Very excited but tired after a total 20 hour journey, we landed in Krabi which is in the southern part of Thailand. We were meeting up with Katy and Ed again (friends from uni who also came to stay with us in Bondi) and couldn't wait to get into the tropical climate after leaving cold and rainy Sydney behind! It soon became apparent that the language barrier was going to be a problem when we got to the hostel and asked if our friends Katy and Ed were there, but they thought we said our names were Katy and Ed and we wanted to make friends! We eventually found eachother and it was straight to the bars to check on the beer prices. Turns out beer is £1 a bottle and cocktails £2, so at 4pm we settled into a nice rustic bar for the evening! We soon found out that 'fun' bars don't get busy until about 9, and our once chilled out beach bar turned into a frenzy of worryingly young looking girls, lady boys and over 50's western men, who always looked a bit guilty when we caught they're eyes! We stuck around as it really was pure entertainment, the normalness of it all! It was also odd that Ed and James were getting all of the male attention, especially from the gay bar owner 'Jackie'!
The next day to relax into Thaliand life we all decided to treat ourselves to massages and nail treatments. We expected them to be cheap but not as cheap as £6 each for the lot! Right on the beach, with fresh fruits and all lined up along side eachother, we had hour-long full body massages, and the girls had their hands and feet done too, all for near to nothing! The beauty ladies were so nice too, joking around with the boys to cry out if they were in pain, which they did!
It was time to start making plans, so we decided we'd head over to Phi Phi island the following day. We haggled the boat fare by 10p (that can buy a whole bottle of water!) and the accomodation by £2 each, which ended up at £4 each per night for a private bungalow each! We'd gotten a bit disheartened about going to beaches as it's the wet season now, which is great for accomodation prices as they are a quarter of the price. Luckily once we got to Phi Phi it was blue skies all of the way. We all fell in love with island, but can imagine it's not so tranquil in high season. The beach is beautiful, and is were the Leonardo DiCaprio film 'The Beach' was filmed. It's actually one of the islands that was the worst hit by the tsunami, and only 1 hotel survived, which was made into a hospital and still is one. You can tell that all of the buildings were rebuilt as quickly as possible to get the tourists back in, but they're all 1 story and rustic so it certainly didn't feel too built up. In fact our £4 per night bungalow was usually £40 per night, so putting up with a couple of wet days was worth it as we've got lots of time to play with. We had our first 'bucket' night out, where you literally get a bucket with 1/2 litre of spirit plus a can of mixer and concentrated redbull (lethal!) and a straw, all for £6! The hangovers weren't pretty, but once we had a curry for breakfast we were fine! After a day of recovering on the beautiful beaches, it was time to get ready for the 1st England game! Of course, that meant a beer and a curry, then we had to wait till 130am to watch it. The atmosphere in the bar was brilliant, with about 200 rowdy English people singing 3 lions over and over, and about 100 girls screaming everytime Beckham came on the screen! It's a shame we didn't win, but was a great night anyway! We did the walk up to the viewpoint which was incredible, looking down over the slim piece of island with crystal water on either side, but we all looked like we'd just stepped out of the shower once we got to the top!! On our last night we went to restaurant called 'Papaya' where everyone should go to if visiting the island! The meals were huge, fresh, and there were cats sleeping in the fridge! One got out to have his dinner then was meowing to get back in!! After a couple more days of just relaxing and eating cheap but delicious food on Phi Phi, it was sadly time to move on. We chose Ko Samui as our next stop, where we'd go to Ko Pangnan and Ko Tao from.
