Raphael Kessler

Home | Travel Photos | House | Friends and Family | Random | FAQs | Links | Contact Details| Search


South East Asia 1999

  1. Vietnam - February 1999
  2. Thailand - April 1999
  3. Malaysia and Singapore - May 1999
  4. Indonesia - June 1999
Africa to home, the long way
- Africa
  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia and Botswana
  3. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya
  4. Uganda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Egypt
- Middle East and Balkans
  1. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
  2. Balkans
  3. Turkey
  4. Iran
- Asia
  1. Pakistan
  2. China
  3. Tibet
  4. Nepal
  5. India 1
  6. India 2
  7. India 3
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Myanmar
  11. Thailand
  12. Cambodia
  13. Laos
  14. China, Macao and Hong Kong
  15. Mongolia
- North America and Caribbean
  Caribbean, USA, Mexico and Canada
- Scandinavia and Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Sweden
  3. Baltics
  4. Poland and Czech Republic
South America 2002
  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile and Easter Island
Central America and Mexico 2002
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Honduras
  5. El Salvador
  6. Guatemala
  7. Belize
  8. Mexico
South America 2003-4
  1. Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  3. Venezuela
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Argentina
  9. Uruguay and Paraguay
  10. Bolivia 2
  11. Peru 2
Specific Pacific
  1. California to Fiji+ French Polynesia & Cook Islands
  2. Samoa, Niue and American Samoa
  3. Tonga and New Zealand
  4. Australia 1
  5. Australia 2



Well, I'm back in Thailand now, and to say the least it's all a bit odd. There are thousands of tourists and everyone speaks at least a little English, unlike Vietnam, were sign language and my extremely rudimentary Vietnamese was more often the norm. 

Since I've been here I've not done too much, just chilling to a large extent, went and saw the reclining Buddha (it's bloody enormous) went for fittings for my suits that are being made. 

Today I went to the bridge on the river Kwai. It was a bit disappointing and the museum next to it was bollocks. We went on to a waterfall that I expect is tremendous in the wet season, but as we are almost at the peak of the dry season, they have to pump water back to the top to maintain a moderate flow. 

I've kind of decided on a route through eastern Thailand, which is a bit of a figure of eight, that then drops down peninsula Thailand, where I will pick a beach or island on which to spend a week or so chilling out.

Anyway, not much news from this end. Keep in touch everyone and I'll try and notify you when anything noteworthy takes place.  



Firstly, I hope everyone is well.

Secondly, thanks for the e-mails you sent me.

Thirdly - if you haven’t sent me an e-mail recently, do so.

Herewith the story of my life since last e-mail.

Went from Bangkok to Lopburi, a funny little town with 12th century ruins between modern buildings. Interesting though, in particular one temple which is completely over run with monkeys. You just walk through the place and there are literally hundreds of the things all over the place, and as they are fed anyway they generally just ignore you, so you sit down and they walk past you, sit next to you,  just as though it were a crowd of people you push them aside when you want to see something, otherwise they leave you alone and vice versa. Also saw other old buildings, but I won’t bore you with the details. It was great I thought I was the only farang (foreigner) until a bus load of Germans turned up - the bastards. 

From Lopburi, I got the train to Phitsanulok, there weren’t enough seats so I spent half the time standing. A pissed Thai guy  decided to befriend me which was interesting, but I got a seat out of it, as he made someone else stand. When I went to have a cigarette, I met the other farang on the train. A Canadian who looked like Sam Elliot - the actor. He told me how he had to send his wife home with rabies,  I laughed, then found out it wasn’t a joke. Anyway, in Phitsanulok I stayed at the youth hostel which is very cool with a stream and log benches and gardens - very chilled. Saw a few bits there (Buddha casting foundry, Folk museum ad temple with the second most important Buddha in Thailand) - nothing was particularly outstanding and on the way back I got the biggest idiot Rikshaw driver, he got lost twice after asking numerous people the way.

Phitsanulok to Sukothai, there is a historical park which I hired a bike to get round, it was sweltering 40degrees in the shade, but there was no shade. By the end I was knackered but there was some interesting stuff en route. When I got back to the guest house I met some decent folk and one middle-aged Israeli prick who thinks he’s seen the biggest, tallest, widest, longest, whatever - who just annoyed everyone.

Phitsanulok to Mae Sot (where I am again).

The reasons for coming to Mae Sot were essentially  three fold.

1)  It’s next to the Burmese border and there is a good market down by the border for both legal and black market imports from Burma.

