Bangkok, Thailand: Exploring the City of Angels On My Own

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Bangkok, Thailand: Exploring the City of Angels On My Own 

It was past 8 in the morning of January 4th when my flight from Phuket arrived in Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport. My original plan was to travel from Phuket to Bangkok via the train-bus combo, which will eat up a lot of my time. Fortunately, two weeks before my flight, I was able to find good deal from Orient Thai Airlines. I booked a ticket for only 1,350 baht (1,700 pesos). From the airport, I took the bus going to Mochit then the Skytrain to the hostel where I stayed, Lub D’ Bangkok – Siam Square.

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Don Mueang Airport

When I arrived at the hostel, it was only around 10am. Their standard check-in time is 2pm. My bed was not available by then. After having settled the remaining amount I owed the hostel, I just left my baggage and went out. I have written a separate article about Lub D’ here.

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Lub d Bangkok – Siam Square

The hostel where I stayed is located in Siam, which puts me at the proximity of Bangkok’s shopping district. I went to Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, MBK, Centralworld, and other malls withing the surrounding areas. Looking for a place to have lunch, I ended up at Sizzler, located at Siam Center. I first found this restaurant in Phuket but have not had the chance to try it there. Sizzler is a huge American restaurant that offers buffet of salads and appetizers for every order of their entrees. I ordered their Spicy Grilled Chicken and iced tea. They also give you free bread. I highly recommend this place if you love American food. The salad bar itself would already suffice to choose this place above others when you need your stomach filled. The meal I had costs 399 baht (500 pesos). After lunch, I went around the malls again and walked on my way to the hostel. At 2pm, they already had my bed ready. Having little or no sleep from the past few days, it did not take long before I passed out.

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Salad Bar

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Lunch from Sizzler

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MBK

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Centralworld

It was already 6 pm when I woke up. I took a shower and went down the hostel to have a few drinks. While drinking, I took advantage of their free Wi-Fi and research about what to do at night. Bangkok is a city that is replete in terms of options for night-outs, which make it harder to choose where to head. I took the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin. I was supposed to ride a boat that will lead me closer to Khao San Road. It was already 10pm that time and turned out boat station was already close. I rode a motorbike instead and paid 150 baht (190 pesos). Khao San is known as Bangkok’s backpacker district and famous for its nightlife. I spent just about 30 minutes walking along its stretch and had another motorbike ride going to Silom. I had a couple of drinks in some bars along the area. At around 1am, I was hailing a cab to take me to Royal City Avenue (RCA), which serves as another nightlife center, believed to be home to some of the best clubs in the city. It took me almost 10 attempts before finally finding someone who could understand where I am going. A lot of the taxi drivers have a hard time understanding English, which makes it a challenge to go from one place to another via a cab.

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Khao San Road

While in RCA, I went to Route 66. I learned about this place from my roommates at the hostel who were there the night before. They told me that it has a crazy party scene, which prompted me to give it a shot. Indeed, they were right. The place was huge and people were dancing, drinking, and having fun from anywhere you look. I had to pay 300 baht (375 pesos) pesos, which qualifies you for drink coupons of the same amount. Route 66 is a huge place that caters to almost every taste. There were different rooms playing different music. In one room, there is a live band. In the other room, you can dance to hip hop and RnB music. The best part to stay was outside. It is packed with more people but you will have generous space to move. Expect a mixed crowd of locals and tourists, mostly the younger ones. This is definitely a place that will give you a glimpse of how crazy Bangkok nightlife can prove to be. There are other clubs around RCA, such as Slim. Feeling tired and exhausted, I did not check any other place after Route 66 and decided to call it a night at around 4am. Because RCA is packed, there will be no problem getting a taxi as most of them can be seen lined up along the main road. Expect, however, that you will not be charged based on meter reading.

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Route 66

On my 2nd day in Bangkok, I woke up at around 10am. From outside the hostel, there is a stand selling street foods and I grabbed something to eat for breakfast. I had Thai Pork Barbecue and sticky rice for just 20 baht (25 pesos). After about an hour of researching, I decided that I would spend the day visiting some of the temples nearest the hostel. I bought the Skytrain Day Pass for 130 baht (170 pesos) and one day pass for the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat for 150 baht (190 pesos). These day passes will provide you with a cheap option to stroll around the city.

