So I think where I left off was Langkawi, Malaysia. From there till now:
1) Headed from Langkawi to Phuket
2) From Phuket to Ko Phi Phi and around
3) Ko Phi Phi to Krabi
4) Krabi to Ko Samui
Phuket is the southernmost city on a small ithmus on the west coast of Thailand. Its pretty well known for having great beaches, and being the tourist center of southern Thailand. I traveled from Langkawi to Phuket with by British friends Tim and Gareth, and my Belgian buddy Johan. We got settled in a clean hostel with aircon (woohoo!!!) which was a relief from the fleabag spot we were at in Langkawi.
When we got to Phuket we did a little exploring and then went out to a bar. For some reason its cheaper to get bottles of Johnny Walker in the bars than it is to buy a round of beers, so its not uncommon for a table to have two or three bottles at a table like they are VIP, but are really the budget drinkers. The four musketeers (Tim, Gareth, Johan, and me) got a bit pissed, and around two we split up. Johan and Gareth went home, and me and Tim went out to another bar.
At the second bar we made friends who drove us on their motorbikes to another bar. It was there that we had our introduction to ladyboys. Me and Tim made a run to the lou, and there was a smoking hot chick standing up peeing at the urinal next to us. It kind of took us aside, but on closer inspection the adams apple was sticking out clear as a bell. The damn ladyboy was pestering us too to check out our junks, which was super weird too. We were pissed so we made friends with him and then partied with his friends. Some were hideous, and looked like a man with a wig and lipstick wide shoulders and narrow hips, and some were so hot there was no way you could tell it was a man unless you put your finger on their adams apples.
Tim and his future wife
I dont really have the skinny on exactly why Thailand has more ladyboys per capita than other countries, but I can say that for those who feel they need to make it happen its a hard and dangerous life for them. The average life expectancy of a ladyboy is 35. The hormones that they take are incredibly hard on the system, and eventually lead to heart failure. To be one of the better ladyboys, they have to pluck their facial hair for about a half an hour ever day, take an insane amount of hormones, and fork out 60,000 baht for a rack of boobies, and 250,000 baht to get their junk tucked. This is all coming from a woman I met on the ferry who had a lot of friends who have gone through it so it may not be 100% accurate, but its as good as any other information I could get my hands on.
Since they dont eat, the price is between a woman and a man
We danced with the ladyboys and were taking funny pictures with them, and were dancing with our buddies, but around 4 we headed out. Im not sure exactly what we did wrong, but after heading a meter out of the bar some dude came out of nowhere and smashed a bottle of johnny walker on my dome piece, and started hitting me and Tim. We boogied out of there, and I have had bottles smashed on my head before so it wasnt all that traumatic, but we weren't taking any chances of those guys finding us again so we must have ran into the next town. Some of them even tried to find us on motorbikes, but we used our ninja tactics to lose them. Our buddies from earlier on in the night came and got us and were so disappointed in their countrymen and were super nice. I think it was just because we were the only westerners there and were making so many friends and maybe some of the Thais got jealous. Whatever it was, we were able to laugh about it all the next day, and now in perspective id say that it almost made the night better.
Legitamate friends who helped us, and drove us around on their motorbikes, and drank with us
Phuket has a reputation for being a bad bad place, and it definitely lived up to its reputation....
The next day the four of us headed out to one of the beaches, and it was really nice. About 15 minutes outside of Phuket are some really cool beaches, and we just laid out and didn't do anything all day. That night we watched stepbrothers, the new Will Farrell movie. Its really funny. Just about on every corner in Asia is a counterfeit DVD store for cheap. You can get anything, even movies that have just made the theaters. I don't know how they do it, but they also have games for Xbox.
After Phuket we headed to Ko Phi Phi, which is just south of Phuket. Phi Phi is super beautiful, and after being wiped out in the 2004 tsunami, the whole island has been rebuilt giving it a fresh feeling. The habitable part of the island is really just a small stretch that is flanked on both sides by huge limestone cliffs covered in forestry. The beaches there are absolutely picture perfect, and the bar scene is amazing. The primary reason to go to phi phi is to party, and if you go there its pretty much impossible to take it easy. The Rock Backpackers, where we all stayed at is a damn mess. I really dont need to go into any details of what went down, but I will say that of all the places I have been and all the parties that Ko Phi Phi is definitely world class in terms of partying.
