The long awaited, Thailand

sunset at Koh Chang's "white sand beach"

Thailand is a destination I’ve dreamed about exploring since I was bitten by the travel bug years ago. I envisioned a magical place where I’d ride elephants, swim through waterfalls and haggle my way to basically free knock off “necessities”.

Thailand IS that place and I can’t wait to go back and fully explore the ins and outs of the “relax, relax” country. My holiday in Thailand was amazing but minor setbacks (I’ll get to those later) prohibited me from fully embracing the country I”ve fantasized about for so long.

Mark from South Africa, Joe from New Jersey, and Josh from Canada were my travel buddies for our Holiday trip 2009-2010. We arrived in Bangkok on Christmas morning, our eyes fully open and our hearts beating out of our chests in excitement for warm weather.

Josh, Mark, Joe and I on Christmas day in Bangkok

Bangkok was what I imagined: busy, hot, loud and crazy. Sensory overload. We found the cheapest rooms (500 baht a night) threw down our bags and set out to explore. Staying near Koh San Road, one has to expect the friendliness of strangers on the street to mean one thing: they’re gonna take you for a ride. That does have a double meaning and yes, both happened to us.

We were offered a tour of the city for only 40 baht and although I knew this deal was shady, why the  hell not? We had nothing too important on our agenda for that day so we jumped into two tuk tuk’s and set off to see the sights. The sights included the “Giant Buddha”, some temples, “lucky Buddha” and a fantastic view of Bangkok. These sights also included a travel agency where we were pressured into booking trips, and a tailor shop where the boys were pressured into buying suits. Having been aware of what was going on the whole time, I simply didn’t say a word at the agency and walked out of the tailor. None of us really minded being swooned into these places because we did see some pretty cool sights and had fun on the tuk tuks.

Giant Buddha's feet

Christmas night we went out on the town with a friend of mine, Ida who is Thai and lived in Bangkok at the time. She took us to an excellent Thai place and out for some live music. We definitely took advantage of the Thai nightlife and ran across a few “lady boys” and other interesting sights in the process.

Why did I pay so much for a college degree when I could have just picked one up on the streets of Bangkok?

The next day we jumped on a bus and a ferry for an all day journey to our next and what would become our final destination on our Thailand 2009-2010 trip: Koh Chang.

We met some interesting people along the way which made for some good laughs and definitely some memories. A girl from Canada who was your typical “country name droppper” (CND) had been traveling for two months and wasn’t shy about what she had learned. Me, being the antagonizer that I am, inquired about her travels after she had already “country name dropped” at least 6 countries and two continents.

Me: “How long have you been traveling?”

CND: “Two months…”

Me: “Oh wow… I know this is a hard question but what’s your favorite place so far?”

CND: “Well that IS a very hard question… “South America inspired me, Africa swelled my heart and Asia’s opened my eyes.”

Me: ” I see.”

It’s characters like her that I really enjoy meeting on travels.

Thanonm Bungalows in Bai Lan, Koh Chang. In the jungle and our home for two nights

Our first night in Koh Chang was filled with dinner, drinks and emerging ourselves into the nearest body of water we could find. In fact the next couple of days were spent at the beach and in the water.

white sand beach, koh chang

We rented motorbikes to explore the island and Mark “the Daddy” naturally always received best pick while Joe “The Champ”always down for whatever, full heartedly embraced the pink scooter.

I refer to Joe as the “The Champ” because he is the only one who did not get sick on our trip. This guy could eat anything and when questioned on how spicy it is he always replied, “Its spicy but really good.”

Mark had an ear infection which he seemed to ignore at first and Josh and I received the worst food poisoning imaginable.  I will spare you the details but lets  just say we were knocked on our asses for a few days.

our tom yum soup that had 10 peppers instead of the usual, 6. This may have lead to our demise

Joe "The Champ" and Mark "the Daddy" stomaching anything while I sit and can't even watch them eat

Having the worst food poisoning imaginable definitely put a huge damper on what I was able to accomplish for a few days. We were able to go on a hike up a waterfall (well almost all the way up) and got to experience some sweet elephants (although we weren’t able to ride them). We even went on an all day snorkeling tour on New Year’s Eve (thanks to many, many meds), which had us in the water and on a boat for 4 islands around Koh Chang.

making friends

Joe enjoying the waterfall while I watch from dry land

snorkeling around the smaller islands of Koh Chang

New Years Eve

Our New Year's beach "pub crawl"

Although White Sand Beach didn't have the craziest NYE festivities, judging by the aftermath on New Year's Day, one might disagree

New Year’s Eve on White Sand beach was filled with floating lanterns, fireworks and a more “family friendly” beach party.  A little toned down from what I would have imagined but it was still a great time cheers-ing tequila and vodka shots in the New Year.

We spent two more days on the beaches of Koh Chang since traveling by bus back to Bangkok would have been uncomfortable for half of the group and although it wasn’t quite like we planned, it was definitely memorable. The dreams I had painted in my thoughts of swimming in beautiful waterfalls and riding elephants in the jungle are going to have to wait until my next Thailand trip.  I’ll be sure to pace myself on the food and choose places to stay on whether or not they have flush-able toilets.

shopping at White Sand Beach

Last Koh Chang sunset

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