The Gang Goes to Thailand: High Thaimes (Part 4)

It’s The Grand Finale, Baby!
Thailand
Shot by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

After wrapping up at Tropicanna we headed back to the hotel to shower and change before the biggest night of our trip, the culmination party at Phandee.

Now I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what we were in for with this one. I had no idea what any of our reach was in this part of the world, and other than smoking weed with some Thai locals who happened to stop by the shop at that time, I didn’t have many expectations. I had seen a flyer a few days earlier, but honestly didn’t realize they really promoted it. I probably should have been better prepared, as this was a much bigger production than anticipated.

The Party

When we arrived it was booming. All the seats were filled to capacity with most of the walking space taken up by standing circle seshes. There was a DJ. Several, actually. It was wild to see as by this point it was clear that tourists were toking, but not how many locals were deep into the culture already… and we were fashionably late to our own event.

As soon as we got there people started asking for pictures, which I was not expecting whatsoever. If you know me you know I don’t love taking pictures to begin with, but we felt like celebrities in a city on the other side of the world—I wasn’t about to be that asshole, and I loved every second of it this time. People from across the country came out to bring us samples of their homegrown—one of which even made it into December’s Cop List, which is tough even for Cali cats. Friends from Europe came. One kid spent most of the day on the train just to hang with us. And everyone we’d visited on the trip was there to send us off. It was a really special night. We’re just some random guys who celebrate our addictions, and here we are in Asia doing what we love with dozens of new friends. Life’s a trip, man. 

Some of our new friends! Shot by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

The Mythical Stick

I think I mentioned this earlier, but throughout our trip we asked just about every dealer we saw about Thai sticks. All of them told us they were just folklore at this point, and we’d probably never see them again. Since Thailand’s War on Drugs was so serious, for the longest time even an association to the culture could get you locked up forever, and in the underground there is a real “If you know you know” kinda thing. We had started to believe it was a fool’s errand by this point, but a Thai stick is as classic as Thai weed gets, so we couldn’t stop asking. Imagine our surprise when at this culmination party I’m introduced to an elderly man with a big gold mylar bag.

Now, this guy was beaming before we got there, but even at his age he worked out what was going on and who we were before we did him. Although his family had to basically coerce him into coming to meet us, as he has never done any public press before, his enthusiasm for life was contagious. You could see his light from a mile away. His name was Han Singh, and it turned out, he was the guy we’d spent all week looking for. Han was one of the last remaining members of the original Thai stick family, and he’d basically come out of hiding for the first time to meet us. 

I can’t properly express how special those first moments with Han were. He was smiling so big and kept hugging us and thanking us for being interested in what his family had done. It was surreal. Here we were searching the other side of the world for this guy, and he found US and seemed even more excited than we were. 

I didn’t even realize initially the mylar had a Thai stick in it. By the time I had the stick out of the bag and in my hand all of us were crying happy tears, it was really magical. And while yes, I was very, very intoxicated, I can’t remember the last time I felt joy like that. It was like Jimi and I just found our long-lost grandpa.

Me, Han & Jimi. Sorry for the weird light! Shot by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Jimi with the Thai Stick. Shot by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Enjoying the fruits of Jim’s labor. Shot by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

We sat and talked with Han for hours as Jimi broke down and rolled up blunt after blunt of the stick Han had brought us. This dude smoked every single one with us, and pounded beers the whole time. It was incredible. I don’t want to blow up too much of what we talked about as I don’t know what the statute of limitations is like in Thailand, but it’s safe to say that this guy had seen far more work than most could ever imagine, and there’s much more to Thai sticks than just brick wrapped around a stick. Like, for example, did you know that the different colors of the thread used to wrap around the outside used to mean something? Back in the day, certain colors meant the sticks were dipped in… other substances popular in that region. Meaning like an E pill, if someone’s experience with Thai sticks wasn’t a great one, or was more intense than expected, the idea that their smoke was laced isn’t a far cry. Before long it was late and we’d missed most of the party talking in the corner with Han. We said our goodbyes and he called it a night.

