The Thailand Diaries: Mr. Parasite and the case of the missing toilet

After three years living in Thailand I decided it was time I wrote my memoirs… this one may be a little too much information for some but if you can’t tell your diary, who can you tell?


My tummy had been doing somersaults since I had woken up but I had put it down to whatever undoubtedly spicy-fried-stuff-with-rice that I had eaten for dinner the night before.  It’s not unusual to feel every single digestive movement within you when you are embracing the local food in Thailand.

Little did I know that there was a particularly pesky parasite harbouring within my body waiting to burst forth – quite literally – and make an appearance.  Only time would reveal this, and my what timing Mr. Parasite had.  I would soon find myself wishing I had listened to my gut’s grumbles with more attention but we all know that hindsight, and a rather memorable toilet (or lack thereof) experience, is a gift we cannot savour until it is already too late.

Perhaps someone reading this will learn something, and my experience will enable another to avoid what was unavoidably my fate.  Read on and take note, dear reader.

As I have already said, I was embracing the local cuisine of Thailand’s deep south, and so I found myself heading over to a little khao geang (literally rice curry) place at breakfast time.  It was owned by a lovely couple who would rise early to prepare an array of dishes to be laid out buffet-style for the customers to peruse and take their pick of.  As is usual in these set ups, the shop was in the front of their house, backing on to the living room which they shared with the patrons.  Unusual by Western standards but very much the norm here in Thailand.  Another rather un-Western thing – customer toilets are few and far between in these types of establishments; this fact would become all too apparent all too quickly.

Grumble.  Groan.  Squelch.  I looked at my breakfast of spicy-fried-stuff-with-rice and was unable to conjure up the slightest inkling of an appetite.  Strangely enough, being able to feel your internal organs in action tends to be quite the appetite killer.

Grumble.  Groan.  GRUMBLE.  GROAN.  Suddenly the urgency with which my insides operated reached a peak with only one message.  TOILET.  NOW.

Mee hongnam mai ka?  Possibly the single most important phrase to learn upon travelling to any foreign land – do you have a toilet?

The husband-wife curry shop duo looked at one another and then at me, in my white school shirt and pencil skirt.  They started to explain that it’s their toilet, it’s no good for customers, especially not farang customers in tight skirts… but I was already up and heading to the back of the house where their gazes lead me.  Tee nee ka?  Here?

I was  in there before they had time to answer but sure enough I found myself in what must be the family bathroom.  A damp concrete square of a room with a concrete floor and only sky where a ceiling would normally take residence.  Good for ventilation I suppose.

GRUMBLE.  GROAN.

I desperately cast my eyes around, looking for the bog, the loo, the porcelain throne… nothing.  There was a small container of water, adorned with wrung out flannels, an old bar of soap and a couple of toothbrushes.  Next to that, a larger bin also full of water with a Winnie the Pooh children’s cereal bowl floating in it.  A quick peek beyond and I found a hole in the ground.  A hole, albeit encircled with a porcelain frame, as if to confirm that yes, this is in fact the toilet.

Full disclosure: I should probably apologise for the misleading title of this post – there was a toilet, just not the type that I am used to.

My pencil skirt was too tight to be hoicked up and so I whipped it off and flung it over my shoulder.  I’ll save you the details of what happened next but let me tell you that Mr. Parasite put me through my paces.  Epic toilet times – a rite of passage when adjusting to a life abroad but something best enjoyed (wrong word) in the privacy of one’s own home.

Something you learn quickly when you are traveling through or living in an Asian country is that there is a distinct lack of toilet tissue, especially in those countires that favour a bidet hose, or bum gun as I like to call it.  In fact, you quickly learn that we have developed a whole load of unnecessary Westernised expectations when it comes to the toilet.  We don’t need toilet seats, automatic flushes or jet powered hand dryers, but at some point we decided that we do.   Had I had the time to think things through before my rush to the toilet I would have grabbed some paper towels from the table.  Again, hindsight.

