Patong Beach Nightlife

After a long day on the water to James Bond Island, the group decided to check out the Patong Beach nightlife.  Patong Beach was just a short taxi from Kata beach, so we left our hotel and hailed down a van, because there was 8 of us.  Half way down the road we saw some other foreigners, farangs, so we asked the driver to pull over and see if they needed a lift.  It was a couple looking to go to Patong Beach as well, we said get in.  They were to college students from Australia, although I don’t remember their names.  We finally got to Patong, the group and the Aussie’s headed to the Crocodile Discoteca.  It was still early in the night, so we were practically the only people there, which was nice because we got to choose what the DJ played.  For some reason the group’s song was Jamelia – Superstar. There we were, 8 of us up on the stage at the Crocodile dancing in sync to Superstar.

The bar was dead, so we decided to head back to the main road and walk it to find a bar that had more going on. As we got to the main street the ladyboys were out. A couple of people wanted take a picture so I grabbed the camera.  While the three were posing with a ladyboy, one grabbed one of the girls in my groups hand and placed it on her hand on his/her chest.  The picture is priceless and unfortunately has a spot on facebook.  Half way down the street the guys in the group were grabbed by an overly obese Thai lady stating that we had to come to her bar, so we obliged.  It was a very narrow bar with a set of tables/booths set up on one side and a bar on the other.  The lady showed us where to sit and again we obliged.  She said would you guys like something to drink, we said sure, so we ordered a beer. The lady said 800 baht, we said no, price of beer is around 50 baht.  She got angry, so we ran outta there.  It was a shady back ally bar that was most likely going to have a “ping pong” type show.

Back on the main street again, by this time I wasn’t feeling the whole scene anymore.  It happened when I saw a portly middle aged man being walked down the street by a scantily clad lady.  I use the term lady lightly, because she looked young enough to be considered a minor.  I have heard this place is known for these types of issues and was really hoping not to see it.  Patong Beach is an amazing place, but only if you are young.

Phuket – Boat

After James Bond Island we set out to small island for snorkeling.  I had never been snorkeling before (in the ocean, pools don’t count) so this was exciting.  We stopped at an island that was no bigger than a football field, and that might be an overestimation.  We set out to snorkel near a reef that looked like it was home to thousands of different fish.  After a little snorkel a couple of us took off to walk around the island, it wasn’t much so didn’t take that long, but was a nice leisurely stroll on the beach.

After the boat ride back to Phuket, we were just in time for a sunset at Phrom Thep Cape, the most southern part of Phuket island. I’ve seen beach sunsets before (Maui), but never looking at a large Buddha on an island off the southern tip of Phuket.

That night the group decided to head up to Patong Beach to check out the night life.  The journey was only about 20 minutes from Kata Beach.  We hailed a van to take us and a little ways past our hotel we saw some people who looked they were looking for a ride so we asked the driver to stop.  We asked where the two were headed, they said Patong, get it that’s where we were going.  The two were from Australia, backpacking around Asia during summer break. More to come from Patong Beach it would not only be the place I stayed 2 nights before I left Phuket, but also some of the more interesting things and stereotypes people hear about Thailand.

Phuket Beach Time

After a month long of classes at CMU, we got a chance to head to paradise.  While the study abroad experience was officially over after this 4 day experience in Phuket, I did not to want to end this journey abroad, luckily for me, I was about to start a two month internship back in Chiang Mai. What can you say about Phuket, and to me it was a better version of Hawaii, not because it has better beaches, but because it was six months after the Tsunami that I arrived in Phuket.

We stayed near Kata Beach, an alumni of Washington State owned a hotel near the beach.  We arrived at the hotel around 9 at night, and everyone wanted to go to the beach, but for some reason I got into funks when I was in Thailand, I don’t know if it was the heat or just tired from the travels, but I went straight to bed. I don’t know if it was the heat or the malaria pills but after that night and the severe sunburn in Bangkok, I decided I was done with those pills.

The next day was my biggest adventure yet, because I was going to be James Bond!  We got up early and headed for Rawai beach to get on a speed boat, but I was hoping for a long tail.  I am glad we got on a high speed boat as the ocean was choppy that day, yeah I guess it wasn’t so bad for those sitting in the back, we were in the bow of the boat and got crushed by almost every wave. The trip was a long one, it seemed like it took hours to even get close the the limestone islands on the way to James Bond Island.

I thought we would never get to James Bond island, but when we finally arrived, it was like I was in the movie, flying in low with the little seaplane.  We came around to one side of the island, I was like this isn’t it.  The guides on the boat said to follow the path.  I was giddy, almost like I was 8 or 9, the first time I saw the Man With The Golden Gun.  For some people Bond is a great movie series, but James Bond was one connection I had with my father.  We watched so many when the cable tv channels would run the series during the holidays, I think my Dad and I watched each 2 or 3 times.  James Bond to me is one of my last memories of my father, he tragically passed in an airplane accident when I was 14, so this trip to the island, brought me back to that place in time.

