As you can imagine, it can be very difficult to find time to write about traveling when you are already so busy doing it. The hostels with good Wi-Fi tend to be busier, drawing me out into social activities. The places that are quieter tend to have dodgy Wi-Fi that only works in certain areas. I also find it very difficult to just sit down by myself and work on things, but here is a bit of a summation of my past 11 days.
Dec 10, 2016
I arrived in the small fishing village of Bangkok after a grueling 36 hour ordeal. From L.A. it took 16 hours to get to Hangzhou, China and another 4 to get to Chengdu. During my flight I made friends with the girl sitting next to me, a nice chinese girl going to school in California for environmental engineering. There was in flight entertainment, but I broke it. I also met a German girl that was traveling China for 10 days to perform in a ballet/hiphop dance performance. When I asked if she grew up doing ballet, she told me she always loved it, but didn’t have the body to perform as a professional ballerina. Thus she found an alternative way to pursue her passion, which I found beautiful. We spent a couple hours together at midnight as we waited for our flight, but eventually I was left to say goodbye to my first international friends. A bittersweet feeling I still need to get used to. I killed time until my flight, mostly by panicking about the fact that I had no Wi-Fi and didn’t know where to stay in Bangkok yet. After another 4 hour flight, I arrived in Bangkok at 6pm. My first sight was a perched white crane outside my plane, which I took for a sign of good luck. And after a couple hours of wrong buses, especially helpful taxi drivers, and a guide book from a friend, I finally found a nice hostel and immediately climbed into bed.
Dec 11, 2016
I awoke in Bangkok scared and confused as to how I was supposed to exist in my new lifestyle. Thankfully a nice girl from Washington was my bunkmate and talking to her helped relieve some of the stress. I initially set out at noon to explore some temples, but instead found myself at the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Here I stocked up on some clothing, sandals, and ordered my first meal (an intimidating task). Thanks to the excellent public transport it was then very easy to take a rail line to my next hostel, where I met my roommates and went out for beer and authentic Thai street food.
Dec 12, 2016
I awoke in the heart of Siam Square, the gigantic shopping complex in Bangkok. Malls stacked upon malls with connecting bridges to more malls. Being from suburbia, I felt right at home. I spent hours here looking at strange shops, buying a SIM card, and people watching. Eventually I got a tuktuk to my next hostel on Khao San Road (famously known for its debauchery and endless backpacker community). At nightfall a free meal and games brought the hostel together, where I gambled my way to 2 free beers (200 baht in savings!). Eventually we left as a 17 member group to a skyscraper roof top bar to overlook the city. Five hours later and the group had dwindled to 5 thanks to alcohol, confused taxi drivers, and the allure of the red light district. Eventually I lost my group while buying food and made the mistake of wandering Khao San Road as a solo foreign male at 3 am. Most people trying to sell you something give up if you don’t look at them and give a stern no, but street prostitutes are a persistent bunch. Thankfully I escaped back to my hostel for a very unsettling nights sleep.
Dec 13, 2016
In the morning all I could feel was disgust for the city around me and knew it was time to leave Bangkok. I set out early to see the temple of Wat Pho, but afterwards was lost on what to do next. I wandered Bangkok for a while, exhausted and hungry, until I found a quaint thai fusion cafe called Old Town Cafe. Finally having a moment of peace and reflection, I set out to find a way to the southern bus terminal to head to Krabi province. On the way I found a wonderful temple midway through a service, which was fascinating. I asked several taxis to take me to the bus station, but was either denied or given far too high of a price. In my distress, a monk came by and asked if I needed directions. His name was Potoyo and had been a monk for 18 years, spoke perfect English, and had traveled to The States many times. He ended up showing me a nearby free bus to the bus station that was only in Thai. Thanks to Potoyo I got on my 12 hour overnight bus to Krabi, ready to find a beach to relax on.
Dec 14, 2016
I arrived in Krabi early in the day and got a shuttle van to Kos Lanta, a quieter island in south west Thailand. Here I stayed in a bungalow about 10 meters from the beach. The beach itself was lovely, but the water was filled with dead coral reef. Many reefs in Thailand have been killed off from all the boats and tourism in recent times, so it was a tad depressing. Low tide made for some interesting sights though, like sea cucumbers, crabs, and herons.
Dec 15, 2016
The weather in Kos Lanta was beautiful, unlike in other parts nearby, so I booked a boat for a four island tour. When I arrived on the boat I exchanged a confused expression with one of my fellow passengers, who turned out to be someone I met in one of my hostels in Bangkok. Aimee, an Irish lass, had just finished teaching in Vietnam and was going to Bali to relax before heading home for Christmas. Problems with passports lead her my direction instead, and so we enjoyed some snorkeling and secluded island beaches together. The coolest part was going into a semi submerged cave and finding a quiet aclove in the center of an island. Overall an excellent experience.
Dec 16, 2016
My last full day in Kos Lanta was spent motorbiking around the island. It was extremely easy and cheap to rent one for the day. At first terrifying, riding one becomes easy and exciting (although I still suck at reversing). I ended up going to a place called tiger cave where I ran into two guys from Uruguay, Nicolas and Martin, whom I had met earlier at my resort. Tiger cave was a spelunking adventure, and although our guide called every crystal formation a diamond, still very informative. Afterwards I followed Nicolas and Martin around the island, as they had found the best beaches to go to. Two was enough for my skin, but I made plenty of friends in the shade.
Dec 17, 2016
I left Kos Lanta in the morning and arrived at nearby Krabi Town by noon. Here I stayed at the Pak Up Hostel, my favorite so far. I quickly became friends with the people in both my room and hanging out in reception. During the day I explored the town and at night the hostel gathered for free barbeque and drinking games. This night happened to be beer pong night and so as a good American I taught everyone the rules, then proceeded to crush the competition with my new Irish friend Alex. Our prize was of course more alcohol. After already being several beers deep already, we were happy to share with the earlier competition. The night ended with delicious kebabs and a drunken stumble to the sacred 711.
