Traveling Thailand with the Brits...
So here we are - Chiang Mai, our first stop in Thailand and SE Asia in general. We had just arrived and settled into our guest house and we decided to head out and grab something to eat. We had heard about a nearby night market that offered great food options so without thinking about it too much we headed in that direction. We strolled through the old city, across the river and after passing a few temples we were finally there. The market offered everything from clothes to accessories, cell phones and electronics, plus lots of food and drinks. We heard loud music so just like children after an ice cream truck, we headed in that direction and to our delight we discovered a live band surrounded by several food vendors. They offered everything from western food to traditional Thai curries and everything looked so yummy! We grabbed some food and a few Changs and found a table to sit at. It was rainy season in Northern Thailand so shortly after we had sat down it started pouring, luckily we had snatched one of the only tables located under an umbrella. Score!! Somehow we were joined by 4 Australian guys vacationing in Thailand who needed shelter from the rain. We shared a few good laughs and when the rain stopped we said our goodbyes and off they went. I decided to use the opportunity to run to the nearby bathroom and when I came back to the table Loren was accompanied by a set of new people - Felix and Emily.
This is the part about travel that I love the most - meeting random, new people everywhere we go. Traveling as a couple can be difficult sometimes since couples tend to spend most of their time together or sort of restricted due to staying in hotels or private rooms. Being a couple, we were worried that it would be harder for us to meet people but to our delight meeting people hasn't been a problem.
I am getting side tracked here… Let's go back to Emily and Felix. They are from Sheffield, UK and had just started their 2 month journey through SE Asia. They were starting in Thailand, followed by Cambodia and then Vietnam. Emily, a 20 year old, soon-to-be art student and Felix, a 19 year old chef, two best friends traveling the world together. We spent the night talking and enjoying each other's company.
A few days later we ended up meeting them in Pai where we spent a few wonderful days hanging around and enjoying the jungle. It was a group of 6 of us and we had rented 4 separate bungalows in the same resort so we sort of had our own little village. There we laid on hammocks, sang ukulele songs and enjoyed the street food at the local night market. We randomly stumbled upon this lady serving Pad Thai at the outrageous price of 40 baht (just a little over a dollar) and I have to tell you this was hands down the best Pad Thai I've EVER had (so far). One night, we even ended up going back for seconds after the bars closed down...
After a fun night of partying and too much Pad Thai, Felix was too hungover to join us on our little hike up to the White Buddha statue overseeing Pai. Emily, Eli (the Italian girl we had mentioned previously), Loren and I braved the heat and headed towards the statue. A semi-short walk and 547 stairs later we had all bonded over the extreme almost near death experience. Try climbing all of those stairs in the heat and humidity on a hot, summer day in Thailand after drinking Changs all night. For those of you who have never had a Chang - it's a light, refreshing, pilsner-like beer but it contains so much sugar that even after having 2 beers the hangover is inevitable. Jokes and hangovers aside, the view from up top was stunning - we could see the vast jungle all around Pai and hiking up in the heat seemed like a small price to pay for such beauty.
After our mini workout we had to experience another great adventure - riding in a mini-van stuffed with 10 other people back down to Chiang Mai. The road from Pai to Chiang Mai consists of 762 curves up and down steep hills. I don't get sick easily but I definitely had to battle puking several times especially after hearing the little kid behind me vomiting. There was a giant sign posted above the driver "5000 baht fine for puke in van" and in order to better serve us they provide bags, the size of an iPhone 6. Try puking in one of those and making it all in. Luckily we all made it back to the city puke free and all in one piece.
At this point, we were supposed to go our separate ways - they were heading south to Koh Samui and we were planning on crossing the border and heading to Laos. However, tickets to Laos had gotten expensive and we truly enjoyed our new friends’ company, so we decided to change things up! We booked plane tickets to Surat Thani (a small port city south of Bangkok) and then a ferry to Koh Phagnan where Emily and Felix were going to meet us later that week for the Full Moon Party (more on that in our upcoming blog “Full moon Party.”)
At first, we didn't like Koh Phangan, it was hard to get around without a scooter since our hostel was between Haad Rin (the beach where the Full Moon party is held) and the downtown area - if it can even be called that, a sort of no man's land if you will and on top of that, the weather was gloomy and rainy. We were bored to be quite honest, besides Netflix, there's really not that much to do on an island when it's pouring rain all day and without transportation. Emily had booked the four of us a hostel for the Full Moon party so after a few days in our middle-of-nowhere hostel, we switched accommodations and rented scooters, so spirits were high and we were ready for the next adventure. Neither Felix or Emily had been on scooters before so they were a bit reluctant to get their own but I let Felix practice on my bike and the bug was planted! He ended up getting one and we hit the road, jack! There is nothing more fun then riding a scooter and getting lost on an island in a completely different country. (Sorry moms! We promise we wore helmets and we were pretty careful).
