Let m start out by apologizing for not updating this more frequently. It has ben a hectic experience getting here and what has happened since as well. no worries though, you’ll get to read all about it. So back to the story.
I arrived on Koh Phangan after a long harrowing trip from Bangkok, a 12 hour overnight train, 3 hour bus and after a 3 hour wait, a 3 hour ferry. Needless to say when I arrived, I was exhausted. As soon as I stepped off the ferry I was greeted by chaos. About a hundred cab drivers, and when I say cab, don’t think of what that means in North America because that would be a pipe dream. No, here a cab means a pick up truck, sometimes with an extra frame around the bed that luggage can be strapped to or passengers can cling to for dear life. Each of these cabbies is eagerly yelling “Taxi, Taxi!!!” in a desperate attempt to get the debarking travellers attention and hopefully score a fare. As in Bangkok, I would soon discover this to be the norm around here. I, at this point having had a pretty good boat ride despite a rain shower, am pretty tired and find the closest, least annoying taxi to my resort, known as Beer Bungalow beach resort on Sunrise beach, about half way between Thongsala where the pier is and Haad Rin, where the full moon party is to take place. I arrive much quicker than expected, and grab my bags and head toward reception.
It is about 6 in the evening, and I see only a couple of other travelers in the hotel, all of whom seem just as exhausted as I feel. As the receptionist looks over my booking I take in my resort. I will apologize from now for not having taken any pictures of it, as I never really got in the mode to want to catalogue it, but it’s not a bad or overly ugly place, but obviously not the islands finest accommodations either. I am assigned bungalow number 1, right on the beach, which seems like a stroke of good luck, and quickly cross th3 30-40 foot distance between reception and my bungalow. Inside, I’m greeted by a fairly modest room, with a bed, a shelving unit, a night stand with mirror and a bathroom. The bathroom is what I have come to know as a wet room, where the shower is installed in a wall and the entire room is sealed off to make it watertight, so you basically shower next to the toilet. This is not a new experience to me as I’ve seen the same thing in Europe before. I quickly take a shower and then head back out, anxious to meet some of my fellow travelers. As I exit, I notice a guy, obviously European who looks like he too is just taking in the entire place, so I go say hi, as he’s the only other person around at this point. This is Duccio, an Italian who is here on vacation from his life in Australia. (I know, another Italian, right?) As we talk, I realize we are both kind of doing the same thing here, going it solo, so we decide to hang out for the night, and he informs me of a pool party that is going on that sounds like it could be interesting, taking place at the Coral Bungalows resort, and we decide that this will be where we head for the night. We decide it’s a good idea to relax for a bit beforehand, so I head back to my room and pass out for a few hours before we head off.
Duccio knocks on my door a few hours later letting me know it’s time to start heading towards the pool party. On the way out, we run into a couple, Stephan and Jessica, fellow Canadians, who let us know that we should ring our bathing suits to the pool party because they just came from there and came back to change, so we quickly change and hit the road. Now, it’s important to say that not much is actually walking distance from my hotel, but there are 2 main ways to get around on Koh Phangan. The first is by taxi, which will run about 100 THB a trip to most places, and the second is by scooter, which one can rent from many of the islands various outlets for the going rate of 150 THB a day. For now though, Duccio has rented one, so I hop on the back and we make or way to the pool party. Coral Bungalows seems like a decent place, not too far from our hotel and on the way to Haad Rin, but my god, roads in that that area are all hills and turns, so care MUST be excercised on these roads. I notice that there are many people on scooters, both locals and tourists, and it seems to be the preferred mode of travel in this area. Anyway, we part the scooter in an already full scooter lot, one of the very many on this island, and head towards the party.
The party is pretty decent. The music is pretty good, and a fair amount of people are there, either dancing on the deck, in the pool or just sitting on the sidelines, enjoying some drinks. Now, if you don’t already know, one of the things that Koh Phangan is known for are their buckets. What is a bucket? Well, it’s exactly that, a plastic toy beach bucket, filled with ice, liquor and mix, usually with a bunch of straws that people walkk around with and seem to be the drink of choice. I decide to stick to beer for now, attempting to easy myself into this party lifestyle, and after being warned about the issues of buckets by a few friends and fellow travelers(rip off, watered down alcohol, possibility of being drugged) I’m happy with this choice. As the party continues, I introduce myself to a bunch of people and we al party into the night, and I rotate from group to group. I find this group of people that all seem to be really into the party and we hang. Duccio seems to be doing the same, though I suspect his heavily accented english is a bit of a damper on his ability to blend in, as most of the travelers are native english speakers. The party gos from a wild ordeal with people doing all kinds of crazy stuff, jumping/pushing each other into the pool, throwing buckets full of drinks into the air on the crowd and so on to a much more lame affair after a couple of hours, where the crowd has thinned out and people seem much less into the whole thing. I’m told by a group of fellow partygoers that this is because the party to be at is at the beach at Haad Rin. Duccio and I agree that this should then be our next stop and we head out in that direction.
