Traveling With the Only Person Lazier Than Me

Trip Start Jul 25, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

After a week or more in Bangkok, and with a thesis still not done, Danayi and I decided to head to Ko Pha-Ngan, of the famous islands of Thailand, most famous for its full moon parties.

We had enjoyed our time in Bangkok, but did little other than the afore mentioned fruit shakes, street food, and a little trip over to Wat Pho with one of the world's largest reclining Buddha (even the sites we were seeing were lazy). (As an aside, the river ferries of Bangkok are one of the cheapest and most enjoyable ways of getting around. They give a great view of life on the river and the palace and wats.) Bangkok was a much cleaner, much better organized, and much more developed city than the city I remembered. This was a great thing for getting around, but the nostalgic traveler side of me lamented the passing of the seediness I remembered from before. The Bangkok of 12 years ago still felt a little dangerous at times, this one felt like a Gap ad with an Asian flavour. Granted, this time I was here with a girlfriend, being good, and having had my Patpong road experience 11 years before, felt no need to experience it again.

After some time in Bangkok, we decided to head to the islands and relax (a break from our gruelling schedule of eating and walking). We thought the isolation and relaxation of the islands might encourage Danayi to finish her thesis sooner. I mean, traditionally, isn't that where people head when they really want to buckle down and work? A beautiful tropical island with white sand beaches and fresh fruit shakes and hammocks? We thought so, and away we went.

After an unpleasant night bus, we arrived at the out of the way pier where the hydrofoil waited that would whisk us to Ko Tao, Ko Pha-Ngan, and Ko Samui. Our destination was Ko Pha-Ngan, the isle of the infamous Full Moon Parties. We settled in the boat with hundreds of other tourists, and cast off. Within minutes the boat began to lurch and roll, the unique shape of the hydrofoil allowing the boat to travel the water faster than most, but also with a lot more motion. My stomach took exception to the pitch and roll, and decided to mark its disapproval with intense nausea followed by 2-3 hours of intense vomiting. Fortunately I was not the only person thus afflicted. A small group of like-stomached individuals and I formed a little club outside at the back of the boat by the toilets. We spent our time running in and out of the three toilets, gripping the railing of the boat and staring grimly out to sea with a thousand yard stare like weary soldiers who have seen too much, and every once and a while we remembered to scrub away at our spittle and bile flecked chins with our hands.

It was a lovely trip.

Finally we reached Ko Ko Pha-Ngan where we alighted. A short ride in the back of a truck, and another little boat ride later and we reached our destination, Bottle Beach. I have no idea how the name "Bottle Beach" was chosen. The Thai name, Hat Khuat, sounds much nicer. Quite simply, it is one of the nicest little pieces of beach real estate I've ever seen. The road to the beach is incredibly rough, so the vast majority of access is by boat, keeping the development of the beach reduced compared to other areas of the island. Only four small developments offer places to stay in beach bungalows and small restaurants. The beach is about 800 metres long, forming a horseshoe to rocky points on either side of the bay. Abrupt hills form a tight curtain behind the beach, furthering the sense of isolation. There is nothing to do other than relax, drink, eat, lie on the sand, lie in hammocks, read, listen to music, go for a swim in the bath tub warm water, walk down the beach and back, and decide which of the four small restaurants will get your business tonight. Oh, and finish a Masters Thesis in Public Health. Of course.

Seeing my limited experience in designing a social program aimed at educating and assisting seniors in Brooklyn, New York in HIV/AIDS preventative behaviour and treatment, I was of little use to Danayi and her thesis. I did, however, offer moral support in the form of buying her lemon juices, pineapple shakes, and asking if she wanted to go down to the beach. Danayi tempered her workaholic nature by frequent trips to lay on the beach, and watching Entourage on her laptop. Very frequent.

Two weeks or so passed in an idyllic, lazy pace of sleeping late, watching movies, listening to music, lying on the beach, and eating, eating, eating. This was to balance the intense and difficult work schedule Danayi had laid out for herself on her thesis. All hour a day or so.

In fairness, Danayi did get a lot of work done, despite leaving the island with the thesis still needing a final draft. I admire how much she managed to do considering she was dealing with a move across the world, the myriad distractions of travel, and the challenges of learning to live with a man she had spent about two months of a ten month relationship actually in the physical presence of; a man who then would go on to write blog entries potentially embarrassing her. So, well done.

To my shame, we flaked out and missed the world famous Full Moon Party. Neither of us were feeling 100 per cent the night of the massive rave and we stayed in. That, and the fact I'm 35 years old. At what age does waving glow sticks and dancing with fire end? I'm not sure, but suspect it might be around 35. I still want to do these things, but a little voice in head says "Man, come on - you're 35 years old. Dude, please." That's right, the little voice in my head is apparently from California. We'll see next time we're passing through; if it's the right time of month, it might mean another trip to the islands to get my glowstick on.
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