Towards the end of Haadrin a number of bars straddle the rock face that rises out of the sea. The psychedelic art that covers the rock is bleached of much of its colour by the sun and sea, but hints at the magic of this modern temple. We begin our climb up Mushroom Mountain, and stop at the first bar. A gloriously fat Thai lady sits behind a basic wooden bar with a blender. She smiles toothlessly and for 500 baht doles out plastic cups of mushroom shake, strangely blatant in a country known for its intolerance towards the illicit.
We sit on the low cushions with the other backpackers, and look down the beach at the drunken crowds. The shake is a strange mix of sweet and sour, the psilocybin laced mushrooms producing a tart earthy flavour that washes your tastebuds from front to back. Naturally, Redbeard has two.
The New Year’s holiday is usually a fairly loose time, and the days we spent on Koh Pha-ngan were no exception.
The island itself fulfils any expectation you might have had of the verdant beauty said to reside on the outcrops scattered amongst the gulf of Thailand, but sustained tourist trade has stripped it of much of its charm. The winding roads that hug the coast are lined with resort after resort, and the main beaches are crowded with a miscellany of revellers and ravers. You’re more likely to find Singapore slings and g-strings than you are a quiet place from which to appreciate the beauty; but therein lies the attraction. For the backpackers that come to experience the hedonism of the legendary full moon parties the island is paradise, and they are not often disappointed.
I’m going to take a brief break from the Asian adventures for a bit of a Dutch update. Last night I was lucky enough to head up to Amsterdam to catch Shigeto perform at the mecca for live music that is Paradiso.
Paradiso is an old church that has been converted into a concert venue, and on any one night a number of different artists will play in the different rooms spread throughout the building. The main hall is cavernous, with the high ceiling and tiered balconies creating an impressive sense of grandeur. When coupled with heaving bass and an enthusiastic Dutch crowd it makes for parties like no other and I have already enjoyed a few evenings of worship within its confines.
Smaller artists play in the kleine zaal (small hall), and so with coat check successfully navigated (not quite as straight forward as you might when in the early throes of a truffle trip –it’s the small victories, right?) we pressed through the throngs of people flooding the foyer and headed up the stairs.
The days in Bangkok blur into a stream of memories. The final assembly of the gang was completed late on Christmas Day, and was followed by a swift yet prolonged dose of beer and banter, the heat and infamous strength of Chang nearly my undoing as we roamed the late night wasteland of Khao San.
For the uninitiated, Khao San road is a short strip of concrete pavement in Central Bangkok that bustles with the trade of a thousand backpackers and the hawkers who cater to them. It is a monument to the success of the banana pancake trail, and a temple to the potent buckets of red bull and vodka that fuel its worshipers. Crowded with stalls of fake Ray Bans and tourist t-shirts in the day, it later transforms into a motley collection of bars and clubs that continue on to the wee small hours. The street hums with the raking noise of the frog toys pushed by a tireless coven of Thai women and a roadside wok sizzles as another order of pad thai is fried up for the masses.