Thai Goodbye

Day 20. Sun 5/29

Phuket

Jungceylon

I had literally started having dreams about taking a clean shower, so our trip back to Phuket and the Doolay Hostel was super exciting. Our typically 40 min drive to Karon Beach took only 20 with our cab driver who drive like a bat out of hell. He was talking motorbikes and then honking at them and he even passed one vehicle by crossing over the center line into oncoming traffic, narrowly missing a semi truck that was not slowing down.

We were right across the street from a beach so we were hoping to catch some of the sun we missed in Phi Phi, but as soon as I changed into my suit another downpour began outside so we opted for a trip to Patong Bay and Jungceylon, a large shopping center. Feeling the cleanest we had for all of Week 3, we roamed the mall for a few hours. Mike and Josh went to a movie, where they watched an opening credit clip of a tribute to the Thai King and Queen and everyone stood to respect them. Apparently any disrespect toward the king and queen is punishable, because there were security guards ensuring everyone was in line at the movie theater and we’ve read that even stepping on money is dangerous because the king’s face is printed on it. While they were at the movie, Kaija and I shopped around, picking up some stronger cough medicine, a couple snacks including DQ blizzards, new shorts, and then dinner at a microbrewery. We reminisced on our time in Thailand and I tried a Phuket Lager – tasted v. interesting.

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We wandered around our hostel’s street shops for a little while and then the dark and lonely beach after we returned. The waves were big from the windy weather and the sand was soft from the lowering tide. There’s something about the beach at night and staring out into the black water and sky that is kind of eerie, but calming to me.

We followed up this soothing experience with a movie in the hostel common area with some new friends from London and Mumbai. Scary Movie 3 is apparently a trans-continental favorite, who knew?

 

Food log:

  • Ham & pineapple pizza from a street seafood restaurant. I’ll try to be more adventurous tomorrow ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Banana nutella DQ Blizzard (other flavors included mocha toffee almond, red bean green tea, and mango sticky rice)
  • Phuket Lager and a grilled vegetable salad at the Full Moon Brewport in Jungceylon

Unlucky Changs

Days 17 – 20. Thurs 5/26 through Sun 5/29

Koh Phi Phi

RAIN, Sunflower dinner, RAIN, Bar hopping, RAIN, Pool Party, RAIN

We reached Koh Phi Phi knowing that we’d have less than perfect weather, but it has rained every single day. We had some sun peek out from the clouds Friday afternoon until sunset, but by Saturday night morale was low after an entire day of downpouring on and off. We took off early Sunday for the mainland.

I’m trying to see the silver lining here, and take the good with the bad. I made a list.

 

Highlights from the last couple of days:

  • Sunflower bar aka Happy Boat bar. We sat and played Jenga over dinner and then some pool.
  • These cute little crabs scuttled around on the beach everywhere, diving into holes in the sand if you got too close
  • PP Princess Pool Party. The sun came out for one afternoon and we spent it in an infinity pool by the ocean in an innertube 👌
  • That same afternoon we got an amazing sunset view while we sat on the beach
  • Finding the Banana Bar, a rooftop bar tucked away in town
  • Welsh roommates Daffyth and Lewys
  • Thai massages 👐👣 best way to pass time on a rainy day
  • New Zealanders Jason and Steve (yay for new Snapchat friends)
  • Beacha Club dinner – just the cutest little beach bar with the friendliest staff. Perfect way to escape from the torrential downpour
  • Fellow Cyclone on the boat back to Phuket #gostate

 

Lows:

  • The stench from the hostel bathroom at Stones. We think it was from all the water but holy stank it was bad
  • The water at Stones. Very high salt content, potentially came straight from the ocean
  • Stones sound system. Actually, it only sucked everywhere except the dance floor. Which was fine until we tried to go to bed early on our last night. It felt like my brain was rattling in my skull from all of that bass vibration
  • Just Stones in general
  • So much rain. Every day. Allegedly due to a cyclone in the region – but also the island gets a lot of rain in May typically
  • Kaija’s purse got taken on the beach – thankfully it was mostly empty
  • Attended a Muay Thai Reggae bar where patrons could enter the ring and fight.
  • Unrelated ^^ I got my first ever black eye. Dancing+jump rope+buckets=injuries
  • Unfortunately this cough is still lingering with Kaija and I week later. We think the cough meds we got in Koh Tao are helping but who knows because we’re still hacking away each night
  • There were huge piles of scrap building material and garbage all over the beach. We had heard such good things about Phi Phi but between the dumpy weather and the yeah everywhere we didn’t get a great first impression. I would definitely give it another chance because the weather hindered us from doing any hiking or getting to see Maya Beach and Monkey Beach, but next time I’ll have to plan something for Dec – Apr when it’s dry season