2)  On the 13th April (Thai new year) there is an illegal Thai boxing tournament between Burma and Thailand (ancient rivals) in the traditional style. This basically means there is a patch of dirt wit a stone circle as opposed to a proper ring, the boxers don’t wear gloves - just bind their hands with hemp (they used to dip it and glue and then glass, but they stopped that bit a couple of years ago), there are five rounds - the first four are 3 minutes and the last one is until someone is either knocked out or there is too much blood. After tat there are no rules - in normal Thai boxing certain body parts aren’t allowed e.g. head butting,  not in this version though. For those of you who have seen the film kick-boxer, it’s the same kind of deal without the bullshit and more rivalry.

3)  It’s a good place to go trekking from. To which end I made enquiries around town but it was going to be too expensive, but starting from Um Phang 165km would be okay, fortuitously however, one of the folk I made enquiries with had someone taking stuff to his resort in Um Phang so I got a free ride and the price that it would have been from Um Phang.  I went there stayed the night at the resort and they gave me enough food for about three people, I managed about half (my first proper meal in Thailand and first meal after Passover) and slept very soundly. The following day we spent 4½  hours rafting (or they did why I sit back). Had lunch then trekked for 3 hours (9.5km) to the camp site we were staying in, the first 3kms were murder, up a mountain in boiling hot weather, the next few were fine, but for the last 1½km It pissed down, which in ways was nice, but at the same time was a little wearing. Daks (Guide) and Bong (Porter) cooked me another great meal and Daks also taught me a bit of Thai. The following morning we walked 1½km to Ti Law Su waterfalls, the 6th biggest falls in the world and the biggest in South East Asia apparently, it was very beautiful and I went for a swim in the pool and its foot. Apparently in the rainy season the whole mountain is awash with water, not the case when I was there.  By the time I walked back to the site the guys ad rustled up another fine meal. After a while we then trekked to the Karen (hill tribe) village.  For the last ½ hour it was pissing down again and when we got to the bit where we cross the river, by bridge, part of the

bridge was missing (as we latterly found out, because three farangs had walked along it at the same time and it collapsed under their weight) so we had to wade across the river. Had a god evening, the resort people have just built their own hut in the village as opposed to making it a tourist village, the farangs stay in that hut, but the rest of the village functions as normal. It’s great there are people wandering all over the place on elephant back ad all in traditional tribal costume. A number of the tribesmen came over to smoke and drink rice whisky (potent stuff), I was offered to buy a young elephant for 30,000 baht (500GBP), which I would have got if I thought I could get it to England. Chilled evening, played cards, smoke, drank and chatted (through Daks as translator).  One of the guys brought a handful of frogs to eat (I declined the offer) and in the latter part of the evening various houses were playing there tribal music to celebrate the impending arrival of the new year. This brings us to today, this morning I rode by elephant most of the way back to the resort (an interesting, although uncomfortable mode of transport) and the at the resort had a shower changed etc. and managed to cadge another lift back to Mae Sot. 




Sunday I went to Burma, saw Myawaddy and a few temples and the market. It's strange how different a place is 200 yards from Thailand, the people look different, the buildings are different, the food is different, what can I say the whole place is different. It was interesting though and adds another stamp to my passport, it would have been silly in my opinion to be so close to Burma and not have had a glimpse. On the way back I saw Moshe the annoying Israeli guy in the Thai immigration office, so said hello etc. met this Israeli girl called Orit, who was a decent character. Later Moshe offered to let me go with him on his motorbike to see this temple and view, 17kms from Mae Sot so I went and had an interesting walk and saw some nice scenery. Later that evening we met up with Orit and a bunch of folk who all work as volunteers in the refugee camps teaching English or (the medical ones) working at the clinic. They were good company and I managed to invite myself to Orits for a meal the following night (yesterday).

Yesterday (Monday) Moshe came and woke me up at 8.30 to go to see a couple more things on his bike which were quite interesting, went back to the border to have a look round the market, Moshe is a bit of an odd one though going on about the British being worse than Nazis and such like, So most of the time I just ignored him, and used him as a taxi service. Last night had a really nice yiddisha meal with kneidlach and latkes etc. which was nice for a change and the eight of us all got on very well and had a good time, I bought a book off Chris on how to read and write Thai as well as a bit of vocab, could be interesting, thought I'd give it a whirl. 

