Friends and family unite! Thailand was going to be different to all the rest because, not only was it a different country, but we would also receive the most welcome of company throughout. Our first interesting sight was a monk at Bangkok airport at 6am. This wasn’t interesting in itself (we have seen many a monk), but it was the two people on their knees in the prayer position at his feet, while he was in Starbucks trying to enjoy his morning brew. It must be tough being a man of Buddha all the time. I felt that he just wanted to enjoy his morning coffee in peace, in the wonderfully fair, customer first, tax-paying Starbucks, but was called into duty to do Buddha’s work instead.
We made our way through the airport, and there she was, Kelly! When people saw the three of us together, they could only have been comparing us to The Supremes. It was a whirlwind decision for Kelly to come out and meet us, having booked the flights a week or so before coming, so a pleasantly late surprise for all. In the cab on the way to our hostel, we noticed a lot of people doing their morning exercises. Well, I say exercises, but it seemed more like a casual swing of the arms and flick of the leg in any available park space. Seeing someone on a run in their slippers topped it all. 2016 Olympics, here Thailand comes!
We got to our hostel and were welcomed by another friend, Craig! After three hours, we stopped embracing and drank some juices together, because we’re lads. Our group had grown by one, so we had to advance from The Supremes. We decided we were ABBA. We visited the big tourist strip called Khaosan Road where Craig and I ate fried scorpion. To be honest, it looked scary, but there wasn’t much of a taste, just a deep fried crunch. Box ticked though. As we soaked in a musical atmosphere of house music and Ed Sheeran wannabes, we had a thousand menus shoved in our faces, we were repeatedly approached by men asking us to go and see a Ping Pong show by making the sound of a ping pong ball coming out of a vagina, which was lovely.
The next day was dedicated to exploring. We headed to the Grand Palace, but when we discovered it was a tenner to get in, and with a lady screaming through a megaphone at people three yards from her, turning them away for their inappropriate clothing, we decided to give it a miss. Next door, however, was Wat Pho. We have visited ALOT of temples on our travels, but this one took the top spot. Wat Pho houses the reclining Buddha; a gigantic Buddha lying down in a building. It was very impressive.
Cruising on the river.
The Pagodas at Wat Pho.
Inside one of the many temples in Wat Pho.
Ednora being Buddha.
Big pots full of change next to the Reclining Buddha. It seemed you offered a penny to each pot.
Gigantic reclining Buddha.
Stunning artwork surrounding the Buddha.
Just taking a chill pill in some shade.
Me standing next to a roundabout.
We didn’t want to pay a tenner to get into the Royal Palace, so this is the best picture you’re getting. Deal with it.
This girl and her little mate do a cool jingle to sell this juice. The jingle was far better than the juice.
Tuk tuking around Bangkok, having a truly wonderful time.
The Bangkok National Museum.
Craig looking like a creep.
That evening we headed to the Rajadamnern Stadium to check out some Muay Thai Boxing! We got the cheapest tickets possible because we wanted to rough it up in the clouds with the lads who gamble. We got to the gambling bit and it all looked brilliantly chaotic, but the Thai gents pointed to a sign which said ‘foreigners’, and an arrow. We had been rejected due to our non-Thai features. We sat in the foreigners section, which actually gave an excellent view of the boxers, and the huge cluster of fans wagering on every fight. It was difficult to know who was more fascinating to watch, but all in all, an excellent experience. Craig and I had a beer. Proper lads.
The boxing stadium. They are all the gamblers.
We wanted to continue our Thai education with a visit to the Bangkok museum. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much information, only a million statues of Buddha, so not much to learn. The main thing I learnt from the experience was that the Thai people love to carve depictions of Buddha out of stone. There was Buddha making a footprint, Buddha walking, Buddha subduing, Buddha getting crowned, Buddha standing and dispelling fear, Buddha stopping the flood. It was like a Buddha photoshoot. Oh, we did learn that Buddha’s dad is called Suddhodana. The two other pieces of information I managed to dig out was that King Pinklao, a celebrated king, had 58 kids, 29 sons and 29 daughters, but he died at 58 years old. No wonder! Also, there was the drum of justice. If a local had beef (issues) with another homie (neighbourly folk), they could take up their beef (refer to first brackets) with the king (gaffer) by banging the drum. I’m sure the king had bigger fish to fry (problems to manage), however. Nice idea, but must have regretted it when it went off ten times a day.