 

Food log:

  • Potato & egg rotee followed by banana & nutella rotee
  • Homemade gnocchi and tomato sauce with caprese (Both bad. Should not have ordered either)
  • More banana & nutella rotee – yes, three in one day
  • Rosemary flavored chips. SO GOOD.
  • Salt & Seaweed Pringles. Not so good.
  • Chicken pad thai and a banana shake (basically a meal staple for me)
  • Shakes (again)
  • Beacha Club seafood (prawn and calamari) hot pan with a fire show
  • Mango Sticky Rice and Banana in Coconut Milk
  • Banana bread from a bakery near the Phi Phi port

Barf Boat Upgrades

Days 16 & 17. Wed 5/25 & Thurs 5/26

Koh Tao▶Phuket▶Koh Phi Phi

Travel day, fresh seafood dinner, thunderstorms

After a big breakfast at Ban’s we said goodbye to our hilltop paradise and the cute dogs in the main restaurant area and hello (again) to the Barf Boat. This time however, we discovered a VIP room, where for 100 baht ($2.91) you didn’t have to be packed in like sardines on the lower level. You bet we upgraded. 💵💵💵

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Unfortunately there weren’t upgrades available for the 5 hour bus ride we endured afterward. Instead, we took an extra couple of hours because the driver stopped to order food and use the bathroom like six times (a luxury we didn’t get) and then used a few detours from the Google maps suggested route. We were starting to wonder if he was paid hourly because he was apparently in no rush to get to Phuket. The weather turned stormy during the last few hours of the trip and we watched as water dripped from the ceiling on to the inside front windowsill of the bus. Unfortunately, the baggage compartment must have been leaking as well because once we arrived they returned my bag to me soaking wet. Ick.

Phuket was the most westernized city we had been to so far in Thailand. We passed quite a few huge shopping centers and grocery stores as we wove through the busy city streets. We had been waiting to see a Muay Thai fight bc there are huge here, but after seeing the steep cost we decided against it. Truthfully, I don’t think I would have enjoyed watching people kick the crap out of each other anyway. We chatted with a guy from California on our taxi ride to the hostel and he said that if we liked Khao San Road in Bangkok we would also enjoy Patong in Phuket. We weren’t sure we were ready for that kind of night again so we grabbed dinner next door in the little market area full of fresh fish and family-owned restaurants.

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After ordering we chatted with the matriarch of the family about Full Moon Party, Koh Phi Phi, and America while her 14 year old son helped translate a few words for us. She spoke understandable English, and her son was attending an international school and so he was even more proficient in the language. He helped us order a round of large Changs and then informed us that he liked American music and couldn’t wait to “smoke weed every day” when he got older. Oh. 😮

After dinner we wandered to a bar for some more Chang and a game of Cutthroat, but our game was cut short when it started down pouring. The bartenders covered the pool table to keep it from getting damaged and we waited for a break in the rain before walking back to Doolay Hostel.

The hostel was really nice, although our group was split up and I’m pretty sure Max and Saffy were given beds in the lady dorm… Either way, they had a good looking menu at the restaurant and the bathrooms, although a shower and toilet shared the same room again, were updated and extremely nice. The common area had a cool vibe too, and we stayed up watching music videos on YouTube until we were tired enough to sleep.

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I woke up in the middle of the night to thunder, pounding rain and a humid hostel room. Once again, severe thunderstorms knocked out the power and water. Note to self: never miss an opportunity to shower, because if you wait until the next morning, the power will probably be out. Ugh. Unfortunately the forecast is pretty much the same for the next few days, which we had planned to spend soaking up the sun on Phi Phi Beach and going on an overnight boat cruise. Bummed is an understatement.

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Once the power came back we packed up for Koh Phi Phi. We are basically pros at riding ferries now, although that’s probably partly because no boat experience could trump the Barf Boat to Koh Tao. We enjoyed the beach for a little while and then hiked to a little restaurant called The Sunflower where we wasted away with dinner, a couple drinks, a hammock, and more Cutthroat. We ventured out on to “The Happy Boat” a little wooden structure hanging over a ledge above the ocean, but quickly abandoned ship after spotting a sleeping snake. LOL NOPE.

