Wednesday, August 28, 2013

beaches of haad rin

Since the beaches were a big reason we headed to the islands, we spent a lot of time hanging out around them. There were two major beaches in Haad Rin. The one where the Full Moon Party was which was called Haad Rin Nok. We would take our morning swims on this beach because it was the only beach that had a roped off part where it seems much safer to swim then having to deal with all the boat taxis that zoom around. It was only about a 10 minute walk from our place, even though we were on the other side of town so we are and worked there a few times.

Us working

A dog who seemed to be eternally fishing in the shallow water, though we never saw him catch anything

The other beach was called Haad Rin Nai and was very close to where we stayed. It wasn't as pristine of a beach but it was much less crowded and was a good place to escape from the craziness of the other side of town. We ate many breakfasts at the Coral Bungalows that overlooked the beach and was one of the better restaurants around as well as the cheapest.

A Wat on the hill in Haad Rin Nai

Monday, August 26, 2013

full moon party

One reason we headed to Koh Phangan so quickly is so we could get to Haad Rin a few days before the Full Moon Party (we heard the town's hotels fill up if you get there too close to the party). Even though partying until sun up was not our intended plan, Andrew still wanted to at least go to a Full Moon Party so he could say he's gone. Maggie had already been to one, so it was old hat for her.
We painted ourselves up in neon green paint, purchased a bucket of Thai Whiskey, Coke and Red Bull and headed out to the beach to experience that is the spectacle of the Full Moon Party.

 And it was all the spectacle we expected. Lots of techno music and people partying in bathing suits... or less. Each hotel had their own DJ so as you walked down the beach you were assaulted by many different beats and songs all fighting to be the loudest. We walked up and down the beach a few times, danced a little and did a lot of people watching. On the way to the party we realized that the street vendors had finally come out in Haad Rin (the lack of which had been one of our biggest complaints about the town), so on the way home we sampled a few of their cuisines before heading home at the (for this party, absurdly early) hour of 2:00am.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

a night of muay thai

One of the things we wanted to do in Thailand was go to a Muay Thai fight because we had heard that it was the nation's biggest sport. Luckily enough, the night before the Full Moon Party, the city we were in (Haad Rin Nai) was having a night of six Muay Thai fights... it was a no brainier.
The arena was small than we thought it would be, holding only maybe around 500 hundred people. We arrived fairly early after the doors opened and were lucky enough to grab the last two available (and not saved) front row seats.

The ring and Andrew talking to the French couple that sat behind us
It started around an hour late, which was really no surprise to us. But once they got going the action was pretty continual. Of the six fights, three of them ended in knockouts so it was a good night of entertainment. It was funny to watch the rituals all the fighters go through stretching and praying around the ring before the match begins. One of the guys drew a circle on the ground with his foot in the opponents corner and stomped on it.

Like you would expect, it was much like boxing, just with kicks. Guys would exchange punches and kicks and then grab each other until the ref broke them up and told them to fight again.  At first during the fights they played techno music, but shortly after thye started playing the traditional Thai music with high pitched horns and drums. There was a 'Bet Corner' where you could place bets on the matches. All and all, it was everything we had expected from a Muay Thai match.

Friday, August 23, 2013

home sweet haad rin nai

Arriving in Haad Rin Nai (a city on Koh Phagnan) only a few days before the Full Moon party meant that all the prices of the rooms were inflated. We looked around for a little bit but everything was more than we wanted to pay (1500 Baht a night, give me a break, that's American prices). Luckily enough, Maggie remembered a cheap place she stayed the last time she was here so we headed over there. They had rooms for only 400 Baht a night (which has now turned into 300 Baht a night the day after the Full Moon Party) and there were shacks on a hill side with wifi connection in the shacks - what else could we ask for? It's also not on the crazy party side of Haad Rin where the actual Full Moon Party so we get a little peace and quite when we want it and not 24/7 blaring techno music.

The view from the street looking up at our place--that's Maggie in yellow

The next series of pictures takes you on the path up to our place. It involves a steep flight of stairs that leaves the legs burning every time we climb them and then a walk across piecemeal wood planks that can be more or less secure depending on where you step.

