And finally the time has come- bringing our backpacks back to the road. After saying goodbye to Callum’s family in England we entered the plane that took us to Dubai. There we almost missed our flight to Bangkok wandering around the airport like 2 idiots. Anyway, after a few hours we landed safe and sound in Bangkok where our host awaited us.
What can I say, I’m not a big fan of Germans, especially the ones who “know it all”. Lena was kind, very knowledgeable and talkative but it definitely wasn’t the kind of girl I could get on with well. I did my best to socialize but I don’t know how it worked out…;) After 1 day I started to regret that in Poland I was missing “Asian temperatures”… It was insanely hot and, in addition, it was a rainy season. Evenings were bearable so one time we went with Lena and her 2 German friends to visit Asiatique market. I’m a huge fan of local markets but this one was definitely not local. It was full of posh souvenir shops, fancy restaurants and other artificial attractions made for tourists with thick wallets. We ran away from there as soon as we could.
Bangkok is famous for being a main tourist hub of Asia, for its Khao San road and Red Light district. Excited in the begininning, after a few days I discovered the city doesn’t have much else to offer beside those things… And, unfortunately, we didn’t even have a chance to see them, as in the whole Thailand the locals were mourning the king who recently died. When we arrived to Khao San road it was still busy with tourists but there was definitely less energy and half-naked girls than normally. Royal Grounds, a large open field in front of the Grand Palace, was literally packed with locals. “One week of free food”, someone explained to me. The stalls serving free pad thai were spread all over the place and young Thai volunteers were offering water and collecting the rubbish. Nice gesture, king! As Bhumibol Adulyadej ruled for 70 years , his death has moved the whole nation and hundreds of people dressed in black were occupying the square holding a picture of the king. All the live music, parties and festivals were cancelled for at least one month. No ping-pong show this time, damn it! At least we were allowed to gather on a couchsurfing meeting which worked out pretty well even without alcohol. We met a nice Polish couple travelling around Asia, a great Indian guy with a chilled Goa spirit and 2 Turkish guys who, despite being a bit rasist (“Kurdish people and not human”…), were pretty nice and well-educated.
As Lena lived very far from the centre and getting there was a nightmare (insane traffic!), the last day we stayed at home, trying to share the space with 2 German girls, a German family who came to visit Lena and two Lena’s dogs (probably German as well…) whose fur accompanied us every day. Although Lena helped us a lot, it definitely wasn’t the piece of privacy I dreamed of so after 3 days we were ready to leave the city and explore the east coast of Thailand.
As Ko Samui and Ko Tao apparently are really touristy, we chose Ko Phangan island. We got out of Bangkok by bus going to Amphawa where we started hitching to the south. It was much easier comparing it to the last time we tried it on the north of the country. We met a lovely couple who enjoyed our company so much that they bought us a delicous sweet rice and took an alternative, longer scenic route just to show us around (ah, these helpful Thais…). Before it got dark we stopped by some coconut plantation near Thap Sakae where we pitched our tent trying to hide it from hordes of cows clearly feeling insecure about their territory. That night I had one of the best night sleeps ever and it wasn’t because I put a mosquito cream on. You know the feeling when you wake up being surrounded by virgin nature, eat your breakfast on the wet grass, being watched by a bunch of curious cows? Yes, it’s pure freedom.
Content after an easy ride to Surat Thani we found a doubtful port with a ferry looking like from the II World War and cabins looking like prison cells. Fortunately, the actual port was in Don Sak so we speedily moved there and found a proper ferry that wasn’t only two times cheaper than the previous one but it also looked like it could actually sail. The journey took 2 hours and it was really comfortable. Although Thai drivers in Thong Sala tried really hard to convince us that tuk tuk was the only way to get to Ban Tai, we succesfully hitched to our Ko Phangan Arena hostel where we stayed for a few days.
