Final days in Thailand

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Flag of Thailand  , Bangkok,
Sunday, May 22, 2011

By the time my teaching contract expired, I was ready to hit the road and leave Surat Thani behind. In fact, I was so eager to hit the road that I decided to pack my things the night before and leave a couple hours after my last class ended.  I had really enjoyed my time in Surat, but was really looking forward to spending a couple months backpacking through Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam with two of my best friends. 

            I am generally the kind of person who doesn't get attached to people very easily, but I found the last few days of teaching to be a bit emotionally draining.  Having seen my EP1 class everyday for 2 hours, I really became attached to this group of 5 year old students.  I learned so much about each of them and there different personalities.  Most of them are too young to realize that I am not coming back, but a few of the clever ones picked up on it, asking me where I was going and why I’m not coming back.  This is not something that is easy to explain to a 5 year old.

            The last two weeks I spent in Surat Thani, it rained consistently without stopping for even a second.  The drainage system in Surat is subpar at best, so it goes without saying that the roads were a disaster.  The marshy area behind my school quickly turned into a miniature version of the everglades, the roads around town turned into canals, and the sewage system was backed up into my driveway (man did it stink!).  Surat Thani was quickly turning into an Asian version of Venice.

Needless to say, this was another reason I was ready to get the hell out of Surat.  The airport was closed due to the flooding, and the only way to leave town was to drive (through the "canals") to the bus station (about 30 minutes out of town) and hope for an available seat on a bus to Bangkok.  To my luck, there were available seats.  My friend Mike and I paid about $12 USD each for a VIP overnight bus to Bangkok. The ride took us about 12 hours and dropped us off on Kao San road at about 5AM.  Kao San road is famous because it is the most common backpacker hangout in Bangkok. We were quickly swarmed by tuk tuk drivers trying to take advantage of all the dazed-half asleep tourists, offering to bring them to a nice hotel for a “cheap” price.  Mike and I walked away from the Kao San area, and quickly stumbled into a guest house offering rooms for $3 USD a night.  By this point we were both pretty tired, and ready to set our things down and get settled in.

            Upon entering the hotel, I got a strange feeling that I had seen this place before.  The lady led us up the stairs to our room, and upon entering the upstairs hallway it dawned on me.  We were staying in the same hotel as Leonardo Dicaprio did in the film “The Beach”.  To the hotels credit, it was a bit nicer then portrayed in the film.  There were no live electrical wires, cockroaches, or crazy Scottish guys popping there heads into our room offering us drugs. 

            That day we decided to check out China town, which is like being in a separate country itself.  We walked through alleys that we thought would come to a dead end after about 20 feet, but instead went on for hours.  They sold everything from toenail clippers to fish heads.  We settled for a cup of coffee before heading back to our hotel. 

            The following day we decided to rent a couple bikes to tour Bangkok.  After about an hour of dodging traffic and taking wrong turns, we gave up on this idea.  Right next to the bicycle rental place was a river tour operator.  For about $25 (expensive for SE Asian standards) we decided to take a tour of Bangkok via river cruise.  The cruise lasted an hour and took us through back canals and river markets.  Well worth the expensive price if you ask me. 

            Bangkok is a great city, but it doesn’t truly come alive until after dark.  Mike and I have both experience the main attractions such as the grand palace and the Wat Po, which were not the reasons we came back.  The main reason we made a pit stop in Bangkok was for the nightlife.  I had informed my friend Pete (a Finish kid who use to teach English in Surat) that we were planning to hit the town for the night.  Having partied with him before, I knew it was going to be an interesting night…I had no idea!

            We planned to meet with Pete around 10PM, so Mike and I did a little pre gaming at our hotel bar called “Moonshine bar”.  Everything on the menu was really expensive so we decided to go with the cheapest thing, which happened to be a bottle of there homemade moonshine.  After finishing the bottle of moonshine we headed back towards Kao San road to catch a cab to meet Pete.  This is where things got interesting.

            I had Pete on the line trying to give the cab driver directions to his apartment when we were approached by two of the most attractive blondes I have seen in my life.  “Are you guys going to the ping pong show?” they asked.  I quickly grabbed the phone from the cab driver and hung up on Pete.  “uh uh I don’t know” I replied.  “Come on you should come with us!” they said.  Before they could finish the sentence Mike and I were in the back of a cab with these two girls on the way to see a ping pong show. 

            Lets skip forward a bit (my mother reads this).  We eventually made it to Pete’s apartment.  Pete works for a Finish sales company in Bangkok so he is quite well off.  His apartment was on the 16th floor in the center of Bangkok with a panoramic view of the entire city.  Any such apartment in an American city such as Chicago or New York would run you several million dollars, easy.  When we arrived, Pete informed us that his boss had bough all kinds of top shelf liquor for the party in our honor.  The small crowd consisted of a mixture of Finnish and Thai guests.  We spent a couple hours drinking absurdly expensive liquors and enjoying the panoramic view of the Bangkok skyline.

            Pete seems to have Bangkok wired.  He knows about all the clubs and bars off the backpacker trail, which was exactly what Mike and I were looking for. It seemed like we went to every night club in Bangkok, but in reality it must have been 4 or 5.  The duration of the night consisted of fuzzy memories of dark clubs and bars which I wouldn’t remember even if I went back today. 

When I say that Bangkok is a city that comes alive at night, I mean it.  The last club we went to didn’t open there doors until 6AM.  I thought he was crazy once we got there and it was empty.  By 7 AM, you couldn’t fit another person in the door.  I don’t know what time I called it a night (or in this case morning) but it left me with a wicked two day hangover.

The following day, we took the longest bus ride of my life.  It was actually only an hour on a minibus but given the events from the following night it was the worst hour of my life.  I was convinced that at some point on the journey my breakfast would end up in the lap of the French woman sitting next to me.  Somehow, I made it to our destination without making a scene. 

Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of Thailand and is famous for temples and shrines.  Mike and I had planned to spend a day here to break up the 14 hour bus ride to Chiang Mai, and also explore the ancient city.  We spent a day exploring the temples and learning about Thailand’s history.  You can visit all the temples and shrines in a few hours, so that night we got on a bus to Chiang Mai.  The ride took about 13 hours and dropped us off close to the historical district (which is where the tourists stay).  Having been to Chiang Mai before, I knew of a nice guest house that offered affordable prices. 

We planned to make our way to Chiang Mai for Songkran, which is the Thai New Year.  Songkran is celebrated all over the country, but the festival in Chiang Mai is the biggest.  Thai’s celebrate Songran by having a huge water fight that goes on for about 5 days.  Everybody participates in the festival… kids, adults, tourists, and locals alike.  Basically, it’s an excuse for a grownup to act like a child again.  People line the streets along a river that runs through the center of town, and soak people on motorbikes with high-powered squirt guns.  After about 5 days of nonstop partying and squirt gun fights, we were ready to head to Laos.
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