The drum used for anyone with beef (issues).
That night we went for dinner in Chinatown.
Our next escapade was to Chiang Mai. After a leg massage in Bangkok where the lady used this pencil thing on my feet, which was extremely painful, but weirdly satisfying once over, we flew north. We got to Bangkok Airport where we met up with Tia and Nico! We weren’t a small gang anymore as our numbers had reached an impressive six, so ABBA was out. Our number was getting out of control, so the only comparison I could make to our legendary crew, was Blazin’ Squad. We arrived at our hostel, and just as we had settled in, Tia threw something towards Craig, missed her target, and instead hit a stranger relaxing in his bed. Tia was officially in Thailand, lock your doors. We went out for dinner and a few drinks, then heard about a bar around the corner. We got there and it wasn’t a bar at all, but a full blown foam party nightclub dancing building. We embraced it, particularly Nico, who enjoyed a happy hour pizza under the bubbles. We finished up around 3am when the foam turned into water, and all of Justin Bieber’s songs had been exhausted.
The room in which Tia injured a fellow backpacker with a missile.
The perfect way to shake off a hangover was to visit the Chiang Mai National Museum:
In one of the Buddhist Scriptures, the 29th scroll suggests that the world will end in 5000 years if, A) monks no longer followed the noble truth, B) the monks got bored, C) the monks didn’t practise, D) the monks lost etiquette, E) there were no more sacred relics. Well for point E, be rest assured, there’s no chance of that happening, there are millions.
The first ever Buddha was called Buddha Tanhankara.
Chiang Mai became the center of the Lanna Kingdom in 1296. Rishi Wasuthep built the city and asked Queen Cham Devi to rule it. She did so by bringing 500 monks with her – the squad.
We then went for lunch at a little place called ‘Best Pad Thai’. ‘No,’ we thought/said to each other, ‘there’s no way this can be the best Pad Thai.’ ‘It’s lies, sick, sick lies,’ I added in my head. We sat down to eat. It was the best Pad Thai ever. The restaurant didn’t lie. For dinner, it was to the market. To take in the wonderful scenery, Nico, Craig and I tackled a crossword.
The next day was a day to face fears. We headed over to the Grand Canyon. Now, fair reader, I know exactly what you’re thinking. Of course it isn’t the Grand Canyon in The America. Alas, this Grand Canyon is named so similar, that some say it is the same name. It was pretty much a huge man-made reservoir which had been filled in with water, and there were some spots where you could jump off. We all managed to do it, apart from Tia (yep, I’m calling you out mate). And, after about four days of convincing, Kelly finally jumped to a rather large audience, kindly egging her on.
The Grand Canyon (no, not that one, fair reader).
Lathering up before the big jump.
Right at this moment, I really didn’t want to jump. Nico said he only jumped because he had to. Look at how tense his body is. I believe at this point, he questioned why he came on holiday, and that a crossword and ham and cheese toastie would be far more appealing. Why did we do this to ourselves?
Check out my jumping technique. Pathetic.
3 minutes and 44 seconds later, we hit the water.
We didn’t die.
This picture was taken 27 minutes into Kelly deciding whether to jump or not. She was at the ‘flip flops still on’ stage, so we had a while to go.
The Canyon Conquerers (except Tia, Tia didn’t jump).
Doi Inthanon was our next destination. This National Park had loads of waterfalls, and if you ever googled Chiang Mai, we visited the huge pagodas in the pictures. This place was like the Chelsea Flower show, but with two beastly buildings placed in the middle. We checked out a few waterfalls, and at some of them we were the only people there. Bliss. Our final waterfall had a huge drop to it which meant we could swim underneath it. Swimming underneath a waterfall was a fantastic experience, and after about four days of convincing, Kelly finally came under the waterfall to a rather large audience, kindly egging her on.
Monk day trip.
Truly glorious views.
Heading up to the Pagodas.
Ednora, lost, alone.
This was my trail.
Look at how silly we look, with those hats on too, so, so silly.
It was time to see some waterfalls, and Nico was ready.
At the top of the second waterfall.
The waterfall we could swim behind.
