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Thailand – Part 1

I wanted to write down everything I can remember from my trip to Thailand, so I can re-read it in a few months when I decide I want to go back…or in a few years, when I decide I want to move there. Inevitably, I’ll forget things, but I’m going to do my best to be as accurate as possible, and I reserve the right to edit these posts to include or clarify more information. It seems that some friends wanted to hear about my trip, and I want to relive it – so without further delay, in way-to-much detail…here goes nothin:
I left Los Angeles on March 6th at 11am from LAX. I had cleaned my apartment and made sure Bo was okay for my friends who ended up staying at my place and taking care of him for the entire time I was gone. I’ll start off by saying that having them offer to do that so graciously set my mind at ease from the get-go, and I’m very thankful for their help. I took the LAX Flyaway, which – if you haven’t taken it before, do – was seamless. $8 from Hollywood, and it only stops IN Hollywood, and at your terminal, and it goes every hour. Of course, on the way back, there looked to be a “saved” bag of what looked like pee on one of the back seats, so I just sat toward the front. Odd. I got to the airport a few hours early, got through customs without issue, and found a bar in which to have breakfast and one last American beer before heading out. I flew China Eastern Airlines, and I’ve heard mixed reviews, but I had chosen one of the back seats, which only had two seats per row, and I was on the window…so not only did I have a little leg room (beside the seat in front of me), but I also only had to bother one person if I had to get up and move around…which I didn’t really have to much. He was a nice neighbor. From Shanghai, he worked in San Diego and was some kind of super smart science guy. His parents were in Shanghai still, so he made it back to visit many times during the year. When we arrived in Shanghai, he even spoke more quietly, and we talked about how the government in China isn’t really doing it “right” with building and prosperity and pollution and whatnot. Shanghai was the most polluted city I’ve ever seen. It was like we were in a cloud, but it was all pollution. Plus, the Shanghai airport wasn’t amazing, which – by the scale of it – I wanted it to be. Really, it looked like a number “3” and each of the little arms were long stretches with a single long row of fancy shops…but the planes didn’t even really connect to the airport itself – we were dropped off near the runway, and we had to board a separate bus to take us around to one of the various ground-level entrances to the airport. It was pretty weird – for such a large airport, it felt disorganized and poorly laid out. But who am I?
During the flight, I watched a couple movies and slept. Nothing fantastic. I got up and stretched and went to the restroom whenever my neighbor decided to do the same. We struck up various conversations in the “crew area” where we got more water and coffee from time to time in between stretches. The flight out was about 14 hours, and as always, I enjoyed watching our progress on the little information app on my front-seat TV monitor. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me, but we went up the coast, past SF, past Alaska, and over that way to China. For some reason, I just thought it’d be shorter to just kinda float right over the ocean to it. Waze probably would have led me that way. Speaking of Waze, as to not use cell phone data, I used the whole trip, and it was…fine. Nothing amazing, but it wasn’t awful. There were a handful of times it tried to lead me down a one-way street the wrong way, but overall it was…fine.
Got to Shanghai at around 9pm local time, I think? Had a 3 hour layover, during which I took a nap on the seats in the terminal, and almost missed my flight because I had set my watch to Bangkok time, not realizing that Shanghai was an hour off from that. Oops. I woke up as the rest of the plane was loading, thankfully, so I got up and walked on the plane. Four hour flight to Bangkok that was pretty forgettable, then arrived in Bangkok at Suvarnabhumi International Airport…their big airport. I liked it better than Shanghai, but again – it was massive and not terribly well planned, in my opinion. It didn’t really matter at that point though, because the day before I left, I bought a $36 ticket from the OTHER Bangkok airport (Don Muang) down to Surat Thani (Thailand is shaped kind of like a backwards thought bubble. Bangkok is at the bottom of the bubble, Surat Thani is at the inside edge of the bottom curve). Problem was that it was 2am Bangkok time (11am the previous day my body clock time) and I had a flight at 9a to Surat Thani. What to do? Well, I found a few guys from the states who were evidently on my flight, and they were staying at the world-famous Koh San Road (a hippie/backpacker kind of area on the Western side of downtown Bangkok), so I hopped in a cab with them and went to the all-night party area of Koh San Road for some beers until about 5am…at which time, I found another cab, hopped back in and went to the OTHER airport. I checked in, and was ready for my flight down to Surat Thani…same day.
Got to Surat Thani around 11:00, and I had to take a bus to get to the ferry which would eventually take me to Koh Tao – one of the islands South of Bangkok. The ferry left at 2:15, so I was able to get some food and chill out for a while as I waited…The bus was a Greyhound-esq bus with AC, so that was good. It was a 1.5 hour drive to the port where the ferry picked everyone up, so I nodded in and out of sleep, trying not to miss anything about the new country I was in – and just being exposed to for the first time since most of my previous traveling was done during the night. Also, odd fact, but during the flight from LAX to China, the airline required that window shades be closed for the duration. I suppose that’s so if people want to sleep, there isn’t 10 hours of direct sunlight bothering them, but it was just weird to me. Anyway, got to the ferry, and it was a bit of a clusterfuck – nobody really knowing what was going on – including the workers. Made for an adventure. Eventually I found that I had to have a specific sticker which told the crew where I should sit – and it was based on the island we’d be stopping at.
The “high speed” ferry was pretty typical. 3 decks, drinks and food on the bottom deck and plenty of seats. I got my window seat and definitely took a nap. When the boat got going though, I made a feeble attempt to read. I don’t know why I do that…I never actually read when I’m on trips. The books and/or magazines just end up taking up space. So the ferry was solid. It stopped at Koh Samui first, dropped some people off, picked some people up, left…then, a while later we were at Koh Phangan. Dropped some people off, picked some people up…and then a LONG while later we were on my final destination, Koh Tao. In between the two islands, I moved from my window seat on the bottom floor, to the middle seat on the very top deck, so I could witness the beautiful sunset and warm sea breezes first hand. I’m really glad I did, because it was awesome.
Got on land, and there were about 50 taxi drivers letting me know they’d only over charge me a little bit to take me to wherever I was staying. Instead of doing that, even though I had been traveling for a bit over a day (did I mention that I literally skipped March 7th, and arrived on March 8th?), I decided to walk the half hourish it took from the pier, up and down the hills, through the city, on the beach, getting lost along the way, until I got to Big Blue Diving Resort, where I would find myself the next “x” amount of days working on my Scuba certification. Checked in, took my bag to my 8-person dorm, went back downstairs to the back deck, grabbed some dinner and a beer, and just watched the water gently lapping on the sand about 15 feet away from my table. Yeah, I could get used to this. Did my best to go to bed early because the party-goers sharing my room were quite chatty, but I did okay. The fun would start the following day…more later.