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Archive for the ‘Koh Pha Ngan’ Category

I have survived another ten nights on Koh Pha Ngan. Somehow.

Claudia and I took a bus and an evening ferry over to the island where we met two other English girls, Claire and Laura, on their way to Koh Tao via Koh Pha Ngan for one night.

Since the full moon was on the same night as last month, Claudia and I assumed that the half moon party – basically the same as full moon except in the jungle.. would also be the same day, giving us one night to rest before starting the party. However once we got to the island we quickly found out that in fact the half moon party was that night, so there would be no rest for us. Skipping the half moon party was not an option since we had yet to make it to one.

So we booked into the same place we stayed last month – Rin Beach Resort and got a cheaper deal since we’re getting further into low season now which was a nice surprise. After some dinner at the Lucky Crab where Claudia and I shared our favourite green curry we headed back to our balconies via the liquor store where we bought ingredients for our own buckets.

The only way to drink alcohol on Koh Pha Ngan is in bucket form. It’s a rare sight to see a glass of gin & tonic, because why get a glass when you can get a whole bucket for about 4 pounds?! A bucket consists of one of those half size bottles of the alcohol of your choice (ours was vodka) and then whatever mixers you like (our choice was M-150 or Red Bull and a bottle of Sprite). If you’re drinking these buckets on your own and you have a normal capacity for alcohol you can very easily get through two or three of these, or four or five if you’re a man perhaps. If you’re sharing, you can start to lose count, or if you’re Claudia and you have an amazing capacity for vodka and M-150 you can go through six all by yourself. Claudia’s a real trooper.

After sharing a bucket between the three of us we hopped on the back of some taxi motorbikes and headed off to the jungle where we came across a party almost exclusively lit by UV lights going strong. I’m not sure how long we lasted, but long enough anyway before we realized it was time for us to get home. On the way out I ran into Chris – the bartender of Outback bar who I met last month when I was here and whose job I considered taking at one point. The drive to and from half moon is pretty hair raising – Koh Pha Ngan hills are not something to be taken lightly, so I sat in the taxi and held on to Chris while he held on to the back bars, and Claudia found room on the roof since the inside was full. I have no idea how she survived, but I’m so glad she did.

After that night you’d think we’d have a night or two off, but the thing about Koh Pha Ngan is that it possesses this weird kind of energy that somehow makes going out every single night surprisingly easy. We often described it to people as this Bermuda Triangle, or Twilight Zone, where every night was a Friday night, and everyday was a Saturday spent recovering from the night before and getting ready for that nights festivities.

We spent most of our days in Lazyhouse watching films, or occasionally in Utopia watching Friends which they play all day long. Lazyhouse and Utopia are owned by the same guy who has great taste in good British food, so despite how expensive it was I had some delicious home comforts including a Sunday roast the day after full moon. It even had a Yorkshire pudding. Amazing.

Then each evening we headed down to Cactus Bar where Woody the Scot worked. We met Woody last month as well and since we quickly became his regulars again we got a nice discount on our vodka & Red Bull buckets. What a nice guy.

One day just to mix it up, Claudia and I rented a motorbike and drove to the other side of the island, up the coast and cutting across the middle over a mountain to visit Sara and Caroline. Sara is Claudia’s friend from school and both of them joined us down at Rin Beach for the last few days around full moon. The ride was pretty terrifying but I’m pretty proud of myself for making it and for not completely having a break down since the paved hills average a 20% incline and the unpaved roads have huge ravines in them caused by the water running down. But we made it there and back, then headed straight to Woody’s for a drink.

The good thing about being friends with the bartender (other than the cheap drinks) was that we could sit at the bar facing the beach for hours without being bothered and we got to watch all the Cactus fireboys do their thing each night. The Cactus fireboys are all young Thai guys who make a living by playing with fire, and doing it very well. After they started recognizing us they tried to get us involved and I once had to hold a stick of fire while another guy blew alcohol/kerosene at it to create an enormous fireball. I gave it back after one blow because I value my eyebrows and my unscarred skin.

A few days before full moon we were also joined by Will and Will, two English boys that Claudia had met in Chang Mai while I was in Koh Phi Phi with Emily. They were two guys traveling on their gap year before uni and were a great addition to the group. We also reunited with Bella and Lucy who we last saw on Koh Lanta, along with Lucy’s sister and friend who were over on holiday.

