Goodbye Thailand, Hello Australia!

Today is 12/12/12. What an awful day to choose to fly. If there is going to be an end of the world, it’s surely now. The choice is not mine to make though, and I will be getting on that plane and out of Bangkok no matter what. Even if there is to be an apocalypse. I would rather spend my final moments in life eating stale airplane food than being heckled by a suit salesman on Khosan Road, even just once more.
I actually don’t really know much about the predictions of the end of the world, besides the fact that it is due to happen this year and I guess by default, this month. I don’t believe in any of it anyway, but I have to say that if such a thing were to happen, I would be content in the fact that I spent the last months of my short life doing exactly what I’ve been doing.

I pack up my things and check out, but oh how I have time to waste. I don’t need to be on my way to the airport until at least 5:00pm and it’s only noon now. I walk down and find some breakfast where I can also charge my phone. I have a long plane ride ahead of me and will need some music.

After breakfast I walk back over to the clinic I visited yesterday so that the doctor can check on my ankle and bandage it back up before my journey. It’ll be cheaper to visit a doctor here too, instead of Australia, not that it matters because OHIP’s got my back. I am obsessed with getting as many cheap things squeezed in as I can before the shock of having to spend normal amounts of money again. I’m not ready.

I decide to waste some time by getting a Thai massage. I had planned on trying to go back and visit Wat Pho Temple but forgot to wear pants and a shirt that covered my shoulders when I was getting dressed this morning. I could easily buy another pair of comfy pants from a market stall on Khaosan, and I came prepared with a thin sweater in my bag for the plane, but it seems like so much effort when I could just lay on a mat and get a massage instead. So I do. It costs me 220 baht ($6) for one hour. The only thing about Thai massages that I forget every time I walk into one, is that they are not in any way relaxing. They actually hurt a little bit, but then I always feel fantastic afterwards so it’s worth it. I spend one hour of my day getting a massage and then another hour getting my legs waxed, because they are atrocious. I roam around Khaosan one last time, refraining from buying anymore tank tops, which I already had trouble shoving into my bag this morning. I require two pieces of carry on luggage for the plane ride this evening -my backpack as well as my purse- because I’ve already got too many things. Some backpacker I am.

I find a cab and hop in quickly because he’s blocking traffic. He says he will take me to the airport for 400 baht. It seems expensive, and I try to haggle with him once I’m already in the car, but he won’t budge. The drive is an hour long and traffic is bad around this time, so I accept. I feel like he probably isn’t trying to rip me off, he seems like such a nice man, but he didn’t even try to bargain a little bit. Sometimes I feel like if they are unwilling to haggle down a price, it’s probably a fair one. I will emphasize the “sometimes”.
At the end of the day I’m paying 12 dollars for an hour long cab ride. I can manage. I feel like I’ll never be able to take a Toronto taxi again after seeing how cheap they are here.

I arrive at the airport, extremely early for my flight, but I feel better at least being here instead of roaming Khaosan aimlessly. Now I can aimlessly roam here, but with checked baggage. The airport is expensive though, that’s the downside. No $4 comfy pants here. I get a snack and then hangout and wait for my flight. By the time I’ve made it through baggage and security I’ve only got 2 hours to waste. I am so eager to get to Australia!

I am simultaneously very sad to be leaving Thailand and excited to be getting to Australia. The classic ‘one chapter is ending but a new one beginning’ scenario. I spend my aimless time in the airport thinking about all the awesome people I’ve met and the cool things I’ve done while in Thailand and Laos, and find myself missing it already. Like I said though, a new chapter is beginning in Australia! New people and new adventures. I look forward to exploring a different part of the world, even though I am prepared that it won’t feel as foreign and exciting as Asia has. I am mostly excited that I will have the opportunity to wear high heels again. Oh what an fantastic moment that will be!

I am finally able to board the plane. It takes off on schedule and to my delightful surprise, the seat next to me stays vacant! There shall be no apocalypse after all! Today is a good day. I do have another neighbour on my left, who is around my age and lives in Sydney so he is kind in telling me what there is to do and see. I have a very long list that I have acquired along my way after meeting many Australia-loving travelers.
I start the 9 hour journey off by watching some TV. I choose Wilfred, a comedy on FX which is the same channel that plays one of my favourite shows, American Horror Story. I’ve never seen Wilfred before, but heard that it’s good so I give it a shot. I am literally laughing out loud during the first episode. The guy to my left probably thinks I’m nuts, but I wasn’t prepared for such a hilarious show!!
Half way through my pilot episode, the pilot (no pun intended, it just happened, and I’m leaving it) makes an announcement that he will be re-booting the entire tv system because some people’s tvs aren’t working.
Well after re-booting it, mine doesn’t work. Just great. Thanks a lot. For nothing. Now I will have to wait to finish watching Wilfred. I am displeased. But seriously, if you have a sense of humour, or like dogs, or Elijah Wood, watch this show.

I try to sleep but am restless as always on plane rides. Even with an extra seat beside me for leg room, I can’t seem to get comfortable. I listen to the carefully selected music of my travel and sleeping playlists, and finally I fall asleep, right up until we’re landing. Perfect timing, because it’s 10:30am when we land and now I’ve rested enough to start my day!

Miss you already Thailand. We’ve had some good times.

“Mom Guesthouse”

I wake up to someone rapping outside my door. And not like, rapping along to some Jay Z or something that’s already been produced, but just free stylin’ without any music.
It was awful. He kept rhyming swear words by changing the way he pronounces them…. and taking a long time in between versus to think about it. Extremely bizarre at 7am, BUT I am in Bangkok so I shouldn’t be surprised by this.
I lay in my rock solid bed trying to fall back asleep, and reading my books when I can’t. At 10 I decide it’s time to venture out into the world and look for a clinic. My ankle is a god damn mess.
It takes me about 2 hours of wandering around Bangkok before I find something. I keep asking shop keepers and wait staff at restaurants I pass by, but they either don’t understand what I’m asking, don’t know where it is, or don’t care. Some point in various directions and I follow their advice but I find no clinic. I even come across a street sign pointing me in the direction of the “Bangkok international clinic” which is exactly what I need, but when I follow the signs I still end up lost. Finally I do manage to stumble upon it, WAY further down the road than I ever expected it to be. Whatever. I’m here.

