Bangkok. You know what they say, one night here, and the world is your oyster. Clammy, stinky, and wet; and during the festival of Songkran, it’s just like that. (Long way to go for a Murray Head joke, but worth it I think.)
So yeah, let’s get one thing out of the way: there is a lot of sex around. However, if you’ve travelled a lot, frankly, that’s the boring part. People have lots of different reactions to prostitution; some excited, some terrified, some gratified, some horrified. Frankly, for the one commodity on the planet that anyone can sell, just for being alive, I find it a bit, well, meh.
So lets focus on what makes Bangkok Bangkok other then getting someone to suck your c**k.
First, the hotel. Boom.
The Sukhothai Hotel, besides being fun to say, was a stunner. Big, beautiful, overly graceious. The staff was warm and extremely helpful, The rooms were stunning, modern and with a toilet that wiped your ass for you. Oh, the breakfast buffet was bar none one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to graze. If you go, stay here; it’s near Lumpini park, perfectly away from the chaos of old downtown, and easy to get to from the airport. A tripple play.
Perhaps the coolest thing this chichi hotel did was give us a “Songkran Survival Kit”…
A beautiful malai (flower ring) and khan (metal bowl) along with chalk to bless objects and people (usually I dont like to consider people objects, unless it’s fun, like slapping chalk on them). The kit is supplied so that you can perform nam om, the water ritual, where you are blessing someone by sprinkling water on them. Of course, this is an ancient ritual, and after years of evolution, along with the advent of RedBull, today it looks a little something like this:
I had heard that the entire city comes out to play in a giant game of waterfight. What I didn’t realize is that no one was exaggerating when they said the entire city.
I had my doubts that it would live up to the hype, but honestly, this was above and beyond what I expected. It is the strangest sensation to roll around a huge metropolis, squirting the shit out of everybody and anyone, and they enjoy it. No one is safe; people in tuk-tuks, the dude selling fruit, even the cops, if you can see one in the sea of people. Amazing.
Of course a day of all out warfare made us quite hungry… luckily there was plenty to eat on the streets.
Delicious ramen with savory broth, grilled and splayed chicken, and lots of fresh veggies and fruit all over the place. In a word… heaven… After a good two hours we were soaked to the bone and well fed, which looks a little something like this:
In my twenty’s my ma gave me a little book by a one Alex Garland. The book was “The Beach”. It has never left my mind. I was about to re-enact a fantasy, and was very excited.
Kho Pi Pi is a perfect jewel of an island in the gulf of Thailand. It is as close to paradise as you’re going to get. In Chon Buri, when telling the locals I was going to “Pi Pi” (trying not to laugh every time like a 10-year-old) they all said the same thing, “oohahhahahaaaa – ohhhhhhh!” and made a wide-eyed face like they were slow motion riding a large Narwhal in a hot fudge sea (that’s what it was like, fuck you). Eventually I found out what this unique expression would come to mean; Pi Pi is Cray Zee.
To get to Pi Pi we would have to take a Fer Ree (I’ll stop now. Promise.). To get there, we had to drive to port, which I only mention because it was the beginning of Songkran, or Thai New Year a.k.a. country-wide water fight.
Songkran, originated with children showing respect to their elders by gently pouring a small amount of jasmine fragrant water into their hands, as a sign of a blessing. Over the centuries the ritual has been, well, “pumped up” a bit. Now the whole country takes place in a water fight. What do you expect from a country that invented Red Bull?
When I say “the whole country” that’s exactly what I mean. People in outer-buroughs line the street, or fill up the back of a pickup truck with a 10 gallon barrels of water and as many Thai’s you can cram in armed with water cannons and take to the streets “blessing” the shit out of anyone they come across. I’ve seen a lot of things, many I wish I could forget. This is something I suggest EVERYONE go experience. It’s nothing less than lovely. While we didn’t stop to play, er, I mean bless anyone, I did not despair… there will be plenty of Songkranin’ in Bangkok in a few days, and for now, I was island bound. Next stop Kho Pi Pi.
