From being in the snow to being in the heat.
After a short break back with my family in Amsterdam, I arrived in Bangkok.
I have been to Bangkok before so it had no real surprises for me. However it is Bangkok and that place is always full of surprises. This time it was Songkran new year celebration in Thailand. But I will explain this later.
Arrival into Bangkok airport is pretty relaxed and modern. Most big international airports around the world look the same these days, I guess. Since a few years ago there is a train connection between airport and the city centre. It is all air-conditioned so you don’t know what hits you until your in the city centre and you get off the train. First steps into reality. When I was standing there outside the station somewhere in the city it is not hard to miss the big contrast between the luxurious airport and train with the reality where the locals live, the difference between poor and rich in Asia. I was sweating like I had run a marathon and was a bit tired from the trip. I started walking and looking for a taxi. With my big backpack on my back and a small pack on the front you could spot the fresh tourist look from miles away. I was aware of this. I always feel sorry when I see backpackers walking around like this, but actually when I do it myself it’s not really that bad.
My first few attempts to get a cab that was willing to turn the meter on failed (they want to bring you to your destination for a fixed price that is twice the price it should be) Standing there helpless on the side of the road a young guy (Simon) came to the rescue and together we managed to get a cab in the end. Like 80% of the tourists arriving to Bangkok (I am not an exception) they all go to Khao San road. A busy tourist street in heart of the Bangkok, east of the Chao Phraya River.
In the Cab Simon was telling me all about his trip here in Asia and since we had not finished talking when we arrived at our destination, we continued our chat in the bar with a nice cold beer. Good start of my trip I thought to myself.
In one of the back streets of Khao San road I found a nice room with air conditioning, private shower and wifi. This all for the same price as two pints of beer in Australia.
After quickly freshing-up it was time to have a bite to eat and I was hoping for an early night to be fresh the next morning. However my jetlag was thinking differently. I think I must have had a drink in every bar on Khao San road that night. I was just not tired. The good thing from this street/city is that it never sleeps so even if its 3 or 4 in the morning you can still have a drink or a bite no problem. The later it gets, you notice the increased number of lady boys, but if you make sure you don’t get too drunk you will be safe..
The next morning I took the local city bus to have a tour around the city. Since I had no idea where the busses were going and nobody could tell me, I just hop on a bus that looked a bit empty to do some sightseeing. I thought this would be fun. This turned out to be slightly difficult to understand for the guy selling the tickets in the bus. I was trying to buy a ticket for an unknown destination. He did not know what to do with me so I asked him to sell me the most expensive ticket (1 dollar), he finally did and I was good to go.
Call it luck but I passed the Bangkok sky tower and I hopped of the bus to have a closer look. (This is where Hangover 2 was filmed) If your on the top of the 64th floor building (if I am not mistaken) you have a great roof terrace that has a fantastic look over the whole of Bangkok. It was no open until later that night but I was able to have a quick peak anyway.
After seeing a few shops, temples and markets I had enough of Bangkok again. Added to this was that it was Songkran (new year in Asia). It’s also called water festival since you can spray water on somebody for good luck (or paint powder). The city got pretty mad, water guns were being sold everywhere and everyone were splashing water and running around like little kids. Khao San Road was totally blocked off in the middle and on the sides it was hard to walk with hundreds of people spraying water. It was pretty refreshing since it was around 35 degrees. I was thinking how different this party would be in Canada. Nice, spraying water when its -15 degrees, I am sure people would not have so much fun then.
Anyway I had enough so the next day I went to visit a friend of Laurens (again) in Koh Tao.
This trip to Koh Tao, was just a quick get away before I would start my trip to Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. I thought that as soon as I was going to start my travel to Cambodia and the rest of the countries it might be hard to relax properly so first a short holiday during my travel. Yes, I know how to spoil myself.
After a reasonable but long bus ride I arrived at the harbour to wait for the boat to the island. In the last stretch of the trip we were cramped in a smaller bus like sardines and here I met some great Germans. All half asleep at 4 or 5 in the morning we got dropped off in the harbour and we had a few hours to kill before the boat would depart. Someone came up with the brilliant idea to get some beers and about 4 or 5 beers later the sun came up. On the boat we did not wanted to break our habit so we continued with some more cold gold sparkling beer, I lost count at this stage. On the island we all went our own way to find our accommodation and to relax a bit. First thing for me of course was renting a scooter before renting a room.
It was still Songkran and also on Koh Tao there was no escape. At least in Bangkok I managed to keep my backpack dry since they had the decency not to splash you when you were walking with your pack. But here on the island they did not seem to care and by the time I got to my room, me and my bag were soaking wet. It is so humid here that wet clothes don’t really dry here. So you can imagine the smell. But I will spare you these details.
I was asked by my new German friends (Amelie, Malin and Lars) to be there tour guide the next day. So we rented a second scooter and we toured around the island all day. We enjoyed some great food and fantastic drinks. We finished the day having drinks on the terrace of a beach bar looking at the sun set.
The next day was the last day of Songkran (3 day party) along the main beaches there were parties everywhere. So half in the water and half on the beach we joined the party. I must say that this was a really good party. With great people around me and a spectacular location. All together an amazing experience I will never forget. Swimming from party to party and finishing with spectacular fireworks that seem to last for hours and hours till the early morning..
The following day I visited Kim and Bastiaan, two dutchies that work as diving instructors on Koh Tao. They convinced me to do some dives with them. Kim, I and a dive master in training went out the next day to have some fun. Despite that it was a bit busy under water with all the divers everywhere it was a cool to have experienced the underwater world of Thailand. It was a bit frustrating for me that I run out of air so quickly while Kim and our dive master in training where still half way with their oxygen. I think I should go down with two tanks next time. It was a deep dive so it does require a bit more from the human body than a normal dive but still.
Amelie, Malin and Lars had a fantastic apartment overlooking the ocean from their balcony. It is a place where you can sit all day and relax, and just keep staring in the distance. When you get a bit too warm you can choose between two pools and a spa to refresh yourself. In comparison with my room that was on the main road above a few shops. For me no reason to hang around my place too much so time to explore some snorkel spots. We managed to buy some snorkel gear and off we went again. Snorkelling, eating, drinking and swimming. One day we hired a kayak and snorkelled some more.
That was the hard life I had.
Me, Amelie, Malin and Lars could get along so well that I did not want to leave them. So I joined them to the next island Koh Phangan.
On arrival with the boat we had an old lady that brought us to a great place where we booked a bungalow about 50 meters of the beach.
Since the formula/pattern we had developed on Koh Tao was working so well we maintained this for the remainder of the trip. To remind you, this was eat, drink, relax and swim, followed with drink, eat, relax and snorkel.
But we also visited: a night market where Lars managed to buy the exact same flip flops I bought a week before (this was not on purpose but a coincidence)
• Ate a cricket and other nice food.
• Visited an elephant and snake reserve.
• Toured around the island.
• Had some really heavy rain.
• And visited Handsome village.
After having such an unforgettable time with my new friends the moment came we had to go our own ways. They took off to Krabi and I went straight to Siem Reap in Cambodia.