I timed it perfectly to get my 30 days in Cambodia and have a day to travel back to Chiang Mai for Songkran…
For those not in the know, Songkran is the Thai New Year and water festival. It’s supposed to be a Buddhist blessing tradition, but it is literally just a giant water fight for a week. (Read more about Songkran on Wiki)
I had a very fun last night in Cambodia and then hopped on the bus at 1am back to Thailand. I got approximately 7 minutes and 12 seconds of sleep before we arrived at the border around 6am. We crossed and carried on by minibus to Bangkok. From there I had to dash across town from where we were dropped, to get to the airport and fly back up to Chiang Mai.
Back in Chiang Mai, still not slept (apart from those 7 minutes and 12 seconds) and straight on to the beer…perfectly epitomising the week that lay ahead.
Songkran in Chiang Mai
Songkran is insane.
Chiang Mai has the reputation for being the best place to celebrate it, where the party goes on for a full 5 days instead of the official 3.
So what happens during Songkran?
The party starts pretty much as soon as you wake up. Everyone has water guns and buckets. You cannot go anywhere without getting soaked. It’s great fun.
Around the Old City, the water is pulled straight out of the moat, which is absolutely minging, but its all good fun. Many of the bars provide water and you can hang around, drinking, dancing and soaking people all day. Sangsom for breakfast, for 5 days running, is…an experience.
I don’t have any pictures of my own from Songkran, everything gets wet within 3 seconds of leaving your place, so not the best idea to take your phone out. I had a great time though and have not partied that consistently since I was 18 and yet somehow managed to cope pretty well. So…winning?
Literally and figuratively.
I had a day in Chiang Mai after Songkran to sort my life out before I hopped back on a flight to Bangkok to meet a friend. I discovered someone had stolen my trainers from the washing line where they were drying out, so thanks for that. I packed up, said some goodbyes and was on my way. I would return to Chiang Mai in a few weeks.
Back to Bangkok
I had mixed feelings about Bangkok the first time I visited. I liked it, but found it a little overwhelming, the size and busyness makes it extremely hard to get anywhere and I found this again the second time. Despite having been in Asia for 4 months and being fully accustomed to all things Thai, I can’t help but feel like a tourist who just stepped off the plane. I don’t think I could ever ‘know’ Bangkok in the way that I know Chiang Mai or London.
First time around I was backpacking it on Khao San Road. This time I was doing it in style with my friend from home…
We stayed at Lebua, State Tower – famous for being the location of The Hangover 2 and The Sky Bar. This place was unreal. I think the second most luxurious hotel I have ever stayed, but definitely the best views and most fun. Despite being pricey, it had a very young, party vibe. I guess The Hangover has something to do with that.
Our suite was next door to the Hangover Suite, on the 59th floor. Sick views and just a couple of floors below the Sky Bar.
For the first time in months, I felt properly clean. I wore shoes (like actual shoes). I drank £7 per GLASS rum instead of £3 per BOTTLE Thai whiskey. I ate in plush restaurants with tasting menus and Wagyu beef instead of a £1 meal cooked on a motorbike side car at the side of the road.
I love all those things about Thailand, but it was nice to get back to the kind of lifestyle I had in London and remember how we live in the west for a couple of days.
That beef, by the way, I think was the best steak I have EVER had..and I eat a lot of steak. I’ve been to all the best steak places in London and genuinely think the Wagyu in Bangkok was better than any of them. Just thinking about it now is making me salivate.
We didn’t actually do that much in Bangkok, we spent 2 nights there, went to the Sky Bar both nights and the first night went to check out Soi Cowboy as I hadn’t been before. The second night I went out on my own, with some girls I met at the Sky Bar and got done over by the cab driver…
Soi Cowboy is, in a word, sad. It’s the main stripper/hooker bar street and while they have these places everywhere in Thailand I have not ever seen anything like this. The girls looked extremely bored and miserable, most of them looked like they had a pretty (un)healthy drug habit, completely dead in the eyes…and the guys there, all I can say is, absolutely dregs of society.
One drink was enough and we headed home.
Second night, we were getting a cab to Sukhumvit 11 – the main clubbing area of Bangkok. The cab driver managed to convince us that the club we were going wouldn’t allow entry because it was too late so he would take us somewhere else…
Of course, he took us to a dive club that had 1 (one) female in who wasn’t a hooker…that’s the girl I was with. It was horrible. The sex industry in a lot of Thailand gives the impression that the girls are in it by choice and self-employed. This place was heavily controlled. The girls couldn’t talk to you for a second without trying to get money, were constantly nervous and looking around, on edge. Clearly being watched. The whole place had the feel that it was heavily run by organised crime and was not the place to be…
This is why I don’t like Bangkok in some ways. I still manage to get done over by a cab driver and end up in that seedy hell hole (which we paid to get in might I add!).
So, once more, mixed experiences of Bangkok. Chiang Mai as ever was awesome.
After Bangkok we went to do some beaching…