Sunday, March 22, 2009

Terrific Thailand

First a quick update on grad school:  I am going to UCSF.  I still have to hear from Stanford and the waitlist for Columbia, but I would rather go to UCSF even if I do get in to those places.  I'm going to figure out I'm actually supposed to confirm and then do it in the next couple of days.  So yeah, San Francisco...  that means you all should come out and visit me once I get settled and such.  

So now onto Thailand.  Right now I'm actually in an internet right across from the ship using free WiFi in Ho Chi Minh City, so that I don't have to use up my internet minutes on the ship.  We only had two days at sea between Thailand and Vietnam (going 11 knots, which is super slow, so that they could spread it out and make us go to two days of class.  There was also a man overboard drill with a dummy so we got to watch the crew go out and retrieve it in a life boat which was pretty fun), so it was a very quick turn around.

The ship was actually docked in a smaller city called Laem Chabang because our ship is too long to go into Bangkok's harbor, so we had to take a two hour bus right to actually get to Bangkok.  As soon as we got there we got a cab (which are bright pink, blue, orange, or other colors depending on the union) to Khao San road which is a couple of blocks full of hostels and bars and restaurants that is very popular with backpackers and is super international.  We found a hostel for the night and then starting walking toward the Grand Palace which wasn't too far away.  It was late in the afternoon and we were told by a guard that it was closed so we continued down to Wat Pho, which is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  "Wat" is the Thai word for templed and this particular one had a giant (and I mean absolutely huge) Buddha laying on his side.  We actually somehow missed the building even though it was right at the front and wandered around and didn't see it until the end, which made it all the more incredible.  Here is a picture of Jill and I in front of it (there are also huge feet at the end of the legs that we couldn't get in the picture):

The rest of the temple grounds was beautiful as well, with lots of tiling and spires and pretty roofs.  Here is a picture of Ben and Conor in front of two statues.  We have many pictures of using copying the position of various statues.  

After that we walked over to the Chao Phraya river and took a long tail boat tour along the river and the canals surrounding it.  The long tail is a long wooden boat with a motor with a really long pole before you get to the actual propeller, hence the name.  It was a really interesting way to see part of the city.  Here is a picture of Jill and in in the long tail:

Then the boys wanted to go and see a Muay Thai fight, which is the traditional Thai martial art.  Jill and I didn't want to go so we went to eat dinner at a place near by.  The owners basically ate dinner with us and it was also a karaoke place so they were trying to get us to sing, but we didn't want to.  That night we went back to Khao San road and hung out at a bar.

The next morning we took a cab to the airport and caught our flight down to Phuket.  Phuket is an island province in the south of Thailand.  It is known for having some of the world's most beautiful beaches and great snorkling.  We were heading toward even tinier islands called Koh Phi Phi (which are actually made up of six islands) about 60 kilometers off the coast of Phuket.  We had to take a minibus to the southern part of Phuket and then had to wait a few hours and get on a 2 hour ferry to get to Koh Phi Phi Don, which is the main island and the only one with permanent residents.  All of the scenery was absolutely gorgeous and the village was really cute with stone paths full of restaurants and shops.  The whole island was full of people from all over the world, mostly backpackers.  

The first day we just found a hostel and hung out on the beach for a while.  Jill and I got a Thai pancake, their excellent version of fried dough.  It's sort of like a crepe, but cooked a little more to be crispier and then thy put all sorts of stuff in or on top of it.  I got nutella on top and it was delicious.  Then we grabbed dinner and hung out in a couple of bars for the night, including one on the beach, which was fun.  The next morning the boys were going scuba diving and Jill and I were going to lay out on the beach.  Here was our view:

I am getting much tanner on this trip, but I did manage to sunburn myself after laying out for 1.5 hours.  It was extremely hot and we were in the water every ten minutes to cool off.  After we got a Thai massage for an hour for 300 baht (about $9).  It's a full body massage, and it was good, but my lady was sort of a beast, and she sort of killed me.  That afternoon we were leaving for a trip that we had signed up for the night before.  We were going to go to Maya Bay on the island of Koh Phi Phi Leh and sleep there for the night.  Maya Bay is the beach from the film "The Beach," (with Leonardo DiCaprio) which I saw for the first time the day before we got to Thailand.  It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful island/beaches in the world, and I definitely agreed.

Here is a picture of Conor, Ben, Jill and I jumping on the beach.  We have been doing jump pictures all over the world, and there is also one in the movie, so we thought it was fitting.

Here is another picture that Ben took at Maya Bay with a long tail boat and I really like it.

We got to the beach with our group that included a few Thai guides and about 12 other travelers: two french girls, one british girl, one canadian girl, two greek guys, one dutch girl, and four indian guys, so you can truly get the sense of how international the island's travelers are.  We took a small boat out to the island and before we actually went to the beach, we snorkeled and kayaked in the bay.  Then we took a longtail onto the beach and just hung around for a bit.  They had brought dinner for us, but right as we started eating, a storm started.  Luckily there was a long rock overhang that could hold us and all of our stuff.  We just hung around for the night talked with everyone about their lives and travels in other countries, which was very interesting.

We walked down to the water and saw that the surf was glowing.  There were little specks of light in the surf and if you kicked the water, it looked like you had fireworks coming out of your foot.  It's a certain sort of plankton that glows when it's disturbed and it was definitely one of the coolest parts of the trip.  It had stopped raining and we slept on the beach on mats and sleeping bags.  It was all fine except I woke up in the morning with about 200 bug bites of varying sizes all over my body, mostly on my legs and back.  Luckily most of them weren't itchy, but it looked like I had a bad case of the chicken pox.  They are all gone by now.  We had breakfast and got to walk around the island a bit more and then headed back to Koh Phi Phi Don.

We had to take the ferry back that afternoon so we just had lunch and wandered around the beach a bit.  Here is a picture of where we ate lunch.  It is my desktop background right now.

So we took the ferry back from Koh Phi Phi Don to Phuket and then a taxi back to the airport.  Then we flew back to Bangkok which was fine until the guy next to me puked, luckily in the bag and then ran to the bathroom, but it was still gross.  We went back to Khao San road and got a hostel and then met up with some friends at a club for one girl's birthday.

The next morning we got a tour in a tuk-tuk, which is the Thai version of a rickshaw, sort of a small three-wheeled gold cart.  We went to "Big Buddha" and it also involved going to a government tailor shop and tourist agency so that the driver gets free gas money, which is really annoying, but common.  Here is Big Buddha, and he is definitely big.  

Then we walked around the grounds of the Grand Palace but we didn't go in because it costs about $10 and we didn't have that much time before we had to go and catch our bus back to the ship.  Here is a picture of the outside of the Grand Palace, which I heard was awesome on the inside too.  

We went back to Khao San to grab our stuff and did a bit of shopping.  There were shops and stalls all over the street wiht lots of clothes and bags and jewelry and shoes.  I'm also going to do a bunch of shopping in Vietnam, which will be much of the same, but cheaper.  Then we just took our SAS bus back to the ship and hung out.

That's about all for now... sorry for that getting a bit long, but Thailand was pretty sweet.


Matthew said...

Congrats on UCSF!

And it looks like you're having a lot of fun in Thailand. You're really making me miss the place. I have some very similar pictures of Koh Pi Pi, Wat Pho and Phuket from about 12 years ago. I think I'll have to go back.

Tim said...

Hey, I didn't realize you were already in Thailand. If I'd known I would've told you some cool things to see and set you up with a few local friends of mine who are awesome tour guides.

Looks like you had enough fun without my help though. I'm jealous.