Bangkok: Saturday 2/6 – Sunday 3/6
The flight from Kathmandu to Bangkok was pleasantly uneventful. Jet Airways are pretty nice to fly with for a cheap airline, and the amount of legroom you get on an aeroplane feels like absolute luxury compared to Nepali buses. Indian and Nepali airports have more security checks and bureaucracy than I’ve encountered anywhere else before, though. My boarding passes ended up with half a dozen stamps on it from various checks before I was finally allowed to board.
My one mistake was not getting my remaining few Nepali rupees exchanged for Thai baht before I left Nepal. No money changers in Thailand accept rupees. I guess I’ll be hanging onto a few hundred rupees as souvenirs.
Bangkok was a lot more Westernised and less chaotic than anywhere I’ve been to since I left Kuala Lumpur in January. It’s also a lot bigger than I realised. I got a taxi to the tourist district of Khao San Road, an area which confirms all of the worst stereotypes of whitefella backpackers. Drunken Aussies and Europeans running amok amongst cheap alcohol. Of course, I was on my way to be exactly one of those people at the full moon party on Koh Phangan. Overall, Bangkok was a bit of a culture shock after the conservatism of India and isolated mountains of Nepal. Even Thamel, the tourist and drinking capital of Kathmandu, is relatively tame in comparison.
I picked a hotel at random and it turned out to be right on top of a nightclub. 3am and the music was still pumping so loud you could feel it. Whoops.
On Sunday I found a nice vegetarian cafe, had a tofu red curry and waited until my train was ready to leave. Thai sleeper trains are more expensive and less fun than the Indian ones. No chai-wallahs wandering up and down the aisles. Nobody talking to anyone else. The food is expensive and disappointingly mediocre. There’s a little bit more privacy and the beds are a bit more comfortable, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Koh Phangan and Full Moon Party: Monday 4/6 – Sunday 10/6
The ferry to Koh Phangan was one of the choppiest rides I’ve ever been on. After a few hours we arrived, I found somewhere to stay at the next beach along from where the full moon party happens and went into town to have dinner.
The big party was happening on Tuesday night and I was planning on a quiet night on Monday after not having slept too well the previous couple of nights, but as I was heading back to the shack where I was staying, I bumped into a German couple who were going to a rave party by a waterfall and encouraged me to join them. So on my ‘quiet night’ I ended up drinking gin and tonic out of a bucket and dancing to trance music until after 3am.
The full moon party on Tuesday was also pretty fun – the first time in years that I’ve stayed up partying until sunrise. The weather here has been pretty rubbish for beach-going, with grey skies and rain most afternoons, but that actually made for really fantastic beach parties. Alcohol by the bucket, music blaring, dancing in rain with everyone getting drenched and still having a good time made it a little bit different from anything I’d experienced back home. I felt a little bit overdressed, though; I only saw one other guy wearing a collared shirt, with most people wearing singlets or going bare-chested.
A couple of nights like that was enough for me, and so it was time to move on to somewhere a bit more secluded for a while. On Thursday I took a boat to Haad Thian, just a couple of beaches down from Haad Rin, but not joined to any of the surrounding areas by road. It was a long way from being an isolated paradise where I could have a long stretch of beach purely to myself, but much quieter than Haad Rin or, say, Cottesloe in the summer time. I couldn’t help but think that the beach itself was pretty average compared to what I’ve grown up around in Western Australia.
The first place to stay I saw was relatively posh resort, which did also have cheap dorms, but they turned out to be all booked out. I went next door, which turned out to be rather more to my taste anyway. I ended up with a shack—sorry, “bungalow”—to myself, from which I could see the beach out of one window and the jungle out of the other. I had my own hammock, and the restaurant nearby did cheap Thai food with tofu options available on almost all of the dishes. Sure, there was no hot water and the toilet was a squatting type, but that’s more than sufficient for me. Okay, so a hot shower is quite welcome when it’s cold outside, but here in the tropics by the beach, completely unneccessary.
Three days of beachside solitude. How’s the serenity?
Return to Australia: Monday 11/6 – Wednesday 13/6
Haad Thian to Perth took 47 hours, travelling by boat, taxi, ferry, two buses, another taxi, two aeroplanes and a Ford Focus. I need to stop telling myself that I’m home now, even though in some sense I am. I grew up in Perth, most of my friends and family live here, but it’s no longer where I live. I don’t have a house or flat of my own here any more. It’s not the end of my travels. I’m only here for thirteen days, and then I’m off to Melbourne. But Melbourne doesn’t quite feel like home yet either. I don’t have anywhere permanent to live there. The prospect of getting myself settled down in a new city and readjusting myself to the university lifestyle means that my life will continue to be filled with Adventures in the near future.
At the same time, Perth seems like a good opportunity to draw an arbitrary line in the sand. This one particular Adventure – travelling through Asia – is over and I’m back in Australia. Or as the British would quaintly put it, returned from abroad. I expect I’ll continue to write in this blog, at least once I’ve reached Melbourne, although I’m not sure yet what kind of things I’ll have to say.