Saturday, March 5, 2011

You Can't Say Thailand Without saying ISLAND!!

Before I begin to tell the many wonderful stories of Thailand, I must first give credit to Jay for the title of this blog as he came up with it as we were riding on a motorbike on some island in Thailand. In general, all we did in Thailand was go island hoping. We went from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao to Koh Chang. We thoroughly enjoyed Thailand; in fact we enjoyed it so much that we accidentally stayed an extra 4 days than our visa allowed and ended up paying a fine of 2,000 BAHT (only like $70). I will attempt to sum up all of the fun in the sun in this one single post so that I can finally get this blog up-to-date, but because of that it might be a little lengthy.

Koh Phangan
After about 20 some hours later, a crowded mini van with a back seat of what Jay and I called Buddhist Monks in Training, we finally arrived in Koh Phangan.We arrived in Koh Phangan at 6:30am via a night ferry. The night ferry has so far been one our favorite boat rides or general means of transportation to a place. The ferry was an old wooden ferry with two levels and everyone rode/slept on the second level. There were mattresses laid out on the ground against the sides for people to sleep through the night and opened windows lining the walls. We boarded at 11pm and the lights were out by 11:15, and I looked out at the night sky as the moon shone down on the river and the little houses lining the river bank. Everything and everyone was silent and it was so calming and relaxing that I could not help but just daze off as I smiled at the moon and stars passing by.

I woke up early the next morning as we hit port and everyone headed out to a taxi to take them to their place of stay. Jay and I booked ahead of time at a place called Top Hill Resort, and the name of the place was no lie, it literally was at the end of dirt and rocky road up a hill at the very end. This place though is probably one of our absolute favorite places we have ever stayed, and it is because of the place (not necessarily the room but more like the view) and the owner for why we stayed an extra 2 days.

Koh Phangan is known for their parties; full moon, blue moon, crescent moon, etc. There is always an excuse to party there and it basically seems like a big spring break island as florescent colors are thrown everywhere, which is the big theme for the parties, and people walking around in their beach gear still drunk at 9am; probably because there are after parties that start at 7am. Jay and I did not participate in these parties as we were there to relax, and we definitely did. We were the only ones staying at the resort in the beginning and we got to know the owner, Tee, very well. Tee is an amazing person who is from Bangkok with a Buddhist background who is very enlightening indeed as well as an amazing cook. Some of my best meals so far has been cooked by him. Tee showed us around local style as he would take us out into the jungle at night for a party or show us where the crazy tourists go and introduce us to some local cuisine. 

The best part about the resort was by far the view. We woke up every morning to the sunrise overlooking a cliff where crystal blue waters waited below. On the other side of the cliff, just walking distance, was where the sun set and where the white sand beaches and hammocks hanging in the trees where. We by far had the best of both worlds there. We probably woke up every morning around 8-8:30am but would not start our day until sometime after 11am because we just spent that time hanging out in the open lounge area drinking tea and enjoying the view.

We ventured off a couple of times on the motorbike to a beach called Ko Mo, A beautiful white sand beach were we did some snorkeling and got an aloe vera message (which they grew the aloe right there) on the beach for only $10 an hour! I was still really sun burnt so I stayed out of the sun most of the time and the aloe vera was heavenly on my skin. I honestly do not think I have ever been so relaxed in my life has I had been on that island.

I also picked up a new hobby there, chess. There was a chess board in the lounge area and I have always wanted to learn so Jay has been teaching me. I have yet to win, but I feel as if I am slowly catching on. I actually really like it too! I have also found a new love for a dessert that Tee made for us and is so easy to make. It is sticky rice, drizzled with coconut cream, and a fresh sliced mango on top. Soooooo gooooodddd!!!

We sadly has to leave the island after 4 or 5 days (time has literally escaped me and I really never know what the date is anymore) to head to our next destination to enjoy the beautiful beaches there.

Koh Tao
The ferry to Koh Tao is a short ride but on the boat ride there was a man on there trying to sell people scuba packages. Now the reason for this is because Koh Tao is know worldwide for its diving and is apparently one of the best places to get certified and to go scuba diving. Jay and I discussed the day before how neither one of us have any inclination to get scuba certified while there. But something sparked in us while listening to the guy and before we knew it we had signed up for Open Water Certification at BAN'S Diving Resort!

