Author Archive for Alexis Mayer

08
May
10

Southeast Asia By Numbers

Hello again,

On April 18, the one-month anniversary of my return to Canada, I decided to start compiling some interesting statistics from my trip. I’ve seen people do similar things when they come back from long, epic trips such as mine, and I’ve always found them entertaining and interesting, so I thought I’d do the same. From the number of books I read to the number of pineapples eaten (just kidding), here is my trip by the numbers:

# of countries visited: 6
# of modes of transportation taken: 9 (plane, bus, train, taxi, truck, tuk-tuk, jumbo, motorbike, boat)
# of days away from home: 75
# of nights spent in transit: 9
# of days spent on a beach: 27
# of days spent in transit: 24 (this means we were in transit for 1 of every 3 days we were away from home!)
# of flights taken: 4
# of trains taken: 4
# of boats taken: 13
# of temples visited: 14
# of elephants ridden: 2
# of scuba dives completed: 2
# of nights spent at a local home: 2 (Vietnam and Cambodia)
# of islands visited: 7
# of new friends on Facebook: 29
# of photos taken: 2693
# of packages sent home: 2
# of cockroaches found in rooms: 5
# of postcards sent: 7 (please don’t be mad at me if you didn’t get one, I had the best of intentions!)
# of books read: 12 (including travel guides: 15)
# of tattoos received: 1
# of buckets drank/banana pancakes eaten: too many to count!
# of Canadian dollars spent overseas (approx): $2900
# of blog posts written: 32
# of Kilometers traveled (approx.): 27,374 (9142 km overland in Asia, 18,232 km in flight)
# of sisters bonded for life: 2

If anyone can think of anything else they’d like to see added, please let me know.

I’ve added the links to my photo albums on Facebook, where I’ve posted some of the highlights of my 2500+ photos taken in Asia:

Cambodia
Vietnam
Laos
Northern Thailand and Bangkok
Southern Thailand
Singapore
Southeast Asian Shenanigans

As always thanks for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed the final post of my journey. Thank you to everyone who supported and encouraged me throughout my trip, thanks to all who wrote me countless emails and who commented on my posts. This blog was as much for all of you as it was for me, and I’m happy to have been able to share this amazing opportunity with the people I love the most. THANK YOU!

The End

Alexis

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17
Mar
10

I’m Coming Home!

As the date of my flight approached, I started to get somewhat excited about the prospect of returning home. There are definitely things that I have loved about Southeast Asia, but there are also some definite dislikes, and some things that I miss from back home. I have been asked often what I miss the most, and Courtney and I have taken to saying “man, I’m really gonna miss such-and-such when I’m back home…” in the past few weeks.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here is an example:

Things I am looking forward to back home:

  • seeing family and friends (duh!)
  • having clean feet
  • TV shows
  • whole grain bread
  • a nice bowl of cereal with milk
  • shoes that aren’t flip flops (looking forward to wearing heels again!)

Things I will miss about Asia:

  • warm weather and sunshine
  • not needing to wear much clothing, even at night
  • getting a good meal for under $5 (breakfast, lunch or dinner)
  • fresh fruit juice
  • not needing to wear socks
  • living out of a backpack

I know this last one sounds a bit strange, but I find it oddly comforting to know that I can survive on what is in my pack and that’s it. I don’t need to have 20 dresses, or 50 tank tops, or 10 pairs of jeans. It feels a little like when I wore a uniform in high school: there are only so many combinations of things to wear, so getting dressed is a breeze! Sure, sometimes I’ve wished I had something from my closet back home (damn, I wish I brought that dress!) but after a while it was just convenient and you don’t really notice that you’ve worn the same pair of shorts three days out of the last four.

