Welcome to my Travel Blog

My email: gkirsty@hotmail.com 

You may have though about it yourself, or listened to friends dream about it, but I have actually done it…. at the age of 36 I decided to stop work and see more of this amazing world we live in, because…….. well…… life is just too short!                                                       

So back in August 2006 I resigned from my marketing job leaving behind a 12 year career and by December both me and my faithful but somewhat bemused spaniel were living in the spare room at my parent’s house with all my belongings stuffed floor to ceiling in the garage.                             

In January 2007 I visited the ‘Daily Telegraph Adventure Travel Show at Olympia‘ where I found invaluable information and met other travellers and tour operators.  I then set about planning a year of discovery:

  • EGYPT: Cairo, Giza, Suez, Sinai, Red Sea, Abu Simbel, loads of temples, Valley of the Kings, Luxur, Aswan, Nile Cruise, Western Desert
  • USA: New England roadtrip then a mammouth trip from New York to LA taking in Niagara Falls, Chicago, the Badlands, Devils’ Tower, South Dakota, Wyoming, Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone, Yosemite, San Fransico, LA, The Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree NP, Death Valley, ‘cow-boying up’ in Montana and ending up sleepless in Seattle. 
  • CANADA: Stampeding in Calgary, crossing the Rockies and icefields to Vancouver. 
  • AUSTRALIA: Around the edge and down the middle… I did it all!
  • NEW ZEALAND: North to South and everything in between… awesome!
  • THAILAND: Bangkok, River Kwai, Golden Triangle & Northern Hill Tribes then down to the glorious islands and beaches of the south. 

I’m a living example of a ‘grown up gapper’  and you can read about my travels online. Click on each country page above then use the calendar opposite to read my blog entries. 

  • Australia, from September 1st 2007
  • New Zealand from November 7th 2007  
  • For Egypt, USA and Canada you will need to visit my previous blog site: click here 
Enjoy my ramblings and I hope it inspires you to follow your own path of adventure!

Home again… is it Christmas?

Feb 9th 2008  

The journey back from Bangkok went quickly – boarding at midnight last Tuesday I found I had the entire plane row to myself and stretched out for some sleep (not as comfy as it sounds with seat belts and armrests digging into my back and sides). I gave up on sleep after a few hours and watched a movie starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale “3.10 to Yuma” – a very good modern western which passed the time before landing at Heathrow around 6.30am last Wednesday.  Dragging my luggage and a box of Siam orchids around the terminal to the bus station I boarded the National Express for Exeter (it’s been years since I used the coach) and wished I’d chosen the train instead as the coach staff had obviously failed to graduate from charm school. So I passed the time on the upper deck reacquainting myself with the english countryside in winter and trying to drown out some noisy toddlers by plugging into my ipod. By noon I was in Exeter and a reunion with my doggy and parents. Since then I’ve been doing very little aside from sleeping, walking my dog and more sleeping with some food imbetween (I have missed toast and marmite – and vegemite just isn’t the same!).  It feels odd to be suddenly into the depths of winter from the tropical warmth of Thailand, as though autumn has been bypassed and having been deprived of a British Christmas last year, I  feel I should be getting out the tree/tinsel/posting cards and buying presents, I’m feeling Christmassy!  So tomorrow night we are having a Grant Family Christmas dinner – luckily there is some mincemeat leftover so I’ll bake some mincepies and Mum is cooking a roast. Yum.   The joy is that in a matter of weeks it’s Easter and I can stuff myself with Choccie eggs!This temporary fun is a good delaying tactic before I face up to the reality of a depleted bank account and a complete lack of any desire to find a permanent job.  Instead I shall be spending the rest of the month making a plan to fund another trip later this year!  Winning on the premium bonds seems unlikely…. guess I better get a temp job instead.Any ideas?

Phuquet… then back to England!

