From November 16th to November 25th Alecia and I were fortunate enough to experience the vacation of a lifetime in Thailand. So many exciting things happened that it has taken us weeks to get this blog together!
Let me take you back a few months ago to when this all started. I was sitting on the sailing club bus with my friend Patrik and another guy from Austria named Christoph. Christoph talked about how he wanted to rent a sailboat in Thailand for a week and how he was looking for people to join him. Patrik and I were really excited about the possibility of going on such a trip. The following Monday I got an e-mail from Patrik saying that Christoph was truly serious about the trip. A couple meetings and e-mails later, Alecia and I signed up for the trip along with Patrik and Claudia (Germany), Gernot (Austria), Alexandra (Germany), and Brooke (China). Only in Shanghai could you throw together a trip with so many people from so many different countries.
DAY 1: On November 15th we met everybody at the Pudong airport. Christoph and Gernot were still feeling the effects of their party at “Bon Bon” the night before and they were running on a couple hours of sleep.
We boarded our plane and had an uneventful four-hour flight south to Bangkok, Thailand. After a four hour wait in the new Bangkok airport we jumped onto our flight to Phuket (It is pronounced “Poo Ket” not “Fuk Et”). Our flight arrived around 11pm that night.
Alecia and I have learned in Shanghai that you never take a taxi that is offered to you. You always look for the official taxi line and wait your turn. There are plenty of people who try to rip-off foreigners by pretending to be real cab divers who can charge ten-times the actual cost of a ride. Knowing that, a man with an official-looking badge approached us and asked where we were going. I was hesitant to talk to him at first, but my gut feel was that he seemed legit. Looking around there were not many options and being that it was past midnight, we did not want to turn away what might be our only chance of a ride. After some discussion amongst the group we decided to trust the guy and take his van to the hotel. This was to be our first encounter with the overly-friendly Thai people.
One of my responsibilities for the trip was to find a cheap hotel near the airport and marina for the first night. Earlier in the week I had booked us a few rooms at the very cheap Nai Yang Beach Hotel. Only $15 USD a night per person. We arrived past midnight and picked up our keys to our rooms from the security guards. It turns out that $15 a night gets you two summer camp-style beds with towels for blankets, one ceiling fan, a toilet and adjoining shower. Alecia was a bit freaked about the possibility of bugs on the room so it took her a while to go to sleep. I laid on top of my bedspread/towel as visions of sailboats danced in my head.
DAY 2: The next day Alecia and I woke up and walked to the nearby beach. It was surrounded by many “local” establishments. Most of the shops and restaurants were tents reinforced with colorful sheets of plywood. Some of them had great signs like “Broken English Spoken Perfect Here” or “We Love You Long Time.” After wandering around the beautiful beach we grabbed breakfast at a Italian restaurant and headed back to meet the others.
Our group split up the tasks for the day. Alecia, Brooke, Alexandra and Gernot were going to head to the Tesco grocery store to buy enough food for eight people for one week…thats 168 meals plus snacks and drinks, a daunting task. Patrik headed off to the airport to pick up Claudia and Chris and myself caught a taxi to Yacht Haven with all the luggage to pick up the boat.
Chris and I made it down to the marina after a high-speed taxi ride. We found Patrik and Claudia enjoying a coffee at the marina snack shack. Chris located the rental office and was told that the boat would be ready in a couple hours. As Chris got the briefing, Patrik, Claudia and myself enjoyed some sodas and snacks while we stared out over the marina, wondering which boat was going to be our home for the week.
It turns out our home was going to be the “Black Pearl.” It was a 40-foot catamaran that had only been used once before. We walked down the dock to the boat and got the instructions on how to run all of the boat’s equipment. After an hour of going through things, we got the luggage on board and waited for the other group to show up with the food. After waiting a couple more hours, an exhausted group showed up with our food.
It turns out that to feed eight adults for one-week requires a TON of food. Luckily the marina has a large crew of boat boys to help load your stuff. They rode around on little motorcycles with makeshift sidecars and bring all sorts of items to the boats.
Once everybody was on board, Christoph wanted to give everybody the most important briefing of them all, “How to use the toilets.” If you have ever been on a small boat with a toilet, you know how tricky things can be. The rules were simple: 1) Don’t put toilet paper down the hole. 2) Give an extra 15 pumps on the flusher after you are done and 3) If you plug it, you fix it. Nobody wanted to be fixing any toilets this trip, so all of the cruising newbies were a little nervous about their first toilet use.