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Skytrain

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Chao Phraya River

I visited Wat Arun, or the Temple of the Dawn. To enter, I had to pay an entrance fee. I forgot how much it was. From its name, it is pretty obvious that the best time to visit this temple is during sunrise, although it is also a sight to be reveled during sunset. I spent about half an hour going around the temple.

The Temples of Bangkok

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After Wat Arun, I took a very short boat ride going to Wat Pho, which is just directly opposite the former. Wat Pho is more popularly known amongst tourists as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. You have to pay an entrance fee to enter. I was most probably mistaken as being Thai, which is why they let me enter without paying anything. I tried going to the Grand Palace after, but it turned out that their already closed by that time. The Grand Palace is open only until 3:30pm, so you have to be early if you want to see it.

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After a boat ride from Wat Pho, I was at Chinatown where I originally planned to have lunch. I did a lot of walking trying to find a Chinese restaurant to eat but I ended up eating Thai street foods again, which I found to be better because it was very cheap and food was good. There is nothing much to see around the area, which is pretty much just like other Chinatowns.

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Chinatown

Wanting to make the most out of the day pass that I got, I rode the boat again and went to River City, a shopping mall that offers a good view of the river and the buildings around the city. After strolling for just about 15 minutes, I found myself inside the tourist boat again on my way to Central Pier, where I took a short walk going to Lebua at State Tower. This is actually one of the things I was most excited about my trip. I went to the Sky Bar, which is located at the 63rd floor, considered as one of the highest club in the world. If you have seen The Hangover 2, you are most probably aware of the place. You can go to the Sky Bar just to take pictures, but you will have a limited view as the waiters will not allow you to take pictures of certain areas unless you order a drink. I ordered one bottle of Heineken from the bar, which costs me 400 baht (500 pesos). In turn, I was able to take better pictures of the city. Pretty much good deal!

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The view from River City

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Sky Bar at Lebua

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From the 63rd floor of Lebua

At around 7pm, I left Lebua and took a long walk going to the United Center building, which houses another famous rooftop bar in Bangkok. As against Sky Bar, Cloud 47 is a lot cheaper, especially when it comes to food. I got one pint of Asahi for only 230 baht (290 pesos). Cloud 47 is huge and not as posh as the other clubs. Still, it is very promising in terms of being able to rival the other rooftop bars in the city. The place was almost empty when I got there. The huge dance floor and DJ booth suggests that it could have been a venue to some of the city’s best nights of partying.

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From the 47th floor of United Center Building

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After Cloud 47, I took a short walk going to the train station and went back to the hostel. Here, I found my roommates drinking and I joined them. They were enjoying the popular Thai bucket while I opted to have Heinekens. Juan and Nora, my roommates, were from Columbia and they are going to travel Southeast Asia for 6 months, including the Philippines. They have a life we can all be envious about, to think that they are just 22. After a couple of drinks, I took the train going to Sukhumvit and walked all the way to Levels Club, which was located at the 6th floor Aloft Hotel. They do not have door charge but drinks inside were expensive. I only had a bottle of Heineken for 250 baht (310 pesos).

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Levels

After a drink at Levels, I took the cab going to Patpong. This is one of the most recommended areas in Bangkok basically because of its naughty nightlife. Here, along different alleys, you will see different types of go-go bars. You will be approached by touts offering a one-of-a-kind show that has made Bangkok nightlife popular. I was supposed to try their ping-pong shows. However, from an earlier conversation with my roommates, they told me to just skip it as it is no good. There were really girls doing weird things, but they seem to be drugged and have minimal or no energy at all, apart from the fact that most of them are losing the youth of their body. I just grabbed beer from the street, ate at Carl’s Jr. and headed back to the hostel at around 4am.