By the time full moon finally rolled around we had a pretty big group, with a few additional characters that we met on the island along with a few more faces from the past, mostly from Koh Phi Phi.

The actual night was a great time as expected. My favourite part might have been when me and some of the girls climbed up to Drop In bar’s balcony and entertained outselves by throwing ice cubes at unsuspecting people below. I know, I know, immature, but don’t pretend that you’re not laughing too.

The next day we had our Sunday roast at Lazyhouse and I went around to Woody, Chris. Ay (the bartender at Reggae bar who I talked to about being a teacher) and the Thai guy who ran the art gallery (I still feel bad for forgetting his name since he remembered my name after I’d been gone for a month…terrible) to say my goodbyes.

It was pretty difficult to leave this time, and I actually made one of the Wills walk back down to the beach with me to see it one more time because I couldn’t get to bed at about 1am. This was my last big party in Thailand and I don’t know when I’ll be back.

I’ve been in SE Asia for almost exactly seven months now, six of which have been in Thailand and while I don’t want to stay here forever, it still feels strange to leave and go back to a world I feel like I haven’t lived in for so long.

But the big unexpected surprise is that about four hours after I’ve written this blog I’ll be getting on a plane to….Sydney!!!

I’m a pretty lucky girl and I have some amazing people for godparents who have made it possible for me to go to Oz for about three weeks! It’s not a huge amount of time and I won’t get to see everything, but it’ll be an amazing chance to see a new country and a place I’ve always wanted to go. I’ll be arriving in Sydney on Wednesday morning and have no plans from there except to hopefully meet up with Will and Will again, plus Lisa, who you may remember from my teaching days. Lisa now works as an au pair in Sydney and is going to be a tourist with me this coming weekend. Thanks to all the people I’ve met traveling and to the connections I have through friends and family, I actually know quite a few people in Oz and I can’t wait to see some of them while seeing as much of the country as I can.

So there it is! My final post about Thailand. For now. 🙂

Next time I write here I’ll be in the Southern hemisphere for the first time, and will have landed on my fifth continent!

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So I successfully completed three nights of being a promotions girl for Reggae bar. While it was nice to get the small income (can’t complain when you’re getting free alcohol all night plus 300Baht and you’re only paying 200Baht for your bed…) I really enjoyed the chance to get to meet so many different people. Holding a pack of flyers in your hand is a great excuse to talk to complete strangers. The Tiger Bar and Reggae Bar promoters were a great group of people, almost exclusively Brits interestingly enough, and we definitely knew how to have fun. I got to watch the sunrise after my first night of work and then sit on the curbside commiserating with other over tired staff the next day. Then I got to see what influence the Thai mafia/police (same thing…) have around here on my second night, then on my last night I was reminded that my job was actually illegal. Technically.

On most/all of the Thai islands, the place is controlled by the Thai mafia. The only reason bars, especially on the beach, party until the sun comes up is because they pay off the police enough to keep them from shutting down the music. Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t go to plan. Someone doesn’t get their money, or someone elses causes a problem and people get angry. A few days before my first day of work a stabbing occurred at one of the beach bars. The story differs, some people say the guy survived, some insist he’s dead, some say it was a fight between two white guys, others say a Thai bar staff member was involved. Either way, the police were not happy about it. After a few days of uncooperation, the police decided they were going to starve out the information that they apparently think is being kept by some barstaff. So on my second night, all the bars on the island got the call that they had to shut down at 1am or there woul be trouble. Most Thai people don’t like trouble, in fact they really go out of their way to avoid it, so by 1am the island went dark despite the many many angry football fans who were waiting to watch the semi final game at 1:30am. It was a nil-nil game anyway; at least they didn’t have to miss any epic history making match. After walking to the beach just to briefly observe the shocked tourists standing around still trying to order alcohol, I headed home for a proper nights sleep.

