This post has been written day by day during my 3 week solo trip to Thailand between February 15 and March 9 of 2018. I was a bit reluctant for more than 6 weeks about posting it because of some of the contents but here it is. And the image at the top has nothing in common with my experience :D - islands will have to be next time.
A very good friend of mine had gone to Thailand at the end of 2017 and hyped it up a lot for me. I decided that I hadn’t done anything interesting like this in a while and that it was the perfect time for it. In 2017 I had gone to Poland, America and China for my talk about doctest but I consider those business trips as I didn’t have much time to explore. So my previous travel trip was in 2015 when I went to Morocco for a 4 day swimming trek (25km total) - again alone (it was also my first trip ever). The plan was 2 weeks Chiang Mai and 1 week Bangkok - where I would meet some friends.
On my first flight (to Doha, Qatar) I sat next to a bulgarian and we almost didn’t exchange a word - I was with my headphones listening to an audiobook about religion (by Sam Harris). Anyway - when we landed I made a remark that the trip was pleasant aaaand we struck a conversation! Until we parted ways for different gates we talked about profession, life and other interesting topics - and we both regreted not having talked to each other earlier.
Then at my gate I met a philippine girl on her way to Chiang Mai for an interview for a flight attendant at an airline company. She was also alone and looked gorgeous in her uniform. I was really nervous to talk to her but thought to myself that challenging myself was precisely the reason I was going to Thailand for 3 weeks alone. Unsurprisingly we had a nice conversation and exchanged contacts for later (I say unsurprisingly because thats how things actually work - you go for something and the chances of it happening are bigger than you think!).
Then I sat next to a 66 year old american and we talked a lot about travelling and life in general. The thing that stuck with me from that conversation was the growing (on my behalf) difference in our beliefs - I don’t think that the good life starts at 50 and that is when you should travel and experience life. He told me about how his wife had almost passed away a few times already and was currently unable to walk for the past couple of years - so he takes trips by himself. He attributed that to her not taking enough care of her body when she had to - which is most probably true. Shoot me dead if I ever end up in that situation - the choice of a partner in life is one of the most important ones a person has to make.
The first thing I did when I landed was to get a sim card with 3G - for the price of 25 euro you get 15 GB of internet and 50 minutes of conversation time! After that I called an Uber and we had a little saga trying to locate my apartment - but that is unimportant.
After I got settled in my room the philippine girl contacted me and we agreed to meet in the afternoon after we rest from the long trip we both had (she had been waiting for 8 hours in Doha between her flights and the Doha-Chiang Mai flight was 6 hours).
Then I overslept with 2 hours and woke up at 17:00 and she was already waiting for me so I went out instantly and we met at a temple - she was inside and called me when she saw me - she didn’t get a sim card so we had no way of contacting each other unless when she had wifi somewhere. We had 2 amazing pizzas and walked for a few hours checking out temples. Turns out she looked exactly as a Thai and everybody was mistaking her for one - so each time she replied to someone in english they would get confused :D
We also went to a thai massage where we changed our clothes and laid on cussions on the floor with very dim lighting - not on some tables like human meat :D. The massage was very good and we laughed a lot (especially me since I’m very ticklish).
So all I can say about our experience is that we both like the movie “Before Sunrise” (where 2 single people meet on a train spontaneously and have a memorable experience together).
A few observations about Chiang Mai:
- holy shit there are so many temples!
