They are all SAME SAME!!! but different...The Story of a Group of Guys All Thai-ed Up in Siam Island Life
By: Matt Wetherington and Justin Foster
Hello Fellow Fish!
This week's class we will have a guest lecturer, Justin Foster to take us through his adjustments to life on the road and in the school.
But first! Picking right up where we left off:
We arrived in Bangkok from Vietnam with no incidents (unless you count Jeff getting temporarily stopped at immigration because he didn't look like his passport picture). Once we arrived in Bangkok, it we made our way to "backpacker central" Khao San Road. Jeff found a hostel to check into because he was staying and waiting to meet his brother, while Ariel and I were able to piggy-back this and put our bags down even though we weren't staying there because we were just on a lay over to go to the islands in the south. Little did I know I would be back at this particular hostel in about two months.
We didn't stay long at the hostel, we wandered the streets of Bangkok, never straying too far from Khao San Road, in search of food. The whole time we were walking, I felt like I was in the twilight zone. I had been to all these places before when I was there in 2010 after studying abroad in Japan (see corresponding blog posts here). Only, this time around, it was a lot more touristy.
On our walk, we pass a small group of Thai women who set up a small hair-do booth. Offering a wide selection of hair styles from dreads, braids, french braids, and corn rows. If anyone had ever asked me what I thought of these types of things, I would have promptly responded something along the lines of, "those are things for stupid backpackers who want to look like a cool free spirit, but really just look like idiots and get ripped off by paying way more than they should for a stupid hair-do." I had no idea how soon I would become another one of those idiots. They were doing someone's hair, so we stopped to watch (bad move #1) as the scene piqued our interest. Being that we were stopped, we were approached by the woman in charge and started responding/inquiring about her operation (bad move #2). As any good salesperson knows, once they start asking about price and such its basically a done deal. We agreed on a price (bad and final mistake) and from there the lady had me. I decide to get cornrows and I sit down and quickly start getting operated on by about 3 women all pulling and doing my hair in corn rows. A lot more painful than you might think. After about 15 minutes they send me on my way.
It was a short night because we were all tired. Ariel and I left to the airport to catch out plane to Koh Samui (another return trip for me).
It was raining when we got to the island Koh Samui. Obviously, when we want beach, raining is not ideal. What's more is we were fighting being taken advantage of by the tuk-tuk drivers who wanted to charge an exorbitant amount of money to drive us from the docks to our hostel. Little do they know, we're no ordinary white people coming to exploit their tropical paradise of an island. We are more seasoned than that and know when we're being had. So we ended up teaming with a couple and splitting the ride.
Koh Samui was another twilight zone experience for me. I had been there two years before, and all the places were the same, but it was just a lot more built up than last time and a lot more expensive (when I say "expensive" I mean that relative to actual local prices. For example, a bowl of curry should only cost about 30-40 Baht, or a little more than a dollar. But in these tourist traps the prices are sometimes quadruple the actual costs. Albeit, only a couple dollars difference, which to people with real life jobs on vacation for a week not a big deal. But for penny pinchers this was problematic at times). Again, not ideal. But we made the best of it and I even found some comforts in the "American Bar and Grill" called Bubba's that had football playing in HD!! I was pumped.
Koh Samui was exactly what it needed to be for us. A smooth transition to a month long beach and relaxation life. We did our best to avoid the super touristy areas as best we could, per usual. One fine afternoon we rented a motor bike and drove to the northern part of the island and found a much more exclusive beach that wasn't crawling with backpackers, hustlers, and guys with dreadlocks trying to sell you their jet ski tour. We were basically killing time until Jeff and Justin flew in from Bangkok.
Bangkok is a get-in, get-out kind of place. So after getting in, having a stroll or five down the Khao San Road, a couple of cheap but delicious pad-thai’s, and a ping pong show (with the stains to prove it), we got-out. (We knew as we were leaving that we would be back many more times to catch connecting flights, transfer buses, apply for visas, etc. and that eventually Bangkok would become a very familiar place and even start to feel a little like home.)
Khao San Road (aka KSR aka Khao San Load)
We set off to the airport with visions of beaches and islands leading the way. Having just arrived for my big trip, fresh from the US, Bangkok was the Introduction and I was ready to skip it and finally get to Page 1, Chapter 1.