Dec 18, 2016
Most people seemed to wake up hungover today, but I wouldn’t let that stop me from seeing the sights of Thailand. I walked around Krabi for a bit and eventually made my way to The Tiger Temple. A large temple complex was on the bottom of a small mountain, with a smaller temple atop it. You could just barely make out the traditional phalic temple architecture sticking out of the top of the hill. 1237 steps later I made it to the top and got to see the entire area around Krabi. Exhausted, I took a brief nap and drank some water from a designated fountain, hoping the holy nature of the site purified the water. On the way down, monkeys decided to start the climb as well, many atop the backs of other climbers. Icecream and a 3 hour nap prepared me for a more relaxed night when I got back.
Dec 19, 2016
Now I was feeling done with Krabi Town and decided to head north a bit to some of the national parks of Thailand. I had gotten recommendations from people at both Kos Lanta and Krabi that the Khao Sok national park was a great place to visit for some nature time. I took a minibus that was 2 hours late and took an hour longer drive than normal, but was able to pass the time with a friend from Krabi named Martin. He was from Norway and loved discussing politics (woo!). We parted ways when we arrived and I generously allowed a local truck to give me a free ride to their resort to see if I wanted a room. They had a Beagle as a guard dog and thus was forced to get a room. I took an early night, but not before strolling through the jungle in pitch darkness. Spooky.
Dec 20, 2016
I arose early to see what tours were available. The most common tour in Khao Sok is the lake tour, where you boat about the lake and check out different caves. But there was also the ever hypnotizing JUNGLE SURVIVAL TREK, which recommended camping experience, physical fitness, and a willingness to push beyond your limits. I was sold! Unfortunately nobody else was and it costs a lot more to go alone, so I booked an easier basic 2 day 1 night jungle trek instead. I set out early with a group of 4 Brits and our jungle guide Chok. The trek mostly consisted of hiking up the river, stopping at a waterfall to swim, and then moving on to repeat the process. Chok pointed out a variety of plants, insects, and lizards that he would manhandle for our perverse enjoyment. The Brits were a lovely bunch, 2 boys and a couple, all friends whom recently graduated their equivalent of highschool. The boys, Sam, Erin, and Cosmo, enjoyed hopping the limestone river rocks with me and seemed very keen on doing flips off any dive spot they could find. The gal, Beth, was great to talk to whenever her speech impediment (see: accent) allowed me to understand her. We talked about the basics: weather, hometowns, crippling mental disorders, recent relationships. Eventually Chok took us as far as we were going that day and handed me a fishing line attached to a small plastic water bottle and told us to catch dinner. He then wandered off to sniff glue or something and we set out to the river to fish. We tried making a fishing pole and taking turns with that, but failed. Eventually Beth did it poleless and caught our first fish. We took turns trying to grab the slippery bastard and were eventually able to very humanely bash his head in several times with a rock. Eventually we caught 4 fish using our catch-and-never-release-no-matter-how-small conservation policy. We went back to base camp, which was a small ranger station, and hung out until dinner. A feast of beef curry, bbq chicken, and Thai salad. Our fish had disappeared from the fire, presumably all our hard work going to feed the rangers. At night we went on another trek and found spiders, porcupines, and “jungle cats” (actually leopard cats). We slept well in our non-waterproof hammocks until it rained at 4 am, where we then moved inside a nearby shelter to finish our rest.
Dec 21, 2016
The day was beautiful, so we set off once again deeper into the river basin to hunt for more waterfalls. The trails here became a lot more confusing, but after more fun in the water I was still able to remember the way back. We got back to town exhausted and relaxed the rest of the day away.
Dec 22, 2016
I had originally planned to spend the day on the lake tour, but realized how much all this was costing and opted out at the last minute. It rained heavily shortly after. I started the day doing a bit of writing, then went off to the national park again to do a bit of solo hiking. On my hike I quickly came across a troop of monkeys on the main trail. I watched then for a while as they leapt around me foraging for food. Thankfully I wasn’t attacked by any, like I was in Mexico once. When I began to move on they scattered into the trees. I found a quiet waterfall to read for a while (Tao Te Ching). Then I found a quieter waterfall to meditate for a while, mostly about what (who) I left behind and had to do to get to where I was. I shed a single tear. And then I shed another one, making it a lot less cool sounding. I finished meditating and went back to town, where I wandered for a bit and ended up meeting Martin again, whom I played cards with for the rest of the night.
Dec 23, 2016
Today was spent mostly traveling. I took a cheap bus down to Phuket and spent the ride with a lovely German girl heading to the Philippines for Christmas. In Phuket I got lost for a while well refusing to get a taxi, but found some good food on the way. I am currently at the cheapest hostel ever in a hot, barren jail cell and couldn’t be happier. I happened to stumble upon the hip hangout spot for all the young teens of Thailand and enjoyed some food, music, and weird looks. For Christmas I will be heading to Kos Phi Phi for a full moon party, since many of the friends I’ve met so far told me to meet them here. If I’m going to spend the holidays with mixed up weather, I might as well mix everything else up too. For New Year’s, I’m thinking either Chiang Mai or Kuala Lumpur.
For everyone back home, I wish you a lovely Christmas and a happy New Year’s. You probably won’t miss me much, but if you do, know that I think of you often. My heart yearns to return home to all that I’ve left behind, but my mind knows better (my body preffers the heat here too).
P.s. My phone is being glitchy, so if I dissapear it’s because I’ll need to buy a new one. Please do not send the Navy Seals.