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.
Cool writeup. Thailand in so much more than BKK, Pattaya, beaches and Singha Beer. I can advice you all not to forget about northern Thailand and the mountains and rivers there. Really nice and people are more relaxed up north. Life is much cheaper there too. Good trekking, rafting and rock climbing. See you all in wonderful Thailand 2009 :)
Bangkok has 17 million habitants I believe.
Have you been to the Bayoke Tower In Patunam area? Is the biggest building in the whole city, from there you have an amazing view from bangkok.
And what about koh PhiPhi? Did you went scuba diving? Also if you go snorkeling by the daytime near the Hippie Bar area you see lots of sharks.
I'll be back there for sure...someday.
Dude you sound like you're having a super kickass time out there with the boys!
Love the boxing pics & kudos for the balls to do it
Would love to know now that you've experienced Thailand if you would prefer living there to Panama?
Talk when u're online :)
Thailand, what a great country. We love it there. The people are awesome. I've never been in a country with such friendly people. Siam Paragon is amazing...
Watch out for train terrorists:
When you're on the road for this long you get good at rationing. In our case, that applies to batteries and to food. I just last week ate a vegan food bar that I bought in LA in the beginning of March.
We don't plan far ahead, so we never know exactly when we'll be able to buy acceptable food. Batteries are the same way. We're on a 32 hour train ride that spans two nights from Saigon in South Vietnam to Hanoi in North Vietnam.
It's the second night now, so it's time to burn off my batteries which I haven't really used much of yet.
(I should add pictures to this one day once I get a better connection)
As of writing I'm just finishing up a three day visit to Thailand waiting for the airport transfer at the Glow Pratanum hotel in Pratanum, Bangkok, Thailand. I had a wonderful time and did the usual tourist things for my very first visit like the street marketplace, night market, floating market, ride the elephants, visit Wat Pho and the reclining Buddha, etc... I also got to stop by Siam Paragon and it was indeed one of the cleanest and best malls I've seen yet.
Reflecting on the trip all the good stuff about did consist of the things 'between the lines' per se. Riding the motorcycle taxi's at breakneck speeds weaving thru full on traffic while LED lights pulsate from all over the place was a one of a kind Asian experience I will never forget. Haggling for computer parts at the electronics market (which dwarfs out any electronics store I've ever seen) was also pretty epic for me as they had just about everything I have ever dreamed of and more. Thailand's style of shopping seems to differ from what I'm used to as the buildings are grouped by what they sell - one building will be all clothes, one all electronics, one all jewelry/accessories etc... All in all this seemed like a lot more of a foreign experience than many of the other trips I've taken to the Philippines, cruising to Mexico/Caribbean, Canada, etc... I also got pretty good at converting prices by increments of 30's or 300's to derive 1/10$ US and other such fun.
One thing I found very interesting was how many westerners and europeans were walking the streets of Thailand as well. The only other diverse international city I've ever been to really is Las Vegas where you can often hear 5-6 languages taking a short walk down the strip. I remember just about EVERYONE raving about Thailand about 10 years ago and how great of a place it was. I wonder now then if I am getting the same experiences as these people or if I've just come in really late to the party. Similar to visiting the Philippine island of Boracay (supposedly one of the world's best beaches) change and commercialize heavily between my last visit around 2006 and 2013 I wonder if I'm just getting the regurgitated bits of travel. Boracay used to be a private beach paradise and now you know they've tipped over the deep end when you see not one but 2 Lonely Planet store outlets in the markets with full on cement and steel resorts popping up left and right. I miss getting my Coke in a plastic bag with a straw for 10 pesos rather than paying 50 now for a canned equivalent just like everywhere else in the western world.
Well anyway I take solace in knowing that at least I got to experience some of that badassness as Thailand's last Westerner. I honestly think this is the best trip I've taken in my life yet though I have high expectations for Japan and Korea if I ever visit. Europe tbh at this point seems boring and expensive. Israel would be fun just for the massive religious lore. If Thailand was this good 10 years down the line then I wonder how orgasmic it was for the early runners. Even the CLICHE stuff was fun (which was lke 5% of the country)! The hotel was truly 5 star and the people are the most accomodating I've ever met. All of those who believe in the so-called 'golden rule' about treating others should take notes on these folks. At the McDonalds for example I noticed I did not have my hamburger 20 mins after purchase since I vegged out for a moment. Not expecting much I went back down and showed them the reciept and in short order they got me another hamburger no questions asked. There was no way to prove that I didn't just eat the first burger then come down slumming around for free seconds.