Travel

Koh Phangan. Killin it, Day 3.

Got a message from the dive shop last night. Seas are planned to be to rough to go out in the morning, so the diving is cancelled. These things happen when traveling. The seas of the world can be unpredictable.

That put the Full Moon Party back on the table. Well, right up until it started raining. I do a lot of crazy shit, standing in the rain drinking ain’t on that list. Do like getting rained on. Ain’t doing it. Kept drinking at the beach hotel bar on the sand.

Today is pretty predictably quite in Thong Sala. The party in Haat Rin run till around noonish. The party crowd that has returned are sleeping or packing, it would seem.

Showered, shaved, checked the email for the first time this trip (only 65 unread messages), checked FB, and Insta, then wandered into town like Bowie’s sacred cow.

It should be noted, there are only so many ways to get around Thong Sala. You can rent a scooter (250B per day. They are literally everywhere!), take a truck taxi if you have luggage to move, get a scooter taxi ride if you can find one (they’re mostly at the Pier), or you can just walk. Walking is my preferred method. He town isn’t that big, and you can walk across it in about 25 minutes. But, I digress…

I stopped in at the dive shop and inquired about the brand of sea sickness tablets they use. They gave me enough information to go find them at the next door 7-Eleven. I get drug tested way too much to not know what they are. Job security first!

After the dive shop, I wandered though town and back to the Pier, where I took up residence at a corner open-air bar right before the rain set in. Needed breakfast anyway.

Small groups of survivors from last nights mega party wander by, all looking like zombies from a B movie. They have far away stares and possess smatterings of day-glow paint that the rain still hasn’t washed off. They’re young and diehard. I appreciate that about them. They come in twos and threes, or by the taxi truck load, all headed for the Pier and a ferry off this island. Its cool for the locals. It would seem that each ferry coming to pick them up is full of another group willing to take their place. Beach drinking on a tropical island has a constant appeal. The incoming ferries are proof of that.

Its a steady downpour now. I order another beer. My plan for the day: sit here and drink till the rain stops. I don’t like the rain, but its a necessity during monsoon season. I guess. I’ll just day drink, and watch the party zombies walk around in the rain.

Decided not to wait it out and walked home in the rain. The constant sweat and heat and water has turned my toe sore a ripe red color. By the time I had walked the beach back to the hotel, I decided to go find some anti-Bacteria cream or something for it. It took a walk halfway back into town and two 7-Eleven stops before I found a bottle of Providine-Iodine. Not leaving home without the first aid kit again!

Since I was back in town, more food was in order. The local food court was just next door, so I stopped for food. Sweating bad today. Must be the post-rain humidity. Chicken and rice is the name of the day. It looks bland, but is tasty enough.

Since I left my rain coat at the hotel, the entire walk back turned into a soaking rain. Now I’m wet and stinky … again! You just gotta love monsoon season. Oh well, a little down time and then maybe a beer or two on the beach.

Sitting at the beachside hotel bar. The wind is whipping up something fierce right now. Not sure if it blowing one in or blowing one out. Its been raining most of the day.

Later, if the monsoon doesn’t blow me away.

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Koh Phangan, day 2, I think.

I decided to take a chill day today. This whole thing has been pretty on the move since it started. So, a leisure day won’t hurt anything.

I Laid in bed to my hip hurt. That signaled it was time to get up. Its pretty quiet at the hotel. The young party group when coming in early this morning. Good for them!

My first conscience decision of the day was do I go to the Full Moon Party tonight or go diving again tomorrow? After serious thought, I came down on the side of more diving. I have spent my time in the party scene, and thought his one is supposed to be infamous, I’m pretty sure I’ll be just as well off passing it up. Probably. Besides, I like some decent sleep before the action sports.

Second decision of the day. What do I do about getting off this island and to the airport on time. When I set up the hotel, I just ran it out to my leave date. I figured that I would figure it all out once I got here. There is an early ferry on my last day, but it lands on the opposite side of the island of Samui. It just seems like a risk leaving that kind of connection window to chance. Getting to the ferry on time and off Koh Phangan, then figuring out how to get around Koh Samui in a timely fashion, to get to the airport with enough time to catch my plane.