Things I will NOT miss about Asia:

  • toilets (can’t put paper in them, which is weird)
  • not being able to drink tap water
  • lack of English channels
  • not being able to trust what ANYONE tells you (unless you are in Singapore 🙂

I want to acknowledge all my friends and family (yes, you!) who have been with me this entire trip, through my blog. I can’t say how much it has meant to me to hear all the encouragement from everyone who has been reading and following my every move. Your thoughts and support has helped me get through this trip and all the difficulty in the weeks before, and for that you have my sincerest thanks!

Well, the call for boarding has come, and it’s time to get on my flight and go back to the Western World. I just keep telling myself that although the tan will fade, the memories will last forever!

17
Mar
10

Mar 15-18: Phuket to Singapore

The end is here.

It makes me super sad that in approximately 21 hours I will be standing once more on Canadian soil. Not that I don’t love Canada, but I’m not quite sure I want this adventure to be over. Anyone who knows me knows that when I travel, I don’t go halfway. It’s always an epic trip, and it goes without saying that the longer I am away the harder it is to come back. Yes, the life of a traveller can be tiresome, but it is never boring, and I think I will miss knowing that each day I wake up is going to be new and exciting in it’s own way.

On Monday morning we left Thai beach paradise for a gruelling 28-hour trip to Singapore. Our minivan pickup came at 7:30AM, and we arrived in Penang, Malaysia (only!) 13 hours later after one more minivan pickup (the great Thai minivan shuffle, once again!) and a transfer to a VIP bus. The bus to Singapore was surprisingly comfortable, and besides the obligatory stops at immigration along the way (twice at each border – Thai, Malaysia; Malaysia, Singapore) the trip was quite nice. We arrived in Singapore at 9:30AM and caught a taxi to our hole-in-the-wall hostel. The only thing this place had going for it was the location, which was in the CBD and was excellent.

Singapore is a strange and unique city. It is immaculately clean, which I liken to Hong Kong, although without the throngs of people everywhere. Singapore is known as the “fine city” both because it is nice and clean, but also because there are fines for EVERYTHING. Some signs I saw warned people against doing things like spitting, chewing gum (yes, Singaporeans aren’t allowed to chew gum, so they don’t sell it anywhere!), eating or drinking on the MRT (subway). There are also stiff fines for possession of pornography (jail and caning!) and possession of drugs (death!). And the funniest thing is, people here actually adhere to these laws! It’s so bizarre.

Courtney and I spent pretty much our entire time walking around the city. Singapore is pretty pedestrian friendly, but their streets have a tendency to not follow a grid pattern, and sidewalks are known to end abruptly and start again at the other side of the street. Motorists are fairly respectful of pedestrians, though, and will usually give them the right of way. Refreshing from the chaos of Bangkok and even the insanity of drivers in Toronto!

On Tuesday we went shopping at the electronics malls, but didn’t find many good deals. Mobile phones are cheap and plentiful, but things like iPods and netbooks are cheaper at home, surprisingly. Singapore is NOT a cheap city, for anything. Food, clothes, attractions, all are more expensive than anyplace else in Asia (including Hong Kong) and more expensive than at home as well.

Tuesday night we went to the night safari, which is a big attraction in Singapore. There is a nocturnal animal show, where trainers show an audience the skills of creatures such as sloths, otters, and hyenas. Then we took a tram ride through their night jungle, where we saw tons of animals from all over the world. The highlight for me was the lions! They’re beautiful!

Yesterday Court and I did a walk through Chinatown and Little India, as well as the Esplanade which is home to the Merlion, the Singapore icon (it has a fish body and a lion’s head). After a shower and a quick nap, we treated ourselves to a ride on the Singapore Flyer, which is the world’s largest Ferris wheel (kind of like the London Eye). We went by the famous Raffles hotel for a signature Singapore Sling, but left quickly when we saw the price tag: S$29.95 (approx. 25CAD) for one drink!

Now I am at the airport waiting for my flight. I’ve been here for about 5 hours now, since Court’s flight was 3 hours earlier than mine, and I’ve taken the skytrain around all 3 of the terminals. It’s super cool that they have free internet kiosks here!

