Posts/September, 2005/

Back From Southern Thailand Beaches

Saturday, September 17th, 2005

Note: This is a long post with many photos.

The trip south to pacified my beach lust.

The journey was a personal one, 1) because I traveled alone, and 2) that the new sights and experiences gave me perspective on my time in Chiang Mai. It was a local version of what insights moving to Thailand gave me about America. I’m now more skeptical that Thailand is the right place for me to spend any more time in than I originally planned. It is a wonderful place with beautiful exotic sights and lovely people. But the warm climate and laid back mentality of the place is also a deterrent to my personal projects. Arguably, I wasn’t working on them very diligently when I was working a full time hectic job, but proportionately to my free time I was actually creating a lot MORE in America than I am here. And I had a steady income. There are jobs to be had here, but the odds are not in my favor for design work. And I don’t know if I want to teach English, I certainly don’t seem inclined to. So many places in the world are waiting for my visit, and I won’t be able to pay for that traveling as easily if I’m making an ex-pat salary in Thailand. More importantly, I have a masterplan for my future, and the roots of it have been planted in America. It can branch internationally as the plan grows more mature. But in this delicate stage, my shit is needed back home to fertilize it.

I’ve built momentum for my MEATLAND project, with one idea spinning of onto a children’s book of a nautical theme. I’ve also increased my self-doubt.

I did a lot of exploring alone, mostly on foot through jungle and along the beach. Everyday in the beginning felt like an exquisite death march. A few surprises were how many European and Israeli tourists there were compared to the three Americans I met. Luckily English was the lingua franca for all backpacker talk. I had a couple good conversations, but my time was mostly private and outside or inside a bungalow writing and daydreaming.

I cut the trip short because after a while the beaches started to look the same, my favorite pen ran out of ink, I finished cover to cover the book I brought (Everything is Illuminated), and I was getting tired of studying Thai.

Here is a daily list of interesting happenings:

Day 1

Fly to Bangkok and take a scary hi-velocity taxi ride in a monsoon downpour to the bus station on the southern side of town. Arrive in Hua Hin. Meet J. at resort and sit on lounger by the ocean for two hours. Get depressed by the touristy feel of the place.

The view at the resort at low tide. Some fishing boats are beached until the water rises.

Day 2

Wake up early and take a walk on the beach. Sit and drink a soda and talk to Thai man about the weather and Hua Hin. Get further depressed by the unauthentic, shithole feel of the place and cut my stay short a night by getting on a bus to Chumphon. Bus dropped me and a middle-aged Belgium 8 kms from town. We stood at the side of the highway until a friendly Thai man in a rusted out sputtering white pickup gave us a ride into town for a song. The Belgium almost feel off the truck. He and I ate dinner and parted as mysteriously as we meet in the crowd of central market.

Day 3

Get up at 5:30 in the morning to catch the bus to the port on the edge of town. Meet a British couple and a guy from Germany who reminded me of someone I used to work with.

The ugliest and cheapest room of the whole trip, but I got the best sleep here.

The ferry takes us down the river to the ocean.

The banks are lined with colorful fishing boats and people going about their morning routine. The air smells filthy, a mixture of smoke and fish.

The moment we break out into the sea. Overcast but warm.

Koh Tao as we approach.

Disembarking at the only pier in town. The sky was starting to clear. By this point I desperately had to use the restroom. I was swept into a tourist scam to look at a shitty bungalow so that I could do likewise. I started hiking around town to find the guesthouses I read about but I got lost.

Eventually I found the main drag on Haat Sairee. Views like a postcard.

One of the many longboats for taxiing people around the island.

My bungalow bathroom. A mosquito nexus. Thai-style note: no toilet paper.

The first sunset I saw on Koh Tao from my guesthouse restaurant.

Day 4

Woke up early to go on a hike to a viewpoint on the south side. The hike went through the main town and many bungalows tucked into private coves. A lot of the trail was right on the edge of the water and through thick palm groves peppered with boulders. The sound of the waves was the stable background to the varying bird calls and plant rustling. Many views inspired awe. But I have never been on a tropical island before, so there you go.

This was the first little bay I discovered. I could actually see fish swimming below the water.

A bar at the water’s edge.