I waved goodbye to our friends at Kho Yao Noi and we all boarded another wooden ferry to Phuquet for our final few days in Thailand. As expected, Phuquet is a sprawling resort island with numerous beaches and our destination was Karon Beach on the west side – an area hit by the Tsunami in 2004. Before arriving here, were were taken into the island through rubber tree plantations where elephants dozed in the shade chewing on bananas, to visit a Gibbon sanctuary. Gibbons/ monkeys/apes are not really my thing but I showed a polite interest in the information provided to us and looked at a few swinging gibbons before retreating from the heat to find an ice coffee at the nearby cafe. From there I could here them whooping in the trees and once the group had reassembled it was lunch in the cafe before a long and tiresome journey in heavy traffic throuhg Phuquet town across to Karon Beach.  A nice modern hotel awaited us and after dumping my bag I walked 10 mins to the beach and paid a small price for a lounger and umbrella, did some swimming, reading and meandered the streets until dinnertime. The island is predictably crowded with people getting winter sun to top up their leathery tans whilst getting drunk on the cheap beer and buying cheap knock off clothing and souvenirs. This is not my favourite environment but for 2 days of sun before returning to England it was just about ok. For my 2nd day here I took a taxi with Phil (the Kiwi) to nearby Patong Beach for more sunbathing/swimming from the comfort of a sun lounger. According to the Lonely Planet, early February is prime ‘gaytime’ for Patong and the evidence was everywhere on the beach, couples of same sex walking along the shoreline and sharing cozy sun loungers –  I never want to see another pair of leopard print thonged speedos ever again….

So this is the end of my southern Thailand experience and my time in this Land of Smiles and the culmination of 5 months travel around Australia and New Zealand. I return to England via Bangkok on Wednesday . Put the kettle on, I need a nice cup of tea!

Kho Yao Noi Island

There are 2 Islands of Kho Yao and we stayed on ‘Kho Yao Noi’ right on the beach in individual bamboo huts on stilts. My hut all to myself had a double bed, bathroom, mosquito nets and curtains with doors opening from the bedroom to the verandah where I could chose from a deckchair or a futon style bench whilst listening to the swish of the coconut palms broken by the gentle crash of the waves only 100m away – heaven!  I swam in the sea on arrival, the only other prescence being the local fishing boats, some kids playing volleyball and the scooters whizzing along the narrow concrete road  skirting the coastline, it felt like only a handful of people live here, quite different from the crowded resorts of Krabi and a million miles from Bangkok!  The peace and quiet was perfect and I spent a few hours just snoozing (battling a slight headcold) before joining the group for dinner overlooking the beach provided by our hosts. After dinner,  a few of us moved to the ‘bar’  a few bamboo stools on the sand across from the beach, for drinks (Chang Beer) and guitar music provided by our host.  Feeling in need of some liquid medicine I chose some local brandy (Regency) followed by local whisky and local rum. Well… it was medicinal!  A local holiday maker passed by and joined in the music providing folk songs for an hour or to and by midnight, with almost all the rum gone and a half bottle of brandy inside me I staggered to my hut for some sleep.  The next day I had no hangover amazingly! We boarded a fishing boat with our bartender (also not hungover) and did a tour of local islands for more snorkelling and such. The scenery here is awesome, the fish colourful and the beaches are white sandy curves of paradise (it’s just a shame that there is a lot of debris and litter, some of it hazardous like glass and rusty nails). Lunch of Chicken fried rice on a secluded beach all to ourselves just doesn’t get any better followed by more snorkelling and dodging large pink jellyfish who in turn were dodging the nets of local fisherman catching them for the chinese market as a delicacy. By evening I was tired by happy after 2 days in paradise – walking the beach at sunset will be a memory to draw on in the midst of an English winter. Supper that night was a seafood BBQ prepared by our hosts and it tasted great but my appetite was off (maybe the cold or the hangover finally kicking in?) either way, I was asleep by 9pm…

Krabi, Ao Nang, Phi Phi Island

Leaving Bangkok after 2 weeks in the north of Thailand, I boarded the overnight train again with a new group of travellers (plus one Kiwi I already knew) to chundle south for 12 hours arriving the folloing morning in Surat Thani – from here we boarded a bus decorated in pink frilly curtains for 2 hour, switched to a minivan for another hour (plus police stopping time to check for papers) and then in Krabi town transferred to a songteaw eventually arriving tired and hot at the guesthouse in Ao Nang beach (well about 3 miles from the beach).  The next 2 days was spent in idle relaxation on Ao Nang’s beach, having a luxury massage overlooking the sea, and cooling down with fresh fruit smoothies. For one day we were taken by speedboat to the local islands of ‘See Beach’ , ‘Chicken Island’, ‘Bamboo Island’, ‘Monkey Island’  , Phi Phi Islands Phi Phi Le and Maya Beach where they filmed ‘The Beach’ for swimming, for sunbathing and snorkelling including lunch on Kho Phi Phi Don. Much of this area was devastated by the Tsunami and is recovering well with new cafes and bars. However, signposts everywhere remind tourists and locals alike of the risks of Tsumani and give instructions on where to go for evacuation routes. Leaving Ao Nang, we jumped aboard a wooden ferry to travel one hour to Kho Yao Noi island for 2 more days of beach fun!

