Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Asia Adventure Part III: Thailand

After five days in Tokyo, Mike and I were giddy with excitement to finally leave for Thailand. 

In the airport lounge, exhausted businessmen stared at us in confusion over their beers as we ate dinner and laughed loudly while taking iPad photos. Thailand was going to be good. 

We caught a taxi to Khaosan Road upon arrival. Pushing through the hoards of drunk backpackers in singlets, sticky with sweat, Mike and I walked in near silence. After nearly a week spent wandering Tokyo's quiet, clean streets, arriving in Bangkok was like getting punched in the face. 

Getting to the ocean couldn't come soon enough. 

Two Nights in Bangkok

Our first night at the D&D Inn was punctuated by drunk backpackers fighting in the hallways. But when Mike and I woke up, we discovered that Khaosan Road had been transformed into a semi-respectable street in the daytime. 

We were going to spend a couple of days in Bangkok before heading straight down to the Gulf of Thailand. (Since we were there in the middle of the rainy season, the Andaman Coast was more of a gamble weather-wise.) We didn't have much of a plan, but one thing was clear: Thailand wasn't going to be about a cultural experience; it was going to be about laying on the beach and doing nothing for two weeks. 

But since the ocean was still a day's journey away, we took advantage of the rooftop pool instead, before trying to cram all of our Thailand cultural and historical pre-requisites into a single day.

We failed miserably.

After visiting a travel agency, grabbing some street food (mine had at least four different kinds of meat in it, which really set the standard for my expectations around vegetarianism in Thailand) and wandering through Central World, we attempted to hail a metered taxi but were denied. 

Instead, we opted to walk the eight kilometres through smoggy Bangkok to Wat Pho in 40 degree heat. Our logic was that'd we get to see the city and save money. Brilliant right? 

It was a great plan--until my stomach started turning (due to aforementioned meat consumption). And when we finally arrived at Wat Pho nearly two hours later, it was 4 pm, leaving us only an hour to visit all the recommended tourist haunts. 

In other words, the only guidebook-approved site that we managed to visit was Wat Pho. (Yes, I know. We're bad tourists. And you know what? I don't care.)

We celebrated our complete failure as tourists by braving the nighttime horror that is Khaosan Road, where we shared a pitcher of Chang and some green curry.

As per Lonely Planet's advice, I decided to fully embrace the backpacker shitshow by putting on my sluttiest attire. (I think LP calls it "club clothing" and intend for it to be worn on Sukhumvit, though.)  

It also seemed like a brilliant move, until later that night when I was nearly denied access to our hotel because the front desk staff thought I was a hooker. True story. (Needless to say, this dress remained rolled neatly in the bottom of my backpack for the duration of the trip.)

After only two nights, we'd had enough of Bangkok. It was time to head south.

Koh Samui

Sick of cockroaches, I didn't feel any shame when I booked Mike and I a ballin' bungalow at the Jungle Club. (Fifty dollars per night for this room and an infinity pool? Yes, please!)

The Jungle Club also had a badminton court, complete with a referee (Lilly the dog), spectators (check out the bird on the net post) and obstacles (dog #2).

"It's like playing badminton in the Jungle Book," Mike said.

The only kind of annoying thing about the Jungle Club? As the name implies, it's in the jungle, high in the mountains. We had to rely on a hotel truck to get us in and out of the resort and down to the beach.

Koh Phangan: Haad Yao

After three nights on Koh Samui, we jumped on the ferry and went up to Koh Phangan.

After spending every last baht at the Jungle Club, we booked a bungalow at the luxurious Shiralea Backpackers Resort for about $6/night.

The beach was okay, I guess, if you're into that sort of thing.

I only took four pictures the entire time we were on the island, but here's a summary of the horribly cliched backpacker activities we engaged in: watching a guy dance with fire, eating pad thai, hanging out with a dude who had a dread mullet, riding mopeds, swimming in the ocean, petting flea-ridden dogs, getting thai massages and vomiting up blood in a ferry terminal. (Okay, that last one was just me.)

