Heading South and Island-hopping: Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao...
23.03.2013 33 °C
We arrived in Bangkok from Chiangmai around 6am, hopped in a mini-bus to the airport where we bought disgusting, overpriced 'breakfasts' then found a quiet corner to sleep in for 4 hours, before checking in for our flight.
The irony being that AirAsia charged us for our baggage, but had we checked in 4 hours earlier it would have been a lot cheaper.
I paid for our baggage on the way back right there and then - £20 to Surat Thani, £5 back - Ridiculous!
We bought our bus and ferry tickets on the plane so we didn't have to faff around when we landed.
Within an hour and a bit we arrived in Surat Thani, then had to take a 2 hour bus to the ferry port.
We arrived about 5.30pm and boarded the ferry just before 6pm.
About an hour and half after that we docked in Koh Samui and were bombarded with people charging 800 baht for a taxi!
We hopped on a red bus again for 100 baht and half an hour later we arrived at our hostel.
Knackered and hungry, we showered, grabbed some food, walked along the beach for a while then went to sleep.
I'm not going to lie to you, we stayed at The Wave (nice enough) on Chaweng Beach on the east side of the island in what can only be described as the offspring of Falaraki and Benidorm, with equally annoying clientelle.
Not my idea of an island getaway.
Upon reading my guide book, I discovered that the whole of Chaweng Beach is the party district of Koh Samui so I forgave as much as I could of the gaudy, over-westernised chips and gravy restaurants as possible.
Everything there was very expensive as well, when a few streets over there was authentic Thai food at half the price - that's more like it!
We got some food and Ricky and Mish got some cocktails from a little street kiosk and we walked around.
After a day on the beach and my skin being fairer than fair, I was suitably sunburnt and ready for bed so I went back to the hostel and those guys headed to the bars.
Another day at the beach and a hearty rescue by me later and we met up with the other girls in their hotel for a pool party right by the beach - so many scrummy men in tiny pants!
Om nom nom!
The best part about going away with a girl and a gay is that you all appreciate the same scenery!
We wanted to go to Laen Din Market, and not knowing entirely where it was, we hopped on a red bus, told him where we wanted to go and off we went.
Now we knew this market was only about 10 minutes away and we were reasonably close to where we'd already been that day so after 20 minutes and no more town, we figured that something was wrong.
Naturally our first thought was 'this man is stealing us...'
Our second thought was 'I wonder how much I'd sell for in a Hostel (the movie) style situation...'
Tanya stopped the bus and Ricky got out to investigate.
He was taking us to the south of the island to Laen Don Beach....
After we turned around and headed back towards town, he tried to drop us off by loads of closed shops and restaurants;
Tanya quickly ran into the 7Eleven to ask where the market was and then told the guy to go up the road some more.
We eventually found it, only to the realise it was the exact same market we went to before and it was literally 5 minutes away from our hostel.
300 baht down the drain!
We got some yummy street food, they got cocktails, we jammed out to some music and then headed back to the hostel.
We woke up the next day about 11am, had some breakfast then went to rent some mopeds/scooters for the day to go exploring.
2,000 baht deposit and Ricky's provisional driving license later (as we certainly were not going to leave our passports with them) we hit the road.
Mopeds are awesome for independent sight-seeing; you can stop where you want, buy gasoline from the side of the road and drive off into the sunset.
Following a map as best we could, we found a beautiful beach that led to the island of Koh Fan.
And of course, we saw a man with the most impressive moustache I have ever witnessed...!
We walked through the shallow warm water for a little while - Choeng Mon was much more my type of an island getaway!
We played around in the sea and explored the miniature island just off of Choeng Mon beach then after writing some messages in the sand for our wives and partners (what with it being Valentine's day) we got back on our mopeds and carried on around the top of the island.
We got to Bo Phut pier and Fisherman's village, grabbed some lunch and a drink at the Karma Sutra Cafe then headed in land through the jungle to try and find one of the many waterfalls.
Then we almost died.....
Approaching a massive hill deep in the jungle, we see two girls further up that have either given up trying to get up the hill or have fallen off their mopeds, and Mish taps me on the back and tells me that Ricky is waving at us to stop.
