Okay so I just wrote about half of a really long post about how awesome Thailand has been... and then it got deleted somehow. It's a shame when things like that happen to computer geniuses like myself.
So... from the top.
Todd and I reconvened on the small island of Koh Phi Phi (where The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed). But this time we had company.
Todd met his cousin and his friends on the island. Pete and Chris met us there a few hours after I arrived, and we made TONS of friends. There was Laina and Jeremy who I met on the boat. Jeremy was actually a reader of this and my personal blog, and I happened to sit next to him on the ferry.
What are the chances of that?
We met two Korean sisters, a tall Jewish girl who taught me how to box, an even taller Aussie who accidentally elbowed me in the face, A hippie girl named Fred, A Syrian girl named Noor who is our BFF for life, a club manager whose name escapes me, and some strange Aussie girls who have extremely cool outdoor adventure jobs, and a bunch of others.
By the end of our two-day-extended-to-a-week trip, we had a full entourage joining us for all of our activities.
A typical day involved eating a plate of vegetables and whole wheat banana pancakes for breakfast, working at D's Books on the patio while drinking amazing Mango smoothies, having lebanese food for dinner, watching sunset on the beach, hanging out or playing pool at Reggae bar, and then finishing the night off as the only whiteys in the Thai karaoke bar.
The fact that our daily expenditure, including food and hotel, was around $15 each made it VERY easy to stay there for a long time.
Really the best part, though, was having so many cool people around to hang out with at all times. Half of them didn't have phones, so we'd just count on running into them randomly. Surprisingly effective.
In Reggae Bar there was a real Muay Thai boxing ring. What started as a joke between Chris (185lb) and me (145lb), turned into a full on 3 round boxing match, complete with pads and a referee.
That was intense. I lost (I never knocked him down once), but he sustained more damage - a bloody nose and a mean bruise. It was my first fight ever, and definitely my last planned fight.
A great experience, though. The hardest part was having the stamina to just keep moving - what a workout!
After extending our hotel reservation for 4 days in a row, we finally decided to head to Bangkok.
First impressions were excellent. I wasn't expecting to see a monumental glass and steel airport that was more impressive than any other one I'd visited.
Even better was the beginning of a great streak of fresh fruit availability. At 11pm the smoothie place was still open and made us some excellent - and cheap - smoothies.
We settled into Pete's place, but not before visiting the streets of Bangkok. Everything you've heard about the ladyboys and prostitution is true. Only hours into our trip to Bangkok, one of them grabbed my crotch.
What I wasn't counting on, though, was for Bangkok to be WAY more than sleaze and backpackers.
Take the mall, for example. I'm usually not a fan of malls, but this place is a force to be reckoned with.
It has a full on aquarium in the bottom with a huge shark tank that you can PAY TO DIVE INTO! I really meant to do this, but ran out of time. Next year for sure.
Above the aquarium is a world class supermarket with more fresh juices than I've ever seen. I settled on a coconut (which are available everywhere for about 60 cents), and a wheatgrass pineapple blend.
Outside of the supermarket is a monster sized food court. I got some delicious Indian food.
The next five floors are stores that defy description. The electronics megastores had so many amazing gadgets to distract that I had trouble walking straight. I wanted to buy three items, and found them all on ONE FLOOR:
1. PQI 2gb usb key
2. Nokia USB charger (couldn't find ANYWHERE before, btw)
3. Retractable USB cable
All of the prices were great.
One floor down, for those whose budgets can handle more than a few cables, is a LAMBORGHINI dealership. With actual lambos parked in them.
Moving on to the top floor is the coolest movie theater I've ever seen.
It has several normal screens, each one outfitted exclusively with plush leather recliners, an IMAX theater, and a members only movie theater that looked super cool. We saw Indy 4, which was so bad that I walked out halfway through.
It also has a full bowling alley, complete with a VIP private 3 lane room you can rent, and a karaoke facility (terrible English song selection).
I didn't mean to spend that much time on mall description, but there you have it.
Something else I'm pumped about - THEY HAVE ELEPHANTS IN THE STREETS.
This is a city of what... eight million? And there are Elephants downtown. People guide them across the crosswalks and stuff. You can pay sixty cents for a bag of food and FEED them. It is so much fun. I did it at least four times, every time I saw an elephant. You can pet them too. What great animals.
People use them on farms here to plow and carry stuff. I thought people were lying when they told us that they use them to carry stuff, but apparently it's true.
Thailand is similar to Panama in that it's a great mix of modern conveniences, cheap cost of living, and tons of great stuff to see and do. I don't know how we're going to squeeze everything in, but we'll have to spend more time here next year.
I'd like to write more about Thailand, but it's 4:30am and we have a train to catch in about an hour. Next up is the worlds slowest train (12mph MAX) through Cambodia, on to Vietnam, and then by some method (plane? boat?) to Macau and Hong Kong.