We returned to Bangkok two weeks ago for a few days before heading south towards the islands. We knew that Gideon and his brother were in Bangkok so we met up for an evening drink after not seeing them for two years. After catching up we parted ways and agreed to meet up again on our first island, Koh Tao.
The next day we met up with our trusted guide Chris who took us on a long trip two hours south of Bangkok to Mae Klong Market. The journey is an integral part of the market experience, however, as the train runs right through the market as the sellers speedily put away their stalls and pull back their awnings to let it pass. Almost immediately afterwards market life resumes as usual as if nothing had happened. The train passes through eight times a day.
Whilst browsing the various stalls selling colourful fruits, giant squid, and many more unknown foods we followed the sounds of a drumming parade and stumbled across the town’s Songkran (Thai New Year) celebrations. Crowds of people with clay painted across their face brandished water guns and roamed the streets and we soon involuntarily took part in the celebrations when the crowd swarmed around us shouting “falang, falang!” (meaning “foreigner”) and proceeded to smear our faces with clay. Further down the road a truck pumping music fuelled a mid-street dance party with water splashing everywhere.
This was just a taster of what was to come the next day as the Songkran celebrations gathered steam in the capital. Having several hours to spare before our train to Prachuap Khiri Khan we decided to seek out the epicentre of Bangkok’s Songkran and made a bee-line for Silom Road. On our way there we encountered veritable gangs of children and adults stationed next to hose pipes armed and ready to soak every passerby (including tuk tuks). If you were really lucky they had filled a tub with ice cold water and unhesitatingly poured it down your back. When we finally reached Silom Road, soaked to the bone, there was a DJ, a foam party and throngs of people engaging in water warfare. Our train to Prachuap was wet and clay-filled.
We spent our day in Prachuap walking around the laidback seaside town and ventured up Mirror Mountain to glimpse the gorgeous view. This was somewhat dampened by a monsoon-like rainstorm and tourists and monkeys alike sought shelter under the Wat at the top of the mountain.
The next day we began our journey towards Koh Tao and around 11pm boarded a rickety wooden night boat where we slept on tiny mattresses on the floor in the company of cockroaches. It was essentially a cargo boat using the top floor to transport people.
Our few days on Koh Tao were spent mostly sprawled on the beach or snorkelling around the beautiful coral. Gideon and Daniel joined us on the second day when we decided to finally venture up the daunting mountains and go on a long walk up the tortuous roads to find a genuine street stall. We decided to reward our efforts with an hour-long massage in a streetside shack.
Our next stop was Koh Phangan, the notorious Full Moon Party island. We managed to rope Gideon and Daniel into staying in Haad Rin, the tourist hotspot of the island, so that we would not be as secluded as we had been on Koh Tao. This involved sampling buckets filled with spirits of questionable quality and eating outrageous amounts of spicy papaya salad.
After much haggling and arm-twisting we got a taxi to a northern beach which supposedly was one of the best snorkelling spots of the island. We proved ourselves as worthy descendants of Robinson Crusoe by using a bamboo stick to knock down a coconut and cut a hole into it to drink the sweet water. Not wanting to waste anything we cut it open and proceeded to knock the flesh off its shell with rocks. To cool down we rented some snorkelling equipment and swam among bright purple anemone, red and green coral, small neon blue fish and a host of other tropical fish I cannot name.
For some bizarre reason Astrid loves to take really long walks in the sweltering heat up steep mountain roads. Unfortunately Daniel and Gideon were not averse to this idea either and against the locals’ advice (who said “it can’t be done!”) we embarked on a hideous 10km walk in what must have been 35+ degree heat to reach Thong Sala’s night market. About two hours later, drenched in sweat, we descended upon the market with cavernous appetites. We picked up fish dumplings, squid pad thai, roasted pork salad and the ubiquitous papaya salad. For dessert we indulged in sticky rice with mango and condensed milk as well as some unknown green and yellow gooey thai sweets.
This morning we parted ways with Gideon and Daniel (with plans to meet up later on in Malaysia) and arrived in Krabi, a small city set amongst imposing limestone cliffs coated with thick vegetation. Over-excited by the presence of a large food market we indulged in a day-long foodie-fest and finally found our beloved jackfruit which had eluded us on the islands. We are content to stay here for two days before we fly to Malaysia to meet up with Alberto on the Perhentians.