Not the first thing you want to see upon arriving at an island.
Bangkok. Supposedly the craziest city in SE Asia. I was excited to finally go there, not really sure what to expect except total mayham, prostitutes, and partying. It was anything but. I was surprised at how low key the famous backpacker Khao San Road was. Maybe it's because it's "low season," but I felt like it was any other backpacker driven area in SE Asia. Nothing too special. We got a couple rooms on a road near Khao San and the next day hit up the palace. We had heard about scams involving people telling tourists the main sites are closed for the day, but then offering to take you on a tour of the city for a cheap price. Now, usually tuk-tuk drivers do this, but in our case it was a seemingly nice couple who talked to us for about 10 minutes before informing us the palace was closed until 1pm for "prayer.
Good old Connect Four.. where I then went on to break the stand.
" They said we could take a tuk-tuk around to a few other sites and then come back. I was wary of the whole thing, but Tim seemed convinced that these were normal, friendly people, not scammers. Of course, no one gets scammed thinking "this person is really sketchy, but I'm sure they're telling me the truth." So we went to a few other random temples first and upon arriving at the palace before 1pm realized it was open all day. Then again we only had to pay $2 each for 2 hours worth of sightseeing... soo not really a rip-off at all. That thought consoled us. The palace itself was huge and quite impressive. There was an ornate temple containing the famous 'Emerald Buddha' that turned out to be tiny, but nice?, as well as another temple covered in gold.
Just like the Corona commercials.
At the end of our free tour it started pouring rain so we got stuck in an outdoor pavilion type thing, where Tim and Chris fell asleep and I took pictures.
Besides shopping a bit on Khao San Road, where I picked up a cool Guinness t-shirt - nothing like supporting the local beers, ha - we sat around at restaurants where we were bombarded by vendors selling "traditional tribal" hats and hundreds of bracelets. I think Chris bought 10. Tim also picked up a handy cigarette holder/lighter with an admittedly cool green fire. And we were served by an attractive ladyboy. If only I spent that much time trying to look good.... The following day Tim and I headed to the National Museum while Chris visited tigers.
Awesome fire show.
The museum was informative and pretty awesome. There was also a hugeee collection of artifacts and displays of pottery, weapons, furniture, puppets, and so on and so forth. We then visited the enormous famous reclining Buddha, where we were warned of "non-Thai pickpocket gangs." Sure, blame the tourists. Tim and I subsequently got stuck in the rain yet again, this time on the side of the road in China town where we waited it out on a curb like the locals.
One night we went out on Khao San Road with another Austrian Chris met that day. I had my first Indian food ever for dinner. I know, how have I gone 25 years without trying Indian food? After dinner we were offered opportunities to see the infamous 'ping-pong shows' where a woman does all sorts of, um, things with a ping-pong.
Get ready to be jealous..
No, thanks. The first bar we went into contained about 80% prostitutes, 15% old white guys, and 5% (including us) unsuspecting backpackers. The next bar, which boasted "we don't check ID" despite the fact there seems to be no real drinking age in Asia, had strong drinks and we got to sit on little plastic stools on the street. We tried to go to a club, but the prices were outrageous. Chris then decided to buy a hammock from a vendor, where he and the other Austrian held it up while Tim attempted to sit and swing on it. You can imagine how that turned out.. Tim flat on his ass. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy watching. And so ended out evening.
Our last day we decided to get some last minute shopping in at the first real mall I've seen since Shanghai.
Chris and I then mailed home our souveniers thus far (mine was only a quarter full while Chris's was packed to the max.. sometimes I'm not sure I'm a girl). We took the night bus to Koh Tao
, our first Thai island. On the bus, which is rumored to be the most likely place to get robbed, we met a French girl, Celine, traveling alone. Unfortunately for Celine she ended up getting 15,000 baht stolen on the bus (about $500, yikes). BUT we made it to the side of a road in a random port town safely where we sat for 3 hours in the dirt waiting for our boat. Luckily/unlikely for us there were a group of drunk (I hope) British guys serenading the group with Disney songs and even performing a dance or two to pass the time.
Chris playing with a random extremely friendly and needy beach dog.
Once we got to Ko Tao though it was definitely worth it.
Chris, Celine, and I signed up for open water scuba diving lessons and we began the next day. We even got awesome free accommodation and breakfast as part of the deal. It's the little things. We had to do homework - yuck - and the first day in the water I wanted to kill myself, but once I got used to breathing normally and having to take off my mask underwater (by far the worst part), it was a blast. Our first official dive site was rather murky and it was hard to see much, but the second one was amazing.. tons of fish and coral, and we all got through our skills sets no problem. Our instructor was even another American, Kelly, from Syracuse. Haven't met many Northeasterners so that was cool.
So. many. bug. bites.
The beach was also beautiful, and despite the crowds of topless Europeans, it was nice and relaxing. The bars were pretty chill there too, we even played Connect Four and Jenga at one which I haven't played in years. On the beach at night they had fire shows with guys holding sticks lit on fire or swinging fire around on ropes. It was mesmorizing to watch them.
The rest of the time was spent getting bitten by thousands of mosquitos and lying on bed covered in Tiger Balm attempting to stop the incessent itching. Which didn't stop. We also spent time playing ping pong, badmitten, and hula hooping with the hotel staff, namely Torr, the owner who is probably the coolest Thai guy ever. He even invited the four of us to a BBQ he was hosting for his friends on our last night.
Amazing food. He brought out his guitar and we looked up chords to some songs for him to play and we sang along and drank and just had a good time.
Sadly, Koh Tao was the last stop for our little group. Tim left for Bangkok to fly back to America and Chris went off to Kuala Lumpur while I headed to more of the islands. I love traveling alone, don't get me wrong, but it was awesome having people around consistently who you always have a good time with. I can't believe we lasted a month all together, but it was a great time and I'll always look back fondly on our threesome group. Er, that came out wrong. You know what I mean.