Thailand... ever seen that movie The Hangover?
Well, that's how my trip to Thailand started, fortunately it didn't remain that way! Oh, the things we do when we're young!
My arrival in Bangkok.
Before I went to Thailand I hadn't researched actually how cheap it was. Therefore, I booked the cheapest (most horrible!) hotel ever, and didn't realise that actually for a few more pounds, it would be possible to upgrade severely. So there I was, my first night in Bangkok and I'm in a tiny room with a mattress on the floor. Welcome to paradise!
The next morning, I was straight out of the hotel and set to explore. The temples and tourist sights were absolutely packed and had strict dress codes so I decided to give them a miss. Instead, I hit the infamous Khoa San Road and decided to see what the fuss was about. I must have had my first drink mid-afternoon. Then I had some lunch and was rather enjoying myself. It was so hot that some AC would have been welcome but life was good! Then I moved to a different bar which was practically empty. There were two guys sitting at a table and I thought I would go and make friends... Little did I know what my night would become!
Before I knew it, I was sitting at the table with the two guys, who turned out to be Australian. They were visiting Thailand on their way to do a big tour of Europe. Ten blue sunrise cocktails later, we were really rather drunk. At some point, someone must have mentioned going to get a tattoo. At this point in the tale, it's important to remember that I was severely jetlagged having travelled from London, slept very little the night before and had drunk a fair amount of alcohol. The rest of the evening is a blur. I woke up on my mattress over twenty-four hours later. I have no idea how I got to my hotel or what day it was. I had literally slept through a day. I made an executive decision to get a nicer hotel so packed up my belongings and head for quite a swish hotel- for my budget. It's whilst I'm on my way that I meet the two Australian boys who I barely recognise and they ask me how my tattoo is. My tattoo? What tattoo? Then they ask for my phone and show me a video of my tattoo being done...
Given that start to Thailand, I decided it was best I go somewhere more civilised whilst travelling alone. Wolvo was meeting me in about four weeks or so. I'm easily influenced so goodbye Bangkok, hello Cambodia. To read about that experience, click here.
Four or Five Weeks Later!
I arrive back in Thailand and have booked a hotel on the more culturally civilised Sukhamvit Road. There are still bars and restuarants but it's not so wild! I told Wolvo the name of the hotel and how much it should cost in a taxi. Secretly, I was actually going to the airport to meet her as a surprise! However, because it is me planning this little surprise, by the time I get to the airport, she is already in the taxi! Typical. I'm then delayed on the train and she is waiting for me at the hotel! In the meantime, my mum has given me the email address of a friend, Tom, she has who is in Bangkok this week. After a few email exchanges, he invites us to the bar where he is satying for a drink. We Google the hotel and it's super posh so we are definitely going. We put on our cleanest smartest dresses and set off for the hotel. We wait in the lobby not really sure what to expect. We're sitting waiting when an older gentleman approches and says ''Good evening, are you the two girls I'm looking for, shall we go upstairs?'' In a lobby full of people, we must have turned bright red, it was like we were prostitutes turning up to visit his hotel room! Super cringe! Obediently, we followed him to a very fancy rooftop bar where drinks and nibbles were served for free for hotel guests (and their guests)! We were in our element! After a few minutes of awkward chat things settled down and it was actually quite pleasant, if a little weird. I kept mentioning my mum to keep it very clear why we were there, just in case! You never know! In the end, he was totally harmless and took us out for dinner- more free drinks. He alsos gave us a bottle of citrus Smirnoff vodka for our travels! We pop down to Khao San Road to see what the fuss is all about and I relive the details of that fateful night! Then we head back to the hotel to begin booking a trip to Chiang Mai to see some elephants. We decide to take the train as it is cheaper and are promised luxury seats and air conditioning. Perfect.
We had heard about this fun activity called Escape Hunt. Click the link to find out more. Basically, you're locked in a room and have to solve the clues to escape. It's absolutely fantastic and Paul, the manager is very friendly and happy to help with any Thailand related questions you may have. Aside from living The Hangover movie briefly, Escape Hunt was my favourite part of Bangkok.
Chiang Mai Bound...
We arrive at the train station perhaps a little more optimistic that we should have been. We are still carrying the vodka which Tom gave us two days ago. We plan on drinking it in the next hotel. We got on the train which had no air conditioning or indeed, power. It was roasting hot and we sat for two hours on the platform. We daredn't get off the train to stretch our legs as we feared it may depart suddenly. We were so hot and sticking to the chairs. Everyone was in the same position and it was a truly horrible experience!
Finally we started moving which is just about where I fell asleep for the next fourteen hours! Wolvo, however, had a tough time getting to sleep and enjoyed looking at the scenery. The one time she had fallen asleep, a cricket had come in through the open window and landed on her. I thought I was being kind by slapping it away, however, she had only just fallen asleep so she was a little cross with me!
We finally arrived in Chiang Mai and took a taxi to our hotel. We were extremely tired but were very keen to secure a place at an elephant sanctuary. Knowing we had left it too late we were prepared to compromise a little, but we still wanted to go to a sanctuary rather than a tourist-trap where the elephants weren't particularly well cared for. Luck was on our side, after two days we could go to Baan Chang Elephant Park and have a private day with an elephant-keeper. It would cost in excess of £180 but this was totally fine! We would be able to see exactly how that money would benefit the elephants and now I was reunited with Wolvo, I was also reunited with my debit card- I was rich again!
Tiger Kingdom. Don't do it.
That morning, there was a torrential downpour and I had to run out to buy Wolvo a poncho as I had already purchased one somewhere else on my journey. Have you ever tried running through ankle deep water in flip flops wearing a poncho? I recommend trying it and making sure it's captured on film!