- crossing roads is hard - stepping on a crosswalk doesn’t mean shit to the drivers - so pay attention (turns out this is true for most of Asia)
- with all the trash from stores and venues being put in bags at night on the road and collected later - the streets were smelly because when nasty stuff spills out of the trash and soaks into the pavement and asphalt - it cannot be cleaned easily
The next morning I went to my place and a few hours later we met again for day 2 - we called a driver through Grab and he took us out of town - to the “Long Neck Karen” village some 20 km away from the city. This was something she really wanted to check out - I had read some bad reviews though (how it feels like a human zoo and isn’t something people should be sponsoring) - and I gotta say I completely agree with the reviews. I felt so awkward there - and I was sure the people weren’t enjoying having pictures taken of them and having to smile and pose all the time. But she was having a great time so I played along. I refused to have a photo taken with one of the women with long necks… but I got a few hard cigars for my friends at home :D
The driver was waiting for us for around 4 euros per hour (…………) so we decided to check the elephant place nearby. We weren’t able to book a ride but we could feed them and take photos with them. I got a bunch of bananas and 4 really hard sticks (maybe bamboo - not sure) - and while I was giving a few bananas to one of the elephants another snatched the entire banana stack out of my other hand :D and was stuffing himself - he even continued taking more food from others while he was still chewing on the ones from me. So the food we had left for them were the 4 sticks - and the girl fed 3 of them and then we took photos with the elephants. The guards arranged for us to get kissed by the elephants - imagine a huge slimey trunk grabbing your face like a vacuum cleaner and sucking your face after disassembling kilograms of bananas! We also got hugged by their trunks ;d
Then we proceeded to the baby elephants and on our way there there was an old elephant with some guards next to it. When they saw that we were looking at it they instantly made the elephant get up and come to us. We sort-of felt that the elephant didn’t feel like it but the guard insisted that we take photos with it, so the girl sat on the elephant - but she was starting to feel very weird about it too - the guard was very nasty to the animal. I had read before about the treatment of elephants in such high-volume tourist attractions and I knew exactly what was going on behind the scenes… But again I played along and tried to enjoy my trip - after all I got to touch and be kissed by some of these magestic animals!
Then on our way back the driver suggested we visit the tiger kingdon nearby - again I had read about that as well - drugged tigers that just moan and move a bit - nothing like the wild beasts they truly are. But… we had already sponsored 2 things that I would advise against so why not make it 3 :D … So it was quite surreal to be in a cage with such animals - I was told to pet and even spank them! But they were drugged AF… and they are like that constantly throughout the day - and perhaps even their entire lives - there were also small cubs available…
After the obligatory mainstream tourist attractions we headed back and we got off the car when we saw some market - turns out it was the last day of the Chinese New Year! We strolled through the streets and ate a whole bunch of different foods. Sadly we finished with fried bugs and worms which had a horrible aftertaste - wouldn’t recommend… And we finished the day at some bar with live music.
I slept for 15 hours straight because of the exhaustion from the last couple of days. Since this was her day at the interview I stayed at my place and did some laundry (wow… so exciting!) and internet stuffs ^_^
Then I went out to explore and get some food. At some point I arrived at the center of the old town aaand I went into a huge night market on the streets - it took me more than 1 hour to leave it - it was literally covering more than a few square kilometers! Lots of merchandise and street food - which I got to try a lot. So far I’ve been eating only once per day - but pig mode is fully on each time :D
Then I went past a massage shop where me and the main massage girl locked eyes and she instantly called me in - but I passed them… Exactly 3 minutes later I was back at their place setting up a massage :D I had to wait for half an hour before it was my turn - they gave me some wine to drink and we talked a bit - but I had a hard time understanding what they were saying. Anyway during the massage the main massage lady (which I figured was more than 40 years old but was veeery preserved) came as well and started massaging my head and shoulders while the other was on my feet. Then a third girl came (their youngest masseuse) aaand started working on my thighs! I started laughing and then they started too - and the main one whispered to my ear “you are a king!” :D felt amazing for 1 hour. And all that cost me 5 euros - so I tipped them :D
Then I went to a bar at 23:56 aaand 3 minutes later it closed (as all bars in chiang mai are supposed to) - so most people headed to the last place still working (Spicy) - so I went along. So it wasn’t anything special - Pop and EDM. People were getting drunk left and right. After the boyfriend of one girl got annoyed with me I went out and decided to call it a night. I was walking back… When you have a bunch of ladyboys on scooters all moaning and making sexy sounds just to lure you with them - you know you are somewhere special :D
Then I sat down and decided to start writing this.
