Thursday, October 21, 2010
Immediately after arriving home from Broome, drained from our amazing experience in the outback, we grabbed our suitcases and headed out to the Perth airport for our flight to Thailand! We arrived in the bustling city of Bangkok at the crack of dawn after taking an overnight flight which I (thankfully) snoozed through. Feeling refreshed and energized, we took a shuttle into the heart of the city and watched warily as our bus slowly rumbled up and lurched to a halt next to the most gigantic building I have ever seen, fully equipped with massive, extravagant golden pillars, hundreds of security guards pacing and protecting the sacred insides, and a grandiose sign declaring the towering structure as “Prince Palace.” We hesitantly exited the bus, uncertain if this was the correct destination, only to be reassured seconds later that this would be our luxurious sanctuary for the next 5 days. Before I move on and tell you about all the incredible events and activities we took part in all week, let me first reinforce the ludicrous, extravagant, elaborate fanciness of this palace; it contained multiple swimming pools (inside and outdoor of course), a pool bar, several fully equipped workout facilities, numerous fancy restaurants, literally thousands of employees stationed every 10 feet or so whose jobs consisted of warmly greeting the hotel guests and making sure we never had to open the doors ourselves (seriously, that was all they did and they were EVERYWHERE), a spa, over 35 floors, and the best view of Bangkok in the city. Oh and also, every single thing in the entire building was coated in gold. Everything. Without a doubt the nicest hotel I have ever seen, been inside, or stayed at by a million miles, and it cost us 60 dollars per person for the entire week. Unbelievable.
But anyways, onto bigger and better things. The first order of business was to check out our surroundings, which included the nearby markets. It was slightly depressing to witness the slum-like streets surrounding our magnificent hotel, but everyone greeted us warmly as we poked around the various shops. Seeing as I was starving (as usual), I decided to invest 30 baht (roughly 1 dollar) for a steamy plate of the best pad thai I have ever eaten. DELICIOUS! Throughout the week, I routinely stuffed myself to the gills with some of the most amazing food in the world, with the most expensive items usually setting me back a devastating 2 dollars. I gorged myself on mountains of pad thai, papaya salad, sushi, spring rolls, curries, fried rice with assorted veggies and succulent meats, fried crepes smothered with chocolate containing banana and nutella inside, and many different items of food that looked quite intimidating. Some of these dishes turned out to be surprisingly delicious, while others were not quite as nice, including several that tore my poor, wimpy American mouth and stomach to shreds due to insane, fire-hot , volcanolicious spiciness. Our spectacular 5 star hotel also treated us to an all you can eat buffet breakfast every morning, which, needless to say, I took full advantage of. Since the baht has such an abysmal exchange rate, everything was absurdly cheap and we were able to bargain our way down to paying practically nothing for the food and items we bought at the shops. We ended up checking out 3 different sets of markets, which were enormous mazes of interesting shops that were a never-ending source of entertainment and contained aromas that ranged from mouth-watering to vomit inducing, every type of food you can imagine, clothing of all kinds, and thousands of interesting Thailand trinkets. After a long day of exploring Bangkok, we kicked back and relaxed by receiving a full body massage at our hotel/palace. Despite my laughter due to crazy ticklish-ness I was able to enjoy the massage and appreciate the spa treatment; despite chuckling throughout the whole massage I did indeed have a grand time. We wound down with a swim and a night on the town to round out a fantastic first day.
The next day, we decided to take a day trip off the beaten path to check out some of the less seen areas in Thailand. The long ride out of Bangkok gave us a chance to see the scenic landscapes of Thailand outside of the crowded city. The green hillsides were beautiful from the passing car and I really enjoyed our mountainous scenery, but I would be lying if I said that I vigilantly observed our surroundings for the whole ride…zzzz…zzzz… Thankfully, upon arriving at our first destination, a war memorial and museum, I quickly sprang back to life and enjoyed exploring the sites.
Soon after, we made our way into the lush jungle only to be met by ELEPHANTS!!!! I eagerly hopped on my massive elephant and began my journey through the unique landscape. The rocky ride was made even more fun by the fact that my elephant seemed to have a mind of its own, a very stubborn mind mind you, and I routinely found that we were off the suggested path. It seemed as though my elephant was calling the shots and I was just along for the ride, but my flow of adrenaline was drowned out by the vast, magical splendor that surrounded me. Riding an elephant through the through the Thailand jungle was eerily similar to a scene from jurassic park. The thousands of dragonflies that buzzed fervently around our heads were the size of portly birds and emitted a sound like a furious helicopter. We lurched down several steep hills, several of which I thought for sure the elephant was going to tumble over, and waded into a river where the elephant stopped for some much needed hydration. Following our amazing elephant rides, we took a unique bamboo river rafting trip that allowed us to get an even closer look at the natural beauty surrounding us. We finished our day out by gorging ourselves at an all you can eat lunch buffet paid in full by the elephant/rafting company. Just another day in my poor, tough, miserable life!
