Sunday, January 11, 2015

3 Weeks in a Nutshell

Amazing sunset in Ko Phan Ngan

I'm going to bypass the apologies for my lack of bloggging lately and just jump right in; hope that's ok.

Don't worry, we shared

So, as promised in my last post I will begin with filling you in on the details (or lack thereof) of the Full Moon Party on Ko Phan Ngan. I'll be honest and say that the trip there was grueling. It consisted of 12 hours of vans, buses, ferries and tuk tuks. When we FINALLY arrived at Haad Rin Beach (the beach where our hostel was and where the Full Moon Party takes place) it still took us a good 30 minutes of walking around before we could find our hostel. Imagine our relief when we could finally drop our backpacks and relax. We met up with several girls that we got to know during orientation in Bangkok the first week. Most of them are teaching in Northern Thailand or near Bangkok so we haven't gotten to see them since, so it was great to all get together again. Full Moon was on Saturday, but we got there on Friday. The night before Full Moon they always have a "Jungle Party". It is exactly as it sounds...a party in a jungle. I'm talking real
jungle - like you have to walk a good 200 meters through some trees and brush to get to it. This party was crazy, there was a huge stage/DJ setup, bars, a muay thai fighting ring, body paint stations, the works. Myself and a few others went back to our hostel around 3 am and the party was still going strong - I couldn't imagine what the ACTUAL Full Moon would be like after witnessing the "pre party".

The next day, after a failed beach adventure, we stumbled upon a bar (purely by accident) with an amazing view and a pool. What more could you ask for? We spent the majority of Saturday lounging around the bar pool deck and taking in the sights (please see amazing sunset photo for reference). Prepping for Full Moon was quite the ordeal. Obviously we had to purchase neon's just a thing. In addition to the neon, we had to adorn ourselves with neon body paint, obviously. Our hostel provided the paint, so we spent a good amount of time being "artsy" while sipping on buckets prior to going to the actual party. When I say buckets, I literally mean buckets. The majority of beverages sold at the Full Moon party are served in a bucket, I wish I could tell you why. Next, it was off the official beach party! To be brief, the craziness that ensued included dance stages, DJs, fire dancers, and general craziness on the beach. It was basically a big rave/party. The night ended at about 7 am for me, so I got a solid 3 hours of sleep before we had to get up and make the 12-hour journey home, woo! Travel is here is a ludicrous process. Basically you buy your travel voucher beforehand at a travel agency and you get a receipt. You show this receipt at the bus station and they slap a sticker on you. This sticker is usually colored and has the name of the place you're going on it. The rest of the trip you're herded around like cattle, and you have no choice but to listen to where you're told to go, because you honestly know no better. Our trip home started on a ferry, then we were shuffled onto a bus. At this point we had already lost half of our group in the travel craziness, we were down to 3. Once off the bus it was straight to a tuk tuk (a sort of open pickup truck). From here we were taken to a holding area of sorts (I think these lengthy waiting areas are just agreements with the business so the disheveled, hungover travelers will buy their food). After about an hour we were then put into 16 passenger vans. Another 2 hour van ride later we were dropped off at Tesco (essentially the Walmart of Thailand) where we had to take a taxi. FINALLY we made it back, around 11 pm or. Work the next day was not fun.

Amazing view from the bar we stumbled upon, whoops!
Banana Beach
Banana Beach
Wednesday after Full Moon was a holiday (Constitution day) so we had no school, woohoo! We decided to go to a little known beach about 30 minutes away called Banana Beach (named for its crescent-like shape) for a day trip. The beach was almost deserted, with about 20-30 people there total, most of which came on long tail boats via some sort of tour and left after an hour or so. To get to the beach we had to hike down a jungle hill - it's pretty hidden, hence the lack of people. The beach itself was beautiful. The water was clear blue and calm, and it backed up to the jungle, lined with palm trees. I'm pretty sure this is the beach that postcards are made of. After a long, hard day of relaxing, we went to meet some friends who had been at a nearby beach for a quick sunset viewing. We ended the day at an adorable restaurant on the way back to Phuket Town which actually had some quite delicious mac 'n cheese. Perfect ending to a perfect day!

