I knew I didn’t get enough of Thailand the first time around. I left Luang Prabang, Laos for Chiang Mai, Thailand, on one of those dreadful 16-hour overnight busses that everyone complains about out here. This one turned into a 21-hour journey, as the bus broke down at 1 AM for a solid five hours because of a torn belt. Most of the passengers passed the time drooling on themselves and each other in a comatose-like state as a result of the cheap Laotian Valium. If I could have done the journey on my motorbike, I would’ve, but unfortunately you can’t cross the border from Laos to Thailand with a Vietnamese plated bike. Thankfully, I made a Laotian friend in Luang Prabang who was kind enough to let me leave my motorcycle and gear at his house during my month-long return to Thailand. After the bus journey was all said and done, I arrived in Chiang Mai exhausted and sweaty, but mostly just hungry. And there’s no better city in Thailand to be hungry in than Chiang Mai. I was beyond excited to be back in my favorite city in SE Asia. Better yet – Tara and Heather were to arrive in a few days. There’s nothing more enjoyable for me than sharing good eats with loved ones. Unfortunately, I didn’t snap too many pictures of our eating endeavors in Chiang Mai. You’ll just have to trust that the three of us stuffed our fat faces together for all of you back home.
We were lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai during Songkran, the Thai New Year, when the city erupts into the world’s largest water fight for three days straight. Traditionally, sprinkling water on people (specifically the Thai elders) during Songkran signifies a purification process, washing away the bad thoughts and actions and bringing good fortune in the new year. Over time though, the holiday has turned into a massive street party, especially in Chiang Mai, where 50 gallon barrels full of ice cold water line the streets, and both Thais and foreigners alike use buckets to “sprinkle” water with enough force to wash away any bad thought you’ve ever even thought about having. Experiencing this holiday in Chiang Mai is an absolute blast. Thai people are already so happy and cheerful, and they’re that much more radiant during Songkran.
From Chiang Mai, Tara, Heather, and I took a hellish night train down to Bangkok. Normally we’d buy a sleeper ticket for a train that long (~12 hours), but they were sold out because of the holiday. This resulted in us taking the 3rd class (aka 90 degree bench-seating) train with this cute little turd who mistook his spring roll for a microphone.
Koh Tao, Koh Phangan //
We met Yim and Emily in Bangkok and took the train south together to Chumphon, where we connected to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. We spent about six days on Tao trying to hunt down the ever-elusive black tip reef sharks and cruising around the island on scooters, before hopping over to Koh Phangan. Life is hard!
As much as I really enjoy meeting new people when I travel, every so often I come to a stretch in my trip when I’m a bit tired of going through the same motions of meeting the people in whatever hostel dormitory I’m staying in. “Where are you from? Where have you been? How long have you been on the road for? And where to next?” Don’t get me wrong – I’ve made some really good friends throughout my travels, most of whom I’ve met at hostels along the way. But there are low points, where the conversations begin to seem repetitive. Many times you wake up the next morning and either you, or your new friends, have moved on to the next destination (where you will likely repeat the same process). That being said, I feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet up with people from back home. Definitely cures the loneliness that you inevitably encounter when you’re solo on the road!
After some goodbyes, we all parted ways: Tara and Heather back to Australia, Yim and Emily to the west coast of Thailand, and me back to Laos. As tough as the goodbyes might have been, I certainly had plenty to look forward to: a motorcycle waiting for me in Laos to explore Vietnam and Cambodia with, and zero obligations until my flight to Bali in two months. I distinctly remember sitting on the train from Bangkok back to Laos and feeling a tad reality-smacked when looking at a roadmap of Vietnam. Transportation is all fun and games on busses and trains. You get to blob out and chat with others, relax, read, and EAT. I had no idea what I was in for with this trip. I grew up riding dirtbikes with friends, but I’d certainly never taken a trip like this on a motorcycle. My journey had truly turned a new page with the purchase of my bike, and damn was I stoked for it.