So I stop the moped half way up a hill.
Everything happened so fast.
Mish flew off the back of the bike, hit her head on the ground and started rolling down the hill towards Ricky who had stopped his moped to help her but then his bike started rolling backwards down the hill, so he jumped off and it skidded sideways down the hill.
Mine and Mish's bike tried to roll on top of me so I grabbed at the handles and accidentally got the throttle, revved it and flew with the bike towards the edge of the hill straight into the barricade and a very upset Ant Hill until I could reach the keys to turn it off.
Only after checking that everyone was alive and well, did we burst into uncontrollable laughter as some man in a truck with his family tried to help us!
We stopped for 10 minutes or so after rolling our bikes down the hill, had a celebratory cigarette then decided the waterfall could wait and we headed back to the main road.
Ricky then mentioned he needed gas which was the original reason for his signalling us, so after purchasing some gasoline in an old wine bottle from a nice man by the side of the road, we went back to the hostel.
Funny day, funny, funny day!
We left Koh Samui and got on a boat to Koh Phangan.
We met an English guy called Mike who we named Alan after a private joke mentioned in our shared taxi to the port in Koh Samui.
He taught English and was going to see some friends on Koh Phangan.
When we arrived in Koh Phangan, the taxi wanted to charge 300 baht to take us to our hostel - we knew it was close so we asked a local who confirmed our suspicions and within less than 3 minutes we'd walked to our hostel.
Kylie aptly described our hostel as Barbie's Dream House!
It was pink and purple with play boy bunnies everywhere!
Ghastly, but oddly homely!
We checked in and went upstairs to survey the 20-bed hostel.... oh my.
A whole wall lined with double and single bunkbeds that were all connected to each other...
When someone at one end moved, everyone else felt it all the way down to the other end.
I'm just glad no one had sec in there during our stay, I fear I may have got motion sickness!
After chatting to Alan (Mike) we knew which bars we wanted to visit and headed to the beach to get a boat to the less road-accessible parts of the island.
The boat ride was interesting - with nothing but a head torch to the guide the boat around the rocks, we arrived on another part of the island and jumped into the coarse sand of the beach.
The captain pointed to our destination that was partly submerged by boulders and jungle.
We headed to our first destination - Eden.
As we got off the beach, we found ourselves on a rickety wooden walkway precariously balanced on the rocks and boulders below, reminiscent of the wooden walkway in the Hobbit!
Although there were no orcs or trolls hindering our journey, every step was laced with dread as sharp rocks protruded viciously beneath us.
After walking the plank and negotiating a rock face, all the while questioning a drunk person's ability to not die out here, we found a bar.
Alas, it was not Eden, but we did meet a guy called Shawn who runs a TEFL programme in Taiwan that pays substantially more than China.... it's all about networking!
We got his email and he directed us to Eden - you guessed it, back down the rock face and across an even more rickety wooden branch walkway.
After safely passing this walking test and being deeply disappointed to have not won a crystal in this zone, we found Eden.
I found home!
Black lights everywhere, giant psychedelic UV posters and throws on the walls and squidgy cushion seats all over the floor, I joined my fellow hippies and for about 2 hours was totally at peace with the world and with nature and I let the music guide me.
We were befriended by a beautiful pit-bull bitch who later would become our personal guide!
After Tanya had go her fill of chatting to some new people, we went to head out to Guy's Bar, only to realise we didn't know where it was!
Luckily, a marvellously hippy woman told us she was heading that way, so with her and our new dog to guide us, we headed up through the jungle...
A lot easier to do once you've climbed a huge mountain!
We went up and down and around the jungle using nothing but the torch on my phone for light until we reached a different beach.
This is where our hippy guide left us but our trusty pit-bull continued to show us the way!
A few minutes more walking in the dark and following the music (and the dog!) and we found Guy's Bar - a black light hippy Neverland of hammocks and cushions and moving wooden platforms with small tables on and dancing.
Oh the dancing.
To feel so free and uninhibited by social pressures and conformities so people, regardless of how it looked, let their bodies physicalise the music into visual poetry.
Even thinking about it again is bringing back the Zen in me.