Once again, anyone who wants to track my flights can do so here:

http://mobile.flightview.com/TrackByFlight.aspx?loc=tbf

Flight No: CX 714
Depart: Singapore, 12:25PM EST, Wednesday March 17, 2010
Arrival: Hong Kong, 4:10PM EST, Wednesday March 17, 2010

Flight No: CX 826
Depart: Hong Kong, 5:35AM EST, Thursday March 18, 2010
Arrive: Toronto, Canada, 7:25PM EST, Thursday March 18, 2010

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in Toronto!

Lexi

16
Mar
10

Mar 3-14: Koh Pha Ngan to Phuket

As I was saying…

It’s really funny how fast time flies when you’re having fun. It’s also funny how busy you can seem to be when you’re not even doing anything but lying on the beach all day.

It seems like ages ago that we left the crazy debauchery of Koh Pha Ngan, and light years since we arrived in Chiang Mai after 40 days of touring through 3 countries. Since Koh Pha Ngan, we have been living a beach-y existence, literally doing little else other than lying on the beach, shopping, and eating. In the last two weeks we have been to four islands, one jungle, and one beach community. We have travelled on countless boats, ferries, minivans, and buses.

When we arrived in Thailand, we spent ten blissful days traversing the north of Thailand and Bangkok, in blissful ignorance of the true nature of Thai people. Northern Thailand is much more relaxed, but not in the sense of beach-relaxed, more in the sense of not-wanting-to-rip-off-every-tourist relaxed. As you head further south, the scams and half-truths begin, and it gets more and difficult to pick out which Thais to trust and which to be wary of. I’m not saying that Thais aren’t nice people, they certainly can be, but only when you are willing to help them out by spending money, giving them a recommendation, etc. Heaven forbid you don’t actually want to book something with them, or buy something, or the air conditioning in your room breaks. Thais can turn into your worst enemy at times.

Let me back it up a bit and write a bit about what southern Thailand was like…

We left Koh Pha Ngan on March 3, a bit sad to be saying goodbye to our home for 7 days, by far the longest we had spent anyplace in Southeast Asia. We were also sad to say goodbye to our friends, new and old, whom we had met during the craziness of Hat Rin. Of our buddies, Mark and Thomas headed north to Chiang Mai, Neil, John, Marco, and Anette took a boat across to Koh Tao, and J.Y., Dan, and Ae headed west toward the Similan Islands off the west coast of Thailand. I had wanted to go over to Koh Tao to check out the scuba diving scene, but Courtney had other plans for us. She convinced me that every other Full Mooner on Koh Pha Ngan would be heading over to Koh Tao, and that we should run in the opposite direction.

Therefore, our plan became to meet up with J.Y., Dan, and Ae in the Similans; however, we made a mistake in not checking the prices for the trip, and that plan was derailed when we got to Phan Nga on the night of the 3rd, and realized that the Similans were waaaay more expensive than we could afford. Just to spend one night on the island would cost us more than 2500 Baht ($80)! Instead we decided to spend the night in Phan Nga, and head to Krabi in the morning. Just to get to Phan Nga had taken us all day of the 3rd, starting with a 10AM ferry ride back to Surat Thani (ugh!), an hour wait in the sun outside a travel agency (nothing new there) and then a four hour ride to Phan Nga.

Krabi is the popular name for the island on which the town of Krabi sits, although none of the beaches are actually called Krabi. We passed over the most famous beach, Railay, in favour of the cheaper and more low key Ao Nang (long beach). This was our second mistake. Long Beach was an absolute tourist trap, complete with a crowded beach, fast-food restaurants, and more souvenir shops than one could possibly visit in a week. There wasn’t a backpacker to be found, as every person in the entire town was either someone’s mother, father, child, girlfriend, boyfriend, fiancee, grandparent, etc. Frustrating! Even more frustrating for me, Courtney came down with a bad cold and fever, and had to stay in our air conditioned room for most of the day, which left me with little else to do but sit on the beach, read, and shop for four days.