Now scuba diving is something I thought I would never do, just never had the interest, but once I signed up for it I could not wait to get in the water. On our second day of class we headed into the pool to breathe underwater for the first time. Most people love the first time they can breathe underwater, well for me it was scary as hell. I felt like I was suffocating and was began breathing too deep and hard and had to come up. I calmed myself down and made it through the rest of the class. The next day though was our first dive out into open water. We suited up, did our buddy checks, and jumped in. Breathing under water in the ocean felt so much easier than in the pool and the second we descended under and I was breathing without feeling like I was suffocating I feel in love. I can only describe it with the combination of two Disney songs, a Whole New World from Aladdin and Under the Sea from the Little Mermaid. Just absolutely amazing. We got out and did another dive that day and then headed in, and the next day we would do our last 2 dives and then be certified!

After our certification was complete I really wanted to continue on to get my Advanced Open Water certification so that I could dive to 30 meters. Jay didn't enjoy the experience as much as I did so he opted out and I stayed in. Most people take a break of a day or two in between the two courses, and I wish I would have done the same, but we were on a time crunch so I had to do it the next day. The advanced course was nice though because all we did was a little class work and 5 dives (the last one being a night dive!) and there was only one other person in my class, unlike my last class had 12.

Diving takes a lot out of you and by the last day I was tired of diving and was just ready to be certified and move on. The entire time while I was on the island I had not had time to lay out or explore it, just training and diving the whole time. On the first dive of my last day of diving I had quiet the scary experience. I used a new pair of goggles and when we got to our descent point of about 22 meters (very bad visibility by the way, could probably only see like 1-2 meters in front of me) I started to have trouble with my goggles. Water kept coming in and I could not blow it out. Then before I knew it the goggles were half full, I couldn't see at all, my group moved on and I couldn't see them, I started to panic which threw off my breathing and I started to have a hard time breathing which made me panic even more, especially since I was 22 meters under the sea! I did what we learned in class which is slow ascend to the top, but I stopped about 10 meters till the top where the visibility was better and finally was able to clear my goggles. I then swam the rest of the way to the top where I waited for my group. About a minute or two later they got to the top, and as I was secretly panicking trying to hold back the tears when the instructor told me well done that I did exactly what I was supposed to do in that situation. So then we went back down to swim with the fishes.

The final dive, the night dive, was unfortunately not as good as it usually is because of the full moon which created bad visibility, but we did get to swim with some barracudas! Which by the way are delicious. Jay and I had some a couple of nights before. I decided that I would only eat locally fresh caught fish to keep up with my protein and to try new things, and barracuda was a good choice! The only thing that really sucked about the night dive was my partner. Nice older man, but he ran into me sooo many times. Which I am sure I did the same to him, but on the night dive, as soon as we got under, he slammed his elbow into my face which threw my goggles off of me. I cursed out loud hoping he could hear me because of how pissed I was, but of course he didn't and for the rest of the 40 minutes of the dive I had problems with my goggles again. Thanks buddy! Once we came up though I was officially certified and it felt AMAZING! Anyone down for some scuba diving?!?!

The last night there I went to bed early cause I was so tired from diving, but Jay didn't get in till 5am, which woke me up and I couldn't get to bed after that. So I headed to the beach with a towel, a book, and some music to watch the sun light the morning sky and enjoy and the peace and quiet that I had been looking for. It didn't take me too long until I got the urge to run on the beach. This was the first time I had run since I had been on the trip and it felt absolutely amazing. I ran about 3 miles up and down the beach and caught some interesting sights which included two people having sex in the ocean. I ran barefoot along the beach, and although it was a great run, I felt the repercussions of it. I thought I had a rock stuck in my foot because it was hurting, but when I examined my foot I realized that I had a blood blister the size of my toe in a crescent moon shape on my big toe. It made walking for the next day or so a lot tougher, but I still wouldn't take the moment back.

After being on the island for about 6 days we paid our dues at the diving resort and headed on a nice 20+ hour journey to Koh Chang. My total costs at the diving resort which included all accommodations the entire time, the training, equipment, dives, certification, etc. came to about 16,000 BAHT which equaled out to only $513! How amazing is that! That is another reason why Jay and I love Thailand so much, so cheap!

