The good, the bad and the crazy..
06.11.2012 - 18.12.2012 34 °C
Well hello again, from Thailand this time. I can't believe I'm saying this, but unfortunately, after eight countries this will be the last one on this world trip.. From Malaysia we went to Phuket, Thailand. For all of you who are wondering; no ,there we in our opinion no signs of a tsunami ever happening. Maybe if we would have seen the place before it happened, we could compare it to now, but there was nothing odd about this tourist hotspot. Nice beaches, gorgeous weather and an insane amount of Russians. Thought we left that part behind us, but I guess it wasn't quite over yet. Everywhere you looked were Russians. All restaurants had English and Russian menus, stores and tour operators were run by and completely in Russian, random people we met would just start speaking Russian to us. Seriously, if you would close your eyes on the street and didn't know where you were, you would think you would be in Russia, because thats all you hear. Families, but mainly very old Russian men with half naked girls (who could have been their granddaughters), drinking alcohol all day long and be openly sexual active the end of the afternoon (read: drunk 70yr old guys with boners making serious moves on 22yr olds).. Thank god for dark sunglasses, mp3 players and a good book to hide behind, it was just embarrassing..
So after two days of soaking up our first rays we took a boat to the Phi Phi Islands. Yes, this is the island where the movie "The Beach", with Leonardo DiCaprio, was shot. We imagined this idyllic island in the middle of the ocean (Andaman Sea), but nothing seemed to be further off when we arrived. Loads and loads of tourists and the town of Tonsai beach was quite the village. Lots of souvenirs shops, fruit shake stands and diving schools, it was just as developed as Phuket, it just had a little more tropical feeling. Nevertheless, we felt very Malibu-easygoing right from when we got there, and learned that the actual movie was shot at Maya beach, which is on PhiPhi-Leh a small island next to Phi Phi Don, so we booked a day trip there the next day.
It ended up being a great day of snorkeling, our first trip on a real Thai longtail boat, visiting different islands and beaches around PhiPhi (bamboo- & mosquito island) and ended at Phi Phi Leh. Dark clouds were already coming when we got to Maya beach, and yes, it started pouring when we arrived.. So sucky.. It's supposed to be paradise and its pouring rain! But I guess thats the chances in rainy season. Nevertheless it was still very pretty! We stayed for a few hours, had some fresh melon and pineapple and had a rough boat ride back towards shore. Then we had a barbecue dinner at a deserted beach, which was only reachable by boat. They dropped us off around 4.30, and in the end there was probably around 60ppl from all nations. The barbecue was nice, great food on paper plates, beer and off course there was fire shows by the thai guys. All in all a great once-in-a-lifetime night! As the tide came up, our beach slowly filled up with water and at 8.00 there was barely any beach left to stand on; time to leave! But not before we swam with the bioluminescent plankton, pretty amazing! Since we were not able to take decent pictures of it, here is one from google, just to get the idea. We didn't see it like this, because we were in the water, but it was pretty cool to be swimming with the lit-up plankton!
Also, we met some great fun people who we were going to meet for a drink later that night.
When we asked our guesthouse lady later, what a good place was to have a drink, she pointed us around the corner of our guesthouse; there was a street full of bars, which went all the way until the beach and continued there. Well, we learned very soon that Phi Phi is the biggest party place we have been too so far, and discovered what Thailand is famous for, buckets! A plastic bucket gets filled up with ice cubes, they add a Mickey of whatever booze you like, 1-2 small cans of red bull and any pop/juice you like. All this for the amount of $6.50..
So, the golden rule, which we were already told by several people while traveling, is that you should not drink more then one bucket per person per evening, or else you will wake up on a different island.. Point taken.
