It was my plan to only travel locally in 2017, I was going to relinquish international travel for the year and focus on Australia. But then a trip was planned to go to Thailand with a group of friends and not wanting to miss out I too booked tickets for Easter. I had loved Thailand very much the first time and wanted to experience it again with friends.
So it was that I boarded a plane on good Friday and arrived at Bangkok later than night. We dropped our bags at the swish Como Metropol and went next door to the Banyan Tree Vertigo and Moon Bar for a very nerve wrackingly high and expensive drink.
The next morning we woke early to venture out to chatuchak markets, which I had enjoyed very much in my last visit. Unfortunately we were all rather disappointed, the incredible shopping previously has disappeared, leaving behind only tacky souvenirs and mango shaped soaps. We left and went to a mercifully air conditioned mall to try out luck at shopping. Sadly, besides a purchase to replace my broken watch the shopping was very disappointing.
We had arrived in Bangkok on the last day of Songkran, the Thai new year festival. Thailand celebrates this by having a country wide water fight, luckily we had prepared by bringing waterproof bags. I glanced nervously at the throngs of locals wearing board shorts and waterproof phone covers as I left the BTS station and descending the stairs I could see thousands of people below armed with water guns. I walked through the humming crowd getting sprayed at, I naively thought I was quite wet, I was to find out later that evening it was nothing in comparison to quite how wet I would become.
I went back to the hotel for a quick swim in the pool before getting fancied up to go for a champagne river cruise. The dubiously named Supanniga was our transport for the twilight cruise, we sipped champagne and cocktails while gliding serenely down the Chao Phraya river watching ramshackle houses precariously placed along the river, as well as spotting the grand palace. Our cruise concluded as the sun was setting, we jumped in a couple of tuk tuks and decided to head to Silom to hit some bars. I had naively thought that the water fights would end as the sun went down but as we ricocheted through the streets in our tuk tuk we were initially shot at with water guns and then eventually pelted with buckets of water. As I was closest to the sidewalk I bore the brunt of the assault. We got out of the tuk tuks and howled with laughter at how wet each other were, we walked down to the bar area and as we entered any last vestige of dry clothing was lost as the collection of bar inhabitants turned their water guns on us. We got a drink and settled in to being saturated, eventually buying a water gun and joining the fight. As we walked back to the hotel we grabbed some street food before one final bucket was poured on my head.
The following day dry except for our very damp clothes I caught a cab to the Oasis Day Spa to be pampered for the afternoon. After a disappointing lunch at a restaurant I had loved the last time I was in Bangkok I went back to the hotel for an afternoon by the pool. That night we got fancied up again and with the relief that Songkran was over again we went out to Paste for a delicious meal of modern Thai. After a hilarious and harrowing tuk tuk ride where
all five of us crammed in to one vehicle we pulled up to DJ Station to watch a drag show. We watched as fabulous diva’s lip synced to Whitney Houston and more. Afterwards we went home to bed for an early morning drive to the island.
The next morning we woke for a 7am pickup to transfer us to the island. We arrived in the early afternoon to catch a speed boat to the island Koh Mak where we would spend the next five days. I was apprehensive about the boat ride having heard some horror stories, but was relieved by a safe and smooth transfer. We arrived and were picked up for the short ride to our hotel Seavana. Our hotel looked straight out in to the gulf of Thailand, overlooking another small island a short kayak away. We spent our first few days lazing around the pool, eating at the delicious hotel restaurant, ordering endless cocomango cocktails, and spotting fireflies at night. On the third day we booked in for a Thai cooking course, I had done another course on my previous trip to Thailand but had been too intimidated to use the recipes afterwards. Feeling far more confident in my cooking abilities I felt convinced that I would use the cooking skills I learned this time. We arrived at the Smile Koh Mak Cooking School run by Leng, a Bangkok resident who decided on a sea change; with the small charming house overlooking the sea I could see why. We sweated away cooking pad thai, several curries and salt and pepper squid followed by sitting down to enjoy all the delicious food. I have lived up to the cooking school and made a red curry last night!
The next day we hired scooters and zipped around the island, driving through rubber plantations and dining at shacks next to the ocean. That night we took a night drive through to Leng’s neighbouring restaurant the Koh Mak Seafood restaurant where we ate delicious whole fish, squid, clams and crab.
For our final day we lounged around the pool and retired early for another early morning transfer back to Bangkok. We arrived back in the city the following day in the afternoon and checked in to the Sivatel hotel, chosen for its excellent infinity pool. We tried a final go at shopping but were again unsuccessful. I have found that Bangkok has changed a lot in the few years since I have been, the economy is certainly better and some of the shops are more expensive than Melbourne.
For our last meal we went to the rather unique cabbages and condoms restaurant, a restaurant decorated in condom sculptures designed to educate and promote safe sex. The food was delicious and was a lovely end to the trip. The next morning we rose early for our flight back to Melbourne, leaving just a little of my heart in Thailand yet again.