If you look closely, you can see two of the many kittens that live around here sitting half way up the stairs

Our place has a nice little poach with a great view of the water and the island of Koh Samui in the distance. The interior of our place is nothing special, one room dominated by the bed and a small bathroom but we have electricity and wifi, so really no complaints from us.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

night ferry from surat thani to koh phagnan

We left Bangkok after only two days there because the beaches and the Full Moon Party on Koh Phagnan were calling our names. We took a morning train out of Bangkok that arrived in Surat Thani around 6:00pm. From the train station we took a local bus (we were the only foreigners on it) to the stop that was only a few blocks away from Ban Don Pier. How did we know which stop was close to Ban Don Pier? Let me tell you: at the first stop we asked the lady who collected our bus fare whether this was the stop for Ban Don Pier (and by asked, I mean, said "Ban Don?" and pointed out the door). She shook her head and we knew that she would now help out us poor foreigners and let us know what stop we were looking for. So about twenty stops later (and about ten instances of, "Ban Don Pier?" "No, no.") she motioned to us that we were there and we piled out and only had to walk about four blocks to the pier (with a very helpful Thai lady who had gotten off the bus at the same time pointing the way).

The boat didn't leave until 11:00pm so we sat around and had a couple beers because we knew it was going to be a long night. The boat is mainly used to bring supplies to Koh Phagnan (Koh means island in Thai) and they had converted the top floor to sleeping quarters where they stuffed us in like sardines. I think when we left, we each had about two feet of horizontal space to sleep in.

We meet a Polish girl on the way to the pier who we had our drinks with while taking in the scenery of Surat Thani bay.

And then we tried to sleep smushed between fellow travelers (Maggie slept next to our new friend Maria, but Andrew's neighbor must have weighed about 300 pounds and wasn't interested in staying in his own space) until our boat pulled into Koh Phagnan at about 5:30am and we were off to the island.

Monday, August 19, 2013

travel vaccinations at the red cross clinic in bangkok

We had decided to get our vaccinations in Bangkok because of how much cheaper they were than in the US. So the second day (first full day) we were there we headed over to the Red Cross Hospital on Rama IV road (by the Snake Farm) to get ourselves vaccinated. We had heard that no cabbies knew where it was so we had to say we wanted to go to the Snake Farm, that turns out to be on the hospitals premises, and even then it took talking to a few cabbies to find one who knew where that was (and even that involved trying to mime "snakes" so the cabbies would know what we were talking about).

Once we found our way there it started to sink in that we were going to a hospital in a foreign country where the language was totally different than English. We had heard from the internet that this Red Cross spoke pretty good English, which was partially true. Not everyone did, but luckily the doctor who ran us through what exactly they were injecting us with, was fairly good and there was a big sign with all the possible vaccinations in English that he pointed to quite often (all with a big smile on his face--the doctor was about 85 years old and very friendly!). So we were 95% sure we were getting the right vaccinations. All and all, it was actually a pretty painless experience. The nurses were really nice and carefully with all their poking (we could hardly feel the shots, which we would never have said for shots in the US!). Andrew got four vaccinations and the nurse looked at him and said, "So many!" Which wasn't very comforting, but it went all right.

All in all, we saved thousands of dollars getting shots here. Particularly for the more exotic shots (Japanese Encephalitis, rabies), our US insurance counted them as "elective," so would not pay for them. Just a series of rabies shots alone (it takes three shots) would have cost each of us over $1000 in the US, and here, we're each paying about $30 for the set of three. We know it seems kind of crazy to get our vaccinations in one of the foreign countries where we could contract the diseases, but Thailand is known for its medical care, and (knock on wood) we've had no ill effects so far besides some sore arms. 

Left: The only sign in the first room we went into              Right: Andrew recuperating after his "so many" shots.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

bangkok... wow

We arrived in Bangkok very early in the morning after a red-eye from Stockholm and went directly to a restaurant so Andrew could eat the Pad Thai he had been lusting for over the last couple months. After that we looked for a hotel in the Koh San Road area (not on Koh San Road though, it's a little crazy for us--it's the big backpacker area in Bangkok, and is filled to the brim with street vendors, tattoo shops, food stalls, restaurants blaring techno, and more).

Koh San Road

Maggie had been talking about all the Pad Thai street vendors in the area and they did not let us down. At night it seemed like hundreds of them were on the streets selling the same same, but different Pad Thai as all the others for around 30 Baht (which is around US$1).

Pad Thai street vendor making it right in front of you

Our hotel was fairly standard for the area. The bottom floor was a restaurant / bar with the rooms in the floors above.  And hot water (maybe our last hot water for awhile), all for only 560 Baht a night (about $18).

The restaurant / bar on the bottom floor of our hotel

Friday, August 16, 2013


Since food was so expensive in Stockholm, we just bought most of our meals from the grocery store. One gem we hit upon on our first outing to the grocery store was Baconost. It's pretty much bacon in a tube. Okay, it's more of bacon mixed with cheese, but still--it is awesome. We looked it up online and found that it has quite the cult following but Sweden is the only place you seem to be able to get it.