No one was there to judge you, no one cared what you were wearing or if you'd fixed your hair properly; they were just there, to be... well, to be!
So we danced, quite controlled at first, trying to get a taste for the crowd, the atmosphere; then we danced.
Oh lordy lord, did we dance.
I think I lost 5lbs that night!
We danced in the jungle until 4am.
I got kissed by a random Iranian man who was so overcome with joy that he needed to share the love.
The girls and I found a comfy nook to chill in for a while before heading back down to the beach and the boat that would take us home.
Our pit-bull led the way back down the random stepping stones of the jungle to the beach, the ethereal weightlessness helping the journey down run smoothly.
Then the feeling of pure happiness slowly started to ebb away with each gentle wave breaking on the sand as the wait began.
Not the wait for the boat, oh no, the boat was ready.
We were waiting for enough people to fill the boat.
The boats on the island are privately owned so they wouldn't leave unless at least 8 people were getting the boat.
So we waited.
Then we waited some more.
Then finally, people!
Damn, still not enough.
We waited some more.... until eventually the right number of people arrived, 300 baht each later and we were on our way to our side of the island.
As we walked away from the beach the the fire shows through the multitude of drunken fist-pumpers we found a very drunk and slightly burnt Alan (Mike), who had been playing with fire himself.
Resound to going to bed, we left drunk Alan with drunk Alan's friend and returned to our crowded but well ventilated room at the Moonstone Hostel.
We never did see Alan again.
Kylie went home (NYC) at 9am the following morning and with no Ricky (who had stayed on Koh Samui with some new friends for an extra day, we were down to 3.
Tanya booked herself into her hotel so Mish and I went to meet her before heading to the beach.
The sun was so hot on Koh Phangan and my poor English skin couldn't take it so I headed back tot he hostel only to be greeted by Ricky chilling on the sofa!
He regaled his adventures during his extra day on Koh Samui and I told him about our expedition then we ordered a shisha pipe and relaxed on the sofa and watched films all afternoon!
Later that afternoon, UV face and body paint at the ready, we prepared our flesh for the half moon party with the other people in our hostel.
Painted up and ready to go, we got in a tin bus taxi and headed out.
We arrived, paid our 500 baht, got our free drink (Which I gave to the others!) and entered party central.
A large collection of girating foreigners eye-fucking and grinding their way around the sand and mud dance floor, like a scene from the Serengeti, packs of males scoped out and hunted down their female pray.
Too much for me, I much preferred the atmosphere at Eden and Guy's Bar, so I retreated into the jungle to enjoy the music without being subjected to the antiquated mating rituals below.
A guy from Cardiff of all places who works as a primary school teacher in Qatar plonked himself down next to me and we chatted for a bit then when the conversation dried up, he carried on with his life and I did the same.
The party ended pretty swiftly for me and I was in bed by 4am - the others rocked up at around 7am...!
The next day was pretty chilled, we got some falafel for lunch then Ricky and I wasted the day away in a Rasta Bar after buying some special cigarettes..........
I went to bed after that - 'smoking' always makes me sleepy but the others went to a floating bar and the next day we hopped on another boat to our final island: Koh Tao.
We'd adopted an Irish girl, Virginia, who we aptly named Irish, from our hostel and when we arrived in Koh Tao and got attacked once again by taxi drivers we just took her to our hotel as she hadn't booked anywhere to stay!
After we checked in we got in the pool and didn't really leave the whole time we were there!
Whenever the rest of the town went to sleep, the party continued by our pool, so until the early hours of the breaking day, pool parties were rife and the music was blasted out...
Tanya and I walked along the beach, through the shallow warm water right to the edge of the world and looked into going snorkelling but Mish twisted her ankle and could barely move it so we didn't go in the end which was a shame.
To be honest though, at the end of our 3 weeks in Thailand, I was so knackered I didn't even want to move!
We did however manage to do a lantern on the beach for good vibes and our wives!
Ricky and I were going to get tattoos in Bangkok but thought they'd probably be more expensive so we found a beautiful hippy boy and he helped design our tattoos then I got a bamboo one by Mama, and Ricky got an old tattoo covered up by machine by Papa!
That hippy boy was so beautiful!