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Our hostel Stones is a bit of a dump, but thankfully the dorms and beds are decent. It’s right on the beach, near a large property filled with trash (there’s actually a lot of trash piles on this island), and they bumped club music into the late hours of the night while more people danced with fire on their stage. It should be a fun next couple of days here 😉

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Food log:

  • English breakfast again @ Ban’s
  • A granola bar, 7Up, Pringles, banana chips and mango slices are what got me through the long boat and bus rides
  • Fried fish with garlic and pepper
    Scrambled egg, bacon, and toast @ Doolay Hostel
  • Strawberry-blueberry-kiwi fruit shake at the Phuket port
  • Chicken sandwich and fries with a strawberry daiquiri because vacation

Taco Tuesday

Day 15. Tues 5/24

Koh Tao

Ban’s diving trip, shopping, Barracuda

We got to dive today! With rough waters and a cloudy sky – but still! Ban’s Resort offers a discount to guests who also scuba dive with them, so even though there was less than perfect weather it was a no-brainer. I was a little concerned because Kaija and I have both developed a nasty cough over the last two days, but everything ended up working out great.

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Our guides for the morning were Hailey and Tara. Hailey was Canadian (so many people from Toronto over here!) and Tara was from western Australia. Both came to Koh Tao on a bit of a whim and loved it so much that they chose to stay, using their jobs as diving instructors to pay rent and buy meals. Hailey mentioned that the AC filters here aren’t always clean and that she actually got walking pneumonia from breathing the (un)filtered AC too much, which made Kaija and I nervous about this mysterious cough we had both contracted. We stopped by a pharmacy later for cough drops and anything else we thought might help us get back to feeling 100%.

Our diving sites were a little limited because we had such strong winds in the morning, but it made for a good learning experience. The water was extremely warm and the ocean animals and coral were completely different varieties than we had seen before. Each dive was about 40 minutes and although there was pretty low visibility (no more than 5m) we spotted plenty of grouper, butterfly, angel, bat, and even trigger fish. We also learned a new memory trick for our BWRAF buddy check before the dive – Bangkok Women Really Are Fellas – and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that acronym again.

I enjoyed the second dive best; it was in shallower water and the visibility was slightly better. We moved extremely slow around the dive sites, but I was more used to it during the second dive and used the extra time to look around for new ocean life.

After diving we got our Taco Tuesday on at a restaurant Tara recommended called El Toro. It was delicious and we celebrated Taco Tuesday with a feast of fajitas, wrap-arounds (burritos), tacos and of course pizza (Josh) after our hard work diving in the morning. We went back to shower a then nap by the pool  but some of us didn’t even make it to the pool by the time we passed out.

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We made out way down to the restaurant and shopping area around late afternoon and took a recommendation from a charming Aussie about the best seafood in town at Barracuda. We had to wind down a long narrow alley with littered with insects and toads (something we haven’t seen before today!) but the meal was the best we’ve had yet. There was a plethora of fresh seafood options and the drink menu had an Asian spin too. We tried (strong) lychee and passionfruit mojitos and Sassy ordered the “special mojito” that had noodles and some other unidentifiable ingredients, but was still good. We dipped on the drinks and played a solid round of Honesty Hour while we waited for the rest of our food.

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We tried ribs and pan-seared and baked barracuda. All were delicious and what would have probably been a $30 meal at home cost close to $10 👌 Things I’ll miss after this trip.

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Kaija and I headed home after dinner while the boys opted to check out a local brewery next door. On the way back we stopped for gelato to soothe our still-coarse throats. We sampled pretty much every flavor and decided we each needed two scoops. We took a picture and not more than ten steps later Kaija’s top scoop toppled to the ground. I guess you gotta take the highs with the lows.

imageFood log:

  • Half an English breakfast with fresh OJ as we hustled to our scuba lesson – egg on toast with bacon, sausage and beans
  • Beef fajitas and an apple shake
  • Lightly fried calamari with garlic aioli and pepper
  • Baked barracuda wrapped in ham and stuffed with feta and tomato, topped with homemade pesto
  • A very strong and sour lychee mojito

Shakes by the Ocean

Days 13 & 14. Sun 5/22 & Mon 5/23

Koh Phangan▶Koh Tao

Italian Pizza, Shakes on the Beach, Ban’s Resort, Yoga

Of course we slept in after Full Moon Party. After all the work we did to adjust to the Thai timezone, we fell extremely easily back into the habit of CST. Still working on re-adjusting back 😴

The boys were soaking up every last bit of AC in the hostel, so Kaija and I headed out to look around and do some shopping. I bought earrings because I thought my holes were closing up (they weren’t) and another pair of shorts bc I seem to sweat through my clothes pretty much every day here so I can’t re-wear the few pieces I brought. Compared to the two previous days, the streets seemed almost deserted. We figured everyone had either ditched town after the party or was still sleeping – but either way, it was way more enjoyable to walk around and go in and out of different shops. We stumbled upon a place advertising authentic Italian pizza and decided that even though there were plenty of street vendors serving pad thai, pizza just sounded better. Best food decision we made on Koh Phanghan – the ingredients were fresh, the owner was speaking Italian, and the pizza was to die for, especially the homemade sausage and fresh basil. We liked it so much the guys wanted to go back for dinner and we agreed instantly. Second best food decision.