The jungle I walked through a little inland as the day wore on. A large black gecko ran across my path. There was a flock of wild chickens wandering around with a nest in the hollow under a boulder. I started feeling faint because I hadn’t eaten anything, so I hobbled back into town and had a meal by the water.

Day 5

Had a dream where I was hanging out with Michael Jackson. I told him he was handsome and needed to stop all the surgery. Slept poorly. Went on a walk to the north of the island.

A more open field of palms with the ocean in the background.

Koh Nag Yuan, a string of three islands off the northeast corner of Koh Tao. They are connected by sandbar and only accessible by boat. Went on a nighttime walk. Felt like my mind was separate from my body. A Thai man selling fish asked me if I was alright, and I told him that I was full.

Day 6

Wake to steady rain. Walk in rain to board boat to Koh Pha-Ngan. The water was very turbulent and it felt like the boat was going to tip.

All of the passengers look like refugees minus any true suffering. Next to me where two girls from Seattle. One told me about how the week prior a boat like ours had overturned. Arrive on Koh Pha-Ngan. Take saangtao truck along the roller coaster-like road to the town of Hat Rin. Wander around town and wander up a dirt road to a bungalow on the southern-most point of the island. The room was perched on stilts above the hillside.

The view from my balcony.

Hat Rin Nok beach seen from the hill next to my bungalow.

Me, sitting on hammock and looking a little more tan than normal.

I decide to go on a hike up to the lighthouse to see if I can climb it. It looks too rickety to climb, but I find a trail barely visible in the woods.

The trail winded down the hillside.

It opened up on a rickety wooden walkway along the water’s edge.

The walkway kept going and going until it terminated at a guesthouse at the edge of the world. The office and restaurant were made from the old lighthouse support buildings and newer bungalows had been built on the hillside and among the boulders and the far edge.

A spirit house overlooking the ocean. Koh Samui is in the background. About now, I decided to to stay at this guesthouse for the next night.

Day 7

Go on walk around town and eat some authentic soup at the only restaurant that didn’t have tourists.

Took a nap in the hammock outside my bungalow. Little flies kept landing on me though. That night a storm was rolling in, but I decided to sleep outside in the hammock, wrapped in a blanket. Fairly successful. I had a dream where I woke up and walked up the hill to pee. Then I woke and let dreams become reality. Except in my sleep daze I slipped on my own pee and slide down the grassy hill a bit. Then I hit my head on the roof of the porch when I was walking back to the hammock. This location affected me. It made both sight and sounds so vibrant. My mind was active and sharp. It felt like a scene out of the computer game Myst. But this time the adventure was real.

Day 8

I was a little disgruntled by the roach situation and dirty bedding and by the cost of the food in the restaurant. Especially because it wasn’t good. That morning, I tried to make a break for it without paying my food bill. I was caught once as I was leaving–I offer a pacifying excuse. I approach a monkey standing on the plank bridge. He is facing a man, the monkey’s back to me. The monkey turns and stares at me for a moment, realizes it is flanked and jumps into the water and climbs up the nearby rocks. The man thanked me, saying that the monkey was hissing and clawing at him when he tried to cross the bridge. I continue my escape, but am chased down by scooter in a coconut grove. The same lady must have taken the time to see through my excuse. I coughed up the food money and we both went on our ways, a little uncertain at to what each other though of the situation. Got on a boat for the large island of Koh Samui.

Day 9

Walked and read. Sat on beach. Had a full, bad conversation in Thai about where to find fruit. Led to a neighborhood conversation and a cute girl leading me by foot over the hill to point to the determined store. Bought and gorged on mangos. The power cut off three times that day, making my room too hot to stay in. Shopped in a blackened 7-11.

Big Buddha Beach in Koh Samui. Koh Pha-Ngan is in the distance.

Day 10

Paid expensive guesthouse bill, took expensive taxi to airport. Ate expensive breakfast, walked to terminal, slapped myself when I realized that they were serving a free breakfast to customers. Ate another breakfast. Ate a third breakfast on plane. Then lunch on the plane. Saw what I think was a large oil spill in the gulf. Extensive flooding as far as the eye could see in between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Met two ladies from San Francisco.

Arrived “home.”

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