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A small piece of the world (2)
Nine-month adventure through 11 countries in three continents
Part (1)

By Neema Moraveji
January 23, 2002
The Iranian

Week 2: Thailand

This week's story brings our journey to the beautiful lands of Siam, known now as Thailand. I know what you're thinking, wait, he was in Kenya and all of a sudden he jumps to Thailand? Well, after my trip to Kenya, I returned to Madrid for another month. However, when I returned, I found that I could no longer be content with backpacking in Europe. I had to venture further outside of my safety zone.

I decided to return to Africa. However, visa headaches forced me to go for my second option: East Asia. I bought a one-way ticket to Thailand and packed my bag, unsure of what to expect, nervous, and thrilled. I arrived in Bangkok on January 1, 2001.

I spent six weeks in Thailand. Three weeks in the hilly north, and another three in the tropical south. The first thing I did when I arrived in the train was get on a train north outside of the city: I wanted to get off the beaten path. For a few weeks I visited Buddhist Wats, went jungle trekking in the Thai-Burmese jungle, got robbed while sleeping on a train (nothing serious), and visited small towns in the central plains.

In the north, I stayed for a week in Thailand's second largest city, Chiang Mai (which is still very small). I rented a motorbike and met local Thais my own age. I hung out with my new friends and went to discos with them. After practicing my Thai with an old woman in Chiang Mai, she gave me my Thai nickname (which all Thais have): Gao. It means "glass". Don't ask, I don't even know.

Chiang Mai is also where I met Remy, Stephan, and Christoph: the three Parisian hippies. The day after we met, the four of us left Chiang Mai to tour the north by motorbike. Riding for hours on jungle paths, we would come upon secluded villages where children ran naked and the people seemed to speak by smiling. Eventually, I decided to continue my adventure alone so I returned the motorbike and headed to the islands of the south.

Struck with the differences between north and south, I was frustrated when people in the south could not understand my northern dialect. The south was more exposed to western culture, and it was evident. I avoided those cities and resorts that were more modern (Phuket, Pattaya, Ko Samui, etc.) because I sought adventure, not the comforts of home.

I took a one-week scuba diving expedition to the infamous Ko Similan islands, fifty miles off of the coast. I spent some sweaty nights in the rain forest of Khao Sok, attending a local cock fight and babysitting some Thai eight-year-olds for the family who ran the guesthouse. My last week was spent making the pilgrimage to the island of Ko Phan Ngan, where backpackers from all over the world meet on the night of the full moon, every month, to celebrate on the beach.

Taking a crowded, smoke-filled overnight tugboat to the island, Ko Phan Ngan was where I met some incredible characters and spent more than one night dancing until dawn on the beach with twenty-somethings from every corner of the globe. I took a bungalow on a remote beach, read books and explored the savage island.

It was on the night of the full moon when I met Akayate and Chance and learned their story of traveling the globe beach-by-beach, fire-twirling and teaching anybody who wanted to learn. I met other people with their own incredible stories, it was a great time.

From Thailand I took a short plane ride to Kolkata (Calcutta), India, sitting next to a Thai monk. I had to fly to India because of the visa restrictions of Myanmar (Burma), in between Thailand and India.

Next week I will display photographs and stories about India. Accompany me as I bathe in India's holiest river, teach English to Tibetan monks, attend the teachings of the Dalai Lama, study yoga, and more... next week.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the traveler Neema Moraveji



A small piece of the world (1)
Nine-month adventure through 11 countries in three continents


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