We arrive in Haad Rin for the first time, and I’m greeted by a beach that, while not too large and can be traversed in under 10 minutes on foot, is geared towards parties. There are stages set up as well as temporary bars set up along the beach, where the somewhat modest crowd is partying in full swing. I am certainly no exception and the night turns into a blur of dancing, buckets and good times all around. Duccio and I get separated over the course of the night, and when I’m eventually ready to go home, he’s nowhere to be found, so I (literally) hop in the back of a taxi, and make it back to the hotel and pass out.
A night on the train isn’t so bad. One thing I haven’t addressed too much is the crippling heat in Thailand. The temperature regularly is above 32 degrees C, and it feels just plain hot. Most days, if you’re out and about, there is no way around it. In Bangkok, this usually means dealing with sweaty clothes mere minutes after stepping out of your hotel, sometimes even at night. The night train, however, was actually kind of chilly, since I was in an air conditioned sleeper car. It was a pretty pleasant experience overall, with lots to see along the way, mostly the poverty stricken countryside of southern Thailand. Most people were respectful of the fact that there are people sleeping on the train, but we are going to one of the biggest parties in the country, and the young travelers were getting in the mood, drinking and walking up and down the train in an attempt to find their friends and the like. There are also many people who get on at stations to sell food, again, walking up and down the train offering their foodstuffs to anyone interested in the morning.
When people start to wake, around 6 I think (Thai people in general seem to be very early risers, more on this later) the train gets a bit more noisy, and the attendants come to convert the bunks back into seats. I take this opportunity to converse a bit with some fellow travelers, and realize that many of us are on the same boat, so to speak. We have the opportunity, for the first time to come to a or a few countries where we have no idea how life is lived or how things are done, and are for the most part all out of our element. Many of the people I speak with seem to traveling for much longer than I, 3 months being the average, but going as long as a year in some cases, and going to many different countries. I don’t really have a set itinerary, and have yet to decide the scope of my trip, but hearing more stories on increases my travel lust, but not my budget. In any event, the often slow moving train makes many stops, some at stations and some just for what seems like no reason, but I assume it’s to change switches on the tracks, or just to clear them when necessary. In any event, the train was a pleasurable experience that ends by me and some other travelers beginning to wonder when and where our station actually is going to show up.
When we finally arrive in Surathani, we are then greeted with a complete zoo of a platform, with loads of backpackers acting just as bewildered as I feel at that moment, filing out towards the parking lot. At some point, my Thai mom appears, I give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek and tell her Sawat dee kap, and that I hope to see her again. She wishes me well, and I make my way out to the parking lot to find my bus with the others. In case I haven’t mentioned it, while my travels are random while here, I have tried to arrange it so that they parallel those of a friend of mine, Tanya, from law school. Tanya is traveling with her sister and a few friends, and due to difficulties communicating as a traveler in Thailand, we haven’t spoken beyond some very basic Facebook messages. While looking for my bus, I actually spot her for the first time, and walk up and surprise her with a hug. We only speak briefly, and buses are leaving, but agree that we will find each other again later. A few moments later, her group is on their bus and I’m putting my bag on mine and boarding the hour long trip to Don Sak pier.
This bus ride is relatively painless, and I use the time to listen to some music and keep to myself a bit. When we arrive at the pier, don’t ask me why, but our tour operator drops our group off at an entrance about 3 or 4 km from the actual entrance, and then we have to get on these smaller open air ferry busses to get to the pier. While I thought this was the norm of some sort, when we eventually get dropped off at the pier after a 30 minute wait, I realize that it’s just us that are subject to this odd practice. Go figure. Anyway, we get to the pier at about 9:30 or 10 am, and have to wait for the the 1:30 pm ferry to Koh Phangan. Myself and some travelers enters the restaurant area of the pier and deposit our bags and take in our situation. At least there is a convenience store and restaurant here. At this point I find Tanya and Tina (her twin sister) again and we hang out for a bit, grab some food, and I drink my two Heineken tall boys over ice to cool myself off, something I would usually scoff at, but in this case, it’s just the thing to cool off and kill the time. They tell me about their group, which is quite large, and travels up until this point until it comes time to board the ferry.
The ferry in this case is quite large, and we have the choice of sitting inside or out. I opt for out, wanting to listen to some music on the speaker this time and enjoy the air of the open ocean. This proves to be a great plan for the most part, and of course, I go about making more friends and enjoying the 3 hour ride. There is even a shop on the ferry, where one can buy beer, food and snacks should they feel the need. It begins to rain after about an hour, and most people head to the indoor part of the ferry, and I eventually settle for simply moving my bags inside and continuing to enjoy the outdoors until the rain eventually proves to be too much even for me. The day has stretched into one of mostly travel, and inside the ferry, everyone tries to relax a bit as we slowly approach Koh Phangan.
You know you like the steez… I just noticed it looks like I have a mini Thai guy on my shoulder! bwahaha
Fort on the river!
Massive and cool looking
Now that’s what I call a hotel
Another cool looking boat
I am clearly enjoying my boatride and breakfast.