Back in the land of street meat that is actually meat and beer they open for ya at the counter.
Sooo... by the time we left India I was frazzled and fried. Having narrowly avoided being hit by rickshaws, bicycles, trucks, busses, and a monkey (yes, a monkey), I was feeling pretty disillusioned with life on the road in budget hotels in the subcontinent. And by the way, I WAS hit by a spit loogie, right on the ankle. Ewww! I had convinced myself (for no other reason except that I can tend toward a glass half empty mentality when frazzled and fried) that Thailand and the rest of southeast Asia would be more of the same.
But NO! From the moment we stepped into the modified oven that is Bangkok, things felt more organized, civilized and... cleaner! No spit stains on the sidewalk to skip over, the cars and busses mostly stay within the lines, and people seemed relaxed. Ahhhh... We glommed onto another Western traveller, Erin from Australia, the night we arrived, and we all hung out on the main tourist strip, Khao San Road for a couple days. Caught up on some meat eating, beer drinking, and shopping (my clothes were HIDEOUS and badly needed replacement.) Also, spent a good bit of time inside air conditioned malls and restaurants, just CUZ. Thailand felt like a much needed break.
We sight-saw Bangkok, including the notorious but mostly touristy Patpong area where- yes, folks, all the rumors are true- ping pong fly out of ladies private areas in remarkably straight line trajectories toward dodging and sometimes laughing tourists. I admit, I was doing a bit less laughing and being a LOT more careful about dodging than some of the shady characters around us... it was pretty gross. I never knew they shot them AT you.
There is more to Bangkok than pingpongs and shopping however. There are many sights to see! Ladyboys (very hard to detect by the way) and senior citizen white men parading around with 4 foot 10 Thai 20 year olds, and... well you get my drift. Vegas has nuthin' on this sin city. But really, there are other things. We saw a huge giant reclining Buddha, about 45 meters long. And we taxied around places on the inexpensive, comfortable, and easy to use river ferries. These ferries were the best place to be in the heat of the day, we almost just wanted to sit on one and cruise for a day!
We bussed to a small island called Ko Tao and got scuba certified. It was a cheap, chill and beautiful island to get certified, we stayed 5 nights, and this was one of the highlights of Thailand for me. THEN we packed in like sardines on a night ferry back to the mainland and headed to a national park called Khao Sok. This was the type of place everyone thinks of when they hear "jungle." Good Lord. Rain every day. Sticky heat. Close trees, vines (which big time resemble snakes if you are the least bit jumpy like me), giant flowers 90 cm diameter, mud, wet leaves on the mud, etc. Did I mention the heat? We hiked every day, and during the whole freaking hike we looked like we just got out of a swimming pool. Slimy sweat, too, from the sunscreen. Gross, huh?? But it was beautiful, and the food was quite good as well so of course that made it worth it. (For ex, I had a Thai style fern frond salad with a coconut peanut dressing. See? Good food.)
THEN we went to Rai Leh, which would be beautiful if there weren't so many white people flopped all over the beaches and draped all over the bar stools and restaurants driving up all the prices. Too many tourists for such a small town. It felt like Disneyland, beach style. And we could only afford to stay on the side of the island that would be "in my country, not so nice" (in the words of the great sage Borat). Okay, to be fair, there were some beautiful beaches with towering limestone rocks rising from the ocean, and if you got to the beach early in the AM it would be pretty empty. Possible just bitter b/c the area was too rich for our budget. Or not.
Anyway, THEN we went to Ao Nang, which everyone hated on that we talked to, but we liked it. It wasn't pretentious. And the beach was pretty nice. And (are we noticing a common theme here?) the food was good. We feasted on street meat, hitting up about 4 or 5 different stalls for dinner. Spring rolls, pad thai, panang curry (I don't know what that means either), stir fry, and a chocolate banana pancake (Raminders influence) for a total of like... $6 or something. And the cool thing is, you can buy beer at 7-11 (which are on every corner, yup, the same thank-you-come-again places as in the states) and they open it for you right at the counter!
THEN we went North to Khao Lak, which was hard hit by the tsunami but you'd never know to look at it. This is the jumping off point for the Similan islands, one of the top 10 diving sites in the world. So, being newly PADI certified, a short boat ride away from the awesome scuba sites, what did we do of course? Went... snorkelling. Diving is flippin expensive, man, and we've got to save up for this supposedly awesome place in Indonesia. The snorkelling was fun as well tho (even that set us back $150), and was money well spent. The islands are beautiful, the water is crystal clear, and it would be cool to go back there.
Now we are back in Bangkok. Catching up on stuff, chores, laundry, etc. Making plans to head out to Cambodia ASAP. (Once you've done Bangkok once, that is enuf.) So there we are! Look for the next blog entry in about 6 months, ha ha, although that would be typical for how often we seem to update this puppy.