Posted by: Tom Lancaster | August 6, 2010

The “You’ve Been Framed” beach

Episode 22: Koh Pha Ngan/Phuket/Georgetown/Batu Ferringhi/Nipah Bay, Thailand/Malaysia

Skin colour (Tom): Jordan

Skin colour (Jane): Eddie Jordan

Location: Nipah Bay, Pangkor, Malaysia

Date: 05th August 2010.

Don’t you just hate it when someone gives you two excuses for not being able to do something? It kind of makes it seem less believable if they don’t think one will do. Having travelled all the way to Phuket, specifically to do a sailing course, we were emailed the night before it began to be told that our instructor had a “bit of a chest infection” and the weather wasn’t looking too good for the coming days.

To be fair, the following day brought truly atrocious weather, but surely that’s what sailing’s all about, at least it looks like it when Ellen MacArthur is splicing the mainbrace and shivering her timbers.

Sailing weather - downpour in Phuket Town

Anyway, I’m posting a short update today prior to the summer break, when we take a holiday from our travels by flying back to the UK tomorrow for a week. Yes, I know, a bit odd.

I last corresponded from Koh Pha Ngan where we were still lazing on the beach, eavesdropping on strangers’ conversations and generally berating the public at large. Since then we’ve changed location a couple of times and sadly there have been fewer idiots to keep us amused.

We left Koh Pha Ngan when we found the beach dogs to be far too boring – just plain brown hounds with 4 limbs – hardly noteworthy.

We find the nicest hotels

We headed to Phuket by the most direct method available: a 6am pre-booked taxi which didn’t turn up, necessitating a panicked flagging down of any moving vehicle or animal; the roughest ferry crossing either of us have been on (our shredded nerves were not helped by the Dutch woman in front of us who was literally hysterical – crying and having to be slapped about a bit by her beefy husband and force-fed pills (we assume this was due to the crossing and not their normal behaviour)); a clapped out bus; a sawngthaew (pick-up truck with two benches in the back); a minibus which we had to wait ninety minutes for and finally a lengthy walk.

The less said about Phuket Town the better. It rained (very heavily) almost the whole time we were there, and when we did venture out there was little to see or do and the recurring theme of woeful pavements was evident.

On one outing we did try durian (the fruit which smells like rotting corpses and is banned in many public places) – it was OK actually, a mixture of tastes such as petroleum, peach, gunpowder, cheese and a texture like undercooked chicken, but I wouldn’t be thanking Santa if he replaced the tangerine in the bottom of my Christmas stocking with one.

The most dangerous inmate at Fort Cornwallis

The disappointment of our sailing course being cancelled led to us heading for Malaysia and Pulau Penang (naturally during the full day spent in a minibus the weather was sublime!). First stop was Georgetown, an interesting colonial city with a mixture of Indian, Chinese, Thai and Malay people and similarly mixed architecture and food.

We spent a full day wandering round which was lovely, if a little hot. Sadly the restaurant we headed for that evening had closed down, which seems to be another recurring theme, but we made do with the excellent Indian buffet at the top of our street.

We went from Georgetown to the main beach on Penang – Batu Ferringhi. It’s certainly not up to the standard of beaches we stayed on in Thailand, but for comedy value it was superb.

Batu Ferringhi food court

We found ourselves (unintentionally) on loungers in the parasailing take-off/landing zone, which whilst meaning we had to jump up like startled rabbits a few times as a chubby airborne loony careened towards us, also meant we had a front row seat for the many minor mishaps.

The number of people who failed to take onboard the instructions was wonderful. We saw young men dragged through the surf on take-off, women in burqas landing heavily with a splash in the sea and middle-aged porkers going so far off course that they only stopped their journey when 42 wildly gesticulating parasailing organisers chased them down the beach until they hit a tree hundreds of feet from the drop-zone.

I was as happy as a chap who’s just put on an old suit and found a tenner in the pocket. Imagine our unbridled delight then, when we settled down for a mango juice to cool off and a fat bloke in front of us sat down on a deck-chair and went straight through it. If only we’d had a video camera we’d be quids-in.

I’d actually started the day as the buffoon myself, when I somehow contrived to get my toe stuck in a sun-lounger and Jane had to liberate me as I panicked like a girl. My clumsiness has not improved since my concerted head-banging in the Galapagos – I managed to open my hand rather than the intended beer the other day (before you ask it was the first beer).

Coral Bay, Pangkor

We headed south from Penang to Pulau Pangkor, to top up the tan before our UK holiday. Now, we’ve had indifferent luck with the closure of restaurants, museums and even a glacier on this trip, but we didn’t expect the beach here to be undergoing building work! We’ve not ascertained what they’re doing, but thankfully the beach 10 minutes walk around the headland is the nicest we’ve been on and practically deserted.

So we’ve been lapping up the sun for a few days, trying not to burn too much. It’s rained today, so those of you seeing us while we’re back will probably wonder why we’re still practically white – today was to be the ninja-tanning day you see.

The only minor downside to Pangkor is the lack of decent food options (and worse-still the fact that no eateries serve beer).

Monkey hooligan

We have though been entertained today by the sound of local monkeys seemingly tearing the hostel we’re in apart, rampaging across roofs, barking (do monkeys bark?) loudly and generally acting like pissed-up footballers (most of this has been occurring above us, so sadly we’ve not seen their antics, only their sheepish retreat when “seen off”).

One concerted bout of fighting/playing/thieving/baby-snatching came to an abrupt end this morning when two unmistakable gunshots rang out. We’re not in an animal-loving Buddhist country anymore!

So, it’s back to the UK via Kuala Lumpur tomorrow. You shouldn’t expect an update for a while, as I don’t want to bore you with our scampering between London, Stoke, Preston, Glasgow and Edinburgh next week, so the next post will come when we return to this part of the world (Laos is the next stop).

Since nobody has answered the question in my previous post about how many holes excluding pores a healthy human male has, it’s probably futile to ask you why Asians posing for photos always seem to make the “V” for victory sign. For some reason it annoys me, but then so do most things!

Any comments or questions are very welcome. However, bear in mind that we’re travelling around the world for 11 months, with varying standards of internet access, so won’t always be able to respond quickly!


  1. Glad you told me what a sawngthaew is… I thought you were going to suffer unmentionable bodily injuries with that… then again, perhaps you did?
    Hope you enjoy your holiday from the holiday in the UK… and whilst you may not want to bore us with the details I am sure you are now so tuned-in to people-watching there must be at least one tale that you will delight us with when you are back on faraway shores!

  2. Hi Tom, it was great to see you at the Alsager Cricket Club last night and many thanks for pointing to your fantastic blog site. Only had the chance to have a cursory look so far (I am at work and should be doing just that, working:-) but will have a proper look from home tonight. You’ve taken some cracking photos, I’m looking forward to reading the commentaries. Hope to see you again before you fly back to Kualar Lumpar.
    Grandad Mel.

  3. Good to see you both at the wedding etc.
    Happy travels for the rest of your trip.
    Love Meg

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