Some work, unexpected massage. Found the best place for food - for 5 euros you cook your own food and eat as much as you can! Refilled my dish 5 times.
Some work, workout, got scammed to pay for stuff for some girl. Ate at the same place. And then some drama.
some work… Ate at the same place - did I mention that so far I’ve been eating only once a day ever since I came here? :D
Work, workout, found even cheaper sushi - no longer eating once a day… :D And went to Warmup Cafe. Saw a bunch of tables with people and left. Turns out there is a separate space resembling a club/bar…
Overslept again - and didn’t go to Pai again.. hopefully tomorrow! Work now…
How do I start… The road to Pai was 3 and a half hours with a nice scenery and … 762 grueling mountainside curves - motion sickness: ON!
When I got there I instantly felt a much different vibe. It was so peaceful and beautiful - full of young people getting on a scooter for the first time in their lives (and many of them crashing after drinking..). After I settled I immediately went to The Sunset Bar which is apparently THE place to go for a mushroom trip. I simply said “Mushrooms” with the biggest smile in the world on my face but the bartender said there weren’t any left since its the dry season and there hasn’t been enough rain recently. As we will see later that wasn’t the case. In the span of a few minutes after I had asked for the special thing came 2 more groups of people asking for the same and getting the same response. Anyway - we found some weed and rolled with it. Talked with a bunch of stoners who had experimented with all kinds of psychedelics and were currently training muai thai in Thailand. Then I heard about a music festival the same night a few kilometers out of Pai into the jungle aaand instantly decided I wanted to go. So after having some street food I went to some place where cabs were leaving to the festival - it was 21:00. There I met 2 cool dudes and we chatted a lot for the first 30-40 mins. Turns out we were the first people there and it all looked pretty cool. There were also fires and food stands around. Sooo I got pretty wasted that night - stayed until 4-5 and met a bunch of people, most of which I didn’t remember the next day when we bumped throughout the city :D
So the guys I met the day before had told me they would go “tubing” (floating down the river on big inflated tires) and that I should come along. I had their phones but for some reason just went to lunch and after that strolled around looking at stuff and Bam - I met them again just when they were about to leave and I instantly joined them. I also saw something on the tongue of one of them but ignored it because “how can it be acid and why would it be so visible”… All drugs are very illegal in Thailand.. But this is Pai (it has amazing history in that regard…). And a minute later the other one asked me if I wanted some. So after 0 hesitation I was along for the ride :D. We were the 3 of us and a girl. The tour guides dropped us off 2 hours upstream the river and left us - we were going to be completely alone until some bridge we were supposed to stop at. We had a few beers and a joint or 2 and then it started. We put our phones, documents and clothes in 2 water proof bags and the ride started. It was 15:00 under very strong sun but we didn’t mind it at all.
I gotta say during the entire trip I felt awesome - I thought to myself that was probably the best day of my life - thats how it felt! Complete relaxation… there were moments when we weren’t speaking at all - complete silence while we are going down the river with less than 2-3 km/h with amazing scenery… The river was pretty shallow and there was also some drama - sometimes we got stuck and had to wiggle to get ourselves moving :D We also had 1 spare tube in case one gets popped… and 1 did get popped. There was also a rope which we used to hang on to and stick together for some of the time. We passed many villagers and animals. They were all minding their business and we greeted each other. At one point we heard this racket downstream and for the next 3-4 minutes we were completely silent until we got to it - a pump getting water out of the river for irrigation. We felt like in a war in the jungle - completely stealthy and about to see what was making the noise - and we gave each other these stares of excitement :D seriously… what an amazing time. I don’t think I had felt so close to nature and so relaxed in the past couple of years - I had completely forgotten this feeling of endless bliss… So there was also some drama - at some point we found out that one of the bags was full of water… the waterproof ones.. turns out it was the one with the clothes. I was holding the important one with the documents and phones and it felt unusually heavy as well.. PANIC! But we decided not to open it because if it was full of water it would probably be too late to save anything anyway. I worried that I had fucked shit up but later it turned out we had 2 full bottles with 3 liters of water inside so that was why it was heavy…… damn :D And suddenly we had arrived - after 2 hours of drifting down the stream. We went out and stayed under the sun for 30 more minutes to get dry and we ended up receiving a song from these 2 musicians who were laying next to the river. It felt so good… They let loose and the 4 of us were just smiling and enjoying the heck out of that moment.
