Pai, Phi Phi, Pathum Thani – Oh my!

Yikes, I definitely know I’m slacking on my blog game, but in my defense, I have a few good (read: sub-par) reasons for why it took me so long to write another post:

  • I work over 40 hours a week teaching English to second-grade Thai students
  • When I’m not working, I’m busy exploring Thailand or trying my darndest to foster relationships with new friends..or I’m sleeping (please refer to bullet point number one and you can guess that the exhaustion is real).
  • I actually did write another blog post since you last heard from me, but for Greenheart Travel instead of for my own personal blog.
  • My computer died (like not just the battery..the thing actually pooped out), so it is currently sitting in an Apple store in Bangkok waiting for its new pretty little parts to arrive. Obvi I’ll touch more on this story later, but needless to say, I’m typing this all out on my trusty lil iPhone 7 (which as you can imagine is not ideal). Also, maybe I shouldn’t say trusty so as not to jinx this device and lead it to the same fate as my poor MacBook. Frankly, those of you who know about my sordid past with laptops should not be surprised in the slightest about this news.
  • I’m lazy..sry.

So as not to waste any [more] time, let’s dive right in, shall we? Since you last read about me, I was grappling to ease my way into a comfortable and happy lifestyle in a new and different place. Tangent: I could’ve said something like “since you last read about my adventures” or “since you last read about my experience” but to read about ME makes it sound like I’m a celebrity and I’m digging that. You missed my tangents, didn’t you? Anyhow, what’s been the haps since then? Well, as I mentioned in my last post, my dearest Melissa was coming to visit me. Let me tell you, we had an absolute ball exploring Thailand together. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, having a 7:30 am – 4 pm job M-F did not make seeing her during the week quite feasible. Fortunately, we made up for this lost time during the two long weekends we spent  together. Even more fortunately, I had no school on the two Mondays she was here due to public holidays, so we had three-day weekends instead of two-day weekends, SCORE! And believe you me, we were determined to make the most of these weekends in Pai (the mountains) and in Koh Phi Phi (the islands). So, without further ado, let’s begin:

 

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Meemer and me enjoying the mountains in Pai

Pai: So I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details of what it took to plan this three-day trip up north (partially because travel planning woes are not the juicy and exciting tales you want to hear, but mainly because I’m really hoping to avoid reliving the stress and tears that went into the ordeal of booking my transportation — I think I physically shuddered just now even thinking about it.) Anyhow, once everything was planned, I boarded my overnight bus in Bangkok at 8:30 pm on Friday night, which was due to arrive in Chiang Mai at 7:20 am on Saturday morning at the Arcade Bus Station where I would wait, twiddling my thumbs, until Melissa arrived at the station so we could board a van that departed at 8:30 am to Pai and was due to arrive at 11:30 am. WOW- thanks for following that trek of an explanation..kinda feels like you have secondhand exhaustion just by reading about the journey, doesn’t it? Even though I said I would only touch on the travel part itself, I can’t endure 15 hours of travel without at least elaborating just a little:

  • Perks of an overnight bus:
    • It’s super cheap. I traveled about 430 miles for $15..not too shabby.
    • Seriously, it’s SUPER cheap. I slept on the bus, so I didn’t have to worry about paying for accommodation at a hostel or anything that night.
  • Downfalls of an overnight bus:
    • It’s smelly. It is not a pleasant feeling you get when the guy who will be sitting next to you for the next 11 hours plops in his seat accompanied by a less than ideal odor.
    • It is not a five-star resort with a Tempur-Pedic mattress. Obviously, it’s not the most comfortable arrangement. For starters, they blast the air con. But shout out to my Columbia rain jacket (which actually did double duty as the hood helped shield me from the fowl aroma being emitted from the man next to me.) And, as you can imagine, the seats were no memory foam mattress, let alone even a La-Z-boy.
  • Perks of a van to Pai:
    • It was relatively short. The drive only took three hours compared to the 11-hour ride I had just experienced.
  • Downfalls of a van to Pai:
    • The road winds quite a bit. The route had a total of about 762 turns, which doesn’t actually bother me because I don’t get carsick. However, it does begin to concern me when the hungover girl who will be sitting next to me says “Oh god, I’m definitely going to puke during this ride” as she climbs into the van. You’ll (hopefully) be relieved to learn she did not end up projectile vomiting on me.
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Laughing at the fact that they let me rent a motorbike

