Temple Hopping through Angkor Wat after Eating Happy Pizza (Part 1)

IMG_0023
Angkor Wat’s nostalgic reflection in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Traditionally every year during the half of October I spend my birthday alone on a remote island in Asia.  Traveling to the final destination takes a lot of research and effort, but in return gives me valuable time to reflect on life and also become acquainted with a new culture.  Past destinations have included Okinawa and Yakushima (Japan) and Phu Quoc (Vietnam), which were all unforgettable experiences that have taught me a lot about myself and the stunning world around me.  This year I wanted to go somewhere similar that had tropical beaches and lush nature so I could relax and do photography.  Since I’ve already been to Thailand twice and loved it, I decided to try one of its adventurous neighboring countries: Cambodia.

Cambodia is beautiful, less developed country with a sad past (which I’ll get into later), but is now extremely safe for foreign tourists and backpackers to travel to.  Like Thailand and Vietnam, the majority of people you will meet speak English and are quite friendly.  On a rainy day while I was in Australia, I came up with a tentative Cambodia itinerary which I managed to successfully complete in the 10 days while I was here.  Please take a look at it for reference if you plan on traveling to Cambodia in the future!

Overall, this trip was extremely eye-opening and completely changed my outlook on how I should live my life.  Staying 4 days on a small Cambodian island in a village that only stretched for about a mile taught me how to live frugally compared to my extravagant city life.  The villagers there were extremely kind and I was always surrounded by friendly people that took care of me.  This really helped me let go of a lot of anxieties and insecurities I had that were holding me back recently.  Though I have many caring friends in all the countries I have visited, being in this setting helped me resurface to reality and form an entirely new perspective so I could enter a new mindset that I couldn’t reach before.  I am very excited to start this blog series and share the knowledge I have gained with others.

Exploring Siem Reap’s Pub Street

IMG_6872
Pub Street: A endless expat all-night party complete with strobe lights and neon signs.

I chose Siem Reap as my first destination simply because it is the cheapest city to fly to from Tokyo and has all of the famous temples to explore.  Fortunately getting a visa to Cambodia is quite easy; all you need to do is fill out a form and pay $30 to enter the country for a short-term stay.  You can do this upon arrival, but I applied for an e-visa through Cambodia’s official government website.  This will speed up the process and ensure your swift entry into the country.  *Please be wary of other advertised e-visa websites on Google because they are often double in price.

I arrived to the center of the city around 9pm, just in time to try some of the infamous “happy pizza” adjacent to Pub Street–every bar lover’s dream.  What is happy pizza exactly, and why is it sold openly around Cambodia?

According to The Culture Trip:

Traditionally, marijuana was used as a herb in some Khmer dishes to complement the flavour. In the provinces, it’s also used by some for medicinal purposes.

Though recreational marijuana is illegal in Cambodia and most Asian countries, the “happy” foods and drinks sold here create a loophole in which it can be safely consumed by travelers.  In addition to happy pizza, they also have regular pizza and food here as well.  I decided to try the Happy Angkor Pizza restaurant first due to its raving Google Reviews:

raving reviews.png

Needless to say, I was extremely satisfied with the light vegetarian pizza I ordered, so I tried another nearby restaurant called Ecstatic Pizza too.  “Why just be happy, when you can be ecstatic?” the official website questions you.  After my long 10 hour flight, I definitely needed to relax and the “add some extra :)” for a mere $3 more on my receipt did just the trick.  I felt calm and ready to explore the rest of Pub Street.

What I walked into was a street full of strobe lights, loud music, and people from around the world dancing in a trance under the light of the moon.  Fortunately I was in the perfect state of mind to join them:

Angkor What?

The first bar I checked out was called Angkor What? which is a hilarious pun of the famous temple I was going to the next day.  It is actually the oldest bar in Siem Reap and has been “Promoting Irresponsible Drinking since 1998” (though the atmosphere was kind and welcoming with no overly drunk people like in Tokyo).  It’s mindblowing to think about how the oldest bar in Siem Reap is actually younger than me!

