I took a hiatus, as you can see. Bo has been waking me up multiple times a night for some reason – I think it’s just to make sure I’m still alive – because when I wake up, I’ll start my day and then he just goes back to sleep. What a dick. Last night, though, I was so tired I went to bed at 9:30 thinking that if Bo woke me up multiple times through the night, I could at least go back to sleep multiple times and in combining those multiple times, I could get a decent nights sleep…BUT, he didn’t wake me up until 5a! I took him outside, and then went back to sleep until 6:30a! I’m a new man! My fingers are writing like the wind! Lots and lots of exclamation points!
Okay. Back to reality, oops there goes…wait, no. So I left off at finishing up my fun dives and fun times on Koh Tao. Tear. Didn’t want to leave, but forced myself to because it’s a long trip to the other side of the world, and I wanted to see more of Thailand to make sure I’m making the correct irrational decision to pick up and move there at some point. Since we just finished the fun dives, Erin and I had a celebratory drink whilst updating my dive book, and then we had a celebratory drink to celebrate finishing our celebratory drink, and then Albert showed up, and we celebrated that, and then he returned the celebration, and then I thanked him for returning the celebration. By the end of it, they had to ship in more Chang beer to the island. I took a minute with Albert to go buy the scuba diving video from our open water certification, and it looks awesome, I can’t wait to share bits and pieces of it when I finally put together the video I’m going to eventually come up with. I made sure to check out, even though I hadn’t had to pay for my room since I was taking class the whole time, and then I went to the little mini travel agent / laundromat in the front of the resort to see if I could snag a ferry to Koh Phangan in the morning. Since I had been waking up so early anyway, I thought I’d get the 6a ferry, which means I had to be at the pier at 5:30, which means I had to leave the resort at 5 at the latest (since I wanted to walk along the beach, and figure out my way back to the pier, and it’d take about a half hour to do so), which means I wanted to wake up at 4a so I can get my stuff together, and not be late. I’m a selective planner. After buying the ticket, I went back and hung out with Albert for a while and drank a few more, and had a great time. Went to bed to wake up early and say goodbye to this paradise.
I wanted to go to Koh Phangan because every full moon they have this debaucherous full moon party where everybody gets hammered and dance with fire and make out and dance to techno and paint their bodies and whatnot…I thought about going to it, but decided against it because a) all of that except for the making out sounds horrible to me, and b) the next morning was the start of my advanced diving class, so I didn’t want to be hungover. Regardless, AROUND the full moon party, there’s a water park set up, and they had something called the “slip and fly” which is like a giant, inflated slip ‘n slide down a mountain that launches you into a pool like a ski jump. I really wanted to do that and get it on video, so I went early, and got that ferry to the other island…only to find out that the slip n fly opened at 11a! That morning, I had bought a $32 flight from Surat Thani (the airport I had flown into on the first night/day to get to Koh Tao) to Chiang Mai – which is in the Northern province of Thailand, and my flight was leaving at 4:30. The ferry from this island to the pier at Surat Thani left at noon in order to get there on time (including the 1.5 hour bus trip from the pier to the airport), so since the slip n fly was in the middle of the jungle, I wouldn’t have had time to do it all. Thus, I ended up bumming around this island for breakfast, and I wrote some postcards, and I had some coffee and then sat on the beach with a beer and just relaxed for a few hours. It was awesome. I didn’t know I needed it, but I did. Walked back to the pier and got on my ferry and promptly took a nap.
The ferry was pretty uneventful, and we got back at the time they thought we would (which is evidently hit-and-miss in Thailand), and the bus got me to the airport in time to go through security (where they took my damn aloe), and I had enough time to get a ham and cheese croissant and a beer at the one cafe in the terminal. Then, I was off to Chiang Mai through Thai Lion air, and it was the cleanest, most beautiful plane I’ve been on. Not terribly fancy, but it was almost like a Virgin airlines flight with blue lights highlighting, and good leg room, comfy seats, totally clean. It was awesome. Plus, I had the row to myself, and two very inquisitive little people in the seat in front of me who entertained me for a lot of the two hour flight.
I arrived in Chiang Mai without a hitch, and the airport reminded me a lot of some of the smaller airports here in the states. Not as many Americans in it, but similar structure, you see. I figured out how to get out of the airport, and I started looking at my internet device to see where the hostel that was recommended to me was in relation to where I was currently. This place was called the “SEE Hostel” and this guy who came into my bar RAVED about it, and how nice the people at the front desk were, and how accommodating they were, etc, so I was excited to get there and see if they had space for the evening. Turns out it was less than a mile away, so I just started walking. I followed my maps.me app, which does directions without needing an internet connection, but I came to find out on this particular walking tour, it doesn’t really take into account some minor details like how walking through parking lots might not be beneficial if there are locked gates and walls that you have to jump over to get to the route, and dark back alleys that weren’t the most welcoming of spaces to contend with. Aside from that, I was able to find the hostel, and – true to the story – the reception people were so very nice, and they had space. Mr. Jay was the front desk man, and he asked me to follow him to my room on the fourth floor.
Now, if you’ve never had the pleasure of staying in a hostel, you should definitely do it. 9 times out of 10, you’ll meet cool people with great stories, you’ll stay on the cheap in super well-kept rooms that afford you some privacy by having curtains around your bed, or a separate kind of pod all together. I have not had a bad experience in a hostel up until this point, but evidently this was the 10th time I’ve been in a hostel, as you’ll find out soon enough.
