Sunday, July 25, 2010

Off My Crutches On Koh Phi Phi, Muay Thai Boxing, and Andres' Arrival!

I was once again on my own after effortlessly extending my stay on Koh Phangan (a full two nights following the Full Moon Party), but once I finally got my sh*t together, I booked transportation to Koh Phi Phi. From what I had been told by all the travelers I had met and from my numerous new friends on Koh Phangan, Koh Phi Phi was the place to recover from the madness of the Full Moon Party.

Despite its appeal to those who had just washed off the glow-in-the-dark paint, Koh Phi Phi is always a place of serenity, quiet beaches, and amazing sunsets. Honestly, I didn't really care what "they" told me about Koh Phi Phi--I just needed to get OFF of that island for fear that I might stay and be the guy who has been there a month since the last Full Moon Party because he wanted to do it all over again 31 days later. Um, no thank you.

Saying more goodbyes that day (to Alice, Laura, Alicia, Tyrone, etc.) then I'd like to remember, I boarded my first sleeper boat for a journey that--still to this day--I can't quite map out other than the fact that I knew I was headed to an island on the eastern shore of the southern part of Thailand. I'm not quite sure why we took a sleeper boat and not a sleeper bus, but at this point in my travels, I've become a sheep. When it comes to changing locations, I just go with the rest of the herd . . . so off I went. Baaah!

For a pleasant surprise, I boarded with two of my friends I had met in Vietnam who had also stayed a few doors down from me in the same hotel on Koh Phangan (two sisters--Mariana and Michelle--from . . . you guessed it: Argentina!). To get some sense of what this sleeper boat was like, I took one picture, but it really doesn't do justice to the level of comfort I experienced for nine hours . . . solid SLEEEEEP!

Although the sleeper boat may not look comfortable, it was simply marvelous! I had been experiencing horrible sleep in my final nights in my hotel room on Koh Phangan because of the mixture of humidity in the room, no air conditioning, little-to-no ventilation, massive amounts of sand covering my sheets, and my being bed harder than wood (don't know how that is possible but it is the truth). My sleep was just plain awful, but I know that I had been quite spoiled from my adjustable bed in the hospital room. In my defense of not being that high-maintenance, I could also attribute my poor sleep to the on-again/off-again pain from my foot that would throb and wake me up at random points throughout the night! Needless to say, the sleeper boat--with its ocean breeze, fans, and soft mattresses--allowed me a solid nine hours!

Once I finally came to early the next morning, the sun had started to rise in the Gulf of Thailand, and our next transit stop was now less than an hour away. What's more, the pain in my foot had started to subside. Thankfully, I had also started to wane myself off my pain medication (well actually, I started to run out of it), but I still had about a week left on anti-biotics.

I was still a bit scared about the risk of infection since my cut was healing very, very slowly. It probably didn't help that I had ditched my crutches the day after the Full Moon Party partly because I could limp around okay without them but more so because I couldn't even manage to use them since the blister on my hand had grown to the size of a quarter from the night before out on the beach. My hand and its blister had gotten to the point where it hurt more to put weight on it than on my foot, and presently, my hand is still healing from that damn blister whereas my foot is almost back to feeling normal--go figure!

We made it to Krabi that morning long enough to get a few coffees and a small breakfast. Almost immediately afterward, we were shuttled to the pier, boarded our ferry, and within a few short hours back on the water, we finally reached paradise: Koh Phi Phi!

This has easily been one of my favorite Thai destinations and for a number of reasons. First, I met a friendly Canadian guy as we were all getting off the boat who had also made friends with some of the others on the boat who I was talking to. David was by himself, so we quickly became friends and agreed to split the costs for a room. Once, we followed all the girls around to find their hotels while checking the prices for ourselves, we settled on a place right between the two beaches of Koh Phi Phi--the one is in the picture above (used primarily for taxi boats and ferries), and the other is where the nice beach is and where all the parties happen at night! Here's a good arial view to get an idea of the island and the little strip with beaches on either side:

Second, everything that happens on that island essentially goes down right on that little strip in the middle of the island, and it's amazing because you can walk the entire width of the strip--from the pier side to beach side--in less than 10 minutes. Finally, there are no cars or motorbikes on the island--only bicycles. So needless to say, it was an absolutely peaceful place to be and served as a great break from taxis, loud motorbikes, and aggressive traffic on Koh Phangan!

For our first night there, David and I got settled into our room--pure luxury at a great price. This room had A/C, nice comfortable beds, and thick comforters to keep the A/C nice and cold but stay warm through the night. As for a room with A/C in Southeast Asia, it becomes an interesting game. In a room with all guys or by myself, you tend to set the A/C at a certain level thinking it's a safe temperature through the night. Then, about 3 hours into your sleep, you wake up FREEZING, so you turn it up a few degrees only to wake up hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable a few hours later. I guess we could've set the timer or make the necessary adjustments, but as guys, you only have patience for full-blast, always on, and always cold A/C, so you just learn to deal with it. Thankfully, the room came with those thick comforters, so it was easy to escape the frost-bitingly-cold air circulating in the room.