Well, so far for idyllic PhiPhi, which turned out to be the best party place in our whole Thailand trip. Lots of fun people, dancing on the beach, burning hoops, rope skipping and limbo, other fire shows, it was one crazy but fun party place! So, it seems something shocking happens at every destination because here the drug scene was insane. Having to go pee after a bucket, the new friends that we made told us to go pee on the beach, but we thought this was gross and went looking for a bathroom. Walking into the bathroom, never in our lives have we seen a more horrific scene. People shooting up heroin in their arms, sniffing coke from the sinks, and other ones popping pills, we were just startled. It took us a few seconds to realize it was actually happening as one of the girls said, "you want some? I got clean needles!". Too shocked to say much, we mumbled "no thanks" turned around and went to pee on the beach. We get it now, it's not gross, it's safe . Besides the horrific bathroom scene, we never ran into any other drug things like this in the rest of the trip, so I guess if you're not into it, you don't even see it, but obviously if you are, it's available in every bathroom . When someone came up to me later and asked me what drug I was on (because apparently, "I'm bouncing around like Tigger"), I tell him with a big smile it's an all natural one, called 'energy' and that he should try it sometimes .
The little street right of the beach bars is filled with tattoo shops and quick-grab food places, and around 3am when the clubs stop playing music and it's time to go, the tattoo places fill up like its a bakery selling their first fresh bread of the morning.. We wonder how many of these people will actually remember they got a tattoo when they will wake up in a few hours..
After PhiPhi, we took a boat to Ko Lanta, a bigger island, more east, almost near mainland Thailand. Ko Lanta is less developed then the other places we've been, but that made it very nice! Next to our hostel, there was an international bookstore, the cutest place ever! We even found some books of Dutch writers!
We rented a scooter and drove around the island one day. At every nice beach we saw, we stopped for a swim and had dinner while watching the most amazing sunset ever! The colors were magnificent and the people on this island were very friendly and less tourist minded, it was quite nice!
From Ko Lanta we went to Krabi by mini van. We went onto a ferry twice to reach the mainland, but it was faster and cheaper than taking the boat. We spend two days in Krabi but only to fix Jo's entry stamp, because they missed her visa while entering and only gave her 30 days instead of the 60 we need. But it got all taken care off in two days so; off to more Thailand hopping!
We left the Andaman Sea to go to the Thai Gulf coast. By bus from Krabi to Surat Thani, then took a SongSerm to Koh Samui. Nice weather, so we spend it on the deck hanging with our legs over the railing, just to get back in the mood again . Since we arrived in the evening we decided to spend the night in Nathon and move to Lamai the day after. That's when it started. Not lightly, no it poured, luckily only a few hours, so by the time we wanted to leave for Lamai it was dry again.
Took a real thai Songthaews, which is a taxi like a pick up truck with benches in the back an a roof over top, but open on the sides and back. You can just hop on/off as you like, and hold your hand up on the side of the road if you wanna hop on. Very easy, convenient and cheap! Two hot days at the beach followed. As did Jo's 27th birthday! Complete with an awful tasting cake, we celebrated again with the green candles that made it here with us through all these countries! Enjoying this beautiful paradise, little did we know that rainy season was gonna hit hard soon. Two days we were able to lay on the beach for a few hours, but the other days the rain came down like we haven't seen before. Luckily our hostel had a tv and DVD player, so we killed some time watching movies.
When we moved to Koh Phangan it was even worse. We were here for six days in total and already upon arrival it was raining so hard that, while we were sheltering from the rain, just outside the pier, you could almost swim in the street. When we went over to check out full moon beach, it was held together with sandbags.. Nice.. It obviously had rained for a while here, and nothing seemed like it was gonna change any day soon.. And it didn't. When Alyssa, Janelle and Eileen arrived all the way from Canada the next day, it was still pouring. Good thing about Phangan was that you basically live at night and sleep during the day and this weather at least didn't make you feel bad about it. Our breakfast was served until 7pm daily, so I guess that says enough about the rhythm of life here . Even though the island is famous for the full moon party, on all other evenings there is enough other parties to go to. We went to a real pool party, a waterfall party and off course the full moon party. On the 28th of November it was full moon night, free dinner from our hostel included as were the buckets. We all went shopping for some glow in the dark clothes (signature for the party), we found some glow in the dark body paint on the way and off to Haad Rin beach it was. Luckily for us it stayed dry till 7am, which was a first this whole week and it was great!
In contrast to the nice Thai people we have met in most places, on Koh Phangan they are really taking advantage of them in every possible way they can. It shocked me to see that during the full moon party, lots of Thai people are just wondering in the crowds, searching the sand, to hopefully find wallets, cellphones and money, which they will resell to third parties.. Lame way to make a living if you ask me..
