Saturday, August 13, 2005

Surat Thani

I grabbed some lunch in a cafe, with the intention of trying to find a bike shop to fix another broken spoke. However the owner started talking about being a film extra, so after a chat with her and a couple of other foreigners who were being ropped in as well, I decided to go along. I grabbed my bags and bike and threw it in the back of the pickup.

After a while of going round in circles, sign were spotted that pointed towards the "Location". Once there we signed disclaimer forms about being filmed, something along the lines of them having the rights for "eternity" throughout the "universe". Guess the lawyers are taking any chances given the wording. The film is called BlackBeard, so you can guess it's a pirate thing. Actually I think it is a mini-series rather than a film. It stars Angus MacFadyen, who played Robert the Bruce in Braveheart. Haha, guess his career has gone down the tubes! He's seems to have bulked up for the role, he was pretty podgy.

Then grabbed a bit of food, noticing that everybody else had their plates piled high and was wolfing it down. The food was better than I expected with a buffet of various meat, veg & fruit. After food we were off to costume to get changed. I was handed the role of customer, a bit disappointing I wanted to be a pirate. Oh well, maybe they would see my latent talent. After the costume change we were pointed off to the set. Actually the set was quite impressive, with a large clock tower and a few streets, as well as a pier with ships.

Being an extra larged consists of sitting around doing nothing, until you get collared by some staff. I was grabbed for a bar scene, and made to walk from A to B to C. You do one take, then hang about some more. "Back to one, everybody!" They fiddle with the lights and cameras and then you go again. Except this time a lighting rig is in the path where you were walking! After an hour or so, I was dismissed to go back to sitting around out of shot. We arrived at 14.30 and filmed/sat about through the night, breaking for "lunch" at 10.30, some cold hotdogs and sandwiches done the rounds later. It finished about 06.00 and about 07.30 by the time we were back at the hotel. Then back on the bus at 15.30 for the next days shoot. The camp seemed to split into two groups, people like me who are nosy and then the people who actually want to be actors. Some of the latter are the kind of people who suddenly break into song while walking along. Unfortunately no cameras were allowed on set, so I don't have photos of me in my costume. (Phew!)

Same thing, walk about the background while they shoot the scene. Walking back and forward for a few hours. Then another few hours while the set up the next scene and change the lights. Then we were in the distant, distant background. Basically moving shadows. Finished up around 03.00 I think, the bus was going to the pier to Ko Samui, so I joined them. As the bus was about to leave, a huge guy stepped on the bus and walked up to a German geezer and says, "I think you have something belonging to me. Can I have your bag?" The German guy, walks up the back of the bus and takes his bag off, while another guy spots a bag under the seat and drags that off as well. Turns out he nicked a couple of pistols from the set. Stealing a firearm is probably not a charge you want in Thailand! Eventually the bus was off, stopping at a 7/11 in the middle of nowhere. But they are obviously wise to this, as they had 3 or 4 staff on during the dead hours. As the bus was about to leave, an Irish guy notices his bag is missing. The German guy must of grabbed his bag! He stays at the hotel to get it sorted out. Later at the pier one of the staff turns up with the missing bag, but it turns out to belong to a middle age woman, which the German thief had taken. The Irish guys bag must of being on another bus or something. All very complicated. Oh well, I untied my bike from the back of the bus and got on the car ferry to Ko Samui, I wasn't really planning on going here, but nevermind. I got a hotel close to the pier and slept, a lot. 09.00 till 19.00, got up had some dinner and then back to bed and woke up at 13.00. I'm losing days! I was going to get the 11.00 ferry to Ko Phan Nga but I missed that so another day here.

More about BlackBeard

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Thai Muang

I continued heading North, as I edged near the end of Phuket I passed sombre signs "Death Body Container", "Thai Victims Identification Centre". Still a lot of rebuilding be done on the coasts. The more popular resorts are up and running but place like Ao Bang Tan still look like a building site. I think most of the places in my guide book, were washed away.

Over the bridge and back on to the mainland, I rode into Thai Muang. As I was idling through the streets looking for a hotel, a motorbike pulled along beside me. He said there was rooms on the beach at a restaurant if I wanted, so he gave me directions. I continued along and the guy, Santos, was at the restaurant. So I checked in and had a chat with Santos. He is a teacher here, and offered to show me about. I had a quick tour on his motorbike of the start of another National Park, passing a destroyed shrimp farm. He said that even if it was repaired the problem would be that nobody would want to stay here. Then along past some forested white ground, salt residue, killing any undergrowth between the trees.
He showed me the school where he was teaching. He is planning to build a catamaran, I had a look at the plans, very futuristic looking! A group of students were boat-building apply goopy lucking molten plastic to the boat, and smoothing other areas down. Japan had donated a couple of small motors for the longtails, certainly looked tidier than the boats I saw on Ko Phi Phi, I think those used discarded bus engines!