We left the tubes and went our separate ways to wash ourselves. I had dinner and was still tripping a bit. I spent like 20-30 minutes next to some of the most gentle sounds I’ve ever heard live
After breakfast again by total chance while walking around Pai I met with the same guys from the past 2 days - 1-2 hours before they were driving off to Chiang Mai - I kept bumping up with them and this time it was on a bridge by the river - the scenery was amazing…… more dots needed………… So we chatted about our experiences the last day and we said goodbye to each other. I had decided this would be my last full day at Pai so I had to try those mushrooms. After some fooling around it was already 6 P.M. and I went to the famous bar and got a shake - turns out 80% of the people there had come solely for that purpose - and everyone was laying on cushions and hammacks while the sun was setting down (hence the name of the bar - “Sunset”) while they were coming up. I then went on with a bunch of ppl from the UK and I continued to feel the difference in mentality of people in Bulgaria and those outside. We went around and damn - there are so many cool and chill places there… After 2 hours in I still wasn’t feeling much of anything and was pretty disappointed and went back to town to hang out with some of the people from the last day at my favourite bar. And then I got a bit anti social - I closed up quite a bit - I felt the effects of the trip. I ended up going to bed pretty late again. Was a bit disappointed of myself for doing that and not spending my last night with the amazing person from the night before.
Trip back to Chiang Mai from Pai - I regretted going back so early - should have stayed a few more days - seriously Pai seems to me like paradise - thats either true or I need to explore more.
Oh - how could I forget - when I arrived at Chiang Mai some lady from the bus asked me if I smoked grass (weed). Well… yea? So she gave me some because she was going to the airport and she said a few times that “it was very special”…… Silly me - I thought she meant it was some gift to her and that it had sentimental value… Well I had never smoked anything like that before! So trippy - like it wasn’t just weed! Those thai people… :D
alone in chiang mai - learning about bitcoin, solving puzzlez, checked out Warmup cafe - pretty cool EDM place but damn Thai people dont dance! They just stand still and drink their stuff - lame…
Still on Bitcoin. Also just learned that I got accepted to speak about RCRL at http://cppconf.ru/ after 2 months!
Bitcoin. Also leaving for Bangkok.
At the airport before boarding I met this native guy who was entirely covered with tattoos. He was sitting in front of me and a few times he turned back and looked at me - weird… Then he started a video call with his wife and kid through his phone and I was somehow in the picture and since something was moving I looked that way - and he instantly turned again to me with the biggest smile and gave me his hand - so we shook hands :D Later he looked at me again for a bit. After that again… And at one point I decided to try to talk to him - he didn’t know any english… not ANY… but really wanted to communicate - so he got his phone out and started showing me pictures of him, his wife, his kid, his brother, his motorbike, his hobbies… We also went through his backpack to see what interesting things he had. After that I decided it was my turn so I whipped my phone out as well and started showing him where I’ve been. There were a few hand gestures that we both knew (or atleast figured them out) - relating to human connections and what is important. Those were the main focus points of our interaction… I had other experiences with natives who knew 0 english but its all about the vibe and the desire to communicate - at first he looked like the biggest thug but turns out he had a tattoo artist friend who painted his entire body for free in the span of a couple of years (not sure how he managed to explain that :D) - but at the end of the day he was a normal friendly dude - so don’t be quick to judge… It was weird and memorable.