Finally, Courtney began to feel better, and we planned our escape from Krabi-Hell to Koh Lanta, a lesser-developed island halfway between Krabi and Koh Phi Phi. On March 7 we made the trek to Lanta, which is really only a few kilometres away, but took at least four hours, five transfers (probably the most so far) and two (sometimes it can take three) modes of transportation. If I haven’t already explained how travel in Thailand works, let me take the opportunity to do it now:

  • 8:30AM – scheduled minivan pick up from guesthouse
  • 8:55AM – actual pick up from guesthouse
  • 8:55AM-9:25AM – picking up other people from other guesthouses (there is no way to avoid this, either you wait because you are getting picked up last, or you sit in the bus and ride around town while the minivan picks up other people. If you are lucky, some interesting people will get on)
  • 9:25AM-10:15AM – minivan ride to travel agency
  • 10:15AM-10:3AM – wait with bags outside travel agency
  • 10:30AM – board another minivan (sometimes you will get new people on the next bus) and head to the ferry dock
  • 11AM-11:30AM – ferry ride to small island (not Koh Lanta)
  • 11:50AM-12PM – minivan ride to another ferry
  • 12:10PM-12:20PM – ferry ride to Koh Lanta
  • 12:20PM – transfer bags to local songthaew (truck with wooden benches at the back)
  • 12:20PM-1:15PM – songthaew ride to guesthouse, dropping off other people along the way (sometimes Thai people will get on and off at seemingly random points along the way. This is normal)

By this point, we were veterans of southern Thailand travel, and it didn’t alarm us that they shuttle you all over the place without ever telling you where you are or where you are going next, or how long it will take to get there (that is, if they even speak English). You learn pretty quick to use the bathroom EACH AND EVERY time you stop, because you never know when you might get to use it again! And keep your eye on your bag! Sometimes it ends up on top of the bus, sometimes in the backseat, sometimes in the front seat. People get on and off all the time. You just never know!!

Anyway, so we got dropped off at a cheap place with bungalows a stones throw from the beach. Courtney is still sick, but we get a room with a fan anyway, because it is only 400 Baht ($13) between the two of us and we want to save money for the more expensive places (Phi Phi and Phuket). It also comes at the recommendation of a fellow traveller, Ben, whom we met on the minivan. The resort (New Coconut) is super relaxed and has hammocks, and a good restaurant and bar, but the heat is too much for Court, and the rocky water and the ants building an anthill in our bathroom are too much for me, and we decided to move to Hat Phra Ae (long beach), where accommodation is considerably more expensive, but also considerably nicer, and the beach is paradise! I spent 4 days soaking up the rays and swimming every half hour or so to cool my overheated body, while Courtney slept off the last of her cold in our spacious air-conditioned room. I even got a double bed to myself for the first time since Vietnam!

On February 11 we were sad to leave Koh Lanta, but were excited to meet up with Dan and J.Y. again, as well as to let loose on Koh Phi Phi, which has earned a reputation as a beautiful yet party-hardy destination. The trip to Phi Phi was relatively easy, involving only a songthaew ride to the pier, and a 2-hour ferry ride to Phi Phi. The ferry arrives in the middle of the south beach, and it is a quick walk to the town of Ton Sai, which is where all the magic happens. Ton Sai is an odd little town, half Thai and half backpacker, with Thai businesses going about their everyday lives right next to bars, guesthouses, tour agencies, and souvenir shops. There is no lack of dive shops on Phi Phi, and Dan and J.Y. immediately decide they want to sign up for a dive the next day. I had been lamenting the fact that it seemed that I would not be diving at all in Thailand, and I jumped at the chance to go with them. Court also came along, and went snorkelling while we did two dives.

