Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ko Phi Phi

After a night in Phuket, we were all ready to get out of there and head off to the famed Ko Phi Phi. If you have seen Leo DiCaprio in "The Beach", this is where it was filmed. It's breathtakingly beautiful.

And thats just the view from the beach at our hotel. You look it up on Google images and I'm sure you'll find a million pictures just like the one above, the series of islands really are some of the most beautiful places I've ever been. I've wanted to go to Thailand for a long, long time and couldn't believe I was finally there. Took accepting a year long job in Korea to get there, but I made it. One of Chris' friends had been to Phi Phi in the past year or so and recommended this awesome place called Viking Resort. It would be a little pricier than anywhere else we would stay throughout the trip but totally worth it. The place was awesome. We all had our own private bungalows a bit off of a semi hiking path in the rainforest looking over the ocean. Here is me below standing on the balcony of mine.

Also, here's a picture of the outdoor shower as well as the inside of the room.

So we get off the boat in Phi Phi, apparently Chris set up a long tail boat to grab us from the ferry dock, so we see this guy.

And we are on our way to the resort. Our first day we spent really just relaxing on the beach. After touring the hell out of Malaysia and a night out in Phuket we were all more than ready to relax all day on our beautiful beach.

The following day we signed up for a tour of all 5 of the Phi Phi islands. The only one that is inhabited is Phi Phi Don (where our resort was) all the others are pretty small and uninhabited. So the 8 of us (as well as Sue and Dan, the two of them are truly living the dream) signed up for the hotels day long island (s) tour and set out to see what Phi Phi was all about. We snorkeled for a little bit, stop at some amazing beaches, got cut up by barnacles, and overall just saw some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. Here are pictures below.

The island tour was definitely the highlight of Phi Phi as we would lose Mo and Eric to the Half Moon Party the following day and Julie and Quinn to Hanoi the day after that. Fortunately, that was Chris' birthday so we could all partake in the festivities. We bought some buckets, see below:
These are everywhere both on the island and in Thailand. They originated at the Full Moon Parties in Ko Pha Ngan and are now at just about every convenient store in the country. Basically all the ingredients for a massive cocktail, any type you like, to be shared amongst friends in a bucket. We had a few buckets on the balcony of one of our bungalows then headed out to a seafood restaurant in town. The food was phenomenal. We told this guy:

That it was Chris' birthday and he proceeded to give us some sort of shot consisting of champagne and I think cheap vodka although I really have no idea. It was real nice of him to do though. We then made our way to Carlito's, a bar with chairs an tables right on the beach. The tide would come in late at night just enough so that your feet would be in the water while you were sitting enjoying yourself. We watched the standard Thai fire show, witnessed Quinn fall asleep and headed back to our bungalows for some rest.

Our final day in Phi Phi, in our search for this restaurant called Papaya that we read about in Lonely Planet, we realized that didn't even touch on the party aspect of Ko Phi Phi. The area was full of all sorts of Europeans and a whole bunch of Australians who looked as though they had been in the area for awhile. We got an awesome dinner, maybe the best of the trip at Papaya.

Then headed out to do a bit of exploring of the night life Phi Phi had to offer. It seemed to be just a bunch of expat bars, but we found something that turned out to be really cool and wildly entertaining. We found a bar with stadium seating that surrounded a boxing ring. Inside the ring, we saw two Thai men fighting in some sort of ancient Thai fashion. The deal was that you had to order at least 1 bucket per two people (there were 4 of us) to sit, so we got two and decided to post up and watch the fighting. Little did we know that we would soon witness one of the more hilarious things I have ever seen in my life. Young, drunk, backpackers getting into a boxing ring fighting to win a free bucket of their choice from the bar. These guys were taking the wildest, craziest swings at each other and hardly landing a punch. We saw one guy get pretty cleanly knocked out, the rest of the fights were just funny to watch. Not saying I would do any better, not into that sort of thing, but it was definitely funny from an outsiders perspective to see something like this. Here's a picture of the ring and the bar below.

We polished off our buckets, decided to call it an early night and headed back for some good sleep. The following day we would be taking a ferry back to Phuket, and from Phuket we would then be flying to Bangkok. At this point our journey was about half way complete and I had already done and seen some really amazing things. But, the best was yet to come.

all photos by Quinn Hubertz and Chris Bailey.
posted by Sam Schofield

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


My post on Phuket is going to be real short, or maybe a little long we'll see as I go. The highlights of Phuket include buying an awesome purple bathing suit (which you will see in pictures later in the post) and the drive from the airport to the hotel. There are actually a bunch of other funny stories from the one night in Phuket that I'll toss in later now that I think about it.