I'm so going to move to Thailand and have beautiful jungle babies with a beautiful hippy man!
We chilled by the pool then headed down to the port to get a boat to Chumporn (no that's not shark-bait themed adult movies!) then got a bus to Bangkok.
We arrived at 5am, checked in, slept until 11am, check out, then vegged out and watched Twilight in Thai on giant floor cushions.
This is the life, sat in hareem pants, on the floor under a fan, sweating away in 35 degree heat!
Ricky and I ventured out in the midday sun to spend what little money we had left on souvenirs and cigarettes! (Naturally!)
We were stood outside, not moving, under a shade looking at the niknaks and trinkets and the sweat was pouring down our backs.
We'd forgotten how humid Bangkok was.
We saved 100 baht each for the taxi to the airport, bought some food and water with whatever remnants of change we had left and went back to the hostel.
We resumed our positions on the floor cushions, chowed down and chilled out.
At about 4:30pm we went to book the car to the airport, only to discover that the 4pm bus has gone and the next one was at 8pm and our flight left a 7pm...
So we walked towards the main road, away from the hustle and bustle of Kohsan Road and hailed a cab.
"How much to the airport?"
I look in my wallet, I look back at the driver...
"I can give you exactly 340 baht."
It was literally all the money we had left.
He looked at me and said...
I took the 340 baht out of purse and said again...
"I only have 340 baht - this is it, this is all of our money..." gently shaking the tattered notes in his direction.
Eventually after sad eyes and begging smiles, he accepted and by 4:50pm we were on our way.
Now before we left, we were told that it would take an hour and a half to get to the airport...
We set off at 4:50pm...
Check in at the airport closes 45 minutes prior to departure....
This was going to be a close one.
We sat in traffic for a while and the panic set in. I know my credit card wouldn't cover 3 flights if we missed it but I could think of worse places to be stranded.
We get to the airport at 5:25pm - less than 45 minutes!
Now we had no money and only a bottle of water each so we tried to ignore the hundreds of delicious food places beckoning us in and checked in for our flight.
Ricky got changed into his China clothes, ready for the cold -2 degrees on Beijing.
I much preferred the 33 degrees we were currently enjoying!
We headed to our gate and were in, on and up within the hour.
Free drinks, a delicious meal and a nap across the 3 free seats next to me and we landed in Beijing.
Holy hell was that cold, and when Thailand stole all of your shoes, leaving you with nothing but flip-flops, you lose feeling in your toes almost instantly!
Determined to carry on, me, my flip-flops, my hareem pants and my strap top headed to passport control and immigration.
Mish and I felt very Asian, what with our socks and flip-flop combos...
After a painful wait for the woman behind the counter, who I'm pretty sure didn't even work there, finally checked us through, we went to baggage claim and departed the airport.
We knew the drill in China so when the taxi guy said 450 Yuan, we told him to do one, and 90 yuan later, around 2am, we arrived at our hostel for the night.
What a dump!
Mish and I had 3 quilts and still had to huddle for warmth.
I instantly missed sleeping in my underwear under a fan.
We eventually shivered ourselves to sleep, woke up at 10/10:30am and got the heck out of there!
Next hurdle, get to Beijing West Train Station, get tickets our friend had booked online, get on the train at 12:13pm.
We got to the train station at 11:45am only to be told we needed to go to a different booth.
11:55am we get to the front of that queue, she speaks excellent English, we eventually get our tickets and head up to the platforms.
Beijing Xi (west) is huge.
12:05pm we find out what platform we need.
12:10pm we get to the gate.
"Boarding closes 5 minutes before departure"
12:13pm, our train leaves without us.
12:15pm we head back downstairs to buy new tickets.
12:25pm we go downstairs some more to the the previous tickets refunded.
12:45pm we go for a much needed cigarette.
12:55pm we give up and go to McDonalds.
13:30pm we go to our platform and wait to get on.
By 2pm, we're on the train, music on, headphones in, pillows strategically made from scarves and jackets, eyes shut, world is gone.
Tired, grotty, dirty, bruised, twisted, beaten, we get home - our lovely clean apartment, showered, washing in the machine, jammies on, sleep.
Oh Thailand. Totally worth it.