Adventures on the island of Koh Phangan: scooters, moldy bungalows, water buffaloes, oh mY!
Ah, it's been too long! I promise to get better at writing regularly. I had forgotten how much I enjoy reading people's reactions to my writings. It's fun to get some feedback rather than spewing into journal pages. So thanks for the comments. I appreciate it.
So where to start? We've done so much since I last wrote in Koh Tao. Can you bare with me through a longer post? I know blogs are supposed to be quick and to the point because readers have such short attention spans. But, really...would you rather be entering data into spreadsheets or reading my long travel rants?
I struggle with balancing the lyrical prose I love so much with the straight itinerary that people want to hear. I'm not sure what's a happy medium. More guts, less flower? More description? I'll have to test this.
We arrived on Koh Phangan, the site of the (in)famous Full Moon Party, on January 11 -- three days after the FMP. We weren't too disappointed by this. We actually planned it that way. Avery and I are feeling like curmudgeons these days. :p But we went to Haad Rin beach, site of the FMP, anyway.
The beach is stunning. Meters of beautiful, white sand. The waves were moving nicely that day, so Avery and I did some body surfing. Good times. I think I'm beginning to tolerate the taste of saltwater. Just barely.
After the beach, we ate some food, watched a cam-copy of The Hangover 2 at the bar and just hang out. Really laid back. It was pretty dead in the town as the FMP partiers had left just days before.
We also had our first "bucket" there. The party buckets of Thailand are famous for their potency and often mysterious contents. Lots of stories of people "not drinking that much, I swear" then waking up in some strange place without their shoes or wallets. We bought ours from nice Thai ladies down the street from the beach. They have the buckets ready with a variety of ingredients. Someone can easily get a giant Johnnie Walker mixer for less than $15. Awesome. But we chose the Sangsom, mixed with Coke and Thai Red Bull. According to a slightly intoxicated bartender at Baan Thai, the Red Bull here is made by big pharma and is rumored to have amphetamines. Huh. Avery fell asleep after drinking a full bottle of the stuff though. Bad batch or are Americans immune to insane amounts of caffeine and whatnot?
Bad Times in Baan Thai
Then we headed NW to Baan Thai. Our (locally produced) guide book said BT had miles of uninterrupted white sandy beach. Breathtaking. Coconut plantations. You'll love it.
Actually, BT is the only place on KPN with lady (go-go) bars and has the dirtiest water of the island...but with spectacular views of Koh Samui!
The taxi from Haad Rin took us to a place called Pink's. We weren't really feeling the place though as we were the only ones in the restaurant area who did not smell of patchouli or have dreads. :p So we walked...in the head and humidity. For way too long. It was terrible. There were no sidewalks. With our packs on, we looked like angry, sweaty, lost turtles trying to avoid the scooters and Jeeps. It was embarrassing.
Finally, we got to a place called Phangan Beach Resort. It was a little overpriced (600 Baht), but it had a pool! And a private beach! AND HAMMOCKS! So we were sold. Well, they say it for a reason, looks can be deceiving.
So yeah, we check in. And it starts to sprinkle. Boo. But we were determined, but mostly bored. We decided to walk to Thong Sala, just "down the road" as Avery and I say way too often for it to be true. We walk past the notorious lady bars, which aren't that notorious really after one's been to Soi Cowboy in Bangkok. We walked past the fabled "Food Factory." We consulted our map at least 22 times. And then, just as we were about to reach the night market filled with all kinds of cheap goodies, the rain lets us have it. Just freaking pours all tropical typhoon style on us. So I wrote this:
On our way to the Saturday night market in Thong Sala, the tropical rain started. First, it was a sprinkle. And then all of the Thais pulled out their umbrellas. The street vendors began to cover their stalls. Then it poured. Heavy and fast, unlike rain I've ever seen before. This has been my first experience with getting caught in the tropical style rain. The kind characterized by the fat, wet drops that quickly soak through every layer of clothing, kissing your skin with a surprisingly warm wetness. It doesn't take long before one's whole body is dripping.
Now Avery and I sit under the tin shelter of some closed outdoor market. That stench I remember from Bangkok is drifting up from the concrete. Smells of urine mixed with the scents of the street vendors' wares and a hint of the tropical rain's sweetness. "I don't know if this is going to quit," Avery says.
