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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 💃
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.
- 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)