Koh Jum-jumbalaya.

Island life part 2 was spent on Koh Jum, a little island on the Andaman Coast. It was recommended to Nick by some friends as somewhere small, quiet and pretty, away from the tourist crowd. Sounded right up our street so we thought we’d check it out. It’s still low season here in Thailand so a lot of places are closed on the smaller islands so we knew it was going to be pretty quiet, but that’s pretty much what we wanted so we got all packed and ready to leave Bangkok to head south.

I was sad to leave Bangkok again, it’s an awesome place and I was suprised how much I ended up loving it. But, new days, new adventures. I can pack my bag in about 5 minutes now; everything has a place and I know just what goes where. I could probably do it in the dark or with my eyes closed by now too. My packing has changed quite a bit since those first few days. I remember repacking a few bits in my mum and dad’s hotel room in London before I left to go to Heathrow and thinking how I had it sussed. Oh how it has changed. Some stuff I’ve ditched, loads of stuff has moved round and I have a few new bits. It’s weird how normal it is now for me to have my entire life in one bag that isn’t even full. Took a bit of getting used to but now it’s totally normal. As is wearing the same clothes all the time and constantly looking for ways to make my bag lighter. As I said to my family last night when we had a catch up, it’s going to be like Christmas when I get back having all my clothes and shoes to wear. I’ve forgotten what things I actually have. Although Dad, that doesn’t mean you can throw them out and I won’t notice. I WILL. Trust me.

So, we hopped on an overnight bus from Bangkok, and arrived in Krabi at 5am after a bumpy and [fairly] restful 11 hour ride. We had to wait an hour for the sun to come up and the Songthaews (shared taxis, like a pick up with two benches in the back – great little inventions) to start running. One songthaew later, we had another hour wait in Krabi town to get another one to drop us off in Nuea Khlong where we had a two hour wait. One last songthaew and we were ready to get the longtail boat in a place called Laem Kruat. Which we just missed by minutes. So, a one and a half hour wait before the next boat which took 45 minutes to get to Koh Jum, where we then had to get a motorbike taxi. Suffice to say, by the time we got to Woodland Lodge, we were pretty shattered and a bit fed up of travelling. A plate of fried rice, a nice cold beer and a swim in the Andaman Sea later and oh yep, we were feeling much better.

Koh Jum reminded me a lot of Koh Mak, in that it was an island, in low season but there was quite a different feel about the place. There are no cars, and the island only got electricity about 4 years ago. It’s a predominately muslim island, so there were lots of women in the most prettiest headdresses I’ve ever seen, and it felt less like a resort island and more a place where people lived and worked amongst the tourists. And speaking of tourists: there weren’t any. Well, apart from me and Nick, and a couple called Jo and Robbie who were permanent long term travellers and regulars on Kho Jum, this time staying for 6 weeks. So, for nearly a week, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. No one else on the beach, in the sea or on the roads. We were the only ones staying with Ray and Sao at Woodland Lodge so it felt like staying with friends. Sao was the most amazing cook and we never ordered off the menu; we just told her what we liked and she’d cook up a storm for us. Mainly street-style food, including my favourite; Pad-ka-prow. Minced pork cooked with holy basil, garlic, chilli served with rice and a fried egg. I now know this is what I had after my second run in Bangkok. It’s amazingly delicious and I could probably eat it every day. Well, I did on Koh Jum. At least once a day. It’s so hot and spicy and tasty and….yum yum yum. Oh, and there was no wifi. Which was great. Just great to switch off for a bit.

The first day we had a few beers at night, which turned into a few more beers. Laura, my best friend, got married this day back in the UK so we had a few beers to celebrate. Ended up more than a little tipsy and so, what better thing to do than to go onto the beach to look at the stars. I decided this was a perfect place to play Twizzles. This is what me and my friends at primary school used to call spinning round in a circle, arms outstretched looking up at the sky then trying to walk straight. Can you guess what happened next? Yep, I fell over into the sea. So of course, the ONLY thing to do was to go for a swim. Fully clothed. In the bit of the sea with all the rocks. I only shredded my leg a little bit. It’s healing nicely now. It was HUGE amounts of fun, and something else I’ve never done. Until now. New experience? Check.