The good thing about coming to Thailand in the rainy season is the fact that everything is really cheap and you don’t have to fight for a space on the beach. Our hostel, although quite empty, was really cool so we spent a lot of time swimming in the swimming pool, playing footbal and watching films. Although we stayed right by the beach, Ban Tai water left much to be desired so instead of swimming we chose chilling on the beach with 2 dogs who, after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to get rid of them, decided to guard us for the whole evening. Sitting there with these two lovely mates, drinking water from the fresh coconut, with no one else except us, was one of the best experiences I’ve had on the island.
There wasn’t many interesting people to talk to in our hostel (a couple of complaining Germans and some English teenagers) so we decided to explore Ko Phangan on our own. Driving all the way to the northwest, we reached Koh Ma, famous for its virgin coral. Lugging my snorkelling equipment, I spent the afternoon observing the fishes, sea urchins and other freaky creatures around the island. In Haad Salad we found a great resort where I allowed myself a little guilty pleasure – my first Thai massage. I heard stories about brutal Thais streching, pulling and twisting poor foreigners’ bodies but I didn’t believe it. Well, maybe it wasn’t that drastic but it was definitely close to the truth. After 5 minutes of the massage made by a young Thai boy I knew it was no joke. Although a little painful, the after effect is incredible. I’ve never felt so relaxed and so… streched 😉 This side of the island was uncomparable with the south- it was full of beautiful beaches, lush jungle forest and wide hills with a great panorama. We chose one as our sunset spot in an exclusive Sunset Resort where, pretending to be proper posh tourists, we placed ourselves by the swimming pool observing the beauty of the sunset. Life is good 😀
I didn’t mention about Ko Phangan phenomena or rather a craziness that you experience when driving on the local roads. While everywhere else the roads are built around the hill creating a “snake”, here someone decided not to mess around, building them right over the hills. As you can imagine, driving there provides unforgettable memories or at least a heart attack. We had a taste of it when driving to Than Sadet waterfall, where we found a tiny puppy crying for food and attention. As there was completely no one there we decided to take him to the nearby beach where he had a much bigger chance to survive. The beach was absolutely gorgeous, isolated, surrounded by rocky cliffs and palm trees. If we found this place earlier we would have definitely stay there longer.
As Ban Tai was quite boring we decided to go to Haad Rin, the capital of the Full Moon party. Having the last hope for having some fun (yeah, we were that desperate) we got there by bike trying to survive the hills and the bloody rain. After arriving to Fu hostel (one of the biggest “party” places in Haad Rin) we quickly solved the mystery of incredibly cheap price for accomodation. There was absolutely no one there (well, except 1 Russian who claimed he was Thai as he has worked there for the whole 2 months already… I’m not counting him, though) except David, a cool New Zealander owner who seemed to worry (understandable…) a little about the business. Apparently there hasn’t been a year like this for a long time… Well, we had to forget about the parties then. The town was quite nice and there was still a lot of forgeigners around but you could tell the king’s death affected this place a lot. We spent a relaxing evening on Haad Rin Nai beach swimming and watching the sunset which was the last time we enjoyed the sun on Ko Phangan.
The last day it rained heavily since the morning and we decided to leave. We beat our asses all the way to Thong Sala where we found a great Vagabond hostel with people inside (!). Most of these people were hippies surviving on the island by selling hand made necklaces and borrowing money from each other. One of them, Alex, was a really cool one and something was telling me I could count on him in terms of recreation. My intuition didn’t let me down- after a short chat he invited us for a secret jungle party and offered a proper “entertainment” for the night. Well, that was what we were looking for. After hunting for treats on a local food market we hitched to the north where, literally in the middle of nowhere, we found “the Holy stone” bar. “Hello, beautiful!”, a familiar voice welcomed us at the entrance. “Sanman?”, I thought. It wasn’t Sanman from Goa but it was definitely his worse American imitation who, besides “loving everyone and everything”, unsurprisingly had to be all the time in the centre of attention. The party had an alternative vibe and there was many cool people out there, most of them living on Ko Phangan for a while. But the best of all was, like always, the music. Tribal rhythms and beat of djembe kept me dancing for most of the night and for a moment I thought that the life on the island can’t be that bad if all these people find it so hard to leave this place…