We began the discussion of abandoning our last two nights with Sewer Rat in the Lazy House hostel and heading for Koh Tao, a neighboring island where we planned to take a day to dive. Milk (from Chiang Mai) had recommended Ban’s, a nicer resort, and once we saw that the price was reasonable and they had two rooms available we booked them immediately. Unfortunately we had already missed the last ferry of the day so we decided to take off first thing in the morning instead, still giving us two nights in Koh Tao.

To cheer ourselves up, we went to the beach for a walk to enjoy some shakes and check our how the beach bar scene compared on a normal night. There was one building in particular where I remember listening to a great DJ the night before, and saw today that it was a completely deserted building. It seemed like he had just brought his turntable, laptop, and huge sound system to the ruins and set up shop for the party. It was kind of haunting to see the vast empty space and beach littered with trash the day after it had been packed with 20,000 tourists.

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Max stopped to use an unmanned beach-side bathroom that we had paid 20 baht to use the night before, and on his way out a little old lady hobbled up to him with her hand out until he coughed up a few coins. We are starting to think that random old women with signs are making a killing off naïve tourists like us.

We ended our day at a little bar up on a hill with some fresh shakes (my favorite kind is banana although I’ve been trying to branch out to different flavors) and then enjoying the ocean breeze, thunderstorm-y weather, and even more fire dancing until we were ready to go home for our last night.

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In absolutely no rush to get back to our dirty hostel beds, we stopped at a rotee pancake stand. Rotee is kind of like a crepe, but the dough is flattened from a ball and then wrapped around ingredients and put over heat until it’s crispy. I ordered one with banana and nutella and scarfed it down before I thought to take a picture.

The next morning we frantically packed, searched for all of our room keys (lost one of them 😩), and cursed Sewer Rat (the water still wasn’t running). Then we hit the road for the port, where we had splurged and booked Lomprayah’s high-speed Catamaran boat to get to Koh Tao. Unfortunately, things got a little worse before they got better. The weather had been really overcast and windy, so the boat ride was extremely rough. We thought it was so nice to have AC, snacks for purchase and so many staff helping load bags onto the boat, but we found out quickly after we started across the water that the main duty of these staff members was to pass out small plastic bags to passengers with weak stomachs.  And there were a lot of bags being passed out. Thankfully our group was okay, but the girl across the aisle from Kaija was hurting pretty bad. Later on someone mentioned that “they weren’t looking forward to taking the Barf Boat again to get back.” Barf Boat. How appropriate.

No ragrets though, because Ban’s was 100 times better than The Lazy House Hostel. We had a bit of a hike to our room, but they made elephants out of the towels and the view looked out over the trees and onto the water. We didn’t have sunny weather, but we were happy to catch a break from the heat and enjoy the comfy beds for an afternoon nap.

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We scheduled dives for the next morning, stopped for banana chocolate shakes (on the beach of course) and went to an awesome restorative yoga class. I was glad Mike, Josh and Saffy wanted to try the class too because u didn’t want to go alone. The instructor was European and the studio was in a stand alone building with a wooden floors and walls, a tin roof with built in vents, and some fans. It was such a peaceful setting and the end of the class’s meditation was one of the deepest I’ve ever had. Even after multiple naps that day, I left feeling calm, centered and ready for a good night’s sleep.

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Food Log:

  • Pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, onion and homemade sausage. We dipped the bread in a red pepper and oil combination and it was delish 👅❤
  • Shakes
  • Banana and Nutella Rotee Pancakes
  • BBQ Lays (although they tasted more like a chicken flavor) and OJ on the Barf Boat
  • Glass noodles with egg and chicken
  • Sweet potato chips (fries) and shrimp egg rolls at Blue Water’s swanky 2nd floor restaurant

All Night Longer

Days 10-12. Thurs 5/19 through Sat 5/21

Chiang Mai▶Koh Phangan

Travel day, Slip n’ Fly, Amsterdam Bar, Jungle Party, Full Moon Party

On Thursday we traded the elephants of Chiang Mai for the island waters of Koh Phangan after a plane, bus, and ferry. From the ferry we got to watch the sun set over the water on a gorgeous backdrop that looks like a computer’s default screensaver.

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I wish I could say that the rest of the day went well, but it was pretty much the exact opposite. We sweat our asses off at the unairconditioned ferry port and sat in our sticky clothes for the 2.5 hour ride and then half hour taxi, which dropped us off a couple blocks from our actual hostel and then drove away.