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Patpong

I woke up before lunch the next day and went around the malls again to do a bit of shopping. The malls were huge and filled with people, offering everything that you will need. I decided to just shop at Platinum Fashion Mall and skip the others. I had lunch at KFC inside the mall’s food court. After around three hours of going around, I went back to the hostel to rest for about an hour and head to Asiatique. From the Central Pier, I took one of the free boats going to Asiatique. This is another huge shopping destination with an abundant list of restaurants offering a good view of the river.

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Platinum Fashion Mall

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Asiatique

After Asiatique, I went to Baiyoke Sky Hotel, which serves as the venue to another place that has made Bangkok famous – The Rooftop Bar. I had to pay an entrance fee of 400 baht (500 pesos), which qualifies me for one free drink. The bar is located at the hotel’s 83rd floor. It offers another good view of the city but I do not find anything promising about the bar itself.

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From the 83rd floor of Baiyoke Sky Hotel

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The Roof Top Bar at Baiyoke

From Baiyoke, I walked all the way to Centralworld, another shopping complex and home to some of the newest nightlife destinations in Bangkok. I went to Horizons, which is located at the 19th floor and offers a good panoramic view of the city. I ordered a bottle of beer for 200 baht (250 baht).

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From the 19th floor of Centralworld

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Horizons

I visited Khao San on my first night in Bangkok and did not enjoy it that time. My roommates, however, had an entirely different story. They told me that I was most probably there too early. Convinced by the fun they had, I checked it again on my last night. I was surprised to see how different it was. This time, it was livelier and louder. I grabbed bottles of Singha from the stalls around the street for a 100 baht (125 pesos). I also went inside Hippie de Bar and The Club for some drinks. It was more expensive than the price from the street. I also had a lot of street foods paired with my beer. At around 2am, you can see vendors selling balloons and hiding when they see cops around the area. The balloons turn out to be what they call laughing gas, sold at 100 baht each (125 pesos). I tried one at first and talked to some other tourists and saw how much fun they were having. This convinced me to have another laughing gas, but I still did not match the level of fun they had. The balloons were filled with nitrous oxide gas, which was used as anesthetics, and you are supposed to have it inhaled to have a good time. It is illegal to be sold in Bangkok, which explains why vendors are in a rush to hide every time they see cops.

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Laughing Gas

On my last day, I woke up at around 10 am and headed to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, which was just a few steps away from the hostel where I stayed. I had my bags packed the night before so that I can have free time before heading out of Bangkok. I left the hostel at around 11 am and took the train going to Suvarnabhumi Airport. I arrived at the airport around 12nn. I boarded a 2pm flight from Philippine Airlines going to Manila, which I got for 3,745 baht (4,700 pesos).

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Bangkok Art and Culture Center

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Suvarnabhumi Airport

The next time I am in Bangkok, I will sleep all day and drink all night. I heard a lot of stories about people falling in love with Bangkok for a number of reasons. There are people who loved it for shopping. There are foodies who raved about Thai cuisine. There are some who liked the cultural experience they had. In my case, it is most probably the nightlife that made Bangkok now one of my favorite cities.

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Phuket, Thailand: Welcoming 2014 in Beach Paradise

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Phuket, Thailand: Welcoming 2014 in Beach Paradise 