Derek enjoying a Thai Stick filled blunt. Shot by Jon

After the Party

After we wrapped at Phandee spirits were high, and although it was getting late and we were ripped we weren’t about to stop there. Some of our new friends, a group of Ukrainian women who recently fled their homes due to the war happening there, worked at a mega club nearby and said we had to check it out. Cue a few additional recreational substances and we were all game. It was called Space Plus, and to be frank, it was the most insane club experience I’ve ever had.

Where to even begin with this place? There were lasers everywhere, performers flailing around the room in costume, this like asian dubstep with an MC ad-libbing. There were at least eight jumbotrons complete with insane light rigs spread out above us across the room, and they were rising and falling with the music. They brought us to a table right in front of the stage to hang out with some people that turned out to be the headliners of the night. You could smoke cigarettes in the club, but you had to go out to the patio to smoke weed. Every walk of life you could imagine was represented at this place, and many of them were wearing gear that had words like ‘SEX’ or ‘DRUGS’ scrawled across them. Erin went to the bathroom and got forcibly massaged at the urinal. His back was cracked, mid-stream and all–-it was, like with many things in this country, insanely unexpected but weirdly thrilling. I imagine, I couldn’t stop laughing about that one enough to ask him.

I honestly had a great time at this place. Maybe it was the drugs, but we were all dancing to shit I would’ve listened to in college, and the people-watching was incredible. Eventually our table-mates took the stage, and one of those Chinese dragons with a bunch of people inside started going around the room. This is where that clip of someone pouring liquor from the stage into my mouth in High Rise’s doc came from. I don’t usually drink but what am I going to tell the guy on stage “None for me, thanks!” ? I’m at least incrementally more fun than that.

Oliver & Ron in Space Plus. Shot by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

The craziest thing though was that this club wasn’t open that much longer after we arrived. We watched our new friends play a few more songs, and the lights just went on. It was extremely unexpected, as we were FUCKED by this point, and we had all sort of assumed we’d hang there all night. We had all taken a fair bit of uppers, and like, pretty recently, so we had hours more in us. Our hosts said they knew of a hip-hop bar nearby, so we headed there. About the same time I decided this was probably a good time to stop taking harder drugs for the night. I wanted to sleep before the sun came up.

After the Club

So we get to this new bar, and it’s packed, but there’s a table right by the door reserved for us. I should mention, Jimi hasn’t stopped breaking down the Thai stick and rolling blunts all night. It’s not slowing us down much, so as soon as we get there the table’s taken over and Jimi’s at work. I realize it’s almost 11 a.m. back home, time for the High Times weekly company Zoom call. I take it from the club, because it seemed like a great idea at the time. They probably didn’t notice. 

This place was open for maybe two more hours, but by the time they were closing and we were headed back to the hotel I was spent, and ready to lay down. We decided to smoke a few more blunts out in front of the hotel first just for good measure. Jimi went live on Instagram because it was a more reasonable hour back home, and honestly I blame that for reigniting my spark, because as we’re all going through all the drugs we received that night I jokingly pull out a bunch of mushrooms like it’s a good idea to eat them right now. Jimi called my bluff, and scoffed down 2 grams at 4:30 in the morning. I can’t remember much besides laughing from there. 

When I got back to my room I fell asleep trying to jot down whatever I could remember.

Day 6

I don’t know what time it was when I finally got out of bed, but it was too early. I didn’t even look at the clock, I just assumed I was already late so I got dressed, threw some water on my face, and headed down to find something to eat. Unfortunately that didn’t work out too well as breakfast was over, so we smoked a few blunts before heading to the pool. 

I was up there in the sun for maybe 20 minutes before I couldn’t handle it anymore. I went back to bed.

At around 5 p.m. I tried waking up again. This time I could feel my legs, and the room wasn’t spinning quite as bad. I called the crew to see where everyone was, as I was for sure the only one still at the hotel now that the sun was setting. The High Rise gang had gone to get another round of massages, and Jimi was back over at Phandee, smoking and watching the World Cup. I called a cab that canceled at least three times but eventually I made it over to hang with Jim until the guys were ready. 