The hotel’s “pool” was a hole filled with opaque green liquid lit up by some neon lights. The were only three bathroom stalls and they were constantly soaking wet because they also doubled as the showers. The management seemed dazed and confused as they introduced us to our room, which had bunk beds so loud I thought they would collapse at any sudden movement. There weren’t enough lockers for each of us and the door was smaller than the door frame, leaving huge cracks for bugs and light to get in. I think I would have checked myself into a hotel if it weren’t for the heavenly AC unit right above my bed.

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It was late, but we were hungry (“and we need sustenance!” – Max) so we went to grab a burger. BIG mistake. We got some sort of mystery meatloaf-type that tasted salty and gross. Those of us who stomached the meal paid for it the next morning, and we kept our distance from any place with “burgers” for the next few days.

Exhausted and confused we said goodnight and then layed awake as the rest of the hostel trailed in loudly all night from the bars. About the time everyone had walked/chatted/sang outside our door the kitchen opened and the blender started humming and knives started chopping. They also started doing an absurd amount of what sounded like yard work in the grassy area outside our room. And my fitbit broke. Brb crying 😭

Friday was much, much better. To start, we were offered jello shots with breakfast to celebrate one of our hostel-mate’s birthdays. Then we made our way to the Slip n’ Fly Party, further inland on the island. On the way I could definitely tell why Koh Phangan was known as the “Land of the Coconuts” as we cruised through the streets in our red leather seated cab. We considered renting motorbikes again but didn’t want to test our luck after we saw how torn up a lot of the other people on the island were from different accidents on the narrow and windy roads here. People call their bumps and bruises “Koh Phangan tattoos” because they’re so common. Nooo thank you.

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The Slip n’ Fly’s slide was a huge tarp that slung people into the air. They landed (some gracefully and some not) into a giant hole covered in a tarp and filled with water. One of the slides was angled upward and one outward – we went down with a small ball and tried to shoot it into a hoop midair to win free drinks. We didn’t have much success with the ball in the hoop, but Josh went down with his GoPro and it went flying into the nearby seating area just within the edge of the fence. No serious injuries, but Josh got a gnarly lump on his leg from an awkward landing. I had a blast and we bought a five day pass (mostly because we had to) so I’m sure we’ll be back again later.

Between the short night of sleep and the thrill of the Slip n’ Fly we were more than happy to make our way to the Amsterdam Bar where we posted up for a few hours before sunset to get dinner and a good view over the water. It was a cloudy day but still the island shapes on the horizon were beautiful as we watched the light blues and greys of the afternoon turn to deep purples of the evening.

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We napped, loaded up on bug spray and food, and nabbed tickets to the Jungle Party. We got dropped off and made our way further into the jungle while deep house music got louder and neon shapes started to form silhouettes of people. The venue (if you can call it that?) was full of crazy decorations and people from all over the world. We met some friendly Seattleites and watched as a dude with a broken arm sat on a giant float in a tiny pond. No word yet on how he got in to or out of that predicament.

We said cheers new experiences and stayed up way past our bedtimes. We got a toastie (a cross between a quesadilla and a sandwich that you put in the panini press at 7Eleven) on the way home.

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We spent most of the next day in bed, although it was only partly because we were sleeping in. The hostel was without water or power for almost the entire morning, which we learned was actually quite common for the island. We asked the hostel manager (alias: Sewer Rat) at the front desk when the water would turn back on, and he said if they don’t have electricity then there would be no water and he didn’t know. We found out later that they also shut off the water from about 10pm – 8am every day, meaning now showers or flushing all night, even after coming back from the late night Jungle Party when all you want is to be clean before going to bed. The worst part was that it doesnt mention this little detail in any contract or reviews, and Sewer Rat lied directly to our faces when we specifically asked about it. A peek behind-the-scenes: other names we considered were Liar,  Idiot, Dirtbag, and Scum of the Earth, but Sewer Rat was the only name that stuck.

Koh Phangan is known as a party town because of the half and full moon parties they throw and the huge crowds of people they draw every week. Being such a tourist destination, everything was more expensive, the town was dirtier, and the locals were meaner. Quite the opposite of Chiang Mai, where we really started to feel at home and always had different activities planned each day. In Haad Rin Bay doing anything meant having to take an overpriced cab at least 20 minutes and then receiving terrible service or questionable food. Also, I’ve never been anywhere else where you have to pay almost a dollar every time you have to pee at night when you’re out and about. And don’t even get me started on the filth that they call bathrooms.

It might seem like I’ve had a poor couple of days, but when I consider how much fun the Full Moon Party was, it was worth all the crap we’ve had to put up with. I guess I’m not sure I can speak for the whole group since Max was dealt a rough hand along with a tuna salad sandwich he had at dinner one night – which, like the good friends we are, we remind him of every time we eat at a restaurant that serves tuna.