I’m very sad I missed Laura’s wedding. But, I made sure she had some messages and bits from me on her special day, and I rang her in the morning for a quick chat. We’ll have another celebration together when I see her next year so all will be good. Cheers dude!SONY DSC Koh Jum was also the place where my beloved Merrell flip flops met their demise. The comfiest, most brilliant flip flops I have ever owned. Now, ok, they were on their way out, granted, but, I wanted to be the one to decide when to throw them out. Instead, a wild dog decided to take matters into it’s own hands (jaw) and chewed one of them to bits. Just one. It left the other one perfectly intact on the front step of our hut. Like some kind of Godfather-style reminder perhaps. Maybe I looked at it wrong the day before or something. It was a sad day when I had to put them in the bin. SONY DSC Koh Jum village was quaint, small and pretty. After negotiating mosquito alley (a track through the jungle where we literally got covered in thousands of mosquitoes), we had fun chatting to the locals with the small amount of Thai we’d learnt so far, and also found some kind of peanut-sugar-brittle type thing which was basically a small package of peanuty-sugar-goodness. All for about 20p. SONY DSC

But one of the best things about these few days was the sea and the beach. Now, I’m not a big beach person. I’m not a sunbather and struggle with not doing a lot. I’m not hugely fond of the sea per se (Jaws has a lot to answer for) but I do like a bit of swimming. And even better if there’s someone to help tell me what’s on the bottom and to keep an eye on me as I can’t really see much without my glasses. So, we swam every day. In some of the biggest waves I have swum in (it was a stormy, windy day), in torrential rain (amazing feeling and sounds) and bright sunshine, the sea was always warm and getting the right bit of beach meant no rocks or sharks. Always a bonus. These will be really special memories for me. And of course, the sea comes with a beach and a beach is always pretty. To look at, to walk along and to watch the sun go down. And we weren’t disappointed by the sunset one night. The whole sky lit up with oranges, reds and yellows behind big fluffy clouds, sending sunshine rays in all directions, all reflected off the ocean. I do love a good sunset. I think the African sunset is still my favourite, but this was pretty impressive, and a pretty stunning picture to sum up island life.

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Island life.

So I went to a little island (it seriously is tiny, check it out on google maps) called Koh Mak for just over a week. It’s kind of a filler time, something to do in between landing in Thailand and waiting for Nick to fly into Bangkok. I didn’t want to go South or East (Ko Samui, Krabi etc.) as that’s where we’ll be heading together at some point so I looked for somewhere [fairly] close to Bangkok that I could head to for a bit. After the last 3 whirlwind months I figured I’d choose somewhere that I could relax and chill out for a bit. Somewhere I could just have a bit of alone time, where I could catch up on my blogging, reading and so on.

So, after a 6 hour bus journey and an extortionate short taxi ride (robbing bastards) I found myself stood on a pier looking out over the bright blue ocean in the sun and thought, yep, life is pretty sweet right now. A hop, skip and a jump later and I was on the back of a speedboat whizzing through the nice calm sea from the mainland to Koh Mak. This speedboat journey was particularly pleasant and quite glamorous; wind in my hair, sun on my face and lovely scenery to gaze at. The speedboat ride back just over a week later was not so pleasant. The sea was rough so the boat was jumping about all over the place. I spent the entire 50 minutes clinging on for dear life, getting drenched from the waves coming over the side of the boat and wondering when the boat would either a) capsize or b) break in two from the force of jumping and then landing with full force. I remember thinking I didn’t really want to add ‘boat accident’ to my list of accidents I’ve had so far (taxi and bus), and how my iPhone would be ruined if I ended up in the sea. Luckily, we stayed the right way up and I live to write about another day.

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So the first night I got to the island I stayed in a fairly posh, pretty amazing room with a panoramic view of one of the bays, a massive king size bed and a floor-to-ceiling window next to the toilet (to take in that amazing view). And, for the first time since I’ve been travelling, that night I wished I had someone there to share it with. I still don’t know why. Maybe it was the view, maybe it’s because the island was quiet, maybe it’s because it was quite a romantic setting, maybe it was the huge bed. I don’t know. I just know it all seemed a bit of a waste just for me. It was the kind of place that seemed like it should be a bit special. Not just for a run-of-the-mill, filler week for just me. So, I watched an amazing sunset, lightening storm and the sunrise the next morning out of that window but the decided to find somewhere else. I just couldn’t spend a week there, I wasn’t feeling it. Plus, the wifi didn’t work properly. On an island where you’re alone and there’s not that much to do, this is a Big Thing.

