CURRENT LOCATION: Ko Chang, Thailand
I'm sure you're all relieved were still alive. We spent 4 days in Bangkok, and I think we can say it grew on us. It's still not a favourite (or even in the top 10), but as time wore on I began to see its charm. We last left you halfway through day 1. We did indeed venture out again that evening, with Zev managing to track us down the most delicious vegetarian Thai food, and amazing fruit drinks. We decided on an early night - we were still pretty jet lagged, and the madness of Khao San Rd was a little much for us at that point!
Day 2 was full on. We were up early having breakfast at the hostel before hitting the road by 8am for a day taking in the history and culture of Thailand. We hit the Grand Palace first, which houses the Emerald Buddha. A highlight for the walk to the palace was wandering past the huge Ministry of Defence headquarters, where any sense of authority that you would associate with such a place was undermined by the smooth jazz that they were blasting out of the enormous speakers on building's front. We were pretty ho hum about the Grand Palace before we left, but we were both glad we went. It's a stunning complex of temples and shrines, and it was PACKED. We arrived just after 9am, and we certainly wouldn't have wanted to arrive any later. I found myself getting very frustrated with people - not because it was busy, but because of the complete lack of respect for the culture and heritage of others. Directly under a sign saying 'Please don't touch' in 14 different languages would be someone running their hand over a painting. It was the same for every sign: please be quiet, no photos... And don't even get me started on people taking bloody photos. Just because you're taking a photo, doesn't mean everyone has to get out of your way. Oh, and people who stop at the top or bottom of staircases to talk. Or in doorways. There are a long list of ways to be 'that guy'. Don't be that guy.
After taking in the underwhelming Emerald Buddha (1 foot high, actually made of jade), we made our first attempt at street food. We rocked it. We picked up loads of delicious goodies (totalling about $10NZD) and sat down by the river to gorge ourselves.
Next up, Wat Pho, the Grand Palace's more relaxing little sister. Wat Pho is famous for the Reclining Buddha, which is much more impressive than the rubbish emerald version. At 46m long and 15m high, and covered in gold leaf, it really was breathtaking.
It was on the way home from Wat Pho that we discovered coconut ice cream. I swear, if Zev hadn't got in first, I would marry it. They cut a coconut in half and scrape some of the flesh out with this amazing tool, then put scoops of delicious icy coconut ice cream in. They top it off with a scoop of dry roasted peanuts, and either coconut cream or chocolate sauce. Needless to say that was not the last time we met.
That evening we gave Khao San Rd a bash. We picked the cheesiest bar we could find- "Lucky Beer" - and listened to a guy sing Elvis karaoke for a bit, before noticing that the bar across the road was playing Jurassic Park. Needless to say we moved across and had another couple of beers in the company of Jeff G, Sam N, and the slightly less famous (and living) Attenborough brother before heading home. Clever girl.
Day 3 was Valentine's Day, so we started the day by both getting massages. Zev went for a Thai massage, and actually seemed to enjoy it!! In the afternoon, we headed to the Museum of Siam, a super cool interactive museum about the history of Thailand and what it means to be Thai. Outside, we found an amazing indie craft and music festival. We hung out there soaking in the laid back vibe before tackling Chinatown for dinner. Total chaos!!!!! The streets were lined with vendors selling everything you could possibly imagine: brass knuckles, Cabbage Patch Kids, industrial kitchen equipment, and FOOD. So. Much. Food. We ate the most amazing pork and chicken dishes. I still get excited just thinking about it.
We had a pretty lazy day the next day. It poured with rain in the morning, so we got some skyping in, and organised visas for Cambodia, accommodation for Ko Chang etc. We had another excellent dinner and a couple of drinks, and an impromptu Connect 4 tournament. In the interest of prolonging our marriage, we called it a tie.
Which brings us to today. What an adventure! We left the hostel at 8am and caught a taxi to the Victory Monument. The thing about transport over here is that you're never sure if they actually know where you want them to go, or whether they're just too polite to say "I can't understand a damn thing you're saying." Often, 'Yes' seems to mean 'I don't know'. However our ace taxi driver got us where we wanted to go, and we found the guys selling minibus tickets to Trat (where we wanted to catch the ferry). The minivan turned up, we hopped and I swear to god you've never seen anything so packed. There were 12 adults (including one big white Zev, who takes up more room than your average Thai dude), and we were the only two non-Thais (and none of them spoke any English) plus a whole bunch of stuff, like our bags, some giant polystyrene boxes, and bags of crap. For the first 15 minutes, I had no idea what to think. I was wedged in the back left corner of the van, and I'm quite claustrophobic. I had to fight every urge to scream and fight my way out - mostly because I physically could not have got out of this van. And then the car sickness kicked in. Roads in Thailand are SHITE. They're more pothole than road. Thank god for life saving anti-nausea medication (thanks Tana!). Zev meanwhile, looked like death. He managed to get a little nap, and seemed to feel much better after waking up though, and much to both our surprise, we started enjoying it. Pretty sure our driver was the illegitimate love child of Michael Schumacher, Vin Diesel from The Fast and the Furious, and I guess a Thai lady would have been involved - let's put it this way, it was a bit like playing an arcade racing game but in a late 1990s model Ford transit. Also, we could only assume that he was doubling as a call-centre customer service rep, as he received, and of course answered, more phone calls in one shuttle ride than either of us received in all of 2014. To his credit he didn't hit anything, even though I couldn't tell you how fast he was driving but it felt a bit like being in the millennium falcon going at warp speed. Four invigorating hours later (yes, four hours!), we were thrown out at the side of the road. Hmmmmm....
A woman in the shop were outside charged us for two ferry tickets, and we sat and waited. Slowly more and more people turned up, and then a taxi pulled in. But not a taxi in any form that we've ever seen. It looked like a pick up truck with bench seats in the back, and an overhead rack for luggage (we now know this is called a songthaew). Five of us squished into each seat, and one guy hung on the back. I had a blast hanging my head out the side. Soon enough, we were at the ferry, and across to Koh Chang. After a repeat of the earlier pick up truck taxi ride, we made it to Cliff Cottage - naturally, we'd picked the village that was furtherest (just for you Big Ben) from the ferry. Bonus: we saw loads of monkeys and three elephants on the way here! This place is INCREDIBLE. We're right on the water, and did I mention we're staying in a yurt??? We shamelessly stuffed our faces with bacon cheeseburgers and fries for dinner, and are now sitting enjoying a cup of tea after watching the sunset. Tomorrow, we're looking forward to doing absolutely nothing. I can't wait!!
Lots of love,
S & Z
(Original post date: 17th February 2015)