Saturday, 10 January 2015

Hello 2015 - Full Moon Style

Life has gotten so much better since my last slightly deflated post. My two friends who are travelling with me for a month have arrived and we've been having a whale of a time traversing Thailand together. 

It's so nice after so long to have permanent company, and to get a private room, and to be able to have a conversation brimming with in-jokes that isn't over Skype. Plus I hadn't seen either of them for 11 months so this is a fantastic place for a reunion. 

I had my fill of Bangkok after eight nights there, and was definitely ready to leave, so arriving on Koh Samui after a 15 hour bus and ferry journey was very welcome. 

We rang in 2015 in true Thai tourist style by going to Koh Phangan for their Full Moon party on Haad Rin beach. I don't know if I'm ashamed of this or not, but I loved it. I've never been to a beach party before, so it was all new to me. But as soon as you pay the 100 baht entry and start walking through the small town, bustling with alcohol-filled bucket vendors, clothes shops, restaurants, food stalls, and neon-paint slathered partygoers, the atmosphere is electrifying. The crowds were intense though, and getting anywhere was a struggle. 

We found a bar on the beach playing music we liked and spent most of our time there, but we did go over to the countdown for midnight. They had fireworks going off all night, normally from handheld launchers that sent fireworks careering in all directions and exploding far too low to be safe. 

We did the whole excited countdown and cheering, waving our £3 buckets of gin and tonic in anticipation. Hilariously, we were standing near to a pyrotechnics display that read 'Welcome to 2015', and as soon as it hit midnight and everyone cheered it lit up and sent hot sparks over the crowd. Everyone's screams of New Year joy quickly turned to a scramble to avoid being burnt. 

Oh Thai health and safety. 

It was a fantastic night. So good we did it twice, for the normal Full Moon party on 4th January. That one was much less crowded, but still a lot of fun. 

One thing I would say, if you're staying on Koh Samui and getting a boat over for the party - don't get a return speedboat ticket for 1000 baht, because we had to wait two hours in a crowded line to get one of the infrequent speedboats back, and it took us three hours from joining the queue to actually getting back to our hostel. 

The second time we did it we got the last 200 baht ferry across at 6.30pm and then bought a 500 baht ticket from one of the private speedboat companies whose touts hang around the ridiculous lines. We had to wait for the boat to fill up before it left, but it was much quicker than waiting. 

The day after the Full Moon party we took the bus and ferry to Koh Phi Phi. This was a much nicer island than Samui, and although it was still very touristy and crowded (the town is literally walkable in 15 minutes) it's more of an actual paradise, with sweeping beaches and forested mountains. 

We walked up to the viewpoint on one of the mountains and got a view of the symmetrical crescent moon bays from above. And of course we took a day trip snorkelling and visiting Maya Bay, the stunning location for The Beach. We finished that day by listening to Pure Shores watching the sunset from the deck of the boat. Absolutely fabulous. 

We then flew here to Chiang Mai, where torrential rain hampered our efforts to find an ethical sanctuary to play with elephants, and instead we did a Thai cooking course last night. It was actually a lot of fun though, and included a recipe book, so I'll definitely try out some dishes when I get home. 

Now tomorrow. Here's something I've been very excited about. Myanmar! Or Burma, as I call it, because the new controversial government changed the name. 

I can't wait to get there and see a country only just opening itself to tourism. I'm sure there will be challenges, but overall I think it will be a fantastic experience to visit it before tourism takes its ugly hold on the nation. 

And if things go wrong, it's all part of the experience... Wish us luck! 

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