Our journey between Koh Lanta and Phuket consisted of a seriously over packed converted pickup truck, two ferries and a minivan. We left Chillout House in the morning to start our journey over the Andaman Sea via Koh Phi Phi which all in all took about 5 hours; not bad!
During our drive from Phuket ferry port to Patong beach the scenery quickly changed from picturesque hill tops and local villages to what Phuket is known for, ladyboys as far as the eye could see, ping-pong shows, husband day-care centres, boxing and a whole lot of alcohol. When we arrived at our hostel our first thoughts were whether we were going to make it out alive. To enter, we had to walk through a ticket booth, estate agents and back alley massage parlour (that were definitely offering happy endings) before climbing a few sets of stairs to the back of the building. Once we’d settled in, the hostel actually ended up to be quite cosy and the perfect place to spend New Year due to its amazing location. We stayed one road away from the infamous Bangla Road, and a one minute walk away from the area of Patong Beach where the New Year celebrations would be taking place in a couple of days time.
Our first night was spent receiving a full education in Thai Tourist culture via Bangla Road with the mile-long strip lined with strippers, emotional men having mid-life
We spent the next few days chilling at the beach, visiting the shopping centre and nosing through all the tourist stalls. On Patong Beach it’s common for people to paraglide over the water, which sounds fun until you realise that the parachute you’re attached to have staff hanging off the back of with nothing but water to break their fall. The problem with being a backpacker here is that the activities are all extortionately priced or have managed to unnecessarily add captive elephants to whatever they’re offering. Even most of the stage shows use elephants to perform, so our options were limited.
New Year’s Eve started with a highly anticipated treat of cottage pies at the local Irish pub which, even though sadly wasn’t served with gravy, gave us that taste of home we’d been missing. The evening came round quickly and the New Year’s celebrations did not disappoint (except the small issue of Sam’s preexisting Dengue Fever meaning he couldn’t taste beers). The entire Street and beach were packed wall to wall with locals, holiday goers and backpackers having epic silly string fights, dancing, singing and laughing together. The beach offered free live music sets and cheap buckets of cocktails as well as Chinese lanterns which everyone released into the sky throughout the evening. After midnight the evening became not so lovely when we had the enormous task of trying to get a whole 200 metres back to our hostel. A trip that should have taken 2 minutes took around an hour, sifting through the thousands of people meandering between the non moving traffic shoulder to shoulder and chest to back with each other. At one point we even had to use a bus as a shield so Jess (who is slightly vertically challenged) didn’t get crushed to death.
The next morning, just as Sam was recovering from his illness Jess inevitably got ill herself so New Year was mainly spent catching up with family. With an overnight bus coming up the following day, Jess tried to recover as quickly as possible – not easy when you’re staying in a dorm room next to one of the biggest party strips in the world with no food accessible which doesn’t include fish sauce.
The dreaded bus journey from Phuket to Bangkok was worsened when all the people who had booked our VIP sleeper bus were poached from a local bus company and crammed into the oldest and most uncomfortable bus imaginable. With the added assurance from the bus driver that if we get off the bus he would be driving off with our luggage. It was going to be a long night ahead.