Vaccinations. The life blood of any basic American, and my comfort zone. My best friend and I got into an argument/passive agressive conversation about this before the trip. She doesn't believe in them, and I believe in ALL of them. It doesn't really matter what you believe when it comes to vaccinations - the point I'm trying to make is: I'm Basic. I got ALL DEM SHOTS. It may have taken me driving through the parking lot four times, on four separate days before actually walking in to get them... but I got em ALL. I was fully prepared by any basic American girls' standard with my bug spray and my TUMS (ALWAYS bring that by the way). The thing of it is, there was no amount of western medicine in this world that was going to prepare me for Thailand because that's just it - Thailand is nothing like home. You know how when you travel you can usually pick out something that will remind you of home and it can become a kind of comfort whenever you're home-sick? Well there's nothing like that in Thailand. Which is exactly why it ended up being my favorite place in the world.
Nakhon Si Thammarat
After flying 30+ hours with Air China (Don't EVER order anything with the word "seafood" in the title while on a plane) and crying on my neighbors shoulder from watching "Still Alice" I made it to beautiful Thailand - A place full of the cutest happiest people you'll ever meet. The thing I loved the very most about this Thailand trip is that I didn't get off the plane and jump on a boat and go straight to an island, or head into Bangkok to see a bunch of temples, or order A Bucket of Booze and start partying up a storm. Instead, we jumped on a hopper flight taking us south of Bangkok to a city called Nakhon Si Thammarat - a place I still think about every day. Nothing about Nakhon is touristy. This is a real city where real Thai people live and work and play - streets bustling with scooters full of entire families - a mom, dad, and two kids in their arms. The smells.... I mean I wouldn't say are the best thing ever... but it becomes part of life after you're there a while, and you eventually can recognize the road side Goi Diow being made, or the smells of fresh curry coming from the back of the restaurants. My favorite sound in the world became the beeping of all the scooters and cars; it's because the beeping wasn't the annoying honking we hear here at home. Road rage is not a thing that exists in Nakhon. Everyone is just trying to get somewhere and they're all working together to get around each other - so the beeping became more of a friendly "excuse me while I cut you off, but we're cool" noise.
We were there in January which is rainy season which also apparantly means flood season. It wasnt too bad when I got there butI was told by my friends few days before that I may not even be able to fly in because the airport was flooded. Part of Nakhon was build on a marsh land so you can imagine what Torrential rain will do to an area like that. A week before i got there, my friends' first floors of their houses were flooded and the water was as high as my chest. You'll laugh when I tell you one of the main things i miss from Nakhon is having to hike-up my skirt and take off my shoes for when we drove through the town on our scooter because some parts of the streets where completely flooded. There were days where it would literally not stop raining for an entire day. and I'm not talking about the baby rain storms we see in California. Imagine you're riding your bike and some obnoxious frat guy stands over you and pours an entire home depot bucket of water on top of your head. Thats honestly what the rain feels like in Thailand. And let me tell you riding on the back of a scooter in traffic while in this frat boy rain is real stressful because you literally cannot see at times. But Again- the thing i miss the most.
We spent two weeks in this cute little city volunteering during the day, and spending all of our break time in search of the best iced coffee. Because yes, something amazing happend, and this basic chick did not have to go without her iced coffee. For some reason, someone somewhere in Thailand must have gone to Europe or Australia and came back and created the best Euro style coffee shops i've ever seen- and I want to meet them and hug them hard. Honestly- there are some coffee shops in Nakhon that I still like more than any cafe i've been to anywhere else.
The rest of the time in Nakhon was spent playing soccer at the local high school, riding barefoot on our scooters down the street for boba and a $6 Thai massage, and sitting in restaurants with groups of 10+ people of all ages drinking 2$ chang and eating the best Pnag Curry i've ever had. In other words we just lived life. We just did normal things with the locals. Grocery shopping at the ( terrifyingly Thai ) local market, and riding way out into the flooded countryside on our scooters just to help our neighbors in need. Life there is simple and happy and easy. There was never a worry or a conversation about money. You just live. You just help people the best way you can and take it day by day. It truly feels like the happiest life to live. You don't even realize how stressed stressed or unhappy you really may be until you've had a taste of a truly simple life, and i feel bad for anyone that doesn't believe me.