Another fun day excursion was when we visited the grand palace, an area that reminded me a little bit of the gigantic museums and extravagant churches that sprinkle all of Europe. The only difference was that the majority of the buildings inside the grand palace were made completely out gold. The pictures don’t do justice to the luxurious splendor of the palaces, but rest assured it was one of the most impressive man-made spectacles I have ever witnessed. Inside one of the golden buildings was the largest “statue” of Buddha (or statue period for that matter) I have ever seen. This Buddha was not big. Not enormous. Not even massively colossal. Those are all understatements. This Buddha was literally half the size of a football field in length and I had to crane my neck to see the top. Not to mention that the Buddha was made completely out of solid gold (as seems to be the custom in Thailand. If it isn’t made out of solid gold, then it just isn’t cool).
As I am beginning to realize, if I tell every amazing event of my trip in depth this stupid blog entry will go on for an eternity, so here are abbreviated versions of some of the other small events that I thought were unique and fun experiences:
-petting and playing with a tiger and a leopard. Small, cuddly, but still fierce as the two adorable animals engaged in several brutal scuffles with each other that had the audience gasping.
-having a massive python draped around my shoulders. I could feel its powerful muscles contract around my neck immediately but thankfully it decided against strangling me to death.
-putting my legs into a large tank full of thousands of fish that immediately swarmed around me and began suctioning off my feet. It felt as if thousands of mini vacuum cleaners were running in between my toes and after awhile my feet grew numb to the pleasant, gentle vibrating sensation. However, prior to my numbness, I was howling from laughter due to how ridiculously ticklish I am, and people in the shop were giving me strange looks, unsure if I was in excruciating agony, laughing hysterically, or if I had just lost my marbles altogether. Apparently having your feet cleansed by these fish is supposed to be a magical exfoliating experience.
-experiencing the constant language barrier was an interesting, frustrating, yet invigorating way to travel and it’s sometimes good to be reminded that not everyone speaks English and how much more difficult day to day activities can be without the ability to communicate to people.
-every night right after dinner, the Thailand sun would set while the clouds and sky simultaneously turned a mixture of marmalade, violet, and a menacing black. Out of nowhere, it would begin downpouring rain while ear-splitting thunderstorms provided an incredible spectacle. I’ve always been a sucker for thunderstorms so I looked forward to this nightly treat (the weather throughout the day was stiflingly hot but after the storm it cooled down to a pleasant and balmy warm.)
-we went out to explore the nightlife while we were there and came across some sensational live music; two guitarists and a drummer who absolutely rocked the house. The cram packed bar full of young drunken young adults were all belting out the songs at the top of their lungs.
These were just a few of the many spectacular, unique, interesting, amazing encounters of Thailand and it is does absolutely no justice to the time I spent there, but rest assured it was without a doubt one of the most amazing vacations I have ever experienced in my life and I had a SPECTACULAR time!
Another fun event that I partook in a week later was the group camping trip to Margaret River:
-I went surfing for the first time, and it. Was. AWESOME! I had a blast hangin 5 and rippin up the waves/shreddin the gnar. The waves were pretty gnarlytastic but I was able to catch on pretty quickly thanks to my typical bro surf instructor, who was rocking some frosted tips and called everyone “brah.” I will most definitely be making surfing a habit of mine while I’m here.
-We were lucky enough to witness a large group of whales frolicking off the coast, literally exploding out of the water planet earth style. It was pretty special to see such massive and beautiful creatures in such a unique setting.
-We also visited a winery, a chocolate factory, and went cave spelunking, where we descended hundreds of steps into the belly of a gaping abyss. The cave was not very large but what it lacked in size it made up for with amazing cave formations. The chocolate factory featured unlimited free samples of their delicious milk chocolate, white chocolate, and dark chocolate morsels. These delectable treats helped ward off any persistent hangovers while simultaneously knocking several of us out cold for the 3 hour ride home.
-Last Friday, our dear friend and group leader for our Broome trip Tom invited us all over to his house for a nice outdoor barbeque. This Bbq was a feast of epic proportions, full of delicious food washed down with some nice beers, great music, a phenomenal sunset, and stellar company. Great stinkin night.
-We had our inaugural fantasy basketball draft last night which as an excellent nights with the fellas, full of smack-talk, all things basketball, and bagged wine. Delicious. My friend Blake informed me that they have fantasy “footy” in Australia, with the rating system consisting of handballs, tackles, marks (catches), and scores. I found this hilarious.
Anyways, speaking of Blake, I’m taking off in a few minutes to join him on an expedition down south to explore his farm and make some mischief. Two other American gentleman are joining me, as well as a few of Blake’s mates, so it should make for an excellent weekend! My apologies for the scattered randomness of this blog, I must admit I wrote it in a hurry and did not do any of these events justice at all. Whoops. Hope all is well!
P.S. Exciting news!!! I officially have all of my flights booked for November 18th until January 5th: Cairns, Airlee Beach, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Sydney, Tasmania, Melbourne, Fiji, and New Zealand!!!!!!!!