Travels without a Plan #19

A wet Full Moon Party and finally arriving in Bangkok
I’ve at long last arrived in Bangkok, which so far has totally surprised me, just due to the fact that it’s by as nowhere near bad as everyone has said it is. Yes it’s very hot, hectic, crowded, bustling, but I like it a lot. More of Bangkok later.

Firstly the Full Moon Party. One word can be used to describe it, and that’s WET – very, very wet. For the first few days the island was a tropical paradise, hot, sunny, just as we were expecting it to be. However, as the days got closer to the actual event we all started to realize that this was not going to continue.

The run up to the Full Moon was great, with various parties taking part in different locations of the island, House Party by the Paradise Falls, Trance Party in a glade in the Rainforest (best located party I’ve ever been to, which could be heard well over 3 kms away), and various events on numerous different beaches. However, all this partying couldn’t disguise the fact that the weather was getting worse and the forecast was getting even more gloomy. This was not how it was supposed to be. The power of positive thinking was leaving everyone very rapidly.

The day of the Full Moon Party started as the previous one had, with pouring rain, and it continued for the rest of the day. Pre-Party Parties were changed and in the end everyone huddled in one of the bigger huts sipping (Same Same, but Different) Vodka Red Bulls and trying to put the best light on the situation as was possible.

When we decided to leave, we got drenched immediately, and had to wait for 30 minutes for a taxi to take us to Hat Rin beach. As we were negotiating the difficult winding roads we noticed the hundreds of people all heading home looking totally pissed off with the situation (it was 12:30 and people were leaving, it couldn’t be that bad, could it??) It was also then we noticed the traffic, a taxi had slipped and had ended up in a ditch blocking all the traffic. Luckily our driver was a determined individual, and with a lot of revving, and cheering from us, we got up the hill.

What greeted us as we arrived, I will never forget, was a mixture of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan and a biblical scene of the Great Flood, all we needed was Noah and his Ark, it would have been perfect. There were hundreds of drenched looking people, all with grim faces. Even the waves were washing up onto the bars, this was not good at all.

At first I tried to shelter in a dry bar, but this was not going to work, so I ended up in the front of one of the numerous bars dancing with a couple of locals and getting wetter than I have ever been. The parties usually last till at least 11am the next morning, however due to a short circuit (someone was electrocuted in a shop as there was so much surface water, no one knows what has happened to him although people say that he was taken to Koh Samui, fingers crossed), it cut out at 8am. Arriving home at 9:30 it was time to dry off and try and get some sleep.

Everyone (even the locals) agreed that this had been a memorable couple of days and it was just a sign of how powerful tropical storms, even out of season, can be. Due to the number of people wanting to leave we were unable to leave for a couple of days, so we made use of the Herbal Sauna, located in the middle of the jungle and attached to a Buddhist Temple (what a great idea), and generally hid from the bad weather. This could have been a real pain, but due to the great people and the general atmosphere of the bungalows, it was really OK.

Then it was time to leave but due to the flooding, instead of getting the sleeper train to Bangkok, we had to get the coach (no trains are running North/South for at least a week). Arriving in Bangkok at 6:00am turned out to be no bad thing, as you realize how many people visit Bangkok, thousands, and they all seem to want a room at the same time. We looked around, made our pick and said we would be back once people had started to check out. The area that I’m staying in is just behind the infamous Khao San Road, where many of the budget backpackers are located. Being close means that you have all its advantages (cheap food, markets, bars etc) but without all the noise and overcrowding. Ideal.

One of the main reasons for spending time in Bangkok is to sort out visas for Laos and Vietnam, which take four working days and also gives the ideal opportunity to visit the various sites that the city has to offer. So far I have visited The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, the Emerald Buddha, the Lucky Buddha, the Standing Buddha, the Laughing Buddha (and many other types of Buddha’s, I really had no idea that there were so many), China Town and Siam Square.

Had my hair cut by a lady boy (no, I didn’t pay extra for this. I didn’t realize at first, but you can tell by the hands!!) and generally having a good laugh, bumping into many people who I’ve met on my journey so far. I have also been measured up for a hand tailored suit. At £90 for a suit, shirt and tie, I would have been mad not to have done so (I hope my MasterCard understands!!). I really like Bangkok, its urgency and its sense that there is always something happening around the corner.

Just a word of advice if you visit this city – be on your guard, as there are always people who want to get cash from you. If you are aware of this and laugh off any approaches that feel slightly odd, you should have no problems, as most of the locals are amazingly friendly and helpful.

Today I went to the town of Ayuthaya, which used to be the Thai capital until the 1760’s when the Burmese decided to destroy it. The city has literally hundreds of Wats (temples), all of which are in ruins, but with much international help are slowly being preserved back to their original glory. I don’t think I have ever taken so many pictures, it really is a beautiful place, majestic ruins, statues and hundreds of Chedis (towers), just stunning. Many people have said to look at this as a starter, as Angkor Wat in Cambodia is even more stunning and impressive. I can’t wait.

Tomorrow I will be visiting Kanchanaburi, location of the bridge over the River Kwai, which was built by prisoners of war during WW2. It should be an interesting visit, seeing the Death Railway, museums and the thousands of war graves for those men who lost their lives during its construction in some of the harshest conditions imaginable.

Once my visas have been sorted out, I shall be heading to Chang Mai as quickly as possible, then Chang Rai, before heading into Laos. I can’t believe that I only have 11 more days here in Thailand, they seem to have slipped by so quickly. I suppose that’s just a sign that I’m having a good time!!!