Hey guys did you know that when something is called a bus sometimes it is in fact NOT a bus? 6 am came much too early after our fun little Thai party we had had the night before with our boxed wine and our 5 American songs that we had downloaded on my iphone. We all packed one backpack, because thats literally all we could fit on our scooters with us, rode through the painful rain and got to the bus stop in Nakhon. I will from here on out call it a mini-van stop because that my friends is what it was we got into.
A million years later we made it to Trang, a Southern Thai City off of the Andaman coast. Then it was time for the worst ferry ride of life, starting with us almost missing it and running for our lives. Followed closely by sea sickness and being stuck in a terrifying storm, But ending with a very handsome Argentinian boy sitting next to me, whom i then of course.. proceeded to fall in love with. The language barrier was probably for the best. Ko Lipe was one of the most beautiful things i've ever seen, lined with bungalows right on the beach broken up by the most intricate and unique little reggae bars with swing sets as bar stools and Pillows lining the sand with candles surrounding them. The entire beach was lined with Long Tail Boats and happy toothless drivers waiting to rip you off. A surprisingly comforting sight to see after realizing you just almost died off the coast of Malaysia in a capsized boat where the bathroom is a hole in the floor. The first night was full of adventure as we met 150 Swedish people under the age of 25 and taught them way too many American bar games that would destroy their dignity and innocence forever.
Hey so also... Did you guys know that dengue fever does NOT have a vaccination? Well it doesn't. Imagine the look of horror on my face when i heard this news after waking up the next morning to 189 mosquito bites on my legs. How do I know there were 189 bites? Because of the sleepless nights I spent for the next two nights counting them over and over. The next day was spent at the most beautiful beach in the word with no one around except the local beach dogs playing with each other in the water. Usually stray dogs would make me actually want to move to Thailand and save them all but these dogs are surprisingly well taken care of by the locals. The island is pretty tiny so you can probably get around the whole thing within a few days. we walked at least a quarter of it along the water, and finally came up to a beach side restaurant. A word of advice: If no one is eating at a restaurant on a small Thai Island ... its probably not the best idea to eat there. Another word of advice.. if there are Thai men doing construction in their bare feet while you eat... this restaurant is probably not for you. Alas, we ate there anyway. Before i finish the bad part of the story... i Will say that one of the best moments of the entire trip happened after lunch where we got beach side massages under a bungalow while it was raining. Seriously.... SO relaxing. i Recommend it to anyone- and this is coming from a girl that doesn't even really like to relax. Like honestly- my idea of fun is running myself into the ground until i actually fall over dead and you don't see me for three days in a row because I'm lying the darkness of my room with Gossip Girl placing in the background.
The coolest part about the island rain is that you could walk around in nothing but bathing suits and walk all the way home in the pouring rain- and it felt fantastic. The night would have ended amazing with a good ol' meet up with our Swedish friends, followed by some beach swinging at our favorite reggae bar. Instead the scary restaurant crept up on me and I spent the rest of the night in the bungalow alone with my thoughts and my mosquito bites. However I did hear amazing stories about the last night including everything from meeting backpackers who literally just decided not to leave the island for over a month to eating the best roadside pad Thai with their feet in the sand. This Island is like a movie- people come and they never leave, and I can see all the reasons why.
The last day was honestly perfect. It started with the best Acai Bowl of my life, followed by shopping down all the little walking streets for trinkets and clothes ( Just FYI- every Island WILL rip you off and your money is better spent in Bangkok where you can find the same thing ten times cheaper) and snorkeling. Finally ending with a long tail boat ride around the Island. Our boat driver drove us to the other side of the island where we saw pretty much the most picturesque beach i've ever seen, tucked way back into the island with a tiki bar in the tree's, serving mojitos, with tree swings hanging up above. We stopped there for lunch and mojitos and chatted with people that had been staying there for three weeks or more just to relax. It honestly felt like something out of Swiss family Robinson.... if Swiss family Robinson had a bar. We made it back just in time to jump on some pillows with a mojito in hand and watch the sun set.. which is weird cause you cant really see the sun necessarily.. but the colors were beautiful.