Unfortunately for me it was a double whammy.  Not only was there no toilet but no bum gun either.

Panic started to set in.  Do I shout for someone to bring me some tissue?  There isn’t even a bin.  Not an option.  There I was, squatting askew a hole in the ground, half dressed with my skirt slung over my shoulder desperately looking for a post-toilet clean up solution.

There’s only so long one can stay in such a position without taking action.  I was time to go truly native, armed with gallons of water, a Winnie the Pooh children’s cereal bowl and…

… my hand.  Oh yes, native indeed.

Thank goodness there was an old bar of soap.

At the time I have to say that wasn’t one of my most pleasant mornings, but at least now I can look back and laugh, and I can face any toilet situation safe in the knowledge that it will never be that traumatic ever again.


I may look back and find this funny, but many people don’t even have a hole in the ground let alone clean water to wash with or even drink.  Check out the gifts you can buy over at Water Aid  to enable people to have access to clean water and village water systems. 

This isn’t a sponsored post, I just want to make up for laughing at what is a daily occurrence for so many people around the globe.

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James Bond Island Trip – an honest review

james bond blog

If you are looking for a travel brochure style review you are in the wrong place – this is all based on my own experience and I tell it like it is!  Feel free to skip past my musings on this trip to view my pictures at the end of the post.

The name’s Bond… James Bond.  James Bond Island to be exact.  Or, as it is actually named; Khao Phing Kan.  This island in Phang Nga bay was the setting for the bad guy’s lair in James Bond: The Man with the Golden Gun.  It’s the one with a midget (sorry, little person) butler man and a lot of martial arts.

I had my family staying with me and it was their first time coming to Thailand and it was therefore my mission to try and demonstrate to them why I haven’t come back to the UK yet, mostly so my mum stops asking me and making me feel guilty (jokes… sorry mum!).  My dad has arrived armed with not one but two Phuket travel guides, and having spent many hours on not one, not two, but three flights to get here, they had all had a good look at what was on offer and had compiled a pretty jam packed list of things to do while they were here.  Going to see James Bond Island was pretty close to the top.

Personally, I’ve never fancied going on a trip to see James Bond Island.  This probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t actually like James Bond films, or activities on or near the water.  Nevertheless, the parentals were in town and the trip was being funded by the bank of mother, so now was the best time for me to check it out for myself.

Luckily for us, T had recently taken some other visiting friends to see the island a few weeks ago while I was slaving away at school (how rude) and so we had a little bit of background knowledge on whereabouts to go and a rough guide on pricing.  We weren’t keen on booking a package trip through an agent in Phuket as these almost always end up overpriced, overcrowded and always involve some sort of unwanted stop off at a crappy factory outlet store where you are given a free drink (yay!) and have to listen to a rubbish talk about an equally rubbish product that no-one actually wants (sad face).

After a lazy morning we headed up through the north of Phuket and onto mainland Thailand, Phang Nga province.  We drove for about 30 minutes, past lots of signs promising tours to James Bond Island, but these places are yet again your trusted packaged tour from your money grabbing agent.  We wanted to get to the boat man ourselves and bargain us a deal.  We reached a right hand turn off for can’t recall the name pier (really should have paid more attention).  The car park was full of Chinese and Korean tour coaches so we knew we were in the right place only it was 1-0 to us because we didn’t have to endure a visit to the driver’s wife’s cousin’s daughter’s jewel shop beforehand – winning!

No sooner had we pulled up, a rather brash woman wearing a huge sun hat was on us proclaiming, “I have boat! I have boat!” but she was quickly pushed to the side when another lady recognised T from his previous visit a few weeks ago.  “My friend!  You come back!” – everyone is a friend when money can be made.  We were swiftly escorted to the pontoon and told to wait while a boat and driver were arranged for us for the price of 2800THB for the whole group of us.  Compared to the minimum 1200THB per person that all the tour agencies want this is a good deal, and you get a boat and driver all to yourself for the afternoon.  The boats could easily seat 12 people (they definitely squeeze on at least 20 Chinese/Koreans but I’m being realistic/not ridiculously unsafe) so at that price it could work out at a really cheap price per person.

