Here’s the next one, folks!
Tiernan has started producing the trip videos for the Bangkok/New Zealand trip we did at the start of the year. Do check them out as we begin to post them.
Companion and more in-depth blog posts are going up at Celt & Kiwi in amongst the updated posts about immigration in Ireland.
Right across the water from Wat Arun is Wat Pho – home of the beautiful and reverent, reclining buddha.
It costs 100BHT to get in and it definitely pays to get there around opening time. The sacred site absolutely teems with tourist which juxtaposes very awkwardly with the genuine worshippers… However, Wat Pho typically isn’t a pilgrimage site.
Wat Pho is beautiful. Supposedly, it is the birth place of Thai massage. Now I had one of those while in Thailand and can safely say it was horrifically painful. But it is the kind of pain you forget about really quickly, so I really want another massage. Right now.
According to wikipedia, the site of Wat Pho used to be a place for education about traditional medicine and yoga. I guess that explains why I saw so many yoga fans there – best pay homage to a home of the art, right?
The lovely, mother or pearl feet of the reclining buddha are inscribed with the 108 auspicious symbols of buddha. If you are looking for good fortune, the wat also has 108 small bowls that you can drop coins into – one at a time in a line, before you leave.
Remember a modest dress code is enforced, as with any spiritual place typically does.
In between arriving on a Thursday morning in Bangkok and shopping myself silly before the train on Saturday I found I had an entire free day for sight seeing. I chose Wat Pho and Wat Arun as my destinations and spent an entire afternoon at the latter.
Tasks included watching lovebirds on the walkway, monks on the pier and tourists crammed into passenger boats. It took me all day 🙂
In the early afternoon I paid the 3 baht to get across the river. But the place was already so packed that I scurried back to my spot on the opposite side of the river. I wasn’t the only person scouring for a decent sunset (which never came). But it was worth it!
With love from Bangkok!
Tonight there was a small electrical fire in my bathroom. I was having a shower and singing ‘If I Die Young’ by The Band Perry (which seems inappropriate considering what happened), when I smelled an odd burning plastic smell that seemed to increase in putridity as the shower, and song, went on.
When I got out of the shower I thought, ‘hmm, this smells a lot like the great Bookstore fire of 2010’. That time my colleague and I discovered a melted transformer in one of the shop’s fluorescent lights. The ensuing blaze closed the mall and welcomed three of Auckland’s fire crews.
Anyway, there was this fire in my bathroom. So I went down stairs and asked for the engineer.
‘What’s your query ma’am?’
‘The plug socket in my bathroom is about to start a fire.’
‘They’ll be right there.’
‘Course they will.’
So I end up with two guys on their hands and knees in my teeny weeney bathroom, which is already reasonable wet due to me hopping out of the shower. They turned off the power to that room, de-fired the socket and left.
I then had a great dinner time talk with my property agent and hopefully it won’t be long before I can have showers again. For now everyone at work will have to get used to my particular level of unkeptness and I wish I had security clearance to the part of the office with a shower.
For those who are concerned about my apartment burning down, there are five sprinklers over the 36 square meters. Here’s to never needing them!
But, you know, fires are a fantastic segway into what I wanted to talk about today – Thai BBQ!
I didn’t have a Christmas dinner this year owing to being alone in my apartment (apartment tour reference number 2). When we were wondering what to have for dinner on my first night in Koh Phangan we decided to wing it and stroll down the road.
We found Seethanu BBQ where, for BHT159, you can have all you can eat of everything. It was really a big mistake on their part because we certainly ate all we could eat. Then we did it again and again until we had been their four days in a row. They had an array of veges (bok choy, green onion, lettuce), fish and other seefoodies, four kinds of marinated chicken, marinated pork, beef, tofu, eggies, tropical fruit… a feast!
This place is everything awesome about communal eating. You all sit around a big table which as either one or two coal fires. The staff then come and set up the BBQ which allows you to do both boiling and frying. Then you cook whatever you like yourself. Some nights I had noodle soup, some nights I had straight BBQ of meat and only meat.
I said the other day that I wasn’t overly mad about Koh Phangan, but I can safely say that we were absolutely devastated to leave that BBQ place behind!
I normally spend New Year’s Eve asleep. It’s not really my scene. But this year, when my brother and his friends decided to go to Thailand I said I would go too.
So at 8pm on 31 December 2013 we piled into the bed of a passing ute and headed to Haad Rin beach, Koh Phangan. Koh Phangan is home to the famed Full Moon parties. On New Year’s Eve it costs BHT100 to get on to the beach. When we arrive it was already reasonably packed with half dressed bodies.
It didn’t take long to find something familiar – Irish and Kiwi flags being flown by cocktail stations! We ran into Aussies and Kiwis left and right, even a colleague of my brother. It seems as though this is the place every young tourist goes to celebrate the New Year and the only Thai people were those selling alcohol on the beach. When I got back to Bangkok on Friday most of the people in my dorm had also just arrived from Koh Phangan.
There was a lot of black light and neon. A firey jump rope. A pirate ship. Several mosh pits. Cocktails in buckets. And a long clean up job New Year’s Day for someone. For the most part, the party is quite safe, just remember to wear shoes!
As someone who doesn’t really drink, if at all, it was a long slog to midnight. But the fireworks were spectacular. Worth the wait, they lit up the jungle and the beach in a moment of clarity during a chaotic night. I was very sad that Tiernan couldn’t be there, but it was nice to hang out with family and friends during the holidays!
I am not sure I would go again, or even recommend Koh Phangan as a New Year destination. The weather was on the bad side of average. There are better beaches and snorkelling spots to be found (I would argue that the Philippines tops Thailand in those assets). As a result, there is not much to do during the day besides sleep off the night before.
We stayed in a really nice villa (though I didn’t like the owner holding the passport of one of the party as security, so I will not be promoting them) and we were able to hang out by our private pool all day. To be honest, you can swim in a pool anywhere in the world. The barbeque did redeem Koh Phangan a bit.
Hot travel tip: never leave your passport with anyone as security. Offer a copy. Maybe a cash bond or a credit card if you are up for it. But never leave your passport. You can cancel a card, but lose your passport and you could be very stuck indeed. I would rather risk losing a hundred bucks than my valid travel document. It is not that easy to replace a passport or get emergency travel documents. And your embassy is not going to be impressed.
There is just no valid reason to leave it as security, be it for a bike or a house. Sure, they’re making sure you can be accountable for damages, but remember the flip side is that they can hold it against you and force you to pay money you didn’t owe. Thailand is notorious for passport theft and fraud, don’t help it by leaving your passport. End rant 🙂
Happy New Year, everyone!