Koh Chang
Our travels between destinations are always interesting but I must say that this has to be the winning one so far. We had to take a ferry, then a bus, then another bus, and then another ferry. Our longest leg of the journey was from some place in Thailand all the way up to Bangkok where we were supposed to get there at 5am and then get on another bus at 8am. Well the bus driver from wherever in Thailand to Bangkok was in a real hurry apparently because we got to Bangkok at 2:30am. Well what the hell are we supposed to do for like 5 hours in Bangkok during the wee hours of the morning! Well let me tell you, Jay and I would like to say that Bangkok might rival NY for the city that never sleeps. We get there and walk around the corner and behold, a hustling bustling of a street. Bars were going crazy with people and music, bands on the side of the street, street vendors selling food and beer, massages places squeezed in between all of these places, and of course Bangkok would not be complete without trannie hookers, or as Jay called them, ladies with hot dogs. I seriously have not seen so many trannie hookers in my life, it was very amusing just to watch them do their thing and hit on Jay. 

Jay and I settled on a beer and a foot massage as we enjoyed the music coming from across the street. I believe my favorite part was when the band played Country Roads by John Denver! Go WV! After our foot massage and beer we headed to another bar (about 3:30am at this time) and got some hooka and beer to kill time. Excellent place for people watching as right across the street was the main hub of where the trannie hookers were hanging out too. We continued to walk around the city until we found our bus guy and waited to get on to finally arrive in Koh Chang.

We get to Koh Chang at I don't know what time but get on a taxi and head to Lonely Beach where the backpackers stay, and found a place for the night. We were both in need for a drink, and it was almost 5pm so we got a bucket each and headed down to the rocky beach to watch the sunset and drink our buckets. Now most people reading this probably have no idea what a bucket is, well it is something that is very common in Thailand and Cambodia we have found. They take a bucket, about the size of a small medium beach bucket, fill it half way with ice, pour 5-7 shots in it, then put a mixer in it, some straws, and there ya go! You walk around drinking your bucket. Something that Jay and I were very much in the need of. We ended the night by eating at one of the best Mexican places I have ever eaten at before in my life, and considering I eat a lot of Mexican that is quite the compliment. And it was not good just because we were drunk, it was just very very good in general. It was something I thought I would never find in this part of the world and a beautiful way to end the night.

The next day we found a new place to stay on a more secluded beach (not my favorite beach as I have never seen so much trash in my life on a beach. I think Coastal needs to send some Eco-Reps there to help clean it up). It was somewhat relaxing, Jay loved it and I just chilled. That night though some Russian Bikers had a HUGE party there which was very interesting and Jay and I sat back enjoyed the insane drunk Russians and the amazing fireworks that they let off.

The next 2 nights were spent on the fishing village pier where the owner, are you ready for this, is the 3rd best table tennis player in the US!!! How awesome is that! He even got his citizenship in Wooster, MA so that he could play for the US. He went pro at the age of 12!! He also served us a delcious dinner of some different fresh fish that his fisherman friend caught that night. We had baracudda, red snapper, and cow fish. I think I might have over done it bit that night and am a little fished out for a while.

Jay and I signed up for a Thai cooking class the next day and it was sooo cool! And filling! We each made 3 meals and we got to eat everything we cooked. So if anyone is in the mood for some spring rolls, sweet and sour, or green curry just let me know because I am now a pro!

We were only going to spend one more day on the island and move on but then we discovered White Sands Beach and decided to stay one more day. The ironic part is that it rained the next day so we didn't get to enjoy the beach the second day. But we did go to an amazing waterfall which we swam under and was totally worth skipping the beach for a day.

One the last night there we decided to go to a Muay Thai boxing match. This stuff is crazy by the way! I am not one for violence but wanted to go to experience it and wow, some people really got the shit kicked out of them. In like the 4th match there was a Cambodia guy vs a Thai guy and probably in round 3 the Cambodia guy knocked the Thai guy out and won. But I mean he really knocked him out, so bad that they had to give him stitches in his eye right then and there! Poor guy.

We left the next day as the rain wished us a farewell as we headed onto our next destination, a whole new country, CAMBODIA!

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