Overlook of Phi Phi at sunset
The bars are amazing. After the first night we set our nightly routine which started by sippin a few beers at the hostel while getting ready, then going to reggae bar, and then finishing the night off at Apache bar. Reggae bar is so effin cool. They have a huge boxing ring in the middle, and are probably the most well known spot in Thailand for buckets. Thats buckets of booze - not like a sandcastle bucket. What they do is take a small bucket and make a huge drink in it and add a shit load of ice. Its like having 4 or 5 spirits in one portable container. For Bighamtonites, it would be like putting a scorpion bowl (plus red bull) in a bucket. Oh yeah, and to boot - its buy one get one free at Reggae bar. Oh yeah, and when the clock strikes midnight you go upstairs to the dance club for free shots and buckets. Like I said before - the place is a real shit show. They have muay thai boxing in the ring for everyone to watch, and if tourists are up for it they can fight other tourists with pads and gloves on. I have seen some westerners get the shit beat out of them, and all for a free bucket of booze - fools. Oh yeah, and in between the pro Thai guys fighting eachother and the westerners they have 6 year olds fight each other. Its so cute, and they have a 6 year old referee. Since they are so young, they are really uncoordinated and basically punch untill they fall over or spin around and then fall over.
Muay Thai, intoxicated, in front of a huge crowd is the best idea for a bar. Why didnt I think of that?
Apache is just a cool bar thats on the beach with really good DJs. Usually you are so smashed when you get there that dancing untill 6AM becomes the regular. Oh yeah, and it was at Phi Phi that I really got to be intimate with all the energy drinks of Thailand. For some reason red bull has become synonymous with Thailand, but im not really sure why. There is red bull, shark, green buffalo, M-150, and about a million other ones. They come in small medicine bottles which makes it a little weird, but man are they strong. If you have two M-150s your heart goes out of control, and you wont be able to properly sleep for two days. Rumor is that there is amphetamines in it, but nobody knows for sure.
For Gareths birthday same day as halloween, we got all dressed up and had an amazing time. Tim, Johan, and Gareth were 80s exercize guys and I was captain america. I had a bandana with a huge eagle on it labeled "eagle", a speedo over my shorts (in proper superhero fashion), a wife beater with "OBAMA 08" on the back, and these slitted American flag glasses. All the crew from our hostel got tattooed up with rave paint, and we were like a pack of wolves. It was hillarious. When we hit the bars about 30 deep, people wanted to join the Rock Crew, but "access denied" with a giant thumbs down was our response.
I also got a Thai massage at Phi Phi, which was cool but I have always been a little uncomfortable with people giving me massages or touching me so I was a little on edge.
Found this at a piercing studio in Phi Phi. God this is hideous, but is a fine example of what Blakey Holmse's kid is going to look like.
The other cool spot at Ko Phi Phi is Phi Phi Lay, which is a small island just to the south. The island is quite picturesque, and is most famous for being the inspiration for the movie The Beach. The funny part is that it couldnt be further from isolation. All you have to do is hire a longtail boat from Phi Phi for about $4 to take you over for the day, but nonetheless is cool. There is no development that has happened there, and apart from a few walking trails the island is deserted. There are no gonja fields like in the movie, and the actual areas of land that dont make up the limestone cliffs is quite small.
Me, Tim, and Gaz at the beach from "The Beach"
Inlet on one side of Phi Phi lae
Monkey beach. At least a half a dozen people a year get rabies here from the monkeys. Fools...
Cruising around, just before Mayra Bay
In Phi Phi I went for two dives which was quite nice. Thailand is right up there with the big boys in terms of world class diving. With good weather, and plenty of sunshine water temperatures of 30-32C and visibility of 20 meters is not unusual. I had a great time, and going with Johan and Gareth made the experience even better. The highlight was spotting a giant octopus just hanging out in one of the reefs. I already have my PADI open water certificate, and my buddies didnt so our max depth was only around 18 meters, but it still was good. As I am writing this in Ko Tao I am in the process of taking my Advanced open water, which brings me one step closer to getting my divemaster.
From Phi Phi I went with Johan to Krabi, which is a coastal town just south of Phi Phi. The whole point of going there was just for rock climbing. The rock climbing at Railey Beach (just next door) is supposed to be some of the best in the world. They have bolts in the rockface, and for about $30 you can have a full day session with a guide. All the climbs are on the limestone cliffs that flank the beaches. When you are up there, if you have a second or two to catch your breath and look around, the views are absolutely amazing.