I opted for going over to Samui the night before. Found a nice hotel with booking.com. Then, walked down to the ferry office and looked into a ticket. They have a ferry heading to the airport side in the afternoon, and can even get a hotel transfer from the ferry dock. Transportation sorted.

Made a bar stop and a food stop on the lazy walk back to the hotel. Charging the GoPro and thinking about beers now. Probably throw the phone on the charger nice and go to the hotel bar for a couple. Maybe that will take the edge off not going to the Full Moon Party. Maybe.

Get out there. Drink beers.

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Koh Phangan, Day 1.

The word of the day is diving! Yup, I had to use the alarm on the phone again.

I was up with the sun this morning. Okay, slightly behind it, but it was kinda close. Threw on my favorite shorts and walked from the hotel to the Scuba Diving meet-up location. It doubles as their gear storage and hostel. Its a casual place.

I signed up with PIDS when I got in yesterday, for a two tank boat dive out to Sail Rock. Its a local diving hotspot. Phangan International Diving School is a well run, 5* PADI Rated, service. I would say that they lived up to that mark.

Its been a couple years since I was diving, so I tacked on a quick refresher course before the first dive of the day. Our Dive Master doubled as my Instructor, and we had a quick, all business, refresher course.

The first dive of the day was a bit dull in color, due to the black cloud cover and the pounding rain we received on the way over to the Pier and on out to the dive site. There was also some good current. That was fine, as the Diving was very good. Nice coral life, and fine fish, and a little bitty shark looking thing.

The swell picked up between dives one and two, and made me happy that I took the sea sickness medication.

Dive two was more colorful, as the cloud cover eased. I took the GoPro with me for the second trip. This will get posted at a later date, as I didn’t bring my laptop with me.

The ride back was long and filled with swells. Everybody took a pounding. The rain came back heavy for a while too. I was semi-soaked by the time I got back to the hotel.

There was a necessary shower, and bit of downtime. After, I walked downtown to find food. Food was found at the local food court. It was every cheap and quite good! A daily stop at 7-Eleven for stuff, and then a walk through the street market. I bought a bracelet, and a beer at a corner open air bar.

Coming back to the hotel, there are more people here now. Migrants in for the infamous Full Moon Party tomorrow. Don’t know if I’m going or not. I lined up the trip so I would be here when it happened, but I don’t know if I’m traveling across the island for that or not. We’ll just wait and see what tomorrow brings. So, I’m gonna sit here and drink a beer.

Get out there. Enjoy the sunset.

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Headed to the Islands.

Today was he first day that I needed to use my alarm on my phone. Every other day I have either gotten up early or just gotten up whenever. Today I needed to be on the move early. I’m outa Bangkok, and headed for the islands.

Got up, packed the bag, scanned the room, checked out of the hotel, and made my way to the metro station. The metro was a quick trip, straight up the green line, to the airport rail link connector. Once on the train, it was a straight shot to the airport.

It took me about 40-45 minutes from when I walked out of the hotel until when I walked out of the train station in the airport. Its the easiest, and by far the cheapest way to get to the airport. It is also completely internal to the airport building, so you just go up the escalators a couple floors to departures and you’re on your way.

Navigating the Bangkok airport as an outgoing passenger is really easy. Everything is well marked, there are numerous people around to assist, and the lines move fast. I didn’t know how much of a headache it was going to be and ended up getting here super early. They only open gate checkins three hours before takeoff, so there’s no reason to arrive too early. The departure area is also quite nice, with numerous shops and restaurants to chose from.

That being said, some general thoughts about Bangkok …

first, I realize I stayed in the wrong part of the city. The Sukhumvit area is the mainstay of cheap bars, prostitution, and stunning urban depression which is only randomly broken up by clean civilization (usually in the form of a shopping mall).

Bangkok as a whole is dirty, rundown, polluted, and with minimal redeeming qualities. The qualities it has are well on display. The shrines, museums, and places of note are all very well-kept, dispute their heavy tourist traffic. The Thai people, almost completely, are generous and outgoing. They make up for a great deal of other issues.

Still, the good doesn’t outweigh the bad. The pollution, especially the water pollution, is staggering. The traffic is chaos, made worse by the cabbies. And the place is dirty. Dirty on a scale that surpasses other cities.