The doctor is very nice and cleans my ankle for me before bandaging it up and telling me to return again tomorrow. They give me some antibiotics for the infection as well, which is awesome because I need this thing to heal STAT. I have already accepted that I’m going to have a scar, but I don’t want a nasty scab on my ankle for my first few weeks in Australia either. Unfortunately that is my fate.
The good news is that when I ask her about my leech bite, she laughs and says the head is not lodged in my ankle (MOM!) but that the small bite wound was infected by my ankle. It should go away quickly with the antibiotics. Thank the baby Jesus. I really didn’t want to cut off my foot.

I return to Mom Guesthouse (what a name) where I have to sit in the hallway on the floor in order to charge my dying phone. They didn’t find it necessary to add any sort of wall plugs to the room I’m in. Not a one. The one thing this place is good for though, is wifi. It’s free and fast and doesn’t cut out every 10 minutes like some of the places I’ve stayed. So that’s a plus. I hang out in the hall until my butt is numb from sitting on the hardwood and decide that my phone has charged enough for now. I go back to my room and rest my ankle while I finish reading the mystery/thriller novel that Ilona had been given by one of the girls we met on the slow boat. It’s called The Executioner if you’re interested, but I don’t really think I’ll be reccomending it to anyone. It was okay, but I also haven’t read very many mystery novels.

When I’m done reading, I decide I should probably go back out into Bangkok to find some food. I only have a few Asian meals left so I want to make it a good one, but there’s so many choices! Street food stalls are abundant on Khosan, so I make a couple of stops instead of choosing just one. I buy some watermelon, which comes in pieces inside a small plastic sac with a long, thin wooden stick for cutlery. I eat the watermelon on my way over to another food stall where I buy spring rolls, which are ungracefully cut with big scissors into smaller pieces before being placed on a plate, so that I can eat these too, with a thin wooden stick. Finally, as I walk around I decide on pad thai, which I knew I would all along but thought I’d take a look to see if anything else caught my eye first. I order a pad thai with chicken and watch as they fry it all together in a large black wok right there in the street. This one, thankfully, comes with a pair of chop sticks instead of a thin wooden stick. That would take far too long for me to figure out how to eat.

I take a look at some of the street stalls on my way back towards my guesthouse, because I would really like to purchase a painting before I go. Now is the time to do it, because I wont have to worry about it being crumpled in my bag while I tote it all over the place, but I only have 1000 baht left, and do not want to have to use an ATM again until I’m in Australia, so I decide to save my money for tomorrow.

I come back to the prison cell of a room in Mom Guesthouse where I pick up where I left off in Life of Pi. What an appropriate novel to be reading on my travels!
While I read, the silence in my room is frequently interrupted by horking guests outside in the hallway and in the washroom next to me. Charming. I have noted that if theres one thing I truly hate it’s people who hork. I don’t think I find anything more offensive than when I’m walking down the street and a man horks in my pathway. Please refrain from making that awful noise and spitting where I am about to put my feet, until I have passed. I say ‘man’ because I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a horking woman. Not yet. I am sure they exist, but it’s definitely something I see A LOT of men doing as opposed to women, and not just abroad but back home, too. Though it’s much worse here, and even worse in India. I just don’t understand the point of it at all, but I digress. I just can’t help but wonder ‘WHY’, and then hate it.

I leave later in the evening to visit the Wat Pho Temple and Grand Palace, which I read on trip advisor as being even more beautiful at night. I leave around 8:30pm. If theres one thing I have learned as a backpacker, it is that taxis and tuk tuks will always, ALWAYS try to take advantage of you. When they see a white tourist they try to charge as much as they possibly can. I have no idea how much it should cost me to get to this temple because I don’t even really know where it is, and therefore decide to ask a couple tuk tuks about a price and try to haggle to see what the best deal is before actually choosing one. I must ask 6 different tuk tuks or taxi drivers what the cost would be to get to Wat Pho Temple, before finding one who will take me for 50 baht (which honestly still seems a little bit pricey, but it’s better than the 100 I’ve been quoted numerous times).
I hop in the tuk tuk for a 3 minute drive down the main road where he turns off onto a dark and quiet street. I’m a little sketched out, but I’m still not far from the main road and he seems like a nice man. He pulls over and points at a gate on the side of the road and says “Wat Pho”. I pay him his 50 baht and get out. There is a security guard having a cigarette outside the gate and I ask him how much the entrance fee is. He points at the sign informing me that Wat Pho Temple closes at 6pm. I am too late.
Why not even one of the taxi drivers I asked to take me to Wat Pho thought it would be helpful to mention that it’s actually closed, is beyond me. But now I am here so I try to make the best of the 50 baht useless tuk tuk ride. I kindly ask the guard if there is any way he would let me step inside the gate walls and take some pictures and he is kind enough to let me. When I am finished I ask him where the Grand Palace is, because I’ve heard that they’re very close. He points to the end of the street, where I can see some lights still on outside another gate, and smiles at me. I try to confirm the fact that it is still open and he nods. I make the short walk down to the gate, which is obviously not open. I don’t even know why I tried. I’m not even sure if this is the Grand Palace. The guard was extremely nice, but he didn’t speak a word to me. Just a lot of smiling and nodding. Oh well. I take some pictures from the outside, across the street where I can get a shot of the temple or the palace or whatever it may be, sitting behind a relatively low gate wall. It’s quite classic Asian architecture, with pointed tips on its roof top and gold trim. But it also features a beautiful brown and gold shimmer on portions of the building. In the night sky and reduced lighting, in combination with the gold trim around the edges of the palace/temple, it is absolutely stunning. I snap some photos on my new camera and take one with my cellphone as well. I’m hoping I can later try to mark my location on Instagram and have it give me options for where I actually was. I have to assume it was the Grand Palace. However, the other day when returning from the Siam mall in a tuk tuk with Ilona and Carrie, I had pointed at a building covered in sparkling lights and giant photos of the King on display, and asked if this was the Grand Palace. Carrie informed me that it was the train station…where I have been twice before. So who knows where I could have been tonight. The pier?
I find another tuk tuk who tries to quote me 100 baht to take me home, and I am sure that I still over pay when I talk him down to 50. I don’t care, I just don’t want to walk.

