You’ve all experienced the post-holiday blues at some point, despairing at the very thought of returning home and going back to the ‘same old same old‘ routine. Some of you may have even made an on the spot decision to continue your holiday indefinitely.
Good on you! My decision to take an ‘extended leave of absence’ from the UK happened in an instant, but the actual ‘doing of it’ took over 12 months to materialize.
This decision was made on a sticky evening in the town of Kuah in Langkawi, Malaysia, as the clouds drifting slowly across the breathtaking mountain backdrop.
This was January 2009 and the end of an amazing 3 week ‘blowout’ in SE Asia.
We celebrated the run-up to New Year in Langkawi, staying at our ex-pat friend’s apartment, and living like Rock Star Royalty.
New Year’s Eve at Little Lylia’s Chill out Bar, Pantai Cenang was immense and once we regained consciousness, we embarked upon a land and sea mission up to Had Yuan, Koh Phangnan, Thailand for 10 more days of serious relaxation and partying.
Now we had returned to where it all began, Langkawi, and I had just made up my mind on a decision that had been gaining momentum as the trip progressed.
Conversations with my ex-pat mate and witnessing first-hand the experiences a life in Langkawi could offer made it clear to me that Se Asia presented possibilities, such possibilities as:
1. Dining like a King Every Single Night of the week
Since we had arrived there all we had done was go out for the most amazing seafood, chinese and malay dishes, all night long and the bill would come to about 10 GBP per head.
At Places like Wonderland, a Local Seafood restaurant in Kuah Town, the quality and price of the dishes was quite simply unreal.
Not only that, you could bring you own booze just paying for the price of the mixers at the restaurant. A trip to the ‘duty free off licence’ meant you could get seriously sozzled for another 2 GBP per head.
2. Smoothing away the rough edges with the Cool Beach Nightlife
You won’t find a more chilled out beach life than on Cenang. Sometimes it seems like no one’s running the show, so if you bothered about little things like your food turning up you may be dissapointed. But you will meet some colourful characters that take laid back to a whole new level.
3. Living amidst Breathtaking Natural Scenery
Langkawi is one of the world’s most beautiful archipelagos and is made up of 99 islands on the west coast of Malaysia, close to the border with Thailand. The best place to view this splendor is with a bird’s eye view from the viewing decks and sky-bridge, some 700m above sea level courtesy of a hair-raising ride in a cable car.
4. I haven’t even got to the Powdery White Sand Beaches and warm clear waters yet.
Cenang Beach has the most impossibly white and powdery sand, the kind where whole days can be lost just enjoying the sensation of it between your toes.
I am sure we’ve all felt like this at the end of a fantastic holiday, but these possibilities were playing on my mind, there was something more to this, there was a definate desire to break the chain of monotony in my life and go out there and experience something else.
Maybe you feel like I did back then, something a little bit more serious than the post holiday blues, of no real desire to go back to your life at home.
If you do, then my advice is to give it some serious thought, look at all the options. It took me a full year of living back in the UK before I finally did something about it. A full year of weighing up the pro’s and cons, considering whether it was just an extended break of a couple of months that I needed or a clean break entirely.
Even then, I wasn’t completely sure and I made the final decision whilst back on a 4-week holiday in Haad Juan, Thailand.
I decided once again, that this was not a long enough break for me and once I had made my final decision, the wheels were firmly in motion and there was no turning back … I went home, tied up all the loose ends and was back out in Asia within 30 days …
If you would like to know more about what life is like for an expat in SE Asia then please feel free to leave a comment or you can contact me directly via Facebook or Twitter at the addresses below.
Being English Gentleman of Leisure
we purchased a 7 day entry pass for the the Angkor Archeological Park. Most people buy a 1 or 3 day pass, but we wanted to take in the temples and ruins at a more relaxed pace, slow it down a little. Turns out, it’s a full time job due to the sheer number of historically important and impressive sites that archeologists have uncovered in the Siem Reap area over the last 100 or so years.
As I write this it is 7am and we are waiting for our Tuk Tuk driver to take us for 2 hours down a bumpy, dust track to visit a temple ruin that has been claimed by the jungle (Beng Melea).