We thought the Jungle Party would be a nice warm-up to what we would see at the beach on Saturday, but the Full Moon was bigger and better. We rolled up to a crazy scene where everyone was decked out in neon clothes and body paint, sipping from buckets of booze (or Changs if you’re Safwan), and dancing all along the beach. If you didn’t like the music, you went twenty feet further until you heard the next bar’s speakers. If you started to get tired of the strobe, you stopped in a 7Eleven across the street (we found a little spot and dubbed it the Grassy Knoll) to cool off and take a load off your feet. If you got too hot, you looked for stairs to the roof of the bar to catch the ocean breeze. If you started to get tired, you headed toward the giant gasoline covered burning jump rope for a reality check (we were smart enough not to attempt a jump). Or just people watched for a few minutes. The phenomenol feeling of the energies of house music – it’s mind blowing baby 💃

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Sitting on the beach this morning as the sand and sky came back into full color was a good moment of reflection. It’s nuts to get to experience how the other side of the world lives, and I don’t just mean the tourist beach parties. I can’t imagine how some people never even bother to get a passport or just live their days without considering how their life would be if they didn’t have the luxury of clean clothes, a place to sleep, or consistent power in their city. I’m thankful for the financial means to satisfy my own curiosity about the world, and if I’m counting my blessings, I have to say that I have a pretty rad group of travel companions here with me too. Thx for dancing by my side all night. Tomorrow we’re gonna need a good foot massage.

 

Food log:

  • Fried egg and toast with the most delicious raspberry jam at The Salad Concept
  • Vegetable spring rolls, fried shrimp cakes and an ice cream bar at the Koh Pahan port
  • Mystery meatloaf-type “burger” at Mango. Never again.
  • Spanish omelet (made with potatoes) and bacon with a mango orange fruit shake at the hostel
  • Some sort of noodle dish at the Amsterdam BarFish (not cod) and chips with sweet potato wedges (😍) while watching Star Wars Episode VII
  • Ham & cheese toastie!
  • Banana smoothie with peanut butter and honey (read: syrup) on toast
  • Hostel BBQ grill out (they earned back a few points with their awesome marinated chicken)

Hairy Potter’s Aunt

Day 9. Wed 5/18

Chiang Mai

Thai massages, Ran-Tong Elephant Sanctuary, Night Bazaar, Ladyboy Show, Zoe in Yellow, Spicy

Bad news: I got another bug bite. And it’s swollen and red like the first one. Good(ish) news: It’s pretty much centered on my left bicep, so my left arm is looking just as yoked as my right now.💪

Today we slept in and then decided it was finally time to get a Thai massage. Considering it was 200 baht, around $6 USD, I honestly don’t know why we haven’t done them every day. I got stretched, bent, cracked, popped, twisted, and stepped on and felt like a new person afterward. As Saffy put it, “I feel like I just got my ass kicked in slow motion.” But like, in a good way.

We spent our afternoon at the Ran-tong Elephant Sanctuary ❤❤❤ After somehow getting stuck in the back row of another hot and bumpy van ride, we descended down about 1,000 steps to the elephants. Right by the bathrooms and lockers was a pen with an extremely hairy baby elephant, who was justly named Hairy Potter, and his mother. He was a cutie, but he was also pretty mischevious. He almost put one of the other people’s hands into his mouth after luring her in with his playful trunk. Of course I was terrified after that and kept a good 2 foot distance from the fence.

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Each elephant had its own trainer, and Mike and I got paired up to ride with Maylou (who happened to be Hairy’s auntie) and Chablin (?? He had a very thick accent…). Chablin took about 100 pictures – including selfies – of us on Maylou and made sure we were safe while on top of the massive creature. Compared to the other elephants, Maylou was pretty well behaved except for some occasional mud slinging. We walked around a little dirt path and up a hill (elephants can climb extremely steep terrain) and then got to give them a little bath in the pool. Kaija and Max’s elephant took a huge shit and then was rolling around in the water like a puppy dog. So not only was I trying to dodge giant elephant feet, but also giant green bowling ball sized turds.💩

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I liked Ran-Tong because they use food to train the elephants and although they have a chain around each elephant’s foot, it’s only used for aggressive behavior to keep the other animals safe. Our guides helped us learn more about the elephants – they can live to be as old as humans, they have an 18-month gestation period, they only sleep 4 hours a day and they eat about 1/10 of their body weight in food each day. If elephants are dehydrated they can die in as little as two days, and so they have a doctor come and visit the elephants every morning. In addition, each trainer at the sanctuary was responsible for their elephant 24/7 in order to make sure they are healthy and safe.

Somehow our last night in Chiang Mai snuck up on us. Stamps was such a fun hostel and the staff Milk and Lynn were so helpful and welcoming at all hours of the day. I’m going to miss them!

