Our expectations were high. After our impressive journey through Indonesia Thailand had a lot to evince.
Everybody is always talking about how wonderful Thailand is, so we decided we're going to have to see that with our own eyes...
This time we've booked our tickets with Malaysia Airlines. As big KLM-fans it feels a bit like cheeting, but unfortunately we had no choice on our planned travel dates. The reviews of Malaysia Airlines are quite good so we were willing to take the chance. And besides, after two plane crashes in one year, what could go wrong now, haha.
We will fly to Bangkok and then straight on to Koh Samui with Bangkok Airways.
For the first three nights we booked a nice resort at Chaweng Beach, also I arranged tickets to a big lights-festival in Chiang Mai a few days after our stay in Chaweng beach. So we booked a guesthouse and the tickets to Chiang Mai as well. Those are the preperations so far...
The flight with Malaysia Airways is a real experience. The plane is only full for one thirth to people lay streched out over the seat rows. The Malaysian stewardesses wear light blue contactlenses, you see that a lot in Asia. They must think it looks good, but I think it's kind of scary. Furthermore the stewardeses are very arrogant. Their English is almost certain from an other planet and they really can't communicate. This is not a good combination when they ask you which meal you'd like. I didn't have a clue what she just said and which meal I ordered. Not that is makes a difference, everything tastes the same: horrible.
I have never had this poor quality of food in any plane.
And last but not least, it was great that they offered us a (very small) glass of water three times during the whole flight, which was 13 hours so we where incredably thirsty and developed a nasty headache.
So, not an acquaintance to write home about. But lets focus on Thailand, eh.
Because our flight to Koh Samui leaves 1,5 hour after we arrive in Bangkok we need to get our luggage and pass the visa upon arrival booth as fast as we can.
It's just a 1,5 hour flight to Koh Samui, and we can also see the other islands, looks green and hilly. On Koh Samui we don't see a spectaculair inland, but we do spot some great beaches.
In Chaweng beach we arrive at our small resort. Luxurious cottages, nice staff and a well maintained property with idyllic paths through a small flowery jungle. Approved. We van survive this for a few days.
On this side of the island the sea is a little rough, you can play with the waves and hang around while you move up and down... very entertaining.
The day after we arrive I celebrate my birthday, a very special one because it's my big 4-0... Hooray to me!
After our first night we wake up from a coma at half past four. I want to see the sun rising from the beach, so with sleepy eyes we drag ourselves to the ocean. It is all worth it. As the sky slowly turns orange and the water washes the nice sandy beach I feel really happy. It is amazing!
During the day we stumble around with our jet lag under our arm. My big wish to eat lobster by the sea comes true today, because my love takes me out to dinner by candlelight on a romantic lounge terrace. At a ridiculously expensive restaurant we eat lobster and have champagne!
After the main course the staff brings us a personalized birthday cake while singing happy birthday, whoah this could not get any better today!
After dinner we slowly walk towards our resort and stop at the Bambu-bar for a few drinks, thinking this would be the end of this wonderful day. It is a cozy bar with colored lights and a tropical setting and music. At midnight we move on towards our resort until we stop at a noisy party. Before we know it we are inside dancing and singing with a lot of crazy Thai at what appears to be a staff party of our resort.
We are swinging the night away while alcohol flows freely. OMG, best BEST b-day party EVER!
It is unclear how we finally ended up in our beds, but during breakfast we see the personnel struggling with their hangover. Everytime they walk by, they wink at us and even the manager looks at us from time to time with a meaningful look as if he was saying 'you party animal you!'
After some nice relaxing at the beach, the next morning we leave for the main land. The boat leaves by the end of the morning on the northside of the island, so we have to get up at 6 o'clock to take a taxi-bus to the pier. On the way we can see some more inland nature and it does not look very impressive.
The sea on the northside is calmer and there are a lot less tourists... hmm.
The catamaran ferry is fairly luxurious and so we arrive relaxed at the harbour of Surat Thani where a bus takes us to the airport. Air Asia takes us directly to Chiang Mai where we arrive at sunset. The guesthouse is in a great location to do some sightseeing, but first we have some other plans. Tomorrow we visit the Yi Peng Lanna, lights-festival, which is on my bucketlist. First we visit a foodmarket on the other side of the street of our guesthouse. The food is prepared while you wait and there are a lot of locals. I order something that looks delicious, but immediately regret it as my mouth catches fire. Fortunately there is Chang beer to help me survive this sweat-attack to my pores.
Strangely there are almost no tourists in sight, and as we move on the a little Jazz bar down the street we enjoy life with the locals. They have good live music and cold Chang, what more does one need?
