Food, Fun and Flooding

The last stop on “Courtney and Edward’s World Tour” was a weekend in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  From there Edward would head home and Courtney would continue on for a couple more weeks on her own.  We had heard from many people how great the city was so we were very excited to see it!

We arrived at our hotel and checked in, where Courtney would be spending 9 days there (or she thought – more on that later!).  However when we went to our room to unpack, there was a huge leak in the ceiling from the air conditioner!  The manager was very apologetic and upgraded us to the suite since we were there for so long.  SCORE!!!  The place was bigger than our apartments!!!

Admittedly, on Friday after all the traveling and running around we were a little burnt out on seeing temples and sight-seeing.  So we decided instead to do something a little more relaxing – hit golf balls.  After Courtney continued to show her aptitude for a new sport, massages were next on the list.  In case you haven’t heard, they’re dirt cheap in Thailand.  So we walked over to the closest massage place and got hour-long massages for $6 each.  After being beaten up for an hour, we looked at each other with the same thought – how long has it been since those sheets we just put our faces on have been washed???  Since neither one of us got headlice or came down with a strange disease, we seemed to be OK.

Saturday Edward ventured out to try a Muay Thai boxing class and Courtney went in search of a cheap mani/pedi.  Two hours later Edward came back, sweating and looking like he’d been in a fight.  An ice pack and a couple beers and he was ready for the evening.  When the going gets tough….take two beers and call me in the morning.  Speaking of tough, Courtney learned that the Elephant reserve in Thailand where she was going to volunteer next week in fact had a spot reserved for her on campus and they’d be picking her up on Monday morning for the entire week.  Ooops.  So much for 9 days in the suite.  And based on the photos, the accomodations at the Reserve would be, well, let’s call them spartan to be diplomatic.  More on that in a later post, to be sure.

Chiang Mai is known for their night markets – it’s one of their big draws.  It goes on every night, but Saturday night is their big night.  Not only do they have the market for shopping, they have a street food area, and you know how much we love our street food!  So the first thing we did was head over to eat.  For around $6 we got 10 dumplings, some of the best freshly-made Pad Thai ever, and two beers.  As we were eating, one of Thailand’s infamous rainstorms moved in.  Wind, intense rain, and massive amounts of thunder and lightening.  It actually got so bad that the streets flooded and everything started to shut down.  This went on for over an hour before we decided to just make a run for it and try to get back to our hotel.  Thailand isn’t known for their underground powerlines so there was no small fear that we could get electrocuted.


Best. Pad Thai. Ever….

Fortunately we were only a few blocks from our hotel.  At this point, most of the vendors had closed up shop and headed home.  The streets were so flooded the water was up to our mid-calves.  But do you really think a little flooding is going to deter Courtney from shopping? No way!  So as we made our way back, we stopped and picked up a few things from the vendors brave enough to stay open.  The other thing out and about in this rain?  COCKROACHES!!!!  And we don’t mean the little ones we have back home.  These are big, huge (like 2 inch long), flying things.  Courtney provided plenty of entertainment, screaming and flinging her arms around and running down the street every time one came into her sight.


Flooding. It got worse after we took this photo.

Surprisingly, Sunday dawned bright and clear.  Not only that but the streets were totally empty and dry.  Thailand may not have the best power line system but they do know how to drain their streets.  Another lazy day for us.  More golf balls, food and drinks during happy hour at the hotel.  We ventured out Sunday night to the market, but our hearts weren’t in it and it was apparent neither were the locals.  The street food area isn’t open on Sunday nights and half the stalls were vacant.  Not sure if it was the day or because of the rain, but it just wasn’t the same.  We picked up a few more things and headed back to the hotel.

Monday morning and it was time to go our separate ways.  Edward, while sad to leave, was up and off early to start his 26 hour journey home.

Courtney was preparing to shovel poop, I mean go work with the elephants for the next week!