Since I was certified as an Open Water Diver in Australia in August 2004, I have done over ten dives, but I hadn’t done one since 2005, and was rusty on equipment set up and signals. I had a divemaster do a refresher with me, which I passed with flying colours, and then I was diving in one of the most renowned dive places in the world! During two dives, I saw many things, the highlights of which was a seahorse, an octupus, and four sharks! It was awesome, although diving the Great Barrier Reef still takes the cake for me.

The day of diving ended early at 1pm, and then we headed to the beach to catch our last few days of sun. Unfortunately, Phi Phi’s tides work in cycles of four days, and the tide was out while we were there, so you needed to walk for at least a hundred metres before hitting water you can sit down in. While I was walking out to meet my sister and our friend, I felt a sharp sting on my foot, thinking I had stepped on a coral, I yanked my foot out, but the pain didn’t go away! I yelped, and looked down, and sitting right where my foot had been was a small stingray! I got barbed by a stingray! There was only a tiny mark, but it hurt like hell! I traipsed back to the beach and into town, and into the first dive shop I found, where they told me to soak my ankle in hot water to get the sting out. Luckily stingrays aren’t poisonous, especially not with a sting to the foot, and the barb wasn’t left in my foot, but I was still in a considerable amount of pain. It took J.Y. Court and I half an hour before we could find a restaurant that was willing to provide a bucket of hot water for free (but I had to buy the bucket myself), and I was able to soak my foot until the sting went away. Phew, what a day!

After Phi Phi, on March 13, we headed to Phuket, but eschewed touristy Patong Beach for Kata Beach. We didn’t do anything special but sit on the beach and enjoy our last fruit shakes (my favourite were the mango and lemon) and seafood pad thai. Yesterday we embarked on a surprisingly comfortable and event-less trip down through Malaysia (with a stop in Penang) and to Singapore, where we will be staying until our flights leave on the morning of the 18th. It seems surreal that after almost 3 months we will be returning to the great white north.

Singapore is a very pedestrian friendly city, and we have spent the day walking around. Tonight we will visit the Zoo, and go on the night safari, before heading for a much-needed sleep. Tomorrow we will check out Chinatown, Little India, and the Raffles hotel, as well as the Esplanade for some skyline photos. I hope to get one more post in before we leave.

So long for now!

Lexi

14
Mar
10

I didn’t get to finish this post…

It’s really funny how fast time flies when you’re having fun. It’s also funny how busy you can seem to be when you’re not even doing anything but lying on the beach all day.

It seems like ages ago that we left the crazy debauchery of Koh Pha Ngan, and light years since we arrived in Chiang Mai after 40 days of touring through 3 countries. Since Koh Pha Ngan, we have been living a beach-y existence, literally doing little else other than lying on the beach, shopping, and eating. In the last two weeks we have been to four islands, one jungle, and one beach community. We have travelled on countless boats, ferries, minivans, and buses.

Tonight we are in Phuket, and tomorrow, we leave Thai paradise and will travel down the Malaysian peninsula to Singapore (a 28-hour trip), where we will stay for two days before returning to Toronto on March 18. I apologize for my lack of blog posts in the past few weeks, and will do my best to post from Singapore. Apparently everything here (except bars) close at 11pm, so I’m being herded out of the internet cafe long before this post would ever be complete.

So long, until Singapore!

Lex

09
Mar
10

My Travel Map

Travel Map
I’ve been to 43 cities in 14 countries
Asia
Cambodia: Phnum Penh
Cambodia: Siemreab
Laos: Vientiane
Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur
Singapore: Singapore
Thailand: Bangkok
Thailand: Chiang Mai
Vietnam: Ha Noi
Caribbean
Cuba: Cayo Coco
Cuba: Holguin
Grenada: Grenada
Europe
Austria: Innsbruck
Austria: Salzburg
Austria: Vienna
Italy: Venice
North America
Canada: Banff
Canada: Calgary
Canada: Fredericton
Canada: Montreal
Canada: Ottawa
Canada: Vancouver
United States: New York
United States: Orlando
United States: Salt Lake City
Oceania
Australia: Adelaide
Australia: Airlie Beach
Australia: Brisbane
Australia: Byron Bay
Australia: Cairns
Australia: Canberra
Australia: Coober Pedy
Australia: Daintree
Australia: Fraser Island
Australia: Melbourne
Australia: Sydney
South America
Brazil: Curitiba
Brazil: Sao Paulo
05
Mar
10