Though obviously aimed at expats, I enjoyed Pub Street more than I have other expat drinking holes I have visited in Japan and Thailand.  This is because the street only stretches for a few blocks and is not overly crowded with obnoxious tourists.  Most drinks are priced from $3 – $5 and are extremely affordable.  The menus contained a variety of imported beers, fruity cocktails, and other hard liquors.  Despite the dirt-cheap prices, I was pleasantly surprised to not run into any reckless drinkers–everyone that I met was just drinking to relax and enjoy the night.  And that’s how it should be.

After having my fill I wandered through the night markets (which are a lot similar to those found in Vietnam), walked by a few “Doc of Fish” massage places (I’ve already tried this in Tokyo and it’s quite a weird sensation), then I decided to go back to my hotel.  I stayed in a private room at the Jasmin Hotel for less than $20 a night.  I highly recommend it because it is close to the center of the city and has a beautiful pool.  I was able to sleep peacefully and wake up in time for my tour the next day, as well as finish my morning workout.

I will be writing in detail about my trek through the famous Angkor Wat temples in my next blog entry this week.  Thank you to all of my readers!  I will try to be as open and honest about my experiences here as possible.

Exploring Kuala Lumpur: Temples, Caves, and Chinatown

IMG_4711
The city of Kuala Lumpur comes alive at night.

Malaysia is a country where you can find an abundance of places such as remote beaches, penthouses with infinity pools, markets, skyscrapers, temples, and more amazing architecture.  I loved the diversity that the city of Kuala Lumpur had to offer.  Though the center of the city is quite fancy, the country itself is actually very affordable to travel in, making it a popular destination for backpackers.  I traveled here via bus for three days after exploring Singapore, and was extremely happy with all the sights I was able to see.

I recommend staying at least three days in KL to make sure you have time to see everything.  Much of the city is reachable on foot or via train, but since it was cheap I used the Grab app to call taxis around the city.  With the tropical weather, delicious food, and affordable accommodations, you really can’t go wrong traveling here!  Here are the places that I definitely recommend seeing:

Petaling Street & Chinatown

The Chinatown district of KL is always very lively and has a ton of cultural aspects to enjoy.  When exploring a new country, my strategy is always to usually start with the local market to see what the downtown area was like.  That is why I chose to come here early in the day, though most places are usually open until around 11pm or later.  The market on Petaling Street had an array of knockoff handbags and interesting items.  I managed to score a seemingly authentic-looking Ted Baker bag for less than $50.  Prices here are open to negotiation, and I recommend that you look around!

If you’re not into shopping. there is still a lot to see around this area because it’s very close to KL’s central transit station.  I explored the local Sri Mahamariamman Temple, which is the oldest Hindu temple in the city.  I also got some local street food that tasted amazing!  I recommend that you try the local fried rice dishes and curry here.

I also tried “ABC Ice”, which is a very unique Malaysian spin on shaved ice:

The top of it tasted like traditional shaved ice you find in Japan–it was topped with condensed milk which made it extremely sweet and delicious.  However, at the bottom it was filled with jelly cubes, sweet beans, and this mysterious green noodle sweet I had never tasted before!  It was refreshing, but the texture of the toppings they placed at the bottom as a bit too much for me…  However, I was happy that I tried it!

The Batu Caves

The Batu Caves is a beautiful area with rainbow stairs leading to a limestone cave with temples inside.  There are actually a total of five caves, but the central ones with the golden statue of Lord Murugan are the most frequented.  Though the hill looks steep, it actually only takes approximately 8 minutes to climb.  The caves are extremely gorgeous, and this trip is a relaxing escape from the city that only takes approximately 30 minutes to reach.  I enjoyed sipping on some fresh coconut juice while going on this short hike.  To reach the Dark Cave, it is required you book a tour, but you can see the majority of the area without one.

Petronas Towers

The Petronas Towers are an iconic landmark of KL and are currently the tallest twin towers in the world.  At night they light up and you can find groups of people gathered around them because they are in the heart of the city.  When you first enter them, you will find an upscale shopping district called Suria KLCC.  However, on the 41st and 42nd floor, you will find the skybridge that connects the two towers.  You can go up to the top and take some stunning photos.  This is an ingenious design because it saves a ton of time walking through here rather than from one building to the other.  This very well could be the future of architecture!

