14.09.2012 - 31.10.2012 30 °F
It was an early start as with all boarder crossings from Malaysia to Thailand’s Hat Yai, with straight forward formalities. From Hat Yai I decided to stay a few nights in Krabi at Ao Nang. The beach town was not as bad as the infamous Patong Beach (Phuket) with all your typical beach shops, nightlife, farangs (foreigners) spending their days on the beach and nights getting shit faced. Just on the outskirts of the main beach town the area was a lot quieter, loads of limestone rocks covered in all things green with the locals just going on by their daily duties. I was lucky to get in touch with locals/expats that have stayed in this area for over 20yrs to show me hidden gems of this area. Quieter beaches with hardly anyone there,
Bangkok, Thailand...In 3 weeks Kiren and I managed to get to see quite a bit of Thailand. We had started in the southern parts to experience what Thailand is renowned for…their beaches. We decided to hit the west coast large teardrop island (which is massive) the undisputed tourism queen Phuket (poo-get). We mainly chilled in the South (Naiharn) /East (Rawai) coast but we did make it to the infamous Patong Beach. This place has ‘TOWIE’ written all over it, with bars lined up against one another (on Bangla Road), with lady boyz trying to win you over with ‘Free’ Ping Pong shows (which we did not go to), Pitbull ft Neo ‘lets do it tonight’ or Rihanna’s ‘we found love’ blasting on top of each other, beach buckets filled to the rim with alcohol and the odd person just throwing a half sedated baby sloth for that extra bhat. Not mine scene at all The beach along Patong was not all that either – more of a wheatish brown sand, the sea did not look that turquoise blue waters promised but as we were told that they were in their rainy season. Naiharn beach was my favourite even though the Polksi have taken over the islands as expats and have transferred this amazing beach with high end hotel embedded into the limestone rock formation. Moving on we hit up Phi Phi Leh Island as predicted nothing unique apart from the erected penis outside Slinkys bar. I was very surprised that such a small island could hold the amount of shops/stores/hotels, for me this made walking through the streets very claustrophobic. On the other hand this island does have stunning limestone cliffs with warm tropical translucent waters. It will no doubt evoke a tear due to its beauty. Shed a few more tears when you realise that you have to share it with drunken, speedo wearing, package holiday makers/young backpackers! The trip to Maya Beach would have been better if you could have it all for yourself! It is seriously one of the best beach that I have seen during my travels the other being Tulum Beach in Mexico but snorkelling was a very big disappointment – if not all but most of the coral was dead with hardly not many tropical fish to see.
Metaphorically all roads do lead to and leave from Bangkok which made it very annoying travelling in and around Thailand. The opposite of the relaxed living standards of southern Thailand Bangkok is always on the move…people seriously do not sleep in this city! Crowded with shopping malls, soaring skyscrapers, uber-cool cafes/restaurants surrounded with simple street food stalls, homeless families, markets, temples, traffic jams and exhaust fumes! Your either gonna love it or hate…it took a while but I’d must admit I did like but only for a few days. Sukhumvit is drowning with bars/restaurants catered for the older, sleazy foreign man looking for a bit young female action! In the old town (30mins walk from National Stadium (one of many last stops on the MRT/Skyline tube) to the back-packers hub lying on Kho San Road – there is nothing special about this area. Best left alone. Nightlife in Bangkok is a must just to let your hair down and I am glad that I went. We hit RCA road for some unique Thai clubbing. A very small road that more and less comprises of 2 big clubs where the local young Thais get really dressed (nothing looked slutty) for a night of heavy drinking, dancing, chilling on the outdoor serviced tables, banging music (from International music, R’n’B, Thai hiphop etc) with no agro from different parties. I loved it even though I felt like a tramp compared to the girls there!
