Back again.  A mere 2 years after my last visit I was back.  The stories I’d heard about Thailand whilst travelling around Oz and Nz had left me with severe envy.  Why did I only go to Bangkok last time?  Why hadn’t I explored more?

I had been planning the trip for a while before a couple of mates from school got in on the act.  Dan flew to Bangkok with me and Carl would meet us after a week or so when we planned to hit the beach.

The drive from the airport to the city centre seemed oh so familiar.  The kho Shan road hadn’t changed, the smells, the colours, the people even.  It was one of those ‘never left’ feelings.  We found our little hostel, the Shambara Boutique Hostel, just off of the kao shan road.  The pictures of our hostel on hostel world make it look a million times better than it was, but we couldn’t complain for £3 a night.  Our room was two mattresses on the floor and we instantly hit them to try combat the impending jet lag.

After a power nap we set out to explore … we made it about 2 mins down the road before Dan wanted a beer and I gave in.  ‘Two large beers please’ Dan asks the hideously skinny barmaid who we somewhat arrogantly assumed spoke the Queens English.  She nods and 2 minutes later returns with a 3ft high beer tower, we do not complain!

The evening passed in a bit of a haze, there was a massive thunderstorm which led us speaking to Dutch girls, as their table offered us shelter from the rain.  I also bumped into one of the lads I used to play footyball with in West London, small world.

Train from Bangkok to Chang Mai

Train from Bangkok to Chang Mai

The next morning we took stock and booked our train tickets to Chaing Mai.  As I said I was keen to explore Thailand this time, and I’d heard good things about the north.  Temples and trekking, it sounded good.  Tickets booked we headed out.  As per my last time in Bankok I was collared by a local and told it was the kings birthday and that tuk tuks would take me to x amount of local temples for a mere 20 bhat.  I didn’t argue as it was good value last time, but how many birthdays does the Thai king have?  We drove around in our jet powered mutant tuk tuk, visiting temple and monuments of extreme beauty, such as the 50ft Buda, until our driver got annoyed that we wouldn’t buy suits from his mate, and so he dumped us somewhere in Bangkok.   We walked for hours over the next couple of days, visiting all the shops and markets we could.  I didn’t want to waste too much time there as I’d seen it all before, but I wanted to be fair to Dan.  To be honest I just couldn’t wait to get on the train tup north though.

Chaing Mai, I’d heard such good things, and only a mere 14 hours overnight train ride from Bangkok.  Why wouldn’t we!?  We got to the station around 7 in the evening, found our train with ease and settled in nicely.  We had a meal included which was an amazing thai green curry, and we enjoyed a few Changs as we watched Bangkok and its suburbs whiz by.  I’m not going to lie, I love a train journey, my training journeys in Sri Lanka were something to behold, the drums, sword swallowers, the sunsets, just magical. Back home I even quite like the underground.  Some people hate it, not me.  Granted I don’t travel much in rush hour, but its still a fairly decent transport system … I think.

Dan on the train

Dan on the train

The first few hours went by quite pleasantly.  We chatted to a few other backpackers on the train.  A drunken Thai man tried to make conversation with us, but unfortunately our Thai speaking skills were and still are slightly lacking.  Instead the man cracked open what must have been his 7th or 8th beer and decided to mumble to himself instead.  The mumbling went on for some time.

I now understand why that bloke got plastered, as its near impossible to sleep on those trains whilst sober.  The constant bumps and the fact I couldn’t actually stretch out fully hinder me from catching any winks, let along 40.  I eventually gave in and surrendered to the morning around 6.30 am with just a couple more hours travel to go before we hit Chaing Mai.  Well that’s what we thought anyway, it turns out that 14 hours was a complete lie, it was nearly 18 hours before we finally pulled into our stop.  Drained!!

We still had to get to the hostel, but luckily we were picked up.  We got the usual hard sell on route, buy this, eat here, do this tour … OK.  OK?  What were we saying, why are we buying a tour from some random?  Ok he’s dropping us at our hostel, but I’m not sure that this is the smartest of move, we took a moment to confer, SOLD.  We’d bought a tour off a random.  He gave us a paper slip, took 20% there and then and left us at our hostel.  We may live to regret that I said.

So our hostel for the next couple of nights, all you need to know was that the Gongkaew Chiangmai Home offered free toast and jam.  FREE!  The rooms were simple concrete slabs with the usual rickety bunk beds, but god almighty we have air con! £4 a night and air con is included!!  What a touch!  As it turned out we were in a room on our own, but there were a few others in our hostel who we saw from time to time.

Outside the a temple in Chang Mai

Outside the a temple in Chang Mai

We set out to explore and I quickly got to grips with the fact that Chaing Mai was nothing like I imagined it would be.  For some reason I had it in my heard that the city was half way up a mountain and that it would be sitting on top of clouds, it wasn’t.  That’s not to say it wasn’t amazing though.  We took in a few temples, being careful to take off our shoes before entering.  We walked around some small markets, and even found the red light district.

We set up at a bar for the evening, and looked over the tour we had booked, it seemed quote good, we even recommended it to some girls we got chatting to.  We had booked a 1 day hiking tour, which also included river rafting and an elephant ride.

I admit I wasn’t comfortable with the elephant ride, it wasn’t my thing.  I’m not an animal activist, but I wasn’t into it.   It felt wrong and I didn’t like the look of the way the elephant were handled and kept.  That was a long hour.  The jungle trek was much better, we stopped at a waterfall to take a drip which was oober cool.  We trekked until we reached the river at which point we were loaded onto bamboo rafts.