This brings us to today, Songkram - The Thai New Year, The day of the kickboxing tournament. I had an absolute blinder (so did some of the fighters, quite literally). I got there early and found the place without much difficulty as commercialisation has got hold and so has TV, so it was a proper ring and not illegal at all for the first time. When I got there (an hour and a half before kick off - pardon the pun) the guy running the show (called "Woody Woodpecker", a nickname I hope for his sake) took me under his wing, got me a seat and introduced me to the TV executive running the TV end of things, they gave me water and sweets and bits and bobs and kept checking on me to make sure I was happy which was really nice, just before things actually got started the guys thought my seat was a bit crap so asked me if I wanted to sit ring side. They gave me a seat next to the judges table, probably the best seat in the house. All throughout there was a commentary taking place, much of which concerned the farang - me and how I'd been sitting around for so long, so not only did everyone there look at me but the millions of people watching in Thailand on 3 different channels were looking at me. It's good to make an impression I suppose. A little later a Dutch couple and their guide sat behind me and we chatted a bit and the guide translated the commentary. There was also a guy from Bangkok who had been explaining several bits to me and knew about the different boxers. Anyway, there were 8 bouts in total and in the history of this tournament Thailand have never lost a fight. During the sixth fight the sponsor of the event sat next to me and he was saying how it was a killing game and he didn't like it - so why does he sponsor it? Anyway, in the penultimate fight after straight wins from the Thai side the Burmese national champ was up - so the sponsor guy was saying this should be an interesting fight, I asked whether he thought the Burmese guy might win, to which he replied definitely not, they never win. Sure enough he knocked the Thai guy out in the second round and the Burmese spectators went absolutely apeshit, this was the first time that a Burmese fighter had won in this tournament ever. The last fight was bit mundane, but during it one of the Burmese fighters sat next to me and explained (through the Dutch couples guide) how his knuckles were broken and his face and head hurt a bit. You should have seen the state of the guy, he was sixteen or seventeen and the lumps on his face resembled the mogul run at the winter Olympics, just darker and bloodier. He could hardly see through his puffed up eyes, but all he was concerned about was his knuckles hurt a bit. Most people would have been in an ambulance by this stage, he sat and watched the last fight and chatted with me  for a while and didn't winge at all, stupid, desensitised or what, I don't know, but definitely a tough guy. 

Anyway, that's about it from me soaked in Thailand (during Songkram everyone throws water at pedestrians and cars / passengers, for the whole month). Got to go as I'm meeting some folk to go to a fair where they have a wall of death (bikes going round a vertical tube) with push bikes and motorbikes, where the spectators stand in the middle, should be interesting, might stick around till after tomorrows fights (some big fighters are coming up for it) and then heading North to Mae Sariang, should be interesting, I'll keep you all posted as always. 



So I hear you all cry (bloody loudly as most of you are several  thousand miles away), what have I done since last e-mail, well the answer follows.

Well, I went down to the Burmese (Myanmar) border with John, a Brit who's being teaching in Thailand for nine months to see the big fight that was supposed to be happening again, various people told us it was at different times and then they all started telling us there was no fight that day, it was all over - so after wasting several hours we went back to Mae Sot, only to find it had been on after all - in a hall behind where we asked the people. We were tempted to go down and find each person who'd misled us and break their scrawny necks, but were too lazy so just chilled out for a while. 

That evening I went to this restaurant run by a French guy who moved to Mae Sot 15 years ago, had a nice pizza, got chatting to him found his nice armagnac (as most of you know I love a good brandy - bloody hard to come by in Thailand) finished the bottle, went onto the Johnnie Walker - black  label of course - then onto Sang Thip - we each finished a bottle and this stuff is evil, if they wanted to make a more evil concoction it would be difficult. Anyway to cut a long story short, I rolled back to my hotel about 6.30am and really could not be arsed top get on the bus that day so I spent another day in Mae Sot, recovering from the previous nights excesses. 

From there I got on the 6.30 Songthaew (pick-up truck with benches along each side) to Mae Sariang for 6 or 7 hours met a couple of Dutch girls on board who were good company. There was also this Thai guy who was telling us he was a undercover policemen looking out for Karen terrorists and just to prove the point he took the Colt 45 from his little shoulder bag and waved it around shouting "bang - bang" just so we

knew what he would do with them. The hole in the story came when at the regular police checkpoints in that part of the country, he looked rather worried and was asked for his ID like everyone else. All part of the rich tapestry of travelling I guess. 