So, I moved to the beach, to a little resort called Monkey Island. No king size, air conditioned room this time; I chose a little beach hut with a fan and a shared bathroom. No more wishing someone was here with me for this one, the resort was cute, had a bar (although it shut at 8pm) and was right on the beach. And had decent wifi. Sold.

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And there I stayed for just over a week. It’s low season for Koh Mak (as it’s the tail end of rainy season in Thailand just now) and so it was very quiet. There’s hardly anyone about (there were only a handful of us staying at Monkey Island) and a lot of things are shut. So, on a small island where there isn’t a lot to do in high season, there really wasn’t much to do at all in low season. Which, is kind of why I went there. I fancied a bit of downtime, although, if you know me you’ll know I like to be busy pretty much all the time and get a bit twitchy if I sit around too long, so why I decided to go there I’m not actually quite sure. Maybe subconsciously I thought it would be a good rest. Or a challenge. And, yep, I ended up getting twitchy. But, it also did me the world of good. So, all in all a win. But, I was ready to leave by the end of it, ready to get back to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.

So you’re probably [not] wondering what I did with myself for just over a week? I’ll tell you.

  • Got sunburn. The weather was pretty iffy while I was there but there were a few days of sunshine so I decided to try and even my tan out. I’m a shit sunbather; I’m not very good at it, I get bored and if I’m on the beach I get sand everywhere. So I tried it and failed. I then had to spend the next day in my hut with no clothes on, slathering myself in aloe vera gel trying not to move because it hurt. Erotic.
  • Caught up on my blogging. Well, apart from this post which I’m writing after being back in Bangkok for a couple of days.
  • Thinking. Lots of thinking. I probably spent a bit too much time thinking about Australia and jobs. Both of those things are far away yet and I don’t want to wish my time away. But, I can’t help being excited about Oz; I have so many cool things planned. And jobs, well, it didn’t help that I saw my ideal job advertised, so I guess that’s what started me thinking. I applied, but it was a bit of a half hearted attempt and it’s not come of anything. But at least I won’t have any ‘what if’s’.
  • Walking and exploring. I wandered around the island most days (when I wasn’t sunburnt or it wasn’t raining) trying to get a bit of exercise in. I had all good intentions of doing some running but it never happened. I never got up early enough, there were no street lights and I didn’t fancy running in the dark or it was raining.
  • Watching storms. There were a few of them. I liked watching the lightning and the rain from the veranda of my hut. Apart from when the rain was so heavy it was raining into my veranda, then I had to retreat inside and watch it from the doorway.

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  • Imagining I was in Lost. I was on The Island. A lot of places were empty, quiet, overgrown and deserted. I can only assume that it’s because it’s low season, but it reminded me of the Dharma initiative village in Lost. I didn’t see any polar bears or black smoke. Or Jack. Unfortunately.

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  • Providing consultancy services to a friend who was applying for a job by helping them with their application one day. It was really quite bizarre, doing ‘work’ from a little beach hut on a tiny island (or at one point, sat on the beach).
  • Eating pancakes that weren’t pancakes. Not like you and I would think of them (like crepes). This was like a thick round shaped cake. A whole plateful of cake. I had this a few times. Of course.
  • Reading lots of books about murder. I’ve just discovered the DI Matt Barnes series by Michael Kerr and I found them to be can’t-put-you-down books so I got through two of them. But, they’re also pretty graphic, and I’m not sure reading about murder, torture and psychopaths when you’re in a remote, deserted place is the best idea…
  • Realising that no matter how many times I go, I’ll always need the toilet just before I go to sleep. Especially when it’s about 20 feet away from my room.
  • Making a bowl out of a water bottle using nothing but a key. I had bought cornflakes but had nothing to eat them out of. 2 minutes later, voila! It wouldn’t win any prizes for aesthetics, but it was functional. Win.

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So, a pretty relaxing week, but I was ready to leave. Ready to get back to a bit of city life and civilisation. It did me the world of good though, to just stop for a while and have some time alone. To figure some stuff out, recharge my batteries and look forward to the next adventure when Nick will join me for the rest of my time in South East Asia.