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:
I have no idea why, but these flights to Tokyo seem so short. Despite staying up the night before I only managed to sleep for five of the twelve hours we spent on the plane. The rest of the time was spent entertaining the four year old next to me with magic tricks, reading her book about Disney princesses, and showing her how to draw on the computer.
The girl next to Todd slept in the most interesting position I've ever seen. Defying age old Japanese Etiquette, I took a picture for you.
Once we took the bus to Tokyo we were met by Blair, the guy renting us a room. Our room last year was fine, but nothing exceptional. This year we have a huge room with two beds, a couch, a TV, and a mini fridge. It's like a little hotel room. The rest of the house has a nice kitchen, living room, dining room, and bathroom shared by the rest of the residents.
Three days–that’s all I had during my first trip to Asia.
I was set to take off just a few days after spending 3 weeks traveling to Sri Lanka, the States and the Bahamas and I was dead broke. A few months earlier, I found out that I had won a free flight to Bangkok from my bank here in the United Arab Emirates and was determined to make the trip happen–even if it meant traveling to Asia with only $300 to my name. This trip would also be my first experience Couchsurfing AND on the Asian continent, so I was excited and nervous all at the same time.
One of the first things that I always do when I travel alone is purchase a sim card so that I can stay connected with family & friends. I arrived to Bangkok, bought my sim, added some minutes & a data plan and headed to the house where I was going to be staying for the next few days. Bangkok was everything that I thought a stereotypical big Southeast Asian city would be–sprawling with skyscrapers, intricate metro rail lines, crowded, dirty and lively with millions of things happening all around me at the same time. It was a complete sensory overload but I must admit–I loved the energy.
Couchsurfing is a popular way to travel. You stay in the homes of locals or expats in cities around the world–for free. I met my host Amy through a friend of a friend who had Couchsurfed in Bangkok a year earlier. Before my trip, I had Skyped with Amy and her roommates to get things situated for my stay at their house. On the first night, I made it to Amy’s house and enjoyed some welcome drinks and conversation with her roommates about Bangkok, living abroad and traveling. Each of them had come from various parts of the world (Europe, Australia and the US) to intern in Bangkok for different businesses and NGO’s and they were renting a 3-bedroom apartment in the Sukhumvit area. That night, as I lay down to sleep on the couch, I remember thinking about how crazy it was to be in a complete stranger’s house in a foreign country. One of the things that always blows me away about most travelers and expats that I meet abroad is how amazingly open and welcoming they are to meeting new people.
Early in the morning on my first full day, I borrowed a map and an old Lonely Planet guide from one of Amy’s roommates and hit the city. For a girl with less than $300 in her pocket, I couldn’t believe how much I was able to do and see. I spent the next three days traveling around in tuk-tuks exploring temples, hoping on and off of the Bangkok Transit System (BTS), visiting wats, shopping, meeting up with more friends of friends, gorging on street food and partying with fellow travelers on the infamous Khaosan Road. By the end of the trip, I was exhausted. I enjoyed every minute of it and even boasted mosquito bites as battle wounds.