Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Tale of Two Islands, Part 1: Bring on the Buckets!

Recess break at last! An entire week off from school to relax and see more of southeast Asia.

Our journey begins at 4:30 A.M. MYT on Saturday, September 18th. After taxiing over to the airport, we get checked in an took care of other mundane activities. To our delight, some friends of ours from NUS, were also there on their way to Cambodia and Vietnam. Why am I telling you this? Well because I thought it was pretty funny that one of our buds in particular was still "under the influence" from the previous night. This made for an interesting conversation on my end and I'm sure an even more amusing plane ride for him. An already humorous beginning to our travels. We said our goodbyes to the other group of NUS students and wished each other a good time on our respective vacations, then headed for the gate.

The flight took off at 6:40 A.M. and in a flash (the flight was only ninety minutes) we were at the Krabi-Phi Phi Airport in Thailand. Exhausted and all, we continued our trek to our first destination, Ko Phi Phi. To get from the airport to the docks, we took a songthaew like the one to the right here, which is pretty much a small truck with two benches in the back. It is an optimal setup for the locals to squeeze as many tourists as possible into these things. Not really having grasped the third-world country part of Thailand yet, this initially came off to me as very sketchy. We still hopped on back and ten minutes later we found ourselves at the ferry that would take us across the Andaman Sea.

The three of us boarded the overcrowded vessel and took refuge on the bow of the ship without any seats or cover from the sun. I somehow managed to fall asleep while getting pretty badly sunburned and using my overstuffed backpack as a pillow. It didn't matter though, for when I woke up, there stood before me one of the most stunning visuals I have ever laid my eyes on. It was an incredible sight to see crystal blue waters, white beaches, and eye-soaring mountains. The scene looked like it was straight out of a movie (partially because it was). We came into shore, got settled with accommodation, and headed for the beach. It was satisfying to have survived traveling under the cloak of night and now sit on such a marvelous beach by mid-day. The soft sand, clear waters, surrounding landscape that seemed to have an infinite amount of foliage, all while not being crowded with too many other tourists. It was a moment that I surely will never let escape from my memory bank.

Shortly after laying out by the water, a guy was walking around with a monkey for people to take pictures with. The monkey, named Peter, was a funny little guy dressed up from head to toe. I had to the seize the opportunity. As the man approached us, Peter almost immediately jumped onto my shoulder and started making some screeching noises, which kind of got me worried since I had no idea what he wanted. Well I lived to tell the story and here's the picture to prove it:

Later, we caught up with other NUS students on the island. Together we climbed to one of the highest points on Koh Phi Phi to the Viewpoint to catch what would be a spectacular sunset. Overlooking the beach to the our right and the docks on our left with the orange and red skies all around, we sat and watched the sun settle in the west. No words could do justice to what I saw that afternoon, definitely check out my pictures of Flickr to see exactly what I'm talking about (you can find them at the top right portion of the page).

Following our hike, we took a dip in the warm waters surrounding Ko Phi Phi to mellow out before the night's festivities that were to come. I believe I have written in this blog before about the lack of of food variety in Singapore; no such issue in Thailand. For the first time since leaving America, I was enjoying Mexican food. How good it felt to finally take a break from Chinese food and have a burrito! In addition, they have pretty much had anything one would ever want on the island: Thai food, Italian, American, Chinese, etc.

After dinner, it was time for a Thai massage to loosen up from what had already been a very long day. Relieving as it was, one would definitely find it to be one of the more aggressive types of massages considering the number of times they were practically just punching you in the back. Still well worth the 200 baht (approximately $6.66).

Not too long after the massage, I found myself in an Irish Pub conversing, playing pool, and having a few drinks with friends. Let me pause for a moment and tell you about how drinks are served in Koh Phi Phi. Remember the pail and shovel you had when you were building sand castles on the beach as a kid? Throw out that shovel and pick up the pail because on this island you get buckets filled up with any alcoholic beverage from Mai Thais to Mojitos.

But back to the story. We then left the pub as a decently sized group to go across the road to the infamous Reggae Bar. Known for its boxing ring, Reggae Bar holds mock Muay Thai fights as well as real fights between tourists. To anybody that dares to get in the ring, they get a free bucket for the entertainment they provide to others. Even with such an offer on the table, I still felt no part of me that wanted to do it so I stayed outside the ropes. We watched a few different fights between NUS students. It was a lot of fun to watch considering no one really knew what they were doing and everyone had already had a bit to drink. A dangerous yet entertaining combination for all to see. I have a few videos (still trying to find some more) of the fights on my YouTube account here: http://www.youtube.com/user/airmcnair8643

The fighting came to a conclusion and we moved on to the beach parties that included multiple DJs patrolling different beach bars and many tourists from all over the world. Everyone ended up just hopping from one place to the next before settling down at the 24 hour bar, Stones. Our large group of NUS students hung out there well into the night before people decided to go to sleep. The original three of us who came to Koh Phi Phi together just decided to sleep on the beach in part due to laziness and our accommodation not being so close to where we were. And that was just day 1...

I woke up the next day to a bunch of Thais banging on bongos singing songs at 7:00 A.M. I still had no clue what they were doing up, let alone making such a raucous. I woke the other two people I was with and commenced with the day's activities. We began our day by changing the place we were staying so as to be more centrally located to the beaches and nightlife on the island. Then it was back to the beach, where I did some physics studying and enjoyed the clear waters of Koh Phi Phi.

That night, there was a triple-header of English Premiership games going on. This was a real treat first as a fan of Chelsea FC to see my team play as well as watch football/soccer with people from all parts of the globe, but mainly the United Kingdom. We saw a few games over dinner and drinks before it was time to head back to the beach, again.

However, three of us in particular were feeling spontaneous and had other plans in store prior to the beach parties...

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