The following noon after a good breakfast at the guesthouse, we are picked up by the organization of the festival. It is quite a massive but well organized event because we have to stand in a straight line and receive a ticket around our neck with the busnumber. Oh joy...
When we arrive at the festival ground at an old temple about 50 km outside of Chiang Mai we see how commercial it really is. Thousands of people have managed to get a ticket and will soon experience a artificial miracle. We look forward to the disappointment.
It is a well-oiled machine run by monks and girl-scouts. Dinner is served, a big buffet with a great diversity of snacks and chemically colored drinks. There are long mats where you can sit. Visitors behave well and take off their shoes as they enter the mats. While eating our meal we observe the different individuals from all over the world.
After dinner we stroll around the grounds and enjoy the sunset and the colored lights that decorate the trees.
It takes quite a while before the ceremony begins and after a lonnnnngggg speech from the highest Buddhist monk, a mass meditation session and a procession it seems it was worth the wait... the big lanterns may now be lit and released!
Of course all in the same time, when the monks give us a signal. In complete darkness an ocean of lights appear when thousands of lanterns are sucked into the sky. Breathtaking and impressive...
Every person has one lantern which you have to release with at least two persons, so the endless stream of warm lights seems to last forever. This was really worthwhile! And as we ride back to the guesthouse we are in ecstasy.
Chiang Mai has many temples of which we visit a few. They are really magnificent but you can call me a philistine but once you've seen two or three... pfff...
After a walk through the city we are totally overheated and look for some cooling down in the ice cold pool of our guesthouse. While enjoying a nice lunch and a Chang, we tell the Swiss owner of the guesthouse how we've experienced the festival the night before. The impressive stream of lights appears to have been seen all the way from the city centre.
Ha, and we were there!
We have decided to go to Pai for a couple of days. We book a van and search for a hostel in the town. The road to Pai is beautiful, but consists of 700+ curves, dussehhh ... travel tablets! The bumpy road of 5 hours is very heavy and I'm still nauseous when we arrive around an hour or 14:00. A lunch helps and if we walk around it seems to have been a good choice to come here. Pai is a superchill town with a true hippie vibe. Cozy restaurants and cafes and the accompanying weirdos full of tattoos and ironwork. We discover a small retro bar, we already know this is probably not our last time here. The music is great, from Supertramp to New Order. There are three guests, who appear to be there every night and the owner is very welcoming. In addition to the already known Kap kun kaa (thanks) and sawati kaa (good day) we learn some words Thai. Chang song kuad, which means 'two bottles of Chang'. We must remember that one, hahaha!
The surroundings of Pai are good to explore by scooter so we rent one the next day. For 5 euro we rent a bright orange (HOLLAND!!) scooter and drive around everywhere, we drive to a lookout point that never seems to come. When we finally think we're there after a long, steep and very bumpy road, a sign says it's another 7 km... NOOOOO...
After this terrible ride we head down again without seeing the lookout point. Steep down is even more terrifying than up, so the way back takes longer than expected. Fortunately we make it down alive and drive to the next village. Here and there we see some bruised knees and elbows pass by.
We drive back to Pai along some elephants, they are chained and have no water and barely any shade.
In Thailand, elephant riding is a huge attraction and besides that they are treated very poorly. Around Chiang Mai you will see more elephant parks where you can see how the animals are taken care of and you can wash them in the river yourself. Well meant of course, but too commercial for us. An admission ticket costs about € 75.00 per person, and it's often large groups at the same time. This makes me wonder where that money actually goes. In Pai the elephants are still being ridden and really not treated well, so people DO NOT RIDE THE ELEPHANTS!
We drive back and enjoy this exciting day while enjoying a delicious bami.
In the evening there is a market with tasty snacks and we can enjoy watching people pass by from the vintage bar where we where yesterday.
We have to go back to Chiang Mai and there are two ways: to fly or the bus from hell... We walk to the airport which is 2 km away and ask for prices. The airport is a kind of open shed with a desk. The lady behind the desk is there by chance because one flight just left. She tells us that the flight of the next day has been canceled and the day after tomorrow costs € 130.00 per person. Blahhh... we'll have to take the bus. Well prepared with a full stomach and tons of travel tablets we will go back to Chiang Mai.
For the second time we stay in the same guesthouse and the owner friendly welcomes us back. We will stay for two nights and rent a scooter the next day. There is a nature park near the city centre where we drive around. It is a big park with a long steep road up. It is getting colder and after an hour's drive we arrive at a small village with a huge temple. The temple is full of tourists and the village is clearly built around it for that reason. We drive up further and get to the next village. No more tourists here which is so much more enjoyable. We drink a cup of coffee at a small café and walk around. There is not much to do and I start to cool down in my very short shorts and tank top. With blue toes in my flipflops we decide to drive back down. Along the way, the temperature is clearly getting more pleasant and we stop at a lookout point where two men play checkers and another guy walks around like a pirate. He has a large sword and chats with another fellow. Odd folks here, but the view is amazing!