We were starting to run low on time. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon and we needed to make it to our first destination before dark. Christoph fired up the engines, pulled us out of a tight parking spot, and pointed the boat out of the marina. After a few seconds he told me to take the helm while he checked the charts. I was so excited. It was my first time to be at the helm of a big boat. Christoph gave me a compass heading to follow and I turned the boat out of the marina and drove it down the channel. Everybody on board was very excited to be leaving the marina and starting their vacation. The sun was shining and a cool breeze blew over the deck as we motored to our destination (there was not enough wind to put the sails up).
The first stop was the island of “Koh Wa Yai”. When the boat got close to the island, Christoph went up to the front of the boat to get the anchor ready to drop. From the wheel I could hear the chain rolling over the windlass. Then after a few seconds Christoph yelled out to “Cut the engines!.” The chain had jumped the windlass and was on a free-fall to the bottom. There was not much we could do until it hit the end of the chain. After all of the chain was in the water we were able to get it back in and set up properly for the anchoring. We got a little closer to the island and Christoph grabbed the wheel. The anchor dropped “slowly” this time and we got a nice hold on the bottom. The sun was starting to set and our only neighbor for the night was one other sail boat boat.
After anchoring, I was the first to jump into the water. It felt great after a few hours in the sweltering heat. The only issue was the presence of baby jelly fish. Their stings hurt a little less than bee stings. Christoph brought out a bottle of Absolute vodka so we could give and offering to the sea gods for a safe journey. As we poured a few shots over the side we asked Rasmussen and Neptune to give us good wind and safe travels. Then we were all were required to take a shot.
As the sun continued to go down we noticed a black cloud of birds flying away from the island. I thought the birds looked a little funny so I grabbed my binoculars and found out that they were giant fruit bats. I have never seen bats that big in my life. If you watch the movie “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” you will know the bats I am talking about. The locals call them “flying dogs”.
That night, Christoph and Brooked cooked us a wonderful meal. Alecia and I got tired, and headed down to our cozy cabin for a good night’s sleep.
DAY 3: I was one of the first ones to get up in the morning and I went up top to enjoy the morning sunshine. It was not long before everybody got up and we were paid a visit by the local “park ranger.” He came over from “Bat Island” in a small boat with a paddle. He wore an official-looking shirt, but had no shoes and wore old soccer shorts. We knew that we would have to pay our national park fee, so this was not a big surprise. After getting our park tickets some people decided to swim to the beach while the others were going to travel over in the dinghy. Alecia, Alexandra and Patrik fought a tough current and 200 meters of water to swim ashore. The rest of us fought with the dinghy motor. It is always amazing how these simple little motors can be such a pain in the ass. We had it running for a bit, but then the motor died and we ended up paddling to the beach.
After enjoying “bat island” beach, we tried to get the motor running again. A few of the local inhabitants came down to see what problems we were having. Apparently everybody in this area is some sort of outboard motor expert. The cover was quickly removed and the “park ranger” (minus his uniform now) got the motor running. We went back to the Black Perl to drop off a couple people. On the way back to pick up the rest, the motor died again. This time our trusty park ranger had a little harder time getting the motor to start. At one point he unscrewed the gas cap and put his lips around the nozzle. I thought he was trying to get high off of the gas fumes, but it turns out he was actually trying to pressurize the tank. It started right up after that. The ongoing joke for the rest of the trip when we had motor problems was “Put your lips on it!”.
We kindly gave the ranger eight cans of beer in payment. He seemed rather happy.
After everybody was back on board we headed off toward the north side of the bay to check out some of the tourist spots. One our way there, a local fishing boat came up to us and offered some shrimp for sale. I had always read about this in my sailing magazines. It is very common in many areas of the world for the locals to sell you some fresh seafood directly from their fishing boats. I was very excited to see this first hand. After a brief conversation with hand signals and money gestures, we settled on a price and go our shrimp. Alecia and I decided to put the shrimp in the fridge and cook them for our dinner that night (each couple was in charge of planning and cooking one dinner.)
On the way north we stopped by the Koh Hong group of islands to explore a cave. Patrik and Christoph stayed on the boat while the rest of us took the dinghy into the cave.
The cave was pretty cool. All we saw from the outside was a little opening, and after we crossed over, we ended up into a beautiful little area with shallow water and high cliff faces dropping off into the water.
We paddled the dinghy through the cave and headed out toward the Black Pearl, which had come around to the other side of the island to pick us up. Christoph and Patrik reported seeing a dolphin on their way over.
