Friday, February 24, 2012

My First Two Weeks

To catch you up on my first two weeks in Thailand, I have written a quick sum of my time.  Before I explain anything, one must understand in Thailand a beer is less than 2 dollars, bucket (mickey of vodka and Red Bull) costs $10, or for the adventurous $17 buys a mind-boggling mushroom shake.  That’s a mind-fuck one buys at the bar, completely legal.  Every night there are parties either on the beach or in the jungle, where thousands of travellers attend, all drunk, excited and covered in glow-paint.  The beaches are filled with fire shows that have flames flying dangerously close to the crowds.  And for the brave (or drunk), flaming skip ropes are constant entertainment. Hence my two weeks are mostly a drunken blur, full of hangovers, burns, and hundreds of Pad Thais. 

I started my trip by landing in Bangkok, where I stayed on the backpacker filled Khao San Road; which one might remember from the movie “The Hangover Part II”.  This road is where all the perverted tales of Bangkok were born.  It spawns only 300 meters or so, but packs in hundreds of bars, shops, stalls, hotels, obnoxious salesman, street vendors and anything else that empties a tourist’s wallet.  And at night the road is a non-stop party, crowded with drunken vacationers that keep going till the next morning.  Not to say that the famed city isn’t as morbidly delightful as one thinks, yet I was disappointed as seemed to be the kind of place one enjoys with a group. On my own the hustle and bustle was too much and made it troublesome to meet others; and even in a city as warped as Bangkok, its never fun to party alone (unless you want to pay of course, as that is something Bangkok can offer rather cheaply, I hear). It wasn’t till my last day in Bangkok that I had found a few friends, and ended up taking part in the insanity.  Therefore, my send off from the crazy-city ended on a high note, even though I blew through three days budget.

After Bangkok, my first stop was in Koh Phangnan, an island in the south east of Thailand.  Now Kho Phangnan earned its fame from hosting the monthly Full Moon Party, an all night rave on the beach that brings in crowds of up to 30, 000.  I spent five days on the island, or rather five nights, as all of them consisted of over-drinking, over-puking and days of sleep and hangover remedying.  I was staying in a ratty-old bungalow on the beach, with a broken toilet and a cold shower, though I didn’t mind at all. In my resort I befriended a Finnish couple and two Swiss guys, who I partied with most every night.  Between the binge drinking, I did find opportunity to fulfill my adventurous side.  I rented a scooter and explored the island’s jungles, finding waterfalls, temples and even a few elephants.  After five days, I explored most of the island, partied in all the bars, beaches, and even attended a rave in the jungle.  Hungry for something new, I felt it was time to move on.
After Koh Phangan, I took the ferry over to a smaller island called Koh Tao.  Koh Tao is known for cheap scuba diving, and relaxed lifestyle.  Koh Tao itself looked like a beach town, which appeared to be squished, in to a labyrinth like maze.  It had a very laid-back feel, which suited me well.  The thin side streets  were laden with small bamboo shops and stalls, creating an ocean-side atmosphere.

I was luckily enough to find cheap accommodation in a hostel, which granted me the opportunity to meet my second group.  There was a girl from Germany, another from Australia and a guy from different part of Aus.  We partied on the beach again, but the more relaxed kind-of partying that I prefer, the type that starts off with a beer around a table and works its way to a drunken round of flaming skip-ropes and skinny dipping. 
In the days the German, Aussie guy and I explored the island, renting scooters and discovering the inner jungles.  We took these bikes to there limits flying down the muddy jungle roads, pushing them up steep hills and finding spectacular view points of the island and it’s beaches.  At the end of the day we found a small, hidden beach-cove down that was mostly empty.  We rented masks and went snorkeling, encountering incredible spots where we were surrounded by coral blanketed boulders and thousands of tropical fish.

After Koh Tao, The Aussie guy and I grabbed the night boat to Rea Leh.  By night boat, I meant what one would imagine Noah’s Arc to be if it were filled with backpackers. We were shoved into a wooden ship, which was lacking beds or enough room for everyone to lie down.  So, I was forced to sleep on the outer deck, which was actually not too bad.  One can’t complain about being drifted off to sleep by the ships gentle rocking, the sounds of the ocean, or by watching the stars, sans air pollution.

We started my days in Rea Leh in as ridiculous a fashion as one could.  We made the foolish decision not to take the $2 taxi boat to the other side of the island, but too instead hike through the jungle and over the mountain with all of our baggage. And by mountain, I mean a mountain.  After the hike, we found ourselves a bungalow in the centre of the small town called Tom Sai Bay.  What is incredible about Tom Sai Bay is that it sits by ocean, surrounded by mountains, while being in the depth of the wildest jungle. You can smell the beach, while listening to monkeys!  Pure awesomeness.  What was even more interesting, were the mountains as they weren’t like that which one imagines; but appearing as if someone used a cookie-cutter and left just a tall skinny cliff.  These cliffs even rose out of the ocean making a beautiful vista, and my favorite part of Thailand I’ve seen to date

On my last day in Rae Leh the Aussie, his friends and I, decided to go for a trek to see some sort of hidden lagoon.  Now being the responsible man that I am, I brought no water, crappy, ripped skater shoes that didn’t tie up, and of course my camera; the only thing, I’d think about. What we thought would be a normal hike, turned out to be something quite different.  As we journeyed into the jungle, we ran out of path, and realized that the route was up over a cliff.  We climbed up, finding each rising to be more challenging than the last.  At the top of the cliff, the route then travels down a cavern into a centre clearing, therefore I found myself dangling from a rope as I climbed down the cliff.  The distance from the start of the hike to finish was no more than 2 Km, but it took us 4 hours.  In the end we made our way to this hidden lagoon within a cavern, and a viewpoint that could see the whole of the island. The view was truly incredible; it revealed the entire bay, and all the cliffs surrounding it. Not to bore you with the rest of the story but on the way back I did slip and slice my head open, all was good, as it wasn’t too deep. On the plus side while cleaning the wound I got to make quite the bloody cloud in the ocean, it looked cool.

Well that was my first two weeks in Thailand full of partying, meeting people and a bit of adventure, but to be honest I didn’t find what I was looking for.  The islands were all too touristy, too western and too over-done.  There was no authenticity, no realism and that is what I wanted to experience.  So I am now on a bus heading through Bangkok and up to the gateway to the north, Cheing Mei.