Our third night out, the same call went out – 1am shut down. We started work at 7pm – an hour earlier than usual, however Claudia and I showed up at 7:20, unaware of the time change, grabbed our flyers then ran off to sit down for dinner… Very good work ethic, I know. After a yummy green curry we set out to actually start promoting, only to be quickly shut down. A strange looking Thai man had come around taking photos of the white promotion staff, then shortly after that our manager came around taking away our flyers and saying “Immigration police, go go go, come back in one hour.” So we walked off around the corner, found the Tiger Bar staff and joined them at their bar to wait it out and share travel stories.
After our hour waiting period I wandered back to find the immigration police had decided that Reggae Bar wasn’t such a bad place and they would in fact be spending the whole night there. Hmm.. I walked up to the bar, was very generously still given my full wages, then told to hang around outside the bar and discreetly ‘promote’ Reggae Bar without the flyers for awhile. That didnt have to last very long since a curfew was already set. This time it seems the cops relented and allowed one of the beach bars to keep their big screens running without sound so as not to upset the football hooligans two nights in a row. After watching what seemed like the longest game ever with some fellow staff at the beach, I made it home in time to sleep for about three hours before an early wake up and a boat ride to the mainland.

Claudia and I made the ferry, then got into a minivan to drive down to Hat Yai where we hired a private taxi to drive us down aross the Malaysian border and back again. Got to love those visa runs. So now we have one night in Hat Yai before heading to Koh Pha Ngan once again for full moon number three. Hey why not, right?

Then, my very big news is that I may be headed Down Under after all! Will keep you updated…

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So after my tour of Laos and Cambodia I headed back into the familiar Land of Smiles. It was nice to be in a country where I didn’t have to learn the language or customs as they were already old familiars to me.

The group split up a little due to various forms of travel. Matt and I took a very long bus from Sihanoukville to Bangkok. Actually I think it ended up being three buses? Four? Five? I lost count. But eventually we got to Khao San Road where we met up with Claudia and Calvin who had flown in from Phnom Penh.
There we also found Emily, Claudia’s friend from home who came to join us for a few weeks and we had one night in the big city before we said a tearful goodbye to the boys and the girls headed to Koh Pha Ngan for a week to join the infamous Full Moon Party. This is the same party I went to for my New Years Eve, so my time on Koh Pha Ngan was “same same, but different” (don’t ask, it’s a Thai phrase, I don’t know why they say it, but there you have it).

Our group became pretty huge after we met up with my friends from London, George, Sophie and Claudia, on top of meeting up with a couple – Graeme and Donna who we had briefly seen in Luang Prabang, and the five people they had also befriended on the island. On top of this Juliet had two friends from home meeting her, one of them brought a boyfriend and another friend in tow, AND Juliet’s friend from Chang Rai plus a friend joined us too so it was quite the crowd.

We spent a week in Koh Pha Ngan and it was pretty interesting watching the island go from relatively quiet to completely overrun by the time the full moon hit. Unlike New Years, this time we all managed to stay on the beach until the sun had risen which was quite a sight to see, although not all of us remember it…

I enjoyed beign on the island for longer and getting to know some people. I befriended a group of Thai guys who work at an art gallery there and who welcomed me into their studio to hang out, listen to guitar and have a few drinks each night when I was walking home from whatever bar we had been in. Koh Pha Ngan is a strange island and I’m not sure I could stay there for too long, but I’m happy I got to know it a bit better this time.

The next day was reserved for being as lazy as possible before Emily, Claudia and I said goodbye and made our way up to Chang Mai for Songkran from April 13th – 15th. Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration; it’s also celebrated in Cambodia and Laos I believe. It was essentially a three day long water fight on the streets. We reunited with Calvin who had been doing some volunteering work in the hilltribes outside of Chang Rai, and every day we went down to the streets armed with our super soakers ready for action. We parked ourselves near a backpacker corner of the city where the bars blasted music and people slowly drove down the streets in pick up trucks with enormous barrels of ICE water on the backs to soak unsuspecting pedestrians. The most fun was probably watching the Thai ladyboys strutting down the streets in their heels, hands in the air, getting drenched and loving it.

After three days of this we were exhausted. Emily, Claudia and I went to Pai, a village I visited in December (click here for the post) . My one day there was spent on rented motorbikes exploring around the various natural hotsprings and waterfalls. The village was significantly quieter than it had been in December, most likely because it was not a holiday weekend and it is summer now and Pai is a big tourist spot for Southern Thais to come in the winter so that they can feel the cold…I know, it’s strange, we don’t get it, but feeling cold is a novelty here. But it still had the feeling of a sleepy hippie town. After that I unfortunately had to leave to go to Myanmar…

The fun thing about visas is that they expire… A very long bus ride and a quick walk across the boarder and back again and I had a brand new visa, plus a new fun stamp on my passport, so everyone wins, especially the Burmese who are 500 Baht richer for every person like me. Rip off if you ask me….