Our next stop was going to be James Bond Island. This is where they filmed quite a few scenes in the James Bond movie “The Man With the Golden Gun”. All of the guide books told us that this island was the most heavily visited out of all islands in the bay. It had been turned into a big tourist trap where people would reenact the famous shootout scene from the movie. Maybe it was luck for us, but the tide was too low at the time and we did not feel safe heading there.
We continued to head north to the Muslim fishing village of Koh Pan Yi. The town is completely built over the water on wooden stilts. It has also been turned into a big tourist area. When we got closer to town, one of the “Long Tail” boats cruised up along side us to guide us into a good anchor spot. Once we anchored the local man came over and told us the charge to take us to the town was “whatever we liked.” Once again our Shanghai minds kicked in and we thought it could have been some sort of scam. But the guy seemed honest enough and we got on his boat for a quick trip to the town. Now would be a good time to talk about the “long tail” boats.
The boats are very narrow and usually have a few wooden benches for seats. They all have a motor attached to a very long shaft that has a propeller attached at the end. The motor is hooked on some sort of swivel that allows the driver to lift the shaft out of the water easily. This setup also allows the drivers to get the boats into really shallow areas. The downside is that you can see how these props could easily damage coral. They are also very loud. Some of the fancier ones had big monster V8 engines with tuned pipes. All of the motor is exposed so the operators better not wear loose clothing while operating.
Anyway, we went into the town to get some real Thai food for lunch. It was really hot that day and I think a few of us were in need of some ice cold water. We wandered around the shacks that made up the town. There was not much between your feet and the water below. Just some rough cut planks and a few nails. Occasionally you would see a new board that replaced an old one, and I wondered which fat tourist had the misfortune of putting their foot through there.
While we were wandering around, a woman came up to me and “handed” me a live monkey. Of course we had to take a picture of the monkey, but as soon as we did we had to pay some money. A classic trick.
After sweating for 30 minutes we made our way over to a restaurant. We ordered up some Thai seafood dishes. One of them was the “1 kg fish”. I volunteered to go down to the nets and pick the fish out which was apparently a requirement for choosing that dish. The waiter handed me a pole with a small net on the end. Near the dock there were a bunch of live fish stuck in a net. I swung the net around while the fish went crazy. Finally after about 5 minutes of trying to catch one, I got the fish into my net. The waiter then gaffed the fish and weighed it.
We enjoyed a very good meal. It was nice to sit down and cool off for a bit. Our water/beer/soda/vodka cooler on the boat was running low on ice so we asked around where we could buy some. One of the guys at the restaurant told us he could get some. He disappeared and returned ten minutes later with a huge bag of crushed ice on a dolly. We went back down to our long tail boat and got a lift back to the Black Pearl.
That evening we anchored at an uninhabited island called Koh Roi. All of us were anxious to jump into the water and cool off. There was only one other boat anchored in next to us. It was flying an American flag so I decided to swim over and say “hello”. The man who owned the boat had retired five years ago and sailed his boat all the way from Florida. He was joined by a younger couple from Michigan. Although I never got into the details I think one of the couple was his son/daughter and the other was the daughter/son in-law.
That night Alecia and I cooked dinner with the shrimp we bought from the local fishermen. We cut up a bunch of fruit and vegetables and added the shrimp and some salsa. Everybody seemed to enjoy our concoction.
DAY 4: The next morning we got up and decided to explore the “little” cave that was near the beach. Christoph, Brooke, Gernot and myself headed over to the cave in the dinghy. The tide was high so the entrance to the cave was very low. It turned out not to be a cave, but an entrance to a hidden world. When we came out on the other side we were surrounded by sheer cliffs and a thick jungle. It was completely hidden from the outside. I really felt like I was some famous explorer (although the trash and footprints told me I was not the first one there )
It was nice to see a place that was not overrun by tourists and long tail boats. After we got back we convinced the rest of the crew it was worth seeing. They headed off for their adventure while we did some cleaning on the boat.
After some muesli (cereal) and yogurt for breakfast we set off to our next destination. We wanted to make it to a place on the mainland called Krabi.
On the way we stopped by and island called Koh Pak Bia for snorkeling. It was a picturesque place as you can see in the photos page.
Almost everybody jumped off the boat and enjoyed a nice snorkeling experience. It was not long until the long tail boats showed up with loads of tourists, so we got back on the boat and headed out of there. We motored off to another island called called Koh Hang. Patrik and I decided to snorkel some more while the others went to explore some caves on the island. The snorkeling was much better than the previous spot. Patrik and I had the whole place to ourselves. We saw a lot of fish and a lot of nice coral. The others enjoyed a nice stop to the “caves”.
