I can’t believe I’m actually sitting here in my room, back in Perth again. It seemed like an eternity ago that I was just in Thailand, having the time of my life when in reality it was just yesterday. After travelling solo for the first time for 16 days in the wonderful country of Thailand, I finally understand all the hype around travelling. Over these two weeks, I had the most unforgettable experiences, met amazing people from all over the world and pushed myself way out of my comfort zone.
From visiting temples in Bangkok, exploring the underwater world in Ko Tao and then finally partying on Ko Pha-Ngan, it was a jam packed fortnight but I wish I stayed longer. In this four part series broken up into the different places of travel, I will share my experiences in the country of smiles.
Days 1-2: Bangkok
I started out my journey in Bangkok, reaching the capital of Thailand in the morning and then proceeding to check in to my hostel near the famed Khao San road.
I found the easiest and cheapest way to get to Khao San from Suvarnabhumi Airport which was taking the airport rail link (45THB) to Phaya Thai, taking the BTS to Siam Square (22THB) and then finally taking bus 15 (7THB) to Khao San costing a grand total of 74THB.
After putting my things down at my hostel (Feel at home backpackers), I met one of dorm mates. A guy named Nick from the states and we decided to head out to check out the temples of Bangkok. First on the list was the Grand Temple, to get there we took the river taxi which I found to be a unique experience where it was a normal daily mode of transport for the locals to get to schools and work.
After taking the taxi in the wrong direction and then doubling back, we arrived at the Grand Temple. The visitors numbered well in the thousands with countless Chinese tour groups dominating the crowd.
The temple grounds were huge and took a solid two hours to explore. With many steeples and structures, one quickly gathers that the Thai love their shiny goods with their golden domes, mosaics lining the walls and many coloured gems cemented into the structures.
After exploring the Grand Temple, we opted to travel to the nearby Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This temple was more pleasant, it was less crowded and a different experience from the crowds of the Grand Temple. Here we found the gigantic golden Buddha. Wat Pho offered a more authentic temple feel and we saw some local children playing in the fountains and with old soccer balls.
Among the architecture, the painted murals also offered some interesting visuals.With strange creatures and depictions, I feel we would’ve gotten a lot more from the temples with a tour guide as there was no signage or explanations (most of the time) for the significance of the structures, paintings and statues that dotted the temples.
After Wat Pho, we headed back to rest for a while and I met up with my cousin at night for street food at Khao San road. At night, the famed road comes to life with all the backpackers out, street food carts and the numerous bars and shops flanking both sides of the road. For 50THB each, we got a delicious Pad Thai, mango sticky rice and coconut ice cream. All were amazingly delicious
Of the food stores on the roadside, there were also carts selling insects. Tarantulas were on sale for 500THB! I instead opted to try out a small scorpion for 60THB, needless to say my cousin found it repulsive. The crunchy exoskeleton of the scorpion was seasoned with what I presume to be vinegar and wasn’t particularly appetizing but an experience nonetheless! On sale on the road side shops were some of the most random collection of items you can find, including knives, throwing stars and tazers.
We settled down for a few cocktails, buy three for the price of two! Drinks are extremely cheap in Thailand and very good as well.
After that we bid our farewells and I returned to my hostel for the night.
A much less cultural day, I decided to check out the Pratunuam markets to do some cheap shopping. After having difficulty trying to figure out how to get there by bus, I deferred to a taxi and got there around a half hour later in classic South East Asian traffic. The market itself sells a lot of local clothing, large sleeved T-Shirts and the like, at wholesale prices and in search of more western clothing I headed over to Platinum Mall. This six story complex was massive with the floors 1 – 3 for women’s clothing and a single floor for men’s clothing. With over a hundred shops on each level, I was exploring just the men’s level for almost two hours and after getting some cheap goodies I tried the neighboring malls Paladium Mall and Shibuya 19. Although both were quite large, many of the stores seemed to be shut and not as alive as Platinum Mall. If I were to go again, I would skip the other malls and just head straight for Platinum Mall as the many shops cater more to western tastes with the same cheap prices.
After shopping, it was time to head back to the hostel to get my things for the 15 hour journey to the diving island of Ko Tao. Once again I took a river taxi down a khlong (canal) and finished the journey by the famous tuk tuk.
The day was still young and I went to explore the area around my hostel, mainly Khao San and the parallel street to it Soi Rambuttri. Rambuttri was the more chill version of Khao San road, with more roadside stores and massage places. I went for a fish spa at 150THB for 15 mins which was a very odd feeling having hundreds of little fish nibble away at the dead skin on your feet. The fish tended to crowd mostly around me, guess I must have been a tasty treat for them.
After that I took a 1 hr massage by the street side which was a good decision after all the walking for the day. The middle aged, short statured woman had a suprising amount of strength and did the spine and neck cracking maneuvers which I will admit was a bit scary.
Following the massage, I gathered my things and waited at the hostel for the bus to take me to Ko Tao which I booked the night before. It was at this time I met another two travelers at my hostel. One of them, a British man named Alfie had some interesting things on him. One of them was an egg timer with a GoPro mount on it to take rotating time lapses which was fascinating. Another was a ball of string he carried around with him which he used to make bracelets for other travelers he met along the way. It was a great way to bring people together and also pass the time, an idea I intend to adopt for my future travels! It was sad to get along with others only to have to say goodbye almost immediately. A Thai man came to collect everyone who was taking a bus down to the islands and we had to stop at a couple of hostels to collect the other travelers. I then hunkered down for the long journey towards Ko Tao, the highlight of my trip in the next part…