Mae Sariang was essentially a quiet little town with a couple of unusual Wats (temples), the following day the Dutch girls and I went to the Salawin river to do a boat trip, it also forms the Thai-Myanmar border, one side is a nice well built barracks with the Thai royal crest etc. It's opposite number was a collections of thatched bamboo huts with a badly hand painted Union of Myanmar sign, funny comparison. The boat trip was a bit crap but still the village by the river side was pleasant and interesting. 

The following day the Dutch girls and I went onto Mae Hong Son - met a bunch of folk at the guest house and had a look round the town. The following morning the Dutch girls and I got up at 5 to trek 2kms up this mountain with a temple on top to see what is supposed to be a spectacular sunrise, we got there just ahead of time, tired and hot to see a ordinary crappy sunrise - still, nothing ventured etc. I then had a day of travelling, from Mae Hong Son via small bus for 7 hrs to Ban Mae Malai a village to get the bus to Fang for 3 hrs to get a Songthaew to Tha Ton. A little village on the Kok river. Made enquiries about boat trips etc. but to little avail. So had an early night.  The following morning I could hear a yank voice talking to Thip the landlady about trips as well, so went out to see what was going on, had lunch and chatted and Thip was proposing a simple one night trip for the two of us.  The a Dutch couple turned up which meant we could do a more involved overnight trip for less.  Essentially - the following day we set off to Chiang Kien to an old Wat where we had our fortunes told, onto the Golden Triangle to see the converging points of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar and the opium museum there, then Mae Sai to the Burmese border and market, then to the monkey cave where you can buy fruit or nuts to feed the monkeys, who are all quite polite and just stand holding your leg until you give them some food, then to the King's Mothers garden which was rather boring. From there we went to Mae Salong to the Chinese  market (about 100miles from China) saw a tiger penis and this bottle of wine with the most evil centipede. Then to Ban Haygo - the Lisu (hill tribe) village where we were staying the night, strolled about a bit and then ended up going to the kindergarten to drink rice moonshine with some of the villagers. The following day we had a proper look, round the village then trekked to a small waterfall and then onto and Akha (different tribe) village where we had some tea and fruit in one of the peoples house. From there onto a Cham (different tribe) village to get the boat for three hours to Chiang Rai.  Which is where I am now.

So that is it essentially.  From here I should be going onto Nan tomorrow - home of some more strange tribes and then onto Phrae, from there to Chiang Mai and then head south to chill out on an isolated beach with a book for a couple of days before going to Malaysia.



So after my tour in 'Nam, now Thailand, this leg of the journey is nearly at an end - time flies. I'm nearly at the half way mark with regards weeks out here and I still have Malaysia and Indonesia to do.

To fill you in with what has happened since last news, I went to Nan which was another chilled out little town, saw some more temples and museums and hired a motorbike for a couple of days to check out the province which had great landscapes etc. climbed through a cave etc. but unfortunately the hill tribes in this neck of the woods have been pretty much assimilated into Thai culture, with brick built homes and wearing shorts and T-shirts etc. oh-well. It was actually quite cool and unusual at the Guest House where I was staying it was exclusively Brits for a couple of days - strange as we generally seem to be in the minority as far as Thai travellers. 

From Nan got on a bus to Phrae after checking with three or four people it was the right one (healthy paranoia), after twenty minutes I realised we were heading North not South, so with pigeon Thai found out it was completely the wrong bus and made them stop it in the middle of nowhere, where I planned to either walk or hitch the twenty kms south again (didn't really feel like walking it), fortunately after about three minutes I managed to hitch a lift in a nice aircon pick-up and the guys took me right to the bus station in Nan again, decent folk. From Nan eventually got to Phrae, which was supposed to be a nice town with an old city etc. but wasn't much cop in my book - so I got on a bus to Chiang Mai this morning which is where I am now. I've had my regular massage at Nits - apparently got a headlouse problem - and am now e-mailing you all because, firstly I don't know how long I'm going to be in Chiang Mai, secondly, It looks like I've decided I'm going onto Ko Tarutao - an island just north of Malaysia in the middle of a marine park, where I will probably hire a tent for a couple of nights, chill out with a book and reset before I go to Malaysia. Which brings me to the final point, namely that this will possibly / probably be my last chance to e-mail from Thailand so I'll take the opportunity to sign off from the Thai leg. 

Once again, I wish I could have spent longer here but, c'est la vie. Maybe I'll come back.




All the images and text on this website are the copyright sole property of Raphael Kessler and cannot be copied or reproduced without his express permission. 
If you want to use any of his intellectual material please contact him via the link above