Advertisements

America: The Evil Empire

After a slight detour off-track, we finally landed in Vietnam, with a couple weeks to explore the country.  Our first stop was Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon.  One of the things we did to prep for our trip was to get pre-approved visas for as many countries as possible.  Vietnam was one of those countries, especially after speaking with friends who said doing the visa on arrival in Vietnam was slightly difficult.  Apparently it made no difference to the Border Patrol.  We were herded to an area along with all other visitors, where they barked two words at us: “papers” and “move”.  The application required us to not only provide our own personal information, but information on our family members, where they all lived, and our religious affiliation.  Then we were told to relinquish our passports with these forms to them and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  After about an hour they called our names and made us pay for our  visas again. So we double-paid for our visas.  Welcome to communist Vietnam!

One of the great things about this trip is that for many of the cities we visited, someone knew someone who had been there and were able to provide us with lots of valuable information.  This was one of those cities.  We booked ourselves an incredible apartment for our stay that was nicer than our places back home!  Not only that, but we had a list of restaurants and food to eat that could have kept us occupied for a couple weeks.  So we had a great place to sleep and great food to eat.  Our first night there we had a killer sushi dinner, and one of the other nights we had take away from an adorable little cafe.  We wished we’d had more time there so we could continue working our way thru all the recommended food places.

For the first time, we felt an anti-American presence in our travels.  During our stay we visited the Cu Chi tunnels and the War Remnants Museum.  Both told the story of what it was like to be in Vietnam during the war and fight for your country.  The tunnels are admittedly impressive: hundreds of miles of three-level deep tunnels where the North Vietnamese Army launched gorilla-warfare during the conflict.  But the video at the end of the tour not only applauded the efforts of the people to be “War Hero American Killers” but also propagated the illusion that war was fun – soldiers and villagers hanging out playing cards, laughing, having fun and casually killing Americans in their spare time.  We were not surprised that they spoke highly of killing the enemy (Americans) – after all, we do the same thing back in the States for our war heroes – but the accompanying  propaganda we encountered was mind-blowing.  One story extolling the Reunification of the Country was about authorities transferring thousands of children from small towns to go live in “communities where they are happy and play and are loved by all”.  Wonder how their parents felt about that.  And of course the glorification and glamorization of the war as if it was a fun thing to go do on a Saturday night.


Courtney pretending she went down into the tunnels…


Edward actually at the end of going thru the tunnels!!

The visit after the tunnels to the War Remnants museum was incredibly difficult.  Throughout this trip we have not shied away from visits to historical sites of war and death – the Hiroshima war museum, the Killing Fields in Cambodia – but this was almost to the next level.  You walk into the outer area of the museum and they have a half dozen American fighter planes on display that had been shot down or discarded.  Then off to the side they have a jail cell set up that you can walk thru.  There in graphic detail were descriptions of the types of torture the South Vietnamese (with the help of their American partners, of course) perpetrated on the North, as well as displays of items used to carry out the torture and photos of the people who were tortured.  That was too much for us and we left without seeing the rest of the museum.


The guillotine – one of the many torture/killing artifacts we saw at the War Remnants Museum

By chance, we happened to be there during their Memorial weekend and Reunification celebrations (aka: “winning the war against America”).  Our first night there we walked around and watched all the celebrations, until we realized they were celebrating their version of winning the war, and that maybe being American made us a little conspicuous.  Nothing happened, just a general sense of slight unease.

Of course, quietly interwoven throughout all this anti-American/Westernism were Starbucks, KFC and Adidas.    Taken altogether Ho Chi Minh City appears to still be fighting the Americans (and French), albeit non-violently.

We might have stayed longer simply because we wanted to keep eating, but we had already booked our plane tickets to our next stop.  So off we go to DaNang!!

Singing in the Rain

Since the only way to get to Vietnam from Bali was via Kuala Lumpur with at least a 9-hour layover, we decided to make a weekend out of it.  Plus, Courtney had a family friend there who was happy to entertain us one night!

