Travels in Thailand – making essences for Flower Foot Cream

image of Koh Tao Thailand
THE TRAIN JOURNEY – We boarded the express service train number 47 at around 6.30pm from Bangkok railway station heading South to Chumphon. According to the timetables the journey was anywhere between 9 hours 38 mins and 10 hours 33 mins. So we would arrive when we arrive and catch one of the many scheduled boats out to the exotic island of Koh Tao. Rob and I first experienced sleeping on Thai trains in 1988 whilst travelling the world on a shoestring. Having backpacked as a family through south east Asia for the first time when my boys were 5 and 8, with Charlie now aged 14 and Louis 11, this was not their first experience of sleeping on Thai trains, but nevertheless, each time they do, it’s another adventure which they love.
We were booked in to a second class air conditioned sleeping carriage which consists of 2 seats each side of the aisle, facing each other with a table in the middle. Throughout the evening the helpful train steward will convert your seats into bunk beds. The bottom two seats converting into one bunk and the top one pulls down from the wall. These beds have crisp white sheets, blankets, (it can get chilly with the air con ) reading lights, pillows and curtains and are an exciting way to travel. The rhythm and sounds of the train slowly rock you to sleep.
Arriving in Chumphon at about 5am we disembarked and waited on the platform for a bus to the port. It was still dark and the friendly local platform traders set us up with little stools to sit on while they served us tea. Rob and Charlie started to play backgammon which soon drew a crowd of fascinated Thai spectators all eager to try and work out what was going on. This kept us all entertained until the bus arrived and eventually about an hour or so later we all boarded the Express boat service to Ko Tao, a bouncing 90 minute journey on a catamaran which was playing Mr Bean movies.
We arrived safely into the little pier at Ao Mae on Ko Tao, our paradise destination for the next 9 days. Quickly found a taxi and then a 30 minute ride to our holiday accommodation in a pretty little resort on the South West of the island. Simple bungalows, a small pool, a beachfront complete with deckchairs and hammocks an small restaurant, what more do you need…??
Making flower essence creams in Thailand
LIFE ON THE ISLAND – Warm sea, swimming, kayaking, we hired a boat with driver to take us all round the island on a full day’s snorkelling, stopping in various coves. On the east side there’s a terrific little spot where there are literally thousands of sardines in large shoals hugging the rocks which the boys took great delight swimming into to find themselves surrounded by these fish. You’ve seen the classic dive pictures of people in clear water, with a swirl of fish around them, well that’s what we all experienced. Ko Tao is known for diving and snorkelling, popular with backpackers doing the circuit around the islands but it never felt too busy or crowded. The locals are typically friendly especially to my two blond boys who are always made to feel welcome. 
Evenings generally started at the cocktail bar on the beach for Rob and I, listening to Bob Marley while sipping Mojitos, the boys busied themselves playing beach volleyball with the locals. Then we’d wander down to the one of the various BBQ’s on the beach to choose something from the array of fresh fish that was on offer, this was then cooked and served with a cold beer, a wine and a couple of cokes and we’d all be fed and watered for less than £15.00. Paradise indeed.
MAKING THE ESSENCES – So in this beautiful relaxed environment, it was time to make some essences. At the edge of the beach were some stunning Bourgainvillea bushes with delicate pale pink flowers. I had my glass and bottled water ready and went to select a flower for the essence. I had a chat with a happy and knowledgable gardener who told me the Thai name for Bourgainvillea is Donk Feang Fa. He also said that the Bourgainvillea doesn’t need much water and that in the rainy season it does not have many flowers, but in the dry season it has lots. He laughed and said it was like it was worried it was going to die. I placed the flower in the glass of water on a small square white table. My son Charlie then started to gather other flowers and shells and created a pretty mandala around the glass. A few days later in this exotic paradise I made another essence from a deep pink flower called Desert Rose and Chwan Chom in Thai.
Our return was a repeat journey complete with Mr. Bean on the boat, another over night train journey getting us into Bangkok mid morning, just in time to take in our final trip to the MBK shopping centre. You can never get enough fake football shirts when you are a teenage boy. 
For more details about Flower Foot Cream
(August 2010)