Back in England, few eyebrows were raised when I rolled into work at 9.40am every morning, so this feels like the middle of the night to me. The tourist guides tell you Angkor Wat is the heart and soul of cambodian people, however members of the older generation would disagree. They have no interest in seeing Angkor Wat and on a number of occasions we have heard people say “Why do I care about stone? I want food. The heart and soul of Cambodian people is not Angkor Wat. It is just in trying to survive.
Fortunately, I will never begin to comprehend the attrocities that the Khmer Rouge committed against it’s own people. At The Killing Fields Genocide Memorial close to the capital city Phnom Penh an inscription in the exhibition there reads:
“The method of masacre which the clique of Pol Pot Criminals was carried upon the innocent people of Kampuchea cannot be described fully and clearly in words because the invention of this killing method was strangely cruel so it is difficult for us to determine who they are for. They have the human form, but, their hearts are demon’s hearts”.
The aftermath of this darkness is haunting and I can feel it thick in the air where ever I go. When it comes to genocide, if Hitler and Stalin et al were neuro-surgeons, Pol pot and his Khmer Rouge were back street abortionists.
Despite the continued poverty of the Cambodian people, a tourism industry has sprung up over the last decade and Angkor Wat is the Pin up Boy of Cambodian Temples, a beast of architectual endeavor. Whilst it is undoubtably impressive in size and grandeur, for me it is surpassed by the truly magical qualities of a couple of the other temples and ruins that left me completely awestruck.
I was blown away by Ta Prohm (the Tree Temple used in Tomb Raider)
and even more so by Beng Melea, which felt like discovering a lost ancient civilisation swallowed by the jungle. The whole experience was like a massive game of Lara Croft, clambering over ruins pursued by local kids (who may or may not have been packing darts with poisoned tips) whilst continuously dropping Indiana Jones quotes with Dave.
Having a seven day pass to the temples allowed us to spend time hunting down Japenese and Korean girls (hitting them with our best English Gentleman’s Japenese/Korean pick up lines) and to have an interesting discussion with a flute playing South American guy, about shifting world power, the imminant collapse of the American dollar and a new world order. All this in a small room surrounded by 40 buddah carvings in a quiet minor temple off the beaten track a bit.
A few days in Siem Reap visiting the temples and ruins can leave you with the impression that the country is developing and business is booming. Sadly that is not the case. Many of the older generation that survived the genocide are damaged beyond reprieve. Some of the younger generation are beginning to pick up the pieces and find a voice for change, but any grievences with the corruption and abuse of power by the government (many of the senior officials being former Khmer Rouge) are only whispers as to shout loudly would likely land you in a hole in a field.
To give you an idea of how corrupt the government is over here, they have called upon the services of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who is currently exiled in Dubai awaiting trial in Thailand for stealing from his own people. Asking Thaksin to become economic advisor to your country is like asking a wealthy businessman with a repuation for human rights attrocities to take over your football club. Nothing in Cambodia makes much sense.
However, many of the young people we have met have less political aspirations and a sheer drive and determination to drag themselves out of poverty. One girl we met wanted to be a journalist, but had wisely decided on a less dangerous career path. Whilst us English Gentleman were busy taking a leisurely stroll around ancient ruins perusing over women, films, music and the philosophies of the east and west, this girl was up at 4am everyday making breakfast for her family, before starting work at 6am for a 13 hour shift in a hotel then straight to school in the evening to study business and English. As the Older generation state, the heart and soul of Cambodian people is not in stone or the pure madness and evil of it’s harrowing past. The heart and soul of Cambodian people is in survival and only the younger generations determination for change and to make a brighter future for themselves will allow this to happen.
Phuket is a mountainous island with many stunning vantage points to catch a glimpse of one of natures’ truly spectacular sights. The Andaman Sea from up high, resembles a shiny, shimmering, perfectly flat Emerald disk, which blazes like liquid gold at sunset. It is a calming, even spiritual experience that can reset your perspective on life. Below is my guide to the Top 6 Viewpoints from where you can witness the Andaman Sea and the beautiful islands surrounding Phuket in all their glory.