What should have been a quick flight over quickly turned into the nightmare flight.  First, we thought it was a 2-hour flight.  Not so.  It’s actually a 3-hour flight.  We also thought there was a one hour time difference between Bali and KL, meaning we would get in an hour earlier.  Again, not so. No time difference at all.  So the 4 PM flight out that we thought would get in at 5 PM really didn’t get in until 7 PM.  That was bad enough.  Then add a 5-hour delay onto that!  By the time we actually landed in KL, got thru customs and checked into our hotel it was 2:30 in the morning and we had been traveling for 13 hours.  So much for a quick trip!!

Saturday, the trip was fairly unremarkable.  We didn’t do much other than run a few errands and pick up a few things we needed for our trip.

However, Saturday evening we had the pleasure of having dinner with some family friends, Bashir and Zee.  Bashir informed us we would be going to the “clubs” for drinks and dinner, and to make sure we were dressed appropriately.  Not having any idea what that meant, we put on our finest clothes (translation – our cleanest clothes!) and headed out for the evening.

First stop was the private cricket club they belonged to.  It was a lovely first stop.  There was a massive rainstorm currently happening, with an amazing lightening and thunder show happening.  We sat outside on the covered patio, had drinks and chatted away.  At one point Bashir turned to Courtney, pointed to another area of the club and informed her that ladies aren’t allowed in there, other than one day a year.  So much for progressive thinking!

Next was onto another club for supper.  After having a great meal, we moved inside to the lounge where two young KL women were singing covers to 80s hits.  Bashir continued to ply us with alcohol all the while singing along with the young women, making up words when we think he didn’t know them.  He would have been a great person to go karaoke with!


In da club…..

After yet another late night, we woke up early Sunday morning and headed out to our original destination of Vietnam.  This is supposed to be our last detour….we will see what happens!!

Beach Bribery

One of the dangers we’ve discovered traveling together is that when we have down time we tend to break out our phones and start researching potential unplanned destinations.  That’s how we ended up on a flight to Bali.  But there are worse impromptu decisions to have made.
Bali, of course, is an island.  But it’s bigger than we’d expected and the traffic rivals Los Angeles because the roads are narrow and completely uncontrolled.  In fact, it’s common to have to dodge one of the thousands of scooters using the sidewalk as an optional lane.  And they carry anything and everything on those scooters, from families of four to bags of cement to entire restaurants worth of food, Somehow even in the utter chaos, though, despite the many near misses, we never witnessed an accident.
Bali is a place of leisure and we took advantage of that, often lounging in the pool area of the Grand Balisani Suites drinking beer while overlooking the South China Sea.  The hotel itself was older, but the setting magnificent and the food excellent.  Edward had one of the best steaks he’d ever eaten.  Who knew!
It wasn’t all lounging, though, as we did venture out on a scuba diving trip.  Yes, Courtney strapped on a tank and swam with the sharks.  Well, puffer fish anyway, one of which nearly kissed Courtney on it’s way by.  We dove around the USS Liberty, a WWII ship sunk by the Japanese.  So lucky to enjoy one of the world’s top dive sites.  Once you get over the idea that you’re actually breathing underwater, the panic subsides and diving is an incredibly rich activity.  Courtney says she’s even game to get certified one day!
Before we went!
Edward was going through golf withdrawal as evidenced by the practice swings in the mirror so he rented a scooter and headed to the Bali National Golf Club.   Then he unintentionally got in the wrong lane on a toll road and got pulled over by the police.  He was threatened with a $1/2 million Rupiah fine, 30 days in jail and the confiscation of the scooter.  Admittedly he was a little rattled at first, but then quickly realized it was all bullshit.  But he wasn’t about to test that theory. So he bribed him with $40US and got the hell on his way.   Needless to say, he arrived at the course late and played crappy on a really pretty course.  Add to that getting lost on the way back to pick up Courtney at the pole studio she found and we’d had enough of Bali for the day.  Good thing our hotel had a pool and cold beer!
Man and his machine
Honestly other than that we didn’t do much.  Woke up every morning and walked down to our new favorite breakfast place that had the most incredible pancakes we’ve ever tasted, drank a lot of beer, swam and hung out.  It was nice to recharge for a few days in between all the running we’ve been doing.
Best. Pancakes. Ever….
We’re supposed to head to Vietnam, but the flights are bad so we’re headed to Kuala Lumpur first for a couple days.  Farewell, Bali!

