5 months of seeing, doing and traveling have passed since I last visited my memory bank and posted about my 'story', this Thailand post took place across 2 weeks from February 19th ..
With this in mind, a few things are bound to be missing but it was a great time that I just couldn't miss out!
The times that follow this in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam have pretty much been written up already - I had a surge on inspo on a long haul flight from Brazil to Australia a couple of weeks ago so let's just take this one for what it is for now and then I can crack on with the rest of them (which somehow I remember much more clearly!)
Here goes ..
Jen and I left James behind in glorious Pai and spent a steady 12 hours (bus, 2 flights, boat) going South then East across Thailand to Koh Phangan. The final two weeks of my 60 day Thai visa would be spent here, the place I'd loved best so far, with my still relatively new friend Jen "girls only, woo!", 19th February.
Leaving Pai at dawn, hungover but feeling frisky we made our journey to the island. Koh Phangan had treated me so well on my first visit back in early January that I couldn't wait to set foot on its white sands again. We arrived as a pair and ended up with a new friend, Jake (Shakey;), a solo traveler from New Zealand. We also randomly reunited with Bert again too - I'd met him during that first January Phangan trip and then traveled on to Koh Toa, Phuket and Koh Phi Phi with him and his other two friends Bas and Richard.
- Jen kicked off in Chiang Mai airport because cafe staff gave her hot milk for her tea "why do they do that?! They just don't get how to make tea over here!!". We agreed from that moment that if we wanted "proper tea, a proper builders cup" we'd have to make it ourselves.
- Having a "pamper" session in the bungalow with 100 baht facemasks that felt like they were made from paper mâché and singing "we're going Tinderrrr' before a beach/ buckets night out "don't take photos of me!" Sorry mate, photos of us looking great appear to be seen below..
- Jen putting a Welsh flag up in the window much to my delight "Wowww! A Welsh flag! Now our jungalow bungalow feels like home!" Little ties with family really do become so important on the road!
- Shania our resident Gecko whom I've previously mentioned in earlier posts brought a boyfriend back to the "bungalow of love" one night. Fat Frank the toad appeared through the bathroom drain hole, luckily he survived us not seeing him at first "we nearly washed him away, Shania would have been devastated!".
- Hiring scooters "they're both called Ben" and exploring the island "there's so much more to Phangan than the Full Moon Party!" Jen was nifty on a scooter and burnt me off at every chance "I'll succeed and finally lose you one day!".
- Going to a Coral Pool Party and being told party tales by staff "people aren't allowed to jump off the roof anymore but they keep doing it".
- Chatting to Jake on the beach on our way to the Half Moon Party and ending up going as a three to check out the event we'd heard so much of. We'd already been on the buckets on route and I remember paying 600 baht to get in then later thinking "swear I was only in there for 10 minutes..". Annoyed to report that Jake told me the next day "you were only in there 10 minutes, I saw you leave". Jen shouted "one of the best nights of my life" when she got back at 10am .. Yes, I'd bailed early, passed out and missed the fun! Too many buckets is good for no one!!
- Discovering the garlic mayonnaise at The Lazy House! If you're ever on the island, you must go there to watch a film and eat chips with that! "Can we get some more mayo please?" "More than that, more than that .. thanks ;)".
- This deffo isn't considered a 'highlight' but we saw a man nearly drown in Haad Rin, 6 men went in to save him then they got stuck out in the current and he managed to get back to shore. Everyone got in safely in the end and the original drowner was carted off (literally!!..) in a tractor to the island doctors. Don't swim if you can't swim folks!! That sea looks pretty but the locals told us it's got a bad rip "this happens all the time".
- Starting a big night at Mushroom Mountain, we decided to all "hop on the fun bus" and "never get off". Handily the bus "drove us" up to the highest point of the island, all the way into the Black Moon Party.