Our driver was called Khun Wim and he was happy to follow our lead for the afternoon. We started our journey travelling up river among the mangroves, which quickly opened out into the sea of Phang Nga bay and those infamous limestone cliffs jutting out of the water.  It’s stunning scenery, but when you cast your eyes down from the ginormous cliffs you see the sheer amount of boats out on the water ferrying mostly Korean and Chinese tourists around the bay.  Maybe during low season it might be a different story.

Khun Wim our driver - he put on the hat especially for this picture!
Khun Wim our driver – he put on the hat especially for this picture!

Our first stop was to go canoeing – this was at an extra cost to our original price but we were aware of this.  We paid 400THB per person to be canoed around by friendly Thai guys who pointed out rocks shaped like elephants and took us through caves that were so small you had to lay down flat in the canoe.  Last time that T went they had to pay 500THB… so the price is probably only 250 or 300 in reality.  Next time…!  Again, the landscape was beautiful, and it was really fun going in and out of the caves but doing so among hundreds of other people wasn’t quite the idyllic experience.  I’m getting more and more keen to check this place out once tourist season is over.

Next on our itinerary was James Bond island itself.  Our driver told us that for 200THB per person (surprise, another added cost) we could go onto the actual island and walk around.  We took one look at the island, with streams of tourists moving from crap shop to crap shop and decided we were happy taking pictures from the water.  We went around the island, our driver making sure we got all the good angles and were happy with our pictures before moving on to our next destination.  I’ll be honest; the actual James Bond island part of this trip was probably the worst bit – the canoeing and our next destination were definitely much more enjoyable.  Seeing James Bond island is more to be able to say you’ve been there, and have the picture on facebook to prove it.

James Bond Island itself
James Bond Island itself in all it’s glory

Our third and final destination was Koh Panyee (which I have written about before here) – a place that I have always wanted to visit since seeing the story of their floating football pitch in a Thai advert and on a Vice documentary on YouTube.  This floating community seem to have set up camp where the environment makes it almost impossible to do so – completely built on stilts with no dry ground to speak of – it’s a good thing they like eating fish.  We had a top notch dinner stop (affording our driver to claim his free plate of fried rice) which actually wasn’t too expensive and was really, really tasty.  Side note: this is a Muslim community (the shining golden mosque dominating the village is a slight giveaway) so please don’t do what my dad did, and ask for a large Chang beer while also wearing a Chang vest.  Cringe.  After our food we went on a quick explore through the village; we had to tunnel through endless lanes of more crap souvenier shops before getting to the parts where the locals hang out.  We were mostly interested in seeing the floating football pitch, so after making our way there we headed back to our driver, who took us back to the pier where our car was parked.

Koh Panyee from the water
Koh Panyee from the water

The whole trip was just under 4 hours long – plenty of time to do and see all that we wanted to.  We kept our driver’s number this time so that we can come back during low season to see what it is like without being surrounded by other people!

Here are some pictures of the day – as much as I complained about the amount of people and the little hidden costs, it was really nice to explore the area and I think the pictures say it all.

Click on any image to take a closer look.

Can you eat spicy?

It was lunchtime.  I walked around the corner to my local noodle soup shop.  They don’t just do plain old noodle soup, they have my favourite, tom yam, or in this case creamy tom yam with pork.  Delicious.

Now I’ve been going to this particular noodle soup shop for a while now, and I know that I like the food that comes out of there.  There is just the right amount of noodle:meat:veg:sauce ratio, you always get those yummy crispy pork crackling bits thrown on top and most importantly it tastes good.