Welcome to Thailand
If you google image search Thailand, the first hit will probably be a beautiful white sand beach, with crystal clear blue-green water, and a picturesque wooden boat waiting to take you to your next adventure. That - is where I wanted to be. That - is Koh Phangan… sort of. On the boat ride over to Koh Phangan, one of a few small Thai island in the Gulf of Thailand, I knew the story of my trip had finally reached Page 1. I was very quickly introduced to the main characters: Ariel - the good natured, charismatic, jewish guy with dreads; Matt - the supposed ringleader, yet quieter partner with a mysterious side to him; and Jeff - my little brother, who I thought I knew well - but he slowly helped me realize that everything I thought I knew was all a lot of crap.
We united on the boat during sunset. Koh Phangan was in the distance with tiny spots of tiki torch lights emerging through the darkening sky - like little signs of life that we were soon to be a part of. This was the night before the monthly full moon party and the boat was bright with moon lit faces of seasoned travellers making their way for their right of passage. No trip in South East Asia is complete without a visit to Koh Phangan for a Full Moon Party. Sun tanned faces, tank tops, and dirty backpacks were everywhere. Everyone was on the same journey together and I was a foreigner, a new comer stepping onto the train for the first time. Everyone seemed to know each other, everyone understood what was going on, like a secret club that I just discovered. With my short hair, non-tanned skin, and brand new travel gear I was a weird clean spot in the middle of a well worn, favorite t-shirt. I was ready for initiation into the club, but had I no idea what it would take.
Our well traveled boat
Upon arriving at the island we made our way to our accommodations - some place that Matt had booked a few days ago via iPhone probably using spotty wifi at some curry restaurant. In all of my prior travel experiences, I was the one making the plans, building the spreadsheets, determining the schedules, booking train tickets and hotels (months in advance). Now, I was at the whim of the decisions of my new travel partners, but I was ready for it. I was ready to trust them with my life, or at the very least with booking us a place to sleep.
Our Accommodations on Koh Phangan
It turned out that our accommodations were nothing less than amazing - definitely worthy of the first page of search results when google image searching “Thailand”. This - was what I was dreaming of, this is just like I imagined: grass huts, palm trees, beach front. It turned out my new travel partners did knew what they were doing and I had no choice but to trust them. As I walked across the lawn to our hut, light from the almost full moon shining off the water and through the palms, I thought to myself, “Wow… I really like it here.” We dropped off our bags, went for a swim, and headed to “The Beach”.
The Beach, known as Haad Rin, is the Mecca of Full Moon Parties. There is a party here every night; and 1 night a month (2 nights in the case of a blue moon) there is a really big party here. We luckily arrived the day before the Full Moon so we had a chance to scope it out before the big night arrived - it was Full Moon Eve. We hopped in the back of a tuk-tuk (on Koh Phangan these basically consisted of a small pickup-truck with a roof over the bed and a per-person-flat-rate fee that was consistent throughout the island) and we made our way to the infamous beach. As we made the 30 minute drive passing through jungles, small towns, and over some hills that provided amazing views, we could tell we were getting close. The people we passed, travelers in party mode, were like little kids on Christmas Eve except rowdier, nakeder, and drunker - and driving scooters - taking swigs of their 630 ml Chang beers and honking joyously as they sped past us on the way to Haad Rin.
We walked through the small town that lead to the beach as we followed the sound of thumping bass and the smell of petrol fueled fire shows until our feet hit the sand and we gazed down the half mile beach lined with overflowing bars, flashing lights, and crowds of dancing people. After all the stories we heard, the guidebooks we read, and youtube videos we saw, we were finally there. Our first order of business, our top priority over anything else: (which was to be standard procedure for the next few months) find a place to eat.
In any really touristy area of South East Asia, there are usually certain, non-local, foods you can count on: hummus (for the israeli tourists, who seem to be just about everywhere (muslim countries excluded)), chicken schnitzel sandwiches (the closest South East Asians can get to fast food burgers), and pizza - a welcome retreat from the endless supply of green curry (not that I’m opposed to endless green curry; it’s just nice to change it up a bit). The pizza came at a premium since tomatoes, wheat, and especially cheese are hard to come by in Asia, but we were willing to pay - especially since the place we found seemed pretty legit. The guys running the restaurant were actual Italians: two dudes that probably went to some Full Moon Parties in the 90’s, started making pizzas, and just never left. We ordered a large pie for each of us with a wide array of toppings and steadily began to stuff ourselves beyond fullness, because: a.) we had no idea of when we would get the next chance to have a decent slice b.) we had no idea how much we were going to drink that night and we were taking proper precautions and c.) the pizza was actually really good (this was the opinion of 4 guys from New Jersey who grew up eating some of the worlds best New York City pizza on a regular basis i.e. we are pizza snobs).
