Monday, December 6, 2010

eleven days

I've been here eleven days. Eleven magical days.

Thailand is so different to New Zealand. I was greeted at Phuket airport by hundreds of Thai trying to offer me Minibuses, limos, private taxis to various destinations. I made my way to a mini bus counter and handed over 150 baht to get to Patong. I'd only planned to go to Patong because two Germans I loved from the hostel in Sydney were staying there; I'd hoped to meet up with them.

The mini bus took over an hour to be ready, not without a few attempts to make me pay more for it to leave sooner. I made friends with a couple from Brisbane who shared much wisdom regarding Bangkok. We hadn't even driven for five minutes before the mini van pulled into some tourist shop and we were forced to get out. After ten hours of transit, this is the last thing you want. I told them I was staying with a friend and I didn't need any products.

Arriving in Patong was a shock. I have never traveled to a third world country before and while it is a pretty developed place, the contrast is really hard to deal with. You see people making homes on the side walk, an entire family on a scooter, and so many poor, homeless animals. The hostel I stayed at in Patong was lovely. I stayed longer just because the hosts were so nice. They'd walk around and give you back rubs, prop pillows up behind you when you were laying down and melt you with their smiles.

I asked the ladies working at reception where was good to eat. A girl around my age, named "Apple" (not sure how it's spelled in Thai) grabbed me by the hand and ushered me through the crowds of people. She took me to her favourite food stall. She ordered my meal in Thai for me, and refused to let me pay. We sat at the diner table eating, while fireworks exploded along the beach. It was a beautiful way to say Hello to Thailand.

Patong was all about adjustment. I spent a bit of time on the beach. I went for a lot of walks. I smiled a lot. I found my own favourite restaurant and returned there so many times, but always alone. Eventually they asked if I had any friends. I responded by dragging someone from the hostel down there for some Pad Thai. I mistakenly told a man who had a stall that I was from New Zealand. Every time I walked down that stretch of road I'd heard him yell out "VEGEMITE, VEGEMITE!!!". I had marriage proposals. I communicated with so many people through a serious of nods and smiles. I went out drinking a few times with some lads from my hostel.

I caught a ferry to Phi Phi on a whim. The guy I'd hung out with a bit from Patong had gone there. It was the most beautiful boat ride I've ever been on. Stayed at the cheapest and worst hostel I've ever seen. It's called "the rock" and that might just be because the mattresses are actually made of wood. The toilets didn't flush; you had to use a bucket. The showers weren't hot; I showered with bottle water. It was pretty horrific, but thankfully I met some awesome people there. I went out for dinner and drinks with a few of my room mates and ended up tango dancing on a table top. Smearing UV paint over a friend, and then deciding it would be the BEST idea to run into the ocean and push each other around. Completely oblivious to the fact this friend had a camera, which was obviously destroyed. Whooops.

I spent a lot of time lounging around on the beach on Phi Phi. I decided I probably should go a bit further North. I had to find somewhere nice to sit my interview for University. Phi Phi accommodation was too expensive, so I headed for Koh Phangan. I caught the 10am ferry alone, and would up on the final leg of my trip bumping into my English friends. We met a lovely Canadian girl as we were exiting and decided to share a Tuk Tuk to a hotel. Nicole and I booked in a room together, as she'd kindly offered to vacate for an hour while I Skyke'd. Our time in Koh Phangan wasn't really productive. We spent a little too much time eating at the resort's restaurant, which honestly was quite average. It had a pool though and I even had a little swim.

My interview went really well and so we decided to celebrate. After a round of "ring of fire" we played a few incriminating drinking games. We headed to the beach and I wound up far too boozed. The crowd of people there wasn't particularly nice. Eventually I found my self lost, extremely disorientated and all alone in the thick of the forest. After a few hours of epic concentration I found my way home. Nicole was star fished on her bed, and there was puddles of water all over the floor. I decided not to ask too many questions.

After that epic fail of an evening I decided it was time to leave and booked a trip to Bangkok. 14 hour of transit and a bit of neck cramp later, Nicole and I arrived in Bangkok at 6am. We couldn't check into our room until 2pm, so wandered around Siam sqaure. We checked out the cultural museum, which honestly has to be a highlight of my trip so far. The cultural museum is sort of a Ponsonby-ish area, with flashy cafes and boutique stores. I bought myself a cute little elephant wallet, and perhaps the most delicious ice cream of my life. Our evening was spent getting completely lost in China town and sampling as many foods as we could. We'd half a little serving from a street store and then find a make shift table and chairs right in the hustle and bustle of it all. It was a lot of fun.

Our last day together was spent mostly at the Weekend markets, which are honestly insane. 15,000 stores. So many awesome stores. I'm going to have to go back there again before I leave to buy gifts. We had the most amazing timing for being in Bangkok, yesterday was the King's birthday so we enjoyed a nice lantern-lit dinner together and heading off towards the park/bridge to watch thousands of lanterns be set off into the distance. The fireworks were stunning and it was absolutely heart warming seeing the Thai people are their pride for their King. Banana pancakes were our chosen dessert. We decided to say goodbye with a token manicure together. I think that's one of the hardest things about traveling, is having to say good bye and knowing it's very unlikely you'll see them again soon. I'm just so thankful I met her. She was such a generous soul and a ton of fun!

I made my way back to my hostel and caught up on some sleep. I'm meeting up with the English boys for dinner tonight which will be nice. I think I'll go a photo mission soon.

I'm absolutely in love with the Thai smile. I feel so absolutely at peace right now. I am happy, and carefree. I keep pausing to myself, breathing deeply (not too deeply in BKK's pollution) and feeling very very fortunate.