The island is like some dystopian future project set on a sandy beach very far from anything that resembles civilization. To get there you must take a 2 hour ferry. The comedy starts on the ferry, which costs about 10 USD to jump on. From there you can pay an additional 5 USD to go to “Elite class” (their words not mine) which is like … the front of the boat. You get windows. Huzzah. From there, there is another option for high rollers wishing to pay an additional 5 USD, for “Premium Class” which was the top-level on the boat. From there you were allowed to yell “I’m on a boat” with your shirt open.
Sitting in “steerage” we met a cool young couple from Australia (go figure). He was a commercial airline pilot, she, a teacher, both living in Hong Kong and doing a bit of travelling, like good Aussies tend to do. They were going to Pi Pi and we discussed the island. I found out the island is split into two basically; one side for transient, bohemian backpackers, the other, the well to do, “I want my food cooked”, Farang people. They were heading to the cool side, “The Beach” side. I was jealous for sure.
At this point we threw down 20 New York dollars and went to the top deck. They had free cookies and water. ALL YOU COULD EAT. I took 4 on a little paper napkin and went back down to our new friends, back in steerage.
“Here you go. I figured you might be hungry. Sorry, I can’t stay; they’re starting the caviar course up in Premium Class in 5 minutes. Ciao.” and went back upstairs. Rolling deep ya’ll.
Arriving at the main town in Pi Pi is a little like Catalina Island, or any other touristy port of call. It’s colorful, crowded, and can’t help but look like a movie set. Capitalizing on the fact that you have nowhere to go, they immediately charge you 5 bucks for stepping on the island, apparently to keep it “clean”. I always think things are legitimate when you are forced to put money into a water cooler jug. At least it had an “island concervashon” sign taped to it. Legit.
From there we hopped a long tail boat to our resort. Long tail boats are what happens when Mad Max and the Brazilian Yanomami tribe go in together and start making boats together. It’s like a diesel truck engine slapped on the back of a dopey canoe. You steer by rotating the two ton engine. It’s nothing short then epic.
On the long tail we met another nice couple, this time from Germany. Herby, Karolina, Miranda and I bounced down the lovely gulf water lovingly gazing at the paradise around us. They were excited to get to our resort, as we were. It was a long sea journey, and with all this aquamarine sea around all we wanted to do is float in it. The ride to the resort was another good hour it seemed, which made me wonder where the hell this place we were going was.
A sleepy family feeling the long seaward journey.
Super nice German Couple Herby and Karolina!
Finally, the boat started to move to the coast. However…. it would seem like we were out of sea….
The tides here, it would seem, are biblical. Biblical, like, Moses could have led his people from Egypt to the reception hall here. I’ve never seen anything like it. Until I saw a tractor driving in the water to come pick us up. Then I said I never saw anything like it.
Um… not exactly the private golf cart at the Indigo but definitely cool.
Thanks Karolina for this perfect shot;)
From the boat I took a grainy pick of a woman rolling her luggage across the great expanse of tidal sandy shore. fully dressed, and in my head she was wearing heels, I laughed seeing the in vivo Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone. “The Joan Wilder?!”. In the flesh folks.
Well, Ferry to Long Tail boat to tractor, we made it in. They gave us a frothy sweet drink and sat us down, and brought all the paperwork to us. Miranda was lovely enough to falsely mention to the hotel that it was our Honeymoon, a common trick of shrewd New Yorker’s who don’t get enough vacation time, so they make the time they get fucking count. What I don’t think she expected was that there would be a band, a special room, and them to write out in flowers on the bed “Happy Honeymoon”. We drew tattooed wedding bands on our hands and hoped for the best.
The Outrigger resort was lovely. A little too lovely to be honest. I had dreams of “The Beach”. I mean, I had bought bespoke handmade backpacks that came with built-in hammocks, and Goddamn’t I was gonna use them. This place already had hammocks up, and the nice ones, with pillows. There were air-conditioned huts, a minibar full of Toblerone, Coke, and a fine Rose, and better cable television then I got in the states. I guess what really put me over was that there was a luau. We were in Maui not Pi Pi.
Regardless, it’s hard to be upset with paradise. Impossible actually. I mean hammocks with pillows? C’mon. We got really nice messages, considered playing tennis, and enjoyed the perfect beach and pool, getting ready for our next stop, the dragon’s belly itself, Bangkok.