They're is almost just as many 24-hr doctors offices in Koh Phangan as bars and no, this is not over exaggerated. Also the amount of people that have bandages/gauze wrapped around some body part is totally normal. You're almost not normal if you don't have a part wrapped. Some reasons for the wrappings..
First, the amount of glass that gets broken on average party nights and that end up on the street and beach is insane. Secondly, the fact that if you take you flip flops off when entering a bar/restaurant (which is normal here, you leave them at the door) and won't find them when you get back there, because someone (accidentally) took yours (or just liked yours better), you end up having to walk home with none. Add the two together and you end up with a lots of cuts in feet and legs. Add the stumble drunk home people that fall into a pile of garbage bags which contain broken glass and the people that seriously got injured during diving/snorkeling and they are really busy 24hrs/day. I assisted an Irish girl one night, that fell into glass with her hand and was bleeding so badly, yet wanted to go home. I told her she would need stitches and was able to convince her to come to the clinic. A small hour, 13 stitches and 7500 baht ($250/€185) later, it was clear to me how all these doctors offices can stay in business no problem.
But, great thai food, good parties, good buckets, nice massages, SameSame; Koh Phangan was sure a special place! Pictures say more then words, we had a blast!
On December 1st, after a week of living at night, we decided to head over to the more quiet Koh Tao, 1.5 hr north of Koh Phangan. We took the SongSerm and even though we left Haad Rin beach with sunshine, big black clouds covered the sky soon. Half an hour later, were in the worst weather I've ever been on at sea, (luckily with Gravol) and I didn't have to throw up this time, Leash was less lucky. The whole boat got quiet when lightning hit the water right next to our boat. An orange explosion is what it looked like and the sound was awful. Since it was pouring so hard already, so you could barely hear one another speak, was probably a good thing, cuz it would have sounded even louder if it didn't. After more then two hours, we finally arrived on Koh Tao, but at least our boat didn't sink and it was dry which was nice. We got a transfer to Sairee Beach and had a well deserved lunch at the beach. That's when it happened..
All of a sudden, some personnel came up through the restaurant with a christmas tree...
We almost bursted into tears. In that instant, it hit us that it really is December and this trip is really getting to an end. We decided to pretend we didn't see it, and focused on the beach and ocean, and minutes later it felt like it was mid-July again . Then "All I want for Christmas" blurted out of the speakers and we could not deny anymore that the last three weeks of this amazing journey had begun. At least it was lighter in the sky and dry. Jo and Eileen went dive-school-shopping and registered that night for a four day Padi open water course. Luckily the next day and all the days after, the weather changed for the better and we were really in paradise. Hot weather, no clouds, palm trees, white sand and bright blue water, Koh Tao is simply amazing! The girls got their Padi licenses on day four and the rest of us baked in the sun and enjoyed the beach every day. We made a day trip to Koh Nang Yuan island, just minutes by long tail from Sairee Beach. We walked up to the viewpoint and had an amazing view that accentuated all the beautiful colors of the water and beaches. Beautiful fish swam around, and got closer then you can imagine! Another thing Thailand is famous for, we found on Koh Tao; lady boys! Pretty ladies in the bars, on the street trying to pick people up, in massage parlors. As beautiful like some of them are (seriously, some you can just not believe they're actually men!) they are men, not women. We only got one pic, a little bit sneaky (cuz they dont like their pic being taken or want money), and they were not the "best" looking woman we've seen, but again, to give you an idea! All in all, Koh Tao really is a gem!
The girls left to go up north on the 8th, we followed on the 11th. We took a night boat from Koh Tao to Chumpon. It was a big freight boat, which had two rooms with each 42 beds (all in bunk style) in the back. It was surprisingly nice and the beds were bigger then the ones in the Chinese night bus, so it wasn't bad at all! Left at 11pm and at 5am we docked in Chumpon. A mini van was waiting to take us and nine others, all the way to Bangkok. We got there around 2pm and got dropped off somewhere in the city center. Everybody we've met, told us Bangkok is crazy, so we were surprised to find a relatively quiet Bangkok.. And we were next to Kao San Road! I guess after China, nothing is really crazy anymore.. We had to get to the train station somehow. Taxi's and tuk tuks plentiful but we decided to take the local bus. Bus 53 was the one taking us there for 6.5 baht ($0.20). Then we had to wait till 10pm for our train, which went by rather fast. We took the night train to Chiang Mai, and the train was decent.