I get back to my guesthouse and walk upstairs past fellow backpackers pre-drinking before going out to the madness of Khosan road. I wish I had the energy or the desire to go out to the street party tonight, but I simply do not. I am more than ready to leave Bangkok tomorrow, and I look forward to packing my bag, maybe trying to re-visit Wat Pho temple when I know it is open, and then getting on my plane to Sydney.

Farewell, Islands

I sleep so soundly on the boat, that I only wake up when a Thai woman wakes me to inform me that my alarm has been going off for the last 5 minutes. Somehow in my sleep my headphones have come loose from my phone, and the alarm is playing over the external speakers. Apparently loud enough to wake someone at least 10 mattresses down from me, but not myself. Whoops!! Sorry everyone, my bad. I had set the alarm 20 minutes before we are expected to arrive, so that I could make sure to get all of my things together and wake up enough to get off the boat. Everything besides my phone is already safely tucked away in my backpack, which is strapped around the front of my body and being hugged like a teddy bear by my chilled arms. They always blast the AC in these things. I spend the next 20 minutes outside of the cabin and on the boats’ deck, trying to warm myself up and watching the sun rise as we approach Koh Tao.

Even though I know I’ll be leaving the island again in a few short hours, I’m happy to be going back. I try to be sneaky and get a free ride to a resort just walking distance from where Ilona is still staying. They always offer free car rides if you are going to check out a place to stay so I pretend to be interested, but my plan to disappear from the group as they show us around fails, when I am the only person going to the location. They have me figured out pretty quickly, when I have absolutely no luggage besides a small day-trip backpack. I give up and pay for the tuk tuk ride, and just walk down the pathway to the cottages where Ilona is. You can’t blame me for trying.
It’s only 6am, so I wake her up when I knock on the door. We get to sleep a little while longer because check-out isn’t until 11am.
I could shower, but I’d rather sleep longer. My hygiene is at all all-time low.

The rest of the day consists of more traveling. We get breakfast at our favourite Koh Tao morning restaurant, stock up on snacks at the 7/11, and bring our luggage to the pier. Our boat is the fanciest I’ve been on yet. Flat screen tv’s and large, comfortable leather seats are laid out in rows like there would be on a plane, with a small snack counter in the middle. It’s always a gamble when you book these things. It’s a “high speed” boat so we get to Chumporn (yes. The name of a town in Thailand. For real) very quickly. We only have to wait another half hour before our bus to Bangkok arrives, where I will be sitting for the next 7 hours of my life.

My ankle is still slightly green and swollen due to the fact that I can’t keep it out of the water, and that the bandaids in Thailand suck. They do not stick to my skin properly, and always fall off before the day is done. I would just buy a billion bandaids, but they cost a Thai fortune. The ones big enough to cover the wound on my ankle cost 350 baht a pack, and only 5 come in each box. Ridiculous. They must know that westerners like me are prone to accidents.
I buy two boxes and some cleaning paraphernalia at a pharmacy so I can take advantage of this travel time (with no chance of swimming or other contact with water/dirty things) to try and heal.

Finally, at 2am, we arrive in Bangkok. We walk down crazy Kohsan road, and pick a guesthouse which is right on the street and therefore extremely loud with base pumping music. I don’t even care because I’m so exhausted and fall asleep basically instantly.

Koh Phangan to Koh Tao

We set an alarm early enough to clean our room before checking out. There is some face paint and glitter on just about everything, and it will cost us 500 baht if they have to clean it. We do our best to cover up any paint stains that we can’t remove, which I don’t feel bad about because our sheets were stained and had patches sewn on when we arrived. The glitter will do the room some good, it’s pretty now. When we’re done it looks acceptable at best, but it’s check out time so we just drop the keys and hope that they won’t check the rooms before we’re good and gone.

We tuk tuk over to the pier where we are supposed to catch a ferry at 2pm. We’re extremely early so we go get breakfast at a small cafe close by. The cafe lists American sausage, and English sausage on their menu, which gives me hope that they actually know what they’re doing. Why differentiate between two different types of sausages if they’re just going to be hotdogs? I roll the dice and order the English sausage which arrives later, looking like everything I’ve ever dreamed of. I take a bite and it is heaven. I have finally found a real breakfast sausage in Thailand. The kind of breakfast sausage that is good, even by Canadian standards. If I walked into a cafe in Canada and ordered this, I would say to myself, wow this is a delicious breakfast sausage. I am now content.

We walk over to the pier, still early so we stand and wait for a while before our boat actually arrives. We get on close to last, so it’s a challenge to find seats together. AJ and I find one across the aisle from each other and I don’t know where the other girls go. It’s a short ferry ride, just an hour and a half, so I watch some of The Apparition on my phone. It’s finally fully downloaded, but iTunes only gives me 2 days to watch a rental movie and I don’t think I’ll find the time to sit down and fully watch it, so I’ve been watching it in pieces. I start to feel sick, the same way one does when reading in a car. The stillness of my iPhone screen in contrast with the rocking of the boat as it cuts through the waves has caused my brain some confusion, which it does not like. I start to feel slightly nauseous, so I turn off the movie with still half an hour to go…I’ll watch more later. I soon fall asleep, doing my best, in my barely conscious state, not to flop over onto the shoulder of the small Thai lady sitting next to me… but I don’t think I’m successful. I wake up when we arrive, and she gives me a funny look as we’re standing up to go, which confirms my assumption that I did indeed fall asleep on her shoulder. Whoops.

