Koh Phangan pt 2 & the beginning of the end

So the black moon party. Well Koh Phangan is famous for its crazy beach parties and black moon is the smallest of these. We got dressed and managed to get some neon crayons with which I created some very artistic sleeves for the others. The drinks were flowing at the hostel and eventually we all piled into a red taxi to go the great distance of ooh 500 metres. We had to pay 600 baht to get in (about £7) and seemed relatively expensive for Thailand but the ticket included a drink. Despite being told that this would be a more local affair, the queue and the rest of the night seemed to mostly consist of farangs (foreigners).

There were several food stalls set up just past the entrance and as we  walked towards the beach you could see the neon decorations, large lamps and hangings glowing. There was a stage and large dance area where the rest of continental Europe were enjoying the psy trance. We opted to watch the fire shows, which at one point had a skipping rope on fire which lots of boys were trying to skip with. No one got hurt but it looked terrifying!

I got into a debate with some random German guy about the economy- lol clearly I hadn’t drank enough! But moments later I was to discover the potentcy of Samg Song- which was whisky and not rum as I had thought.

We danced and nearly lost our shoes more than once; lost various members of our group; had random conversations with strangers on the beach; watched the interpretive dance show being put on at the edge of the waves by some intoxicated man. Eventually around 5am we decided to head back to the hostel. Calling in seven 11 for ham and cheese toasties and water.

The following morning fran had to leave at 10 to continue her travels. So tired and hungover we said goodbye. However I was saved from despondency by a fellow brit Charlie who suggested we went to Haad Rin beach. If I had know how steep the hills and corners were to get there I would have said no! But I survived the journey and the beach was pretty enough to revive me. We hung out on the beach with new friends, played volleyball and lounged.

Heading to the food court that evening we found the way blocked off. But instead there was a night walking market and I set about spending my cash and loading up on gifts for home whilst trying out different street food.

Finally time to call it a day, we went for a drink in a really cool bar called the white rabbit. Mine of course was a pina colada!

It was nearing to the end of my time in Koh Phangan. I knew the next day would be my last and I had to get my ferry tickets sorted in order to get back to the mainland for my flight back to Bangkok. I would spend one last night and a day there before flying home. I booked myself a nice hotel room after all my sharing and readied myself to get everything packed up for the last time.

Advertisements

Island life – Koh Samui and Koh Phangan pt 1

image

Singapore slings at the night market

So I decided to leave the calm and relative coolness of Chiang Mai for the pleasures of the south, namely the islands above and the beach.

I had a very long journey to Koh Samui- a flight, coach ride and ferry all before I landed on the island. Some of you may have read elsewhere of my arrival at a pretty poorly run hostel. However, my time in Koh Samui was saved by meeting fellow traveller Fran. She took me to the beach- which was gorgeous and we spent the day in the sea and soaking up the sun.

Our days became a routine of beach and going out at night. We had a sweaty, shot fuelled evening at hush bar where we danced the night away to old r’n’b. There are some amusing pictures of me dancing with the Thai drinks promoter holding a large sign for sleazy named shots! We also had a much more chilled evening at lipsmackers bar on the beach, a background of cheesy reggae as we drank pina colada’s. I also got to send off a paper lantern into the sky with a wish and later there was a firework display. In all after my rough start, I had a lovely few days.

As I don’t ride a scooter (which everyone does in Thailand, including tourists sometimes with bad results) I was limited in getting around the island, so on my third day I took a whistle stop tour. It was ok. The highlight was the last stop where there were huge statues of different Buddhist figures alongside temples floating above the water.

My plan was always to do at least two islands and my next stop was to be party island Koh Phangan. I won’t bore you with the mix up that meant we had to wait for 4 hours before we got picked up but after a short ferry trip we were there.

image

Leaving koh Samui behind on the ferry

We took motorcycle taxis to our hostel feeling daring as we did so. I have taken them in Kenya but was still apprehensive about it and not wearing a helmet. Oh if only I had know how much more often this would be happening! We arrived at the hostel, dropped our  bags and headed out.

It was dusk as we walked along a short path near the hostel and already being on Koh Phangan seemed like such a good choice. The wide expanse of navy blue sky and charcoal sea felt a million miles from the bustle of Koh Samui. We went for a meal beside the sea sitting under the stars. I spent a good proportion of it trying to capture the lightening on the other side of the harbour unsuccessfully! After the requisite stop at the omnipresent seven 11 we shopped for black moon party clothes but decided to buy the next day.

The next morning I talked fran into having a scooter lesson with me. I unfortunately can not go slow and so had to forgo the freedom of having a bike. Fran was much better but decided that she’d rather practice later. We got our bikinis on and headed for the beach. The latter was a bit disappointing- it was pebbly and you needed to wade out for ages to get deep. However, we found two sun loungers and a pool in an isolated spot so it felt as if it was just there for us both. We whiled away our time taking pics and soaking ourselves in the clear but bath warm water. I also gathered some shells for my collection.