Mr. Jay brought me to the door, and he knock, knock, knocked on the door and called out seemingly the current tenant’s name to make sure he knew we were coming. Nothing. Knock, Knock, Knock, tenants name?! Nothing. So, Mr. Jay naturally opened the door, and the tenant was standing at the other side of the 8-person dorm room looking directly at the door, stone-faced, and stretching his arm from right to left. Okay. Mr. Jay said, “oh, Mr. Blahblah, I didn’t realize you were in here.” Nothing. Okay. Mr. Jay pointed to my bed and explained this would be mine for the night, and he pointed to the locker and said this would be my locker and it locks and everything. He then took me out and showed me the bathrooms and the showers, both very nice and private. He then left me to Igor. I tried to introduce myself, and the guy didn’t say anything. Okay, we’re not going to be friendly, sounds great. So I got situated in the room, locked everything up, took a shower – with hot water! – and got some clothes on so I could figure out some food. Left without any interaction with my hostelmate. Didn’t really think anything of it at this point.
I asked Mr. Jay where I should eat, and he directed me to a night market that was about a mile away, so I walked and there were tons of little carts with people making food in front of you. Traditional dishes, sushi, smoothies, meat-on-a-stick, etc. Both sides of the street, and a median filled with these carts and tables and chairs you can eat at. It was great. I walked and walked, got myself a beer (you can drink anywhere there), and found some sushi. Then, I found some corn on the cob. Then, I found some meat on a stick (I got chicken, pork, and heart of some kind. The heart was delicious.) Then, I got an apple/strawberry smoothie. Then, I got some chicken and chili. Then, I was almost comatose from eating for a couple hours and spending a whopping $4 or something ridiculous. I walked around the city for a bit, and then headed back to my hostel. Got one more beer to wind down with for the evening, and I went to my little bed, and just played on the internet device until going to bed. At one point, Igor peeked through the infinitesimally small crack in my curtains and pointed to the light on the wall with an “okay to turn off the light?” kind of look, and I gave him the “okay” symbol with my fingers. Maybe he’s warming up to me. Also, at this point, I think he’s deaf since he doesn’t even attempt words…so I tell myself in the morning, maybe I’ll try and introduce myself in sign language (I know a little), and maybe he’s just shy about trying to talk or something.
Slept like a baby, woke up early, and Skyped with the ‘rents. They got a real kick out of Skyping with me when I was in Thailand. We did it a couple times, and since it was over wifi, the clarity was the same as it is here in the states, which blew their mind. They were happy to see that I was doing fine, and having an awesome time. After that, I signed up for a motorbike, which would be there at 10a – they deliver! And I signed up to go to an elephant sanctuary in the jungle! Its one of the ones where they don’t do riding because that’s bad for the elephants, and this one in particular saved a number of elephants from “work farms” or the like.
The motorbike was delivered on time, and they took my passport as collateral. No pressure! I told them I’d return it in 3.5 days. It cost about $10 per day, unlimited miles, etc. I did a little test driving around the city just to get lost a bit, as it’s been a minute since riding a motorbike. I did just fine, and got back to the hostel in time for the elephant sanctuary tour to pick me up. The driver had his own truck, and the back of the truck was just open-air with bench seating on either side and some grab rails to make sure you didn’t fall out when going down the highway. I was fortunate, as I was the last person to be picked up, and so I got to sit up front in the air conditioning. The ride was uneventful, but we did stop for some reason at a 7-11 and waited there for a half hour while our driver, and a number of other elephant tour-drivers, just waited? Not sure what we did that for, but it was fine. Continued the drive to the middle of nowhere jungle when we got to the final stop.
This was very jungle like. Huts and whatnot. But everyone was very nice. The elephanting was pretty badass. We first had to put on the proper clothing for the tribe’s location we were at in the jungle. Then we could start meeting and feeding the elephants by hand. We literally held bananas and fed these giant elephants (and one baby) by hand. It was so cool. I looked like a giant dork, but I had my gopro on my head and filmed a POV of a lot of it. I’ll look forward to sharing that as well. After that, we changed into our bathing suits (in the “bathrooms”) and walked down to the giant mud pit…where we proceeded to throw mud on the elephants and the elephants just started rolling around like enormous dogs…which LITERALLY moved the earth under us. It was wild. Just giant heaps of mud sloshing around on these elephants. It was quite fun. They had a photographer there, too, so even though I have the gopro footage, I’ll add some of those pics later, as well. Then, the elephants were guided down to the river and we splashed the elephants with water to clean them off. Big ol’ water fight. The whole experience was very cool. I’m glad I did a half day, also, rather than a full day. A half was fine. We got back up topside and took “showers” and got ready for the meal they had prepared for us…which, in hindsight, was super stupid of me to eat because a) I had no idea how long it had been sitting there, and b) I had just been playing in mud and elephants and I hadn’t totally deloused myself of everything possible. This came to all be realized later in the evening when my insides woke me up at 3a, and told me they all wanted to be out…immediately. I won’t go into any more detail than that, but the next day I was laying low and sleeping a lot until I felt better in the evening. I met an awesome German girl at the sanctuary, too, and we had some great conversations…and she also got sick that night.
Aside from the aftermath, the elephant sanctuary was pretty great. Big fan. Now, I’m tired of writing this morning, so I’ll leave you in the dark about Igor’s interaction with me when I got back from the sanctuary…and the resulting immediate move to another hostel that same day. More later…