Published: August 3rd 2009July 30th 2009
So after 1 month of finding my own way through Indonesia, I was getting a bit weary of making new friends all the time and sometimes eating alone. And then Poof! Kristi got a new job and had some time to spare before her 1st day. So we decided Thailand would be a fun switch-a-roo. My 1st night in Bangkok was in the Very Backpacker Khao San Road. I thought this would be a fun place to meet like-minded travelers but I found it to be a dirty and average white person slum. Determined not to subject Kristi to this drab introduction to our trip, I did some serious Bangkok research and planned a rather decent hotel near a cool part of town. We ate dinner at a High Concept restaurant called the Bed Supper Club. The exterior of the building looks like a massive white space tube. The original version of this restaurant is in Amsterdam. The concept is that you sit/lay on giant white beds with strangers and eat a "surprise" dinner...i.e. they don't tell you what you are eating beforehand. There were 2 floors of beds and all sorts of moody lighting. Don't worry, there was nothing kinky
going on....just lounging and eating. It turns out kicking back on a bed and eating delicious food is really nice. While we ate, some modern Thai performance artists did a sort of Alice in Wonderland-ish movements and acting. One woman sat in a 10 foot tall chair in a dress that hung to the bottom reading a book for 20 minutes. Then a magical butterful (dangled by a man with a fishing rod-esque stick) fluttered around us as we ate. Then some singers and dancers did a sort of flamenco opera in front of us. Overall a very nice evening.
We spent the next day wandering around looking at temples, shrines and markets. Just getting around Bangkok is actually quite entertaining. We took the Skytrain (a subway system that is on a giant track high above the city) to the subway (below the city) to a tuk-tuk (small moped passenger vehicle) to a longtail boat (in the rivers snaking through the city). We were able to cross the city for about 1 dollar! Many of the temples are impressive and since it is low season, not too overrun with tourists. Eventually the hustle and bustle of the city did
get to us and we wanted to seek out some nature and adventure. We hopped on a small plane and flew into Phuket. Sadly I do not currently have access to my Bangkok pics due to a memory card malfuntion.
Phuket is a pretty large island with a wide range of places to stay from low-end backpacker joints to high end exclussive resorts. We opted to stay in the busy area of Patong. We wanted to witness some of the carnivalesque insanity that Thailand is famous for. We started with a Thai massage. I have had massages before but never a Traditional Thai Massage. These women basically kick your ass for an hour and then you pay them! I tried to be tough and not wince but when they found the tender spots they would sometimes mercifully ask "you want strong or weak?". But in the end I felt refreshed and relaxed. Since they are so cheap, we have continued to get these throughout the trip. Later that night we went to a Muay Thai Boxing match. This was in a pretty big stadium on Bangla Road! We didn't quite know what to expect but we liked the crazy
announcer that drove around the city "Tonight! Tonight! Big Fight! Best fight of the Month! Tonight!". Thai boxing uses boxing gloves and punching, but you can also use your bare feet and knees. To our surprise the match started with 2 young boys! They must have been 10 years old but they put on quite a show. They each have their own pre-fight routine that includes intensely walking around to each post and doing a prayer and then doing a sort of fight like dance in the middle. There was live Indian-esque music while the fought. It was a bit uncomfortable watching these kids pummel each other but I suppose it is not so different from how american kids have karate or wrestling tournaments when they are young. Each match the kids got older until they became big strong men (and 1 match with women!). The final match a giant Australian man nearly snapped the back of a local Thai fighter. The main event ended in 10 seconds!
Again we grew weary of the fast pace of a tourist center so we set up a 2 day rafting trip. They drove us up to a fairly remote area and
we did some really nice nature stuff. We blasted down 2 white water rafting rivers. The 1st was quite hilarious as it is a dam release river. That means all of the rafting companies in the area have to get in position at the same time and then they open the floodgates. Instant chaos! There must have been at least 100 rafts bouncing, squishing and sometimes flipping all over each other. None of the passengers have any idea of what they are doing (most of they were not even holding paddles) The guides dont speak any English and there was virtually no safety talk. Most of our time was spent alternately holding on for dear life and trying to ultra-splash the nearest boat. The 2nd raftinng trip was more focused on precise paddling around giant gushing rocks and mini waterfalls. Fun fun. We also took a nice hike to a big waterfall where we could climb up into it and jump off. Wooooooo! It seems vacations are always full of jumping from crazy things. We took another hike to a cave that houses a temple. Around the cave there are 100's of monkeys and food stalls selling bannanas! We got
a few bundles and watched the monkey business begin! There were so many hilarious encounters between huge Alpha monkeys, skinny sneaky monkeys, moms with babies and goofy groups of swinging jumping monkies. After this we wandered into the cave. Inside there were shrines and monks and bats. Quite an amazing combination. The cave area ended with a very bizarre depiction of Heaven and Hell that quite resembled Dantes inferno. I hope I don't go to hell! Finally we got to take a bath with elephants in a river! This was a pretty fantastic experience. It felt quite natural as they seemed to like us scrubbing the grime off the head and ears. They made a lovely ultra-low grumbly purring sound. Sometimes they would dip down into the diver and take us with them! Other times they would bubble some water with their bizarre trunks. I am not normally a fan of this kind of direct animal/human experience but this seemed better than the much more popular Elephant Rides. I wouldn't mind if someone cleaned me! We wrapped up our nature trip with a massive Seafood BBQ. The Thai people that took care of us there were very kind and friendly.
Even though they spoke very little English, we definitely bonded.
Next stop, the rock climbing mecca and birthplace of Deep Water Soloing....Railay!
There are more photos below