Bukit Bintang

Bukit Bintang is the main bar street of KL, and there’s a lot of adventures to be had here!  Though I only had two nights to explore it, I came across this upscale Asian bistro called Opium that I really enjoyed.  They had a ton of Asian cuisine (Thai, Maylasian, Japanese, Vietnamese), as well as some fascinating cocktails.  I tried the spiced rum and coffee cocktails.  Though they were a bit pricey, just two of them got me pretty tipsy.

I then briefly popped into the club called Zion (Sieg Zion)!  The pro was that it was free, the con was that it played mainly American hiphop music with no variety, but I was bought a handful of drinks by locals so it was a night well spent.  The club was big enough to dance, and I’m curious to know what the music selection is like on other nights.

Final Thoughts

Though this might not be the first trip on your itinerary, as someone who’s lived in Asia for a while, I can definitely say traveling here is like a breath of fresh air.  The country is extremely safe, and I enjoyed experiencing the culture of the people that live here.  It feels familiar because everyone speaks English, but also extremely foreign at the same time.  The biggest culture shock for me was that people eat rice with their bare hands!  However, people were extremely polite and kind to me, and it reminded me of Thailand at times.  Please consider taking a trip here.

 

Seeing in the blue shirt at Kaga Onsen Festival After Party

kagaonOn July 20th, directly after my crazy backpacking trip in Hokkaido, I decided to take a plane from Sapporo to Komatsu airport, where I ventured off to the hot springs town known as Kaga for its yearly music festival.  As a music enthusiast, this was a rare opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up!

About Kaga Onsen Festival

Kaga Music Festival is one of the biggest original music festivals in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, and has a total of 7 stages (some being lounges and some being club stages).  The genre of the festival is mostly electronic, pop, and rock music, though I noticed that there were a number of indie artists that appeared at the after party this year, including one of my favorites from Kyoto City: in the blue shirt.

98DA6BB7-D14F-4D63-A479-4DA3572C0DE0.JPG
in the blue shirt playing a live set at the official Kaga Onsen after party.

Though I was unable to attend the main festival due to time constraints, my experience at the after party made my trip here more than worth it.  If you are looking for a festival that is unique to Japan and isn’t over-crowded like Fuji Rock or Summer Sonic, then this is definitely a solid choice.  Kaga Music Festival has enough variety to keep you interested, but the music lineup doesn’t ever feel overwhelming and you can see almost everything you want.  As an added bonus, there are many hot springs nearby that you can visit on the way home!

Getting to the Venue

To get to Kaga Music Festival, it is recommended to take a bullet train from Tokyo to Kanazawa then take a local train to Kaga Onsen Festival where you can catch a free bus to the main venue.  You can alternatively fly to Komatsu airport and take a local train there like I did.  This is a cheaper option, but the number of flights are limited due to how remote the area is.

Most of the accommodations by Kaga Onsen Station are quite expensive, so I booked a cheap room by the nearby Daishoji Station.  After getting settled, I headed over to the main venue which was called Rurikoh, then walked to the after party located called Mori no Sumika Resort & Spa.  The entrance fee at the door was 3000 yen with one drink.

Attending the After Party

The inside of the venue was absolutely stunning with flattering neon lights, a relatively large indoor stage, and an outdoor pool area you could go swimming in.  The crowd here was mostly Japanese in their early 20s or 30s, but I saw a few foreigners walking outside the area.  After checking out the venue, I immediately grabbed a vodka tonic and went to see the first performing artist.

The first artist was an electronic music producer called Yackle, and I caught their performance right as they were mixing a capsule song into a Nakata Yasutaka song, which was perfect timing because those are two of my personal favorites.  This producer mixes a lot of different genres and makes their own edits so they are extremely fun to watch!  Yackle has recently released an album called Frank Throw which features beautiful vocals and a mix of trap and bass music elements.  This was my first time seeing one of there performances and it was an extremely fun experience.

in the blue shirt played his live set immediately after which consisted of a unique blend of vocal chops and remixes of his own songs, as well as other artists like Pasocom Ongaku Club:

This set was extremely exciting for me, because I haven’t seen in the blue shirt since Large Size in Kyoto which was nearly 5 months ago.  Some of the people that attended that event recognized me here and pulled me to the front of the stage!  I was extremely flattered to see that they remembered me and enjoyed dancing with everyone.