It was a night filled with neon, laughs, weird trance music and an unusual crowd; "that guy looks like Gandalf","I'm the only person to go to India and not go to the Taj Mahal", "that guy just tried to lick my face, I had to lose him in the crowd".
We spotted a group of boys (Hi Alex and Darryn;) in matching kimonos and recognised them from the beach a previous night when they'd all been wearing matching shirts, neon glasses and had been running under the fire limbo "they always wear matching outfits, love it!". We made friends and danced the night away "this place is nuts, look at the view out over the whole of Phangan" "Ahhhh! I never wanna leave this island!".
- We decided to go by long tail boat to The Sanctuary on nearby Haad Tien beach for a "break" and ended up having one of the wildest nights of the fortnight. It all started with cocktails in the bar then feeling energetic/ tipsy we raced up the dodgy steep steps and ran across the mountain in the dark moaning at each other the whole way "are we there yet?!" "I can't breathe". Our destination was Eden, a night we'd heard so much about ..
You can buy anything over the counter in Eden, a wooden shack/ bar/ crazy dance floor on the mountain. Jen, Jake and I exchanged baht for a good time with the bar man and got in the mix.
Eden dance floor is not for dancing, it's for stomping! Bare foot stomping, wriggling your body and shaking your mane like there's no tomorrow stomping! It was a sweat fuelled night full of laughter that we couldn't piece together the next day "Lar, you look like you've been in the shower" "Whatever! Time of my life! Jake take a photo!".
Eden is an absolute must do, you can get directly there and back by boat from Haad Rin for just 150 baht each way. It starts around midnight and goes on into the morning. The music and atmosphere can't be compared to other Phangan parties, it's just different! Many people visit Phangan and never go there - don't be one to miss out!
- Bert joined us at The Sanctuary for a night then we all hot footed it back to Haad Rin "we've had enough of a 'break', we wanna party more!". It was so good to see him "yayyyy! I'm so happy you're here!" after what felt like years apart when really it was only a matter of weeks since I'd left him on Koh Phi Phi, the beautiful crazy island at the South end of Thailand. We all swapped stories that night in the bar with Bert telling us how some place in Krabi had got him "closer to nature" (free hugs from "bed rats" anyone?). Having Bert bring our little group to an even 2 girls / 2 boys was fab, we spent a lot of our time together winding each other up, eating ace food and watching movies when we weren't out "driving the fun bus" on the beach.
Those two weeks were filled with sun, massages, cups of teas, green curries to die for, endless laughs and famous island parties. Jen and I decided to part ways with plans to "meet up in Cambodia if we can, we should be able to, we'll work it out".
Jen went on to Koh Toa then Phuket and Koh Phi Phi but I'd "already done them all, can't go again, plus my visas out - I need to leave Thailand!". I made plans to travel on to Laos alone.
The minibus picked us up to transfer us to the ferry port and I remember thinking "this music is making me feel emotional!". I looked round at Jen "are you crying?!!" She nodded. Then I started crying and we started laughing "ah, can't wait to leave you! Hate you so much!".
Think we realised right then how close a friends we'd really become, we'd only traveled for a month together by that point but as any traveler will agree, a month is a long time to spend enjoying loads of unforgettable experiences together. We waved each other off "why we crying? Pair of divs!", "don't drink tea without me!".
I remember sitting on top of the ferry looking back at the beautiful island and its surrounding turquoise waters as if it were right now. It felt really weird leaving Jen but I was excited for the next stage of my trip, what would Laos hold for me? I couldn't wait to explore it and meet the new friends I knew would surely be there.
Leaving Thailand ticked off the first 2 months of my solo travels. It had been amazing, unreal, the best, more than I could have wished for. I'd been ill a few times, lost endless pairs of flip flops, met people I loved "I love him" and had an all round unbelievably happy time. It was pure magic, I left knowing I would be back soon "best two months of my life, love that place, love the people, love the feeling of being constantly free". But for now it was time for the night train to Laos!!