Friday, 20 February 2009

Calamity Victoria Jane

After surviving a series of bag thefts, moped accidents and a shooting in Bangkok shopping mall, we are all safe and well and enjoying the laidback vibe in Ko Lanta. I will soon be travelling alone again as Daisy and Kate leave for Ko Tao on the other side of Thailand. I am staying here to do my PADI dive course and hang out with the locals. I've been here 6 days and it's starting to feel like home. Last night I went to a guy called Weap's birthday party and met a load of local tuk tuk drivers to drink Thai moonshine with. On Friday I am off on a pilgrimage with a Swedish couple to see Job to Do in Phuket. He's Asia's biggest reggae act. Some things don't change - my life is still as calamitous as ever and I am still being a sad groupie trying to engratiate myself with unsuitable long-haired musos. I wouldn't change it for the world though, plus it's far more exciting out here in the sun.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Valentine's day on Phi Phi island

l'm with Daisy (my friend from innocent) and her friend Kate. We are staying at Phi Phi Hill, high in the hills of Long Beach. The turquoise water is so clear I can see the ocean floor, despite being almost 30 metres up in the hills. What an amazing view to wake up to each morning. Our home is a quaint wooden bungalow surrounded by lush gardens that are laced with delicately perfumed tropical pink and purple flowers. It's paradise.

Tomorrow we are going island-hopping where we will snorkel in what has been described as an aquarium. I'm so excited. First though, we are off to pamper ourselves before we enjoy a candle-lit seafood supper on the white sandy beach. How romantic - what a perfect way to celebrate Valentine's day.

Happy Valentine's.

Love Vic x

Thursday, 5 February 2009

A slice of Pai heaven

(I wrote this a while ago but didn't get round to posting it. Am now on my way to Phi Phi after spending a few days with my wonderful friends from home in Krabi, south Thailand. I will post some pix soon.)

I think I must have died in the jungle and gone to Thai heaven, or should that be Pai heaven? My guardian angels are Toshiro, a talented musician/film maker/photographer, and his girlfriend Lek, who runs a wonderful postcard gallery cum-coffee-shop. Lek makes the beautiful postcards herself from the most stunning photographs she has taken during her travels in SE Asia.

The Lonely Planet describes Pai as a place where the "hippy trail is alive and a cool, moist corner of a mountain-fortressed valley". It's cool not just in the temperature sense - the town oozes creativity at the twist and turn of every mountain road. Pai is a place where bright, young cartoonists mix with older fine-artists, where you find accomplished street performers at one end of a street and funky jazz bands at the other. Long haired, flared trouser wearing Thais and travellers mix with the gifted bohemians that reside here, without fail being caught up in the laissez-faire attitude that infuses this enchanting town like the delicate patchouli perfume one can smell everywhere. I hope that some of the creativity rubs off on me.

It's like a slice of Chorlton in south east Asia, but better. Even I, a Chorlton devotee, have to admit Pai has the edge, not on the art/music front, but one can't deny that temperate hot springs, cool rivers and lush mountain valleys are better than the water park. Only just mind.

My home is a tent in the grounds of Lek's shop (, but I'm far from roughing it. Inside you'll find a comfy mattress, a bedside table and lamp, and the facilities are of a boutique hotel standard. Rhan Lek Lek is at the foot of the sacred Mae Yen temple, which has spectacular views over Pai. In the morning you can see a "sea cloud", a candyfloss blanket of white, fluffy cloud, over the town. It's either that or I really am in heaven. I awake to the sound of chimes at the temple and clucking hens and their chicks that roam freely around the yard. Lek and Toshiro have been the most gracious hosts, making me feel so at home and treating me to the most delicious welcome meal of whole fried fish, Tom Yam Goong (hot & sour prawn soup), fried vegetables and rice. Thanks to Lek I'm eating things I have never tried before, such as delicious stir-fried forest fern. Yum.

When we go out we bump into so many locals it feels like home. Lek, from Bangkok, moved here two years ago. Like her, many people have migrated to Pai for it's impressive art and music scene. It's a perfect place for me to while away a few days, being inspired with ideas for Victoria's Vintage. That's when I'm not busy hopping on my moped to go to the market in the town, where you can eat the most deliciously piquant red curry for 40p.

My next stop is Chaing Rai, then I am racing down south to see Fi and Green, two of my fave peeps in the world. I cannot tell you how excited I am. I'm so excited that it took the edge off my nerves when I performed at my first open mic night the other night. Pictures to follow.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Terror Trekking

Unfortunately there was no one to join me on a trek in Chaing Rai, so after being given a map I decided to go solo. How hard could it be? Very hard for a novice walker, which will probably come as no surprise to anyone after my kayaking tales. I got lost very quickly, finding myself stuck in thick bamboo forest. Maybe it was time for my thrilling fairground ride to come to an abrupt, neck-breaking halt. For a short while it was like something out of a terrifying horror movie like The Blair Witch. Every path I took led nowhere, everywhere looked the same. The sun was playing tricks on me, streaking down through the trees lighting what looked like paths through the forest, yet cruely every time it was a mirage. I clambered through steep tree-clad hills, hitting huge cobwebs complete with huge, hairy jungle spiders at what seemed like every turn. Thankfully I didn't come across any snakes.

I didn't know which direction I'd come from, nor did I know in which direction to continue. It was pretty scary. I lost count of the times I almost fell as the gradient of the hill was so great. I fell down once, but was able to stop my fall, which was lucky as a lot of the trees were rotten so it was difficult to get a foot hold. For once I wished for a pair of Decathlon zipper trousers; my beautiful floral sarong from Laos and my retro Gola trainers were not the best attire for a trek through a jungle. I came across broken bamboo animal traps, a welcome sign of life, yet did I really want to be coming face to face with whatever animals the locals were trying to catch? Only if I needed to slay one for food - I wasn't sure how long I could subsist on 4 satsumas and a small bottle of water (although I've been feasting like a king for the last two months so I don't think that was my major concern). I wondered if the outdoor survival course I did before I left innocent would come in handy. Would I be able to reconstuct a bamboo shelter and light a fire? I kid you not that all these thoughts whizzed haphazardly through my head, just like the wind was menacingly rushing through the trees.

Eventually I found my way back to a path on the edge of the forest, although I still had no clue where I was. Then I finally I arrived at the hilltribe village, two hours after my intended arrival. I cannot tell you how relieved I felt, yet I wasn't out of the woods yet. No pun intended - I now know firsthand what this saying really means. As I got back on track I could see the imprint of my trainer in the dirt. Strange as I had not yet been on this path. It was like something out of the film Deliverance, made worse still as I walked through the village to stares from the villagers, all that was missing was the chilling music.

Fortunately the locals turned out to be very welcoming, one familty even beckoned me into their home. I felt rude refusing but I wanted to get back on track. After a few more wrong turns I reached the national park, a welcome return to civilisation. Ravenous by this stage, I feasted on boiled eggs dipped in soy sauce, which had been cooked in a nearby hot spring. An even more wecome sight was the sign for the hot springs, where I was able to get a lift. Not before enjoying a soak in the steaming waters to ease the pain of my cuts and grazes. I even manged to fit in a massage to soothe my aching limbs before the truck came and whisked me home through the hills to my mud hut, nestled in the valley of an Akha village. Tomorrow I shall enjoy the beautiful forest views across the valley from my balcony rather than attempt another walk.
Goodnight from an extremely fatigued traveller.