We started on some fairly easy ones (class 5+ with 8D being the highest), but even after just doing one or two 15 meter climbs the forearms and shoulders nearly give out. Its easy to get stuck and just not be able to keep going no matter how hard you try. I really have a new found respect for rock climbers, because it is really - and I mean really hard work. Even the ones that I call fairly easy are damn near impossible, but were nothing compared to what we did in the afternoon. In the afternoon we went climbing through a cave - without a torch for some reason. It was pitch black in the cave, and we had to ascend about 100 meters in pitch black to come out at an opening on the other side. We then abseiled (basically rappelling) down, and then started the afternoon climbs which were all rated at 6A difficulty. You really had to be spider man to make it to the top of one of those climbs. The guides would help you choose your route, but even then you still would get stuck being like "dude, there is no possible way to go up any farther" at which point they would tell you to reach your hand about 5 meters above your head and stick your thumb in a 1 cm hole, and then put your right foot above your head (a bit of exageration), but it was totally ridiculous. There was one brit in the group who was able to get one of the routes, but his buddy got stuck at this area where you could use your legs to do a split in a .5 meter cave, and then there was a huge overhang that you had to jump up and pull yourself up with all your upper body strength. The second brit got stuck and his muscles froze, and when I went I knew I had to make it up. I yelled, and grunted, and gave it all that I had and on about the 7th try I got it. I was so proud!!!
Johan on the last climb of the day. Fuck this was hard...
Me, Johan, and Bus - our guide
View of the beach looking out of the cave that we climbed through. From here you abseiled down to start the afternoon climbs.
Fav pic of Railey Beach
Me on the first climb of the day. This one was duck sauce compared to the others.
Another pic of Railey.
Johan at about halfway up the warm up climb.
Other people on 30m climb
The next day me and Johan went around on motorbikes, and we started off going to the National Park. We started a 3 hour trek through the jungle to a waterfall, when about 20 minutes in we saw a huge monkey (or maybe baboon) in the distance attack another one, and I think he killed him. This was all going on right next to us, and there was all sorts of creepy jungle animals that we were sure were going to come out and eat us. So, about 2 hours into the trek my damn flip flop shit the bed, and I had to walk out with one bare foot. I got those sandals at Ron Johns Surf Shop at Cocoa Beach, FL on spring break in 2004 with Peter D. and Jeff K. Those sandals were close to my heart, and I almost shed a tear when I broke them. On the way out was a cool waterfall, and we sat around and took a dip in one of the pools overlooking the jungle.
After about an hour of walking with only one flip flop on jagged rocks, we got to this waterfall which was nice. Never go on a trek in the jungle with flip flops.
Johan on the upper waterfall
Cool temple on the way back from the national park to Krabi
At night in Krabi there was a festival with all sorts of good food, and weird things for sale. It was good fun.
Bug man = Jims Busy Bee of Thailand
Started off with the worms. Not bad, but were a tad overcooked
This thing was definately the nastiest. I had the fried version as well, but this thing was just vile. When you bit into it, it exploded in your mouth with some nasty goo stuff. Just the sight of them is nasty.
The fried version which was much tastier
And then the grand finale...... GIANT CRICKET!!! The head was for some reason hollow, and came off before I even bit into it. It was crunchy, and with a little lime was quite good.
Oh yeah, and then the dried squid. For 10 baht (.25 cents) you get 4 or 5 on a stick. They are quite chewy, so the guy runs them through this roller thing to soften them up. With a little lime and some chili sauce they are quite good, although La Parm calamari still reigns champ.
From Krabi we headed off to Ko Samui which is alright at best. If your going to the east coast, id suggest skipping this island in favor of Ko Tao or Ko Phangan. Ko Samui is filled with agressive hawkers, and package tourists which the combination of the two make it a real turn off. Everything is expensive, but for some reason me and Johan were able to score some accomodation with aircon and really clean beds which was nice, so we ended up staying a bit longer than we probably should have. Oh yeah, and Ko Samui is really skeezy. Throughout Thailand you will find proper massage parlors with women who have perfected the drawn out "massssssssaaaaaaaggggggggeeeeeeeeee", and are totally legit. Ko Samui is the type of place where old men go to the massage parlors that have bars inside, and pink lights on. During the day you can see balding dudes toting their young "girlfriends" all around the place and taking them out to eat. There was no love lost once we left that place. Id have to say the best part about Ko Samui was that me and Johan were able to be reunited with Tim and Gareth. At Samui Tim's sister Lauren met up with them after flying from London. Shes a pisshead like the lot of us, so we had a great time going out.
Thailand is nuts. There are ladyboys, super strong energy drinks, booze in buckets, hookers everywhere. I have to say that this place has a super good party scene. After going out night after night it wears on you, but for sure Thailand, and especially the southern islands should be on everyones to do list. Coming from Nepal - Malaysia, Thailand, and for sure Singapore are all in my eyes first world countries. Getting around is a breeze, its not dangerous, and you have all the modern conveniences at a fingers reach (toilet paper, good coffee, air conditioning, tv, etc...). Join the bandwagon - visit Thailand. The rest of the world is jumping on, and you wont be dissapointed.