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Six years and many places later, I finally set my heart to travel solo. Solo travel is essential. And choosing the place wisely also is. My choice of place was Thailand. A short trip, it has been in planning for quite some time. Originally to be an extended layover with my friend who would be traveling further to Philippines where he lives, it was haphazardly planned. It will be a semi solo trip and I would be with them in the islands before I partake my solo stay in Bangkok to explore the food scene.
The islands always sweep you off your feet. There are quite a few things that are to be taken into account before you feel the island, the way it is supposed to. We got off the ferry and started walking and were off course allured by the touts. We checked a few rooms in the shops which displayed all rooms and their prices like a gallery and as we scanned through it, we decided to walk more and find out more for ourselves. This was the turning point. The road was well paved and was lively.
It was starting to get dark and people were already in party mode. The shops were well displayed and the cafes and restaurants were getting in the groove. We felt even more rejuvenated after a super smooth ferry ride and couldn’t wait to check in and join in the party crowd. In all this excitement, we chose BanThai Guest House which looked like a decent looking guesthouse with a cafe in front. We entered because we were restless and unable to find the place we were originally directed to by the nice scuba divers who were very interactive with everyone crossing their way.
BanTai Guest house was one of the strangest places I have ever been or seen or even heard of for that matter. Now don’t be fooled by its simple disguise. Colored white with rooms for two and three, it appears to be like any other accommodation that you might have come across. The rooms were average, firstly for the price even though it was cheap. Miss Lee, the owner cum receptionist cum chef cum warden was one of a kind and Boy! She had rules. You can’t ignore them and she takes a security deposit which is directly deductible if any of the rules she has taken the pain of printing and laminating and hanging it in every room is disobeyed. As she hurled all the rules at us, we were taken aback but already too comfortable with the deal she offered. We anyway just use the room to sleep, we thought to ourselves.
A party night can call in varied circumstances. And ours was nothing less. That remains to be told yet but Miss Lee and our sandals both to be in place if we wanted to live there in peace. The next morning she was stern and kept asking us to keep it low. Nothing dampened our spirits. The previous partying on the beach was worth every second as the night got wilder, we blended in. The games on the beach, the fire dancing, the bull dancing and buckets and buckets of alcohol were flowing in the right direction. The parties on the beach start from a bar called Slinky and ended at The Only Bar, Phi Phi.
In between the four kms of beach was full of shacks with music, food, alcohol and fire dancers. It was quite a show everywhere. The strangest part was the deadline though. Exactly at 2am, everything would be shut. The music would suddenly be unplugged and the bars would be shut. The only thing available was food and pizzas were winning the game. After all this beautiful things happened, Miss Lee completely petrified us at night, in the morning so much so that we were scared that she would shout at us and we would embarrass ourselves.
There are a few touristy things that you do. Island Hopping was something that made complete sense to me and having done it once before in Palawan, Philippines, the drill was familiar. Only three of us, to hire a boat for ourselves was a rational choice.
Having fifteen other people in the boat and doing everything as a group was not my idea of a good island hopping experience. Tad bit more expensive, the sunset that we saw in the middle of the Andaman Sea at Maya Bay on our boat was worth every penny we paid.
Not a great swimmer, snorkeling was a lost cause for me but I did have fun posing in the gear and floating in the water. I saw some fishes too.
The evening was all about the spirits of the throat and of the stomach. Tonsai Beach Resort had the yummiest shrimp cocktail and beef salad. The baked mussels were turquoise in color and generously served. My everyday dinner was the usual stir fried beef/pork with basil and asparagus and rice. And the taste and quality varied from place to place. But it never disappointed me. From a roadside stall to a fancy 64th floor restaurant, I ate this dish which is colloquially called “Pad Krapow Moo Saap” and sometimes it was the kaffir lime that blew me away and sometimes it was the bamboo shoot.
In between moods and compressed air, reaching Bangkok, I had dinosaurs in my stomach because for the next four days, I had to complete researching for my story and be in a city, all by myself. I chose a hostel over my last dinner with my companions and Lub D in Silom won hands down.
Online booking with my debit card and I could check in and hence, I left for the hostel in the wee hours of the morning after killing almost five hours in the airport with my mates as we were going different ways.
Lub D is a chic hostel in the Bangrak district of the Silom area. The cabbie took me right till its entrance and as I walked in the lobby, I was welcomed warmly at the reception. They did all my paperwork and let me check in at 7am even though their check-in time was 2pm. It was quite a noble gesture as I desperately wanted some sleep before I could take on the city.
Food was the only agenda for Bangkok.
Befriending a fine Italian gentleman from the same hostel, both of us set off the food trail in Bangkok and little could come between us and our schedule for the next three days. It started in the streets of Silom. A huge plate of Pad Thai Noodles with beer to wash it down was served with a smile and we went on to have more beer in any spot that caught our attention and as we explored the area on foot, we planned the next three days.
Wat Pho can be reached by ferry from N-3 in just 20Baht. Accompanying us today was my new friends’ best friend and three of us started following the map into the river and to Tha Thien Pier.
A good amount of juice, ice cream and satay were consumed on the way from the pier to the temple and it was not even a kilometer.
Behaving as tourists clicking pictures of every Buddha until we realized that was all that was there, we turned to other statues and the architecture.
A fine temple, it is where the world-famous Thai massage originated. This is the only place where one can learn its nuances and get certified. The medical school in the premises teach you not only Thai Massage but also Thai Pharmacy, Thai medical practice and Thai Midwifery. Soaking all the information of ancient Thailand, we made our way to Chinatown, which is one of the oldest in the world.
Bangkok on foot has been quite a revelation. The village of Silom is deeply engraved in my memory, I remember its lanes, its segregation of commercial and residential properties, its small eateries on the street, the sweet smelling aroma of bamboo shoot and the smiling faces of locals who are very helpful and approachable.
With literally five sentences in English, we chilled with them throughout the night eating and drinking with them and jamming too. Â My first tryst with traveling solo has been more than a blessing. It allowed me to pamper myself and not do any kind of compromise. It also taught me why having no pre requisites in life is essential to be happy. And to be truly happy, nothing tops the chart as traveling.