As we arrive in Koh Tao I can already tell that I am going to like it. Sarah has already done some research and has looked up a place to stay so we get in a free “taxi” to go check it out. When I say taxi, I mean an over sized golf cart with promotional ads for the hotel we’re going too. The thing about Koh Tao is that it’s been named one of the best places in the world to scuba dive. This has resulted in an over abundance of dive shops at extremely cheap prices (about 290 Canadian dollars) to get your full diving license over a period of 4 days. Almost all the resorts and hotels on the island are linked to a dive shop, so in many cases you can arrange to have free accommodation if you sign up for a diving course. Not a bad deal.

The place we go to look at is luxurious and fabulous with free accommodations for all those who want to dive. None of us have fully discussed whether or not we will be diving in our time here, and I am still unsure of whether or not I am able to do it given my medical circumstances, so it’s a bit of a mess trying to figure out if we should stay. They have offered us one room for all 7 of us traveling together…with one bathroom. (Did I mention that there are 7 of us now? Tim, one of the boys we met from Waterloo, has decided to travel to Koh Tao with us before returning back to Canada in a few days).The bathroom is my only reservation but even that I can deal with. I have learned while traveling that I can and will sleep absolutely anywhere as long as I am prepared for it. I don’t need comfortable beds or hot showers. If I can pay 3 dollars to sleep somewhere, and not die, I’m cool with whatever they wanna give me.
Everyone is still tired and we’re all generally awful at making any decisions as a group, so we end up walking down the road to another resort just to check it out. They have the same deal for divers, but cabin-style rooms that can house 3 of us in one and 4 in the other, which seems like a more comfortable option. It’s also directly across the street from the beach, which appeals to me. We decide to stay here for at least one night because we can’t be bothered to roam around Koh Tao with heavy backpacks on, especially when we don’t know who will or won’t be diving. Some of the girls stay behind to take a nap while the rest of us go out to check out the beach and find some food. We find a cute strip of shops and restaurants in town which are all walking distance from our hotel. We’ve lucked out with our location for sure. I like being able to walk around to places, instead of being forced to pay 100 baht every time I want to tuk tuk somewhere like in Koh Lanta and Koh Phangan.

On our walk around town we magically stumble upon Alonso, our Mexican friend who we met in Laos. He is carrying his backpack over his shoulders as he searches for a place to stay, because it has ripped open. Classic backpacker problem. We tell him to come stay with us for the first night so that he doesn’t have to wander around with a broken bag. Now there are 8 of us between 2 rooms, which makes it a little cozy but Ilona and I share a double bed as per usual so I am comfortable. It’s so nice to run into friends we’ve met previously on our trip! We go back to the room, collect the well-rested girls and all go for dinner down at the restaurant on the beach. Afterwards we walk down the shore to see what else there is in the way of night life in Koh Tao, because Ilona’s birthday is tomorrow after all! We find some cool fire twirlers, but still nothing in comparison to what we saw in Railay, and then a cool bar a little further down with wi-fi so we hang out there on the beach for a bit. Our hotel shuts down the wi-fi at 8pm, which is super annoying. Why have it at all?

It starts to downpour outside so we have to run for cover inside the bar, which is not as cool as it’s beach tables set up outside, so as soon as we get a break in the rain we leave. I am exhausted and just want

Jungle Party

The rain has hit Koh Phangan at the absolute worst time. Since we arrived last night it’s been wet and rainy, but today in particular it’s absolutely pouring. I wake up thinking Ilona is in the shower because the rain is so loud outside our window. All I can do is hope that it stops by tonight, but more importantly by tomorrow night for the Full Moon! Ilona and I have woken up a little later than the other girls who are all ready to go get massages, so we tell them to go ahead and we’ll do our own thing for the day. It’s been a pretty long time since I’ve spent a day where it’s just me and Ilona. We eat breakfast at our guesthouse and then grab a tuk tuk into town to go shopping. I am in need of a cross-body bag. I refuse to ever go out dancing or even to a bar again with a huge tote hanging from my arm.

It’s surprisingly much easier to shop with two girls instead of 6. We stop into a lot of little shops on the “busy” strip in town and sift through a lot of junk to find the good stuff that we do. I buy a long black tie-dye dress (I know, who am I?), a small nude toned cross body bag, a used version of Life of Pi, and a pair of flip flops, because mine have been breaking every 100 steps I take ever since the motorbike accident. Ilona buys a dark brown box hair dye, and trusts me with the task of dying her hair for her later tonight. Exciting!!

It’s a successful shopping trip, and on our way home around 3pm we stop at a nearby restaurant titled “Proper Fish & Chips M8!”… We can only assume the M8 is meant to be mate. We order 2 fish and chips while we watch the credits to Finding Nemo on the TV screen mounted against the wall. We’re the only people in the restaurant, but we are eating at an awkward hour after all. About 20 minutes pass before we start to wonder where our food is, but we’re content just chatting and exchanging any details we’ve heard about the jungle party tonight, so we don’t think too much of it. An absolutely massive man comes rolling up on a tiny motorbike to the restaurant with some street food style chicken, and sits at the table next to us. He strikes up a conversation with us about where we’re from etc etc while we’re waiting, and even after the food comes he keeps talking. We find out he’s originally from America but has been living in Thailand for 12 years. The wrong end of a bounty hunter situation, he tells us (cool story, bro). Ilona is the first to bite into the breaded fish, only to find out that it is actually chicken. Not so Proper Fish & Chips after all! It’s good all the same so we just laugh about it and continue eating, but when the large man beside us asks what we’re laughing about, we find out that he is the owner of the restaurant. Oops.
It’s good for him to know that the order was messed up but I don’t want our waitress getting in trouble because I’m just as happy with chicken instead of fish, Whatev. He apologizes to us and I think he says something to the waitress about our order, but it is all in Thai, so I’m not sure.

