Rudd On The Road
By Steve Rudd
Part 28: Full Moon Fever
'Four thousand baht! You must be joking!'
I'd just been told how much it was set to cost me to rent a beachfront bungalow for the night on Had Rin Nok, the home of Thailand's infamous Full Moon Parties on the tropical island of Koh Phangan. I was frankly astonished. Four thousand baht roughly equated to eighty pounds: a blatant rip-off by anyone's standards, however desperate they might have been to witness the Full Moon spectacle in all its mad glory.
If only I'd had the foresight to book some accommodation in advance. Instead, I'd spent the previous couple of days coming to terms with the theft of my backpack in Bangkok.
As a result, I'd sailed over to Koh Phangan from Surat Thani on the morning of April's Full Moon Party with the naive hope that I'd somehow be able to bag a cheap bungalow for the night without any problem.
The boat ride over from Surat Thani on the mainland had taken four hours, and it had been blissful in every way. The blinding sun throbbed in the highest reaches of the pure blue sky as I maimed time catching up with Vanesa Moreno, a Spanish girl I'd first met on a train to Phitsanulok a week and a half earlier.
It was sheer coincidence that we ended up taking the same boat across to the island. As she regaled me with tales of adventure from Chiang Mai (the cultural hub of northern Thailand, and a ludicrously popular haunt for tourists and travellers), I sat back and relaxed, relieved to have left Bangkok behind in favour of the island life.
Vanesa hailed from Madrid where she worked as a social worker. However, the global economic crisis had forced her out of a job. She'd responded to such a calamity in the best way she knew how... by hitting the road.
In due course, I got chatting to Holly Findlay, a girl from Brighton who was evidently just as excited as I was about stepping foot on Koh Phangan and seeing if the impending Full Moon Party lived up to its hype.
Once ashore and deposited at Thongsala Pier it was necessary to grab a shared taxi over to Had Rin.
I did so with Ari Sefton in tow, a Canadian backpacker who wasted no time in extolling the virtues of his home city, Toronto. Vanesa and Holly, meanwhile, headed off in different directions in taxis of their own.
It was a twenty minute ride over to Had Rin, the taxi driver's foot glued to the accelerator around even the sharpest of corners and down the steepest of gradients.
I bid adieu to Ari as soon as we were dropped off on the main street which connects the beaches of Had Rin Nai (Sunset Beach) and Had Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach). I was hoping to hook up with a bunch of friends who had arrived on the island the previous day, but I wasn't entirely sure where they were staying.
Had Rin is fairly small though, and it didn't take long for me to spot Aiden Hansen, a friend of a friend from London. I soon learnt that they were all staying in a resort which was set back a short distance from Sunset Beach.
I could have stayed there if I so wished, but to even share a room there with Aiden would have blown my budget to smithereens. Thus, I began to enquire at other guesthouses and beach-fringing establishments advertising bungalows for rent.
It was at this point in the course of proceedings that I received the aforementioned quote for four thousand baht for a dilapidated bungalow overlooking the beach.
Sure, the location was superb. It was literally a pebble's toss from where the action was set to explode that evening. Despite the bungalow's proximity to the sand and sea, I realised that I'd rather be away from the beach in any case, not least because thefts from beachfront bungalows are common on Full Moon Party nights when everybody is out and the empty properties provide easy pickings for those with light fingers.
Determined to find a bungalow for less than five hundred baht, I trekked out of Had Rin, into the jungle north of the town along a labyrinth of dirt tracks in search of cheaper (and potentially nastier) alternatives. My perseverance ultimately paid off when I stumbled upon 'The Secret Garden' parade of stilted bungalows which offered a bird's eye view of the beach from the peninsular heights.
Even for a room with a breathtaking view, the bungalow which I was shown cost only three hundred baht per night.
On the downside, the conditions were far from perfect, an ugly splodge of dried mud caking the floor.
As I strode forward to check out the hammock-graced balcony, a huge black beetle scuttled across the wooden slats in front of a squadron of supremely organised ants making for the en-suite bathroom. I was just glad to see a mosquito net hanging from the ceiling.
'You like?' asked the daughter of the owner who'd taken it upon herself to show me inside.
I was in two minds so I shrugged my shoulders, hoping she might lower the price to two hundred baht in light of the quantity of insects that I'd be sharing the place with. But there was no compromise.
I awarded the bungalow another once-over before clocking my watch. It was getting late, and it seemed that alternative accommodation options were severely limited. Lying at the end of the track, 'The Secret Garden' really was the last resort. That in mind, I coughed up, settled in, and prepared for the party of a lifetime...
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 27: A Wasted Day at the Embassy By Steve Rudd
Having reported the theft of my backpack to the police, I thought it might be beneficial to report the incident at The British Embassy, too.
Before making tracks across Bangkok to the embassy, I sat outside the police station near the end of Khao San Road for a few minutes to collect my thoughts and get organised. As I rifled through my documents,
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 26: Signing My Life Away By Steve Rudd
I could just about deal with the fallout of the theft. The thing I struggled with most was the betrayal of trust. I have always trusted everybody, regardless of whether they are a close friend or a complete stranger. I don't judge. To do so is unnatural.
Even though I'd had my backpack stolen, I doggedly refused to let such a fact affect the way I acted
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 25: A Temporary Loss of Faith By Steve Rudd
In my absence, somebody had broken into my room and stolen my backpack from where I'd rested it against the wall beside my bed. I hadn't unpacked anything since checking back into the guesthouse. I'd had neither the need nor the motivation to do so.