But not to fret, I had finally made it to Pai, relatively unscathed, with Melissa in tow! So let’s actually talk about that beautiful, mountainous, splendid gem also known to some as “Pai”. As soon as we arrived, we dropped our bags at our hostel, which was a hammock-laced hippie town (trust, this is not a complaint in the slightest — quite the contrary, actually..more on that later). Right from our hostel, we walked down the main street to get to one of the many motorbike rental shops. Through our research (okay..let’s be real..through Melissa’s research), we learned that the best way to explore Pai is by mounting a motorbike to become our own tour guides. So, we were ready to start our engines! Let me tell you a thing or two about driving a scooter around Pai:

  1. It is amazing.
  2. It. Is. AMAZIIIING.

Being able to see the most breathtaking views of majestic mountains as the wind blew through my hair on a secluded back road with the power of an engine at the tips of my fingers was exhilarating. Needless to say, if at some point your life ever brings you to Pai, do yourself a favor and rent a motorbike for a mere 150 baht ($4) a day. Also, let’s all take a second to marvel at the fact that I came out of that weekend without a scratch. (I did come back with quite a few mosquito bites, but the lack of injury after being on a motorbike all weekend is commendable, I must say). On the first night in Pai, Melissa and I found our way to Pai Canyon, a beautiful mass of rocks that doubled as perches on which we sat in awe watching the cotton candy sunset. Following the surreal sunset, we giddily drove our motorbikes back to town where a night market was taking place on the main road. One of the draws of Pai was how wonderfully small the town was. It was very easy to navigate, and we saw many familiar faces throughout the weekend, which gave the little backpacker location a small-town charm type of vibe.

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Unfortunately, this photo doesn’t do it justice.

After enjoying some food from the walking street we headed back to the hostel where we would start our night with some drinks at the hostel’s attached bar. We shared a few drinks and anecdotes with fellow travelers and the hostel workers (yes, you read that correctly, they were drinking on the job..we learned that they literally don’t even have a shift schedule, they just come in when they feel like it and get paid to drink with cool backpackers..they’ve got this job thing figured out) and we headed out to a bar called Edible Jazz. Edible Jazz was the hangout spot of the hippies and Melissa and I completely embraced it. We found the hostel worker who had checked us in earlier that day, befriended his group, and were subsequently inducted into their cool little cult. The token of admission was the application of gold glitter on our eyelids, which Meemer astutely pointed out “elevated us to a new social status”. Soon after the glitter induction, to our surprise, our new friends took the stage as the stars of a fire show wherein they not only tossed around sticks of fire, but also ate said fire. Our new friends were pretty rad, and we instantly felt more popular and nifty by association.

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We found glittery hippie Jeff Miceli!!

The next day was quite similar in the sense that we drove around taking in the scenery from our scooters. Highlights include having Thais stop us to take our picture and having Thai policeman stop us in the middle of the road for a bag check and frisk. Yes, you read both of those correctly. As for the picture, we assumed they were asking for us to take their picture, but we soon learned that two of them wanted to be in a picture WITH us because we’re basically celebrities, apparently. As for the policemen, we smiled and nodded along politely until the in-depth search ended. That night, we hit up our favorite jazz bar again, but this time hung out in the hammocks and swung back and forth enjoying each other’s company with goofy grins plastered on our faces as we marveled at how happy we were in that moment. Unfortunately, I began my journey back to Pathum Thani (my district of Bangkok) early the next morning where I would have to be apart from Melissa for a whole week before we could be reunited again that Friday on the island of Koh Phi Phi. To sum up, Pai was a fantasy land. I loved it, Melissa loved it, the free-spirited hippies love it. The takeaway for me from the weekend was recognizing the difference between tourists and backpackers/travelers. Tourists wear fanny packs and carry maps and stay at five-star resorts and are not as open to letting their destination take them where it may. Backpackers stay at hostels and meet new people and change plans on a whim based on advice from other travelers or new friends they’ve  made. They are laid back and down-to-earth and eager to discover new cultures so they can immerse themselves in said cultures. This is not to say backpackers can’t stay at fancy resorts or that tourists always carry maps, but I’m just trying to create some imagery for an overarching concept, okay?? I’ve noticed both types of people through my travels, and it was so cool getting to meet so many like-minded travelers during my time in the backpacker town of Pai.