Different from all the trains we've been in. It was old and dirty, so nothing new there, but it worked and the beds were quit nice. Luckily we had top beds, so didn't have to deal with the cockroaches on the floor, under the more expensive! lower beds . When waking up the landscape had totally changed. In the van on the way to Bangkok, we were able to see the Gulf coast almost all the way to the city, now waking up in north Thailand, no water to be seen, and there was small mountains again, combined with lots and lots of trees and other vegetation.
We arrived in Chiang Mai around 2pm, so 41 hours of traveling it took, to get from Koh Tao to Chiang Mai (1244 km) at the cost of $49.. We left to go to Pai the next day, three hours by mini van from Chiang Mai, close to the Laos border. Well our driver was a maniac, as apparently are all others. We got there alive but all is said with that, and once again, thank god for Gravol. Others in our van were less lucky..
We checked into this seriously cool hostel, which was hand build by the owner from bamboo and leaves. So basically sleeping outdoors indoors it was. Our own mosquito net which was nice, and since we were in mountain area, it cooled down to 10 degrees Celcius at night, something we haven't had in a few months, so it felt quite cold! Pai is a very relaxed hippyish town. More dreads than we've seen in our whole trip, old and young, but all funky kinda people if you know what I mean. Flower power all over . Since all the scooters were rented out for the day, Dutch as we are, we took a bicycle instead and went to a waterfall. At least that was the plan. 8km in 30-some Celcius weather, steep up a mountain is not one of our best ideas, I'm just saying.. An hour and a half after we left Pai, we got there, and it was disappointing as can be.. No tropical waterfall, with a nice lagoon under it, which we pictured but just a small very unattractive waterfall with a pond in front of it.. All that effort.. pff at least we burned some calories . Downhill went a lot faster and after returning the bikes, we had a nice supper and enjoyed the lively night market of Pai. Lots of cute souvenirs type booths, but also different (local) foods. There was a wide selection from deep fried insects to deep fried ice cream, seriously. Pretty tasty (the ice cream) but the deep fried part is overrated and doesn't add anything. We vote: Don't mess with the ice cream! There was a big reggae festival going on that night, which you were able to hear all over town, so buying tickets was really unnecessary .
Back in Chiang Mai, I signed up for a Thai cooking class for the day after. First our group of nine, was dropped off at the local market, where we learned about veggies, curry paste, coconut cream and other ingredients used often in the Thai kitchen. Back at the cooking school, everyone got to choose their own foods. I picked chicken coconut soup, pad Thai noodles and Massaman curry, my favorite! Most Thai dishes all have the same base, it's just a matter of different quantities and a few other ingredients that make them different. Quick, easy, healthy and delicious! I became an even bigger fan than I already was. Now hope they have the necessary ingredients in Canada..
We explored the beautiful temples of Chiang Mai in the afternoon and spend the evening on the famous Sunday Market, another lively night market full of great experiences!
One thing we kept seeing everywhere and really loved about Thailand was all the beautiful flowers that grow here. Flowers that hard to find and very expensive in Canada, just grow on the tree here! It's amazing!
Our last day in Chiang Mai we spend following a full day Thai Massage course. Early up again, pack and off to the school it was. It was great because our class existed of three people and the whole day we learned different techniques of the traditional Thai Massage; back, neck, shoulders, legs, feet, head and face. It was very interesting and we learned a lot!
Right after the massage course, we were dropped off at the train station, where we caught the night train back to Bangkok. We got to the capital round 11.00am and found our way to the hostel by public transport. An afternoon of shopping with the little money that's left and a last great Thai massage (two hours for $5!) was the end of last day together. Tomorrow the alarm sounds at 6am and I will fly to Dubai and stay there for a day, before heading to Holland. Jolijn will be here another day and we should arrive around the same time on Schiphol airport Friday.. And then.. It's frikadel speciaal time!
Thank you for reading our travel stories, hopefully you enjoyed following our adventures. Canadians, see you at the end of January but first: Op hoes op an veur kesmis