We finish our meal with him continuing to make awkward conversation about just about anything, including mosquito larvae in the shower water…while we’re eating. He also confirms that the M8 on the sign out front is supposed to be ‘mate’. We laugh all the way home about our Proper Fish and Chips experience. When we get back, all the girls are all about to leave for dinner at the night market, so we plan to meet back at the guesthouse at 9. While they’re out, Ilona and I dye her hair, shower, and start to get ready for the party tonight. We run out quickly to grab neon face paint in order to do animal print make up for the occasion. Koh Phangan is always filled with neon-clad tourists!!

When we come back the girls are waiting in the common area with the group we met from Waterloo while in Koh Lanta. Everyone who travels Thailand goes to the Full Moon Party, so a lot of people that we’ve met along the way will be here tonight (and obviously tomorrow) which is exciting! We paint our faces as quickly as we can, because we hear we can get in for free before 11pm. We are in such a hurry that some of the girls don’t have time to paint their faces, but Cara does a really cool cheetah print design on my face in blue. We grab a tuk tuk, and drive down to the party which isn’t far from where we’re staying. They can only drive us so far, and we have to walk the rest of the way, which is about 500 meters down a pathway lit by black lights stuck to various trees on the way. We make it just in time to still get in for free, and avoid the 300 baht charge. It’s an absolute shit show of tourists all wearing bright greens, oranges and pinks, with a DJ blaring dance music across from the jungle-hut bar. A small river runs through the party area, but they’ve installed wooden bridges at many different points along the way so it’s easy to cross. We’re actually in a jungle. On my way to the washroom, I see the largest spider I have yet to see, which is legitimately the size of my face with its legs included. I almost die.

We do our best to stick together all night, even though it’s hard for such a large group of us. I manage not to get lost in the jungle alone so that’s a plus. The amount of backpackers at this party is apparently only half of what we will see at tomorrow’s Full Moon event, and I am already over whelmed.

Motorbike Scrapes and Bruises

This morning we have planned to go out to the Emerald Cave, where you can swim to a lagoon through a dark cave. It sounds so cool and I can’t wait to go so we eat a quick breakfast and get on our motorbikes. Ilona and Carrie stay behind but plan to go out later in the day to possibly meet us at the cave. AJ doesn’t feel comfortable driving so she hops on the back with one of the boys and I drive the motorbike alone. How hard can it be? It’s my first time really driving one, so I take it easy, but most of the group is already gone so I try to learn fast. It’s an automatic bike so it’s not so difficult, just gas and brakes really. I make a couple turns and all is well so we set off on our way to the cave. Some of the other girls waited for me so I follow them down the road, where there are some windy curves. We can’t find the rest of the group anywhere so we wonder if maybe the cave is the opposite direction and turn around to look down the other side of the street. I don’t know exactly how this happens, but as I am following the road around another curve, I lose control of the bike. I don’t bank my body with the turn, so the bike doesn’t turn as much as I want it too, which freaks me out because now I’m headed for the ditch. I freak out and bail off the bike on the side of the road where I fall on my side. The girls are ahead of me so they don’t know what’s happened, but 4 different Thai people all come rushing over to make sure that I’m okay. Mostly just my dignity is lost, and I feel extremely embarrassed but the scrapes don’t hurt much. I get up and walk my bike over to the side of the road and wait for the girls to realize that I am not following behind. It only takes a minute before I see them down the road driving towards me. By the time they get to me and pull the bike over the pain has actually begun to set in. My hands and legs are shaking out of shock, and the whole right side of my body is stinging. I am the luckiest bike wounded girl ever, because 20 steps away from me there is a pharmacy. I walk in and buy some antiseptic and Bandaids to clean the scrapes myself, but as I’m walking out of the pharmacy I notice a nurses’ clinic directly across the street. I decide it’s better to have these cleaned professionally considering I can barely handle having a hangnail let alone cleaning out my own cuts, and I want to make sure it’s done right. The ladies at the clinic are very kind and friendly, they help me clean the scrapes on my ankle, knees, hip, hand, elbow, and shoulder while the girls wait for me out in the waiting room. I feel awful that they haven’t been able to make it to the cave yet, and I encourage them to go but they stay until I’m done. Sarah drives me back on her motorcycle, which truthfully I am afraid to get back on, but Sarah is the best and most experienced driver of all of us, so I try to calm down and just trust her. Our bungalows aren’t far from where I fell fortunately, so it’s just a short ride. They all continue onto the Emerald Cave while I lie in bed drinking water and reading a book. I am so jealous that they get to go on such a cool adventure, but know that I couldn’t possibly swim under this condition. Ilona and Carrie still haven’t left yet by the time I am back in my room so they come over to visit and find out what happened. They tell me that they have just rented motorbikes and are going out to drive around the island for the day. Hopefully tomorrow I will be well healed and able to do something fun, too. I’m just thankful that it wasn’t much worse. So many tourists and locals alike drive around the islands on motorbikes in flip flops, shorts and tank tops which is really dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. I was lucky that there were no other cars on the road for my accident, and that I wasn’t driving up the side of a cliff or something. I guess that protection bracelet I was given in India is legit!

I lie in bed all day, reading a creepy horror/mystery book that a girl we met on the slow boat gave to Ilona. Ilona is still in the middle of reading it, but lends it to me for the day. I read 150 pages in and out of napping. Reading always makes me so sleepy.

