The Koh Tao Pub Crawl was a bad idea. I’ve never wanted to die more. Being this hungover at 32 is an indescribable pain.
I finally succumbed to participating in one of the “hostel pub crawls” which are ubiquitous at every backpacker destination across Asia. They’re usually led by some English speaking expats who came to the country and ended up staying because they “fell in love with the place” AKA “want to get piss drunk on a daily basis without judgment.”
And who can blame them? You’re the coolest person at the party every night and the crowd is always different.
Most pub crawls consist of visiting awful bars that exist solely to rip off young travelers. They feature dark, disgusting clubs blaring Top 40 house music, overpriced drinks, and an endless supply of nitrous balloons.
If you’re fresh out of college looking to blackout and have meaningless sex, you’ll love it. For people that are over 27, it’s like being at a frat party, and not in a good way.
Despite my hatred for these events, the Koh Tao Pub Crawl was a really good time. They go to the best bars in town (well, the only bars in town) and it’s not that expensive. You get a free bucket (giant mixed drink), free shots, and an awesome cutoff t-shirt. Man, I love that shirt.
Me and my Australian friend got caught up in the hype, drank like we were 21, and paid dearly for it.
A Quiet Night Gone Awry
I should’ve gone to sleep after this
I started off the night meeting my favorite Australian couple, I’ll call them Rob and Wendy to protect their identities, at the Victor Bar near the end of the Sairee beach strip.
They had just finished their Advanced diving certification and invited me to celebrate with them. Well, technically they invited me to a beach clean up and I agreed to because I wanted to get drunk that night and figured it would ease the guilt.
We pick up beach trash and begin drinking when I meet a girl who tells me about the pub crawl. She assured me the crawl was “lit” and that she had done it 4 nights in a row. I said I would “definitely be there!” Even though I had no intention of going.
We eat dinner and I was ready to have a couple more beers then turn before midnight. I had to start my dive training tomorrow and wanted to be somewhat responsible. Rob told me the first day was all classroom instruction and since it started at 4 PM, I figured I would be OK.
I Guess We’re Doing This
We walk by the pub crawl which looks like a poolside frat party. I’m just about to say “haha looks awful, right?” when Rob cuts me off, “let’s do it!”
Wait, what? I was all down for going out but a ratchet ass pub crawl is a whole nother level of commitment. I try to say no but he keeps goading me until I agree. Time to quiet my inner bitching, realign my attitude and expectations, and try my best to be “fun, charismatic Keith” instead of “old curmudgeon Keith”
His enthusiasm coupled with the fact that this was his night without the wide made me feel obligated. Plus he’s just such an adorable little man. I can’t say no to that face.
We pay 500 baht, get our pub crawl cutoff tees (I can’t stress enough how sweet this tee is) and our free shots (sprite with 2 drops of vodka), meet the army of backpackers dressed like us, and start drinking like we’re 10 years younger.
The first hour is as awkward as I had anticipated. The pub crawl starts off at the pool bar and everybody is already hammered. We’re slightly late so most of the party had made friends already.
In walk two semi-sober 30 year old dudes.
This was a mistake. I tried mingling but I wasn’t drunk enough to get past how much I didn’t want to be there. We talked with the pub crawl organizer who was this fit, cute Australian girl that was just being nice to us so we wouldn’t bail.
I had two choices at this point. Cut my losses and leave Rob to his own devices or embrace the drunken rollercoaster. Seeing how I would never get this opportunity again, I chose the latter.
Gorgeous Chicks with Dicks
What turned my attitude on the pub crawl was the Ladyboy Cabaret show. Well, that and a lot of alcohol. It’s the second and by far the best stop of the entire crawl.
At this point, I’m pretty buzzed from the constant stream of cheap shots. I end up meeting a friend from D.C. and her friends from a hostel up the block. We finally have people to talk to! Me and Rob sit with them and I prepare myself to be sexually confused by these hot transgender (wo)men.
And confused I was. These dudes were the best looking girls in the room. Fit, big titties, tight asses, and sexy attitudes. I mean, you can’t hide the broad shoulders or the big hands/feet but everything else was very attractive.
The show was an absolute blast. These ladies were putting in 110% effort even though this is a nightly event. Performing synchronized dances, bringing dudes up for lap dances, and dressing a group of guys from the crowd up to perform. It was a raucous show that would have been entertaining sober.
Maybe this wasn’t a mistake after all.
BEST NIGHT EVER
Me drinking a bucket of poison in the background
We leave the cabaret excited, confused, erect, and ready to rage. We head to Choppers, a grungy corner bar with a decent DJ and beer pong. This is where the night peaks. I’m in the zone, happy drunk and charming, making friends and cracking jokes. But Rob seems…off. His usually chatty, charming self has been replaced with a mute, wide-eyed, confused looking man.
A lightbulb went off in my head, we should take some Joss shots.
For those who don’t know, “Joss” refers to a packet of pre-workout powder from Indonesia that’s been banned in most countries and makes you feel like you’ve done 2 lines of cocaine and chased it with 10 cups of coffee. You pour the packet in your mouth then wash it down with a shot of vodka.