Feb 25-Mar 3: LEXI’S GUIDE TO THE FULL MOON PARTY

Since I am being harassed on a daily basis to blog about the experience of the infamous Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand, I figured I would skip the three days (Feb. 22-24) we spent in Khao Sok National Park between Bangkok and Koh Pha Ngan, and get straight to the goods. I apologize for the lack of photos, but they are on my camera and refusing to come out right now (for some reason the computer won’t upload direct from the camera).

Even though the decision to attend the Full Moon Party was made by me about halfway through the tour, I feel like it was the apex of the entire trip (ground zero, if you will), and everything else should be referred to in terms of BFM and AFM (before Full Moon and After Full Moon, respectively).

A BRIEF HISTORY

For those who don’t know, the Full Moon Party originated at Paradise Bungalows on Haad Rin (Hat Rin) beach on Koh Pha Ngan some years ago, although no one really knows how many. Since then it has become one of the largest organized parties in the world, and is celebrated each month on the day of the full moon (unless there is a Buddhist holiday on the day). The party itself is more of a rave, with anywhere from 10 to 30 thousand people attending each month. This year the full moon actually landed on February 28th, but as there was a Buddhist holiday, the celebration was on March 1st.

PREPARATIONS

Actually attending a full moon party can be quite complicated for the Full Moon Virgin (like us). The first challenge in attending the full moon party was finding accommodation. To do this it is good to have some knowledge of finance, logistics, and urban planning (luckily I have been in school for so long I have experience in each of these areas, tee hee):

  • The island of Koh Pha Ngan has many beaches, but most of them are unconnected by roads and therefore you must travel to and from by boat. The beach of Hat Rin is in the south corner, and connects to beaches on the west side of the island. Therefore, it is advisable to have accommodation as close to Hat Rin as possible (but not actually on Hat Rin if you want ANY sleep at all!) and prefereably someplace accessible by truck-taxi, the main mode of transportation to Hat Rin.
  • Since Thai people aren’t stupid, and they have realized that foreigners will do anything for a drunken party, the rates for resorts close to Hat Rin during the Full Moon week skyrocket, sometimes by more than 1000 Baht per night ($35).
  • Although the further you stay from Hat Rin the cheaper it will be, the more you will also pay to travel to and from Hat Rin on a nightly basis. Therefore, the Lonely Planet advises that you should figure out if you want to sleep like a baby or party like a rock star, and then decide where on the island you want to stay.

Court and I booked five nights at Mac Bay Resort, on Baan Tai beach, the closest beach to Hat Rin without actually being on Hat Rin, at the suggestion of my Lonely Planet. We got a decent rate ($50 per night) for a twin air conditioned bungalow ten steps from the beach, and three steps from the pool. The food was great, the staff was warm and welcoming, and the beach was gorgeous! We loved it so much that we ended up staying one extra night (either that we loved it so much or we were too hung over to leave on March 2nd – you decide 🙂

BEFORE THE FULL MOON

We arrived on Koh Pha Ngan on February 25, well in advance of the party on March 1st, and were pretty excited that we got to spend a full week in one place. I won’t bore you with our daily activities, because mostly we hung around the resort during the day, sleeping, relaxing on the beach, swimming in the pool and the Gulf of Thailand, and catching up with email. During the day I can imagine that Hat Rin was pretty quiet, with all the partyers resting up from the night before and revving up for the night ahead, but at night the beach came alive! Out of the six nights we spent on Koh Pha Ngan, we spent four on Hat Rin beach, and only two in other parts of the island.

