitement because the four of us went to a Thai restaurant - and what better way to get into the groove than to begin by eating the food before you even leave?

Mind you, I'm not a huge fan of Thai food.  I don't like to eat food that I can't pronounce or can't recognize as anything I've eaten before and I certainly don't like to eat food that is drowned in sauces.  If I wanted my food drowned in a sauce, I'd order soup! 

For my dinner-before-I-leave-Sydney, I order stir-fry seafood (with my own slant)... I believe that when one is at a restaurant paying for a meal, one should be able to "tweak" the recipe to ones own satisfaction - after all, you are paying for it, right?  

My "tweak" envolves changing my stir-fry meal ever so slightly... "I'll have the stir-fry seafood, with the oyster sauce and fresh vegetables", I tell the very limited English speaking waitress, "but can you please tell the chef that I don't want my seafood stir-fried?  I would like my seafood steamed.  In addition, can you please tell cheffy that I do not want my seafood to be cooked in the sauce at all, in fact, I don't want the seafood to be near the sauce.  The sauce must be in a separate bowl in the event that I have a moment of weakness and would like to drizzle drops of oyster sauce over my seafood." I take note that the little Asian waitress is staring at me as though I have assaulted her, then I ask, "did you understand me?". Her blank stare says it all and commands that my personal chef take charge.

Seriously, I don't get what's so difficult about my request.  Eventually my personal chef manages to get the young lady who has very limited understanding or command of the English language to grasp what I have requested and she takes her little waitress order book to the kitchen to consult the chef.  Our friends then inform us that the little waitress with limited command of the English language is actually the owner of the restaurant and what's more, she is very strict on her staff sticking to the menu without allowing any changes whatsoever.  Of course this doesn't bother me at all.  If I don't get what I want, then the outcome is simple... A) I won't ever go there again and B) I'll tell all my friends not to go near the little Thai restaurant with the owner who has a very limited command of the English language.  Simple as that.

My meal arrives and I'm impressed that cheffy managed to do exactly what I had requested and my plate looks clean and fresh.  He's even placed the seafood on a bed of freshly steamed vegetables, which everyone knows will remain on the plate since I had forgotten to tell my waitress not to bother with those.

The evening was great and to top it off, we had a glass of wine in the hot tub back home before retiring.  We were due to be picked up by our Limo at 6:00 am, so it was important to get a good night sleep.  My husband asked me what time I wanted to be woken up and I said 5:30 with a latte would be awesome.  Little did I know... He had absolutely no intension of making me any coffee in the morning!  He protested by saying that there would be no time for such luxuries and that we'd get up, get dressed and get going immediately.

Which is why I didn't sleep.  There is no way in a million years that I will do anything in the morning without first having a few cups of coffee, I simply can't and won't function without my caffeine fix.  I went to bed and turned on the telly.  I watched a movie.  Then I watched a documentary on the investigation of the last plane disaster - I know, very apt for the day before one is due to take an international flight somewhere, but I'm not frightened by such things, I believe that when it's your time to go, it will happen regardless of whether you watched a disaster documentary or not. And seriously, who cares how you go in the end - chances are you'll have no idea and no memory of it either.

At midnight, I turned the light off and tried to sleep, but my excitement was overwhelming and my need for coffee growing.  At 2:30 I turned the light back on and read a little bit.  At 3:00 am I got out of bed and went downstairs to the kitchen to switch the coffee machine on - it takes 20 minutes to warm up...  I went back to bed, set my alarm for 4:30 am and closed my eyes.

I opened my eyes and tried to focus on anything in the darkness.  It was too dark.  I tried to sleep.  I tossed and turned.  Then I got up and headed for the coffee machine again.  I made my first cup and stared at it for a while before taking my first sip.

I took a deep breath, breathing in the aroma of the rich coffee.  Then I took a long deep swig, like someone who would suck on their first cigarette in the morning.  I let the crema fill my mouth and savored the taste.  I took huge gulps and swallowed hard until all the coffee was gone.  Then just as quickly as I drank my first cup, I made my second and took a deep swig again.  I was now ready to face the day.

I used Thai Airways for my trip to Bangkok.  I requested a seat on the top deck of business class and I received an added bonus - my seat was next to the emergency exit, which means that there was a huge gap in front of me with no seats and no people anywhere close to me.  It also means that all the show ponies who like to parade up and down the asles use this open section to do their little show pony exercises and I get front row seats for the show.

I climbed into my capsule, ordered champaign - yes, I am well aware that it was only 10:00 am, but seriously, this is an international flight so I can guarantee you that it's 5:00 pm somewhere in the world, so I might as well enjoy happy hour when it comes, besides who knows this could be my last day on earth if this plane chooses to go down, so I might as well enjoy it.

The first meal arrived and since we were still on the Australian side of the globe, it was a western meal.  I ordered snapper but what I got was something that was probably triple cooked, leather hard and chicken breast like in appearance.  It had a mushroom sauce, which was rather delicious.  It took a while to get the leather hard substance down, but it filled the gap.

Business class seats on Thai Airways are awful, I kid you not.  They don't go flat at all, in fact they will get to a dangerous 45 degree angle, which makes it almost impossible to sleep in.  As soon as you get yourself into a reasonable position, you slide down to the bottom of the seat and almost onto the floor.  There's a very good reason why the seats have a foot rest that juts out of the bottom of the chair, it's there to stop one from sliding onto the floor!  Every few minutes one has to push ones way back up to the top of the chair.

I'm now in Bangkok.  Welcome with me to Bangkok!  I'm so incredibly impressed.  Flying into Bangkok is amazing.  One flies over all the rice paddies.  Thailand is the biggest  producer of rice in the world - pity I don't eat rice... But I might just have to try it.

The airport is immaculate, clean and organized.  I love it.  The Thai people are beautiful.  I wouldn't call them very friendly, but they certainly are very helpful - there's a difference.  I can see I'm going to love it here!

We're staying at the Siam@Siam.  It's a boutique hotel in the city.  A 25 story building with a restaurant and look-out deck on the top floor.  There's an awesome storm over the city.  It's pouring with rain, in fact it's torrential, but it's beautiful.  It's also hot as hell and incredibly humid, but I'm loving everything so far.

We had dinner at the restaurant on the top floor - a Mexican joint with food that burnt my ear drums and made me feel like I had a middle ear infection.  A duet sing in the background - they are awesome.  We're now in the land of karaoke and black bean infused food.  I miss the Western food already, but with enough adult beverages, one can be persuaded to forget...

Tomorrow we fly to Krabi, I can't wait.  I'm so in love with Thailand.

Do you have any recommendations for me whilst I'm here?  Anything to add?  Feel free to share your stories here.

~ Vanessa

I blog with BE Write