Sufficiently stuffed and deliciously energized, we were ready to take on the party. We strolled up and down the beach trying to make sense of the place, imagining what it would look like the next day during the actual Full Moon Party, and preparing ourselves to be given over to the madness that seemed to be growing. Getting hold of some child sized sand buckets filled with ice, soda, alcohol, red bull, and a dozen straws we fit right in with everyone else. We found a bar with a good vibe, got some body paint on our faces, and danced until the sun came up. Being caught off guard by the sun and having no idea it was that late/early we caught a tuk-tuk back to our huts just in time to see the moonset over the water. We were ready to catch a few hours of sleep before getting up and doing it all over again. Literally.
The infamous buckets
Full Moon Party
We woke up the day of the Full Moon Party in the early evening - still recovering from the night before - and slowly began to prepare ourselves for the night ahead. We found an amazing little market with cheap, local food, wifi, and smoothies. We set up camp there for the next few hours, had a few meals and half a dozen smoothies and sent/answered a few emails. According to some facebook messages, a few friends were also planning to be at the Full Moon Party tonight and we agreed to meet them there - knowing full well it would be basically impossible to find them among the thousands of other partying travelers there. After a few hours of eating and getting our internet fix we decided it was time to get ready for the night.
We headed back our bungalow with nothing but the party on our minds. Some of us more nervous than the others, we shared the horror stories that we had heard about Full Moon Parties. Drugs, murders, rapes, etc. - just about anything could happen when you put a couple thousand young, intoxicated adventurers on a beach in a country where just about anything is legal and the nearest hospital is a two hour boat ride to the next island.
We psyched ourselves up and mentally prepared ourselves for anything. We each determined a set amount of cash to bring based on the cost of Tuk-tuks and Buckets - a precaution for getting pickpocketed. We hid our phones, wallets, and passports in the bungalow which we later pad-locked shut and hid the key in a nearby tree - bungalows have been known to be robbed during the Full Moon Parties. Then we decided on what to wear, knowing that we would most likely be covered with glow-in the dark body paint and also knowing that this type of paint almost never washes out of clothes (and sometimes even stays in your hair for months). Because of this, Matt, Jeff, and Ariel decided that it was best to wear as little clothes as possible. They each changed into their coordinated Full Moon Party attire which consisted solely of a pair of knock-off, neon, Calvin Klein, cotton briefs (underwear!). Just a pair of underwear - thats it. No shirt, no pants, no socks, not even shoes - just a brightly colored piece of cotton with an elastic waistband which served to hold their cash. Being a new “traveler” and not as comfortable with the idea wearing only my underwear while surrounded by thousands of strangers (pretty sure I had nightmares like this when I was younger) I opted to wear a normal outfit - some clothes that I didn’t mind losing - plus, I didn’t own any brightly colored underwear.
We caught a Tuk-tuk, paid our 100 Baht entrance fee (after trying to sneak in), purchased some body paint, stopped for a quick pie at our favorite pizza place and then proceeded to the beach. To our surprise, the beach looked a lot like it had the night before - there were some slightly larger fires, some slightly louder music, and maybe a few more hundred people. The main difference was the increased number of stands selling buckets. These stands were being tended by Thai people eager to make some money off all the thirsty, rich (by comparison) white kids. These “bartenders” were young children, older people, or sometimes whole families. Our favorite bucket seller for the evening was a guy, maybe 20 years old, with spiked hair, a long pinky nail, and only one eye. As he mixed our buckets he would always add a little extra booze at our request and while doing so, he would heartily laugh as he yelled out “I make you fucked UP!”
We took turns body painting each other and any passersby who asked for it. We downed our first bucket and partied the night away. We kept the buckets flowing, offering sips to strangers and taking sips from them when our buckets were empty (probably not the best idea, but in the moment it just seemed right). To our surprise, the friends who we agreed to meet up with actually found us - multiple groups of people that Matt, Jeff, and Ariel had met in the past months of travelling found us - on the beach among thousands of strangers.
