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Thailand

    After getting my fill of big city Bangkok, I took a bus down the Thai peninsula and then a boat to Koh Samui. This is the largest of the three islands in the gulf of Thailand and for the first time I traveled with all backpackers, it made me feel very touristy. 
    Koh Samui was nice; it had some great beaches and nice little towns. I rented a scooter to look around since my hostel was in the middle of nowhere. I rented it without realizing I had never driven one before. I had been on the back of a lot of scooters in Spain and even on this island but didn’t realize I had no idea how to turn it on or make it go! Turns out its pretty easy, kind of felt like I was on a jet ski on the road. But in Thailand they drive on the left side so this was another difficulty!
 I didn’t stay long here because I was on my way to the next island for the full moon party….
  The next day I took a boat to Koh Phagnan while watching dolphins play in the water. I stayed in Haad Rin which feels like a town for spring break with so many young people just there for the party. It was lots of fun but felt like any spring break beach.
Full Moon Party!
It’s weird that people flock here for one night in every month because they dont acknowledge the moon at all. You could party just as crazy every other night, and yet a few days after that date the town is deserted.  The beach was jammed full of young backpackers and Thai people selling buckets of booze or twirling fire. A popular thing to do is skip rope of fire, but not too many people get out without burns! Tons of people were covered in bandages the next day. 
    My hostel was interesting too, consisting of a single room crammed with 18 beds above a bar where you get one free bucket a day. The lady was scared of immigration getting her in trouble so she wanted us to lock the door at all times even if we were inside dying of heat since there is no air conditioning (I went to a cheaper place on my last night where they did not even bother giving me a key since they said people just lose them!). The hostel lady also came out to party with us.
It is silly to think you will be able to sleep during the night, as the music radiates through the town (which I found helpful after getting lost in the streets) so you just dance until the sun comes up – you will love it Kiel!!
A few days here was plenty for me and I am glad to be moving on to some more scenic places.
I was meant to do a day trip to Koh Tao but the waters were too rough because of monsoon season. So I joined a small boat touring Koh Phagnan for the day. It was alright but rained off and on all day. I didn’t notice the name of the tour was “Munchies” which made sense after our tour guide passed around his bamboo bong!
I left Koh Phagnan for Krabi on the other side of the Thai peninsula. I went straight (overnight boat – 6 hour bus – 2 hour boat) to Railay Beach which is a really small resort area that has similar limestone formations to Yangshuo in China, although these protruding shapes are set among gorgeous beaches and turquoise waters.
Among all the backpackers sitting with colour-coded stickers on their shirts, which correspond to their destination islands from Krabi, only one other person was going to Railay Beach. He was also from Toronto! And since I didn’t know where I was staying yet, I tagged along with him as he met up with friends that were already there. This is how I found my accommodations and friends for the remainder of my trip!  So I hung out with these three Canadians for the next few days in Railay. Not too much of a party scene here, more of a honeymooners spot but gorgeous beaches and stunning hikes.
I continued traveling with them to Koh Phi Phi a few days later. This is the island that everyone is told to visit, mostly because it was the location of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach. I didn’t see what made it so much better than every other island I had seen so far, the beach was full of bars that you can dance til dawn and the streets are jammed full of backpackers and Muey Thai boxing flyers. There was a fun bar here that had a boxing ring in the centre and encouraged people to try Thai boxing with another tourist for free buckets of booze! This was very entertaining since most people were wasted by the time they went up.
The beach on Koh Phi Phi was unimpressive compared to the others, but the food was cheap and one bar even served fries, cheese and gravy – but I wouldn’t call it poutine!
We booked a day trip to the island that The Beach filmed. Our long boat crashed through massive waves and we all got soaked before arriving to any of our stops, but we were just relieved to make it in such a little boat! One of our tour stops was monkey island, where monkeys seem to live off of tourists feeding the pepsi and chips… sad but cute. We also stopped in a nice cove that was clear water to go swimming and snorkeling.
I am getting much better at staying calm in open salt waters but snorkeling with so many fish was still frightening! These were funny shapes as well as bright colours and they swam in huge schools, I didn’t last too long down there!  When we finally made it to The Beach, it clouded over and we were in a stormy bay when told to jump off and swim 200 meters to a rope net and hopefully not get thrown into the rock face by the turbulent waves! If you make it there then you climb up the net and over the rocks and through the jungle which opens up to Maya Bay where the movie was filmed. I was fine but I felt bad for the people who couldn’t swim! And they told us to stay here for hours when we couldn’t bring anything we could t swim with – no towels, games, snacks or anything you usually do on the beach!  Nevertheless it was spectacular and the sand was so fine that the wind blew it until it stung your skin, so we stayed in the crystal clear water!
That night we went to a bar that was showing the movie The Beach and I was so glad that I had already made the trip after watching the shark attacks!
We also met two German girls on our tour that we ended up going out with and went to Phuket with a few days later. There are so many backpackers here that soon enough you run into people going the same route as you are! The Canadian boys left the next day and the german girls just assumed I would continue traveling with them, as we both had a flight up north already booked for the same day… so that night we all shared a king size bed for about 1.50 each!
These girls were lots of fun, we rented scooters again and visited waterfalls and buddahs while stopping on the side of the road for tasty treats! The few days that we were in Phuket, the election was being held and they banned booze everywhere – except for the convenience store next to our hostel…. So as we walked around the streets with our bottles of chang beer everyone came up and talked to us asking were we had found them!
 