Some wet, unhappy tourists walk by, cloaked in plastic ponchos. Despite the downpour, life goes on. Thais on scooters, squinting through the rain still ride the streets. Street vendors pull down plastic sheets and continue to sell their items: raw slabs of meat, noodles, sandwiches. Life goes on.
Except for the two lonely Americans, who are afraid of the tropical storms. We're still sitting on the curb, afraid to leave the relative safety and comfort provided by this overhang.
How long will we wait? There's no sign of it letting up.
- * Aw, thanks for letting me wax poetic there. I just finished Steinbeck's East of Eden, and the way he describes places BLOWS me away. Was hoping to channel some of that in the rain.
We eventually bought some very touristy plastic ponchos from the grocery store across the street from our hideout, got overcharged by a taxi and made it to our bungalow.
Then Avery and I were faced with a new situation: No TV, no Internet, it's raining...What the hell do we do now? Well, Boyscout Avery fashioned two lovely cups out water bottles (cut off the tops). And we filled those makeshift cups with Sangsom and Coke. Woo! No ice. But it was still a party. Then we made shadow puppets. Apparently we revert to childhood games when screens aren't around. Who knew? We also took some incriminating pictures of each other. Avery, please don't put that weird lip picture of me on the Internet. Much obliged. But your photos are free domain. Snooze you lose!
Next day, we're all like "guidebook lied!" And the next town is a 40 minute walk away! So what do we do? Rent a scooter of course! It really is the best way to get around Koh Phangan. Just be sure to take a picture of any scratches, dents, whatever before you rent it. Otherwise, you might get charged when you return it. Even if you didn't do it. And avoid riding in places like the "Hill of Tears" in Haad Rin. I'm guessing there's a few stories behind that nickname.
I let Avery do all the driving because I didn't want him to feel emasculated. He also didn't want to me to drive. Weird, right? I'm guessing this might have something to do with the time I made him go on the Zipper ride at the MN State Fair...ok, this is a funny story. SEGUE
So Avery is not an amusement park/ride kind of guy. And I am. To the core. It's ridiculous. So we're at the MN State Fair, and I'm like, "Dude, come on. It's the Zipper. It's awesome." He won't budge. Peer pressure always wins in the end though, so away we go.
Standing in line: "So what does thing do anyway?" Avery asks.
"You've never watched it before?"
"Oh." And at this point, I'm thinking oh shit. He is going to kill me.
So the carnie locks us in the cage, and Avery is not talking to me. Won't look at me -- just staring silently ahead. "Okay, now when we get moving, we have to rock it hard forward to get it to spin."
Avery doesn't want to spin it. And I'm thinking, well, it's going to spin with or without me rocking it, hun. But I just nod. Smile. Nod. So we start going, and it's doing it's Zipper thing. Then we get to the top. It's about to enter its first 360 turn. I lean in. "Okay, we gotta lean into it Avery! We have to rock it!"
And I'm putting all 110 pounds of me into this cage when Avery cries out, "Don't rock it Sam! Don't rock it."
And then I feel so guilty. Incredibly guilty. Like guiltier than kicking a blind puppy guilty. Because Avery looks like he is about to die. Or maybe he already did, because he hasn't moved since the ride started. So you know how the Zipper is, it's going to turn anyway. That's what it does. It zips. So we fly forward; my head is hitting the top; my knuckles are white and hands clenched around the front. We flip. Then I feel that evasive high that only comes around so often. The kind of high that people get when they're wondering if this is their last moment, but they're having so much damn fun that it doesn't matter. And I laugh. I laugh this terrible blood curdling, Wicked Witch of the West mixed with Alvin and the Chipmunks laugh, as the cage is spinning wildly in circles. As I'm feeling this adrenaline rush, I look over at Avery, who lets out a faintly audible "Hahaha." Then closes his eyes.
So we survive. And after I've bought him some fries, and he's finally talking to me again, I ask, "You couldn't have hated it that much. I saw you laughing."
To which he replies, "I was laughing at you." And then he adds that I pretty much freaked him out. When I look back at it, that was not the laugh of a man having a good time. It was the "Oh God, I'm dating a monster...what have I done?" laugh.
SOOOO...I think when Avery thought of me driving the scooter, he then imagined me cackling as we swerved down some Haad Rin hill, nearly missing a water buffalo and crashing into a palm tree.
And I digress.
I was going to add some more, but I think this blog post is long enough. And the mosquitoes are out. I'll add the other stories in later...