We freshened up and headed toward the Night Bazaar for dinner and drinks before the Chiang Mai Cabaret Show, also known as the ladyboy show (we were advised by multiple people not to show up sober). After a long walk and a mediocre meal we grabbed some seats near the back for the show. But our host opened up the show by coming around kissing every man in the audience on the cheek, and not even Josh could hide from him/her.

As for the rest of the show, I really enjoyed it! It reminded me of the shows my family used to see when we were on vacation in Mexico, when the performers would come out and dance and sing to popular hits in flamboyant costumes and makeup. The only differences were that the songs were a little less family friendly and the performers were all ladyboys. Some better-looking than others. They even pulled one guy up on stage to participate in one of the acts, and although I don’t think he was upset about it at all, things got a little NSFW. **Very much so, actually.

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We hit up a Thai ice cream stand and the “Same Same but Different” bar before heading to Zoe in Yellow just before it closed at midnight. Once the bar was shut down we wandered back toward the hostel, stopping at Spicy which is a cafe by day and underground after hours dance club by night. Quite the combo.

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Food log:

  • Dried mango slices and banana chips
  • Vegetable quinoa salad with breaded fried fish sticks from The Salad Concept (slightly obsessed with their little cafe)
  • The most bland cashew chicken with vegetables. Ever.
  • Chocolate banana Oreo Thai ice cream

Hell’s Kitchen

Day 8. Tues 5/18
Chiang Mai

Breakfast at Ruam Chook market on the way to our cooking lesson, power outage in the city

This morning we were picked up by Thai Farm Cooking school’s shuttle and driven way north of the Old Town square for a day full of food. We cooked some delicious dishes – and for doing nothing but eat and listen to directions all day we came home exhausted.

Our guide’s name was Pern and let me say, she ran a tight ship. “Part time cooking instructor, full time killer” she told us with a grin. No I’m kidding… Actually she made the entire day a ton of fun. She was constantly cracking jokes and teasing us to keep us on our toes as we learned about the plants in the school’s garden all the way through the preparation and cooking of some traditional Thai dishes. Here’s a video of one the plants she showed us in the garden, called the Mimosa Plant.

She took a liking to Saffy after he was the only volunteer to eat an ant from the garden, and from that point on she called him “Sassy” 😂 Really hoping that nickname sticks.

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We started our lesson by stopping at the Ruam Chook market and seeing how coconut milk was made, where to find the good seasonings (Pern’s friend), and checking out the local market food. I tried an egg dish with fresh OJ bc the roads here are terrible and I was feeling a little carsick jumbling around in the back of our van on an empty stomach.

 

 

The six of us were joined by a group of four other Americans and Eva, a girl from Berlin. Eva was solo travelling (props to her) and meeting up with a few friends in Pai next, which we were all jealous of. Everyone we’ve met at the hostel has loved Pai, but we decided against going a couple months ago when planning because it didn’t fit extremely well logistically. Huge bummer because Pai is a super chill town and apparently it’s an awesome spot to hit and detox after going to a full moon party. Shoot.

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During our cooking lesson I was most surprised how quickly we cooked everything – we didn’t have to do dishes or clean up the meat or vegetables from the garden, but once the heat started on the stove you pretty much threw everything in the pot and stirred it up for a couple minutes. The exception to that is the curry paste, which we made by dicing up some ingredients and then pounding them using a pestle and mortar.

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Here are all of the dishes we made today:

Coconut Milk Soup with Shrimp

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Green Curry with Chicken

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Pad Thai – it turned out much more bland than the other pad thai dishes we’ve been having. I think we’ll stick to the street vendors for the rest of the trip.

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Sweet and Sour Chacken – not the kind from Panda Express

 

Mango Sticky Rice – I’m not sure why, but I think this dish is so strange. The mango is cold and the rice is hot and I feel like they don’t go together at all. Here’s a picture of Max’s because my mango was a little bit ornery.

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At the end of our meals, the staff also delivered a little birthday surprise to Kaija! We managed to find some candles at the market in the morning and they brought out a cute little plate of flowers, fruit and more sticky rice while we sang her Happy Birthday. Can’t say I’ve ever seen candles in a banana, but it worked out nicely!

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The cooking school gave us all cookbooks so we could (try to) replicate our meals again back home, and Pern also sent some of her instructional philosophies with us before we departed. For a 31 year old she seemed wise beyond her years. She had three main orders:

  1. You can plan for anything in life, but you can’t predict tomorrow. Live for today.
  2. Find inner peace first. External things will become an added benefit if you first serve yourself.
  3. Make more Thai food!