While many people have their bucket lists, I opted to not have one to be spared from having regrets years from now that I have not done some things when I could have had. Nonetheless, if I will be ever required to identify the things that I want to do before I die, one thing is for sure: traveling alone in a foreign country will be included in that list. When I planned for a Thailand trip, I never thought that I will end up doing it alone. When I was left with no other choice but to head there on my own, I just embraced the idea that what I will be doing is going to be one for the books. Indeed, it turned out to be one of my most memorable trips. It was the 4th of November when I booked for Dec. 31 flight from Manila to Phuket via Tigerair. They had a seat sale at that time, selling tickets in selected destinations for 0 base fare. With insurance, taxes, and other charges, I got a ticket for 3,505 pesos. I was psyched by the idea that I will be spending New Year’s Eve in Phuket. The scene of watching fireworks by the beach and partying with people I do not know made me more excited. However, around the first week of December, I received an email from Tigerair informing me that their Phuket flights from Dec 17 onwards were cancelled. Upon researching, I found out that such route turned out to be unprofitable, with less than 50% passenger load per aircraft most of the time. Depressed, annoyed, angered, and feeling whatever words would describe the same emotions, my only choice was to accept the full refund that they offered. With about three weeks before my flight, airfare is proving to be more expensive. With that, I had to book for a Jan 1 flight from Cebu Pacific and had to miss the NYE celebration in Phuket. I got the ticket for 3,805.86 pesos. I left Manila at 7:20 pm and arrived in Phuket at 10:20 pm. The flight was three hours and they had an hour difference from Philippine time. At Phuket International Airport, I was greeted with a long queue at the immigration counter where I had to wait for more than an hour. After my passport got stamped, I picked my baggage and head out of the airport. I bought a ticket for a mini-bus bound to Patong Beach for 180 baht (225 pesos). You can opt to ride a taxi but you will have to pay 800 baht (1,000 pesos), at the very least. The ride took about an hour from the airport to Patong. The driver dropped me off at Jungceylon Mall where I had to find my way through the hostel where I booked.

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Soi Bangla, Patong Beach

For this trip, I booked my accommodation from Capsule Hotel and Sauna via Agoda. The hostel offers two kinds of accommodations: Korean-style dormitory beds and deluxe capsules. I opted for the latter and paid only 963.90 pesos for my Jan 1 – 3 booking. On my second night, I decided to extend my stay for one more night and had to pay 350 baht (roughly 450 pesos). I wrote a separate review of the hostel here.

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Capsule Hotel and Sauna

After checking in, I immediately headed out to eat and ended up at KFC, which is located just at the ground floor of the mall where my hostel is located. Capsule is at the basement of the Bangla Mall and at the middle of Bangla Road, making it strategically-located. I had KFC Bitez (their version of Hotshots) and Pepsi for dinner, which cost 100 baht (125 pesos). I walked along Bangla and the surrounding sois for almost two hours, trying to discover what they have to offer. I eventually got tired and headed back at the hostel where I had two bottles of Heineken from 7-11, 44 baht each (55 pesos). They also sell San Mig Light for 46 baht. Drinking in Phuket can prove to be expensive. That is the case if you choose to drink in the wrong places. While Heineken in 7-11 will cost 44 baht (55 pesos), the same beer would cost 80 baht (100 pesos) in stalls along the beach, 120 baht (150 pesos) in pubs, and as much as 220 baht (275 pesos) in some bars. What I usually do is that I first drink a few bottles at the hostel before heading out. I would normally order just one bottle inside the clubs, buy another bottle from 7-11 where it is cheaper, walk, and head back to the club. This will make your nights significantly cheaper while enjoying the most of Patong since you do not get confined in a single place. I also grabbed some beers by the beach and just stayed there for quite some time. At around 5am, I headed back to the hostel and called it a night.

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Dinner from KFC

I woke up around 12 noon. I was supposed to do the Koh Phi Phi whole day tour but I was late since most of the tours start at 8am. I headed to the beach and just reveled in the sight of hundreds of tourists enjoying the heat of the sun. Patong Beach was crowded and more of better for sun bathing than swimming. Trying to find a place where I can have lunch, I ended up at Chabadang Bar and Restaurant where I had chicken satay and rice for 240 baht (300 pesos). They serve free fruit slices at the end of your meal and offers a good view of the beach. I again walked after my meal, try to inquire for some possible tours, went to Jungceylon Mall, headed back at the hostel and had beer. While staying at the hostel’s common area, I also researched about some things that I can possibly do around the area. I could not do any tour since it was already quite late.

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Chicken Satay from Chabandang

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Patong Beach

I rented a motorcycle from Patong and asked the driver to take me to Kata Beach. The motorcycle ride costs me 300 baht (375 pesos) and took more or less 30 minutes. You can also take the taxi, but it is almost double the price of a motorcycle ride. I checked out Bella Vista Restaurant where I had mojito for 220 baht (275 pesos). The restaurant has an open air ambiance and perhaps one of the best places where you can have a good view of Kata Beach. I used one of the sunbeds near the restaurant. After 30 minutes of being there, a local approached me and asked me to pay 200 baht (250 pesos) for the sunbed. I refused to pay and just headed back at the restaurant’s terrace.