Santos dropped me back off at the room, and then later I went out for some food. As I was walking along I bumped into him again. There only is 2 other foreigners in Thai Muang, so you stand out. I had dinner with Santos. Interesting guy, he had cycled from Italy to Spain. He is a Sicilian. One of these annoyng people. who speaks this language and that. I asked him how may languages does he speak. Seven! Oh and a good bit of Thai. Also does a good human beatbox on the karoke!

Next stop was at Khao Lak. Seemed to be pretty deserted. Rained a bit. Ate pizza. Lots of diving shops here, just a quick stop and then continue North to Takua Pa. I was wondering if was good to find a hotel here, but after asking around, there was one behind the petrol station. I was glad I stopped here, if only because the next days ride was hard! It was one of those roads thats just seems to keep on climbing, around each corner you hope it will finallyfall away downhill, but no! Will okay eventually the downhill came about 7km from Khao Sok National Park. I barely had to pedal from the summit of the hill to the guesthouse.
Khao Sok

I got there about mid afternoon, and it barely stopped raining when I left. Okay it's a rainforest, what should I expect? I got some food at the guesthouse, and went for a look about not too busy here either. I stopped off at a bar and chatted with Lex, he used to work in England, so at least we could undertand each other, a couple of Austrians who were on holiday joined us later on.
The next day more rain, it abated after lunch and I decided to head into the park proper and put in a quick trek. The rain soon started again. The trail was wide, road-lik and muddy. After accepting the fact I wasn't going to stay dry, I happily trudged through the puddles. A couple of the routes were closed due to the weather, so I stuck to the easy ones. No fjording rivers, for me! The two treks follow the main path for the first 3km and then split up, supposedly to two waterfalls. The falls were really more like just tumbling over rocks, rather than anything majestic. Quite slippy near and on the rocks. I traipsed back, as my shoes were squelchy and being dry was appealing. I stopped off at the shop where two other trekkers were mildly dripping blood from there legs. I guess the rocks were slippy, maybe they tried the hard trails. Inside my room, all my clothes seem damp. My bags got a soaking from a thundershower on the way over. Not some much from the downpour as I managed to duck into a shelter, but from the surface water sprayed from my wheels onto the underside of the bags. After climbing over that big mountain, I had plan to go back the way I came and continue up the West coast, but a quick change of plan sees me continuing over to the East coast before heading north. Now I somewhere close to Phanom. The middle of nowhere basically! A nice ride flat ride through the limestone karts, I stopped at the top of a hill for a vaguely refreshing swig from my water bottle. I glance back over my shoulder, very dark and grey. I quickly zipped into a roadside shelter, and sure enough within five minutes it was puring down, again.Tomorrow I should hit the East coast and hopefully get my smelly clothes washed!

Monday, August 08, 2005



Phuket Town

After cycling round in circles I decided to ask somebody where I was. I'd skirted past where I wanted to be and had ended up a few kilometres away. So heading back I finally homed in on my guesthouse after circling in ever decreasing circles through some one-way streets.

Not too much to see in Phuket Town itself. Although there seemed to be a lot of artists close to the guesthouse, sitting outside on the pavement painting away. Mostly reprodution from photographs. I managed to eventually find a bike shop to get my wheels trued and broken spokes fixed. After fixing the front wheel, the guy replaced the wheel. Then while working on the rear wheel, there was a POP and a PSSSSSssssss as the front wheel mysteriously exploded whilst sitting unattended on the upside down bike. Strange, but if your gonna get a flat tyre, the best place is a bike shop!

That night I happened upon a nice little cafe, with only a few tables. There was a small stage where a guitarist was playing music so I popped in to listen. He was pretty good, and started on some accoustic blues. Nice change from the squeaky Thai pop that you hear and definitely better than the noises coming out the karoke bars! After a while a guy who looked like an Asian Jimmy Page joined him, playing flurries of jazz runs. After a few songs Jimmy Page left and another guitarist started playing more bluesy accompaniments. He was supposed to finish at 12 o'clock by law, but ended up playing till 1. Turns out the guitarist owned the cafe and was from Singapore. Me and an American, who was calling out requests half the night, chatted away with him for a while afterwards.