After Patrik and I were done snorkeling we got back up on the boat and decided to kick back a cold Thai beer. As we spoke about how awesome this experience was we started to notice some building clouds and lightning in the distance. It was going to be our first storm of the trip. The others came back from the “caves” and Gernot and a few others decided to do a bit more snorkeling. After about ten minutes Gernot swam back at high speed to the boat. He said he saw a “sea snake” and that it looked like the ones from the Planet Earth series that are known to have a lot of poison. Between that and the numerous large jelly fish we continued to see in the water each day, even the strong swimmers of the group became reluctant to go for their daily swims.
On the way to our destination we were hit by the storm. The rain cooled the air down quite a bit. I thought that the storm might scare Alecia a little bit, but after her experience in Anhui province earlier in the year, this storm did not phase her at all. That night we anchored off of Rialay Beach near Krabi. It was a small resort area with a couple restaurants and a shop. Since we had been having troubles with our dinghy motor we decided to flag down one of the long tail boat drivers for a ride. Unfortunately we only negotiated a one-way price. I kept thinking we should go for the round-trip price because I knew once we set foot on the beach we had no leverage in the negotiation. This was once case where the Thai chose to be shrewd businessmen rather than “nice.”
We walked down the beach taking in the smells of each restaurant. We decided on the one that smelled the best and had ourselves an amazing Thai meal. Since it was a Muslim establishment, as were many of the restaurants in the area were, there was no alcohol on the menu. If you really wanted it, you could walk to a vendor outside of the restaurant but we instead savored some fresh mango juice which puts the spice out as good as a cold beer.
After dinner we went down to a bar to grab a drink. Alecia picked up some jewelry across the street. While we were at the bar, Brooked showed us her bubble gum blowing skills. We were all amazed while she blew bubbles inside of bubbles. We walked back out to the beach where the long tail boat drivers waited. That is when the “one way” negotiations started. The drivers were able to charge a high price for the 300 meter ride back to our boat. Oh well… it was a lesson learned. As we sat on the boat that night I could see some fire dancing on the beach nearby. There was very loud disco music that went along with the dancing. It seemed a little out of place for such a nice area.
DAY 5: In the morning, Gernot and myself decided to get the dinghy running and head back into the beach to drop off some trash and buy some more supplies. We figured as long as we kept the motor running, that we would have no problems. I ran errands on the beach while Gernot kept the motor running a little bit offshore. It felt like I was participating in a bank robbery and Gernot was the getaway driver.
I managed to find a place to take our trash, and bought some more ice for the ever important water/beer/soda/vodka cooler. The beach was loaded with long tail boats waiting to take tourists to “Pi Pi” Island. Koh Pi Pi Le is the island where they filmed the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo DeCaprio. Our crew called Pi Pi, “The Beach beach.” It was going to be our destination for the day.
We sailed past Koh Pi Pi Don and headed south to “The Beach beach”. Our arrival was late in the afternoon so there were not so many tourists. We were able to grab a mooring ball for the evening. Alecia, Patrik and myself decided to swim to the beach from the boat. We figured correctly that there should be some good snorkeling along the way. The others headed to shore on the dinghy. When we jumped into the water we were greeted by large schools of fish. They appeared to not have any fear of humans. In fact, they liked to get rather close to you. I realized right away, that these fish had been fed many times. They have learned that humans in the water mean plenty of food. I think many of the tour boats in this area chum the water so the tourists get to see plenty of fish. The deep water near our boat had some awesome coral, but as we swam into more shallow water we saw only a few live coral heads, while most of it was dead. It seems like the popularity of the beach has also been it’s downfall. Every five minutes a new long tail boat would come into the shallows. You could see chunks cut off of their props so I knew they had hit plenty of coral. Also, many tourists were standing on the coral. This is a big “no no” in the world of snorkeling and scuba. The coral is very delicate and standing on it will cause lots of damage.
We made it into the beach. The last 50 meters was a maze of dead coral. The water was only about a meter deep so we had to “suck it up” to float over some of the coral heads. Closer into the beach there was a nice white sandy bottom. We hung out on the beach for a while and decided to return to our boat. There was a discussion about staying there for the night or heading over to Pi Pi Don (more of a town).