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Kata Beach

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Bella Vista Restaurant

After about an hour at Kata, I walked going to Karon Beach. I initially had the idea of walking going to Karon to save money. I ended up walking from Kata Beach to Karon Beach to Patong Beach. The walk took me more than 10 kilometers and 2 hours. I would stop from time to time to grab beer and just enjoy the view. The walk was tiring but all worth it, especially because of the views that can be seen along the way. With still about two kilometers before the hostel, I gave up and rented a tuktuk. I was initially told by the driver that the tuktuk ride is 300 baht (375 pesos). I managed to haggle and ended up paying only 200 baht (250 pesos). It was raining when I arrived near the hostel. I rewarded myself with Banana Nutella Pancake and a bottle of beer again to feel better after that long walk. After an hour, I tried the hostel’s sauna. They have Finnish-style sauna, Korean-style Sauna, steam room, and ice room, which can be used for free by their guests. I slept for three hours and went out for dinner at around 11pm.

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Karon Beach

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On my way back to Patong Beach

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Banana Nutella Pancake

It took me a lot of walking, again, before I finally found a place to eat. I had dinner at The Pizza Company, an Italian-American restaurant that is similar to Pizza Hut/Shakey’s. I ordered carbonara, chicken wings, and Pepsi, all for only 300 baht (375 pesos). After dinner I walked around to find a place where I can book a Koh Phi Phi tour for the next day. I tried it from the hostel but they do not have an available schedule. I went through several places but they were all fully-booked. It was peak season, which explains why it is almost impossible to find slot for the tour. Just when I was about to lose hope and already considering going to the James Bond Island instead, I found an agency where one of their customers just backed out from the tour. I had booked it immediately and paid 1,200 baht (1,500 pesos) for the tour. I went through several drinking places, one after the other and had some beer. At around 3am, I went inside Tiger Disco. The door charge was 250 baht (310 pesos), which qualifies you for one free drink. I chose Heineken.

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Dinner from The Pizza Company

Tiger Disco is huge, covering three floors in its own building. It is impossible to not notice this place along Bangla. Your attention will be first directed to the huge concrete tigers that overlook the street. On the first floor, you can see a lot of bar counters, each with different and funny, not to mention naughty, names. People certainly go here for the girls as you can see them dancing just right at the top of the table. On the second floor, there are more bars and pool tables. This is also where you can find the entrance to the club. Upon paying the door charge, you enter the discotheque, which has two huge floors. The place was full and loud, with people dancing anywhere. If you hate to squeeze yourself in the dance floor, you can head to the upper floor where you can have a good view of the club.

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Tiger Disco

There are several other places around Bangla that are comparable to the first floor of Tiger. You can check out Soi Seadragon and Soi Easy. If you are feeling naughty, you can check out their go-go bars, with some of the most famous located along Soi Seadragon, such as Devil’s Playground and Suzy Wong’s. If you fancy seeing Russian girls, check out Moulin Rouge. It is hard to miss this place as you can see skimpily-dressed Russian girls just outside the bar inviting you to check the place. Just walking along Soi Bangla, you can see more girls and lady boys trying to command attention with either minimal or exaggerated outfit (including oversized headgear, angel wings, etc). Of course, you can see a lot of them with foreigners. Skip the touts offering you to try their infamous ping-pong shows. I heard a lot of stories about scams, which discouraged me from trying it.

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Along Soi Bangla

I was supposed to wake up at 7am the next day for my Koh Phi Phi tour. I slept just before 5am, which explains why I did not wake up from my alarm. Fortunately, the attendant from the front desk woke me up at around 8 am informing me that the driver was already outside and waiting for me. Feeling panicky, I just grabbed what I found in my bed and immediately headed to the van waiting outside. From the reaction of the other passengers who will be the same group I will be going with for the tour, I can easily tell that they also had a good night and very little sleep. It took the van ride about an hour before we finally reached the pier. There was a 10-minute orientation about the tour, including what to expect. We were warned about sea urchins, which made me rent fins for 100 baht (125 pesos). It would have been a lot better if they had aqua shoes, or if I had my own. At around 10 am, we finally boarded the speedboat. For the Koh Phi Phi tours, you can opt for a speed boat tour, which has about 50 people, or a big boat tour, which has more than a hundred. I chose the speedboat tour.