Recollect the Feeling

In April in the blue shirt released his latest album called Recollect the Feeling which is growing to become a respected indie release in the music scene.  With its harmonic and compelling use of electronic samples that are intricately spliced in what appears to be its own language, this album definitely leaves a tremendous impact on the listener. Consisting of both English and Japanese lyrics, each song has an abstract yet nostalgic feel to it using indie electronic and triphop music styles, along with a variety of synths and instruments.  Though some of the songs are short (under 2 minutes), when the album is played as a whole it takes your mind on an unforgettable journey through time.  It’s still too early to say if I like this album more than Sensation of Blueness, but it is a polished release that I truly feel was worth waiting for.

On the latest album, I think “Casual Remark”, “Good Feeling”, and “Bamboo Leaf” are my favorites because they are great to listen to when exploring new places—I feel like I’m completely in my own aesthetic world when I listen to them.  I believe his personal best work is “Cast Off” as it was the first song officially released and has the most consistent composition, but it’s really hard to choose because the album is best listen to as a whole. What’s amazing is most of these songs were played on his sets as WIPs/transitions since 2017 and it’s amazing to see them completed now.

Overall I’m really happy for this artist because they’ve managed to accomplish everything that is most important in album production: they’ve delivered a compelling album with quality merchandise, collaborated and done shows with other artists I really like, uploaded previews and mixes so we know what’s coming, continually have showed their progress, and seemingly created a new record label / collective called The Wonder Laundry.  I’m so happy to have kept up with them through the whole entire release process and see them playing at big festivals now!

Other Recommendations

Of the other performing artists, I also recommend checking out PARKGOLF, Tomggg, and Avec Avec.  All of them have unique electronic styles and are respected performers I have seen at various events in Japan.  I spent the rest of the after party socializing with friends that I met and hanging out by the pool, but here are some of my favorite tracks that I recommend:

I will consider attending the main festival next year if more of my favorite artists continue to make appearances.  I am excited to attend more unique music events similar to Kaga Onsen Festival this summer!

Seeing Fireworks on a Junk Boat for New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong

26167651_10213406613191189_1827352556962937794_n
New Year’s Eve on Victoria Harbor from a Junk Boat in Hong Kong (2018).

I never thought I’d be sailing through the Kowloon district of Hong Kong at midnight on a rickety junk boat with my former housemate and his girlfriend, but this was yet another exotic adventure I had somehow stumbled into!  At this time in my life, I had lived in Japan for 2 years and intended to stay there forever.  I had seen most of the major islands and cities in Japan, so my good friend Li Bai, who I originally met in a Tokyo sharehouse, invited my to come to Hong Kong for something new.  He had lived in Tokyo for 3 months and China for about a year, and said Hong Kong was one of the craziest places he had ever been to.  I took his word, but I still was a little nervous back then!

Now I would leap at an opportunity to go to a new country, but initially I had mixed feelings about traveling outside of Japan.  This was mainly because I was so comfortable with my daily life in Tokyo and didn’t want to leave, plus I wasn’t sure if I could navigate in another foreign country without knowing its native tongue.  It actually took a lot of convincing on Li Bai’s end, but he assured me if I loved Tokyo I would enjoy Hong Kong and all it had to offer.  After some time I decided this would be the best opportunity to see Hong Kong since both of my friends spoke Chinese and could guide me get around.  It was also the chance to see a whole new country and learn about its culture with people I was close with, so in retrospect I’m quite glad I took the opportunity.

I stayed in Hong Kong for a total of 4 days in a cheap hostel in Kowloon called Rainbow Lodge HK.  Li Bai recommend staying in Kowloon Town because it has a lot of history, and it is cheaper than the newer luxurious parts of the city.  Formerly called “The City of Anarchy”, Kowloon was known as walled city that was home to many imperial soldiers during the Sung Dynasty.  The city had a culture of its own as it refused to be colonized and was once one of the most densely populated areas of the world.  Though it was infamous for crime back in the day, now it is fully safe and historic.