Let me just say - thank the lord for two things: Bali Belly Medicane and Thai Pharmacies- you can literally get Tranquilizers from these places. i went in and stocked up on a years worth of different medicines to take care of the bites because literally i was turning into an actual crazy person. So just remember- if you need anything when you're in Thailand- sick or injured, you can walk into any pharmacy and get what you need. Just try to maybe go with someone who speaks Thai so you don't make a horrible mistake. After one more brekkie at our favorite cafe and one million and a half hours of travel, we were back to our home in Nakhon and sadly ready to head to Bangkok.
One Night In Bangkok
Bangkok is crazy man. A busy, crazy, loud, and slightly dirty city where the beeping of the scooters is definitely not as comforting as the beeps in Nakhon. If i could give you any piece of advice for Bangkok i would say definitely really really know where you're going before you get in a cab or even head out of your hotel. Almost every cab driver we had did not know where anything was, and could not read a map. Despite adding at least an hour to every drive we took around the city because of this, we jam packed our 48 hours in this big bangin' city of Bankok the best we could. And where better to start that off than Khao San Road?
Ok so khao san road is like Cancun on Steroids. which is A- cool and B-terrifying. You HAVE to be careful because there aren't any rules and it could be very easy to get caught in a crowd and before you now it... you've lost your group. But if you make sure to stick together through the loud music and bars and crowds in the road, it can be a real good time. It actually ended up being one of my favorite nights between dance parties in the middle of the street and finding an American cover band in an up stairs bar. And of course you know you've had quite a basic blast when you end up leaving with the whole group getting "wolf pack" bracelets.. cause you know.. thats practical and super cool and not embarrassing at all.
I strongly believe that if you're traveling through somewhere with a limited time frame, its completely worth the money to get some kind of a private tour. I found a private tour through the concierge at my hotel. All I had to do was tell my tour guide everything we wanted to do including where and when we wanted to eat and he took care of the rest. There is no way we would have been able to squeeze everything we did into our last day. But with the private tour we were able to visit two temples, get a long tail tour on the river, and make our way to the BEST markets I've ever been to in my life. Everyone has to go to at least one market in Thailand. We originally wanted to make our way to a floating market which i would still suggest because i mean... its a floating market... in Thailand. its kind of a must-do. But thanks to a little place called Khao San Road.. we may have slept in just a tiny bit, and floating markets are kind of an all day event. This is not to take away from the amazingness of the land market we went to because it was amazing.
Walking through this market felt like a black hole. We walked in at 4 pm and the next thing i knew it was 11pm and I was walking out with shirts and shoes and dresses and jewelry and fried bananas and stamped leather and we had even had time for pizza and beer. Yes- pizza and beer- this basic girl was real happy. We got to experience one more 2 hour drive home with a taxi driver who literally had no idea where he was and then ended up back at the hotel only to realize that this chick definitely forgot to book another night. In most people's worlds this would be a horrible thing but good ol' Jos did what she always does and went from not having a room to eating room service in our corner suite. Kind of the best way to end Thailand... with American food.
The next morning we woke up and wanted nothing more than to get to the airport. Don't get me wrong- we loved Thailand but we were kind of hating on Bangkok and we missed Nakhon. So we decided to get to the airport early. We got into the terminal 4 hours early which we Immediatley regretted. But we eventually found a cafe and before we knew it we were drinking coffee, and laughing and looking at pictures for hours.... for too many hours.....
The next thing we knew our names where being called over the loudspeaker with 5 minutes until take off and we were 10 gates away. I literally have never run that fast in my life. But alas, we made it onto a plane full of angry foreigners. And off to Australia we went..
Till Next time 20 somethings..