After taking our first showers in nearly two days--and with salt water at that (the only drawback to our room), we realized that we were able to get the free Wi-Fi signal from the bookstore directly across the street. We were then convinced we had the best room on Koh Phi Phi, and after spending too much time on Facebook and swapping movies, we found our friends and a watering hole we would visit every night during our stay on Koh Phi Phi: Reggae Bar. Reggae Bar, however, didn't play much reggae or even have their staff equipped with dreads; instead, this was the place to watch live Muay Thai Boxing--between Thais but more entertaining was the matches between random backpackers!

Personally, I have never been much of a fan of any form of fighting--not UFC, wrestling, or boxing--but once David and I walked into Reggae Bar and felt the energy from all the other groups of backpackers who had been convinced by their friends to fight other random backpackers that night, it was easy to stay, order a bucket, and watch some Muay Thai. As well, David had recently trained in Muay Thai while traveling in Thailand and was excited to see there was going to be definite chance to put his new skills to the test against an unsuspecting backpacker . . .

Just like the other groups that had convinced one of their friends it was a great idea to go up against someone else for three 1-minute rounds in the ring, David needed no convincing to go in the ring for a fight, and I promised him that I would find someone of equal stature and weight for his match.

The next day, I woke up earlier than I would have liked to but was excited to greet two friends I met in Bangkok before heading south to Koh Phangan--Mara and Tara from NYC! They were so great to be around because we shared many similar stories from our experiences as Americans traveling in Asia, and there were many more stories to share from back home. Plus, it was just great to hear them talk, as I have said many times before: the American accent and American backpackers have been quite the rarity in my travels this summer.

So, with another day on Koh Phi Phi and everyone in our (growing) group now shacking up at the same hotel (Phi Phi Princess), I needed to get myself back to sleep in order to catch up from the early wake-up. Plus, it was SO hot out that day, and after a few hours at the pier waiting for the New York gals in the heat, I was definitely not ready to go to the beach. Unfortunately, my decision to go back in the cold A/C and my bed wash something I would soon regret over the next few days because that day's sunshine would soon be gone for the next two days . . .

With the heat, early wake-up, and a small hangover from too many buckets at Reggae Bar and on the beach the night before, I was completely unproductive and became very lazy spending the rest of the day in my hotel room. While I napped and waited for Mara and Tara to catch up on their sleep in preparation for their first night on Koh Phi Phi, I watched every episode of the first season of How to Make It in America (many thanks to David and his expansive TV/movie collection!).

Once I finished the season, I felt recuperated and was instantly surprised to read a message from Andres! He had written to let me know that his plans to stay with friends in Cambodia had changed and that he would now be arriving solo to Koh Phi Phi at 3pm the next day! So, with another night ahead of us, David and I got our group together to show Mara and Tara what Koh Phi Phi was all about. Unfortunately, I left my camera in my hotel room for the second night in a row, so I have no pictures to share, but only memories in my head that can just stay there.

The next day was much the same, and our established routine was feeling great. However, this was an exciting day due to Andres' arrival, but when I got up for breakfast with Mara and Tara, it was raining cats and dogs! Rain isn't uncommon this time of year, but Koh Phi Phi takes it personally since they experienced a devastating tsunami in December 2004 that brought massive floods and destruction to the entire strip I had described above. If you can stomach it, here is a graphic YouTube video of what happened that fateful day. Needless to say, the relentless rain that morning doesn't feel like the rain at other places around Thailand. For me, rain was still my enemy because of needing to keep my foot dry, so it was a bit frustrating dodging the huge puddles that had collected in the streets on my walk to meet Andres at the pier.

It was absolutely great to see him and know that he would have fun on Koh Phi Phi during his final days in Southeast Asia. As well, adding a bed in our room for him cut the cost down for David and I, and Andres was completely content on his roll-away!

With great expectations for the night ahead of us, Andres and I did our best to get David excited about his match as we waited out the rain for the nightlife to set in on the streets right outside our door! For some reason, David was nervous, but at the same time, he didn't have much to really fear because we soon found a nice enough guy from England for him to fight and we stayed in his corner for the entire match.

Of course, David won but not without a lot of work on his part. As you can tell from the picture after it was over, he fought like an ANIMAL and was completely exhausted as well as mildly injured with a swollen ankle from a good kick against his opponent in the third round. Well done David--you worked hard for the free bucket!!! As well, Andres and I had confidence in his abilities before the match, so we made a few bets with his opponents friends and others in the stands that ended up funding few nights at the hotel, drinks, and food!

From the looks of this Dandygram, I do believe I need to end Dandygram post and catch you up with the rest of our stay on Koh Phi Phi in another one, so . . . . .

Next up on The Dandygram: Sunshine, Beach Time, and Andres' Muay Thai Match During Our Final Days on Koh Phi Phi!

1 comment:

  1. You're such a good reporter, Trevor-son. I love reading your stories. I wish you hadn't had any pain in your foot, and the blister on your hand, darn it. See you in about 10 days!!!! xox Mom