The girls who went to the cave return around 5pm and tell me that they were unable to get to the cave because they got lost on the map so they went shopping instead. Secretly I am sort of happy that they couldn’t make it out to the cave, because I am so upset that I had to miss it, and at least now I’m not the only one, but I’m also sad for them that they couldn’t go. I plan to find something similar in New Zealand, where I’ve heard they have awesome caves to explore. The group from Waterloo made it to the cave, but found out that the entrance fee was 1000 baht ($32), and decided not to go inside. It seems like no one’s plans to get to the cave unfolded the way they had expected today! When the girls come back they’re tired, so they hang out with me in the room where we watch some Thai TV, sleep for a little while, and I continue reading. We plan to go for dinner later, but luckily nowhere that requires me to get on a motorcycle.

We eat dinner at the hotel where they offer a fish barbecue. Like a full fish. With a face. That’s not for me, so I order a small salad and a sweet and sour chicken dish instead. The barbecue is cute though, because the hotel is family run and they catch the fish themselves. 3 of the other girls order the full fish barbecue which is less than impressive. I am extra happy I didn’t order it, because I hadn’t taken into account the possibility of bones, which are definitely a problem, and I am finished my entire meal before any of their dishes arrive. We laugh about the ridiculousness of this meal, but I have yet to have a meal in Thailand where everyone gets what they want. At one point Cara asks our waitress to open her beer, so she nods, takes it off the table, and never comes back with it. We have to ask numerous staff members many times to find out where the beer has gone. It does finally come back but now we don’t know where it’s been or why. It’s just a very confusing meal in general. It’s funny to have this happen sometimes, and tonight especially I think it’s hilarious, but sometimes you just want to get what you’ve ordered and it’s hard to sit down and KNOW that you aren’t going to get it. But I can’t complain because the most I’ve paid for a meal probably tops out at $10 maximum. I have trouble at dinner with my scrapes, being unable to rest my elbow on the table in any way. The only comfortable position is for my arm to hang at my side, so I’m really hoping I heal sooner than later.

After dinner I wait for Sarah Lindsay to Skype me. We were supposed to Skype this morning (morning my time, night her time) but we left for the cave before we had time to Skype. Now I wish I hadn’t cancelled the Skype date because I would have been safe and sound in my bed without any cuts, but the idea of missing such a cool experience got the best of me. Bad friend karma! But then she stands me up. Hoe. So we’re even now.

We meet up with the kids from Waterloo to hang out and chat in the common area, but I’m exhausted so I go to bed relatively early.

 

Monkey Bites and Motor Bikes

My day got off to a good start. I roll out of bed at my leisure and get ready to eat some breakfast. Two of the girls are gone when I wake up so it’s just me and Cara. We walk up to the reception area of the place we’re staying in, to find out if they have rooms available for Ilona and Carrie when they arrive in Koh Lanta this afternoon. (In case you were wondering, I’ve given up on trying to leave out names to avoid confusion. Pretend you know them.) We get distracted from our question when we notice Jack the monkey tied up outside to a tree. Jack is about the height of my forearm and very skinny. He’s just a little baby monkey and is apparently very friendly. When we walk over to him, I’m skeptical at first because he is still wild in every regard besides his little leash, but he’s so adorable I can’t help but want to play with him. He’s eager for some attention and climbs up my arm without hesitation when I reach out my hand. Cara, one of the boys we met yesterday from Waterloo, and I all take turns holding Jack. I see him chewing on the plastic around Cara’s water bottle holder and realize it could be dangerous if he swallows any pieces, so I make the mistake of trying to pull it away from him. Jack the monkey does not like this at all, and lunges at my forearm, bites me, and digs his claws into me. My reaction is no better, and I shake my arm hysterically until he goes flying off. Luckily, his bite didn’t actually break my flesh there are just teeth marks on forearm, but around the side of my arm I have a small cut from his nails which is bleeding. I am not too worried, because I don’t think these people would keep a monkey as a pet who has rabies, and it was only his nail that really cut me, but I will definitely be keeping an eye on it. Jack and I are no longer friends…but he’s still cute.

Just after I am bitten AJ and Sarah come back with motorbikes. We will need them to get around Koh Lanta so they rent two which can each fit one driver and one passenger on the back seat. We all walk over to the resort across the road where they have a breakfast buffet. We miss the buffet but can still order off a menu so I do, and I order breakfast sausage with my eggs, hoping that MAYBE at a resort they will have the real deal, but I am again, presented with a hot dog. Silly me. I just can’t give it up.
The other people we met from Waterloo also come to the resort for breakfast and while we’re chatting we arrange to meet up after to go scooter around the island. There are some caves and waterfalls worth seeing as well as a market area we’d like to visit.
We go back to the bungalows and change before hopping on our scooters. AJ drives ours, as I’ve never done it before. Even though I think I’d be good at it, I don’t want to risk AJ’s life on the back of it while I test it out, and we don’t have time for me to practice so she drives. She also doesn’t like the idea of having my life in her hands and feels slightly uneasy on the scooter but I trust her just the same. I wear my helmet though… just in case.

The first place we drive too is a cave on the south shore. On our way around a gravel corner leading up to the cave we lose control of the bike as we’re breaking on the gravel and fall off. We are only going about 5 km an hour when we fall, so we both escape relatively unharmed. AJ scrapes her knee and hand, and my toes had folded over funny when we fell so I cut the top of my second toe, and the bottom of my big toe. It stings a little bit, and I wish we’d thought to bring a first aid kit, but it doesn’t hurt enough that I can’t continue on so I do.
Unfortunately when we get to the cave we’re told that it costs 300 baht ($10) to get in, and we have to wait until 1:30. None of us want to do either of those things so we decided to drive somewhere else instead. Someone suggests the beach because it’s super hot today, and we are on an island after all. The boys from Waterloo lead the way, I get back on the motor bike with AJ and we drive up a mountain road just high enough that I am confused about how this is leading us to a beach. Just when I start to wonder where we’re going, we pull over into a cliff side restaurant. Apparently this is the way to the beach. We walk through the restaurant to the other side where I can see the ocean down below us. We climb down some questionable stairs of different shapes and sizes, with only a bamboo pole to help us keep balance lining the side all the way down. It takes us down to a completely empty beach with a small abandoned long boat on the shore. The beach is rocky and full of shells but the water is wavy and cool so we drop our stuff in the long boat and run down to the water.

