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Thailand – Part 1 March 30, 2010

Posted by jorkat in Koh Phangan, Koh Samui.

After scrambling to reach our connecting flight in Bangkok on time, we arrived at our initial destination of Koh Samui. Aside from that, the only real stress we had to deal with all day was trying not to spill our beers (yes, plural) in the warm refreshing water.

Koh Samui is the largest island in Thailand. Formerly, a backpackers haven before becoming very commercialized.  It still has some of the nicest beaches and an eclectic mix of tourists and locals.

We started off our trip with Darren and Kirsten who had their respective brothers from back home along with them. This was Darren’s fourth trip to Samui as he met his girlfriend here the first time he visited.  He has taken every opportunity to go back and see her. This obviously worked out well for us as Darren was familiar with the territory and having Waan (his girlfriend) with us was an ever greater asset. Everything was a little bit cheaper and we didn’t have to deal with any language barriers or locals taking advantage of tourists. Waan is 5 foot nothing and less than 100 pounds but nobody messes with us when she steps forward. I told Darren the other night that it would be ideal if he had a girlfriend in every country we were visiting to make our lives a little easier, and the experience more authentic. He liked the idea and said he would get back to me.

One thing I wasn’t prepared for was being around so many caucasian’s again. There are tons of tourists here and for the most part, they are of European decent, which means two things. Lots of speedo’s, and no longer being able to openly comment about other people as they might be able to understand English. We took this for granted in Korea and most parts of Asia. If some old guy with a funny hat was staring at us on the subway in Seoul, I could turn to Katie and say aloud “I’m having a staring contest with that fossil in the stupid hat”, and he would be none the wiser. Now, I have to whisper when some guy in a thong walks by on the beach, “Psst…did you see that guys balls?”

As expected, everything is cheap. Dinner for seven on the beach was less than $100 CAD including copious amounts of beer. The only downside to everything being so affordable is that you don’t think twice when buying something. Imagine the dilemma I faced when I ordered my first vodka-Red Bull and was asked “glass or bucket?” This was the easiest and worst decision I made on Day 1.

I’m also pleased to announce that Thai women have easily jumped to number two in my hottest women of Asia standings, trailing only the Koreans. I knew they were going to be a contender, and it’s still early so they could still supplant the Koreans for top spot. But I wanted to see them in person and spend some more time here before passing final judgment. As you can see, I take these ratings very seriously.

Highlights from Day 2 in Samui included $8 massages, lying down, and three Heineken’s for under $5. On our last night in Samui we went to one of their famous Cabaret shows. Darren had attended the same show on a previous visit and hadn’t stopped talking about one of the performers. Commonly referred to as “Lady-Boys”, Webster’s dictionary defines them as…well, they aren’t actually in the dictionary but if you can’t figure out what they are from the name, this picture should help.

Below is Darren’s favorite and may or may not be mine as well. I wrote this sentence at least four different ways before settling on that one and immediately had a cold shower. Just three guys out for a night on the town.

Check out the meat-hooks on that chick…er, dude…um, let’s just move on.

There was a variety of beaches we wanted to visit in Samui, so on Waan’s recommendation we decided to rent a small jeep instead of taking cabs everywhere. Being the only one who could drive standard, I volunteered to drive a vehicle for the first time in over a year. This might not seem like a big deal until you realize that the wheel is on the other side and therefore I would be shifting with my wrong hand. No problem, I was up for the challenge and looking forward to having the lives of 5 other people on board in my hands. Oh yeah, they also drive on the left side of the road and have no such thing as street signs, lanes, or what I like to call “rules”. It’s a freaking free-for-all with scooters buzzing all around and passing you on both sides while oncoming cars veer into your lane to pass cars and scooters in their way. A little intimidating at first, but once I got the hang of it, I was in heaven. Not sure if my passengers shared the same sentiment.

As one would expect when renting a car, I brought my driver’s license with me to the rental place in order for them to process the paperwork and give them piece of mind that I was a licensed driver in another country. The license never left my pocket, but they did show me how to use the air conditioning.

Here are some pictures from the other beaches we visited including Crystal Bay and Lamai. The Mojito’s at Lamai were staggeringly delicious.

As planned, we spent three nights in Koh Samui before taking a ferry to the island of Koh Phangan for a couple of days. Darren, Waan and his brother Kevin joined us for this leg of the trip while Kirsten and her brother, Nils headed for a separate island, Koh Tao.

Koh Phangan is a much smaller island than Koh Samui and has a much more laid back atmosphere. We stayed in a small rustic bungalow right on a small beach. The beach wasn’t as nice as we had hoped but we were able to visit the other nearby beaches and spend some time with Darren, Kevin, and Waan who were staying on the much nicer, Haad Yao Beach.

