31: Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi
Chiyo from Thailand, Ernie and Hads!
I don’t know where to begin with Thailand, guys, except to say that I promise promise promise to try to make this the shortest written entry in some time – hell, maybe ever. The fact is, if I wanted to tell you how I really feel about Thailand, it’d take two of your lives at least, maybe three of Ernie’s with those arteries of his.
As you’re both well aware from asking me week in and week out, the most difficult question to answer – for me and nearly every traveler I’ve met – has been “What is your favorite country so far?”
It’s an almost impossible question for far too many reasons to list. Or it was. Sometime around late Africa, maybe in Zambia, I finally got my first answer. And then my second. And third…and fourth. In no particular order those answers were Thailand, Thailand, Thailand, and Thailand.
It only took a week or so in this stunning country before those answers began to make a helluva lot more sense, guys. The weather, the people, the food, the welcome – not to mention the countless gorgeous sunsets, beaches, mountains, and temples.
Bangkok’s Grand Palace, Chinatown, Lumphini Park, the gritty and outrageous madness of Sukhumvit Alley, Nana’s, and the infamous “backpacker slum” known as Khao San Road. It was a lively and intriguing start, indeed!
A train would then take me to the peaceful, serene, ancient temple city of Ayutthaya, followed by the gorgeous city of Chiang Mai, a nearly perfect mix of historic, spiritual, urban, mountain, and jungle.
A $50 flight from Chiang Mai dropped me in the quaint Old Town of Phuket, its main street shops reminding me of Stonington Borough. A couple days later, a short GrabTaxi ride would drop me in the town of Karon, where the Andaman Sea meets the Malacca Straight, with that stop followed by the beachy madness of Phuket’s Bangla Road, which is possibly more Bourbon Street than Bourbon Street itself – no paddles needed for ping pong here, guys.
I would then find relief from my exhaustingly immature ways on the stunning island of Phi Phi…Well, sort of. Sure, Phi Phi is an outdoor lover’s playground by day – jungle and forest hikes, kayaking, snorkeling, and more, but by night its beaches become a fire-juggling-techno-dance-club-party-under-the-stars-and-moon.
Phi Phi was tough to leave, but I would eventually take a scenic ferry ride north to Krabi, with its own stunning beaches, bath-warm waters, lush green forests, beckoning mountain peaks, jungle trails, and great live music scene. Krabi offered something new around each and every corner.
And did I mention the food? My lord. This country is the home of Pad Thai, guys, THE. HOME. And no, Hads, that’s not all I ate. I ate everything. I ate like a champion. I ate like I was going to the electric chair. I ate, well, like Ernie. I ate a lot is what I’m saying.
And every Thai horizon – morning, noon, and night – was gorgeous and dramatic, every sunset leaving me more and more convinced that Buddha might actually be “the” one, guys, rewarding his believers with gloriously painted skies each and every evening.
But always, always making the difference between memorable and unforgettable, no matter where I’ve traveled, were the amazingly kind and welcoming and beautiful people of Thailand. Whether on a beach or boat, at a temple or on a trail, on a corner or in a café, conversation and smiles were more than casual, more than simply being polite, they were sincere and personal and full of appreciation for the moment.
But I feel like I’m forgetting something…
Oh, right,THE CATS!
This is your Mecca, Ernie and Hads. Thailand, but especially the island of Phi Phi. Now, I know what you’re thinking, probably something like “Whoa-whoa-whoa, slow your roll there, Pops, we already live in paradise here on Lakeview Drive in Narragansett. No jobs. Free food. You fill feeders to attract birds for us to pounce and bat around. You give peanuts to squirrels so we can chase them the hell back outta the yard. You pick bloated ticks off us, and then brush us smooooth so we look good for those 2AM romantic interludes outside your bedroom window. You literally pick our poop out of the sandbox with a little plastic spoon, like some sort of indentured servant, whenever we simply don’t feel like walking our lazy asses outside. You buy us weed for god’s sake – we’re already living in Mecca, baby, WOOOOO!”
True. True. And I’d be even more appreciative if you actually uttered those words one day, but without the snark. But then, you’re cats. And even if you could, you wouldn’t. Because you’re fucking cats. And cats can be dicks sometimes.
But then, that’s on me, because I took you in. And really, when you think about it, we’re kind of the same.
Well, more mature, anyway. And I have proof I did one or two other things as well, though for the life of me I don’t remember being at any of these places…
So, guys, it didn’t take me long to discover why Thailand was suddenly the popular backpacker answer to “Which is your favorite country?” And I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t become my answer too – for now, anyway. But with only three country’s left on this yearlong adventure before we’re all together again, it’s gonna take something pretty goddamn special to beat this water, these views, and these sunsets…