Although the full moon party wasn’t until March 1st, there were parties on the beach every single night we were there, and we wanted to take full advantage of the young crowd and cheap booze buckets ($8 gets a mickey of vodka, redbull, and mixer). Each of the bars along the beach plays trance, techno, house, pop, or some sort of psych-hip hop mash up, and many of the bars feature young Thai men twirling blazing batons, poi (a flaming ball on the end of a rope that they swing around and make cool designs), and glow sticks. One of the bars even had a foam pit, and a flaming jump-rope, where drunk foreigners could try their best not to get their feet singed by twenty metres of flaming rope.

Because we stayed outside Hat Rin, we had to pay 100 Baht ($3.30) each way to take a taxi into town every night, but it was a small price to pay for a few hours of sleep each night. Trust me, when I heard the beats going on until the sun came up the next morning I was happy to have a bed in a quiet part of the island.

THE FULL MOON EXPERIENCE

On the day of the party, we wanted to take it easy and rest ourselves for the night ahead. Our friends John and Neil, whom we met on the hilltribe trek in Chiang Mai, showed up at our resort a couple days before the party, and we were pumped that they would be there during the celebrations. Our friends J.Y. and Dan from our tour, as well as our tour leader through Laos, Ae, showed up at different times the day of the party, and because none of them had accommodation booked on the island, we offered the floor of our bungalow as a crash pad. So there were seven of us who had a pre-party on our porch before heading to Hat Rin.

I will do my best to give approximate times of where I was at what point during the night, but most of them I only know because of the times the photos were taken. Around midnight I stopped taking photos, and lost my frame of reference, so bear with me!

Around 10PM he owner of our resort gave us all a ride to town, where we paid our cover charge (!) of 100 Baht ($3.30), got our flashy wristbands, and headed toward the beach.

Attire for the party is pretty open, except for one important rule: do not wear anything that you don’t want to get ruined! There are many ways for clothing to get trashed at the Full Moon Party – fire, vomit, tearing – and paint. I wore a bikini, a long top, and nothing else. Some of the guys from our resort had brought blacklight paint down to the beach, and we took some time painting each other’s faces, arms, and legs with designs. Then the mayhem began.

The beach was jam-packed with people, and the beat of music could be heard even as we drove into town. Most people were covered in glowing paint, wearing headbands, necklaces, bracelets, and the like, and carrying colourful buckets of booze. The beach was bordered on one side by the sea (which was really just a wall of guys peeing into the ocean), and on the other by a line of “bucket booths” which display a myriad of alcoholic combinations to choose from. When you walk by, the Thais manning the stands call out to you, and offer free shots, free necklaces, and discounts on already-dirt-cheap beverages (from 150 Baht to 300 Baht, depending on what you order. For example, Thai whisky with red bull and mix would be 150. If you want Smirnoff Vodka, expect to pay 300) . There were platforms with people dancing to trance, house, pop, drum’nbass, and fire twirlers all over the place, and all you could see were just people dancing, drinking, and yelling to be heard over the music. The beach was also littered with all manner of trash – everything from straws, broken buckets, beer bottles, and flip flops. If you can imagine a more dangerous scene than 10,000 drunk revellers dancing on a trash-covered beach with fire being thrown every 50 metres, please tell me, because I’d like to know!

It’s notoriously easy to lose people (among other things) during the full moon party. When we left the resort around 10PM, we had ten people with us: myself, Courtney, Ae, J.Y., Dan, Neil, John, plus three German guys from our resort. By the time the sun rose, each of us had come home separately, and had largely spent the night without the other members of our little commune.

