The last weeks traveling the Asian continent have been some of the most fun I've had in my young life. When i last left you i was in Thailand, but have since traveled to the southern region of Thailand to a small island called Koh Samui which despite its Japanese definition of "cold" was actually quite the opposite. The following is a selected account of what transpired on the tropical paradise.
Arriving on Koh Samui was like seeing a scene in a movie where some celebrities get off their private jet and the camera pans out to a tropical island paradise. Everything about this island was tropical and awesome. Checked into the open air hotel, with my room a one minute walk to the white sand beach and incredible clear blue sea water. Walking/swimming in it reminded me of the onsens in Beppu because the water was almost that hot. The beach had really strange tide patterns. In the morning the tide would be really low, to the point where u could see the coral that was on the ocean floor. By 2 in the afternoon however, the tide was almost at the top of the beach where the resort chairs were. The hotel we stayed at had a beach front restaurant and villas (which will be mentioned later). The restaurant like most other things in Thailand were cheap and as a result frequented by many. Luckily, it was not peak tourist season so there was never a big crowd to compete with. It was great to just lie in the sun, go to the restaurant, still on the beach and just be in a complete mood of relaxation. It should be noted that i took off my watch and by the 2nd day had no idea what day it was or what time it was. Full vacation mode. One afternoon, one of the friends i traveled with made friends with some people from his country who happen to be extremely wealthy, and extremely generous. They invite my friend and me to lunch with them which we politely accept. LIttle did we know that lunch was gonna be in their villa along with other strangers they met from around the world. These guys literally just picked up random people and invited them to lunch (and dinner everday for some). We sat down and they had the hotel staff bring out fish of all sorts, fried rice, wine, salads, everything. Of course i ate a modest amount lest i over indulge and don't leave enough for others or come across as a glutton. But these guys were telling everyone to drink their wine, eat their seafood, be merry. It was hard to say no. Of course in the back of my mind i thought they were gonna try and kill me afterwards or even worse try and sell me something. But turns out these men were just genuinely nice people. It was also a good opportunity to meet people from around the world (Thailand is like the Hawaii of Europe, so there were a lot of Europeans).
One of the days me and my friends rented motor bikes. After a small accident, the group circumnavigated the entire island. Stopping along the way to climb a mountain with elephants, climb a waterfall, ride on top of a big truck, and see on of the most amazing sunsets i have ever had the privilege to see. All in a days ride. (pictures from top left clockwise: view from cliff over looking the ocean, close up of elephant, sunset on the beach [incredible. this picture does not even begin to do it justice], me with elephant as close as the elephant keepers would let me go).
At night, the streets came alive. The island looked like a different place at night than during the day that i almost had to re-learn where everything was. I spent most nights walking around listening to the different cover bands in bars (most of which were extremely good, they played all sorts of new and old music hitting every note spot on. So i would just get a drink and sit down and listen to my favorite songs being played) bargaining with street vendors, turns out i was pretty good at that. I really honed in my negotiation skills. It is important to note that while walking at night, by common logic one would assume it is unsafe for women to walk alone, but by Thailand standards the opposite is true. There are, as the locals call them, "lady boys" which prowl the streets at night in search of carnal relations with unknowing/willing to pay foreigners. These ladyboys will stop at nothing to get someone to go with them, its sad and scary at the same time. What is even more sad is the small children that roam the streets at night trying to sell little trinkets to tourists. They will swarm you (as it happened to me) and put their necklaces on you and then ask for you to pay. Some times they will demand you play a game with them and if you lose you have to pay, if you win they will play you. Its deceiving because you would think that a grown man could beat an 8 year old girl at a thumb war or connect four. But these kids are good (i learned the hard way with connect four. and when i played a girl in thumb war every time i pinned her she just let go, which i assume is how she makes all her money). At one point i had a kid on my back trying to get me to buy his necklace, a boy attached to my leg trying to sell me roses, all while playing a girl in thumb war. It was unbelievable. Eventually i got them off with the help of some friends, and went on my way. But it is sad to think that if these kids had the opportunity to put their talents and ideas of "sales" or "marketing" they might be able to help themselves out. But unfortunately, they don't have the same educational opportunities as others which is sad because some of these kids with their persistence and hard work might actually be able to make something for themselves other than just heckling tourists.
Spent a few more days in Bangkok after we left the island then i said my final good byes to the ones i was traveling with and headed back to Japan. I arrived in Tokyo and went to my aunts house. After the second day back in Japan I went up to Tokyo which was by far some of the most fun i've had. Went from Shibuya to Shinjuku. From Asakusa to Akihabara. From Harajuku to Nakano. It was great being able to see Tokyo and all that it had to offer. It was especially cool watching from a starbucks window on the second floor one of the busiest crossings in Japan in Shibuya (you know, the ones they always show in movies that feature Japan or Tokyo-video of this at bottom of page).
(above Tokyo Tower)
On the first day in Tokyo, me and some friends went to the Yebisu beer museum which was really interesting. We got samples after we took a tour of the facility. They had their different brews on tap and it was awesome to taste the different kinds of Yebisu. I would compare Yebisu to Yngling beer in America in that it is one of the oldest breweries around.
After the museum, as luck would have it, i ended up meeting more new people who are insistent on treating to food and drinks. These two guys i met were Japanese salary men who were young and successful already. Each one told me about how the other one was SOO rich. On my last night in Tokyo there was a festival with the biggest fireworks in Japan. Me and a few friends were invited by these guys to their friends house/condo that is overlooking Tokyo bay (where the fireworks were being held) to watch the show. The condo was incredible. Half the living room wall was a window and we had a perfect view of the fireworks, which did not disappoint. The shock and awe factor played a huge part in the fireworks show. From the monstrous size of each explosion to the color and shapes they took. On top of that, the guy whose condo we were in happened to own a restaurant or two and was an incredible cook. Naturally, he cook a TON of fantastic food in large quantities. Needless to say i indulged as per his request. It was a great opportunity for me to give myself a final exam of sorts to see just how much Japanese i could use in a situation.
Back in Yokohama, i had a lot of family time which was quite enjoyable. Going to ofuro's and onsens and being able to spend quality family time is rare, especially when they live in a country far away.
The day i left Koh Samui was the day i realized how close this trip of mine is to over. Leaving island paradise was like hitting a switch back to reality. One that will likely take another notch up once i return to the US and start getting ready for school. Its a sad time seeing these last 5 months fly by. I feel like it was yesterday i was writing my first post about my excitement and anticipation. Yet here i am saying good-bye to it all. Being at the end i can look back and say that my time here was time well spent and i surely do look forward to coming back in the near future. I have learned more than i can express and met some incredible people.
In conclusion, to this segment of my blog i appreciate all that have been following thus far. I hope to keep up with this blog as much as i can with relevant up to date things. Most likely they will no longer be soley about my travels in Asia but maybe one day in the future it can resume that post as travel blog. But for now it will likely become some kind of sports/political/religious/philosophical blog i think. The best combination of things in this world. Once again, thanks for sharing with me in my journey.
Until Next Time,
P.S. tomorrow i arrive stateside for those immediately concerned with contacting me upon my arrival
P.P.S. more pictures to come from Thailand