Craig then decided that during our night camping, he wanted to drink wine and eat cheese. We followed his lead, and after a bit of hunting, found wine (a 3 litre bottle) and cheese (Dairylea and processed cheese), then headed back to the campsite, got completely drunk, and Craig fell asleep completely intoxicated half way through a game of cards. Job done.
It was Thai New Year! Or better known as Songkran, a big water festival all over the country. No matter where you go, you can’t escape getting soaked, including inside tuk tuks. Luckily, the 40° heat dries you out pretty fast.
Craig nursing his baby for the night.
Preparing the feast.
I’m still not sure why we needed a fire for cheese and wine, and in 30 degree heat, but hey ho.
The campsite which we had to ourselves.
We headed to Surat Thani on a sleeper train, which was actually quite comfy, then took a bus to the nearest National Park in Surat Thani. I was sat next to a Thai man on holiday who was a lovely guy, but every now and again, proceeded to do a full stretch off and work out in his seat, as if he was warming up for a big match or something. He was also a fan of resting his hand on my leg every time he had something to say to me. Mates. At our cabin, there was a river nearby which we swam in. As Nico and I relaxed in the water, the Albanians and Kelly managed to get told off for trying to steal a coconut.
The morning after the night before.
Just a lady washing her hair where we were having our breakfast.
The river we relaxed in.
Our first island was Koh Samui and the first port of call was to rent a car. It was a jeep and didn’t really have brakes. They were so bad that we had to put bricks under the wheels when we parked it. We explored the island and saw the mummified monk, which was, a mummified monk (as requested by the monk to have it done to him). We checked out two waterfalls, which were great. That night, as we sat down to eat at a restaurant, the power cut out, so it was dinner by candlelight, which was romantic. I knew I was holding someone’s hand during the meal, I just hope it was Nico’s. We bid farewell to Kelly in Koh Samui, a leader among us, to take charge of England while we were away. We were down to five people (with Craig waiting for us in Koh Tao). We were Hear’Say. The next day, Nico and I played volleyball with some old German geezers, and then we formed a team against some Thai lads. A Belarusian joined our team who took his serves very seriously. There was certainly the Rafa Nadals about him. He even went as far as blowing on the ball for luck. Lovely chest though.
We had another added to the group! Another Qerimi was to join us in the shape of Sid. She arrived at the hostel and was instantly on the sniff for a Chang beer. The dynamics had changed again; we were now G-Unit. She was here for four days, and she had one item on the agenda, to get pissed. This was a dangerous concoction, three Qerimis and cheap booze. It was a drunken night but the most bizarre thing I witnessed was a lady getting a head massage right outside the men’s toilet in a club. How is that relaxing?
We shifted our hungover butts to the more chilled out island of Koh Tao. Craig had gone solo and headed there earlier than us, so we were once again reunited with the Sotonian (slang for a person from Southampton, according to Urban Dictionary). We had a day of snorkelling on Koh Tao where we were to go to five different locations. At the first spot, Craig and I went off on our own and were diving in off this rock, then I definitely lost my snorkel gear. There they were, sitting on a rock just off the sea bed, agonisingly close, but a little too far to get to, unless you’re Craig. After a few attempts by both of us, Craig ‘Merman’ Raddon saved the day and salvaged the goggles. I would have kissed him had it not been for the fact he kept swimming away from me. At the penultimate spot, I swam through a narrow path and cut my hands and feet on the surrounding rock. I didn’t want to mention it, avid reader, but I lost, at minimum, 0.11% of all my blood. Minimum. Just think about that next time you’re sitting there, not losing blood. That evening, we played some beer pong and yes, I still managed to fight on, even with my injuries. I learnt that Sid is probably the worst player I’ve ever played against. I’m not sure she hit the table once, let alone a cup. We said farewell to Craig in Koh Tao as he headed off to Cambodia. My brother in arms, lost in the midst of time. We will see each other once again, Merman, one fine day. We were 5ive.
The next day was another filled with sadness, we were to bid farewell to Sid, after having her for a whirlwind four days. She had gotten drunk, played beer pong awfully, and kicked Nico in the head. It was fair to say we were all going to miss her. The band was breaking up, which meant we were now down to four, we were B*witched.
Sid being bezzies with Nico…
…then kicking him in the head.
They’ve got each others’ backs.
What a strapping boy.
It had been a wonderful adventure thus far, but, alas, so much more to come. Stay tuned for part two of the Thailand adventure.