Like Tokyo, Hong Kong is a bright and vivid city with a lot of neon lights, street vendors, and shopping.  The train system is very cohesive and you can get around the island with ease.  The biggest difference I noticed was Hong Kong was a lot more westernized; English was widely spoken and manners were a lot looser.  At the night markets you could barter to get lower prices which I did with the help of my Chinese-speaking friends.  This is concept is actually common in Asian countries, but not in Japan.  I also really enjoyed the warm weather.  Tokyo and Korea are much colder in the winter, so I felt like I was in the tropics the whole time I was here.

One interesting point I noticed is that people often lay down cardboard boxes in the street and have little picnics in them!  I think it’s a very clever idea because it easily brings people together:

26168053_10213402449007087_6047458476397084824_n

The streets of Hong Kong are really fun to wander because they are super condensed and beautiful murals are everywhere to be found.  I arrived before my friends, so I took to opportunity to explore the city on foot.  I saw a lot of unique murals and architecture, as well as graffiti.  My favorite was a green Slime from Dragon Quest was some kind of insignia on its forehead, not to mention the mysterious door with eyes.  The polar bear butt sculpture near my hostel was extremely charming too.

My friends from China arrived around 8pm and that’s when the party finally started!  It felt so good to catch up with them because it had been over a year since we last had seen one another.  We first barhopped around Kowloon and found a Mexican place with giant mixed drinks and tequila which we feasted on after the long flight.  We also bought a bottle of wine and drank on the streets while walking to the Victoria harbor.  Honestly, we got along so well like no time had passed at all!

Around 11pm we boarded a traditional Chinese ship with a vivid sail called a junkboat.  Junkboats resemble pirate ships and were used to transport cargo back in the day (not actual junk).  We booked the NYE fireworks tour through Aqua Luna online, and it included an all you can eat buffet and an hour of smooth sailing around the harbor.  Though it was somewhat of a tourist activity, it was extremely fun!  This was honestly one of the most enjoyable NYEs of my life because I had made it all the way here to Hong Kong, a place I never thought I’d travel to in my life.  I’ll never forget the incredible neon hue the sky turned once the clock stuck midnight!

26166197_10213406575550248_5185073052305635825_n
Midnight on Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong (2017-2018).

At the end of the little sailing expedition, we were all tired so we decided to turn in for the night.  But this was just the first day!  The next day we decided to sail to another exciting place!  Look forward to the next blog of my Hong Kong series: Setting Sail for Macau.

Full Moon Parties VS Jungle Parties (Koh Phangan, Thailand)

About the Full Moon Parties

If you’re backpacking through Thailand, then chances are you’ve heard of the infamous Full Moon Parties on Koh Phangan.  These parties involve dancing on Haad Rin beach until sunrise in colorful costumes, drinking liquor out of buckets, leaping over a flaming jump rope just for the hell of it (at your own risk) while meeting many amazing people from all over the world.  I was really happy I chose to spend my New Year’s Eve here (from 2018-2019), because I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of the island!

The reason I decided to attend my first Moon Party is I watched Travels with My Father and loved the hilarious mixed reactions the characters had to the party, so I wanted to experience it myself!  There is one episode where the son takes his father to Koh Phangan where his father stares at his son in disbelief as he dances (quite hilariously) through the drunk hoards of people and mingles with the locals.  After drinking out of a bucket of alcohol with his son, he then proceeds to read ‘Reporting on Hitler’ with noise-reducing headphones to escape from his surroundings.

Your reaction will probably be one or the other, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is: Try to enjoy the time you have with the people around you.  This is especially important for solo travelers.  Even if the people in your vicinity may not be your best friends or the first people you’d choose, I’ve became friends with the most unlikely people and learned a lot from them just from simply being open-minded.

How to get to Koh Phangan

The best way to get to Koh Phangan is to fly to Koh Samui (or other surrounding islands) and take a ferry.  The ferry ride takes less than 2 hours and start at only $10.

