Why You Need To Go See Thailand
I have to admit, I love Thailand. The people are warm and inviting, the islands rival the Caribbean, the food is off the charts and everyone loves the King! I was most recently in Thailand back in 2008. We traveled through Bangkok on our way to Koh Samui and to catch the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan.
My first impressions were, it was pretty clean compared to where I had just come from in Hanoi, Vietnam. We decided to splurge since it was the last stop on our trip and was able to get a room in a brand new 5 Star Hotel for about $100. It had an awesome open air pool and spa on one of the roof terraces. I distinctly remember laying on my back in the pool looking up at the Bangkok skyline thinking life was pretty good.
Ok, I admit, I love curries, especially Phanang Curry. From my experience its all pretty much good, whether on the street or in a restaurant, but if your stomach is a little uneasy I would stick to the restaurants as its not that expensive anyways. I recommend you take a Tuk Tuk anywhere…
As far as nightlife goes you have a fair amount of options, I recommend seeing Soi Cowboy, but don’t plan a night around it. There are plenty of great bars and clubs that don’t 100% revolve around ladyboys, although they are pretty much everywhere.
All right, one last confession. I got a tattoo in Bangkok at 4:00 in the morning. I know sounds really reckless and spur of the moment right? Well, in all actuality its not that cool. You see I had wanted a tattoo for a long time, but wanted it to mean something and wanted it to be a good story, so I did some research and found a guy by the name of Jimmy Wong.
Jimmy is Thai and got started tattooing American GI’s in the early 70′s on the border of Thailand and Laos. He is respected by many as the top tattoo artist in Thailand and is a legend in tattoo circles. Here is the interesting thing about Jimmy’s shop. He has no set hours. He runs a tiny little shop approximately the size of a broom closet on Sukhumvit Soi 5(a back alley for all intensive purposes) . He only shows up between the hours of midnight and 5 am, but no guarantees when or even if he will show.
We showed up around midnight hoping to catch him as he arrived. No such luck. We can back at 1:00, nothing and again at 2:00 nothing. Now we had a flight to catch down to Koh Samui at 6:00am so at about 2:15 we swung by one last time and saw him opening the shop.
2 hours later and about 5 Heineken’s later, I had a tattoo on the inside of my right bicep and my buddy had one going down his back. Jimmy is awesome and very welcoming, not to mention has some of the best stories I have ever heard. He usually brings his kids with him and despite the outside appearance is pretty sterile when it comes to the actual tattooing. Check him out if you ever want a real tattoo and a great story. [nggallery id=28]
Koh Samui (Ko Samui)
Koh is Thai for “island” and the island of Samui is Gorgeous. Picturesque beaches and new hotels on Samui make this island a prime tourist spot, but being Thailand, its not overrun. We stayed at a place called the Dara Samui, which was brand new when we got there.
Oddly enough in a country with a large amount of mosquito borne diseases (dengue fever..etc) the hotel had a large water feature running the length of it…..a stagnant water feature? Still processing how that made sense, but the rest of the hotel was gorgeous.
So probably the best part about the beach are the Thai massages. Now don’t let your mind run away with you here, the Thai massage is when the masseuse actually walks on your back in addition to the normal rub down. For about 500-1000 Baht you can get a Thai Massage right on the sand, pretty unreal.
On my 26th birthday my brother took a boat over from the Phi Phi Islands and along with my buddy Fleish we headed up to a place called Q bar at the top of Koh Samui. Highly recommended spot with a 270 degree view of the island. Head up there at sunset and catch one of the best spots for sundowners in all of Thailand. [nggallery id=27]
Koh Phangan (Ko Pha Ngan)
Ok, so half the reason we ended up in the Islands of Thailand on March 22, 2008 was because it was a Full Moon. Now, for those of you who don’t know every full moon on an Island in Thailand called Koh Phanang on a beach called Haad Rin (pronounced: hat rin) Beach.
So every full moon, the speedboats shuttle thousands and thousands of people over to this peninsula shaped beach at the tip of the island. Once there its a mix of a rave, bar scene, fire show, spring break, hippie convention and general melting pot for folks from all over the world coming to experience and in some cases, coming to forget.
It’s definitely something to see and I think the best place to watch the sunset and the beach fill up is high atop the far on the far corner of the beach looking back at the main area. Make the half mile walk and climb up the sketchy walkway to what people call “Magic Mountain,” also referred to as “Mushroom Mountain” due to the specialty cocktails the mix up with local fungi (I have heard they are about 500 baht).
Stay away from hard drugs at this thing, as its know for having a lot unsafe and unsavory side effects and the last thing you want is to show up on the next episode of Locked Up Abroad serving 10 years in a Thai prison. That said, it’s one of those things you should see once and you will definitely never forget a night with friends watching the full moon over The Gulf of Thailand on Haad Rin Beach.
Koh Phangan became popular in the 80′s when the tourists started flooding to Koh Samui. Koh Phangan is a gorgeous island and is said to have been where they filmed a lot of scenes for the movie The Beach with Leonardo Dicapprio.
I would suggest staying for a few days here before or after a look at Koh Samui and get a more relaxed island stay. Also be sure to charter a longboat tour around the surrounding islands. They will take you out in the famous Thai longboats with the long motors on the back and show you all the local islands and the best secluded beaches and dive spots. [nggallery id=29]
Now, don’t get me wrong thre is a lot of Thailand that I did not get to see as i was only there for a short time and I will be going back to update this post.
Places like the Chang Mai region in northern Thailand where the elephants are and of course Phuket and Pattaya are a must see. For some more island hopping I will check out the Phi Phi Islands which my brother said were gorgeous, but all in due time.
If you have ever been or have any recommendations for folks, be sure to leave your comments below.