Reunited with friends from all over the world
We partied till the sun came up - literally. As the sun rose higher and higher in the morning sky the crowds of partiers slowly started to disperse, leaving behind evidence of the wild night - broken plastic buckets, beer bottles, wet t-shirts, mismatched flip-flops, and the occasional passed-out drunk guy. We wearily made our way off the beach to catch a tuk-tuk, stopping first at the famous chicken schnitzel place where we got schnitzel sandwiches covered in ketchup and mayo to help pacify the drunkeness. The tuk-tuk brought us back to our bungalow where we proceeded to begin our recovery.
Evidence of the night before
The Next Few Days
Waking up after an entire night of partying and drinking one would expect to feel pretty bad. I awoke to what I thought was the worst hangover of my life, but once the vomiting and diarrhea kicked in, I knew it was something else. I began to think about what I had eaten last night or the past few days - what could make me feel this awful. This was definitely food poisoning - the worst food poisoning I ever had. I assumed it was from some dirty ice in one of the buckets I drank. Since I was still new to Thailand and Asia, I was much more susceptible to the different kinds of bacterias there and seemed to be the only one who got sick. Either way, I spent most of the next day in bed and took the following days very slowly. No more parties at Haad Rin. Instead, we spent our nights using coconut shells for small bonfires on the beach next to our bungalow. On the last day, I felt much better and rode a scooter for the first time. We rode all over the island looking for the best beaches, bars, and restaurants. We found advertisements for parties everywhere - Jungle parties, Waterfall parties, Pool parties, etc. We also found lots of trash. Every time we’d pull up to a potential “best beach” we come across the washed up buckets, and flip-flops or wading beer bottles and styrofoam. We realized all this partying comes at a cost to the island.
Every year the island is crowded with more and more partiers. With more partiers comes more trash. Thailand, being a developing country, has very little resources to spend on proper trash disposal - especially on remote islands. From what I’ve heard, the island’s main method of clean up after a party is to rake all the trash and debris into a pile and bury it in the beach. Eventually, that trash will resurface and that’s what we were seeing everywhere. What at first appeared to be a paradise was starting to be revealed as the beginning of a tragic story. We saw the negative effects of party tourism and it was sad and a strange feeling knowing that we contributed to it and knowing that we were just going to move on like everyone else.
Koh Tao and SCUBA Diving
...TO KOH TAO!! On the boat ride to Koh Tao, we are hounded by various diving schools on Koh Tao that are all doing their best to convince as many people as possible that THEIR school is the best and listing different reasons why that is the case. We, obviously, want the best deal and hear out everybody's individual sales pitches. Eventually, we decide that a place called Ban's is the one we want to go with; and we soon find out that it is in fact the largest manufacturer of diving certifications in the world. FACT. It becomes clear to us as soon as we make our way to their facilities as it is by far the biggest on the entire island. Basically, a hotel with probably over 100 rooms (which is HUGE, compared to the last place we stayed at with about 10 bungalows) ranging from standard 2 beds to entire suites facing the ocean. The real bargain, however, was that these rooms came at enormous discounts if you were signing up to dive with them. As is the standard, group rates are ALWAYS better to negotiate with. We arranged for 2 rooms for 6 people, with 2 people staying entire for free (meaning not diving). Kristien and Livere. What's more, is our rooms had AC!!!!!! Justin signed up for his Open Water Course while Ariel, Jeff, and I signed up for ADVANCED Open Water (because we're definitely advanced at this point).
After a short class lecture and beach compass activity we are itching to get in the water and take that first, unnatural yet magical breath of pressurized air underwater. I had buddied up with a fellow NJ native whom I had met in class (Jeff and Ariel paired off leaving me the odd man out). Our instructor, Jimmy, was a heavy set Irishman who had a chronic cough from chain smoking and an absolutely peachy demeanor...on land. In the water it was like he became another person, displaying symptoms of bipolar disorder and acute anger mismanagement syndrome. One such episode, was when we were on out first "course dive" for the Advanced Open Water. We had just finished learning from our good friend PADI (via Jimmy) what nitrogen narcosis is. A cursory Google search defines NN as:
"A reversible alteration in consciousness that occurs while diving at depth. It is caused by the anesthetic effect of certain gases (nitrogen) at high pressure.The most dangerous aspects of narcosis are the impairment of judgement, multi-tasking and coordination, and the loss of decision-making ability and focus."