Dinner on Rang Hill view
The next weekend was a chilled out one spent in town. We went out for a bit on Friday, but nothing crazy. Saturday Lyndsay (another teacher from my school) decided to take our bikes to go see Wat Chalong (a Buddhist temple just a little south of Phuket), however, as my luck would have it, my motorbike broke down before we even got out of Phuket Town. I ended up having to replace the ignition entirely. Luckily bike repairs are cheap here, and it cost less than $30. However, our plan was thrown off a bit by this time suck, so we just ended up going to Rang Hill. Rang Hill is, well, a hill in Phuket Town which is home to the 2nd biggest Buddha on the island (it used to be the biggest, until the BIG Buddha was built not too long ago). Rang Hill also has a nice lookout of the city and a restaurant that we grabbed some dinner at - it actually had an amazing view. Not the day we had in mind, but a good one nonetheless.

We had the following Wednesday off at school, again, so we decided to do another beach day trip. We went to Ya Nui, a small beach in the very south of Phuket. It was a little rocky, so not as good for swimming, but great for snorkeling! *Note to self to bring snorkeling gear next time*

Approaching Tonsai Bay, Krabi in our longtail boat
Fire dancer at a bar in Tonsai
At this point, midterms were fast approaching. We had one last weekend before the craziness of testing set in, so we decided we should spend it in Krabi. Krabi is actually part of the mainland, but you would think it's an island. It's surrounded by amazing cliffs and has some great beaches. There's also a big rock climbing scene there, so I'm bring my shoes next time for sure! We spent most of our time in Krabi at Tonsai Bay, a teenie little "town" where the electricity is turned off for the majority of the area from 5 pm - 7 am. Tonsai was the most chill, relaxing, not-a-care-in-the-world place. Upon being dropped off on shore by a long tail boat, we walked down the dirt road and found some bungalows in the jungle for pretty cheap - we'll take 'em! After securing our lodging, we suited up for the beach. Railay Beach is a main beach in Krabi and is right next to Tonsai. You have to hike through a jungle to get to it from Tonsai, but it's only about a 10 minute hike. We made the trek and spent the afternoon doing what we do best, lounging around. Some of the girls got foot massages - they will actually come straight to you on the beach, you don't even have to get up! After a long day of beachin', we headed back to our humble abodes, and when I say "humble", I mean a thatched hut with a sink that empties right onto the bathroom floor, whatever. We spent the evening at some of the local bars (there weren't many) watching fire dancers and sharing drinks with the locals. Everyone there is so nice, always saying hi and wanting to chat. We ended the night at Sunset bar, in a tree house with 3 Thai men, singing John Mayer and perfecting our own fire dancing skills. Success. The next morning we had breakfast and sadly made our way back to our island of Phuket, until next time Tonsai!

To make this brief I'm going to wrap up with a couple of funnies...

Student/Teacher converstaions with Ajarn Sarah:

Student: "Ajarn, do you have freckles ALL OVER your WHOLE body?'
Aj. Sarah: "Err yeah, most of your worksheet."

Student: "Ajarn, do you have any kids?"
Aj. Sarah: "No, do I look like I'd have kids?"
Student: "Yeah"
Aj. Sarah: "...Great"

Student: "Ajarn, you have so many freckles, do you have melanoma?"
Aj. Sarah: "I hope not!"

Random, unrelated photo of a monkey in the
parking lot at Rang Hill
As you can see my student never cease to entertain with their comments and questions.

Another recent occurrence that had me stifling my laughter was in a bookshop in town. I was just looking around, perusing if you will, when I hear a Shania Twain song coming from the Christmas display. When I investigate further I discover it a singing Santa figure, shaking his hips to none other than Shania Twain's "Gonna Getcha Good" - "Don't want ya for a weekend, don't want ya for a night, I'm only interested if I can have you for life." These lyrics sound a little creepy coming from a Santa, and I'm not sure what the marketing team was thinking, but I actually almost bought it due to its pure absurdity. Oh Thailand, you've done it again.

As I conclude this post, I have to admit that I'm leaving out my family's Christmas visit and my own trip to northern Thailand for New Year's, along with our recent school trip to the south of Thailand. I promise to cover all of these in my next blog, which shouldn't take as long to get up since I'm done with trips for a while and back to real life.

I'll leave you with the link to this music video filmed entirely in Thailand :)