Sunday, February 1, 2009


Tet is Vietnam's version of the Chinese new year. It's lunar new year's eve and the few days around it. I'll have a post about that later. What it meant for me was that everything was shut down and it was a good time to get out of town.

I signed up for a ten-day silent meditation retreat in Thailand. Unfortunately, it was full, so I went on the waiting list. I signed up for another one, but that one was full too, and I'd already bought plane tickets. I wanted to see Thailand anyway, and I'd always wanted to try scuba diving, so I decided just go and see what I could see.

At the Hanoi airport, I had a chance to buy some souvenirs from Tahiti. So I could have just bought one of those, told everyone I went to Tahiti, and called it a day. But I decided to go through with it anyway. I was happy to get to Bangkok before I left the airport. Mainly because it was warm. I got a sim card for my phone, saw a Starbuck's, got 3 free maps, and saw a lady-boy before I even left the airport. Ah, yes. Civilization...

This was the first 7-11 that I saw. I'm not exaggerating at all when I say that I think I went into a dozen 7-11's that day. Not to buy anything, just to soak up a little A/C, look at all the stuff I COULD buy, and remember my childhood. I practically grew up in convenience stores, so this was a heartwarming homecoming for me.

Eventually I made my way to Khao San Road, the touristiest of touristy areas in Bangkok. I found a scuba diving shop, booked a trip to Koh Tao and wandered around for a couple of hours until it was time to get my bus. Not this bus...
The bus I was on wasn't quite as quite as pimped out. No unicorns.

But I did get on this boat...And about 27 hours after I left the house in Hanoi, I was here. I found a place to stay and took a 4 hour nap. The little bungalow was dirty but only about $15 a night, and about 100 yards from the beach.

I had to share it with this little guy, but he mostly just kept to himself behind the mirror in the bathroom.
Koh Tao island is about 7 kilometers long and it's a big destination for scuba divers. I did 2 dives on Wednesday. It was a good time, but dealing with the pressure changes from the depth was a real hassle. I had some trouble getting my ears to pop, but eventually did, and got down to 10-12 meters (35 feet or so). We saw some cool corals, colorful fish, and various crazy looking sea cucumbers.

But the coolest stuff I saw was on a snorkeling trip around the island the next day. It was on a long boat (bigger than this one)...And we stopped and snorkeled at a bunch of little bays and reefs and did a complete loop around the island. The first stop was by shark island. I was the first one in the water and I practically landed on top of one of these guys.
I didn't have a waterproof camera, so this isn't my shot, but it's a black tip reef shark. The ones that we were swimming with were probably only 3-4 feet long, but everything looks bigger under water, so they seemed like 5-6 feet long. Big enough that I was glad it wasn't dinner time. Our guide told us that they feed at night. There was definitely something counterintuitive about swimming toward sharks when I saw them instead of away, but it was really cool. Definitely the highlight of the trip.

I was going to go back to Bangkok, but I couldn't think of a good reason not to stay on the island another night. There was plenty of exploring to do. For instance, I got to try salaberry fanta from the 7-11. It tasted a little like crushed hopes and dreams strained through a bandana that's been sitting in the bottom of an old tackle box.
All together I was there for 4 days and 3 nights. I left relaxed, with some great memories, and the sunburn of a lifetime.The next morning I arrived in Bangkok at about 4AM. I wandered down the the temple complex with the famous reclining Buddha and dozed on a bench outside until they opened. The reclining Buddha was just like in picures and on TV, but bigger. The temple school is sponsored by - you guessed it - 7-11. They're everywhere! Which reminds me, I also got to try "Pepsi Green". It tasted the way I imagine fairy pee must taste like after the fairy's been on antibiotics for a week or so. And speaking of anti-biotics, I realized while I was in Bangkok that my scuba diving injury needed a little medical attention. I scratched my toe on a bench when we were waiting to get into the boat, and after 4 days I could tell that it was infected in a pretty nasty way.

Luckily there were plenty of pharmacies to chose from, soI skipped this one for obvious reasons. I found a place with a pharmacist that spoke excellent English, and hooked me up with a whole sack of toe dressing supplies and a 5-day course of antibiotics for about $15. That's what I would pay back in the states just to get the paper that says I can pay someone else for the pills. And that's with insurance. I stopped at the local Starbuck's while I waited for the flop houses to clear out so I could get a room for the night. With a frappaccino and a muffin, I felt like I was in Ohio. Which some tourists would whine about , but I was lapping it up like a slurpee. After all, I wasn't on vacation from Akron, I was on vacation from Hanoi, a sadly slurpee-less land, and I was loving it.

Khao San Road is the main hub of the banana pancake trail, trustafarian set. It's like that street with all the bars in any college town, but on an international level.
T-shirts and black market cd shops line the streets along with all sorts of random gift shops and restaurants. There was one vendor that was selling nothing but plastic lizards and fake poo. They knew their demographic.Elephants too.
It was a great place to spend a day, but afterward I was ready to get back to Hanoi.


mary said...

The amount of 7-11s in Thailand is truly mind boggling. I got some nice Hello Kitty pens in one.

If you go back to Thailand, I recommend a stop in Khao Lak. Great town and I have some pals there that could show you around.

Sea cucumbers. I wonder if that's what Kristen and I termed "Sea Wang."

rebar said...

Weird. My friends Margaret and John are currently in Thailand as well. Smallish world.

>>There was one vendor that was selling nothing but plastic lizards and fake poo. They knew their demographic.

Their demographic being my 13 year old nephew.

I do believe he would stab a man for one of those "Ipood" tees.

In the eyeball.

Hixx said...

Seth, I don't know if you remember me, (I'm margaret from Rebecca's post!) but I THINK I SAW YOU ON KHAO SAN.

I am so stupid, I thought it was you and then it just seemed really silly. So I came to check your blog and I'm sure it was you.

What a missed opportunity...darnit.

Anyway, yeah...lots of 7-11's.

Seth said...

Aw man, I could have sent some plastic poo back with you for Rebar. It is a small world.

rebar said...

Wait a minute. WHAT?

I missed out on plastic poo?!!

Way to go, so-called "friends."

You're ALL SO busy taking in the experience of Thailand that you totally screw me on the novelty feces.

It's like I don't even know you people.

How you get up and look at yourselves in the mirror every morning? It's a mystery to me.

Arg!! I have been slighted!!!!