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Tour map. We did it the other way around.

The first destination for our tour was Maya Bay, which was made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach. This was actually the main reason why I booked the Koh Phi Phi tour. I felt a bit disappointed when we arrived at Maya Bay because it was exaggeratedly crowded. There were hundreds of people (or even thousands) and it was even made crowded by the speedboats and long-tailed boats. At the further end of the beach, you can see a very small area for swimming. We stayed there for half an hour and most people were just taking pictures, mostly disappointed with congested the place was.

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Crowded Maya Bay

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After Maya Bay, we had a sightseeing tour of the Pileh Lagoon and Viking Cave. We also went to see the Monkey Beach. Unfortunately, it was high tide during that time. We only went near the trees and got as close as possible to the monkeys being fed by tourists. We also went snorkeling for about 30 minutes in Loh Samah Bay.

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Loh Samah Bay

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Viking Cave

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Monkey Beach

The speedboat arrived at Phi Pho Don Island and we had our lunch. The tour comes with free buffet lunch, as well as free soft drinks and water on board.

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Phi Phi Don

There was nothing special with the lunch we had. The food does not look appetizing at all. I did not even finish my plate. Instead, I went at the nearby bar, grabbed a bottle of beer, and walked around since we had 90 minutes to kill. In 2004, this island was hit by the tsunami, and we were told that more than 70% of the buildings have been wiped off.

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What I got from the buffet lunch. Food was bad.

Our last stop for the tour was Khai Nok Island. Here, you can go snorkeling, swimming, or simply relax in one of the sunbeds, which can be rented for 150 baht (190 pesos). I spent the first few minutes just relaxing under the heat of the sun with a cold bottle of beer. I went snorkeling for a while. While at the beach, you will be served fresh fruit slices courtesy of the tour agency. It was around 4 pm when we left Khai Nok and headed back to the pier where we were picked up by the van going back to Patong Beach.

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Khai Nok Island

At around 5pm, I was back at the hostel. I took a shower and grabbed a bottle of beer. I stayed at the hostel’s common area and talked to some of their guests. I went to McDonald’s and got myself McSpicy, fries, and soda, all for 200 baht (250 pesos). I went to the beach to eat my sandwich and walked around for more than hour. Did some more walking and found an Indian restaurant called Madras Café. I order chicken curry and rice for 280 baht (350 pesos). After dinner, I went back to the hostel to pack my things. It was already raining and there was no electricity in some areas so I just opted to drink again at the hostel. Good thing they have generator.

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Chicken Curry from Madras Cafe

At around 2 am, I went out to check out some clubs. It was still raining but electricity was back. There were long lines in almost every club, which made me decide to head out to the beach first and have a beer. After about an hour, I checked The Club. They do not have door charge at that time, or possibly because I was mistaken as a Thai that is why I was allowed to enter for free. The place was new, having opened just in December. I had one bottle of Heineken for 220 baht (275 pesos). Just next to The Club, you will see Hollywood Discotheque. I got in after paying 300 baht (375 pesos), which qualifies for one free drink. After around 30 minutes inside Hollywood, music stopped and most of the lights faded. Most of us inside thought that there was some technical glitch so we waited. It took quite a while and music was still not back. I decided to just leave. Outside, it was crowded as people tried to leave the place. It turned out that there was no electricity again, since it was still raining, most people were not moving.

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Hollywood Discotheque

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Brownout!

I returned to the hostel around 5am, grabbed a beer and something to eat from 7-11. I checked out and left the hostel just before 6 am. There were still no mini buses that early, which left me with no choice but to spend 800 baht (1,000 pesos) for a tuktuk ride going to the airport. I was at the airport at 7am and boarded an 8 am flight to Bangkok.

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Tuktuk ride to Phuket International Airport