Spending the holidays with Canadian friends and falling in love with scuba diving!!
On the morning of Dec 20th I arrived back in Bangkok after taking a night train down from Nongkhai, the Laos/Thai border town. From Bangkok I went west for 2.5 hrs to Kanchanburi, where I visited the Tiger Temple for the day. That night once back in Bangkok, Garrett, Ashley, Landon and I took an overnight bus down to Chumphon. From here we caught a morning boat to Koh Tao. Koh Tao is a very small but very beautiful island located in the Gulf of Thailand. Here we took an Open Water Diving course from Dec 21-24 and loved it so much we ended up extending our stay on the island by a day to take the Advanced course. Diving took up most of our time so we didn't do much else but on the evening of Dec 22nd Garrett got down on one knee and proposed to Ashley!! She said yes and we celebrated into the early morning. On the afternoon of Dec 24th we passed our Open Water Diving Course. That evening - Christmas Eve - was the big celebration night on the island. Maura and Sean, two other Canadian friends from Vancouver, were in Thailand celebrating their honeymoon and they met up with us for the evening's festivities. We all had dinner at our resort's restaurant. It was a delicious buffet. After dinner we went to a ladyboy show!! Definitely something I never thought I'd be doing on Christmas Eve! haha. It was quite entertaining. After the show we partied along the beach, bar hopping into the early hours of the morning. Christmas Day was our one free day during our time on Koh Tao and unfortunately it rained We had hoped to actually have a beach day but instead had a chill day wandering around the village. That evening we all went for a nice 4 course sit down Christmas Dinner at a restaurant near the resort. The next morning we had prep work to do for our Advanced Open Water Diving course and that afternoon we did 2 more dives and a night dive. In the morning we did 2 more dives and just like that we were now certified to dive up to 30m deep!!
That afternoon we took a boat over to Koh Phangan where we would be spending the next 6 days. Koh Phangan is famous for its Full Moon Parties. They are all-night beach parties held on Haad Rin beach on the night before, on, and after every full moon. The event draws crowds of about 20,000-30,000 people. New Year's Eve wasn't technically a Full Moon but they still had a Full Moon Party and the parties leading up to the Full Moon were just as big as the actual party. So as you can imagine, most of our time on this island was spent partying. In Ashley's blog she described it as:
Party party party!!! It's a glorious world of buckets, neon paint and lots of debauchery. Every night you have a plethora of parties to choose from. Whether its the pool party down the street, a party on the beach or a chill out time at the Mello Mountain Mushroom Bar. From the minute we got there, music was pouring from the beach and lots of people on the street convincing you to go to their bar over their competitors. It was awesome!
Our accomedations were actually on the other side of Haad Rin, where Sunset Beach is. It's close enough to the party to walk to but far enough away that you could pass out in a hammock without hearing a peep. It was bliss! And walking down the streets, you are not let down by the amount of shops selling anything from clothes, flippy flops, jewelry, to buckets of booze. In a single block you could change your outfit into neon clothes, get decorated in neon paint and pre drink with even wincing. We did this and soon after hit up the parties.
I also got to meet up with a whole bunch of friends from my travels in Vietnam which was wonderful.
Now because we entered Thailand by land we only had a 15 day visa. This meant we had to be out of the country Jan 2nd. So on Dec 30th I spoke to a travel agent on the island and arrange transport by land to Penang, Malaysia for me, Ashley and Garrett (Landon was flying to Hong Kong on Jan 3rd). On January 1st I get a call to go see the travel agent. She informs me that there is flooding in Southern Thailand and the city of Hat Yai can't be passed by land. Not good news for us! From Penang we had planned to take a boat to Medan, Indonesia. We had all already booked flights out of Medan on Jan 11th. So I looked into getting flights from Surat Thani or Phuket to Medan on Jan 2nd but all flights were sold out and none were available for 5 days. Our only option now was to do a visa run to Burma. After that we would head to the island of Phi Phi in the Andaman Sea. We left Koh Phangan at 7am and took a high speed catamaran to Don Sak. From there a bus took us to Surat Thani. Here we would catch our bus to Ranong. The bus ride to Ranong (the Thai border town) was supposed to take 4 hrs. Our bus was supposed to leave Surat Thani at 12:30pm but didn't actually leave until 2:15pm. And thanks to more flooding, our bus had to do a major detour and the 4 hr bus ride ended up taking 10 hrs!! So instead of arriving at 4:30pm and being able to get out of the country on Jan 2nd we arrived at 12:15am with no where to sleep. There were 3 other travelers doing a visa run as well so the 6 us of drove around in a tuk tuk until we found a place that was open, affordable and had room for us. It took a while but eventually we found a room we could all fit in. The next morning the owner of the place we stayed at organized our visa run for a reasonable price. The whole process took about 4hrs. Once back in Thailand we took an evening bus to Phuket, where we stayed the night before catching the morning boat to Phi Phi. Phi Phi island was another beautiful island. There are actually 2 islands - Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Lei. We stayed on Phi Phi Don. While on Phi Phi we scuba dived, took a booze cruise around Phi Phi Lei, took a boat cruise around Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Lei and enjoyed the beach Visa run antics aside, it was an enjoyable extended stay in Thailand.