Bamboo rafting is more like surfing.  I thought we would be sitting down in said rafts, but no you stand up on them.

So after our jungle treking expolits it was back to Bangkok where we met our friend Carl at the airport and then boarded another short flight down to Surat Thani, and Kao Samui was just a short trip from there … I thought.  We sat on the hottest coach in the world for nearly 3 hours before we made it to the boat.  I felt like a shrivelled prune walking off the coach, it was as if all source of water had been sapped from my body.  Still we boarded the boat in good spirits as we would soon be on the beach.  Once on Kao Samui, it was another hour by taxi to our resort, but once there, we were straight into the swing of things.  Our hostel, or THE PAD, as we nicknamed it was just simply amazing.  A 2 floor apartment with DVD player, fridge, double bed, sofa beds and a roof terrace, all for £10 each a night.  We stocked up the fridge before venturing out into the night.    After being approached by several ladyboys and then being asked if we would like to hold a snake, monkey or bird of prey, we found what we thought was a respectable bar to slump down in.  Whilst we weren’t hassled, it was clear that many other people were taking advantage of the boys/girls on offer.  Older men were filing their boots, and at times it felt like being on the set of some horrid porn film.  The boys/girls were far too naked, and the fellas just far too old and cringy.  It gave us a giggle, but made me realise I have to do everything in my power to never end up in that position.  Alcohol induced, we staggered home purchasing 40 dvd’s between us before enjoying the luxuries of THE PAD and eventually crashing.

Yet another plus side to THE PAD was that it backed onto the beach, a clean beach, a nice beach, a beach you expected to be covered in used bottles and fag ends from the night before, possibly even some people who never made it home and made a bed for the night.  We set about getting burnt and throwing a rugby ball about in the bath water that was the sea.  Whilst on the beach a couple of  brit girls were loudly chatting about the size of their breasts.  Life doesn’t get much better.

A couple of nights later we boarded another boat and we were off to Hat Rin on Kao Pangnang.  Party Time!

Sunset in Hat Rin

Sunset in Hat Rin

Famous of its whisky buckets and full moon parties, Hat Rin is party central.  We cleverly timed our visit when there was no such full moon party, instead we were there for a half moon party which took place in the forest instead of on the beach.

In the days before the full moon party we found a cool hostel, ate a lot of cheap ice cream, watch a few films, chilled out by the pool and then bumped into the girls who we’d heard discussing their breasts on the beach only a few days earlier.  We also met their mate Luke who was a very funny man.  The 6 of us went out together and one night got absolutely wasted together.   I’m not proud to say that after several rum buckets I tried fire dancing and failed, burning myself quite badly – not clever.  We were all so drunk we were dancing in the sea during the middle of a massive thunder storm and even commandeered a boat.  None of us felt right the next day, not right at all.  We got chatting to other people in the hostel, trying to explain our night without inflicting too much more shame upon ourselves.  Several theories came out but the most common was the Thai Red Bull containing some form of amphetamine.  I’m not sure if its true, but it could have explained why we were all buzzing the night before.

We also had similar if not quite as insane nights at the cross dressing pool party and the half moon party.  The half moon party in the forest was simply physcadelic.   Everywhere there was neon paint (including my face) in wired warped patterns that would probably make sense if you were dropping.  We went as such, but Carl did drop off a 6ft stair case and land on someone’s head ahahaha.  That someone didn’t actually seem that bothered by it which made it all the funnier and made us wonder if Carl wasn’t the first person to land on his heard that night.  Maybe he should have moved!?  Way from the strange taking knocks on the noggin, this was a rave, a full on rave!   I remember having a rap off with some due who thought he knew more Hadouken! Lyrics than I did – fail!  I also remember the random fella full on meditating in the middle of the dance floor.

Full moon party - Dan, Carl and I

Full moon party – Dan, Carl and I

We got back to our room around 7am, we needed to stay away for just 1 hour so that we could catch our boat back to Kao Samui.  Somewhat inevitably, we did not manage to stay awake.  At 8.15 one of our neighbours came knocking on our door asking why we well still there and not on the boat.  5 minutes later we were stumbling into a taxi in the hope we might catch the boat.  We did, just, but it was not a great crossing back to Koa Samui.  A little sea sick and very hungover once back on dry land an in reasonable accommodation we crashed BIG time.

We were pretty tame over the next few nights.  Only once we were back in Bangkok did we dare have a decent drink again, and even then it was only in the safety of the hard rock café during happy hour.

Thailand is wicked.  Its not quite the untrodden paradise it was once described as, be prepared to meet more brits than your probably would if you were in London.  Still, it’s a wicked time, you can chill out or go mental.  Each typical brit food or chow down on squid.  You can get a bamboo tattoo, 40 dvds for £15, high of red bull and totally burnt even if coated in factor 50 – this I personally achieved.

Tips:

  • Go north and go jungle trekking.  Do a couple of days in the jungle.  I regret only doing 1 day.
  • Stay at the Wave Samui if on Kao Saumi.  Ask about the 2 floor apartment
  • Eat from the local food stalls, don’t worry whats in it or what it looks like, just get it in your mouth.
  • I’m not 100% on this, but apparently there are 2 different strength of Chang beer, but it is difficult to know which you are drinking.  Stick with Shingar if you don’t want the surprise
  • Haggle!  It’s the done thing, get involved and stop being such a polite Brit.