Arrived at Bangkok and instantly hated the place - let me elaborate:
BANGKOK IN A NUTSHELL
- 10-12 degrees warmer than Chiang Mai - it was 35 at night - and the high humidity didn’t help
- SUPER dirty streets
- huge city - 10-15 million people
- horrible traffic
- lots of tourists - and tons of prostitution and ping pong shows… monkeys and pigeons crawling inside… I dont wanna see that done to a pussy
- nasty polluted air
- walking around makes you hate yourself - showers and air conditioning were the only thing I kept thinking about during the entire stay of 6-7 days
- local taxi drivers are really annoying - they kept trying to get me into their cabs/tuk-tuks and were very persistent - they engage you in a way so you make eye contact and they come to you - you gotta ignore them totally - saying “NO NO NO” doesn’t help - they also have a bunch of scams where they will pressure you into taking a very cheap ride on a specific route where you will end up buying things and they get a cut of the profits - a friend of mine came back from Thailand with a suit (atleast its great ;d)
So the night I got there me and a bunch of friends who had come from Singapore for 3 nights got all drunk at a tattoo shop and we were catching until 7 AM.
Festival day….. OMG. So a friend of mine had tipped me that there would be this Dropzone festival in Bangkok when I’m there and I was able to catch the second of the 2 days. I missed Pan-Pot but whatever - they are coming to Bulgaria in 1-2 months anyway. The entrance was through this cool green-lit tunnel - so far so good ;d So the festival was supposed to start at 14:00 and I was a bit suspicious as to how people would feel under the sun but anyway - I got there at 15:30 and… there were only staff people… only one of the 3-4 stages was playing music and there were literally 2 fans dancing :D - I bet this was such a disappointment to most DJs who were supposed to be in the first 4-5 hours… But everything looked promising - huge cool stages with lots of space, lots of lights, activities (VR, laser shooting, guitar hero, consoles, artsy stuff, etc…), lots of food stands.
I was already sweating like a pig and regretting I had come so early when someone tipped me to “cool off” in an air-conditioned dome… What followed was 2 hours of mind-blowing entertainment! So there is this “full dome labs” company and the festival organizers had set up one of their domes - it is a half sphere which you enter and lay on the ground on pillows and cussions and stare at the ceiling - which is entirely lit by a few synchronized projectors with special content for projection onto the inside of a sphere - and it was some of the most trippy shit I’ve ever seen! Not only that but there was cool weird creepy ambient and loud music inside - it felt like you were transported somewhere else. And the air conditioning… oh my gawd… Images below!
[INSERT IMAGES HERE]
I imagine that most of the images I saw wouldn’t be considered anything close to special if they were static - but when everything is moving and morphing and the camera is also changing its position within the scene - and all that spans your entire view when looking upwards - simply amazing! I would pay much more money for this than to view a standard movie in a cinema…
So back to reality (heat): I got out of the dome when I saw all the available 2 hour content (would have stayed more :D) and it was already 18:00 - the sun was setting down and people were starting to come. There were 3 main stages and 1-2 smaller ones. The music ranged between EDM, (Psychedelic) Trance, Techno, Hardstyle, Hardcore and Trap (and probably a few others) - so there was something for everybody. I decided I wouldn’t drink this time and got a red bull and joined one of the stages - choice of music: trance. What followed were 6 hours of non-stop dancing - I’ve never danced so much in my life. I went from stage to stage and was loving every second of it! People were a lot looser here compared to local clubs - they were actually dancing as well.
If you’ve heard the term “runners high” - the good euphoric feeling people get after running - well I got that from dancing and it was non-stop. I was pretty close to overheating a few times and each time I just went to the side to gulp down a bottle of water and get right back in it. And up until now I didn’t know I like hardstyle as well :D - and the shows were pretty cool - with fire and what not being hurdled from the stages.
