Buddah save the Queen

The incessant importance of the Royal family in Thai daily life is embodied in the lengthy public holidays given to celebrate the birthdays of the monarchs. Queen Sirikit’s birthday this month not only gave me a four day long weekend, but also signified Mother’s Day.

Before setting off for the South, desperate to fill the paradise void that Hua Hin left me in, I made each of my adoptive Thai mums a Mothers Day card. Somsri accepted hers gracefully and thankfully, and placed it in prime position on her desk. Usana on the other hand took one look at it before bursting into tears and locking it in her desk. Sobbing, she mumbled ‘I’m very sensitive’ and refused to speak to me for twenty minutes.

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Thankfully she recovered by the end of the school day, just in time to take me to Mo Chit to meet Caitlin. We stocked up on all our favourite 7/11 snacks in preparation for what we thought was going to be the most horrendous 13 hour bus journey of our lives. The coach however was actually pleasantly luxurious, with fully reclinable seats and snacks and blankets provided onboard. After stuffing ourselves with caramelised peanuts and stifling our giggles at each other’s tales of the past week whilst our fellow passengers slept, we both fell asleep for the entire way to Surat Thani.

We were rudely awakened by our coach attendant at 7am, who bad temperedly hurried us off of the coach and onto a Koh Samui bound ferry. Half asleep and bleary eyed, we sat on the upper deck marvelling at the sun rising over the tiny scattered islands floating in the crystal clear ocean.

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Once we finally arrived on Koh Samui, we argued our way through all the taxi drivers claiming extortionate prices to our hostel. A hell of a lot of haggling later, we squished ourselves and all our luggage in, and set off on the road. 45 minutes went by when we came to the realisation that we’d completely underestimated the size of the island, and that the prices we’d been quoted probably weren’t so steep after all. After we dumped our bags at the hostel, we changed out of our travellers get up into our bikinis and headed straight for Chwaeng beach to wait for Jessica.

At dinner that night, we met two girls who suggested we all go to a Lady Boy Caberet. Once we’d all had our fill of Pad Thai, we walked down the main road, straight into the open arms of a group of eager, and astonishingly, stunning Caberet performers. At the lure of free entry, provided we each bought a drink, we climbed the dodgy back fire-escape staircase and took our seats. Clutching my frozen mango daiquiri I was equally excited and intrigued, but also rather nervous that we were about to witness an infamous Thai ‘ping pong show’ (we were sat in the front row, and thus would have borne the consequences had we been mistaken).

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Thankfully, despite numerous nip slips, it was just a Caberet show with scantily clad Lady boys in sequins, feathers and stilletoes. They lip synced karaoke favourites from Kylie, Whitney Houston and Abba, with my personal favourite being the scary ‘Crazy in Love’ Beyonce babe.

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After a much needed lie-in the next morning, we scoured the abundance of markets selling all the ‘same same but different’ tourist tat in search of fruit. We eventually came across a solitary stall piled high with all our favourite vibrantly coloured fruits, each for less than 60p a kilo. Laden with bags of rambutan, mangosteen, pomolo and bananas, we headed to the beach to set up camp for the day. Chwaeng is utterly incomparable to Hua Hin, with its sultry golden sand and warm, glistening waters that were an absolute pleasure to bathe in. The enormity of people on the beach, and on the entire island however, essentially ruined Koh Samui’s desert island, castaway lure.

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The real reason we’d travelled over 300 miles for one weekend though was to attended Koh Phangan’s, Koh Samui’s sister island, infamous full moon party. Before I came to Thailand I was adamant that I wouldn’t attend the lunar ritual, as I deemed myself above the neon painting, bucket drinking bonanza, raved about my all those that have ventured to these parts of the world. Having spent two months here, I was intrigued as to what the hype was and why over 20,000 people flocked to Ha Rind beach just to get wasted. Eventually I gave in to my curiosity, but kept my ‘snooty bitch’ pride by refusing to don a neon vest or slather myself in paint.

Our hostel owner Ricky organised coaches and boats for all his full mooning customers and the rather eclectic group of us got together to start drinking for what was foreseeably going to be a long session. Being a teacher and having not drunk much at all since being in Thailand, the £1 ‘Honey Ripple’ Smirnoff we found in 7 Eleven rather embarrassingly ensured my night started off as cheaply as possible.

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We hopped off the speedboat on one side of Koh Phangan, and walked through the streets to reach Ha Rin beach on the other side of the island. Stalls lined the path to the party, overloaded with plastics buckets filled to the brim with handfuls of straws, ice, sprite and a bottle of vodka, all for less than £3. Ha Rin had been transformed from a sun seekers paradise, into a drunk ravers haven. All along the beach, stages, sound systems and DJ’s set up blasting every type of dance music imagineable. Between the crowds, opportunistic show offs dare tried their luck at fire skipping ropes, with the majority of dare devils ending up in hospital. Water slides had been fixed to the tops of beach bars, resulting in mass piles of drunken adrenaline junkies. It took over half an hour to make our way from one end of the beach to the other. We made our way to Magic Mountain to a club on the cliff top that overlooked, as Lonely Planet fittingly describes, ‘the heathens below, and where my memory of the night ends.

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Paying homage to Daft Punk, we were up all night to the sun, which Caitlin and I watched rise each with a much needed Nutella and peanut butter crepe in hand. The morning sun highlighted the aftermath of the all nighter. Lone party goers who’d invariably lost their friends lay passed out in the sand as drunk stragglers who wandered by stopped to pose for selfies next to them, or worse, steal all their possessions. At 7 we staggered to the port in search of a speedboat back to Samui, where we bumped into Jeroen and Casper, the two Dutch guys also staying at our hostel. Had we not been still drunk, the crossing back to Samui would have beautifully serene as the sun creeped higher and higher over the horizon. Instead, I spent the entire journey desperately trying not to throw up all over my windswept hair and fellow passengers.

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Still much too under the influence for any desire to sleep, Casper, Jeroen and I went straight back to the beach after we arrived at the hostel. In dire need of peaceful tranquility, we walked in the opposite direction of the tourist haunts, where the waters were no higher than ankle deep for a km or so into the ocean. Dumping our clothes and belongings, we waded out into what felt like the middle of the ocean to lie in the sun. Taking in the beautiful serenity of our surroundings for all of ten minutes, we fell asleep and awoke several hours later incredibly sunburnt and feeling absolutely horrendous.

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