Singapore: Showing Off Humanity

Our trip has been one of contrasts so far.  The wild celebrations of Buddhist new year in Thailand, the weight of genocide in Phnom Penh, the ruins of an ancient world in Siem Reap and now the accomplishments of an advanced society in Singapore.
Impeccably clean, overwhelmingly safe, perfectly engineered and undeniably cosmopolitan, Singapore is what every city should aspire too.  It may be mini in acreage but it’s mighty in architecture.  And everything works right, fits right, looks right; from traffic control to skyscrapers it is a well-planned feat of creativity.

Which is why we spent the first day in Singapore underwater.  Literally.  Neither of us are enamored with animals in captivity but we couldn’t resist the national aquarium where one walks through glass tunnels underneath the bay to see sharks, baracuda, moray eels, jelly fish, and our favorite: the graceful manta rays.  We even got to witness a feeding whereby divers hand-fed crab and fish to other sea creatures. The sting rays literally enveloped the divers. Crazy!


Shark!!!  Wouldn’t want that guy’s job!


Beautiful coral and fish….


Hello Mr. Manta Ray (or maybe Ms. Manta Ray??)

From there we ventured on Singapore’s perfect metro railway to the Gardens by the Bay to see the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest.  Both are indoor marvels, giant domes housing plants and flowers from around the globe.  We got to see the Tulip celebration honoring Vincent Van Gogh in full color.  


Such a beautiful display!!


Starry Nights

Next we trekked through the adjacent Cloud Forest via a 10 story high narrow catwalk around the top of the dome (kudos to Courtney for braving the heights).  The view of the city was fabulous.  And it was fun to discover the myriad dragon sculptures hiding throughout the indoor forest.  


That’s where we just were….doesn’t Courtney look thrilled?  Might have something to do with her fear of heights…

To finish the day we watched an evening laser/light show perfectly choreographed to “A Waltz in the Garden”.  We even climbed atop one of the Supertrees in the garden – a 16 story treehouse that we sat in – and drank wine on a lovely summer evening.


All the aquariums, domes and super trees  were architecturally dwarfed however by the Marina Bay Sands hotel. It was 55 stories high and looked like a massive modern day Stonehenge.  Or, a spaceship perched upon massive towers posing as a hotel.  One could tour Singapore architecture for days.   


Stonehenge?  Spaceship?  Or….?

Of course, because we’re basically eating our way across Asia we had to add chilli crab to the list.  Tipped by our cab driver to eat at Newton Food Center (where most of the locals go for chilli crab) we chowed down a large crab doused in spicy egg and chili sauce, an oyster omelette, an egg and prawn dish strangely called carrot cake, and 3 tall beers.  We’re still full.  


THIS IS NOT CARROT CAKE!!!!!

Soon we jet to Bali, the second unplanned destination of the trip.  We leave Singapore both agreed we could easily live in a city like this.  Only one mark stands against it: the strict laws prohibiting public displays of affection!  🙂

A City of Hope

After Phnom Penh arriving in Siem Reap felt like visiting another country.  They were polar opposites.  Our first night we marveled at the energy of the city.  Don’t think we had blinders on – both cities were almost equally dirty and poor, but there was something about Siem Reap that was missing in Phnom Penh.  Siem Reap also had a strong nightlife scene, street food and night markets – a truly alive vibe that one expects from much larger cities.  Tourism is transforming Siem Reap into an economic powerhouse in Cambodia.  The people there also exude that vibe – there is an air of hope in Siem Reap that is a wonderful counterbalance to the weight of Phnom Penh.