Arriving to Chaing Mai was amazing once we finally managed to get to our hostel (our bus dropped us off at a different location at 6am and it took us nearly 4hrs to get out Hostel to pick us up!). It is a cool place just to kick back, enjoy the fresh clean air with 0% humidity and soak up some of the cultural Thai classes from Thai cooking, meditation and massage schools. We on the other hand decided to get on a tour 7-day whistle stop of Northern Thailand. We started off on a 2night 3day hike combined with Elephant trekking. This was a great experience especially the Elephant trekking. There are many companies throughtout Thailand that do not treat their elephants with respect which is sad but I am glad the company that we went with were recommeded by the TAT office (Transport Authority of Thailand). Once your on top of an elephant everything seems so small. The ride was compromised with our baby elephant squarting muddy all over us because we had stopped giving him sugar cane lol. We also got to see Chiang Rai's amazing Wat Rong Khun. This temple is a contemporary unconventional Buddhist temple. The White Temple is one of the most unusual temples we have ever visited.
It is one of the most extraordinary temples that I have ever see – extravagant, ornate, blindingly white, just like a fairly tale. My favourite part of the White Temple is the bridge that leads to the main building. To reach the Abode of the Buddha you have to cross the bridge representing the cycle of rebirth with the pits of hell below. There are all kinds of ghoulish creatures and disembodied heads of people who haven’t managed yet to overcome cravings and obtain entrance to the Abode of Buddha.At first the inside of the main temple seems simple and like many Thai temples with a Buddha statue and people praying peacefully before it. But then you turn around and see the incongruous epic mural depicting an apocalyptic end of the world with demons, explosions and strangely, many references to popular culture including the Matrix, Avatar, Michael Jackson, Spiderman and even the Twin Towers. Photos are not allowed inside unfortunately. Once you have visited the main temple there is still more to see including a wishing well and the world’s most beautiful public toilets… Even if you are feeling templed-out don’t miss the White Temple if you are in northern Thailand. From here we were off to the 'Golden Triangle'. It is where 3 countries (Thailand, Burma and Laos) are met, forming a triangle. This area was once used a for the opium trade which was a easy cash crop for the regions minorities. Here you could take a boat ride to see Myanmar and to Laos where you are allowed to get off and wonder around. I did not do this as Laos is on my next country to visit. This Golden Triangle was worth it as we also got to see the Long Neck Tribe.
I decided to stay on a week longer to witness what the whole vegetarian festival was about. Taken more seriously in Phuket than throughout Thailand I decided to head back to Phuket town. I managed to get a couch (more like my own en-suite bedroom with a balcony) at an amazing house snuggled in the cliffs overlooking Chalong, you could see Coral bay and on a good day even Ko Phi Phi.
One of the most exciting aspects of the vegetarian festival are the various, (and sometimes gruesome) ceremonies which are held to invoke the gods. Firewalking, body piercing and other acts of self mortification undertaken by participants acting as mediums of the gods, have become more spectacular and daring as each year goes by. The ceremonies of the festival take place in the vicinity of the six Chinese temples scattered throughout Phuket. The main temple is Jui Tui Shrine not far from the Fresh Market in Phuket Town. The first event is the raising of the Lantern Pole, an act that notifies the nine Chinese gods that the festival is about to begin. The pole is at least ten metres tall and once erected, celebrants believe that the Hindu god, Shiva, descends bringing spiritual power to the event.
There was a 2 day procession walk that started from the early hours of the morning which finished around lunch time. This is where thousands gather from all over Thailand to witness men and women puncture their cheeks with various items including knives, skewers and other household items. It is believed that the Chinese gods will protect such persons from harm, and little blood or scarring results from such mutilation acts. This is definitely not recommended for the faint hearted to witness
My 6weeks here in Thailand had flown by real quick. This is a country with a wide spectrum of wonderful, beautiful people and the landscape to match it. The food is no doubt out of this world! Yet there was so much I did miss out in my 1st visit to Thailand. A must to come back and travel to the West and East of Thailand.