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What an absolute life we are living

Koh Phi Phi: The following Friday, I hopped in a taxi right after school to get to the airport in time for my 6:30 pm flight to Krabi where I would stay the night and then take a ferry the next morning to Koh Phi Phi island. It’s me though, so naturally things didn’t go as smoothly as one would assume. I made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare and had nothing to do but relax until my 5:40 boarding time. 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes passed after the posted boarding time and yet nobody had been boarded. With a mere 10 minutes before the flight was originally set to take off and with nobody on the plane, we all began to wonder what in the sam heck was going on. I noticed a fellow farang talking to an airline worker and nonchalantly sauntered up to her after the conversation had ended to inquire about the information she had gleaned. She was told that apparently the new King was also vacationing in Krabi for the holiday weekend so all flights to Krabi were delayed in order for him to fly in. As the time of departure kept being pushed back from 7:30 to 8:30 to 9, I befriended my fellow farang, a native of California who is also an English teacher in Bangkok. We threw back some Chang beers and chatted about the stresses and the perks of being teachers in Thailand as we waited to board the delayed-delayed plane. This new friendship was a great reminder that sometimes when something goes wrong, there is often positive fallout in other ways. Finally, our flight took off at 9:30 and we landed at Krabi airport an hour and a half later where my new friend Tina and I boarded a 30-minute bus that took us to Ao Nang where our hostels were.

Unfortunately, with the delay in my flight, I did not arrive at my hostel until after midnight, and naturally check-in had ended for the night. I arrived at the building to come face-to-face with a locked gate decorated with a small piece of paper telling guests to call their other property if we had arrived after 11 pm. Melissa was on the hostel bar crawl with new friends having fun, so obviously I was not tryna disturb her, and I was determined to figure out how to get into my hostel on my own. I called the number, and of course, the line was busy. After multiple calls and 20 minutes, I finally got through to their other property and he described over the phone how to get in and which room and bed I was in. This check-in process was less than ideal after a long day of teaching and travel, but I had a bed for the night, so I was content. This weekend was extra special because not only was Melissa there, but four other friends from my TEFL program had joined for the weekend. The next morning, we all headed to catch our ferry at 8:30 am and we were on our way to Koh Phi Phi!!

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A super successful jumping photo. Let’s admire the height I got and appreciate that it looks like I’m missing half a leg.

Upon our arrival at Koh Phi Phi, we had a quick turn around time to drop our bags at our hostel and head to the meeting point for our reservation to Bob’s Booze Cruise, the most awesome thing we did that weekend. The cruise lasted from 1-7 and included two sessions of snorkeling in clear blue water, a visit to the monkey cave to feed the little guys bananas, a stop at Maya Bay (home of the infamous scenery featured in the movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio — which I’ll be honest..I’ve never actually seen), and swimming and paddle boarding in a private, isolated lagoon. Oh, and unlimited alcohol, LOL. It was all-inclusive, and we met a lot of really cool people and did a lot of really cool things, so this is another highly recommended activity if your life should ever take you to Phi Phi. That evening we started the night off at the attached bar at our hostel, which is one of the most famous bars on the island as it’s right on the beach. The bar had another fire show (because apparently throwing fire is a super popular job in the entertainment/tourist industry here in Thailand?). I even got to go up on stage and hold the fire stick myself..I know, I’m an adrenaline junkie (although not really because they wouldn’t actually let us twirl it or play with it or anything, what a shame).

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Shout out to Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint for this stunning photo

The next couple days weren’t quite as eventful as snorkeling and monkey-feeding, but still blissful nonetheless. On Sunday, we hiked (when I say hiked, I mean HIKED) up a steeeeep hill to view the island from the Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint, and it was absolutely stunning. We didn’t think it was possible for the island to get more beautiful, but the bird’s-eye view proved us wrong. After this sweat-inducing trek, we essentially spent the rest of the weekend laying out on the beach, and you would hear no complaints from us. Sunday night we traded holding fire for participating in an on-stage group jump rope and limbo session. As you’ve probably gathered, I’m quite keen on getting on stage to do random things like hold fire and jump rope. Unfortunately, come Monday, we had to snap back to reality (at least the teachers..Melissa still had another day in paradise) and return to Bangkok. But at least we had a nice subtle bronze glow to bring with us as a souvenir from the weekend. However, even more unfortunately, that was the last I saw of Melissa as she boarded a plane back to the states a couple days later. But let me just take a moment to say how immensely grateful I am that she came to Thailand to play. It made me so happy to have a little piece of home there with me, especially in the form of a Melissa Bond!!