Later we went to the food court which had a great array of foods including one stall that had insects. I didn’t try any but the others did. We eventually headed back for this was the night of the black moon party and we were expecting to be partying til the dawn.

Meditation at Doi Suthep

image

The view from my room at the centre

image

The small temple where we could practice meditation

image

Me being amused at the cat advertising the loo roll. This amusement wasn't to last long!

image

image

My daily timetable

Before I went to the meditation centre I was really worried about only having two meals a day and to a lesser extent giving up my nightly breath of fresh air. Luckily, after a first difficult day, I got used to the rhythm of the day there and was able to not eat after noon.

The real challenge was the amount of time to meditate. As you can see from the timetable we had roughly 7.5 hours a day to individually meditate. This is a long time even if it is in chunks of several hours each. So I would change location during the day. The little temple above was where I would practice post lunch. Only one other person used it while I was there so it was a good place to practice. That and I found it very restful.

There was another room with several long carpets for you to practice walking meditation that would be my morning spot. In the evenings we would chant which brought me back to my catholic up bringing. Sanskrit is alot more complicated than Latin however. Nonetheless it was one of the parts of the day that I most enjoyed. The other was the 5.30am dhamma talk given by the monk. This talk would be about how to approach life and the monk would regularly remind us not to be consumed with dislike of others. In the seclusion of the centre, with no communication between novices, this reminder seemed unnecessary. But now back in the world where people let you down it is a good reminder. The monk was very funny and would tell us funny stories to illustrate the Buddhist values.       
       

I actually enjoyed my time there, and extended my stay so I was there Mon-Fri. I didn’t manage the not talking part but that’s not surprising is it! On my last full day I went up to the big temple and had a walk around.

image

image

On my last night I went to the viewing spot to see over Chiang Mai. It felt very naughty to be out past bedtime but the view was incredible.

After this I went back to the old city and had two great evenings with old friends and new. I stayed in a homestay in a traditional Thai house which was a great experience. The host was super nice and on my last night we sat around eating Thai food, listening to traditional folk songs sung acapella.

(Chiang) Mai, Mai, Mai!

image
Up in the mountains for meeting the elephants.

Wow! So so much has happened since the last time I blogged. I went to meet the elephants which was a scary but moving experience. There were lots of comedy moments as my shoes, yes my walking shoes, were not suitable for walking the kilometre down to the spot where the elephants were. I basically slid, fell and at times had to have both my hands held to get me there.

The fun didn’t end there. At the mud bath the Thai keepers thought it would be great to start throwing mud around so imagine me covered in mud from head to toe in a stream with several elephants.

It was one of those experiences that is both surreal and fills you with awe. The elephants weren’t afraid of us at all, especially when we had bananas on us. They absolutely adore the water and would have happily stayed bathing for hours. The trip we took was a non riding one and the elephants roam wild so it was unique experience to be so close to them and observe them in their natural habitat. For example I didn’t realise elephants have hair all over their bodies, nor that their skin glistens when wet.

The alfresco lunch was amazing, especially when one of the clever elephants came to join us. After he had raided our table, he ambled over to the kitchen and would have eaten all the food there if not ushered away!

I continued to slip in the stream, in the rocks and pretty much on every surface I could. We were taken to an amazing waterfall to wash off. The water was so powerful it was like getting a massage.

image

If you can’t take the heat- stay out of the kitchen!

image

Drunken noodles

image

Spring rolls made by my own fair hands

image

The prep for chicken in ginger

So the day after meeting the elephants I I went to my cooking class. I haven’t got pics of everything as I learnt how to make 6 dishes! Not pictured is the hot and sour soup, yellow curry or banana in coconut milk. All fantastic. The class was great fun and I was absolutely stuffed afterwards.

The secret to Thai cooking? Heaps of fresh ingredients, sugar and oyster sauce. I couldn’t believe that sugar was added to everything as was oyster sauce. Claire D- add both of these and dark soy sauce when cooking rice noodles! Will post a recipe you can try. I am keen to try out my recipes again in the UK though I fear that I will not be able to replicate the taste with the ingredient equivalents…

I won’t be able to post for a while as I am going to my meditation retreat tomorrow. No smoking and only two meals a day means that I am going to have a very large breakfast and lunch
before I arrive. Here are some pics of the last few days:
Monks celebrating Buddha’s birthday

image

Detoxifying vegan salad at Amrit cafe- a perfect haven when I needed it today.

image

Learning about Lanna culture at the folk museum this afternoon- i think we should bring back this form of courtship!

image

Next time I blog it will be post meditation- wish me luck!