We were wiped when we got back to Stamps, and although we had some big plans for the rest of Kaija’s birthday night, a big storm blew in and knocked the power out for a few hours. We passed the time with Jenga, Uno and a few beers. I turned in (fighting some congestion) while the rest of the group turned up at Zoe in Yellow, the local club. No ragrets. 😴😴😴

Food log:

  • Eggs with some sort of fish (shrimp maybe?) and fresh orange juice at Ruam Chook market
  • Thai Farm Cooking School
    • Coconut milk soup with shrimp
    • Green curry with chicken
    • Pad thai with chicken
    • Sweet and sour chicken
    • Mango sticky rice

Sticky Trip

Day 7. Mon 5/17

Chiang Mai

BBHouse breakfast, motorbiked to Sticky Falls, lunch off of Thanon Chotana, Wat Umong Temple, Wat Lok Molee, Aroon Rai, John’s Place

Good news: So far I only have one mosquito bite. Bad news: It’s huge. And it’s started turning red and swelling. I’ll spare you photos.

After a huge breakfast near the hostel this morning (banana pancakes!) we took our bikes out for a day trip to northern Chiang Mai to visit Sticky Falls and a temple. The hour and a half drive was a ton of fun – we drove between cities and wilderness and saw a lot of cool things all along our road (vendors, shops, temples, homes, a water tower, fields, livestock…) . There were also a bunch of mini temples that were the size of mailboxes posted a couple yards apart out the middle of nowhere. The best part though was the soft mountain shapes in the background. Even on a sunny day like we had they are just barely there on the horizon, hiding behind a light dusting of clouds.

Our bikes got us all the way to the Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls, where you can literally climb up a waterfall in your bare feet because of the limestone’s natural grippy texture. We spent a couple hours there climbing, exploring the wildlife (Max saw a lil spider) and just sitting in the pools at the base of the falls. With all of the heat from the sun and our bikes, the shade and cool water was exactly what we needed. Since we got off of the plane from Tokyo I hadn’t been so cool, so I was glad to take it all in after a long morning.
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On the way back to the main square we stopped at Wat Umong, one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai. When we arrived, there was a crowd watching a group of men bring in a large fishing net to the shore of a muddy pool of water. It looked like they were being taught to fish, but we were told they were actually rescuing the catfish and moving them to another body of water where they can survive. A nice police officer told me to “take picture!” as he led me to a spot right alongside the fishermen. It was a little too close for comfort – the huge fish were freaking me out – but I got my picture!
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The rest of the temple was really cool to see. There were so many Buddha statues and signs with wise quotes all around. We read a bunch of them because a good number of them were also written in English (check out my gallery) and my favorite from the day is below.
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We visited another temple once we got back into the city, Wat Lok Molee. We have gathered that “wat” is the word for temple in Thai and also a commonly used word by Mike bc his phone autocorrects it to all caps WAT every time he types it in. 😂

The temple in the city was in a much smaller space, but really beautiful in it’s own way. Wat Umong blended in with nature, with a lot of stone and earthy materials and the temple was actually built into a large man-made stone area. Wat Lok Molee, in the city, used gold, silver and tiny delicate pieces of colored glass to decorate every detail of their structures. While visiting there we also heard and saw monks worshipping in the temple. Pretty cool experience.

Wat Umong
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Wat Lok Molee
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When visiting temples, you must cover your knees and shoulders and avoid other offensive or exposed clothing out of respect. We all donned our temple pants and sleeves for the temples and decided not to change before riding back to return the bikes. We were quite the sight: imagine a scooter gang of 6 tourist in elephant pants. Nice.
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First thing when we got back we hit up the 7Eleven for our usual large water bottle and Reese’s with nuts, which is halfway melted by the time we walk out of the store because of how hot it is. For dinner, we floundered a little before finding a place. Mondays are like Sundays here – we tried two different spots that were open every day except Monday. We ended up at Aroon Rai where they advertised the best curry in town. We got to try Kao Soi, the Thai specialty Milk recommended, and it so super yummy. Kaija got their red curry, and it was a little less enjoyable and lot more spicy.
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Before heading home we went to John’s Place, a rooftop bar with neon lights that played Hotel California and the Grease soundtrack. It was almost like home except we were drinking Chang beer and not even “Jack Daniels” (written on the bottles in Englsh) was translated correctly on the menu. WAT.
imageFood log

  • Omelet with veggies (including tomato, carrots, cucumber, mushroom and lettuce), banana pancakes, and a banana peanut butter coconut almond fruit shake
  • 2nd best chicken pad thai we’ve had at the street vendor off of Thanon Chotana (the only English phrases she knew were “where you from?” and “beautiful smile”)
  • Aroon Roi’s Kao Soi with Chicken Curry (“best curry in town”)
  • McDonald’s Oreo Matcha Tea McFlurry (tastes just like Fruity Pebbles)

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