There are countless temples scattered throughout Asia. The first temple you visit is always awe-inspiring because it’s so new, so different than what we’re used to.  The colors are vivid, vibrant and bold. The towers high.  The detail and depth of craftsmanship so sharp.  And you wonder aloud “how did they do all of this a thousand years ago!?”. Then you get to Angkor Wat.  Multiply the awe by another 1000.   

The scale of the world’s largest ancient temple is stunning.  Started in the 9th century, it only took 47 years to build.  One could easily spend a week investigating it.  All throughout the ruins the details of it’s history are etched in stone, a ribbon of storytelling wrapped around the fallen spires like a gift waiting to be opened.  

Our tour started at 6 am, which meant we were up and out by 5:15.  Well worth it to see the sun rise over this magnificent temple.  Mooney, our tour guide, was not only the voice of the past for us but also our photographer – snapping well over 100 pics throughout the day.  We handed him Edward’s iPhone in the morning and he did the rest.  At times we weren’t sure if we were on a tour or a photo shoot.  Angkor Wat and it’s surrounding temples were well worth the trip.


Sunrise at Angkor Wat


More monkeys!  This little guy was hamming it up for me!


The center of the temple. We know there was something significant about it but we can’t remember!!

After a couple days of absorbing religious history it only made sense to go to the circus.  It’s a charitable circus, however, so perhaps not as strange as it sounds.  Really it’s part of a performing arts conservatory for youth; they have nightly performances of the most talented kids you’ve ever seen.  


I want to be that strong and that flexible…

Our last night there we spent with Courtney’s friend Kirstyn.  It was so fun drinking beer, eating street food and sharing stories with a friend from a place that is halfway around the world!  The earth truly is a small place.


She’s really not that much taller than me!
We are grateful for our time here, but equally excited for our next destination: Singapore!!  Yep, we’re entering the unplanned part of the trip, totally winging it.  Let the spontaneity begin!

On The Edge….

We knew at some point we would hit a city that didn’t sit well with us. Phnom Penh was that city. We were prepared to see places that were impoverished, dirty, what not. Phnom Penh was that and just a little more. There was something about it that neither of us could put our finger on, but we were unsettled the entire time we were here.  Neither one of us was sad when it was time to move on.  The best way to describe the city is that in many ways it appears to be on the edge:

  1. The edge of sudden death on every corner: traffic – there is NO traffic control.  We guessed there were maybe 4-5 traffic lights in the entire city, and everyone treated them with total disregard.  Cars, motorcycles, tuk tuks all went whenever and wherever they wanted.  Thru red lights, around each other, even the wrong way down the street.  We couldn’t figure out how anyone drove here, other than they just went.  The most disconcerting part of it all was seeing families on these little motorscooters – dad driving, mom behind him, tucked in between mom and dad was one small child, and standing in front of dad holding onto the handlebars was another small child.  This was a regular occurrence.
  2. Development – this city was obviously in the grips of abject poverty yet at the same time was in the middle of a huge city development.  A rail way was being built, at least a half dozen large-scale retail/housing buildings were going up, there was a Rolls Royce dealership, a Jaguar dealership and a Range Rover dealership.  All next to people who were living in what appeared to be shacks and filth.
  3. And speaking of living on the edge….  Edward’s cousin, a super intelligent, strong woman currently residing in Phnom Penh while researching the effects of land conversion on Cambodian climate and culture, took us for some street food the first night.  The company was great!  But we admit we were both a bit on edge eating noodles and chicken while rats and roaches scurried by our feet (not an exaggeration).  Perhaps a bit more “street” than we were ready for, but we did tell Edward’s cousin we wanted authentic Cambodian street food.  She delivered!  And we survived the night just fine.
  4. The weather:  on the edge of Dante’s Hell.  The weather was oppressive.  It was incredibly hot and humid all day and nighttime didn’t do much to bring relief.  Think Washington, D.C. or NYC in August, times three.  We were perpetually complete balls of sweat walking around.  It honestly hindered our desire to sight see and we wound up not doing as much as in other cities.
  5. The killing fields.   The edge of oblivion.  Cambodia has a genocidal period in their history and we did go out to the Killing Fields and took an incredible audio tour of the grounds.  We left with heavy hearts and marveling at the fact that this happened only 40 years ago.  We tried to see a couple temples but didn’t get very far.