Wolvo had told me about Tiger Kingdom and I had read mixed reviews online about it. The only thing I will say is that if you're torn based on the reviews you've read then I do recommend going to see for yourself. I'm glad I've seen it for myself because I now know that I can inform others about it. If you're interested in my opinion- avoid Tiger Kingdom at all costs. It's not what it says on the tin and we actually left early without finishing our 'experience' as it was quite horrible to see. I don't want to go on about it too much but tigers weren't meant to be petted- sedated or not, they should be roaming around and admired from a distance!
That afternoon we thought we would hire a moped. We had seen so many Thai people riding them and they made it look so simple, we would definitely be able to do it!
Thirty minutes later, we had paid our £4 for twenty-four hours hire, had our helmets on and were sitting on the bike. Then it came time to turn the bike on and that's when it all went wrong and we ended up falling off. In total I think we travelled about 1.5 metres. At one point we had an audience of spectators laughing in the garden of a restaurant. They were laughing until suddenly we were out of control and heading straight towards the fence. Fortunately we managed to stop before we crashed but it was clear we weren't cut out for mopeds! I tried riding it by myself and I was OK when going in a straight line. When trying to turn, I ended up in a bush. Wolvo couldn't even balance on it without me holding it whilst she revved and then yelled 'Let go!'
To cut a long story short, it's another one of those moments that you wished could have been on video. We walked the bike ten metres back to the shop and didn't even care about getting our £4 back!! Cringe!
If you want to have a genuine experience with the elephants I do recommend contacting this company directly. There are lots of tour guides who will show you the Baan Chaang brochure and then take you to a place which may cost you £50 and they get to keep the rest. We were in direct contact with the company and they warned us of these issues.
The people from Baan Chang picked us up right on time and took us out into the countryside where the park was.
So that the elephants don't get wary of strangers, everyone has to dress in special clothing so the elephants recognise you as 'friends'. The first job of the day was to feed everyone. Elephants eat almost every hour of the day, except the four hours whre they sleep. I think I could be a very good elephant!
The elephants had to be loosely tied for feeding time by the tourists so that they didn't charge at us. Once that was done they were given free reign of several large paddocks for the rest of the day. Our next duty was to receive instructions of how to 'drive' the elephant! I think I needed a little longer on how to get on the elephant, there was nothing to hold on to, you just had to scramble on its back and then hold on with your legs squeezed as much as posisble. Good for thigh muscle exercises! Riding the elephant bare-back was a phenomenal experience. But the best was certainly yet to come!
After we had been for a 'walk', our elephant (whose name escapes me) neeed to have a bath. He walked into the pond and we followed promptly. We were given scrubbing brushes and buckets to give him a good scrub. He seemed so content with us splashing him and making him all shiny. It was a real privilege to have the opportunity to do this. Especially as most of the elephants there had been rescued from the circus or other places where they were beaten and made to perform. Our guide even told us a story that some of the workers at Baan Chang had actually stolen an elephant who was being mistreated in the night. When he arrived at his new home, she said he was crying! Such amazing creatures. I definitely wanted to bring one home.
Flying to Phuket.
After all the excitement with Bangkok, trains and elephants, we decided we needed some beach time. We flew down to Phuket and booked a truly lovely, quite marvellous hotel. Yes, we did have that bottle of vodka with us still! As we were entering the final week of the trip, we thought it was only right to treat ourselves. Whilst in Phuket, we visited the beaches and didn't do a lot else. It was very peaceful lying in the sun and eating ice-cream!
After a day or two of lounging we thought we should go and visit somewhere exotic. We scoured the internet for tourist-free islands and after hours of searching, eventually we came across Kao Lone. Advertised as a tourist-free haven offering relaxation and a different view of Thailand, we knew we had found our perfect place. Then we saw that it was a honeymoon getaway for couples. Never mind! We'll go anyway! And of course, inform any honeymoon couples that we are actually, in fact, not a honeymoon couple.
The journey over from Phuket to Kao Lone was wet! We were on a chartered long boat from the island and a storm was blowing in. We just about managed to cover our bags with our ponchos despite them flapping about in the wind. We arrived soaking wet and dishevelled but happy to be in our new home. We received an upgrade and were given a beach front villa.
We chilled out on the veranda whilst we waited out the storm maybe tonight was the night that we would drink this vodka!
We ate dinner in the island restaurant and then got chatting with two other couples who we joined on the varanda for a game of cards.
The next day we walked around and lay on the deckchairs. That night we finally cracked out the vodka and it was finished! Our new friends were lots of fun and we actually spent the next few days on and off the island with them.
In and Around Phuket.
We went to see the Simon Cabaret show one evening. It was very entertaining and reasonably priced. The most difficult part was trying to decide the gender of the performers. After the show, there was a meet and greet outside, it seemed pretty clear that everyone performing was actually a Lady Boy!
We also visited the Big Buddha which not surprisingly, is very big! At the top of the hill, there is a lovely view of Phuket down below. It's not expensive to get there and makes for a nice afternoon.
The next day, Wolvo left for Bangkok and I went to stay in Phuket centre. I visited Khao Phing Kan, where part of the famous James Bond movie 'The Man with the Golden Gun' was filmed. The island was beautiful but extremely crowded. It would have been more enjoyable if there were less tourists but everyone want to see the famous island!
I also went to a Ping Pong Show but I'm not yet ready to talk about that....
The following day, it was my turn to return to Bangkok to catch my flight back home. All in all, Thailand was wonderful and I would love to go back with a bigger budget. I would spend longer at the elephant park and more time exploring the smaller islands.