13.01.2009 - 17.01.2009
View Asia 2008 on Wardsan's travel map.
My expenditure has crept up in the last few weeks, and I think this is natural. Most people have a blowout at the end of the holiday.
This raises the old question: what is money worth at the moment? If I go back six weeks early, I have six weeks more money to spend, right? Wrong: those six weeks don’t disappear; they will probably be spent in London, which is more expensive. That suggests spending less out here. But the determining factor is when I get a job. If I get a job earlier because I returned earlier, I have more money to spend. Trouble is, I don’t know.
Anyway, I feel like spending a little more money. Before diving I stayed at a fairly posh resort in Khao Lak. My room cost a third of the bungalows, and I still got to experience the manicured lawns.
Khao Lak is a tourist resort. There are souvenir shops, guest houses, restaurants. There are a score of opticians in a half-mile strip, and two ‘Irish’ pubs. It is a bit Benidorm on the Andaman Sea. German is very much the dominant language. I just spent three nights on a dive liveaboard in the Similan islands, and I was the only guest without German as a native language. (It’s the following morning and the world is still swaying.)
The food in Khao Lak is poor, although you can probably get a decent Hahn mit Knoblauch. Proper Thai food is a balance between sweet, spicy, salt and sour. Usually you find four pots of sauces and sugar at the table, so that you can adjust this balance. Not here. Nor in the centre of Chiang Mai. And there is little spice. I suppose this is because Germans do not have the constant exposure to chilli that we do in Britain and so do not acquire the taste for it. (I should emphasise that this is an observation, not a criticism.) Actually, the Thai restaurants in Britain are remarkably authentic, down to the bitter little pea aubergines in the curry, something that is not true of Indian and Chinese restaurants.
Khao Lak was hit very hard by the tsunami of Boxing Day 2004. Four thousand people died or disappeared in Khao Lak alone. The main drag is on the main coastal road north, well above the sea, but there is a road right by the coast, and the wave was five metres high when it swept over the road. That road is well above the beach; the tsunami was 11 m high. All the buildings on the coast were destroyed, of course, so nothing by the beach is more than four years old. But there are a lot of buildings; you can’t see any evidence of damage at all and the tourists are back in swarms.
Now there are tsunami warning signs everywhere: "you are now in a tsunami danger zone". There are also tsunami evacuation paths, also known as roads. I walked up one, and it terminated in a padlocked gate. So much for that.
On my penultimate dive yesterday I saw three octopuses. One was walking slowly, backwards, and darkened itself and forced itself into a tiny niche when I got too close (they have no skeletons). The other two looked like a single one. At first I saw the limbs, and each limb seemed to be wrapped around another, as if the cephalopod had severe pruritis. Then I saw a head peering out of a hole eighteen inches way. Gradually the limbs resolved themselves into two octopuses (or octopodes), one trying to escape. The octopus whose head was visible had its tentacles wrapped around the escapee. It looked like a case of unwilling mating. The clingy octopus was coloured dark fox; the other a sickly pale celadon.