Courtney was the first to go, just after we (finally) headed down to the beach around 11PM. She slipped away to grab a bucket, and couldn’t find us on the way back. Don’t worry though, she found some friends and had a crazy night of her own (I’ll let her post it later, if she wants to). Neil and John were the next to go, I don’t even know when or where they disappeared to, all I know is that I turned around and they were gone. Dan and I were dancing for a while on one of the platforms, and when we jumped down to go back to J.Y. and Ae, we got lost and couldn’t find them, so we were left on our own. The details of the next little while are a bit hazy, but I’ll give you the drift: since Dan and I were on our own, and neither of us wanted to lose the other, we went over to where one of the guys was putting on a fire show. Lost in a trance of the music and the fire, I barely noticed when the people in front of me turned around. They turned out to be a guy and a girl, Marco and Anette, from Switzerland, whom I had met at the beach earlier on in the week! This turned out to be the luckiest thing that happened to me all night, because just after I introduced them to Dan, he left to go puke in the sea! He came back minutes later and told me he was going home, leaving me at the beach.

Had it not been for running into Marco and Anette, I would have been left alone all night, but somehow these two are masters of finding each other after being separated, and I managed to stick with one or the other all night. I don’t really remember many details, but all I know is that we danced and drank buckets and tottered around the beach until about 5am, when we finally left the beach. I managed to avoid paying a ridiculous fee to get a taxi to take me back to our resort, by crashing at Anette and Marco’s place for the night, which was at a resort close to Hat Rin.

When I woke up around 8am, I instantly wished I had gone home to my own bungalow: the thumping beat of the afterparty (which was still raging down on the beach) could still be heard, even on the other side of the hill, the room felt like a friggin sauna with the sun shining in the open windows (and four people crammed in one room, which was no bigger than the size of two double beds), and my mouth tasted and felt like what I imagine wet cardboard must taste and feel like. I was also half resting in a pile of dried paint, which had flaked off during my nap, my hair looked like a birds nest, and I’m sure I’ve never been so sweaty in my life. Top it all off with the fact that I probably smelled like a vodka-pineapple factory exploded with me in the middle, and I’m sure I’ve never been so happy to see a shower in my entire life.

The ride home was strangely pleasant, I had the incredibly smug and triumphant feeling like I had survived a tornado or earthquake or some other disaster. I certainly looked like I had! Luckily, most of the other people I encountered on my way to find a taxi looked either worse or just as bad as me.

SURVIVED THE FULL MOON

On March 2nd we had planned to head off to Koh Tao, but as we were too hung over to move, we opted to stay another day. J.Y., Dan, and Ae headed west toward the Similan Islands, while the rest of us stayed in bed until dinnertime.

Hat Rin was a disaster zone: everywhere you looked there were bottles, straws, buckets, clothing strewn on the beach. Many people were walking around town with bandages around their feet, ankles, legs, arms, and faces. Many people still had blood on them, or open wounds, and a lot hadn’t even washed the paint off them yet. Nevertheless, it was the calmest day I saw in Hat Rin, as most people were taking it easy or still sleeping off the effects of the night before.

March 2nd was a sad day, as we said goodbye to Dan and J.Y., whom we had been with since Day 1, Ae, who had stayed with us for two nights and who was like a third roommate to us, Neil and John, who are two of the coolest people I have met in Asia, Thomas and Mark, whom we hung out with almost every night, and Marco and Anette, who always have a special place in my heart for saving me from spending the Full Moon Party by myself in a sea full of people.

As crazy as the week was, we were sad to leave, and boarding the ferry to go back to the mainland was painful. We were both tired from the partying and having to be uprooted after spending a week in paradise, and sad from having to say goodbye to all the friends we met and met again on the beaches of Koh Pha Ngan.

Now we are in Krabi, bored out of our minds, and trying to rehydrate our bodies with non-alcoholic beverages. On March 7 we will be moving on to Koh Phi Phi, and hopefully to a better beach and airconditioning (otherwise I think Court might not make it).

I promise to post photos as soon as I humanly can, for fear of my life. All I have to say now is

I SURVIVED!

Lex




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