If there is a good side to the city, I didn’t see it during my travels. I’m sure there has to be one.

These are my opinions. I’m sure others have their own. Still, I didn’t leave anything behind. That way, I don’t have to come back.

PM-

Had a nice McDonalds breakfast at the airport and lingered around for bit at my gate. Plane was full but efficiently run. We left on time.

Its a pretty quick 50 minute flight to the island of Samui (Koh Samui). You can purchase a bus/ferry ticket over to Koh Phangan at the airport limousine stand. Its located right by the exit doors after baggage, and set me back a cheap 400B. Limousine van picked up everyone and took us to the Pier to catch the ferry.

Upon landing in Koh Samui, I finally caught up with the monsoon. Its raining a pretty steady clip right now as I wait for my ferry to arrive.

Okay. The ride to Koh Phangan was great. The taxi lady at the ferry landing was overpriced but nice. The ride to hotel was fairly quick. The hotel was …. dismal. Maybe a little less than dismal. Had to pay upfront in cash. Okay, 3100B for 5 days. I should have expected that. The sheets however, are clean. And that, is what really matters. Okay, on this level of seediness, a room safe would have been nice, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Took a quick walk around to find Phangan International Divers School, which was right down the road. I came here to dive, and diving is what I’ll be doing. Tomorrow. Thanks to the hottie with the hot accent. I really hope she’s a dive instructor.

Back at the hotel, sitting out on the balcony by the sand drinking beer. I realize this place may not be so bad. At least the beer is cold. That, my friends, is step one.

Later!

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Bangkok. Day 4.

After some thought, I decided to deviate from the norm. After all, life isn’t just about checking things off a list. Its about experiences. So, I decided to experience the movies, at the mall, in Bangkok. I say experience, because the movie theater took up 3 floors at the top of the mall. They like movies over here!

I’ve been wanting to see Avengers for a while. I admit I’ve also been highly skeptical of the whole crossover universe idea. Fortunately, I was rewarded for my efforts with a great movie!

The movie theater was easy enough to navigate. They people spoke English to make things passable. Only about 300B for the movie and 85B for the Coke. The movie itself was also in English, which was nice.

Everyone had to stand at the beginning, for the playing of the King’s song. It was oddly like the national anthem before a ball game, but in Thai. (Go see Avengers!)

Movie was followed by a walk to the Pier where I caught a water taxi to the west end of the city (tourist area). It was a short walk from the Pier to the Golden Mount. At a 50B entry fee, it was a cheap price for a great Buddha Shrine. I walked around it for a while. There is a good bit to see, and worth your time.

After the Mount, I took a quick walk across the bridge to the fortress. You can’t go in it, but I got some good pictures of it. After the fortress, it was back on the water taxi, and headed east. A nasty, polluted, floating trash covered ride back to the Jim Thompson House Pier and I was quickly at the Metro.

Grabbed a little food, a couple of beers, and then back to the hotel to pack for tomorrow. Got back to the hotel and my key didn’t work. Hotel said computer was down. Doorman let me in my room. Strange place.

Mom was right, I should have proofread the last post. Oh well, can’t be an Internationally Award Winning Author all of the time. Can I?

Get out there. Do stuff.

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Bangkok Day 3 Extra.

This is probably gonna sound crazy to most diehard travelers but, I’ve spent the last 3 days in Bangkok wondering where the Thai Food is. Serious, the kcal food is well did in the city. There is an endless amount of street food to be had. I have been looking for not street food. It has been a challenge I thought I was going to lose. Last night, having dinner at Burger King, I wondered if I flew all the way here to eat fast food?

In an interesting bit of accident this afternoon, I managed to temporarily solve this problem. I exited the metro from the wrong exit and did not realize it until I was back down on the street. Knowing I was wrong I stopped and reoriented myself back toward the hotel. During my walk back underneath the metro, I stumbled across a sign next to the Subway that said Thai Kitchen. It wasn’t obvious to tell where it was, but there was nobody in the Subway so I kept walking.

After taking my ease back at the hotel, I decided food was in order. So I collected my kit and headed back out to find the mythical Thai Kitchen. The Thai Kitchen did truly exist. It turned out to be a nice little, albeit empty place the floor above the Subway. Entry via the tiny, and well hidden stairs in the corner.

