Stephen Young

4.3.07

Thailand... China soon to come!

Hello All! Sorry for the lack of updates over the past few weeks. I've been busy with a number of things, including finding a co-op job for the summer, traveling to Thailand, and most recently traveling through southern China and Hong Kong.

Since it's been such a while, I'm going do a quick recap of everything I've been up to in the two weeks leading up to my China trip and then write another post about China itself.

Hmm...where to start.... I guess I should describe our trip to Thailand. After much debating about what to do on the weekend of February 1st, Andrew and I decided to travel by bus all the way from Singapore, through Malaysia and into southern Thailand to attend the much-popular "Full Moon Party" monthly festival on Ko Pha Ngan island. In retrospect this probably wasn't the smartest idea as this part of Thailand is facing serious unrest and threat of civil war from religious minorites seeking an indepent state. Nonetheless, our journey was peaceful enough, albeit extremely tiring. It totaled over 30 hours each way and included: 12 hour bus to Malaysian/Thailand border, 8 hour train ride to Hat Yai in southern Thailand, 6 hour minibus ride to Surat Thani on the east coast of Thailand, and finally an overnight ferry to the destination island. All in we left Wednesday evening around 5PM and arrived Friday morning around 8AM.

As for the island itself, it is (or rather was) a beautiful green haven, sparsely populated by pleasant and laidback locals. Unfortunately the monthly full moon party has transformed the southern half of the small island (less than 1/2 the size of Singapore) into a massive tourist trap. Electric motor bikes are rented everywhere, most beaches are host to nightly parties and come evening time you're more likely to see a white skinned foreigner than a Thai local.

Friday morning Drew and I decided to rent a pair of small motor bikes to venture further inland in search of accomodation. After exploring the island for a few hours we located a group of small bungalows about 15 minutes from the ferry dock where the rest of our friends were staying. For about $14CDN we booked a small house in a peaceful pleasant location - and promptly settled in for an afternoon nap. Around 8PM we managed to pull ourselves out of bed and took a sensely dangerous motorbike trip into town near the main beach for the evening's festivities. The main beach called Hat Rin, is adorned with every type of commercial item for the wanting young tourist in search of a grand old party. Shops line the street vending sand buckets full of beer and other drinks. Restaurant serve pizza, pasta and various other western dishes - while playing Friends, Seinfeld and Family Guy. Real authenticity!

The party was certainly an interesting experience. If you can imagine... a massive nightclub, set on a beach and attended by over 5000 people from around the world. We explored on our own for a few hours, slowly taking in the sites and stopping off for food and a pretty good pan fried pizza. Later we bumped into the other NTU exchange students and spent the rest of the night with them and eventually made it back home around 6AM.



The next morning, slightly after 4PM, we checked out of our bungalow and returned to the ferry area. On the way we had to return our rented scooters, and this turned out to be quite an ordeal. We'd managed to slightly scratch one of the bikes on some gravel near our bungalow and the lady who rented them to use refused to return our passports unless we paid nearly $500CDN in so called damages. We spent almost 2 hours negotiating with her, asking locals what to do, and generally complaining before agree to pay her a reduced fee.

After that we got on the night ferry bound for Surat Thani and began our long journey home. Over all we traveled nearly 60 hours and spent nearly the equivalent of plane fare despite traveling by bus. Perhaps we got to see a little more of Thailand along the way, but nothing to justify the time. At least we can say we did it... and that's what counts.

That's all for now! Off to bed... and I promise to write about China in the next day or two.

Cheers,
Steve

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