From hell to heaven in 48 hours

This is the first of my posts I’m writing on my travels. The plan is to spend two months in Thailand relaxing and doing a 500 hour yoga teacher training course on Koh Samui, then go to Sri Lanka to see my friend Sherylee, then to India to do some more yoga. If funds allow, I’ll be away until December!

But first of all… Bangkok’s mad! I had been warned but it still came as a surprise. I had two nights in the city – the first staying in the business area in a very civilised but slightly pricey place, and then the second at a hostel near the Khao San Road. The road’s a backpacker’s mecca and attacks your senses from every direction. It’s brash, noisy and there’s shop after shop selling clothes and accessories to make you look like you’re a dab-hand at this backpacking malarky and not fresh off the plane.

There’s street hawkers and touts encouraging you to:

  • buy two bits of wood that, when rubbed together, sound a bit like a bull frog. “Where’s that bull frog?” Oh no, it’s just a Thai lady of advancing years wearing a pointy, spangly hat rubbing two bits of wood together.
  • invest in a magic trick involving a length of string and a plastic hoop. This bloke kept three gap year Brits entertained for half an hour. And they didn’t invest. Each of them sat back in their chairs and declared “I’m out” like the Dragons that they were.
  • get a tattoo! Everyone else walking about has one! Get one!
  • eat a dried frog/cricket/cockroach! I dare you!
  • eat in this restaurant!
  • buy an obscene friendship bracelet. This young and quite shy Thai guy came up with his board of homemade friendship bracelets that declared ‘f*** my c***’, ‘floss my pussy’ and ‘rape me now’. There were about 30 variations. I wonder how business was going for him.

I managed to fit in a visit to a 45ft reclining buddha (Wat Pho) and visit the Grand Palace (it was grand) but I think the one thing that amazed me the most was one bar on the Khao San Road – sorry to harp on about it. It appeared to be called ‘Golf Bar Cocktails Very Strong’ plus strapline: ‘We do not check ID & restaurant’. The place was full. Tables and people poured out onto the street and touts wore neon orange t-shirts echoing the name of the place. Good consistency of messaging at least.

My lodgings – the Suneta Hostel – was ranked no. 1 on Tripadvisor so I had high hopes. It was clean, modern and the dorm felt like staying in a huge sleeper train carriage – cabin style. Wooden doors slid closed to provide privacy and much needed darkness.

I was in bed by 10pm in readiness for my 3.30am start the next morning. It was a pity that my roomies didn’t have the same plan. I was awake at midnight listening to people arriving and slamming their cabin doors, at 1am hearing Chinese girls giggling whilst cleaning their teeth, 2am: more giggling. At 2.30am came the piece de resistance: a girl started moaning and groaning: “Oh god, oh god”. Had she flouted the rule about no company in her cabin? No! She was merely preparing to spend the next hour vomming and wretching and sometimes not making it to the loo in time! Maybe her ID hadn’t been checked earlier in the evening, but suffice to say she was still at when I made my getaway at 3.30am.

Now, a minibus, plane, ferry, motorbike and Thai longtail boat later, I am in bliss on Koh Phang An. Jumping out of the longtail boat and wading through the shallows to the beach, I feel that my trip has officially started. The Sanctuary was recommended by a few yogi friends and who’d have thought that I’d check in at exactly the same time as another Sivananda yoga teacher training graduate.

Meditation’s at 6pm… I best be off.