The first time I came here, I made the mistake of taking a 10 hour bus and ferry ride from Bangkok.  The ride was accommodating, but I realized I wasted a lot of time that I could have spent on the beach.

You can book buses and ferries from most destinations in Thailand from 12go.  They will also give you the total amount of time it takes so you can decide the best way to get here.

Koh Phangan has parties almost every weekend, so you can come any time of the month and have a good time!  The Halfmoon Festivals and Blackmoon Culture parties also occur during the month, along with more lowkey parties spread across the island.  I have heard from my friends that the Waterfall Party is one of the best, but I have yet to experience it for myself.  The best way to find the right one for you is to ask the locals!

Where to Stay and Pregame

Once getting off at one of the piers (I recommend Thong Sala), take a taxi or motorbike directly to Haad Rin because that is where most of the bars and people are, and you can walk to the beach party by foot.  The farther away you walk away from the pier, the cheaper the taxi will be (the first people that approach you will try to overcharge you).

Due to the popularity of these parties, a lot of guest houses and hostels require you to stay for 5 days minimum which can be expensive, so what I did was just stay for the night and took the first ferry back at 6am.

Once reaching the beach town of Haad Rin, I decided to wander around.  I found a hostel appropriately named Wild and Wandering where I met some of my best friends in Thailand.  This hostel has a nice stereo, a bar that serves buckets of alcohol, and tons of people to hang around.  I was fortunate enough to meet one of the owners at the bar while I ordered a pink bucket, and I bribed him a few hundred baht so I could store my stuff there for the night (which was a significantly cheaper option).

Inside of the hostel, they had really amazing Princess Monoke murals as well.  I danced and talked to my new friends until around 10pm, then we decided to go to the beach!  The fee to enter is only 100 baht, so it’s not really expensive.

Full Moon Party: New Year’s Edition

The first thing I realized is that most of the people that attend these parties are travelers looking to make friends.  Despite its crazy reputation, the beach is extremely safe.  I have read articles that claim you can buy joints and ecstasy pills on the beach, but that was not the case here.  I did not witness anyone selling or using illegal drugs–everyone was happily drinking out of buckets and no one acted too out of line so it was relaxing.  If you want to get things besides alcohol, you are best off not looking on the beach.

I spent the majority of my time wandering around the beach and doing a lot of people watching.  I enjoyed seeing people jump over the fire rope, dance the night away in their crazy outfits, and a few guys bought me drinks too which was really nice.  There were multiple music stages setup so you could find a genre that you liked and enjoy it with the calm sea breeze.  My favorite was the techno stage which was set up next to this bar called the Swing Bar.  It’s very easy to find–just look for the neon lasers and people sitting on swings!  They have a great menu of buckets and cocktails, as well as swings.

When midnight drew near, everyone gathered on the shore and watched a giant flaming countdown light up the sky as the year became 2019!  I felt extremely accomplished that I made it all the way here, and even though I originally came here alone I was surrounded by people that all shared the same passion for travel as me.

After the countdown, I went back to Wild and Wandering to wish all my friends happy new year!  The rest of the night was kind of a blur; I remember barhopping around the island with some people I had met and then going to a treehouse bar where I fell asleep with one of my friends.  Fortunately I had set multiple alarms so I was able to take a taxi back to the pier in time to make the first ferry.  I was a bit sad to leave, but also I felt like I wanted some time alone to reflect on things so I headed back to my neon pink hut in Koh Samui.  A New Year well spent!

Blackmoon Culture Party

Wanting to experience a party in the jungle, I came back to Koh Phangan in May during Japan’s Golden Week holiday.  The Blackmoon Culture parties take place on the night of the new moon in Ban Tai, away from the beach and surrounded by trees and foliage.  For that reason, they are popular for psytrance music.  Though usually that genre is not my cup of tea, I decided to try it because why not!

IMG_1635

I repeated the same steps as I did before; taking the ferry out for one night only, revisiting Wild and Wandering to store my luggage and see my friends; but this time I noticed the island was much more quiet.  My friend who lives on Koh Phangan informed me that the island is liveliest during the monthly Full Moon parties, but during the low season there’s not as many people attending the parties even though the island has that reputation.  However, this turned out to be awesome because we had the beach all to ourselves for a while.  It was great to catch up with my friends after not seeing them for 5 months.