Tiger Temple

Leaving for a day trip in a songtaew the group headed into the hills to visit Erewan National Park, location of a series of waterfalls which pour down the hillside amidst bamboo forest – and a pack of wild and naughty monkeys. We were warned about them, they steal anything which you can’t hold onto, and can be vicious.  The day was cloudy but warm, this is still winter in Thailand and the forest was brown with leaves on the ground making it feel wierd to be in hot weather surrounded by winter forest.  The short hike into the hills brought us to a pool of clear green water filled with hungry fish.  The swim was refreshing but the fish nibble and suck at your legs and arms making it really ticklish! Apparently in the war, POW soldiers would use this as a way to remove rotten flesh to heal wounds – nice!  I had no such wounds luckily, although I have a small scratch on my leg from falling off a Thai style squat toilet (but you probably don’t want those details).  So after a cool dip and some rock sliding, we returned downhill to the first pool for lunch and the chance to swim behind the waterfall into some limestone caves – quite good. I managed to hang onto my lunch without any scary monkeys – 

TIGERS! on the way back to Kanchanaburri we stopped at the Boon Hong ( I think) temple where the monks have raised tigers from the wild in the hope of resettling them, however, this is not easy and there are lots of adult and baby tigers at the temple along with other wild animals which roam the park.  For about 3 pounds (300 baht) you can wander into the park, meet the tigers and have your photos with them.  You are forbidden from taking in any bags or wearing red and even having dangly things about your body as these are ‘toys’ for sleepy cats to play with and a large adult make tiger ‘playing’ with a camera strap could end in a bit of a messy photo – apparently the colour red also makes them hungry ……. makes the whole experience seem a bit risky!

But, it was amazing, we queued up with cameras ready and each in turn a Thai man gently takes your hand and leads you to meet each of the sleeping or dozy tigers. Lying on the ground with a sleeping tiger that’s bigger than I am, with paws larger than my head stroking him while he purred in his sleep is an experience I will never forget.  For an extra 20 quid you can have a tiger head in your lap while they sleep but I didn’t go for that – too much money and I was happy to stroke them. In all I sat with 6 tigers including some 6 month old cubs.  Further into the park we came upon a bonus opportunity – a buddist monk with a young tiger more than happy to have close up photos, so I have a lovely shot of me placing a gentle kiss on the cheek of a sleeping cub listening to his heartbeat.  I noticed a milk bottle by his cage but there was no chance to feed him which is a shame, but still a wonderful experience. The reason the tigers are docile is because they have got used to human contact and are also given plenty of morning exercise and play in water to use up their energy before being fed huge amounts of red meat just in time for the queues of tourists to pour through the gate. Leaving the park we saw water buffalo submerged in a pool poking their noses out of the water to keep cool, loads of wild pigs, dogs, goats and horses.  Hardly anything to eat and they did look a bit poorly managed so I was glad to leave having made a donation. With time left in the day I joined a few others back at the River Kwai to kayak down the river and under the bridge as the sunset – a perfect end to a great day.  

Bridge on the River Kwai

From Chiang Rai e took an early morning bus back to Chiang Mai and spent a few hours relaxing – lunch followed by a foot massage!  At 5pm our taxi ‘songteaw’ took us to the train station for an overnight train towards Bangkok, getting off at Ayuttayah at 4am.  However, 2 of our party failed to show up for the train (2 Ozzie blokes over 45, both with a heavy drink problem and severe lack of charm) and we went without them – no great loss! Pizza on the train and general merriement including a trip to the disco car and some silliness before bed at 11pm. In Ayuttayah we had breakfast by the river and took a songteaw tour of some of the main temples an ruins in this old city dating from the 15th century and before when it was Thailand’s capital. Plenty of photos later, it was time for a longer trip to Kanchanaburri, the location of the famous Bridge over the River Kwai. Arriving at sunset, we were taken in rickshaws to the war cemetary and then to the bridge itself. The sun set behind the famous arches and I was amazed to be able to walk along the tracks – with no barriers to prevent you from stepping over the edge. It was magic to walk the bridge albeit with the other tourists.  The area has inevitably become a tourist trap with every business calling itself ‘River Kwai’ or ‘ Bridge’ from massages, bars and gift shops to restuarants floating with lanterns on the water.  As we left a lively market was warming up, but it was time for our rickshaw guys to get us back to the Apple Guesthouse for dinner.