One relief from the edginess of the city was our “swanky” hotel.  We had an incredible view of the city, including the Royal Palace right next door.  And we did take a nice dip in the roof-top pool to cool off before bed. 

 

Not all was bad, of course, but Phnom Penh was just, well, heavy.  While this may not be a city we’d like to experience again, we’re still happy we came.  You can’t sugar coat the world and sometimes you need to see the ugly to appreciate what you have.  We can certainly say we have an even greater appreciation for the blessings in our lives now.

Moving on, we’re now headed to Siem Reap.  Hoping for a much better time!

 

 

Island Tour Ooops

Courtney used to be a wedding planner.  I used to run a small business.  So together we’ve been pretty strong on the details of international travel.   Tracking all the details of travel can wear you out though so we decided to hire a private, two-day tour on Koh Samui and let someone else deal with details.  Day one was the land tour, day two an exploration by sea kayak.

Our first stop on day one was Wat Khunaram, a temple where a mummified Monk was entombed sitting up in a glass case and whom legend had it still required a haircut every month (which is more often than me, so we call bull-shit).  The curators of the temple adorned the Monk with a new pair of sunglasses every day.  I guess the dead Monk’s future was still so bright he had to wear shades.   Creepy, if not curious.


We then ventured on to Na Muang, the largest waterfall on the island.   I wanted to jump in while Courtney was more cautious, until a 6 year old blew by her, essentially shaming her into the natural pool.  For my money the waterfall was the funnest part of the day.

Us before we went in the water.  Yes, we went swimming in that waterfall behind us!!

Then we drove to the highest part of Thailand to see the Secret Buddha Garden.  The gardens are a creation of an old Samui fruit farmer, Nim Thongsuk, who in 1976 began erecting several statues and temples around his family’s verdant land. The statues depict a number of animals, deities and humans in various poses, including one of Khun Nim himself, in a relaxed position sitting on a rock. Khun Nim continued to work developing his garden until his death at the age of 91.

Now, we’ve seen a lot of temples, shrines, etc. on this trip.  Honestly they start to blur after a while, but we continue to go because we feel we need to.  Then every so often we come upon a place that just feels magical.  This was one such place.  We could have spent hours here wandering around and just taking it all in.  Alas, we didn’t have all day as we had other things to go see.

These statues were everywhere!  They were like hidden treasures we had to find as we explored the garden.

Edward resting and contemplating life 🙂

After the secret garden we ventured to see Big Buddha, a several-story high golden Buddha exposed to the open air sitting on top of a hill such that he is the first thing you see on approach to the island’s airstrip.  Following Big Buddha we toured three temples adjacent each other at the North end of the island, perhaps a testament to different religions coexisting peacefully.  Our favorite was Wat Plai Laem….

Guanyin, Goddess of Mercy.  Guanyin is very highly revered by Chinese people and is known as the protector of women and children, the sick and the poor. She is said to have so many arms, so she can help many people at one time. In one Buddhist legend, she even has a thousand arms.

Fat, laughing Chinese Buddha (I swear that’s what he is!!)  In Chinese culture, a fat Buddha represents wealth and prosperity. This very impressive statue is 30 meters high and painted in expressive colors like red, white and gold.

Peacefully is how the day would have ended had Courtney not discovered that we in fact were scheduled to leave the island the next morning.   Oops!  Thank-you Google for sending a reminder message to Courtney’s phone to “Enjoy your trip to Phnom Penn tomorrow”.   So much for our sea kayak tour.  Instead we spent the evening lounging at the pool, packing and planning our next phase.  Oh, and yes, room service.  The food at The Kala Hotel was excellent – especially after they learned we could handle the authentic spice level and made it the real Thai way.

We will miss the view and the tempo of Koh Samui.  It’s on to Phnom Pen and the mysteries of Cambodia.