We were at our max depth of 30 meters (roughly 100ft) below the surface of the water. While we waited for the weak link group members to assemble around our fearless instructor it became clear that NN was setting in for some more than others, and quite possibly our instructor. Some of the class members had a hard time settling on the bottom and as a result Jimmy was getting visibly mad (visibility was only about 10-15 meters. [divers joke]). It was clear despite the limited visibility, that Jimmy was frustrated, to the point of physically grabbing people and moving them in a semi-circle around himself so that we could complete the exercise to show that we were capable of functioning at depth. The exercise was to demonstrate, using fingers facing him or not facing him, that we could subtract the number he gave us (holding up his fingers) from 12 and then hold up our own fingers showing the answer. Example: he holds up 7 fingers with palms facing us, we hold up 5 fingers with our palms facing away from him. It sounds simple, but at depth people lose their wits and end up counting or getting fixated on a shiny rock or fish that they saw swimming by.
During this exercise, our instructor happened to have a clown fish (a Nemo fish) swimming around, and apparently felt threatened enough to, literally, punch the fish. I saw this and laughed at the sight of a heavy set man with his face smushed into a mask, kneeling on the ocean floor, trying to get the attention of his students, and taking out his frustration on a passing clown fish by punching it...underwater. Nitrogen narcosis.
The next day was the day for our wreck dive. It started just like any dive, with a briefing, some coffee and cookies, and eventually jumping in the water, giving the OK sign and deflating the BCD for decent. The first 15-18 meters (55-60ft) there was nothing but an expanse of blue. What followed was a moment I will never forget as long as I live. As we continued down, out of no where, as if my eyes were the camera for a blockbuster summer movie, called "Exploring the Titanic," panning for the opening scene and eventually bringing into focus an old battle ship just sitting on the ocean floor surrounded by a shroud of blue. It was so surreal and spooky almost descending slowly and silently to the deck of this ship, the HMS Sattatuk. This experience, I can say with 100% certainty, will be classified as one of those life changing/defining moments. Similar to my experience bungee jumping in New Zealand (see corresponding post). While we were hanging out on the deck of this sunken ship, I couldn't help but think that this is a deck that was once on TOP of the ocean floor, teeming with life and activity. Where sailors lived, worked, played, and maybe even died. We swam around this boat carefree and touristy, taking pictures on the guns and avoiding aggressive fish. After this dive, we had one more, then were officially Advanced Open Water SCUBA Dive(r) Certified! BLOH-K!
After our courses, the dive school basically wants you to sign up for another with them, or leave. Swiftly. Thankfully, my inter-Asian charm worked on a very pretty young Thai girl who happened to be working the front desk. We were able to buy ourselves a day off with no diving and stay in the room, until Jeff and I were going to take our WRECK CERTIFICATION course (we can dive ship wrecks). WRECK CERTIFICATION in bold because it just sounds bad ass. "I don't really know about you guys, but I'm WRECK CERTIFIED." Regardless, our day off was spent with a lot of time on the beach. As crazy as it sounds SCUBA diving is exhausting. You might not expect it because you're underwater and things seem easy, but the pressure at depth and doing multiple dives in a day can be really draining. So we spent our time lounging and drinking Chang's, eating green curry, and watching dumb backpackers try their luck with fire games at night.
|Our adopted cat|
|Celebrating Fie's 24th birthday (from left: Nico and Fie)|
|Our overnight boat from Koh Tao|
Ariel had gone to meet his brother in Bangkok before returning, and in that time Jeff and I were WRECK CERTIFIED and Justin was Advanced. Our good friends Fie and Nico had just completed their courses, at another school, and were now crashing in our rooms free of charge as we were still enrolled in courses. At one point we had 6 people and a cat we had adopted, in our one room (one room now because we weren't all signed up for courses). When Ariel's brother Zach arrived he very quickly completed his Open Water Cert. and on our last day, we did a group dive.
Koh Tao was definitely one of our favorite places to this point. Diving is, quite literally, like a drug. And we had all become junkies.