It's great stuff, we had it on everything from bread to chips and I can see it good on many other things as well. (I know, it kind of sounds like it could be gross, but it truly does taste like bacon you can spread on bread. Yum.) We would definitely recommend trying it if you can!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

two days in stockholm

We ended up flying out of Stockholm, Sweden to Bangkok because we could get cheaper tickets and it was a good excuse for both of us to go somewhere neither of us had been. We had heard it was expensive... and it was. But beyond the price, Stockholm is a very beautiful city when it comes to the merging of scenery and architecture. We stayed on a hostel boat on the river right next to the old city of Stockholm that was been around since the medieval times and is on a very small island.

Our hostel with a rainbow from the many rainfalls we had while we were there

Andrew taking in the view of the old city of Stockholm from our hostel boat

 We weren't there very long but since everything was so expensive, we spent most of our time just walking around and taking in the sights of the city.

Beer was so expensive that the whole time we were there we only bought one beer... but it had an awesome can so we had to get it.
Yeah, that's weasels dancing, one with a hat on

Even Maggie enjoyed weasel beer

Goodbye, Stockholm!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

a night of le ligue: us créteil vs fc metz

One of the things on our Adventure List was go to a European Football match while in Paris. So on Friday night we headed to Creteil, a suburb of Paris to watch the US Creteil Urban Devils take on the FC Metz. We took a subway that deposited us right at the Creteil Stadium, which was very convenient.

 We obviously sat with the home team who had a chant they did the entire game. Actually they had about 10 different chants that one guy in the front would lead them all through, but really he just started a new chant and then they all knew what to do. Some of there were quite complicated with songs and arm gestures. A couple times it almost turned into a mosh-pit and it definitely turned into a mosh-pit anytime they scored.

 The other funny things was that they separated the fans from the other team (Metz) from the Creteil fans. And by separated I mean behind a fence with a few security guards making sure they didn't jump it. The Metz fans had their own set of cheers that they preformed the entire game as well... so it was loud.

I think this guy thought it was the French Revolution

What they did to the Creteil fans after Metz scored

The final score of the game was 3-2 with Creteil winning with their 3rd goal coming in the 87th minute, so it was a very exciting game. The two teams fans also decided to forgo the standard post-game brawl (which was a let down to Andrew) but all in all, it was a good time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

funny statues of paris (part 2): le louvre

We spent a long day at the the Louvre Museum and there were more than enough statues in that one very large building for an entire post on the subject of funny / weird statues.  The French can't take credit for all the weirdness though, there are a few Roman statues that made you do a double take as well.

Damn nature, you scary

No caption needed, this is just weird

Who knew they had a statue of Tebow as a baby in the Louvre
Statue on the Right: I told you mine was bigger. Statue on the Left: I hate to break it to you buddy, but yours is broken off
What buddy, you never seen a three headed dog before

Yea, I work out,,. You like?

booze of paris

This isn't all of the booze we drank in Paris, but a good sampling of it. Some bottles where purchased, drank and thrown away before we could ever take a picture.

Monday, August 12, 2013

we're velibers: renting bikes in paris

Velibs, in our humble opinion, are the best way to get around Paris.

Velib is Paris' bike sharing program, and not only is it really fun riding around Paris, it's a pretty sweet deal. For 1.70€, you get 24 hours worth of bike rentals, which means you can go to any Velib stand in the city (they claim they're every 300 meters, and I wouldn't be surprised--they're everywhere) and then return it at any other Velib stand. For each individual trip, if you return it within 30 minutes, there's no additional charge. (Which means on longer trips, we could find a Velib stand, return the bike, and get another one out immediately, and not get charged!)

We ended up Velibing all over the city, from our apartment in the Marais to the Eiffel Tower on one side of town and up to the Sacre Coeur on the other (though down from the Sacre Coeur was a much more fun ride...), and everywhere in between. There are even bikes lanes a lot of the way!

The only downsides we found were that 1. You had to be really careful to get a bike that actually worked (we accidentally got bikes with no brakes, one with no chain, and one missing a pedal over our time there). Luckily, if you get a dud, you can just return it and get a new one. And 2. These suckers are popular. Even though there are tons of stands, we'd occasionally have to visit two or three or six stands until we found one with two working bikes available. 

Overall, though, Velibing it was a great way to get around the city, and we'd definitely recommend them as way around the city. We're Velibers!