After drinking a bucket and some mojitos, I took a taxi to Ban Tai around 1am and went to the Blackmoon Culture party.  The entrance fee is 600 baht which is 6x the price of the Full Moon Party, but it’s still affordable.  I immediately met some new friends from CA and we all shared a bucket while dancing to trance in the neon jungle.

At Blackmoon Culture, the sky is dark so you can focus more on the music and your [neon-hued] surroundings.  The music was good, but unfortunately there was only one stage.  The Full Moon Party had multiple stages so this was a bit disappointing, but I still had fun.  Though I prefer beach parties more now, I am grateful I had a psytrance experience in the jungle.  Going during off season let me see Koh Phangan how it normally is and become better friends with the locals, so it was overall worth it!

Those who are looking for a psychedelic night in Thailand: Please see my post on Koh Lanta for more information!

If you have any questions/additional details to add, please let me know in the comments.  I wrote this as a handy guide for those backpacking to Koh Phangan and wish to know more, so I hope you find it helpful.

 

A Relaxing Day and Vivid Night in Koh Lanta, Thailand

IMG_1165
A night to remember at the Mushroom Bar Paint Party in Koh Lanta.

Koh Lanta is one of my favorite places in Thailand due to its exotic nature and vivid nightlife featuring parties with fire acrobatics and neon lights.  The island is small enough that you can pretty much see all the major destinations in three days, but the beaches stretch on for miles and there are many bars so you could spend quite a long time here and never get bored.  There are less tourists on this island because there are no airports here, but you will run into a lot of adventurous backpackers and it’s really easy to make friends during evening events.

The best way to come to Koh Lanta is by taking a 3 hour ferry from Phuket or other surrounding islands (I booked my ticket online in advance through 12go).  I stayed at Pinky Bungalow Resort, and booked my own private bungalow for less than $25 per night by going through Booking instead of their official website.  My bungalow was right on the beach and it also had a pool with a lot of delicious restaurants nearby!

Outside of my bungalow were a lot of stray cats!  One kitten was a tuxedo cat that reminded me of my own cat, Leo.  The staff of Pinky Bungalows were really friendly and helped me call a taxi to get around.  You can also use apps like Grab (which is similar to Lyft and Uber in the US), or rent a motorbike.

One of my favorite restaurants was called Happy Veggie, near the Koh Lanta Animal Welfare Center.  Here I had a delicious vegan burger with a black sesame bun, and an acai yogurt smoothie bowl for dessert.  It was absolutely delicious and the fruit was some of the freshest that I have ever had.

I spent the majority of the day swimming on the beach next to my bungalow, and also taking photographs of the surrounding nature.  As I was on my way to my hotel via taxi, I noticed a sign for a neon paint party at Mushroom Bar.  After looking it up, I found that it was right across the street from my bungalow so I went over around 7pm to check it out!

I was in for a wild night as lanterns illuminated the beach overhead and neon paint glowed with messages left behind from previous backpackers who had came here.  I ordered a blue vodka cocktail and was informed that the party wouldn’t start until 10pm so I decided to lay in a hammock and catch up with my messages.

When I went up for my 2nd drink, I noticed there was a special drink menu with happy shakes and joints for sale, so I curiously decided to order the happy shake.  The bartender confirmed that my order was correct, then he blended the strange concoction for me and I sipped on it for a while as people finally started coming to the party.

As the night went on, the breeze felt cooler, the colors danced and flickered with the music, and before I knew it, I was dancing on the beach with these travelers from Britian, and free tequila shots were given out at the bar.  The music was a nice blend of house and techno, which felt perfect for the mood.  A lot of travelers in their mid twenties showed up and it was joyful talking to all of them.  The colors from the surrounding bars all blurred together to create this beautiful glow, and I felt a sense of excitement, awe, and wonder.  I felt exactly like the dog I captured in the photo below:

IMG_1186
A dog from the Koh Lanta Animal Welfare Center frolics outside of the Mushroom Bar.

