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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Part 10: Pub-crawling around the World: Himmel, Lonely Beach, Koh Chang

It was the height of Thai New Year, known as Songkran, we had been sprayed with water all day and we figured we were going to be wet all evening so we donned clean bikinis and headed out to see what Lonely Beach had to offer.

Ting Tong appeared to be the most popular bar on Lonely Beach and we'd stopped in the night before (which ended with me completely sozzled after only one bucket of vodka - what do they put in those buckets?) but we noticed there was a foam party advertised a little way up the street in Himmel Bar.

Himmel Bar is pretty large and at first glance appears a little classier than Ting Tong Bar, because most of it is covered by a roof. There are plenty of seating areas, both outdoor and indoor and an large dance floor, which was already playing host to a small number of patrons when we arrived. It was all feel-good music - a bit of dance, some 90's and 00's hits thrown in for good measure. I seem to remember "I've got 5 on it" and also some Kylie! The bar staff were all friendly and buckets were on special for 150baht, as seems the norm on Lonely Beach. Himmel Bar also offers a variety of shots and cocktails.

My friend Jess and I had picked up some new friends, lone travellers Joe and Anna (I remember travelling alone and people NOT talking to me), in Ting Tong bar and we made some more friends in Himmel Bar before the foam got too thick. We ran into some Spanish guys we had met on the ferry over to the island and there was even an old, bearded dude in a cowboy hat - everything one needs for a crazy night in Thailand. So, with buckets in tow we began venturing to dance in the foam….
Jess got involved!

The night progressed with more and more foam, everyone spinning a little faster, a little wilder…
Jess getting cheeky with everyone that would talk to us and pretty much warning me off any man that approached, although she allowed me brief periods to dance with our new German friend, Joe, when we weren't having friendly foam fights with anyone and everyone in the crowd. Glow sticks and glory straws were being handed out at the bar - somethings are required for a cheesy night out. We also attracted the attention of a Thai lady friend, who was keen on our drinks. At least she was openly keen: Another guy just picked up my bucket and walked off with it. I caught him trying to steal someone else's' later on. Well, there are always people who spoil it for others, it can't be blamed on the bar.

Happy out of the foam
The party continued late into the night, with the foam being topped up on a regular basis. The bar staff were superb when a glass was broken in the foam, going straight in to remove the glass and tend to the one or two people who had sadly cut themselves (thankfully not badly at all). The music was still banging as we strolled off to our guesthouse around the corner around 3.15am.

All in all, it was a really fun night. Himmel bar advertises winter parties and runs special events quite regularly so be sure to catch one of their parties if you're in the area.

Ambience: 10/10 - If you're looking for a party in Koh Chang, you really can't go wrong.
Price: 150bht buckets, shots 100bht. Other drinks range from 100bht upwards.
Food: They offered barbecued food earlier in the evening, so they do food. I can't vouch for it personally.
Location: Soi 2 Lonely Beach, just off the main street in Lonely Beach - very easy to find.
Toilets: There were toilets and they were attended by staff, trying to keep it foam free. Fairly clean.
Overall: A good choice for a party on Lonely Beach, particularly on special nights.
Dancing the night away

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Being away and coming back.

I've been intending to write, of course I have, we all have the best intentions…
I didn't… life got in the way…

Having started this blog in July 2012, I couldn't even imagine where life was going to take me in three short years. I've always been a dreamer and I've been pretty good about "doing" but sometimes those dreams seem so elusive. Now, I know they're not. Now I know that you really can do anything - but you can't do everything, unfortunately.

In 2012, I had a great job working in Dubai, I was pretty settled in my lovely Sheikh Zayed Road apartment and I got to travel around 3-4 times a year, sometimes more as it was easy to hop to Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. I had a good life and I was grateful for it but I absolutely yearned for more. Luckily, I was surrounded both personally and professionally by people who encouraged me to take chances, who helped me believe that I could do other things, primarily write and travel. So, I did.

In 2013, I left my comfortable life, ghost-wrote a book, penned 4 plays commissioned for the stage, volunteered for charity in Sri Lanka and visited many more other countries that aroused feelings in me I wasn't aware were possible. I didn't know it was possible to fall in love so often (with different places), to spend 12 days not actually speaking to anyone in English (with very few words of their languages to help me!), to eat bugs without gagging and to live without fear. Everything challenged me and it became very addictive. The first day of 2014 began in Chiang Mai, Thailand and ended in Luang Prabang, Laos; a month later I was in Australia. Travelling is a bubble - I was the happiest I had ever been with my everyday life, but everything else went on without me. Given time back in Ireland mid-year, I had time to review what I wanted next and I realised that I wanted some stability. I loved the buzz of moving from place to place but my means weren't endless. I also like building friendships and although travel leads you to people everyday - there's a slim possibility that you'll meet any of them ever again. I thought Chiang Mai would be a wonderful base to live, I had immediately identified with the place when my bus arrived there and yet thought modern life would be accessible enough there.

July 2013 took me back to Chiang Mai where I quickly found a great apartment, a part time job teaching English at Chiang Mai University and a whole host of fantastic new friends with their own experiences to share. It is a brilliant place to live, with enough comforts of the international world mixed with truly Thai experiences. I learnt more Thai in one year, than Arabic from years in the Middle East. My little soi (lane) felt like a community, the Thai people waved, wai'd or gave me a "hi" everyday, and I had wonderful street food to choose from on either side of my small apartment block. I lived in the Old City with a view of the mountains, I travelled to the university 4 days a week in a songtheaw (red truck). I wrote and edited the rest of my time outside teaching and most of the time it was utter bliss.

With real life responsibilities (my sister's wedding, bills etc) interrupting from time to time, I realised that staying in Chiang Mai longterm would also have it's price. I had met people who couldn't leave, whether they wanted to or not. They didn't have the option to travel home to Europe or the U.S, because regardless of saving in Thailand - that money doesn't go very far in our Western home countries. Having lived in the Middle East I was used to having that disposable income, but I knew it meant sacrificing time off, an easier lifestyle and certainly the wonderful Thai culture that I had grown used to. In a way I think something else intervened (or maybe I sent it out to come back?) and I was offered three different roles back in Dubai; I even had an opportunity to choose. Once again, life showed me that I'm a lucky girl (I work hard for it!) with the options I had.

So, I am back in Dubai. It was hard to leave Chiang Mai, but easy to come back here, if that makes any sense. I'm trying to be an adult, trying to do the right thing but also giving myself new opportunities and demanding more of myself. I learnt a lot in the past few years and I'm happier with what I've achieved. I know more about what's important to me (primarily family, friends and then travel) and what I'm willing to sacrifice to get it and I hope that road leads me back to Thailand and that I'll have figured out a way to make it all viable.

With all the notes I have on various places, I still intend to log the memories but I thought I'd explain a little about how much my life has changed and my thoughts on that, particularly as this has been a record for me to review from time to time. We're all on different journeys: the places are just different - sometimes they are physical and sometimes they are mental.

I hope my fellow travellers that I met along the way get to read this and hopefully empathise with some of the feelings I've had during these past few years.