After getting in at 2am, getting up wasn’t fun, or early. I met Ted and after a long breakfast we went to the treetop bar, that had nothing to do with being at the top of any trees. Here we just chilled and nursed heavy (Ted) and light (me) hangovers with fruit shakes and relaxing music till it was time for me to depart.
Today’s objective was to get to Chiang Mai, a large town in the very north of Thailand. All the travellers I had spoken to had been very enthusiastic about it, especially how cheap it was compared to the tourist trap of the south.
When traveling on a trip of a lifetime, you are there for the experience. Money shouldn’t be the thing governing what you do or don’t do, but that means you need a lot of it, unless you stick to places like Chiang Mai. I wanted to travel up the country by train originally. Its much slower, taking 2 days, but this would mean I would actually see the country and interact with the people. I wanted to travel roughly like a local, but it was double the cost of an airline ticket. And, with my time running out, this would mean less time at my destinations.
I got the midday boat off Phi Phi. For a completely touristicated (culture castrated by tourists) island it was actually quite nice and I’d had a great time. Sailing away from the blue bays and golden cliffs, I didn’t look back. There was plenty of this available in Ton Sai, at half the price with less legally dubious rock climbing. The diving was exceptionally clear which was special but you needn’t stay on the island to experience that.
Arriving at the port, I tried to find someone to share a taxi to the airport. Again I found it tricky talking to people to find out who wanted to share. In the end I walked up to a tuk tuk taxi with locals in there and bargained a lift. When the locals left, they handed over 50b each, I paid 150b. But that was still better than the 200-300 being shouted by the jostling mass of drivers touting for business at the port exit.
The journey to the airport was fun, bumping along in the back of a converted pickup truck. The drivers young daughter was making faces at me in the rear seat of the cab and showing me her teddy. I didn’t have anything but faces to make back, but that was fine. Apparently I have a funny face which seemed to make her laugh.
It had been threatening to rain as we approached the mainland and now the heavens opened. But not British rain that lasts all day and barely fills a tumbler. Thailand rain, that dumps a whole months water in a couple of hours before the clouds leave swiftly, embarrassed by the overflowing ditches at the roadside.
At the airport I changed into my boots and checked in my rucksack. As I approached security, i checked my person for any of the extensive list of banned goods. I still had suncream, my special suncream from new zealand. The suncream that had prevented me from burning for 1 and a half months and had just enough to last me till the end of the trip. I begrudgingly dropped it in the trash, and caught myself just before I hoped was also raining in Chiang Mai.
The flight happened, you know my thoughts on this experience… My ears didn’t explode though, which was nice.
All day, I hadn’t had Wifi long enough to book a hostel. Once I’d made it into the town, I figured I’d just find one that was open and looked decent and see if they had space. A few people were outside a hostel I had liked the look of, and gave useful directions to others to try my luck. Having space wasn’t the issue, it never was, but now past 10pm the check-in desks were closed. I wandered on and found an amazing hostel called Thunder Bird.
This is the next generation of hostels, something special and modern but still basic and reasonably cheap. It was cleverly contemporary in that minimalist shabby industrial style that is fashionable. All rough concrete beams and bare, slightly rusty metal with pot plants scattered around under warm filament bulbs hanging on cords from metal ducting on the ceiling. Very cool! It had some nice practical touches too, like a reading light and sockets next to every bed, and a locker big enough to get a whole rucksack into. Welded metal frame bunk beds, high enough to sit up straight under were bolted to the floor. Not that they could have been stolen, they must have been welded in situ as there were no bolted joints that could work loose and squeak and you’d never get them through the door. It was very well thought out and hostels around the world should take note of this game changer.