Railay and Koh Phi Phi
Most backpackers on their journey through Thailand will talk all about places called Krabi and Phuket. Both well known cities on Thailand's western coast. But we weren't most backpackers. We made our way to a place called Railay (pronounced: rye-lie). Technically a peninsula, Railay has the feel of island life being that it is completely cut off from the mainland by a vast mountain range, and we needed a boat to get to the specific area. This was a somewhat unplanned part of our trip. Ariel, Jeff, Justin, Fie, Nico, and I made no reservations for our stay. After some time walking around in the blistering heat, we settle on a hotel that happens to be on top of an enormous hill. Naturally, no place in their right mind would let 6 people stay in a room and pay for only a 3 person price. So 3 of us check in, with 6 people's bags, and sneak in the rest into the room later in the day.
|Cliff face, Railay|
Railay is well known for its rock climbing, and Railay-itefully so. Huge sandstone cliff faces everywhere you look and this aspect of the peninsula has certainly been exploited. What made Railay worth it for me was the hidden lagoon which was about a 40 minute hike through a jungle hill area. People who went before had set up ropes and small path indicators, because at times it was all you could do to just not slip, fall, and break every bone in your leg. We had to duck under rock passes and lower ourselves down these ropes and finally got to our destination. A secret lagoon. From where we stood, it look like we were inside a volcano, instead of lava it was water inside. The stillest water I've ever seen. Eerily still. We cautiously tread out to the middle and it was just astounding looking up and being in an enormous natural bowl full of water. The walls went up at least 100ft and it made the entire Railay experience worth it.
While we wait for our boat to Koh Phi Phi, more popularly known for its location in the Leonardo DiCaprio's hit film, "The Beach," I start talking to a German girl named Josie who is sitting next to me. I thought she was dating the morbidly obese guy she was sitting next to. Mainly because they were both German. After smoothing out that not-so-great first impression, she decides to join our gang as we make our way to Koh Phi Phi.
Koh Phi Phi, in 2006, was decimated by a tsunami of apocalyptic proportions. Basically the entire island was underwater for a time until they could rebuild. Since their rebuilding, sadly, tourism has exploited this gorgeous piece of land as much as it possibly could. Backpacker bungalows, beach bars, and restaurants all lined the main strip of beach on Koh Phi Phi. It was really sad to see how much garbage and debris was just floating around in the water and lying around on the beach. As Justin mentioned before, it was definitely a recurring theme in a lot of the places we had gone. Garbage disposal/recycling methods hadn't caught up with the growth in tourist traffic. And as acutely aware as we were of this horrifying problem, here we were contributing to it as we were taking part in the beach festivities and staying in the cheap bungalows.
|Koh Phi Phi|
Once again, our bungalows were a point of interest as we sent a delegation of 4 people to negotiate on the behalf of 7. This being the case, it was another instance of 3-4 people to a single mattress in a bungalow. We stopped at nothing in order to save pennies on accommodation.
Justin got to know these bungalows pretty well because he spent most of his time in them (food poisoning hit Justin, Nico, and Jeff). Just as he was recovering from his food poisoning, he realized a seemingly harmless mosquito bite had been lingering for longer than usual. Being the hypochondriac that he is, he worked himself up to believe it was a deadly spider bite that was slowly releasing toxins into his blood stream and eventually going to kill him. So we go to the island "Clinic" as they're called there which is just a "cleaner-than-most" building on the island that happened to employ "doctors" and "nurses." You might be wondering why "doctors" and "nurses" are in quotes, and yes it is to convey a sardonic tone. The clinic was started by a real western doctor, who evidently left it in the hands of the locals after some time. It appeared that the only qualifications one needed to become a clinic "nurse" is to own a white lab coat. Oddly enough there were about three of them. And some children to help sterilize instruments and clean things.
What we thought would be a routine check up turned into a 3 hour long ordeal where we were all able to gather around the operating table and as a few Thai people cut the infected bites on his leg open to drain the pus and blood. Josie is a legitimate certified nurse employed by a western hospital in Germany and said this was pretty standard procedure which made us a little more at ease. But when they started cutting deeper and deeper in to Justin's leg is when the red flags started to go up. No anesthetics, no tourniquet, no nothing. Just a couple Thai women with BOX CUTTER BLADES (seriously)
|Ariel, provided the majority of moral support|
The rest of the day was the end of an era. It was the last we were going to see Fie and Nico who had become members of the group since Vietnam. Goodbyes had become routine for us at that point. But sometimes, you come across those that are just a little bit harder. This was one of them. We were all leaving to different places the next day. Fie and Nico to Malaysia. Justin, Jeff, Ariel, Josie, and I back to Bangkok.
Next stop: Laos and Cambodia
Until Next Time,