Well, Ko Samui was a big disappointment, very commercial and full of English/American restaurants, there was even a Tesco! We did have a nice evening having dinner on the beach, but even that was horrendously tacky with multicoloured lights hanging all around us, a Christmas song even came on! We did have nice air con rooms with tv's though so we made the most of those and watched a few of the games there. We were so eager to get to Koh Pangan that we just jumped on a boat without looking into accomodation. We just wanted a bungalow on a remote beach, the type of Thailand you see in postcards! So we decided to head north, away from the famous 'full moon party' beaches (There weren't any on while Katy and Ed were with us, but we planned to go later in the month). We were so lucky with what we found, a place called Malibu Bungalows, on the edge of a tiny fishing village in Chaloklum. It was bliss, for £8 each per night (more than our budget but for what we got it was amazing!) It was low season so we had the beautiful pool all to ourselves most of the time, and the bungalows were perfect. We also got a full English breakfast, juice, tea, water and fresh fruit included, so we were more than happy! We just spent the days relaxing, Ed did a dive and we just lazed around the pool overlooking the sea. It sadly came to Katy and Ed's last night with us (they were going on to India) and so we went for a slap up meal in the little village! We ended up at a cute little Italian with an Italian chef but with Thai staff working there. It was just what we all needed after a week of spice for breakfast, lunch and dinner! We said our goodbyes the following morning, then we moved to a bungalow resort called 'Munchies' in the south of the island to be nearer the half moon party and for the next England game. We had a productive day and got a really good Open Water dive course deal over in Koh Tao, which cost £200 including 4 nights accomodation and boat transfers. It means we get trained up and certified so we can dive anywhere in the world. We then had a bit of a crazy moment, and decided to hire a quad bike for 24 hours! It only cost £12 between us, which is less than we'd pay for taxis to get us to and from the busy part of the island to watch the England game, so we went for it! On our way back to our bungalows through the dirt tracks, we spotted an elephant, which was just incredible. The freedom of it felt amazing, and James just had a permenant smile on his face!! (Em was slighlty more worried on the back, but soon got used to James actually driving her around for once! :) )
So sadly England didn't do so well, but how could we keep a sad face in such a beautiful part of the world?! We hired a moped for a couple of days,went to the half moon party in the jungle (absolutely brilliant with top dance djs and lots of neon body paint!) and explored the east side of the island. We even toyed with renting a house on the east coast for a month (for £100 each!) but came to our senses as there is so much more to see!
It was time to head to Koh Tao for our dive course which we were both excited and nervous about! Day 1 was all about theory, we had to watch videos and do mini tests. The 2nd day we practiced all of the safety and techniques in a swimming pool, which sounds easier than it is! We had to practice taking off our air supply and our masks (underwater!) and how exactly we put together our equipment. That all took 6 hours each day so it was pretty intense! Our 3rd day started with a written exam, then it was time for our 1st dive! Our dive master, Kenji, had completed over 8000 dives so we were very confident he'd look after us! There were 6 in our group, and we descended 12m on our 1st and 2nd dives. It was so much fun getting all geared up on the boat and going down as a team, everyone did really well! On our 3rd dive Em's ears didn't equalise straight away and about half way down it was really painful, so everyone had to go back up again. But despite feeling a bit panic-stricken, Kenji persuaded her to go down and try again, and it all went fine. By the 4th dive, we were all pretty confident, and someone filmed our whole dive. We saw a blue spotted stingray, parrotfish, neon damsels, barracudas, long fin bannerfish, butterfly fish, cleaner wrasse (which sucked on a few cuts which we had!) and loads more. At the end of the day we celebrated passing our open water course, and watched the DVD of our dive.
Then it was time to head back to Koh Phangan for the biggest beach party in the world! We met up with Josh and Dean, James' best friends from home, and 4 boys from their universities (yes, Em felt pretty safe, and happy to have 7 boys around her!) As you can imagine the beer was flowing as soon as we met them from 3pm, we went to a pool party then carried on all the way through to 8am when we finally made our way home from a smaller beach party. We slept until 5 the next afternoon, then it was time to get the flourescent body paint on! We looked a picture walking down the street, with pretty amateur body art, forcing ourselves to take sips out of the lethal buckets we had swinging in our hands! As soon as we got to the beach though, last nights hangover was soon forgotten and we literally danced till 8am the next morning. There were about 20,000 people, 10 sound systems, skipping ropes lit on fire that anyone could jump into, 20ft slides, and more people selling £4 buckets of cheap nasty alcohol than you could possibly imagine. It absolutely poured down with rain for a couple of hours, but that didn't affect anything, it was just a amazing to be dancing and watching fork lightning rip across the sky every few seconds!
Another day wasted recovering, and it was time to see England suffer again. That's all we'll say about that! Fortunately for our livers, the boys moved on to to their dive course in Koh Tao, so we headed up to the NE of the island for some much needed R&R! We'll be here for a few nights until we have to go up to the Laos border to do a quick visa run, then on to Chang Mai in the north of Thailand to ride some elephants and learn how to cook all of our fave dishes!