Ooo yes and the Thai Massage, this picture reminds me of…. I think I got a total of 5 hours of massages… not sure why…. They are really hit or miss, sometimes I burst out laughing because I cant believe what way they are trying to bend me or I am holding back the shrieks of pain as they press their entire body weight on a single bone. Either way it is entertaining… and at last I finally figured out what my mother was doing, always waking me up with a sharp elbow in the back… if only she had told me she was a Thai masseuse!
The german girls and I headed to Chiang Mai next, this was my favorite place in Thailand, and Im told I didn’t even make it to the good parts… but this city had tons of tours, focused more on culture and history than beaches and partying. It was much cheaper than in the south and the people are friendlier.
One day we drove our scooters up this mountain to get to a temple but found a biker along the way that looked pretty tired. So the german girls told him to get on my bike since I had an extra spot! He was little but I was still feeling wobbly, he was a nice guy from England and we ended up spending a few days with him visiting snake shows and tiger farms. The Tiger Kingdom made all my dreams come true!! I got to play with baby tiger cubs and they fell asleep on my lap, then I went to the big tiger cages where the trainers dangled palm leaves for the tigers to play with and jump through the water. I got to pet the adult tigers and bite their tails and lie down with them and hug them!! They were really pretty and soft, big claws and teeth though. They are kept in an electric fence and not fed any uncooked meat so growing up in these compounds they are used to having visitors, which is good considering the trainers only have a stick for defense. The tigers were just like big housecats playing and napping, I wanted to take one home!
 
I also went on an overnight trek to a hilltop village, after riding elephants for part of the way we hiked in the rain through the mud to the top, to be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the mountains. My group, about ten of us stayed in a cabin among the locals for the night, then hiked down the next day to go white water rafting down the river and then bamboo rafting down the softer part – all this for 20$!! The german girls also convinced me to go ziplining through the trees which was very scary!
I would have loved to stay in Chiang Mai, the markets were awesome and there were even ads in the hostels for volunteer and paid jobs that tempted me, but for some reason I had an urge to go home (family, boyfriend and reality) and before I knew it I was on a plane back in time for the Stampede. In hindsight I should have listened to the Buddhist fortune I received at the temple that told me I “should not to go”…. But I still have lots of time and hopefully a little more money soon to go back and get lost!! 

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