Friday, 29 June 2012

London & SE England

London (2) by DavetreksSunday 20 May: It's a grey Sunday in London and I have little to do until Monday so I visit some old haunts in Wimbledon. At the Thai temple on Wimbledon Common they are giving away free lunches but if I eat any more noodle dishes I think I'll scream.
Thursday 24: The week has been sunny and my check list is almost complete: financial advisor, new watch, yellow fever and typhoid vaccinations, anti-malaria pills, new guide books and dinner with my old mucker Andy. Now I'm free to visit friends and family before flying off again.
Friday 25: Southwest to Southampton for a pleasant day with cousins John & Blanche.
Saturday 26: North via Oxford to Robin & Debbie's for another entertaining evening in Bicestor.
Sunday 27: East to Bishop's Stortford and an enjoyable canalside day with Stef & Dudley who I've not seen for a while, it's still at the back of my mind to buy a narrowboat. 
Monday 28: While in central London I visited a small quirky office at the rear of Christ Church in Blackfriars Bridge Road, Southwark. This is the London home of the Confraternity of St James where advice can be sought and guides bought to the pilgrimage walk of the Camino de Santiago or The Way of St James. So this morning, thanks to a lift from Stef, I'm sitting at Stansted airport awaiting my flight to Biarritz, on the slopes of the Pyrenees, western France.
Photos of London & SE England.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Sunday 13 May: I check into Your Place Guesthouse, near Hua Lumpong station, convenient for onward travel south - I want to hit a beach before I return to London. Train travel is comfortable but slow so Yuki and Nacho have already booked in and are sightseeing in the old city. I need to pick up my beach gear from Bella Bella House so we agree to meet later at Tha Chang, the pier for Wat Pho. When their ferry arrives from Wat Arun I'm already sitting at the jetty cafe sipping a drink. A smile and a wave - it's great to see Yuki again.
Catching a river bus to Tha Phra Athit (stop 13) we take a stroll along Khao San Road and as night draws in we walk back along Rambuttri for a simple alfresco dinner of pork steak Lao style at Mr Kim's - it's nice. It's Yuki's last day tomorrow.
Monday 14 May: Yuki and Nacho are taking a day trip to to the ancient city of Ayutthaya, a couple of hours by train. I think Yuki is disappointed that I've decided not to go with them. But I have a mission, I want to buy her a parting gift, and I know it will take me most of today to find a suitable present - it's been a long time since I've bought a pretty girl that I like a gift and I wasn't very good at it then! It needs to be small, light and meaningful - it does take all day and I hate shopping.
Late in the evening I accompany Yuki to the airport express. She's chosen a daft route and won't listen to me - a few words, a gift almost returned, a final kiss and she's gone, story of my life. I walk back to the hotel alone, I've missed the last metro.
Tuesday 15: I take the train south to Prachup Khiri Khan, a place I like, for a few days by the sea.
Friday 18: Gloomily I visit Bangkok's National Gallery before flying back to London but only one picture appeals so I defy the rules and photograph it.
Photos of Bangkok.

Doi Inthanon

DSCN7143 by DavetreksSaturday 12 May: Nacho's pretty Thai girlfriend, Kim, has organised a covered pick-up truck with driver for the day so, after a quick breakfast, we pile in the back - Kim, Nacho, Rachael, Jin, Yuki and myself . It's exciting - a day trip to Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest mountain. Like most mountain peaks in Thailand it is also of great Buddhist significance and as such it's accessible with twin temples near the summit. You can drive to the top which is disappointing but the temples are great. On the way back we stop for a swim at a waterfall then visit a temple where Nacho studied meditation. Behind her smile Kim is sad - Nacho is leaving tonight.
Nacho and Yuki are taking the night bus to Bangkok to fly home and Yuki asks if I'll go with them so, once again, I'm heading for the overnight train to Bangkok. It's all a bit of a rush as I have to cycle into Chiang Mai to return my bike. "Hurry or you will miss the train" is the last words I remember Yuki saying which make me very happy - I try to panic - I have a quick beer with Jin - a gulp really - then peddling like hell to the city I get caught up in the chaos of Chiang Mai's Saturday market which blocks the street. Eventually I reach the station, buy a ticket and jump on a moving train to Bangkok - made it.
Photos of Doi Inthanon.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Thai Massage School: Level III & IV