At 22:00+ the festival was packed with people - it was amazing… literally the whole place was full… and there were also atleast 50-100 military personnel. I think there were very little drugs in this festival which was cool - people were enjoying the music for what it is - fuck our pill and white powder electronic music culture where parties start at 01:00 AM or later…
I think it was supposed to close at 1 or 2 AM but the police shut it down at 00:00 for some reason… (not paid enough to the right people - duuh ;d)
I’m now officially hooked on such festivals and 2018 will be interesting : )))
Chilling (sweating) around - food, talk, sweating, massages, boat ride in the river (canal).
We also went to Route 66 - a club a bit far from the touristy center. Place was pretty cool and we danced a lot. Locals liked us because we were the most energetic and moving people around - so yea… Thai ppl don’t dance in clubs - they just drink their alcohol and instagram… I’m getting pretty sick actually from women constantly taking selfies - and discarding most without even posting them… constantly on the hunt for the perfect selfie showing what a cool lifestyle they have and collecting likes….. fuck that. What made us leave was terrible DJs - at some point came the most horrible ones - I don’t consider myself an expert in music but perhaps I’m developing taste - what they were doing was absolute and utter shit. I rarely feel so strongly against something - they were literally changing tracks every 5-10 seconds. Literally. Not kidding. Not 15 seconds. Tracks that have nothing in common. And always to the best part of the tracks - so there is no build-up - its just drop after drop. And each 5 seconds they were shouting on the mic trying to get people to dance or .. “explode” as I would say it in bulgarian :D… So after that bombardment with TOTAL CHEAP CRAP onto our ears for 10-20 minutes we decided to leave… You gotta have standards yo!
Friends left. Fooled around.
Went to a modern art museum with a friend of mine who had come to bkk for a teambuilding of his company. We both had a nice experience of the traffic in Bangkok. Did I mention how much it sucks in this town? I don’t care that there are some cool places to check out here and there because:
- you waste so much time of your life in traffic
- the air is so polluted
- walking around is not viable (either because of distances, lack of infrastructure (sidewalks, crosswalks, etc) or gruelling heat)
- there is very little vegetation and almost everything is made of concrete
that city is shit and not worth living in!!!
Was at the same table with the founder of the Status cryptocurrency in a 5 star hotel.. and yes - I wasn’t invited :D Status is currently the #33 cryptocurrency as far as market capitalisation goes (almost 600 million US dollars). Man that startup is full of talented and smart people… I chatted with a few of them and really felt out of their league - what a positive, exciting and an eye-opening experience! I’m really thankful to my friend who smuggled me in there.
I experienced the worse flight scheduling in my life (entirely my fault) - I spent a total of 20 hours waiting at airports between 3 flights… (so with the flights it was a trip of 32+ hours) - the same as my saga in 2015 when I went to Morocco… by now Doha kinda feels like a second home to me ;d
- My world was small. it still is. but a bit less…
- Don’t be ultra cheap with places you are staying at…
- I shouldn’t have come with a laptop…
- Festivals are epic.
- I should have spent WAY more time outside of cities and into the nature.
- My regime completely fell apart and I stopped exercising… Couldn’t work properly either… and I gained 3-4 kg of weight :D food is awesome…
- Don’t come to Bangkok for more than 2-3 days….. I personally don’t want to go there ever again.
- I wasted quite a bit of time because I was moody and hesitant to dive into new adventures non-stop but overall I had plenty of time to think about stuff in my life. I’d say I’m ready and eager to get back to the grind… and then come back here again :D
- Solo travel definitely is a thing but maybe I’m a bit more on the introverted side - many times I had to be pushed by something/someone just to take action - next time I’m going with friends - definitely.
- I dont think I’ll go somewhere for an extended period of time like this alone any time soon - my conclusion is the same as that from the movie “Into the Wild (2007)” - “HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED” (even though my experiences and those of the main character in the movie cannot be compared…)
- Thailand is great - especially when it’s cold in your country :D
- Don’t support cheap touristy attractions (as in “bad taste” and not very moral/cool) like drugged tigers, villages with women with long necks, ping pong shows…