I walk up to the counter ready to order what I always have.  It wasn’t the usual girl behind the counter and she didn’t understand what I was asking for.  She gropes around for a laminated picture menu reserved for occasions such as this and I point at what looks like my usual noodle dish.  She nods, now she understands what I was asking for in the first place.  And then she asks the question that us foreigners are so used to being asked in restaurants, and we are all a little afraid of being asked it in case it leads to a somewhat fiery situation;

spicy

Gin pet dai?  (Can you eat spicy?)

Dai ka!  …I can!  I replied with gusto, not thinking about the potential repercussions that this may have.   I eat this noodle soup at least once a week.  What’s the worst that could happen?

Unfortunately for me, when the girl behind the counter heard my eager reply, she took it as a personal challenge. Yes, I can eat spicy, but I am still a foreigner.  I’m wired up differently inside, doesn’t she know that?  

Barney Stinson Challenge Accepted animated GIF

The noodle soup was prepared and handed over to me in an assortment plastic bags (luckily for me this was a take away lunch so I wouldn’t have an audience for what was going to happen next).  I got a glimpse of the soup as it was put into a carrier bag and I could see that it had split, and a bright red layer of oil sat atop of my creamy tom yum soup.  It looked fiery as hell and definitely far spicier and less creamy than usual.   

I walked home, cursing myself for getting myself into this situation.  Yes, I can eat spicy, but spicy for me.  Not spicy on the Thai scale.  I wish I could say that in Thai.  Not that I would ever tell a vendor that I couldn’t eat spicy, especially when ordering a typically spicy dish – my pride couldn’t take the hit.  It would be like ordering a vindaloo and asking for it not to be spicy.  It just doesn’t work that way.

I got home and assembled my lunch.  Noodles, veg and pork balls slipped out of the first bag and into my bowl.   I fished out the bonus pieces of offal and gave them to one of the cats.  I took the second bag and observed how the sauce had indeed curdled from the pure hellish power of the amount of chili that could be found within.  I gave it a shake and poured it atop my noodles.  The hot, spicy steam rose from the bag and hit my eyes.  I now understand why mustard gas was used in warfare.  If how my eyes felt was anything to go by, my throat was about to go through it’s paces.  A third bag containing chili powder was left untouched.  Did she think I was some chili eating super woman?

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There was only one thing for it.  I’m not going to let a bowl of what is usually my favourite noodle soup go to waste.  Taking care not to take too much sauce, I took a mouthful.  The back of my throat seemed to close over in what can only be a survival instinct to save my insides from what was headed down there.  I swallowed, and coughed, mostly so I could gulp at the air around me in search of anything that didn’t contain this flaming concoction.  The first bite is always the spiciest.  I reassured myself.  I braced myself and went in for a second go.  Keep going, your mouth will get used to it.  Yes, my mouth was getting used to it, because all nerve endings were being obliterated by the burn of birdseye chili and tom yam paste.  

I persevered.  I fished out pieces of green vegetable and let the sauce drip off.  I took noodles and blew on them to try and ease the pain.  Nothing worked.  I had to admit defeat.  By this point my hunger was gone and I wasn’t sure if I even had a stomach remaining.  All I could feel was spice pouring from my every orifice.  My stomach burned, my throat ached and my eyes watered.  I was covered in a thin sheen of chili sweat and my lips felt like they had been pricked with a thousand tiny needles dipped in chili-laced acid.

It’s at times like these that I wish I could drink milk without feeling sick, but I can’t, so I made do with a bottle of cold water (yes, I am aware that this wouldn’t actually have helped me but needs must) and I waited for my spice ride from hell to come to an end.  In time, the spiciness subsided, but to this day whenever a food seller asks me that question I try my best to let them know that I can eat a little spicy, but not too spicy.  If in doubt, I politely shake my head and let them think that I can’t stomach it at all.  Anything to avoid getting myself into this situation another time.  Never again.