Back in town we check out the huge Sunday market which is so big that it's impossible to see everything. We eat a fantastic Pad Thai in a little street and for the last time we visit the great jazz bar.
We have been thinking about it for a long time but decide to leave the mainland and see more of the islands. Air Asia takes us to Surat Thani in the south and from the harbour we take the boat to Koh Pangnan. Together with another couple we've met on the boat we share a taxi that brings us to our luxurious hotel on the other side of the island. The hotel has an all white beachbar with a real cocktail-shaking bartender. The masses of chubby Americans bragging about their expensive houses make sure we do not want to stay here for too long. The next day we rent a scooter and cross the whole island. A gorgeous green oasis! The other side of the island where we arrived is clearly nicer to stay. A cozy town with cafés and shops. Hmm... wrong decision.
We dine in the village near our hotel and hang out in a super chill mini bar where we are unfortunately the only ones. Until late in the night we have fun with the bartender and his amazing taste for music. Eventually we stumble into our hotel and the next day we leave for Koh Tao Island.
Koh Tao looks promising green with pearly white beaches. It is clearly less touristy here, there are many restaurants and plenty of hotels. Diving can not be missed when visiting Koh Tao, but with our lack of diving experience, snorkelling is also great. Muchos fish diversity.
Fortunately, just in time, because we haven't had it yet it; in the three days we are here it rains about 80% of the time. In addition, my iPhone has gotten wet and after a it showed a striped screen it died. Permanent. Yes, excellent moment if you don't have anything to do anyway.
Fortunately, we discover a nice bar with 80-ies music and great view of some seaside boats. Ánd it has a pool table where we spend a lot of time practicing.
We enjoying the fabulous sunset and delicious food. The curry is like 'ohmygod-I'mgonnadie' generously spiced and fortunately our Chang has good cooling qualities. 'Chang song kuat' and you have another two coming, hahaha.
We are so tired of the rain and we have two more nights which we would like to spend in Bangkok. On the mainland, the weather is better, so we book a hotel in the middle of the city with a nice
Before sunrise we leave from our hostel on Koh Tao on foot across the beach to the boat. Very special to see the sunrise from the bouncing boat. The sea is quite rough so we can not get on the deck. The boat goes back to Koh Phangan via Koh Pangan and Koh Samui, where we let Air Asia bring us back to Bangkok.
Ohmy, we are so happy not to have skipped Bangkok. After many stories of ugly and busy city, no fun and nothing to see... we have had two well filled days of FUN! Bangkok is a very divers city where you can stray the little streets, temples and shops and in the evening you HAVE to Koh Sang Road!
Just sit on a terrace watching crazy people, or walk around, enjoy great food, live music and artists on the street. The first night we meet two Australians. We spend the evening with them and they appear to be in the same hotel as us. The next day we meet them a few times again during a city walk and decide to wander together. After a dinner together they decide to go to bed early. We want to finish our last evening with a bang so we stay in Koh Sang Road.
On Koh Sang Road we walk around and see a group of beatboxing guys showing the most insane moves while further down the street a fat white man with a harmonica plays the blues.
You can see, do and buy anything here. Fried scorpions, fried cockroaches, fried everything actually... Fake ID cards, diplomas and licenses, cha-cha girls, ping pong shows, tattoos of all shapes and charming ladyboys.
As Murray Head once sang: one night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster...
In a small bar we meet a couple of French people and a British bloke who are already quite drunk. Together we fill the empty dance floor and while two of the group give the band a little help, we have lots of fun. The French girl Valerie sings the same song by Amy Winehouse, not bad. When we go outside we meet Batman and one of the men of the group starts a discussion with a man selling some souvenirs. We pee our pants of laughter.
In a club we meet some Thai 'ladies' and decide to limbo with Valerie's scarf. After a long and unforgettable night we say goodbye to everybody and exchange e-mailadresses. We crawl back to our hotel and just can't stop laughing.
The following morning we have enough time to report our findings of Bangkok to the Australian couple and relax in the pool until we need to leave for the airport.
Hungover we get a board the plane of Malaysia Airlines. Nothing can ruin this (yet again) incredible trip... as we ignore the gross meals, the unfriendly staff and the lack of service we wander off into dreamland where we relive our fantastic journey...
It takes some time to figure it out, but once you've found it: Thailand is amazing!