Since my trip was over three weeks I'm going to break the posts up into three sections, and they're still crazy long (I'm sorry):
II. Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi (pronounced Pee-Pee. Get your mind out of the gutter now.)
III. Koh Samui and Koh Phangan
I had never traveled abroad on my own prior to this trip so I was little nervous about arriving in Bangkok and meeting up with my friend Joe, especially since he had lost his iPhone a few weeks prior and I had in my possession his replacement phone. I landed late at night and proceeded through customs quickly. I went straight to baggage claim expecting to meet Joe, even though I had carried on my backpack and didn't have a bag to claim. Yes, I carried on a backpack for a three week trip. It still amazes me that I would carry a backpack and that I could manage to pack so efficiently.
It felt like an hour that I waited, trying to think of what I would do if I wasn't able to find him. I surmised that I would have to leave and try and find my way to our hotel so I left the baggage claim and came out to a mob of people on the other side of a military barricade. Never have I been so happy to hear my name than that moment, Joe had convinced a police officer to let him pass the barricade to meet me. Since it was an international flight I had to leave the airport in order to meet up with Joe. The first of many naive traveler moments.
We grabbed a cab and headed to our hotel in the Sukhumvit neighborhood. I was mesmerized by everything, even at midnight the city was humming and beautiful. We had a few beers at a bar next door before I crashed. Sleeping in a real bed after sitting on three planes for nearly 24 hours was fabulous. Joe and I spent the next day touring Bangkok before our friend Adam arrived. The next morning I enjoyed laying by the pool waiting for the guys to wake up, little did I know this would be my norm for the trip. On Adam's first day with us we took the Skytrain, a railway bus high above the city, across town to the Chao Praya River. We got onto a long boat taxi and headed North up the river to the Khao San Road neighborhood. I LOVED the long boat ride! (Actually I can't remember any boat ride that I haven't liked except the time my Grandpa lied and said I was 12 not 13 to get a cheaper ticket on a riverboat and I had to wear a life jacket... that scarred me for life.) It was amazing to see the incredible structures all covered in my favorite color (gold of course) - they were HUGE! The river was dirty and I wouldn't touch it to save my life but what an experience to be in a long boat right next to huge barges and temples. After 30 minutes the boat dropped us off on a tiny, rickety dock that had a single door into the neighborhood.
Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration that happens every April 13-15. This holiday is celebrated country wide and most employers close for the holiday to allow employees to celebrate. Traditionally water is poured over an individual during Songkran to cleanse them of their sins and bless them for the new year - over the years this tradition has grown into one of the major elements of the celebration as people carry ginormous super soakers, garden hoses and trash cans with water to douse people as they walk by.
As we came into Koh San Road the streets were shiny from so much water, even though it was over 100 degrees (April is THE hottest month of the year). Knowing what we were getting into (haha) we had dressed in our swimsuits and light clothes that could get wet. In fact, as we walked to board the Skytrain people were shooting us with water - we thought we knew what to expect. We had no idea. We darted through the water shooting in the air to a small restaurant. Koh San Road being a popular neighborhood for backpackers, the restaurant was set up very casual to allow people from other tables to meet. The three of us made friends with a gal on holiday from England and a guy from Canada. They were staying in the neighborhood and had been battling Songkran for a few days so they gave us some tips. After lunch we armed ourselves with super soakers, took a pre water-fight group photo then headed out to the street. We.Had.No.Idea. what we were getting into. By the time we left, the narrow road was full of people with water guns and chalk. (Chalk is baby powder and water mixed together to be thrown at people. yuck). The crowd moved as one, forcing us to make a left turn into a much wider street, I described it as similar to Blake Street in LoDo, Denver. The street was mayhem, shoulder to shoulder people, Adam and Joe quickly got on either side of me and we didn't let go of each for the entire walk through the celebration. Had we let go I have no doubt in my mind we would've been separated. There were people in apartments 10 floors up spraying water from a garden hose hooked to their sink to people below, laughing gas being sold from stores along the street, and women getting picked up and dunked into 50 gallon buckets of ice water. Thanks to Joe and Adam I was not one of these women...
When the five of us made it through the party, about two hours or so of walking and soaking, Adam, Joe and I grabbed a Tuk-Tuk (a carriage attached to a dirt bike as a taxi) back to our hotel. This was hands down one of my most favorite parts of the trip. We were soaking wet and still getting doused by people in cars, tuk-tuks and standing along the road. Our driver had 2 liter pop bottles filled with water for us to spray people with. Add the water to the insane experience that is Thai traffic, weaving in and out of cars, way too fast speeds in tiny open air tuk-tuks - having had way too many beers for a passenger - it was a rush to say the least.
We quickly changed, grabbed a cab and headed to the Sky Bar... the world's highest open air bar in the sky from The Hangover II. (I'm kicking myself for not documenting this trip earlier, I remember the cab ride to the bar as pee-in-your pants funny yet I can't remember the details.)
The bar was incredible, we lounged on luxurious couches with a thin piece of glass separating us from falling over the edge. Drinks were incredible and the view was spectacular. My only regret is not going back during the day to take in the full view.
After the Sky Bar we had to do what every young man (and apparently female friend) visiting Bangkok does... see a Ping-Pong Show. I kinda knew what I was getting into but not fully. This was another naive moment for me. READER WARNING... NOT FOR KIDS. A ping-pong show is a strip club with women that perform tricks while dancing naked, often times using a ping pong ball. I'll spare the details but I will say that I have yet to look at a birthday cake, a bottle of Coke-a-Cola, a cigarette, jingle bells, ribbon and you guessed it - a ping pong paddle and ball the same way. Ever. Again.
On our way home that night... err morning our taxi was stopped by the Thai Police. They made the three of us exit the cab and quizzed on us where we were going, why we were in Thailand and if we had drugs. After a brief interaction we were able to pay enough Baht (I recall it being close to $20) to be able to return in the cab and go home. That was the closest we came to trouble and the closest I ever want to be again.
Back at the hotel I outlasted the guys (which never happened) and stayed up until 5 am talking with a British gentleman. We talked about all the Caucasian men that visited Thailand to enjoy the 'company' of young women, aka 'Sexpats'. I was beyond disgusted every time I saw a beautiful young Thai woman with an old, hairy, overweight man hanging on someone likely younger than their daughter. Little did I know, the reason this nice British gentleman makes his second home in Thailand was for this very reason. Naive moment of the century.
The next morning we toured the last bit of Bangkok, and I snapped at every Thai that attempted to soak me with water. While fun the days before, I was over it on the third day. The guys were amused that no one tried to soak them, only me, the white blonde girl. Ha ha.
|After filling up on Pad Thai and Singha (beer) this is our before picture|
|I know I look sweet lady but I'm going to nail you in your eye in two seconds|
|At the top of the Sky Bar|