So I guess I'll start from the airport and the woman who picked us up. I had arranged for the hostel to have someone pick us up. We stayed at Bodega Phuket in the Patong Beach area of Phuket. All my buddies from Wisco who went to Jaco, Costa Rica, think that, just bigger and slightly dirtier. Anyhow, we got this woman named Tina or something to pick us up in this big white Mitsubishi SUV which she proceeded to tell us ran her 1.5 million Baht, something like 50K USD. How did a hostel taxi drive, who makes this drive 5 - 8 times a day she told us, pick up this whip? Later we learned about Vince.

So she pops in some American concert DVD with the worlds softest rock bumping with the concert playing where the navigation system would normally be. We started with Phil Collins, some other real soft pop stars of the 80's and 90's and the DVD finished with a long Celine Dion set. It was too good to be true. Tina spoke minimal English, but passable enough that we could have a decent conversation. I sat in the front seat next to her and had the privilege of letting her chat my ear off while the other 4 sat in the back clearly mocking her and the music. We're all betting on whats coming next, and then we ask her why the hell she has these CD's and if she really likes listening to them. She tells us she doesn't like them, at that they are actually her husband, Vince's.

So who is Vince, and how did her and Vince meet. Well, I learned Vince was 65 years old (I'm betting he's also about 40 pounds over weight and balding) and has an internet company and decided he wants to spend his final years in Patong, Phuket. Thats about all I understood from her story. This woman struck gold with Vince. I can say with 70% confidence she was his favorite hooker (prostitute or call girl may be a more proper term) in Patong and he decided to wife her up. Also, along the way, an old man on a scooter crashed into the back of her 50K USD whip and scooted off real fast, she starts cursing in Thai, writes down the guys license plate and just keeps on going. Tells me "Oh it's fine, I just call the police later, they get him". Good to know they have police here at least in case I'm in trouble later. When my buddy Dan got bottled they didn't seem to be of much help to him then, so I still had my doubts.

We get to the hostel, we end up with all 8 beds in the 4th floor dorm with an awesome balcony over looking Patong area. We drop our stuff off, and head out on the prowl for some Thai food. Only problem is that Thai food doesn't really exist in Patong. It was expat bar after expat bar after hooker bar the whole way. We found a Thai / Western cafe after about 10 minutes of searching and just decided to give it a whirl. After my food poisoning in Penang, I still wasn't ready to dive into anything Asian cuisine related (minus Korean, love that stuff), so I went with the club sandwich while everyone else got pad thai, a dish I LOVE. My sandwich had some of the strangest tasting mayo on it while everyone else's was delicious, food really just wasn't my thing up to this point on the trip.

We left, found my awesome purple swim shorts:

We then headed to Patong Beach to grab some beers and watch the sunset. At one point, this beach must have been beautiful. Here's a good picture of it in it's hey day.

Patong Beach - Phuket

It doesn't look that pretty in real life. The sand is full of beach chairs for rent, Thai women selling you massages, Thai men carrying around fruit, hounding you to go scuba diving or parasailing. The sand is full of beer caps / tops, glass, cigarette butts, its no longer a pretty site. But it worked for us as we knew we only had to spend a night here before heading to paradise. Here's more of what it looks like now a days. The pictures make it look a whole lot better than it does in real life I promise you.

We had a couple of beers, stayed there a bit past sunset until the bugs started to come out then headed back to our hostel. I'm standing at the bar with Chris ordering beers when some random guy walks up to me and asks if I went to UW-Madison. I realize I'm wearing my awesome UW-Madison Alumni golf shirt...

(same thing minus the Rose Bowl symbol, although I'm looking into acquiring one of those as well) So anyways, we say yes. This guys is like 6'4" has an Australian accent looks a little Asian and is decked out in a t-shirt tank and tight jorts. He's a good looking dude, had a bit of trouble drinking with us but all the girls had very serious crushes on him. I mean look at this guy.

So we say yes, he asks us if we know a girl named Julie, we obviously do, and Chris had remembered that Julie said that she had an Australian friend named Amarin who would be in Phuket at the same time as us. He studied abroad in Madison one year and some how be-friended Julie and her friends and they'd kept in touch. Quinn's face when he saw Julie run up and give this tall good looking dude a hug was absolutely priceless. Eric and I were dying.

We bought some beers, headed up to our balcony to pre-game for the night. Quinn, Eric and I sat outside while the girls literally were eating up every last word this guy had to say. His family did own a rubber plantation in northern Thailand which is pretty awesome, I will give him that. Olivia also told him her family owned a rubber plantation in Indonesia, totally not true which was pretty funny. Overall, we all actually really liked Amarin. Real nice guy was just funny to watch the girls (who haven't seen an attractive man in Asia in a real real long time, its called the best of the worst, and in Korea I think it's really starting to take a tole on the woman). I really, really wish I had a picture because all of them will totally deny this. Anyhow, we drank a bunch of beers on the balcony, Amarin passed out in my bed (I wasn't very pleased with this if you can imagine and requested that Julie move him to a new location). Two others decided it would be a better idea to clonk out rather than venture into the night. Here's some pictures of us out on the balcony.