It’s such a clear day that I can see Koh Phi Phi and some other islands off in the distance on the horizon. The water is refreshing and salty, with strong waves crashing against the rocks by the shore. It’s absolutely beautiful and I can’t believe that we are the only people here, there’s nothing better than finding your own beach. Eventually some small groups of other people do come down to swim as well, but it’s still such a good find. We stay in the water for about an hour (though I never have a concept of time over here) before we get hungry and decide to go somewhere for lunch. We climb back up the steep steps and decide not to stay at the cliff side restaurant but to drive over to a market for a quick and cheap lunch instead. This time I get on a bike with one of the guys from Waterloo, because AJ feels more comfortable only carrying her life in her hands after falling. We find a “market” area with two stores and a tiny restaurant next to it where we all order Pad Thai. It’s a late lunch, at 3:30pm, but the portion sizes are so small here that we will surely be hungry again by dinner time.

After lunch we hop back on our bikes and drive back to the guesthouse where we find Ilona and Carrie. I wash off my monkey bite and toes in cold water, which look pretty nasty after being covered in sand at the beach. The toes, not my monkey bite…that looks the same.

We meet the group from Waterloo in the outdoor common area of our bungalows where there is a fireplace and a small bar. We hang out and chat until later into the night when we decide to go out to the bars. When I say bars I mean a 10 minute drive crammed into the back of a truck to the downtown area, where there are 1 or 2 people in each bar on the strip. We choose to go to Mr. Guitar Bar, for some live Thai music. We are next to the only people in the bar next to a group of lady boys at another table. I like sitting at a bar with locals and listening to Thai music, it’s a nice change from all the tourists and top 40 on Phi Phi. The bar is fun for a little bit but we prefer to be at a slightly more lively location so we find a tuk tuk and ask him to take us to a good bar. He drops us off at a Reggae Bar where we are legit the only people this time, besides some tuk tuk drivers who are drinking in between pick-ups, I guess. So sketchy.
What’s even more sketchy is the menu, which lists “Happy Shakes” among regular items like beers and mojitos. We are hungry so we order some food but the waiter keeps asking us if we’re okay and if we need anything else, like perhaps a happy shake. We keep telling him that we’re happy with the regular food and drink, and he doesn’t seem to understand why we don’t want to drink a drug shake, but does eventually stop asking. We get out of there as soon as we’re done eating and go back to our hotel because it’s clear that absolutely nothing else is open. Instead of going straight to bed, we go for a quick dip in the pool beside the ocean, where we would have swam but there were so many crabs on the beach and it was dark so we stay poolside instead. We go back to the bungalows where I fall asleep almost instantly.

 

On To Koh Lanta

I am over Koh Phi Phi. I have no desire to stay on this party island for even one more night. Nothing is different, there is a limited amount of things to do besides drinking, and I don’t enjoy the main beach. I have to walk out for 5 minutes just to get into deep enough water to tread, the ground turns from muddy to rocky the further you walk. Not to mention that the water by the shore is boiling hot due to the fact that it’s so shallow. What’s to like? Of course the scenery around it is beautiful, but I can find that on any island in Thailand, so I would like to move on. Luckily I’m not the only one, and a few of the other girls are ready to get off this rock with me. Where we go next is the question… and we debate about the best option all day while at the beach. I am happy to go off all on my own to visit a national park in the main land where they apparently have a beautiful jungle, but I would also like to stay in the islands for a few more days. We all finally agree on where we want to go and arrange to go to Koh Lanta, another island just south east of Koh Phi Phi. Two of the girls plan on staying behind to keep partying in Koh Phi Phi. I know that I am going to have more than enough time to party in Koh Phangan, the week around the Full Moon Party, so I am not too worried about missing out in Phi Phi.

The four of us buy a boat ticket to ferry us across to Koh Lanta at 3:30pm. The boat ride is only an hour and a half long so we reach the island before dark. Before we even get on the boat there is a hotel owner with a sign full of pictures and prices listed trying to promote his hotel in Lanta. I don’t know what happened but somehow we begin an actual conversation with him, which never ever happens when I see people with signs. The rooms are 1200 baht, a solid 400 baht more than we’re willing to pay, so we talk down the price. We manage to convince him to let us stay in one double room with two extra beds for 800 baht a night, which evens out to 200 baht each, ($6) not too shabby. We even get a free taxi ride included. I am definitely skeptical, because I feel like anyone who has to take a boat to Koh Phi Phi in order to recruit tourists back to their hotel in Lanta is obviously not very busy, which leads me to ask why? But I’m down for an adventure.
It helps when 4 other people on the boat let us know that they have agreed to the same deal. It turns out that they are all from Canada, and not just Canada but Waterloo! Crazy. They all seem very nice, but I have to admit that beyond the initial excitement from finding people who are from Canada, I always feel like I don’t want to hang out with anyone from home. It’s not fun to hang out with people who are just like the friends you could have made at home. I would prefer to meet people from other cultures and countries. Sorry to all my fellow Canadian travelers. Carrie, one of the girls I’m traveling with now, is from Vancouver but even that is far more interesting and different than Waterloo. It’s cool to meet them all the same. We all share a truck ride back to this guesthouse where we are pleasantly surprised to find spacious rooms with a TV and a mini-fridge (things I don’t need or even want, but a good sign that I’m not staying in a total shit hole). The only problem with this place is that it’s in the middle of nowhere, besides being a 30 second walk to the beach there is nothing around us. We ask some locals and find out it’s a solid 8-10 kilometers to the nearest town, but luckily we are able to rent motor bikes for only 100 baht ($3) a day so that will enable us to get there. I haven’t driven a motorbike yet but I’m excited and I have faith that I’ll be good at it. If I’m not, the three other girls I’m with are, so I can always just hitch a ride on the back of theirs.