We decided to go explore a nearby waterfall, we rode our bikes for a part of the journey and then we hiked for the rest. We were stopped by a nice Thai lady who informed us that we had to buy a drink in order to move forward and see the waterfall, however she said we were more than welcome to jump in the water and swim after entering. Unfortunately, she forgot to mention that due to the lack of rain (despite Monsoon hitting part of Thailand it has still not come to the Island of Koh Phangnan) there was not really a waterfall or even enough water to swim. I can imagine it being beautiful when there is enough water - I mean, the scenery was gorgeous and they even had a rope swing for people to jump in the water but at the moment it looked more like an outdoor bathtub. We laughed and we enjoyed the view for a few minutes but we didn't let that minor hiccup affect our adventure so we headed over to Secret beach - hands down one of the most beautiful and serene beaches we have ever seen! Words and pictures cannot do justice to how stunning this beach is... think of an Instagram photo that has been edited and filtered by a professional photographer on a postcard or vacation ad. Well, Secret Beach is all that minus the filters... it’s unedited, raw perfection with its crystal clear, turquoise water, palm trees and warm, golden sand and above it - just the sun and the beautiful, blue sky. Although Secret Beach is not much of a secret, it is quite far from the touristy part of town, so it’s not as touristy as one would expect as long as it isn’t two days before or after the Full Moon Party. So unless riding a scooter or catching a taxi it's a fairly far walk for most.
We had two other friends visiting the island at the same time Juliette and Leti, sisters from France who we met in Chiang Mai and who we were supposed to meet at a viewpoint for sunset. The said viewpoint was also a bar called 360 viewpoint due to the 360 degree view it offers (I’d say more of a 300 degree view, but you get the idea).
Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy to get there, the roads are pretty steep and not very well maintained and of course we managed to get lost. Somehow somewhere we made the wrong turn and we had to finish our journey with a short hike. We climbed the last steep hill on foot and got to the bar. Our friends had secured a premium spot to watch the sunset which left us speechless. We sat, we talked and we enjoyed the sunset together over a nice, cold beer. One of the highlights of our trip so far!
Another memorable moment of our time in Thailand was attending the Full Moon party. For those of you who have never heard of the Full Moon party - it’s a giant beach party (more than 30,000 people attend it every month) and it happens every month on the Full Moon or close to it. Tons of people go to Koh Phangan and Thailand in general just to participate in one of those parties. So the gang got together and we all decided to check out what is all the fuss is about.
The night started off with beers and card games on the beach by our bungalows and later we moved on to the actual party. Then we grabbed a taxi which took us to Haad Rin beach and once we got off the madness begun! The Full Moon party is hands down the biggest party I have ever attended and I used to live in Vegas… I’ve been to some epic parties but this was different. Everyone was having fun and enjoying themselves on the beach, in an exotic country surrounded by old and new friends! We danced and laughed and drank and had a great time overall! More on the Full Moon Party blog if you want all the dirty details!
We continued our adventure together to Koh Tao, an island popular with its beautiful beaches and cheap diving lessons. Emily and Felix had been there a few days prior but they decided to visit again since their first time there they couldn’t do much since Felix was a bit ill. He had been walked on by the poisonous and rare Rove Beetle - go ahead and google it, I know you want to. I’ll just wait right here…….Ok, glad you’re back. So it wasn’t like he was bed ridden but he had to lay low, take a bunch of medication and avoid sun and beer (hard to do on an island). We spent our days in Koh Tao eating the amazing food at Neptune Hostel where they were staying and walking around the small central area. Even though the island is small, we rented scooters and we spent hours driving around the island and taking breaks beachside trying to catch sunsets.
One afternoon, Emily, Loren and I explored the island and spent the day snorkeling around Ao Tanot Bay and enjoying the sunshine. We spent some nights at our hotel, Tommy’s Resort as it had a pool that we could just hang out at and have worldly conversations and story-telling until the middle of the night.
Unfortunately after Koh Tao we had to part ways. Emily and Felix were heading to Cambodia and Loren and I were on our way to Malaysia. During our short time together, we got painful sunburns, had Chang hangovers, saw a touch of food poisoning, shared laughs about UK vs US slang, and had a few strenuous adventures and many more special moments. Emily and Felix are great people that we are lucky enough to have met and they made our Thailand adventure even more enjoyable and memorable than it already was! This is not the end of our tales or our friendship and you can read more in Mango Bay.