After the crew had finished their massages we set out on our last dispensary tour.

The Final Countdown

The first stop was the Zaza dispensary, which it goes without saying (but I will anyway) was our favorite shop name. This one was a bit more mobile and lowkey than the others we’d seen, operating out of what could have been an info kiosk. Only instead of local information (which honestly, they did provide too) these guys were serving heat. 

We learned that this shop was operated by Guy Gee Gee, a notable rapper in Thailand, and his long-time friends. One of them was actually their plug back in the traditional market days who they became close with. These kids have been seeking out the best weed they could find for years, so it was no surprise their selection looked closest to the wares you’d find back home in California. It’s worth noting that in Thailand there’s no possession or sales limit yet, so these guys could sell us up to a pound if we wanted. Sure it cost $10,000 USD over there right now, but they had it if we needed it. We chopped it up with them for a while, got some good footage for High Rise’s archive, and drank some incredible mixed orange juice (different types of oranges, no alcohol) from the cart next door before heading out to find dinner.

This turned out to be a challenge once again, as it seems like that part of town shuts down with the setting sun, but our next stop was Khao San Road, which is the spot I’m probably most familiar with in Bangkok so I was more than geeked to get back out there. I don’t know if we even ended up eating, but before long we were in the van heading to our final dispensary, Green Head, which was located at one end of the Khao San night markets. 

Khao San Road

Now Khao San is a major party street in Bangkok. There are countless vendors slinging everything from vape pens to alligator meat, and the shops behind most of the vendors have more expansive collections of each pop up. It’s also where they do a lot of recruiting for the ping pong shows, which anyone who hears you’re going to Thailand asks about. Everyone is consuming various substances, and a ton of bars all facing each other are using their sound systems to try and out-party their neighbors. It’s a real trip, and it’s loud. But the place had changed pretty drastically since I’d last seen it. Where there used to be pharmacies there were now dispensaries, and it seemed like they’d cleaned up a lot of the more predatory type vendors. It also seemed smaller, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We pull up to Green Head, which is facing all the action, but just off the actual strip, and meet with their owner. He explains how they’ve been cultivating for years for the Thai government, and while they used to just take all their buds and disappear them, it has now afforded them privileges like selling concentrate and edibles, which is still banned to most establishments in the country unless they’re specifically considered a medical provider. He also tells us that while this shop is great, he’s got something else to show us, and leads us out onto Khao San.

A couple hundred feet into the madness we get to the glowing green ‘Plantopia’ sign. Seeming like a hidden cannabis oasis, Plantopia opens down this bricked incline into a village of weed shops. I mentioned Nana in the last piece—well this was the Nana of weed. An entire strip mall dedicated almost entirely to cannabis and cannabis consumption—though there was a snack shop and a jewelry dealer in there, which I imagine were likely remnants of the center’s last life. Our new friend also had a shop in here, and this is where we conducted the majority of our interview in proper fashion—while consuming. I have mentioned a few times throughout this adventure how the Thai don’t seem to mind having direct competitors right next door, and that was especially true here, as just in the 30 minutes we hung out there I saw several groups shop at multiple stores before ultimately seshing together in the half-outside lounge area.

I should mention, we learned within that conversation that it only costs about $10-30K USD to set up a shop out there. That means with the right packs you could make that back the first day with what Zaza told us they were charging, especially if you sold a few P’s. 

After spending some time in what I consider the best weed destination I’ve seen to date, we ventured further out onto the party street. It was incredibly loud, but they have incredible bootlegs and oddities for sale there, so we spent some time going booth to booth. I was surprised to see how many nicotine vape vendors there were, but they’re illegal in stores there so it’s not that weird if you think about it. The traditional market being traditional. After exploring some of the bar-filled alleys that protrude from the main road, we each got some harem pants and made our way back to the hotel. No ping pong show for us this time, but if you’re curious about what goes down at that sort of thing I’d encourage checking out High Rise’s podcast…

Considering checking out a show…

Day 7 (Mostly Airport)

Our final day was an early one, as we had to head to the airport around noon. We were due back in California for some events in NorCal, and we’d extended as far as we could without being late. In fact, we were due to arrive about an hour before the first event started.

