Splendor to Spew: 10 days in Thailand
We finally made it to Asia! A continent that’s alluded us for 34 years. Well no more. Last month Jess and I travelled to Thailand for 10 days of what’s this place all about? Here’s what we discovered.
We arrived in Bangkok after 15 hours of travel from Wellington. At the airport we cashed up and jumped in a sketchy pink taxi for 90 minutes of stop-and-go traffic to Chinatown.
Our senses were the first to notice. Hot, loud, smelly, crowded – everything we hoped it would be. We dropped our bags at the hotel and set off.
We couldn’t have looked more out of place. Jess in her cocktail attire, me steering us down dead-end alleys, camera and map in hand. It felt like a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. I was certain an ambush was coming – our identities would be on the silk road by midnight.
But the ambush never came. Intimidating at first, the mean streets of Bangkok began to feel manageable. We hit the markets and temples. We bartered with street vendors. We hopped in Mad Max golf carts and zoomed around to Lonely Planet destinations.
Before traveling to Thailand, all everyone said was EAT THE FOOD. Eat everything. Try the fish head soup. Try the fried bugs. Try the asphalt off the ground, so long as there’s satay sauce handy.
Despite these proclamations, I found the food in Chinatown – though cheap and abundant – to be super weird. Piles of uncooked chicken sat out in the blazing sun. Fly-swarmed meat sizzled in woks down deserted alleys. In a world of sanitary scoring, Bangkok’s Chinatown is incomprehensible. Save for the odd mango slice, none of it was familiar. It was a culinary explorers paradise.
At one particularly memorable al fresco dinner, Jess pointed and nodded her order to a no-English chef. When the plate of brown fish arrived, the man next to us began hacking up loogies, something the stray cats didn’t seem to mind. It wasn’t your average dinner at Outback.
I think one of us enjoyed the experience more than the other. 🙂
After two days in Bangkok, we hopped an Air Asia flight to the jungly northern reaches of Chiang Mai. There we met Jess’ long time bestie Erin and Trent, fresh off the plane from Chicago.
A walk around the city revealed a quieter, quirkier Thailand.
Here the street food was Thai to the max. Jess ordered a banana leaf bowl of fresh pad thai for 75 cents.
Everybody rides scooters in Thailand.
On day four, we escaped to Spicy Villa, two hours north of the city.
Our solar powered, no flush, no hot water, open air bungalows were connected by a sitting area where we drank shitty lager and listened to Thai music in the sticky, nowhere-to-be afternoon hours.
Spicy Villa is one of a kind … an eclectic jungle oasis … a far-flung place where world-traveling twenty somethings can gather and enjoy a few days off the grid, living out their Jack Kerouac fantasies. The place screams no-iPhones. Shoes are forbidden. Communal rice wine is passed around in an old water bottle. It’s everything new-gen whitey could ask for.
In the morning we met our elephants and trekked around the jungle for a couple hours. Jess made a special connection with hers.
On day six, we hugged goodbye to Trent and Erin and flew south to Krabi, where we waded into the ocean and climbed onto a long boat for the rock climbing party island of Railay Beach.
We stayed at the Phutawan Resort, a 10 minute walk from the beach. We splurged for this top floor room overlooking a 2,000 foot limestone cliff and the Andaman Sea. Worth every baht!
Jess swam and got massaged while I climbed the limestone. The rock climbing outfit at the resort offered half-day climbs for $20.
It was my favorite day of the trip.
After the climb, we strolled down to the beach and set up shop. The sunset was an Instagram dream come true!
Phi Phi Island
Saving the best for last, we ferried 90 minutes to our last stop, Phi Phi Island.
Here we met up again with Trent and Erin, who had stayed in Chiang Mai for a few extra days. Jess and I dined near the pier while we waited for them to arrive.
At this glorious moment, Jess got nauseous. We thought it was motion sickness, but the feeling persisted.
On our boat ride to the resort, I laughed at her misfortune from the bow.
As we drifted toward the resort, I jumped out and swam. I couldn’t contain my excitement … three days of snorkelling, climbing and exploring this remote island … come on!
And then it hit me too. The moment we arrived in paradise, Jess and I were both smashed with two days of food poisoning. Confined to our bungalow, we took turns on the toilet. We couldn’t hold anything down. At night I left our room in search of food. All I could forage was a red pepper which I stole from the restaurant. A few bites each and it was instant karma projectile vomit. Hell would have been a lateral move.
But we eventually came right and soaked up the 100 degree temps.
Despite our gastropacolypse, traveling with Erin and Trent was great. In a world of we totally should some day, we made it happen. An eye-opening trip which at some point was relaxing, frenetic, delicious, horrendous, sexy, filthy, luxurious, sticky, and most often, good fun.