Koh Tao: Tanote Bay

In Koh Tao, we checked into the Tanote Villa Hill Resort, which had come highly recommended by Natty.

While it was undeniably awesome (our bungalow, which cost about $50 a night, is up in the picture on the left hand side), it was also incredibly isolated.

It was the perfect place to recover from the cold I'd been fighting. . .

. . .but it was also dead in terms of nightlife and other travellers to interact with. So after three nights enjoying the infinity pool, Mike and I decided that it was time to slum it again on the other side of the island.

Koh Tao: Sairee Beach

We moved into the Sairee Cottages. Since we had less than a week left together, it seemed only fitting that we should cram all of our Thailand backpacker cliches into one evening. 

We met up with James and Susan (who we had met a week earlier on the ferry to Koh Phangan) and went on the Koh Tao Pub Crawl. 

That night, I drank from a bucket; wore a singlet; went to the ladyboy cabaret; danced with a bunch of white people to a cover band in a faux Australian pub; and had a makeout session with a British guy on the beach in the rain to electronic music. Success!

It served as gentle reassurance that I'm not a complete failure as a tourist.

Back to Koh Samui

By the time we got back to Koh Samui, we were exhausted. We spent a day poolside and playing mini-golf.

I also found out that Dayn, who I know from Toronto, and his girlfriend Alicia were staying at a resort about a 10-minute taxi ride away. 

It felt surreal to see Dayn in Thailand, since it's been about five years since we last met up. (It was also a reminder about how much my travelling has changed; 10 years ago I didn't even have a guidebook, let alone regular Internet access. This time, I not only had an iPad on hand, but Facebook's newsfeed is how we figured out that we were on the same island at the same time.)

Back to Bangkok

The next day, Mike and I flew back to Bangkok. 

We'd spent three weeks together but we parted ways most unceremoniously (I think we might have hugged?), before I jumped on the Skytrain to head back into Bangkok. 

It only took me about 45 minutes to realize that I was suddenly very much alone. 

I checked into my hostel room for the night, hoping that I'd meet people. Given the hostel's location directly across the street from the train station, I felt fairly certain that I'd meet at least one other person who was also enroute to Cambodia. 

But my jail cell of a room was nearly empty. In the common area, I hung out for a bit, smiling at a girl my age who was clearly planning the next leg of her trip. 

She didn't smile back.

My mood wasn't helped when I wandered the streets of Bangkok's Chinatown, alone, perhaps a little too close to nightfall. 

Even though I've commandeered a satellite phone in the jungles of Guyana and travelled by myself before, the simple truth was starting to set in; I was a single woman, vacationing alone in a developing region. 

I started to worry. Did I make a mistake by leaving the islands? Why didn't I go back to Koh Phangan to join Alicia and Dayn for the Full Moon Party, like they had suggested? 

That night I took myself out for dinner, slurping back green curry, and I thought about other meals I've eaten alone. I thought about eating a crepe soaked in orange liqueur beneath Berlin's Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church tower, surrounded by teenagers. I thought about sitting in Australia's Blue Mountains, beet juice running down my chin and red wine in hand, as I scribbled furiously in my journal. I thought about sitting waterfront in Halifax, a new blue silk dress loose on my sunburnt skin, eavesdropping on the conversations of families.

And I thought about how some of my favourite journeys in my life have started with a meal eaten alone.

Next up: Asia Adventure Part IV: Cambodia.


  1. Seems like you had a great adventure. When we went to Thailand for a vacation, we sure did. The beaches are just so amazingly gorgeous and it felt like we're in paradise. And we definitely couldn't forget those Thai massages, it was the best!

  2. It was an awesome experience for me and my family to visit Thailand last year. We travelled across many popular locations without facing any difficulty because we were able to book a Bangkok car rental beforehand.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...