As I ordered, I wondered why there were 5 people at the Subway downstairs and nobody here. Didn’t matter for long. The food was outstanding. Fresh, and spicy hot! With a beer to wash it down, it was filling and reasonably priced. With tip, it was 600B for two dishes and beer.

I walked home quite pleased with myself. Mission successful.

Nice little out of the way place.

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Hiking around Bangkok. Day 3.

More bad cabbies. Everybody speaks English, until you want someone to speak English. Then, they look at you like you’re stupid. It can be aggravating.

I knew this was coming today, so I emotionally armored myself before walking out of the hotel. As I was standing in front of the hotel waiting to flag down a cab and get raped for a ride north to the Harley dealership, I had a though. Maybe, since I just spent a quarter of my days spending money on sunscreen I should have bought a week ago, maybe I would go adventuring instead. So I turned toward the metro station and an adventure was what I received.

I walked down to the metro and bought a ticket to the National Stadium exit, which is the terminal end of the green line. From the station I walked north and found the Saphan Hua Chang Pier to catch the water taxi. I road the water taxi East several miles to the Charn Issara Pier. From here I walked out to the road and caught a cab the rest of the way to the Harley shop. It took my phone god and to more cabbies before my cabbie could drive the 15 blocks over to the shop he couldn’t find.

The Harley dealer was shockingly overpriced, but I had made the journey for a reason so I bought a t-shirt and shoved it in my bag. The shirt cost me the rest of my day’s spending money. Running on a couple hundred Bahd leftover from the last couple days, it was time to make my way back.

So far the trip over had cost me 30B for metro, 13B for water taxi, and 53B for a cab. All of this to buy a 1300B t-Shirt.

I waited outside for 5 minutes or so until an empty cab came along. Of course, he spoke no English. He had no idea where the Pier was. He didn’t understand the google maps image of Bangkok. He didn’t get any of my money or exasperation.

Now, in a great feet of under-thinking, I said screw it and decided to walk. It seemed like a good idea at the moment. I headed back the way I had come, and made it 80% of the way there before I could go no farther. So I ended up walking west to walk east, down the side of the street which had no sidewalk and no real street edge. DO NOT DO THIS! IT IS UNWISE!

As I stopped, trying to figure out where I was (I was not in the good part of town and shouldn’t have been stopping to check such things!) I realized I was right next to another Pier, so I went there and grabbed another water taxi west. 15B for a ticket back to where I had come.

Hopping off at the Saphan Hua Chang Pier, I pulled out the phone and gps’d my way over to the Jim Thomson House museum. For a 150B entry fee with included tour, I definitely recommend this one. It is a very nice tour of the house and gardens, and then time to wander and take pictures. The guide’s English is good and the tour is enjoyable. Fortunately for me, there was also maybe 20 minutes of cool down time before it started. I was starting to overheat. I sweat so much, I had sweat all the screen back out of my skin. It was kinda nasty, and is now wiped all over my pant legs.

Catching the metro back to the hotel, I drank all the bottled water in the room. Now cooling down, while watching the FC Dallas v Philadelphia soccer match, and writing this.

All of that to save about 800B in cab fairs. (400B each way) oh well, I wanted an adventure and I found one. I have just about enough money left for some food and maybe one beer. I’m thinking its a chill out day.

You don’t really notice it from the photos, but the river taxi is not necessarily the best thing ever. The river is polluted and marred with floating trash. The taxi boats are all super loud, and basically exhaust-free. They are long, thin vessels, so the bob up and down at speed end encountering any amount of wake.

That being said, the are cheap! They are also easy to use. Just locate the Pier and climb on a boat heading the way you want to head. You literally have to hop on and hop off, as the boats don’t completely stop moving when they come in to the Pier/Dock. Watch getting on and off. Once on, a young and industrious deckhand will make his way down the side of the boat and sell you a ticket. Just tell him what Pier you’re headed to and he will charge you accordingly. I paid 13B going out, and 15B coming back. From what I understand, about 20B is the max ticket price. If you’re headed east-west, it worth the time to take the water taxi. All of the people on it are working Thai people, coming and going. It gives an interesting view of daily life you don’t get by other travel means.

Nap time.

Get out there. Do stuff!

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