The final decision was to stay at “The Beach beach” for the night. Another couple boats had pulled up on mooring balls next to us. One of these boats looked like and old junker. From what I could tell it was an “alternative vacation tour boat.” It was filled with mostly young people laying around in hammocks and beach chairs. I was also able to watch one of the guys on the boat sell what appeared to be marijuana to the tourist boats that passed by. The other boat was a catamaran like ours.
Alecia and Claudia had a fun time making up stories about the people on that boat. They started to spin tales about how those people were the “Malfoys” from Harry Potter (due to their white hair) and the other boat was the “Weasleys” (due to their run-down, eclectic/alternative-looking boat.) The last of the tour boats started to leave before the sun went down. The only lights visible on the beach were the people who camped there as a part of the “Pi Pi Camping Tour”. We could also see the extremely bright lights of squid fishing boats in the distance. That night, Alexandra and Gernot cooked a nice meal for us.
DAY 6: Our first stop for the day was going to be the island of Koh Pi Pi Don. We knew they had a marina there where we could get fresh water for the almost empty 600 Liter fresh water tank on the boat.
Koh Pi Pi Don was one of the islands that got devastated by the 2004 tsunami. Many of the buildings have since been rebuilt. We motored into the bay and started to look for the place to get the fresh water. We asked a couple of other cruising boats and were pointed to the right direction. We docked the Black Pearl next to another sailboat that was also getting fresh water. A few of us jumped into the dinghy to head ashore and grab some more supplies.
We wandered into the town to find the island was crowded with tourists, dive shops, eco-tour guides and a lot of people selling t-shirts. After picking up some goods at the store I found one of the locals who had a big cart for hauling luggage and goods. He had a small metal box on his cart that said “Tips”. After a few hand gestures he was able to understand that we needed his help to get our groceries back to the boat. He followed us around while we gathered our supplies and helped us haul it all the way back to the boat.
After everything was unloaded I gave him a large tip, which gave him a very large smile, and he gave me the “local thank you” gesture (this consists of putting your hands together like you are praying, and bowing your head). A long the way, the wind died and things got really hot on the boat. The crew started to complain of the heat, so to keep things under control we all jumped in for a swim in the middle of the ocean.
A few of us were acting like little kids when we started to have a cannonball contest off the back end of the boat. I think Gernot took the honors with his patented “jackknife” maneuver. We arrived at a bay on the large island of Koh Yao Yai where we anchored far off shore. The charts showed it was pretty shallow throughout most of the bay. We were the only ones anchored in the bay. There was a nice long, empty beach that was begging us to come and explore.
The first half of the crew motored in on the dinghy until it got too shallow and we had to walk the last 100 yards to the beach in 12 inches of water. As I was heading toward the beach I was amazed to see the beach was moving. I could not believe what I was seeing. There were hundreds of crabs moving all over the sand. When I got closer they all went into their holes. On the beach you could see little decorative balls of sand that had been made by some small crab. Alecia and I had seen a video of this on either the Planet Earth or Blue Planet DVD’s. It was really cool to see it in real life.
If you would stand still long enough, the crabs would come out of their holes and run around. We headed down the beach to where a river came into the bay. Around the corner we saw some dwellings and small wooden boats. At this point we started to get visions of blow darts and arrows coming of the jungle at us. I began to wonder why we were the only ones anchored in the bay. Was there something that everybody else knew that we did not know about this place? A few daring crew members went forward and the rest of us headed back to the dinghy and the crabs.
After waiting around awhile and not seeing the rest of our crew we decided to head back to the boat and come back to get the rest of the gang. Luckily the tide was coming in and we did not have to walk out 100m to the deep part.
After dropping Alecia, Alexandra, Patrik and Claudia at the boat I went back and found Chris, Gernot, and Brooke waiting at the beach. On the way back to the boat I noticed a local fisherman’s boat was nearby ours. They were holding up a couple fish they had caught. After some quick negotiation we bought both fish for dinner. Along with the cash we gave them some Coca Cola. Most of the locals we dealt with always asked if we had Coke for them to drink.
Now came the fun part. Eight people had just bought two saltwater fish and we were not sure what to do with them next. Alecia and I were the only ones in the boat who had fish gutting experience. Of course most of our experience was with trout. So after a while of trying our fellow Europeans asked me to come over and take a look at their progress. I showed them that they needed to get more of the guts out. The hard part was that the fish had spines on its back and the knife was really dull. It took me a while to hack out all of the innards. Claudia and Patrik took the fish and made a very tasty meal with them. There is nothing better than fish right out of the ocean. That was a great way to spend our Thanksgiving meal. While everybody back home was watching the Cowboys and Lions play we were with five Europeans and one Chinese person on a boat in southeast Asia with nobody around for a few miles. I find it funny where life puts you sometimes.