Ao Bang Tao

I then headed across the island to the West coast to a beach called Ao Bang Tao. Nice enough but nothing special. A bit cheaper than the beaches to the south, although when I asked the hotel staff how much a room was I got the reply "One Million Baht!!", hmmm.

As luck would have it there was a Halal food festival event on when I was there. Usually I find out info like this the day after I leave! I headed along at night and ate strange food. First up was something akin to a burger, but in a deep fried crispy roll, very healthy! Not sure what the meat was. Washed down with some apple juices from small apples, tasted not as sweet. Also some mangosteen on a stick, a strange pancake with what looked like a quail egg and ketchup and some fried chicken. I had a go at a game where you get 12 darts and you have to burst six balloons in a row to win a prize. Sounds easy, right, well two of my "darts" bounced off the "balloons". Very suspect!! Darts don't bounce off balloons, they go pop.

Hat Nai Yang

After going up and down a some big hills I got to the next beach. Supposed to be a national park around here, but there are a few private guesthouses and hotels. Quite pricey here, so I only stayed one night. I found a room, which seemed to be the cheapest I was going to get, although actually a nice room and a bit cheaper than the crummy room at the hotel on the beach and for a bit less.

As I walked out to have a look around I felt a jabbing pain in the bottom of my foot I keeled over and picked a big nail out of my shoe. Somehow it had gone straight in perpendicular to the the ground. Any longer and I would of had a real sore foot, as it was it just pierced the skin and no more. Then I managed to whack my ankle off the wooden bed, ouch ouch ouch! After that I hobbled off for some dinner.

Down at the beach lots of people appeared at the tables. The place had looked empty during the day. I opted for sweet & sour fish. I got a bit of a suprise when it turned up. A huge plate, with a giant fish appeared on my table after a rather lengthy wait. They charge by weight, 35bt/100g, so I think they ran around till they found the biggest fish to give to the tourist!
I valiantly battled to eat the whole fish (well except the head, eugh) but I couldn't quite polish him off. Still it certainly filled me up. Then again a kilo of fish will do that to you. Yep, the fish actually weighed in at a kilo!
I staggered back to the hotel to sleep it off.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ko Phi Phi

I lugged my bike and luggage off the boat from Krabi. I had to chase after the bus in Krabi to find the right port. Not fair, the bus was a lot quicker than me, but at least I caught up enough to see where it went round the corners.

After getting alternately cooked and soaked on the boat over, I started looking for a bed. I trundled around on my bike, and somebody called me over, their room was a bit pricy, but pointed me across the room to a cheaper room. As I walked through the building site of the bottom floor I was a bit dubious but the room was okay. Later I realised that the top half of the building was missing. Tsunami damage, a lot still visible and evident in Ko Phi Phi.

I had a look around the beach, nice white sand, aquamarine water. I read my lengthy book for a while. Apparently there was a tsunami alert that day, but I didn't hear it, not very re-assuring.

That night I went along to a reggae bar to watch the Muay Thai (Thai Boxing), after all where else would you see the sport except a reggae bar. They had a full boxing ring up and after a long time with a guy outside ringing a bell trying to bring in customers, they combatants entered.

After some more premilinaries, such as bowing/praying in the 4 corners, and then more stretching/praying/warming up routines they were ready. The referee did a big sweeping hand movement like a chequered flag waver and they were off.

Standing pretty much toe to toe they traded a few hooks, mostly blocked. Then one thump pushed the received off balance and then a kick on the head knocked him down. Soon he dusted himself off and got back to business. The fight mostly continued on this route of punching, kicking trading blows. Then one would lost a bit of balance and the other attack. One attacker got the other guy to retreat and charged after him, but he deftly dodged to the side and the attacked ended up flying over the ropes out of the ring. Another time they were blocking blows, as one guy blocked a kick to his head he ready himself to send a kick, but the attacked continued with a roundhouse and flattened him, before he had a chance to react. He got back up but soon the fight was stopped as he got bashed again. It was quite interesting to watch though.

Another night I was walking past a restaurant and an Old Firm game was on the TV so I went in and watched it, 2-0 to Rangers! I then started talking to a guy, turns out he was from Clydebank. Had spent a year in Brisbane studying and now heading back to Scotland to fininsh his studies. He too was wondering why there was an Old Firm game on the TV! After some beer and some pool headed off and had a lie in the next day as the ferry to Phuket wasn't till 14.30.