I learned all of this after the fact. Rob had been pushing me to try one the whole time and I needed something to get his head back in the game.
I order us two joss shots at the bar and shake Rob violently to snap him out of it. We take the shots and head back to the dance floor.
The initial rush was so intense I wanted to scream. I’ve never been this awake, or happy, or drunk in my life. My overwhelming enthusiasm was contagious as I ended up making 20 friends at the bar that I never saw again.
I’m the life of the party, or at least that’s what it seems like from my perspective, and right as the koh tao pub crawl is at a fever pitch. The vibe is just right, I’m loving my new temporary friends, and Rob is still alive but hasn’t improved as much as I’d hoped. I think the Joss might have made things worse.
WORST NIGHT EVER
We head to the final destination, The Fishbowl Bar .
This is the most popular and largest bar on the strip but once the pub crawl invaded it turned into an overcrowded nightmare. Luckily, the bar was ready and had about 6 bartenders on staff.
I was so drunk and awake when we got to Fishbowl that I decided to buy a round of Joss shots for our group. I underestimated how large our group had gotten and ended up paying 1,000 baht for A LOT of shots. Whatever, I’ve already committed to making bad decisions.
Asia has made me really hate American bars/clubs and their “2 bartenders for 600 people” strategy. What’s the point? To make make the bar seem much more “exclusive”? Eat shit.
I feel like an idiot trying to get the bartender to notice me for 20 minutes, raising my hand like I’m trying to ask a question in elementary school while actively being ignored.
I take the second Joss shot and immediately realize that it was a mistake. My heart goes from “pumping fast” to “Jackhammering through my chest”. I’m awake but anxious, no amount of alcohol could neutralize the amount of Joss coursing through my veins.
The night devolves into the European version of a frat party. I had a moment of clarity and realized that it was all downhill from here.
Wait, where’s Rob? In all the confusion I had lost the man who made me come here in the first place. That son of a bitch, giving me an Irish goodbye when I was was supposed to ditch him. Oh well, time for me to disappear too.
I said I was going to the bathroom then literally sprinted back to the hostel because my bloodstream was 90% caffeine. I sit on the balcony and chain smoke cigarettes to try and calm down.
Me talking to people in my hostel that night
It’s getting worse, this is not good.
I Think I’m Dying
Is this what a heart attack feels like?
The second I laid down I realized that sleep wasn’t possible. I’d have had more success trying to run a marathon.
I’ve never been more awake in my life. Lying down was a nightmare so I took to the streets. In order to calm down I got a street crepe, drank a huge water from 7-11, then went to the beach and stared at the ocean as my eyeballs vibrated.
The anxiety intensified no matter what I did. This is like a bad acid trip. Will I ever be able to sleep again? Has Joss removed my ability to sleep?
I go back to the hostel at 5 AM and watched half a season of Brooklyn 99, sweating uncontrollably and slowly going from drunk to hungover in real time. If the CIA is looking for a new form of torture, Joss shots might be the answer.
Once I did reach the hungover stage, it was one for the record books. I would put it at #3 in my “all time worst hangovers”. I thought I could handle the Joss but I was sorely mistaken. My arrogance had caused my body grievous harm yet again.
The Koh Tao Pub Crawl Aftermath
My post-Koh Tao Pub Crawl experience was bad but it was nothing in comparison to what happened to Rob. I received an Instagram message from him around 8 AM and was almost too hungover to look at it.
Fuck Joss Shots Indeed
It didn’t make my hangover better, but it made me grateful that I didn’t suffer an actual injury. I still can’t believe he didn’t go to the hospital, Aussies are a tough bunch.
Why do I do This to Myself?
I had a dive course at 4 PM the next day. In theory, that’s plenty of time to get rid of a hangover. Not when Joss shots are involved. I started feeling like a human being around 2 PM and was legitimately worried I wouldn’t be able to make the non-refundable class.
Against all odds, I showed up looking like death warmed over. I received several comments from people in the class that I “looked tired” and was asked if “I was alright”. I guess a shower and some face lotion can’t hide 12 hours of binge drinking.
And Rob? He ended up being OK. I was positive his wife would be livid at him for getting that drunk and at me for failing to take care of him but she was neither. She was just happy he was OK. What a keeper.
Be Weary of Pub Crawls
Do something like this instead
Unless you’re terrible at meeting people or can’t stand to be sober for 5 seconds, stay away from the pub crawls. Take the traditional route of actually talking to strangers in your hostel and finding quality bars on your own.
The Koh Tao pub crawl was fun but it wasn’t something that I needed to pay money for. Binge drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning is not something my body can take anymore. If that’s how you like to party, you can do the same thing without paying extra.
If you’re a shy person, forcing yourself into a social situation doused in alcohol isn’t going to help your cause. Sure, you’ll have friends for a night, but after you wake up feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck you’re back to being the shy, awkward person you were before the party.
Work on yourself in healthy ways. Develop meaningful relationships and then get drunk with the people you meet. Alcohol is supposed to enhance conversation not be the conversation.
I won’t say drink responsibly because that would be hypocritical. But make friends that you have something in common with other than getting blackout drunk because once the lights turn on and the party ends, you’ll be lonelier than you were to begin with.