Songkran

When we came down for breakfast Thursday morning the hotel staff greeted us by dumping cold water over our backs and smearing white chaulk on our faces.  Normally, I’d be upset.  But not today – it’s Songkran! AKA: Happy New Year to the Buddhists here in Thailand. What began as a simple purification rite hundreds of years ago has morphed into a veritible bathing of the country.  We ventured into the heart of Chaweng, which is the center closest to us on Ko Samui, bought Super Soakers (Courtney’s was Hello Kitty) and joined in the festival of throwing water on anyone and everyone you could see.  A giant, country-wide indiscriminate water fight!  Kids dousing parents, foreigners dousing motorcyclists, shop-owners dousing patrons…if you were alive you were getting wet.  (Well, ONE dude was bone dry: the cop standing guard at city hall – fair enough!).   We commented to each other that we’d not seen so many people having so much childish fun together.  The water washed everything away but the smiles on everyone’s faces.

Someone’s ready for trouble….

Looks like Songkran was successfully celebrated!!

Three hours later and thoroughly soaked, we ventured back to our hotel.  Much to our surprise, the taxi driver didn’t mind that we soaked his leather upholstry seats getting in.  Half the hotel staff was out front dousing anyone and anything that came by with water, so we got another soaking.  Of course at that point it made the most sense to order happy hour mixed-drinks and head down to the pool.

A swim, a nap, and some incredible curry delivered to our room later and we were sound asleep by 10 PM.  Yet another successful day celebrating the local traditions in the vein of continuing our grown-up version of Spring Break 2017!

Two Worlds and a Large Moat

Most people go on Spring Break in their late teens, early 20’s.  We went in our 40’s.  The Koh Phangan Full Moon Party had everything a college student could want: scantily clad members of the opposite sex wandering around with buckets (literally) of alcoholic fruit punch, multiple bars on the beach banging out pop, DJ and House Music, and a full moon on a warm spring night to blame every bad decision on.  It was a drunken festival that made Lollapalooza look like Sunday School.   And who couldn’t have fun at that!

Getting to the Full Moon Party was no small investment: a plane, a boat and several taxis, not to mention thousands of sweaty tourists at every turn.  We thought we also made a decent investment in a hotel room outside walking distance from the fray, giving us at least the best chance possible of escape if we needed it.  Turns out, we really needed to escape the hotel, not the party.

(Courtney taking over now…..)

When we walked into the hotel room, my first thought was “OMG I can’t stay here”. But since I knew we were only there for one night, I was trying to be a good sport about it.  Then Edward turned to me and said “What a shitbox!” and I was like thank goodness!!  It didn’t help that we booked the “Sea View Deluxe” room at the top of their line.  We laughed it off and knew we would have a good story to tell.  Additionally, their “elevator” was an outdoor trolley rigged up to the side of the mountain that went up and down, but couldn’t stop once it started moving, so you had to wait for each person to get to their destination.  Did I mention I’m afraid of heights?  We walked a lot of stairs in those 24 hours.

The “trolley” elevator at the hotel

Our bed – hard as a rock.  Notice there’s no other furniture?

Our shower – notice it’s missing a shower curtain?  And it’s made out of concrete.

All in all though it was a very successful night.  We had a blast and wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

(Back to Edward)

Our final act on Koh Phangan was a mad dash to the Ferry – a desperate and successful attempt at beating the hung-over hoards to the last boat out of Dodge, as it were.  The plan was to spend just one day on Koh Phangan for the Moon Party and jump islands to Koh Samui, the fairer, larger and swankier of the two.   Another taxi to The Kala Hotel in the Lamai province of the adjacent island and happily we now find ourselves atop the cliff of Koh Samui sipping fruity drinks and staring at the most audaciously beautiful view of the Gulf of Thailand one could imagine.

So while we indeed barked at the moon with thousands of  Millennials, we now dine under the stars at an intimate table for two on our private deck.  And that’s how you enjoy two worlds separated by a large moat.