So, with Amarin and two others down and out, the 6 of us made our way to the Phuket bar area. By bar area I mean large area full of older men, prostitutes, and woman pole dancing. We found an empty bar to sit down and post up at. Immediately, the bar tender busts out Connect Four, who the hell plays Connect Four anymore? Anyways, she says we play, you win, I give you free shot, I win, you buy me and you shots. So I decide why not although I haven't played this game since I was in elementary school. First game, she beat me in less than 30 seconds. This is the point I realize she does this for a living and is going to beat me every single time no matter what. So I decide to play again, this time, not trying to win, but rather just trying to play to a draw. Still, she beat me. I'm betting she may be top 5 Connect Four players in the world, just a hunch. Here's a few pictures from our one night out in Patong.

We wandered the bar district a little longer, all sort of looked the same. Prostitutes and more prostitutes. We went back to our hostel to get a good nights sleep as we were leaving at 9:30AM for Ko Phi Phi.

Monday, February 14, 2011


So this thing Thaipusam, I have referred to it many, many times in my past few posts about Malaysia because its pretty ridiculous. I showed one photo 2 posts ago (see below)
But honestly, this guy had it real easy compared to some of the other people we saw. So I didn't get to see the Chariot which came to Jalan Waterfall (Waterfall Street in Malay) on I think Wednesday night because I was still suffering from the ill effects of food poisoning, but the rest of the gang went and said it was one of the strangest things they had ever seen in their entire lives. Hundreds of people performing Kavadi, a bunch of younger Tamil men doing ridiculous club dance moves, as there was apparently Indian dance music being played throughout the entire march. The evening of the Chariot was also sponsored by the likes of Motorola and other Malayasian companies, all giving away free food and beverages to those watching / participating apparently, another weird aspect. Here are some pictures from the evening passing of the Chariot as well as of Kavadi. I was not there but it is nonetheless extremely interesting to look at. Here are some pictures my buddy Quinn took from that evening to give you a bit of an idea of what the nighttime looked like. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the people lit a car on fire during the festival as well. Food poisoning.

So if you didn't click on the link, Kavadi is a dance / march performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Murugan, the Tamil God of War. The Kavadi itsef is a physical burden through which the devotees implore for help from the God, Murugan. This info is from Wikipedia, the best source for all information, because even though I was a witness to Thaipusam, I really had no idea what the hell I was looking at. I was blown away. I've seen people self mutilate themselves in films and always cringed, but to see it in person was a whole different story. We all would literally stop dead in our tracks when we saw people with huge arrows going through their mouths and tounges or massive hooks attached to the back / chest with full coconuts attached in order to incur pain. Or people carrying 30kg peacock feather cover shrines to Murugan with needles digging deeper and deeper into the skin with each step. It was truly fascinating.

The march started in Little India, and ended at this temple (I forget the name unfortunately). We cheated, and started near the base of the temple (still about a 30 - 45 minute walk to the top) because doing the entire thing would have been absurd seeing as it was easily over 100 degrees fahrenheight and you could barely move. We were all shoulder to to shoulder with various people, some performing Kavadi (although most were not) all making our way to the top to I guess pay our respects to Murugam. It was a pretty surreal experience. I once again felt as though I did not belong and was witnessing something I may never again witness in my life. At first I felt as though we were definitely intruding on a sacred religious act for these people, but whenever we looked at the men (I don't think woman are allowed to perform Kavadi) they would smile and were more than happy to pose for pictures. Apparently they feel no pain as they are in a constant state of prayer, but I don't believe that for a second. It hurt to look at. There is no way it didn't actually hurt. Anyhow, from what I have learned from Wikipedia, here is what the people whom are chosen (oh yeah, it's an honor to perform Kavadi. Not just anyone gets to do it, you are chosen, by whom I have no idea.) Here is what it says on Wikipedia you must do in order to prepare to perform Kavadi:

The preparations start 48 days prior to the two day Thaipusam festival. The devotees purge themselves of all mental and physical impurities. They take only one vegetarian meal per day and 24 hours prior to Thaipusam, they must maintain a complete fast. The devotees prepare themselves by following strict purification austerities that include:
- Transcendence of desire
- Shaving of the head
- Following a vegetarian diet and refraining from alcohol
- Sexual abstinence
- Bathing in cold water
- Sleeping on the floor
- Regular prayers

I don't know about you, but that's a real long time to eat just one vegetarian meal a day for me. The event was fascinating and I can without a doubt say one of the most interesting things I have seen in my short life. Here are some pictures from the day I was well enough to attend the festival.

So after a long long day of wandering the streets of Penang and watching Thaipusam, we were all seriously exhausted from the heat and just the sheer amount of activity going on in every direction. We cabbed back to the hostel for a relaxing evening. The following day we would take a plane to Phuket, where we would spend half a day and a night, and then head to Ko Phi Phi. Blogs on those to come soon.

all photos by Quinn Hubertz

published by Sam Schofield