Naturally I used the late departure time to sleep in. I skipped breakfast and although getting downstairs early enough to get a few blunts in, I probably could’ve used the nourishment. I ate a Klonopin instead. We didn’t realize until later we didn’t need to get to the airport so early in Thailand. 

You see, once we arrived and went to check in for our flight, we were surprised (and frankly worried) to find no one working at the desk for China Air. No one showed up for another hour after we arrived, but fortunately a line was forming behind us so we weren’t alone. I will admit though I was chain-smoking, freaking out that the airline went out of business overnight or something. I decided it was probably a good idea to eat another Klonopin.

While we waited I did some writing. That’s where I started this piece actually, though it’s admittedly gotten away from me at this point. But it was at this moment that I realized that here we were in Thailand, afternoon on a Friday, getting ready for a nearly 20-hour flight that would take us to a party ALSO on Friday in San Francisco. I got tripped up in the time paradox for a solid 10 minutes.

After we got through security and customs we ventured around the actually incredible mall they call an airport. It was massive, and filled with art, and I was feeling good at this point. I remember eating some Korean fried chicken, and apparently I thought it was a good idea to buy scarves. To be fair they were nice, but it was SUPER hot over there. Like I said, I was feeling good. I remember getting on the first plane, but not really the layover in Taiwan.

Somehow when we landed back in California my phone said it was only two hours later. It was indeed still Friday, and we weren’t off the clock yet. We grabbed our bags, and headed immediately to Chronic Culture for a different adventure…

Final Thoughts

In case it hasn’t become abundantly clear by now, I think everyone should drop what they’re doing and go to Thailand immediately. While I would’ve probably told you the same thing if you asked me a few years ago, now that they’ve got accessible weed over there it’s a whole different—more fun and less scary—ball game. I don’t say that because Thailand was scary before, but their prohibition certainly was.

Now that Thailand’s legal, its industry feels similar to how Oklahoma felt when it went online. Or like New York does now. People are EXCITED, and while most of the world is currently seeing record-low prices per pound, the getting is still GREAT out there. I don’t think the rates will be sustainable given how cheap basically everything else is, but I imagine, like Vegas, there will be a tourist market, and a locals-only one. Being the Vegas/Amsterdam of Asia seems to be what they’re going for.

Now, I do want to clarify that like New York, it’s very clear that Thailand is excited about this industry and the economic benefits it can provide their community, but I wouldn’t be so fast to think that there’s a quick buck outsiders can make. Though I’m sure the import business will be solid for a while, I didn’t need to spend more than a day there to see how much Thai-original meant to this community. They’re actively hunting for their original landraces from seed around the world, and are championing their own players, rather than international elite. I’m sure there will be international brands entering the scene—as Cookies already has—but I imagine what will really pop off out there will be born there. I could be wrong though, it’s happened before!

Also, and in case I didn’t make this clear enough in the piece, Thailand is GORGEOUS. While we didn’t leave Bangkok this trip, the larger country offers everything from mountain to beach adventures, and the wildlife is incredible. For example, we didn’t see any elephants or monkeys this time, but that was one of my favorite parts last time. Seeing them in the wild and not a zoo is not an opportunity you’re afforded back home. I would also recommend going to Chiang Mai, Pai, and Koh Chang if you go—all places I’ve been that offer very different perspectives of life in Thailand, and spots I thoroughly enjoyed. I look forward to going back soon to see how much better they have all gotten with our favorite girl in tow!

Included again for good measure, this was the gang!

If you want to check out High Rise’s documentary, visit here. It’s age restricted so it won’t let us embed.

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