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Sharelle and I having a jol playing in Bangkok on a Monday night

Pathum Thani: So, this past week back in my little province of Pathum Thani, I’ve become more and more settled into my job and my life on a daily basis. I’m becoming more familiar with each of my studens (my Thai teachers are impressed with how many names I’ve remembered) and I’m becoming closer with my coworkers. So brings us to my upsetting event of the week. As mentioned (much) earlier in this post, my laptop is sick. For those of you who have also experienced laptop troubles, you know how disheartening it is to turn your computer on and see a black screen. As bummed as I was that I had to make the trek to the Apple store in Bangkok on a Monday night to get my computer fixed (and subsequently be computer-less for two weeks), it was actually such a blessing in disguise. I made the journey to the city with my awesome co-worker, Sharelle, and we had an absolute jol* (*keep reading if you want some context for that slang). We wandered around the beautiful Christmas display of golden lights, nutcrackers, ornaments, and reindeer featured in front of the Central Festival mall. Next, we treated ourselves to some German beer and spaetzle and then a drink at a nifty little bar..on a Monday night (what rebels). It was such a wonderful way to get in the holiday spirit and help the week roll by slightly faster. As for Christmas this weekend, I’ll be staying at a generous co-worker’s house who offered to host Christmas. She invited myself and some other co-workers to spend the weekend cooking and swimming and eating and being jolly! So try not to be too sad for me that I’m missing my family  and friends this holiday season because I get to spend it with new friends, which is quite exciting. Also, I received a special holiday care package from Kim and Katie (shout out to those beautiful souls), so I’m definitely feeling the love this holiday season.

So, that’s the full (not totally in-depth) update of my life. And I know this post is getting lengthy (read: got lengthy quite a while ago), but if I don’t tell you all these highly **important** things now, when will I ever?! To wrap up this post, what follows is a quick crash-course in Thai culture observations I’ve made and South African lingo I’ve learned (which is almost just as relevant considering most of my cool co-workers/friends here are South African.

Just Thai things:

  • You must stop, stand, and stay silent whenever you hear the National Anthem come on. It’s actually kinda awesome seeing everything go from chaos to calm in a matter of seconds.
  • Thai second-graders are an indescribable mix of shy and rowdy and affectionate all at the same time, and I’m still trying to crack the code for it. For example, in class they will shout and hoot and holler and make all sorts of ruckus, especially a select few students in particular (which I realize is probably normal for kids in most cultures). But then they will act like the sweetest little angels when they see me outside of class as they run up to talk to me, hug me, and hold my hand. And THEN, when the time comes for one-on-one speaking assessments, they turn into the shyest beings imaginable. Like, it is literally as if I am Medusa and if they dare look at me or even speak to me they will instantly turn into stone. I will ask a question I know they know the answer to and they will respond in a decibel on the same level as a dog whistle, which, unfortunately, my lowly human ears cannot hear.
  • Actually, this dog whistle theory explains a lot though considering the issues with dogs I’ve been having here in Thailand. We’re talking absolutely ungodly howls at 3 am, jolting me (a fairly heavy sleeper) out of my beauty rest. I wish I could imitate this whimper noise for you, but you’ll have to settle for a written description because unfortunately I’m not magic and I cannot make my written words audible. Just know that it’s the noise you would imagine a hybrid of a newborn baby and a hyena would make after being found in the woods by Scar from The Lion King

South African lingo:

  • (Proper) jol: a really fun time
  • Braai: barbecue
  • Shame: that’s so cute/thoughtful/sweet
  • Costume: bathing suit
  • (Quite) nice: delicious, tasty, etc.

Okay, it has been quite a pleasure catching up, but it’s time for me to stop while I’m ahead (if I’m actually still ahead). Hopefully, I’ll be more consistent with my blogging from now on so my posts won’t have to be so long. Next week I leave for a week-long New Year’s trip to Koh Samui (another island..I can’t get enough), so wish me good times and a Happy New Year and I’ll wish you a Happy Holidays as well!

Yours truly,

Hippie Medusa

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