DAY 7: For the whole trip so far, we had found the wind would blow at night, but not much during the day. Friday was different. It was nice to finally get the sails up and moving along quietly with the wind. I helped put up the main sail and gennaker, and we were able to maintain about 7-9 knots with bursts up to 10 knots on a beam reach. There is nothing better on a sailboat when the motor is off and the sails are full of wind.
We took turns laying in the cargo net on the front of the boat. Occasionally a big wave would smack the side of the leeward hull and blow up into the net, soaking the occupants. We made the trip so fast to our destination for the evening that we turned the boat around an went back to where we started so we could get some more sailing in. The crew was all smiles and the wind never stopped blowing.
We ended up at an island called Koh Nakha Noi for the evening. As we pulled up to the shore to set the anchor I noticed what appeared to be a giant “lizard or log” on the beach. It was not moving, so I asked Patrik for another opinion. At that point the head moved and we knew it was a big lizard. I am sure the top of it’s head stood about 2.5 feet off the ground. I think from head to tail it was about four feet long. It was rather impressive.
After anchoring a few of us head into shore and checked things out. We saw the footprints of the lizard leading into the very dense jungle. None of us had the guts to try and follow the trail. Since this was the last night on the water we were running out of things to cook. We took everything we had left, and thanks to Gernot’s excellent cooking skills (Italian sausage, lots of garlic, onions, butter and red wine for a reduction) we had a wonderful Italian pasta for the last night’s meal. We lucked out again and had the place all to ourselves.
DAY 8: We were sad to have to end our sailing adventure. I steered the Black Pearl back toward the Yacht Haven marina. After such a wonderful week of travel it was hard to say goodbye to the ocean. The boat arrived at the marina and Christoph made a textbook perfect parallel parking maneuver into a tight spot. After unloading all the gear we went to the marina cafe to get a bite to eat. Soon after sitting down a few of us started to feel “land sickness.” It sounds funny, but it is a true affliction. Your body gets so used to the rocking that when you are on stable land it gets confused and makes you feel dizzy and gives you nausea. Even after a couple days it is still possible to feel the rocking sensation.
The manager at Asia Marine got us the information for a hotel at Patong Beach. All of us hopped into a taxi and sped down to the hotel. We arrived at the “Expat Hotel.” The rooms were clean and the rate was cheap. Every one of the crew was excited to have a “real” shower.
The crew agreed to meet at 7pm for dinner. Until then we were free to wander the town. Patong beach was made famous by the U.S. military back in the Vietnam War. A lot of the G.I.’s would head there for R&R trips. Now it is probably the number one spot for tourists in Thailand. The streets were packed with bars and restaurants. Alecia and I went down to the main beach.
It was absolutely packed with people. After wandering for a bit, Alecia and I found a small Italian restaurant to eat lunch at. We filled up on pizza and pasta and went shopping at the local stores. Alecia picked up some jewelry and I bought a necklace with some strange human logo on it. We went back to the hotel and slept a bit before meeting the others for dinner. On our way to eat dinner we noticed some lights moving around the sky. They looked a lot like the U.F.O. footage you see on TV. It turned out to be “crepe paper balloons” that were sent up for a Thai festival called Loy Kratong. It turns out it is one of the most important Thai festivals and we happened to be there on that night. This time on the way to town the streets were packed with tourists.
Every bar was open and plenty of ladies in skimpy clothing were cruising for Western tourists. There was no shortage of old white men looking for these ladies. At the beach I found where you could buy the balloons. I paid about 1 USD for a balloon. A guy came over with some lighter fluid and got my balloon started. It takes about 10 minutes to fill the balloon with enough hot air to make it fly. After a couple failed attempts, some cute little local kids came over and gave me some help. They managed to get it flying. We ate dinner at a Thai restaurant that evening. I was getting very sleepy so after dinner I headed back to the hotel while the others did some more shopping. On the way back to the hotel, the street was even more packed. Now the girls were dancing on the tables while old men stared in their direction. I would not recommend taking your kids to Patong Beach. It is not very family friendly.
DAY 9: We got up early and caught a taxi ride to the airport. The rest of the trip was rather boring. All of us had to head back our jobs the next day. It was time to get back to the “real world.”