The Postcard: Bangkok, Hua Hin, Koh Phayam, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan
I’m finding it difficult to select one photo for our inaugural trip to Bangkok. I’m trying to channel that sense of newness you feel when visiting someplace for the first time, but we’ve been in and out of Bangkok enough in the last 3 years, that it’s become as familiar and comfortable as a faded pair of jeans. Still…
With no advance planning, no place to stay and little geographical knowledge, we directed the taxi to take us to the only place we’d heard of in Bangkok – Khao San Road. My vision of Khao San Road was decidedly grimier, seedier and scarier than the reality (mostly thanks to Leonardo Di Caprio’s role in The Beach). There were still a small number of girly bars and ‘special’ massages, but mostly it was just a bunch of very loud, very rowdy and very annoying drunk tourists.
After a quick wander down the street (yes, there is Starbucks on the street – it’s just that seedy), and deciding it wasn’t for us, we opted to stay on Soi Rambrutti – a quieter street about 10 minutes and a world away.
Thailand has the unfortunate reputation of being a sex tourism destination. Though prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, authorities seem to turn a blind eye to it, while it is openly practiced all across the country. Chalk it up to naivety or a desire not to see, but I didn’t actually witness too much of this in Bangkok…not even on Khao San Road. Perhaps it’s because Bangkok is a large city, where it’s easy to hide or keep it contained to certain areas.
My illusion was shattered the moment we arrived in Hua Hin, a beach resort town approximately 200 km south of Bangkok. Walking into the town from the bus depot, we saw many young women flirting and giggling with older men (which we later found out were mostly from Denmark, Norway and other northern European countries). This was the norm throughout the town, and the behaviour was as blatant in Hua Hin as this sign advertising “special” massages for men.
There was so much of this kind of thing going on in Hua Hin, that we didn’t ever feel fully comfortable there. So, after feasting on freshly caught seafood (which Hua Hin is famous for), we made a quick exit to our next destination.
The beaches of Thailand are brilliant blue expanses where you can serenely pass day after day, without overly damaging the wallet. Thailand is one of the world’s top travel destinations, and the reason why is epitomized in the next 3 photos.
Our first stop on the Thai beach circuit was Koh Phayam, a tiny little island (10km x 5km) on the west side of the Thai peninsula. We spent most of our time in Koh Phayam swaying in a hammock, reading, or resting by the tranquil sea.
Our next stop was Koh Tao, an island in the Gulf of Thailand. With crystal clear waters and a plethora of diving schools concentrated on the island, people from all over the world converge there to get PADI certified at bargain rates. We didn’t do any diving, but instead whiled our days away on these huge rocks, basking in the sun like oversized seals. Blissful.
Our last stop before settling in Seoul permanently, was “Full Moon Party,” island Koh Phangan. While the ‘party’ was noisily happening on neighbouring beach, Haad Rin, we were walking on these creaky wooden bridges over the waters of isolated Haad Yuan, and I don’t regret missing the party one bit.