As if they appeared out of nowhere, around midnight a group of trained acrobatics came to the beach and put on a grand fire show.  Apparently these happen almost every night, or whenever one of the beach bars has its weekly party:

Around 3am I finally felt tired so I went back to my bungalow and fell asleep.  Though the taste of the happy shake wasn’t that appetizing, I would recommend it to those who are looking to enjoy the beach in a new way.  Just one is good enough to feel the happiness that most people seek, and the people at the bar seem to take good care of you.

The next morning was met with a beautiful afterglow as I prepared to tour the islands surrounding Koh Lanta.  I tried some delicious fried squid and bananas soaked in tapioca milk at a restaurant nearby with a newfound sense of determination and wonder for my future travels!

Exploring Shikoku & Seeing Carpainter at Outer Kochi

I never would have dreamed that there was a club scene in the countryside of Japan, but through my travels I have learned that there is an underground scene basically everywhere–you just have to find it!  This time I went on a pilgrimage to Shikoku for the purpose of seeing Carpainter and Onjuicy perform at a venue called Outer located in Kochi.  I was very surprised to meet some very kind friends and enjoy the sights and sounds of a unique part of the country that I had never been to before!

I flew to Kochi from Tokyo a day before the event started so I had enough time to explore the city by myself.  When the plane landed, all I could see was rice fields and I didn’t know exactly where I was, but I knew it was about to be lit.  With a short bus ride to the station, I found that most of Kochi’s attractions were accessible by foot or via a cheap bus ride.  I grabbed some wine from the convenience store, and began my sightseeing trek around the city!

image1

I first stopped at Kochi Castle, which was quite a lovely sight to see.  I’ve been to a lot of white castles in Japan, but I liked this one because it involved a lot of climbing to reach the top and you could walk all around the castle!  Often you can only access certain parts of castles in Japan, but this one you can fully explore to your heart’s content.

Nearby the castle is the Harimaya Bridge, which is a super tiny bridge located near souvenir shops and the Sunday Market which is fun to see.  I stayed in the Kochi Green Hotel right in this area which my friend helped me get a coupon for only 3000 yen per night.

On the way back I decided to check out the Hirome Market for some delicious sea urchin and egg-like sushi.  There was also a disco ball and a giant tower of fries to see, along with many stalls selling beer and other novelties:

This market was very fun to see because it was so lively.  At all times of the day, you can see people drinking here.  There’s a great selection of seafood, noodles, yakiniku, desserts, and sake!  I could tell that the people of Kochi take a lot of pride in this market, because not only is the food good, but it is also a place where a lot of people come together and pass time.

The final destination on my list before the club was Katsurahama Beach!  Overlooked by the historic shogun Sakamoto Ryoma, this beach had a garden and stunning scenery.  I wouldn’t say it was the most beautiful beach in Japan, but it is definitely worth seeing if you are in Shikoku.

After spending a few hours here, I took a bus back to my hotel and started pregaming for the club.  This event was very special because it was the first time that Carpainter and Onjuicy performed together in Kochi, and also the first time Carpainter had ever been a back-up DJ for an MC (original Tweet).

As a foreigner with blonde hair, I definitely stood out but that was okay because everyone was very welcoming to me here.  I said hello to my 2 friends from Tokyo and proceeded to get drinks at the bar while they got ready for their set.  The event organizer greeted me and personally thanked me for coming all the way here because it was quite a long trip from Tokyo.  I thanked him back for having such a great event, and proceeded to be given shots by some locals and also one of the performing DJs.

The environment of Outer is quite different from clubs in Tokyo because everyone there makes an effort to get to know one another, plus with an indoor and outdoor area it’s quite spacious for moving and dancing around.  It’s not to say you can’t find a venue like this in Tokyo, but often you will find that the city is overcrowded and full of people who just want to party without paying attention to the music.  The crowd here was all very respectful and I really appreciated the time I had here!

During their performance, PAM!!! was played in addition to one of Onjuicy’s unreleased songs:

It was overall extremely fun to be so up-close to the performers and share the thrill  with the countryside people of Kochi.  I am excited to see the next place I end up following my friend’s tour!