Fortunately, I still had my passport, my bankcard and my camera; they went everywhere with me
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 24: Spontaneous Combustion By Steve Rudd
I'd returned to Bangkok in anticipation of heading south to Ko Samui, one of Thailand's most-visited islands, on which two friends were due to be married. However, they weren't going to tie the proverbial knot for another two weeks, a fact which awarded me plenty of spare time to gad about at my leisure.
It was a scorching hot Friday morning, and I'd just met an English girl called Abi on Soi Rambuttri in Bangkok. We both had something in common: money - or rather 'lack of.'
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 23: A Cashflow Crisis By Steve Rudd
Twelve ATMs down, and not all that many to go. It was fair to say that I was in a quandary, with no cash to my name other than a few dollar notes I had left over from my recent trip to the US.
It wouldn't have been so bad if I'd had a clutch of British pounds, or a sizeable wad of notes in any currency for that matter; a staggering number of currency exchange offices line both sides of Khao San Road in Bangkok,
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 22: Trios Amigos! By Steve Rudd
OK. So what do you get if you cross a well-to-do Frenchman, a freethinking Englishman, and a mad-as-hell Spaniard? Adventure by default.
I was in Sukhothai, Thailand, all psyched up to savour the unassailable beauty of one of the most dazzling jewels in the country's crown. Long before Ayuttaya and Bangkok succeeded the city as Thailand's capital, Sukhothai flourished as the naval of the nation.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part 21: The One Hundred Baht Experience By Steve Rudd
I was searching for 'The London Hotel', having had the place recommended to me by a friend. Paying close attention to the road signs, I was definitely heading in the right direction as I made tracks away from Phitsanulok's train station.
Confusingly though, the hotel that I presumed to be 'The London' had no exterior hoarding in English proclaiming it to be the place I desired. Its sign was in Thai script, and thus beyond my comprehension.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Twenty: Stray Dogs and Cheeky Monkeys By Steve Rudd
I'd barely made myself at home in Lopburi, and I was already on the verge of being chased out of town. From the off, as I ambled out of the train station after catching an early morning train north from Bangkok, the town's myriad stray dogs were on my tail, as though they genuinely resented backpackers snooping around their patch.
Making more haste than usual to find
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Nineteen: Going West for Eastern Inspiration By Steve Rudd
'Tuk-Tuk!' came the shout across the concourse. In the same beat I was offered a taxi, before a middle-aged lady rushed up offering me a cut-price massage. And this was all out front of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, into which I'd just flown from LA.
My writing work in the US finished, I had decided to head over to Southeast Asia in order to attend the wedding of a couple of friends who I'd first met on my first visit to
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Eighteen: A Mile Of Miracles, And Then Some By Steve Rudd
Taking the bus was too easy, despite the fact that my film making pal Dave Kebo had dropped me off at the Shell gas station at the Wilshire and Vermont intersection in Koreatown which was conveniently situated right beside a bus-stop.
Looking due west along Wilshire Boulevard, my feet felt the twitch before my heart. A bus bound for Santa Monica had just pulled up, and for the meagre fee of a buck and a quarter ($1.25)
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Seventeen: On Foot Across LA By Steve Rudd
I don't like not knowing what's out there. I prefer to be informed rather than ignorant. I hate living in the knowledge that there are sections of certain towns and cities in the world that I know next-to-nothing about.
That's why, given the chance, I always walk whenever and wherever I can. I walk and I walk and I walk until my feet begin to announce their grievances.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Sixteen: When in Venice ... By Steve Rudd
No visit to LA is complete without a saunter along Venice Beach, south of Santa Monica.
The actual beach is beautiful, yet it is the mad parade of stalls and performers which are set back from the beach on Ocean Front Walk that are the real attraction to this part of the city.
It's like the sixties never ended, a slew of tarot card readers, tattoo artists, dubiously talented musicians and all manner of folk on the scrounge for marijuana making
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Fifteen: A Run-In With Gordon Ramsay By Steve Rudd
Having touched back down in LA on what had been a sensationally overcast day, I was glad to see the sun the following morning as I ventured out into Santa Monica, aspiring to hit the beach. I was back in the city to catch up with a friend and to do some writing, but I still intended to make some time to see exactly why people get so excited about the smattering of beaches gracing The Pacific Coast at LA.
It's certainly easy to understand why
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Fourteen: St. Patrick's Day With A Difference By Steve Rudd
In the wake of an exhilarating hike into Runyon Canyon, one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets, I was all buoyed-up to sample a prime slice of LA nightlife. It was St. Patrick's Day, and I was keen to see how Americans celebrate it. Rest assured, I wasn't disappointed. They celebrate the day with just as much gusto as stout-addled folk back in Ireland.
Opting to head downtown in order to appreciate the wide variety of bars in the district, I was accompanied by Dave Kebo, a movie-making friend who I'd first met in Istanbul back in November 2008.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Thirteen: The Green Side of Hollywood By Steve Rudd
Keen to see a side of LA that the majority of visitors to the city never get to appreciate, I couldn't have been more pleased when my friend Dave Kebo, a movie-maker who was raised in LA and knows much of it like the back of his hand, offered to show me around.
It was St. Patrick's Day, and our first port of call was a cafe in the Silver Lake district, east of Hollywood. Neither of us had so far indulged in breakfast, so we ordered up and sat back, sitting out on the busy sidewalk in order to increase our chances of spotting a celeb.
Places to Visit - Rudd On The Road Part Ten: Sun, Sand, Sea ... and a Man on a Mission. By Steve Rudd
In terms of beaches, visitors to Mexico genuinely are spoilt for choice. World-class stretches of sand are to be found on both The Pacific Coast and The Gulf of Mexico, with old favourites in the ridiculously commercialised forms of Acapulco and Cancun still managing to draw in huge crowds with ease.
However, some of the country's lesser-known beaches are