Tuesday

Eric and Fletch and I all left Koh Tao on the same day, Eric to fly home from Bangkok, and Fletch and I to go explore the rest of Thailand for two weeks before also making our way back to the US for the holidays. Knowing that we were going exploring for two weeks only just barely made our departure more bearable. The fact was that Koh Tao had been a perfect home and I was really going to miss it. The island was small enough to be able to get around anywhere you wanted to go in no time at all, yet big enough to not feel trapped on a rock. There were enough modern conveniences to make living comfortable and yet not so many that it wasn't also simple. And most of all it was sunny eleven months out of twelve and there was always a beach within walking distance. The only good part about leaving was that I had been dreading it for so long that now that we were actually leaving it was a bit of a relief.

But as they say, when one door closes, another one opens.

We managed to sell all of our bikes, the last of which the guy agreed to pick up at the ferry so that we could use it to transport our luggage from our house. So Fletch drove back and forth the whole two minute journey between our place and the ferry station, transporting all of our belongings while I watched the accumulating pile of luggage at the pier. Shortly after being dropped off with the first batch, the ferry began boarding, the first time ever it was early instead of late. I began to panic that Fletch wasn't going to get all of our baggage over and finish the bike sale before the ferry left, but he and Eric made it just in time.

I walked onto the ferry with more luggage than I had come with, yet somehow no shoes. That seemed only fitting.

The high speed catamaran ride from Koh Tao to Chumphon passed without too much excitement. We got off the ferry, made our way to the train station, and dropped off our bags before walking down the street in search of food. The place we ended up had a boxing ring on one side, and a restaurant on the other. A pool table separated the gym from where the food was served. One corner was decked out in reggae decor, while vintage travel posters hung from the rest of the walls, which were made out of logs like a winter lodge. A large carving of a Native American head completed the random assortment of decorations. None of us knew where we were.

It was finally time to board the train so we made our way to our second class cabin. It was late so the benches had already been magically transformed into bunks lining the sides of the cars, each with a curtain to pull across. We had opted for the fan car instead of the air/con car, which proved to be perfectly comfortable. Train travel is definitely the way to go in Thailand. You get your transportation and accommodation all in one, plus sleeping on a moving train is really relaxing. We started to watch The Maze Runner, a movie I had been anxious to see, but the movement of the train lulled me to sleep before the movie was halfway through.

Wednesday

If I didn't already talk up train travel enough, you have to love falling asleep in one location and waking up at your destination, completely refreshed. We woke up in Bangkok, had our bunks converted into benches for the remaining 30-minute journey, and finally made our way off the train, dropped our luggage off in the storage room, and exited the station into the frenzy of tuk tuk drivers anxious to scam unsuspecting tourists. We hired one to take us to Khao San Road and made a beeline for Charlie's, the main massage parlor, always crowded with happy backpackers in lawn chairs along the street getting foot rubs. We sat down and my massage lady looked at my scratched and scraped-up feet in disgust before dressing them with several bandages. I guess the big city massage ladies aren't as used to avoiding wounds as the ones who see them every day on Koh Tao. My lady ended up having ridiculously strong hands and I was grateful I hadn't gotten anything more than a foot massage.

We walked around Bangkok for a while after that and Eric led us to a bridge where he had fed the fish  on a previous visit. Sure enough at the end of the bridge there was a table selling large bags of stale bread for 10 baht, so we bought a few and watched in amusement as hundreds of foot-long fish fought in a frenzy over the scraps.

When the bread was gone we walked around a while longer, eventually making our way back to Khao San Road and landed at Orange Shop, a bar Fletch and I had visited our first time ever in Thailand. We sat and drank, happy to be in each others company but saddened by the looming farewell. Several peddlers selling trinkets and cheap souvenirs made their way towards us but we waved them all away. One guy refused to listen to our adamant no's and waved an assortment of cigarette cases and lighters in our faces until a taser finally caught our attention. He wanted well over 2000 baht for the thing and Fletch got the idea to pay Eric to get tasered for all of our amusement. He offered to pay Eric 1000 baht and the guy selling the taser somehow took that as an offer for 1000 baht, which he eventually accepted. It took Fletch a moment to explain to the guy that we didn't want the taser, we just wanted him to taser Eric. It took a while to convince Eric that he should take the deal and he finally did, looking more and more nervous by the second. The Thai guy did shock Eric, to all of our great amusement, and gave us the taser gun to go along with the 1000 baht purchase. Fletch ended up trading it for several other smaller trinkets.



We paid our bill at the bar and made our way back to the train station where we said our goodbyes to Eric. Knowing that we would be seeing him again soon in Colorado made it a little easier. He left with a taxi cab driver and soon it was just me and Fletch.

At a loss for what to do until our next overnight train left, we walked over to a lady at an information booth and asked her what there was to do nearby for a couple of hours. She told us we should go see the gold Buddha, which we would reach if we walked straight and then to the left. Of course getting around Bangkok is never as easy as walking straight and then to the left, so we ended up wandering quite a bit of Chinatown, playing with the baby chicks in a poultry store, and wandering around some more before we finally saw a giant temple in the distance that we figured had to be the Golden Buddha.

The temple had an exhibit going on about Chinatown that we walked through which included the story of the Golden Buddha we were about to see. This Buddha used to be farther north in Thailand until it was decided that it should be housed in Bangkok, so rolling the massive structure on logs, the Buddha was transported to Wat Traimit. It was thought at this point that the statue was merely  plaster coated in gold, and so the monks tried in vain to haul the thing up several stories into the temple using ropes and pulleys. After endless labour, they managed to raise the structure a couple of inches, only for a rainstorm to roll in and a massive clap of thunder sent Buddha falling back towards the ground. The gold coating fell away, along with the thin layer of plaster underneath, to reveal a solid gold structure beneath it all. The Golden Buddha has the highest intrinsic value of any object in the world. Needless to say he's very shiny.


The exhibit on Chinatown had highlighted several good restaurants in the area, one of which was a dim sum restaurant. We decided to go find it but after walking in the wrong direction for ten blocks, we realized there wasn't going to be time and so hurried back to the train station to collect our luggage and sort it into what would be coming with us whilst we traveled, and what would be sitting at the train station for the next two weeks. While Fletch sorted, I ran across the street in search of some green curry for dinner. I found a restaurant with a standard Thai menu and placed the order for two green curries, meanwhile a black cat jumped into my lap, sat down, started purring, and refused to leave. The curry arrived, I pried the cat off of my lap, and headed back to the train station.

We still had a little time to kill before our train arrived, so I headed to the bathroom where you could use a shower for a few baht. Whatever you're imagining a public shower in a train station in Thailand to be like, you're right. I waked out barely feeling cleaner then I had before showering.

We had booked first class tickets on the "special express" (as opposed to just the regular express) for the trip up to Chiang Mai. Neither of us knew what the difference was but it sounded fun. We walked into our car and found our cabins to discover that "special" meant we each had a private cabin, with doors that adjoined the two, as opposed to one cabin with two bunks that we had been given before in first class. We ended up throwing all of our luggage into one room and sleeping in the other. I think we started a movie but I was asleep in no time at all. Apparently trains put me to sleep.