The four of us all walk down the street and find a restaurant to eat at. I order a pad Thai. I’m not too exciting over here… I just love it so much! It’s delicious as per usual, and in between bites we all look up things to do and see on Koh Lanta in our Lonely Planet guide book. Today is American Thanksgiving so the three girls I’m traveling with count this as their Thanksgiving meal! Classic Thanksgiving dish – Pad Thai. It’s interesting to see how different their thanksgiving is from ours, it’s a way bigger deal over there than in Canada!

Tomorrow we plan to rent bikes and go into town where there is actually stuff to do. For tonight though, we just decide to take it easy, because we’re all exhausted, so we just take a quick walk down to the beach and back up to our guesthouse where we hang out, watch Thai TV, and Skype various friends and family.

 

 

Maya Beach (The Beach, Beach)

When I wake up and shower its nearly 11am, but I’m not the only one who’s sluggish today, so we all have a late breakfast. I’ve given up my hunt for breakfast sausage (for now) and order a ham and cheese croissant instead, which is good, and comes with a cute little French flag tooth picked into it. Adorable!

After breakfast Ilona and I go down to the beach, where I plan on going for a long swim. I love swimming in salt water because I never feel as tired and can half float, half tread water with ease. I try to get out into the water, but it never gets deep. I am up to my shins in water for almost 5 minutes out into the ocean. I can see people off in the distance who are swimming but they’re SO far away, not to mention that there are boats out there with them, which doesn’t appeal to me so I just end up walking back to the shore and join Ilona in sunbathing. We order two baileys over ice while we’re chilling out in the sun, and sip on them until the other girls come down to the beach. They’ve arranged for us to go visit Maya Beach (where they filmed The Beach, and ranked number one most beautiful in the world) for the afternoon. We leave at 2pm, which is approaching quickly, so we hurry back to the guesthouse to get our things together.

We walk down to where the boat is due to pick us up, and find out that we are not the only people who’ve decided to go on this little excursion. There are at least 50 other people waiting to get on an army of longboats that are all waiting for us, lined up on the shore. We get in a boat with 4 other people from the States, Sweden and England, and set off. Our first stop is to a monkey beach where tourists are able to feed monkeys bananas and take pictures. They give us 5 minutes to hop off the boat, snap a photo, and hop back on, so I choose not to go. I can see the monkeys from my boat, I’ve seen a million monkeys at this point, I don’t like the crowd, and don’t like the fact that these monkeys are tourist attractions in their natural habitat. Something about it just rubs me the wrong way so I just stay on the boat with everyone else who feels the same way.

After the monkey beach we drive by “The Viking Cave” which no one knows anything about. They slow the boat down for us to take pictures, but we don’t actually stop and we don’t get any information, I’d like to know WHY it is called the Viking Cave and why it’s significant, but our boat driver is too busy horking spit off the back of the boat to tell us anything, so I am forever in the dark. I shall Google it later, I suppose.

The next stop is much more appealing to me, we get to snorkel. I’ve never actually snorkeled before, only ever at camp in the murky lake water where there wasn’t much to see but muddy green plants growing up from the bottom. I’m excited to snorkel in an actual ocean! We anchor the boat (among 10 other boats, naturally) and dive into the clear blue water with our snorkel gear. The first thing I see when I put my face in, is a huge sea urchin at the bottom among countless different kinds of colourful fish. It takes me a couple tries to feel comfortable breathing underwater, and even when I get used to it I am breathing like a lunatic, but at least I can see all the cool fish!! We get 20 minutes to swim around in the clear blue water and explore the reef before we are called back to our boats to move onto the next stop.

The main attraction is Maya Beach, a small stretch of soft white sand and the most clear green-blue water you’ll ever see. It is protected from touristy shops and resorts by the fact that it is now a national park. Of course, when we arrive there are a billion other boats full of tourists who’ve come to see the beach, which takes away from its beauty. I hate tourists. I know that I am also a tourist, but I dislike all other tourists around me… we ruin things.

We get one hour to get out of the boat and visit the site, which is literally just a beach. We try to explore the jungle area behind it, but there is only a small trail leading to a rocky pond area next to the sea, so we stay there a couple minutes then turn around and go back. There is one tiny hut just behind the beach that sells beer, pop and chips. Beer here costs twice as much as it does back on Koh Phi Phi, which just makes me sad that they’ve found a way to exploit the tourists even in a national park. I’m really struggling with the tourist thing, if you can’t tell.
We walk down to the beach and talk about its similarities and differences to the movie. It was definitely a mistake to watch it two days before going to the site, because we all notice the things that have been changed, but none the less it is still the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. The sand feels like velvet beneath my toes and the water is so clear that I can see right down to the bottom even when I’m out to deep to actually touch it. The entire shore is encased by a circle of tall rocky cliffs all covered in greenery, with only a small opening between two of the cliffs out into the sea. Everything has been kept clean and there are trash bins everywhere (a novelty in Thailand) to encourage tourists to keep it that way. We all swim around in the water, along with the 4 other people who we met on our boat, until it’s time to go back to Ko Phi Phi. We watch the sun set from the water on our ride back, but unfortunately it isn’t as spectacular as you would think, because the sky is slightly overcast.

Back at the guesthouse, we get ready to go out for dinner then out to the beach bars. The party scene in Koh Phi Phi is insane, which doesn’t suit my taste as a constant occurrence but it’s fun for a night or two. We do all the same things we did last night because there isn’t much else to choose from. We visit some different bars along the main strip, go down to the beach to watch a fire show, and dance in the sand until the bars shut down.

Laos Slow Boat Day 1

7am breakfast isn’t so bad after falling sleep at 9pm the night before. We wake up and go downstairs to eggs and toast which aren’t bad. The hotel also provides a packed lunch for the boat ride. We meet some guys from England at breakfast who are also on their way to Laos and are taking the same slow boat that we are.