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A Village School

One of the most enjoyable and meaningful trips/experiences happend when I least expected it.  We were told to go buy toys, balls, and various other items that kids would like as we were going to visit a local school.  When I say local I mean, 1 1/2 hour Song Thaow ride Northwest of Chiang Mai in the middle of no-where.  I don’t know if I’ve ever meantioned what a Song Thaow actually is, well it is a small pickup, the size of a Toyota Tacoma, with a canopy on it.  The canopy is not the normal canopy as you would see in the USA, it is taller with a single bench running the length of the truck over each tire.

After our long journey up the mountain we were greated by the children at a grade school, it was a couple of buildings with 1 or 2 small classrooms each.  The children were just getting done with lunch as we pulled up, and came running once they saw us.  Now being that I love kids and am a kid at heart, I had no problem adapting to a quick game of keep-away with a soccer ball we had brought for them.  We got enough kids together to play a game and after a half hour or so the kids started showing us the games they play in the field.  They liked to play snake, which you get in almost a conga line and the first people in line, or the head, fight over and try to get to the back of the other snake.  I was the head of one of the snakes, and after a little while I fell and thus the other team won.  It was fine until the kids told us we had to perform the losers dance, which looked a lot like a chicken dance here in the states.  We obliged and after humiliating ourselves, we done playing and ended up just talking with the children.

As our trip came to a close we were serenated by the children with local Thai songs and dances, as we were walking back to the Song Thaow one of our professors told us that these children wouldn’t see past the 6th grade.  Because we were in farming coountry we were told that that is as long as the parents can afford for the kids not to be working the fields with them.

As we drove away the kids chased our Song Thaows and waved goodbye.  I will never forget the fun we had in the hills Northwest of Chiang Mai.

Road Less Travelled!

My study abroad was in the final days as we partook in the Buddha’s birthday.  Now some people may think this would be cake and ice cream or a nice Thai treat, but in fact it was the most grueling days I’ve experienced in Thailand.

The tradition in Chiang Mai is to walk to the Doi Suthep Temple, starting from the edge of the city. It was a 6.2 mile walk up the mountain to the temple, but was well worth it.  We were one of the first groups up the mountain, starting an hour or so before sundown.  It took over 2 hours to get up the mountain, but luckily our tour van was stopped at various locations along the route with water and snacks to get us up the mountain.

Once we made it to the top, which the last 200 yards or so seemed to be the most strenuous on the walk and by that time my hip started to hurt.  It seemed amazing to make it to the top and have completed the journey without getting into the van and letting it take me part of the way up the mountain.  It felt like a great victory, until I learned that there were 309 steps up to the actual temple.  They have a tram to help those who can’t make it up the steps, but the line was too long and my group didn’t want to wait, after all we beat the mountain to get up there, why not take the steps?!

After the trek up the mountain, the strenuous 309 steps, we finally made it to the top, just as the sun was setting over Chiang Mai, and remains as one of my most memorable experiences in Thailand.

Finally done in by the afternoon jaunt, we headed back down the mountain in a Song Thaew only to be bombarded by the droves of people making the same trek we took an hour or so earlier.  It seemed as though there were millions of people on the road, not like when we came up with our group and sporadic Thai’s making the trek.  It was amazing to see the people and hear them singing on the way up.

A Day Out

I wasn’t in Thailand just to go to school or work at my internship, I was there for fun as well!  One weekend we took a trip to Lampang, making several stops before we actually made it to Lampang.  Our first stop was the Thai Elephant Conservation Center…

I was excited to see the elephants, even in my early 20’s I still had that excitement you get when you see an elephant at a Circus. This experience was mixed, The elephants were well trained to paint, raise a flag on the flag pole, carry trees with their tusks and trunks, but one thing stuck out at me.  On the elephant ride, the handler had a bullhook, that he dug in the ear of the elephant twice on the trek through the jungle.  I know that they need the control over the beast, but is this really something a conservation center should be using?

Our next stop was the Wat Pra That Lampang Luang just outside of Lampang. The temple is said to enshrine a relic of the Buddha. Such relics are typically bones and ashes believed to be gathered after the Buddha’s cremation. The relic is installed in the main chedi of the temple. This was also interesting because it was the first temple I saw were a building was only available to men. Pictures in the Gallery above.

Our last stop was Lampang, where we took a horse carriage ride in the middle of the city and out ultimate stop, a spa located near the river.  The carriage ride was a bit much for me, as I am extremely allergic to horses.  I believe it was 15 minutes of hell, sneezing and teary eyes.

For anyone going to Thailand, one of the best things can be the value of the dollar, it goes far especially in personal grooming.  At our International center, a guy did pedicure’s, $10 with tip, and yes I got one!  At the spa in Lampang, a 45 minute massage, and aroma therapy bath, with tip $25.  It was tough to relax because you go into a room with other people in the group, there were two other guys and one was giddy like a school girl and couldn’t shut up when the masseuse touched him.

I highly recommend using the dollar to it’s fullest, you can get some great deals on food and personal services, and if you think I mean erotic services think again, that shouldn’t be tolerated especially underage. Who knows, you may end up with a ladyboy like on Hangover II, but that’s just Karma saying punked you!

Been a While!

It’s been a while, and I apologize!!  It’s hard launching several things at once as well as trying to juggle a career and hang out with family.  I believe the focus has reached a turning point and don’t enjoy sitting in an office all day peddling investments.

More posts to come, but wanted to put it out in the blogosphere, that Knutson Travels isn’t dead, just taking a nap!