I wasn’t petrified enough from driving a jeep in Samui so we decided to rent a scooter in Koh Phangan. My experience on motorized vehicles outside of cars is limited and when I say limited, I mean none, zero, nada. Fortunately, they have an extensive training program that involves me giving them money and them handing me the keys. After a few minor hiccups, I managed to get the hang of it.

Much like the Thai women, I’ve quickly become a huge fan of the Thai cuisine. My past exposure hadn’t been much aside from the occasional fast food and homemade Pad Thai, so I was anxious to venture outside my comfort zone and add some new dishes to my repertoire. After playing it safe on this first morning and ordering a western breakfast and immediately regretting it after seeing Darren’s Pad Thai Goong (prawn), I vowed that it was going to be nothing but Thai for every meal henceforth.  It was a decision I would not regret.

Back in Korea, I remember asking my kids what kind of food they had for breakfast. After receiving mostly blank stares I managed to coax some answers out of them and the responses were surprising, at the time. They ate the same types of food for breakfast as they would for lunch and dinner. This struck me as odd at first until I thought about it some more and discussed with others. It seems as though westerners are the only people/species on the planet that have a more defined type of cuisine for one meal that differs from the other two meals of the day. Think about it. Do you think Lions have second thoughts before hunting a gazelle because it’s more of a breakfast food? Anyway, my point is that I was all over eating almost any type of Thai food regardless of the meal or time of day. Now, I won’t be eating filet mignon for breakfast any time soon, but I think this is also a testament to overall quality of Thai food as I now consider it #2 in my international cuisine rankings behind only the Italians.

Yes, it was quite a week for Thailand. Both the women and food have emerged from nowhere to #2 status in my prestigious “Hottest Women of Asia” and “World Cuisine” rankings. I will not confirm nor deny if an actual spreadsheet exists.

Now I know what most of you are thinking. How come we haven’t heard any stories about Jordan racing? Has he retired? Is he out of shape?

Well I’m pleased to report that I am grossly out of shape but I haven’t officially retired from competitive drunk white dude racing. I don’t know when it started but in the past few years, I’ve developed an affinity for racing people on foot when I have had a couple drinks in me. It got to the point where I was challenging complete strangers in bars when none of our friends would oblige. Fortunately, I’ve been able to reign in my obsession and focus on finding worthy opponents to challenge under the right circumstances.

Ever since Darren crushed my spirits at 3am on the streets of Seoul back in late 2009, I’ve been dying for a rematch.

With his brother now visiting, I knew this would be a prime opportunity to instigate a little sibling rivalry and make fools of ourselves in public. The trash talk reached epic levels over our first few days, but as time progressed I became worried that it was all talk and that no one would actually take action. Finally, on our last night together in Koh Phangan, with a long stretch of empty beach sitting right in front of us, I challenged Kevin to a duel. Darren was reluctant to participate at first, partially because I think he was afraid of losing his crown and partially because he thought we’d look like idiots in front of his Thai girlfriend. Both were valid points. However, once he saw by how little Kevin defeated me in the first heat, he immediately wanted in on the action.

Darren won the first race comfortably, but kudos to Kevin for his effort at the finish line. There was some debate over the grade of the beach and which lane had the advantage so we did the race again and had them switch lanes. At this point, I had completely lost interest in racing myself and was now fully invested in inciting a brotherly brawl.

Kevin ended up winning the second race by a considerable margin and it was on. The much younger and mouthier Kevin was now brimming with confidence and thought he could beat Darren in the slower lane. In a shocking upset that could be heard up and down Haad Yao beach, Kevin emerged victorious in the rubber match, much to Darren’s and my chagrin as I had been backing him for days.

Some would say that Kevin was the big winner that night, and he probably was, until he got back to his room and realized he would be sleeping alone in his little single bed. Congratulations to both brothers on a fine showing and for both demonstrating nothing but class in victory and defeat. I’m still convinced, as is Darren that he would win on a proper asphalt track with running shoes.

On our last night in Koh Phangan, Katie and I came to back to our bungalow after spending the day at Haad Yao and watched the sunset on our beach. We then enjoyed a nice quiet dinner and caught up on email before packing for an early morning departure back to Koh Samui en route to Bangkok.

I haven’t made as much of an effort as I typically have in other countries to learn at least some of the language, mostly because Thai is just so damn hard. We’ve also been spoiled having Waan to translate everything and help us with our pronunciations. The following video captures an impromptu Thai lesson at dinner one night including the only sentence I learned, “chow fart pad fuk” which means “I eat green pumpkins in the morning”.

Stay tuned for Thailand – Part 2 which will feature our 24 hour experience in Bangkok.