Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai & Bangkok
Day 20 to the end
Once again I forgot to write. Seriously, what is my issue! I’m honestly writing all this after arriving back in America so this portion of my trip will be short and to the point.
Koh Tao --> Koh Samui
We headed off to the final island of the trip, Koh Samui. Here, we rented our own Air BNB, a nice modern house on the top of a remote hill, complete with an infinity pool. Heaven for us girls.
One of the days, Jackie, Lauren and I decided to take a break from Asia and went and saw an American movie, instead. We chose the movie San Andreas Fault with the Rock to watch in the Thai movie theater. A HUGE mistake. Being the only Americans in the theater, we were the only ones who fully understood that the whole film was about California being ripped to shreds by an earthquake. I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep or over exposure to the sun, but all three of us were hysterically sobbing… for the entire movie.
From scene one to the very end, we were balling our eyes out. That movie is pretty scary and watching it in Thailand, where we were both lost and exhausted, did not make it any better. It was hilarious watching us three lose it in the theater while the poor Thai people wondered what on earth was the matter with us.
Then, probably the funniest part of the trip, was when us three went and got massages after the movie. It was so funny because after the massage, Lauren told us that her lady pretty much just petted her while she laid there for an hour. It was a you had to be there typeof thing, but I cry laughing over it even as I type this weeks later.
Another little adventure during this portion of the excursion was when Lauren, Jackie and I almost got mauled by dogs as we walked home from the movie. Yes, we brought this upon ourselves as we chose to walk, up the giant hill to our Air BNB, as the sun went down. I used to consider myself to be pretty street smart until I did this.
You see, dogs in Thailand are trained to be guard dogs that sit outside of each home. So, when people walk by in the dark, naturally these dogs get protective. We’re walking up the hill, with our groceries in our hands, and start to realize we have absolutely no clue which way to go. By this time, it’s getting dark fast and we’re all starting to get nervous. Each house we walk by, different dogs come out and bark at us as we skittishly make our way around them. Mom, here’s where you stop reading.
Then, exactly what we feared would happen, did. We’re walking by one house when all of a sudden a dog comes charging us full speed, teeth bared and growling. Terrified, we huddle together as Jackie screams. Luckily, my survival instincts kicked in and I use the most calming, welcoming voice I have on the dog, while yelling for help at the same time.
Thai people are known for either being extremely nice, or pickpocketing you the moment they get near you. Praise God that the people living in the houses near us as we were getting attacked were the nice versions. Hearing our screams and potentially recognizing the word “help” in English, a group of Thai men came to our rescue and shooed off the dog.
They then had us climb onto the back of their motor bikes and drove us up the hill. Granted, they could have easily detoured to a hidden part of the area and killed us as we so trustingly got on the back of their bikes, but I couldn’t have cared less, that’s how scared of the dogs I was.
They dropped us off and sticking true to the nice end of the Thai spectrum, didn’t let us pay for their help. We were shook up and mad at ourselves for being so dumb. Besides the cab ride to the jungle party, this was the riskiest part of the trip.
Koh Samui --> Chiang Mai
Now for the second reason I came to Asia. The elephants.
We headed to Chiang Mai after the island, which is home to Patara Elephant Camp, an elephant reserve that allows tourists to come and “adopt” an elephant for a day. If you know me, you know elephants are my favorite animals on earth, so I was ecstatic for this part of the trip.
You arrive at the camp and are instructed to put on a thick shirt and pants, because elephants surprisingly have super prickly hairs. After putting on the garb, you sit with your group and learn different commands to say to the elephants and how to feed them. Then, you get paired with your elephant for the day. The way they choose which elephant each person will ride is they observe you and place you with the one that matches your personality the most. I naturally was paired with the youngest of the male elephants, an 11-year-old who was known for being stubborn. I got the hint.
After being paired with them, you spend some time feeding them and getting to know them before finally climbing onto their backs. Once you get to the top of your elephant is when the real fun starts. Obviously elephants are huge, but being on top of one was significantly higher feeling than I had expected. The tour guides take you through a river and up the mountain while you ride on the elephants head (you sit closer to the head both in order to control the elephant more and because it hurts them less than on their backs).
There were a few times where I found my elephant wandering over to the edge of the mountain to eat, while I desperately tried to grab on to its’ ears or anything to hold on to so I wouldn’t fall off. My elephant’s trainer didn’t seem to be phased as he watched me struggle and did nothing to stop it. Tough love. The whole day was incredible.
Besides the elephants, another highlight of Chiang Mai was the cooking class we took. We were bussed to a market where we followed around our cooking teacher as he showed us which ingredients we would be using to later cook our own Thai meals. Then, we continued on to the instructors house, out in the boonies in a Thai field. There, he taught us how to make dishes like Pad Thai and Mango Sticky Rice. It was so much fun and the food, to my surprise, was amazing.
Chiang Mai wasn’t all PG rated though. We met up with the guys from SAE again who were staying in the city the same days we were. We pre-gamed at their place, a huge, clean apartment, which was a welcomed place for us as our hostel was sub par and went out to a popular part of the island where there are five or so bars all in one area. This was super fun and super hazy. I found myself dancing next to the DJ, undoubtedly annoying him with my song requests. I actually liked the nightlife in Chiang Mai more than I even enjoyed the Full Moon Party. There was a lot of dancing and different bars to choose from, so I had a blast.
Chiang Mai --> Chiang Rai
Now for the last city of the trip: sleepy Chiang Rai. This town is about a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai, which we took by bus, pulling over a few times for Paige to vomit after our last night of drinking with the guys. Chiang Rai was quiet and there wasn’t much to do other than see some more temples. It was a place for us all to recharge and for Lauren and I to rest before we flew home.
Chiang Rai --> Bangkok --> LA
Lauren and I left the journey two weeks before the other girls because we had jobs to get back to. So, we left Chiang Rai just us two and headed to Bangkok, where we would fly out of to return back to America.
In Bangkok, we stayed in a nice hotel and planned to “ball out” on our last night in SE Asia. Instead of going to a rooftop hotel and having a nice meal, which is what we intended to do, we found ourselves in a remote part of the city, where literally nothing was. Traveler fail.
We got our nails done as the salon owners son took pictures of us, something I allowed to happen but wasn’t quite sure why. Then, we went to a nearby store and stocked up on the most American food we could find which was… nothing. These people eat imitation crab flavored Lays….. enough said.
After that, we went to the only restaurant near our hotel and I got my last dish of real Thai made pad thai. By now, I was extremely ready to be back in America. And, the breaking point was when a gecko fell onto my head as I walked out of the restaurant. I told Lauren to get me home immediately after that.
We walked home in the dark and I quickly realized that in order to get to our hotel, we’d have to first pass through a group of dogs, which thanks to Koh Samui, I refused to do. So instead, we found a nearby building, which I think was a hostel, and I begged a man to drive us home. He couldn’t understand what I was saying of course, so I kept pretending to be a dog and making a scared face. Whether he got it or not, he still took us home.
That essentially was the end to our trip, minus flying back to Japan and then continuing on to America.
All in all, Southeast Asia was an adventure worth having. Sure, there were quite a few bumps along the way, from my sickness to developing a new fear of dogs, but the things we saw and experiences we had made it all worth it. Southeast Asia, you were the first real travel experience I’ve ever had and now I’m certain I can face any other trip that I may take in the future. Until next time.