1. Phromthep Cape
The No.1 Viewpoint in Phuket will not come as any surprise, as Phromthep Cape is the most visited and photographed spot on the whole island and for good reason. Sure, it gets over-crowded close to sunset, but this is one truly iconic picture postcard not to be missed.
2. Windmill Viewpoint
It is a close call on the bragging rights for No.1 Sunset Viewpoint in Phuket and the iconic status of Phromthep Cape keeps it in top spot. This in no way diminishes the appeal of Windmill Viewpoint which is usually less crowded and offers a much more peaceful and magical ambience.
3. Three Beaches Viewpoint
4. Kho Khad Tower Views
This is a lesser known viewpoint on the way to Cape Panwa and offers spectacular 360 degrees panoramas from it’s mountain top tower.
5. Big Buddah
The 45m Tall Big Buddha can be viewed from most points in the south of the island and it gazes out from a prime vantage point on top of Buddha Mountain. The views on the way up are as spectacular as the view from the top, so make sure you take time to enjoy the vistas from all sides of the mountain.
6. Koh Sirey Temple
Around Sunset, Koh Sirey Temple is usually deserted, aside from from the numerous Golden Buddha statues, so you can enjoy the breathtaking vistas in a very peaceful and tranquil setting.
If you would like to know more about these viewpoints please feel free to leave a comment or you can contact me directly via Facebook or Twitter at the addresses below.
If you live in Phuket and like to drink Red Wine you will find that it is a little on the expensive side (upwards of 1000 THB for a cheap bottle of decent plonk). On the plus side, at least you CAN now buy decent Red Wine, as when I first visited Thailand over 9 years ago, it was woefully in short supply. I have however, found a cheeky and very gluggable 3 litre box of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon for only 700 THB, but I am not sharing any more information on this as the shop keeps running out of stock.
So, if you are looking for a delicious and cheaper alternative to Red Wine for those nights by the pool, read on, because the tips and special recipe I am about to share will take you on a wonderful journey into the ‘enlightened’ world of cocktail making. (After all, Phuket is a tropical island)
1. Know Your Source
I happen to know a fantastic source of wholesale liquor at bargain prices near to Phuket Town. Coming out of Phuket Town on the road past the Jatujak Night Market, you turn left onto the bypass road and a couple of hundred yards on the right hand side is the ‘blink and you will miss it’ Prom Pan Store. You can be forgiven for driving right by this place and being blissfully unaware of it’s existence as it looks very inconspicuous from the outside. Once you step through the door however, oh my lord, it opens up into a veritable Aladdin’s cave of imported beverages.
2. Deviate from Instruction Manuals
Having acquired several books of cocktail recipes from the delightful shop assistant at Prom Pan, we gleefully purchased all of the necessary ingredients at what turned out to be a very reasonable price. It wasn’t long before I concocted my own version of the Long island Ice Tea, the ‘Wrong Island Ice Tea‘
a guestamation of 5 large shots of numerous white spirits which proved to be too blue for a school night. For this reason, I’ve now gravitated towards and perfected the fabulous Phuket Mai Tai and my girlfriend tells me they are pretty damn good.
3. Make a Pitcher
The recipe I’m about to share is rather Moorish, so make a pitcher. I don’t do measures, so the numbers relate to the seconds you pour in the ingredient i.e. 1000, 2000, 3000, so for the Perfect Phuket Mai Tai
8000 White Rum
8000 Dark Rum
8000 Triple Sec
6000 Grenadine (alternatively add Bubblegum flavour syrup for the green version)
24000 Pineapple Juice
24000 Orange Juice.
4 Whole Fresh Lime quartered and squeezed into the glass.
Fill the pitcher a quarter full of crushed ice. Pour the White Rum, Dark Rum, Triple Sec, Fresh Lime, Grenadine over the crushed ice and give it a good ol’ stir. Add the orange and pineapple juice to the pitcher, roughly about 50 50 for the space remaining. Don’t bother with the garnish of a slice of lime as frankly it is a waste of lime.
And there you have it. The Perfect Phuket Mai Tai.