DSCN7097 by DavetreksSaturday 28 April: As soon as I arrive at Bangkok's Hua Lumpong station I check my e-mails and discover that if I contact Jet Airway's Bangkok office directly I may be able to change my ticket. The office is only two metro stops away so I rush there only to find that it's closed, the staff have left and the manager is just leaving. But I'm in luck - he kindly unlocks the door and quickly changes my ticket - no charge! So instead of flying back to London I'm, once again, on a sleeper train back to Chiang Mai.
Sunday 29: When I arrive back at Thai Massage School sweaty, grimy and weary a big hug from beautiful Yuki - "I thought I saw a ghost" - makes it all worthwhile. I treat myself to a herbal sauna and my world is bright again.
Monday 30: Wasun, the headmaster, is now our teacher and Thai massage theory, classroom style, is in the morning with practical sessions each afternoon - we are now studying for the advanced certificate in Thai Therapeutic Massage.
Tuesday 1 May: My old drinking pal Nacho is replaced by a new drinking pal, Korean Hyun Jin - I just call him "Jin" as in "Gin & tonic" but old Nacho comes back occasionally to join us for a big Chang or two.
Friday 11: It's graduation day and we all pass with flying colours or, at least, flying white wrist bands. Wasun presents each of us with a decorative certificate, photographs are taken, e-mails are swapped and the course is over - it's time to celebrate. Mob handed we take over the school's kitchen - Yuki prepares a delicious main course of Italian seafood carbonara, I add Scottish summer salad (I'm glad there's no one else here from Britain!), Jin prepares melon and ginger juice, and young Nacho adds Spanish gazpacho. But it's an early night, we are going to the top of Thailand's highest mountain tomorrow . . .  perhaps my chance to get Yuki alone?
Photos of Thai Massage School: Level III & IV.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Thai Massage School: Level II

DSCN7014 by DavetreksMonday 23 April: Another week of stretching, squeezing and pulling as demonstrated by our new teacher, Leda.
Wednesday 25: I'd like to continue to the advanced therapeutic course at levels III & IV so I need to change my flight but can't get an answer from my agent. Sadly, I book a sleeper train to Bangkok to catch my original flight.
Friday 24: The week over, exams passed and we receive an elaborate certificate at the awards ceremony. I say goodbye and head to Chaing Mai's pretty station - Bangkok bound.
Photos from Level II of Thai Massage School.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Thai Massage School: Level I

DSCN6961 by DavetreksMonday 16 April: My first day of tuition in The Old Medicine School Hospital in Chiang Mai is daunting experience. Not only because I've not been at school for a while but also because I've been partnered up with a young honey-skinned Italian girl who I'm scared I might break. Our teacher for Level I, the first week, is a sweet and gentle Thai man who introduces himself "Pad Thai" - easy to remember there's a popular Thai dish of the same name. Changing partners each day we learn about stretching, warming, following energy lines and finding acupressure points. We are also introduced to the various massage techniques of palm pressing, palm press walking, palm press together, palm circles and palm squeezing together with thumb press, thumb press together, thumb press walking and thumb slides - finger circles, finger hooks together, finger hook walking and foot walking come later! Confused? Me too, but soon all became clear - we have a good and patient teacher. The course is residential and soon I begin to get to know some of my other classmates: a sultry tattooed Spanish girl, beautiful Yuki, Dutch Monique, American Rachael and German Devaki. The guys are Anupam from India, entertaining Spaniard's young Natcho and thin Natcho - no relation.
Friday 20 April: It's party time and Pad Thai joins us for dinner - Thai style barbecue washed down with Chang beer.
Photos from Level I of Thai Massage School.