After meeting the girls back in Chang Mai we headed down south for some more beachy goodness!

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I’m finally back after some much needed days by white sand beaches and turquoise ocean water. If you are going to get jealous after reading more about beach parties, beautiful waterfalls and snorkeling trips then stop reading now.
On Monday, January 29th, Kelly and I took our first of many overnight buses. We arrived in Bangkok at about 4:30 am on Tuesday morning, a time reserved for the morning market vendors and the drunks who have finally been kicked out of the clubs. We made our way to Khao San Road and rented a room in a guesthouse for 5 hours – enough time to nap and use the showers. Perfect. It wasn’t exactly the Hilton, more like a 6×10 cell, but I slept great all the same. It’s amazing what a 10 hour bus ride will do to your ability to sleep anywhere.
So after our rest, we spent the day doing a little shopping and wandering around Bangkok until Kim arrived on her bus that afternoon. Then the three of us took another overnight bus, this time to Chumporn. Then at about 5 or 6 am on New Years Eve, we got a boat from Chumporn to our first destination: Koh Phangan. Home of the world famous Full Moon Party.
After meeting a great Thai girl named Joy who helped us with our taxi and waiting
around for awhile, we gained access to our two little beach huts at Green Peace Bungalows and were met by Lisa and Jen who came over from a few days in Koh Samui.
After more preparation, we were met by Anthony at our huts. Anthony was mentioned in a previous post about my trip to Pai, which is where I met him. He is a traveling soul who I kept in touch with after Pai, and it turned out we had the same New Year plans. Lucky him.
When we were ready to go, we headed to Anthony’s room on Haad Rin – the Full Moon Party beach, to meet his roommates Shanna and Jessie from Canada. On our way to the room we managed to run into Joy and her friend. Out of the thousands of people that were already on the beach, we found the one tiny little Thai girl we already knew. Fantastic. They joined us for a little while as we all got covered in glowing body paint – the only thing you really need to wear to a Full Moon Party. And before you get too confused or start to think I’m losing it, I know that New Years Eve was not a full moon, but on Haad Rin that doesn’t matter. Full Moon parties happen every full moon, yes, but they also happen on Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and really just whenever they feel like it.
The rest of the night was several amazing hours spent dancing and rocking to drum ‘n bass, trance and house music played all down the beach while watching fire shows, fireworks, and neon light displays. It was all I wanted in a Full Moon Party.
I’m keeping this blog post light to appease readers of all ages, but I’ve already received criticism (thanks Lis..) but I like to leave things to the imagination. If you are familiar with/have been to a Full Moon party over here, then I don’t need to say more. For everyone else, think massive rave parties that seem to always occur in random warehouses. Music with no words, a LOT of glow paint, a LOT of alcohol and a LOT of drugs. Anthony and the girls’ place was next door to ‘Mellow Mountain’ which advertised their wares on large blackboards stuck up on the rocks. Yes it was a bar and you could stop off for a beer on your way down. You could also step in for a couple of little white pills, or a ‘special’ shake made with everyone’s favourite fungus plant. Or you could just eat the mushrooms raw if you preferred to skip the blending process. That made for a lot of pretty hilarious people watching. Lisa’s new found fascination with glow sticks will always be a highlight of that night.
The only downside of the night was that I managed to step on a piece of broken glass slicing the bottom of my right foot open. Luckily this happened near the end of the night anyway, and Anthony happens to be a medic, so it got taken care of.
The next morning…okay it was definitely the afternoon…I discovered that I was one of hundreds of people sporting bandages of all shapes and sizes. So now I felt like part of the crowd; like me an all the other injured shared some special bond. That somehow we had enjoyed ourselves more than everyone else just because we had managed to spill blood while doing it.
After my most memorable NYE yet, we had to say goodbye to Jen and Lisa who headed back up to their schools. Kelly, Kim and I headed to Koh Samui where we would be joined again by Anthony one night later to continue our island holiday.
Facebook seems to finally be cooperating, so click here for the public link to see a few photos from our time on Koh Phangan
To read about Koh Samui and Koh Tao, click on my next postings!

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