22.02.2009 29 °C
Koh Samui, with miles of coconut fringed beaches and tepid azure waters, is an island of Paradise in the Gulf of Thailand. This is how it should look ...
But fifty thousand Europeans beat us to it. Recession? What recession? This place is bursting with French, Brits, Swedes and Russians. And when we took a pre-dawn stroll along the beach we found the Germans already preparing for an invasion.
In Kanchanaburi we took a train across the River Kwai on the Railway of Death to Nam Tok, near the Burmese border, and found ourselves sardined into an airless carriage with an entire regiment of Thai Scouts and Guides.
We persevered, feeling that our ordeal in the oppressively hot, overloaded coach, (circa 1944), was designed to heighten our understanding of the torture endured by the allied prisoners of war.
So - this morning, when we stumbled upon the Germans staking out vantage points on the beach and building barricades of loungers, chairs and umbrellas, we assumed that they were still sore about D-Day and were determined not to be caught napping again.
As we begin our last full week in South East Asia we want to stop the clock. Four months have simply shot past and we would be quite happy to go round again. We can't, not right now, but looking back over our blog reminds us of all the wonderful places and things we have experienced. It also reminds us of some of the more amusing moments that we neglected to mention - like the cyclo driver in Hue, (pronounced HWay, who appeared to be at least seventy-years of age. This scrawny, toothless, old man was quite prepared to pedal both of us around the ancient capital of Vietnam in his tricycle rickshaw, but we insisted that our combined weight would cripple him for his remaining few years. "No problem," he exclaimed as he pulled out his cellphone and whistled up his even more decrepit partner. We conceded, and were then astonished at the strength of these cycling seniors as they took us around the temples and palaces of this interesting city. It was only as we were on the final stretch that we discovered that our geriatric pedallers were in their early forties. It must be a hard life being a cyclo driver.
Cellphones, (mobiles), are far more ubiquitous here than at home, but we were astonished when the woman rowing us in a coracle to a floating fishermans' village in HaLong Bay carried on a lengthy conversation whilst sculling with a single oar.
Perhaps the strangest event occurred in Ayuttaya, Thailand, when Jim took an unexpected, and potentially catastrophic, side trip. We have written ad nauseum about the intolerable state of Asian sidewalks and Ayutttaya is no exception. In an effort to sidestep a speeding tuk-tuk and avoid falling into an open sewer, Jim slipped off a broken kerb and fell headlong into the road. Not such an unusual occurrence, especially where the sidewalks are more cratered than Normandy beaches in June and any usable space is colonised by motorbikes and hawkers. But, luckily for Jim, this is where catastrophe turns to comedy. As he fell, his right shoe - a laced up sneaker - was inexplicably forced off his foot and it flew high into the air. Jim landed heavily on his back in the road and, to his astonishment, saw his own shoe hurtling towards his face. To the amazement of Sheila, and the dozens of bystanding locals, Jim instinctively snatched his shoe mid-air, slipped it on his foot, stood up and carried on walking as if nothing had happened.
Did the crowd applaud?