Chapter 28: "Get Thai'd, talking to a tourist..."

Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
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Trip End Nov 2004


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Monday, March 1, 2004

Pulau Perhentian Kecil was a good time - mostly because I had some great company for a couple of days. I met Cody (from Vancouver) Tuesday morning on the bus from Kota Bharu to Kuala Besut, which is the ferry port for the Perhentians. Cody is studying in Singapore for a year and was skipping class for a week to do a trip on Malaysia's east coast; we hit it off immediately and hung out for the next two days. A water taxi brought us from the ferry to Long Beach in the late afternoon, and we wandered around the beach for a while looking for suitable bungalows. For Cody that meant "cheap," and for me that meant "cheap but with electricity and limited spiders." I found one that satisfied my first two conditions at Matahari Bungalows, and Cody chose a wooden shack at the Rock Garden that had a nice sea view (and a roof, I think), but not much else.

Pulau Perhentian Kecil is yet another small, beautiful, idyllic, tropical island with plenty of swaying palm trees, soft white sand, and backpackers. On our first night we walked across the island (it took all of 10 minutes) to quiet Coral Bay for dinner and the sunset. I forgot how quickly it gets dark in the tropics, so it's a good thing I had my torch in my pack; the short jungle-trek back would have been impossible (or at the very least terrifying) without it. We watched "Bowling for Columbine" before bed, and it confirmed my notion that Michael Moore is talented, insightful, and has good political ideas, but that he's also incredibly annoying. Isn't making Charlton Heston look idiotic kind of like the fish & barrel thing? Anyway...

Wednesday we played in the blue waves, swam, snorkelled, ate a lot, and generally had a fun, relaxing day. I found a better room at Matahari with two single beds, a hammock, and a fan, so we moved in together and crashed early (it must have been all the hard work that exhausted us). There are a few inconvenient things about budget beach bungalows that only become apparent at night. Mosquitos are near the top of the list; there's always a few that manage to get you regardless of the precautions you take. Geckos, while cute as buttons, are scary-loud at 1am, especially for such tiny things. The 50 year old mattresses and pillows might look moldy and grotty during the day, but they're utterly uncomfortable at night. Mosquito netting ranks up there too, because A) it feels like spiderwebs, and B) it makes getting up to use the toilet a huge chore. The absolute worst thing, however, is when drunk people get back at 5am to the other room in your tiny chalet (separated - almost to the roof - by a flimsy "wall"), and proceed to have really loud sex about a foot away from your head. (OK, that one's only happened this once so far). What do you do in a situation like that? Cody and I each thought the other was asleep, so we didn't want to bang on the wall... instead we just laid there in the dark with our ears plugged, stupified at how inconsiderate other people can be. Luckily the session didn't last too long, and we made lots of noise around 8:30 and talked loudly & bitchily about their performance.

I went diving on Thursday, and Cody had to get back to the mainland, which bummed me out. The first dive was pretty awesome because I finally saw a sea snake up close (a yellow-lipped sea krait, to be specific)! It was stunningly pretty, and it swam very gracefully right under me. Oh yeah, we also saw lionfish, scorpionfish, squid, and tiny bamboo sharks. Nice! The second dive was murkier and less exciting in terms of wildlife, but we swam through a few caves, which was fun.

On Friday I made the all-day journey from Pulau Perhentian to Hat Yai in Thailand, via a combination of local bus, minivan, ferry, and hoofing it across the rather sleazy border. Hat Yai is another heavily Chinese and Muslim city, but the visual difference between Thailand and Malaysia is striking - mostly in the architecture and the lack of Roman letters on signs in Thailand. The Thai script is the coolest - it looks alien, and has 50+ characters. I bought a Thai lesson book and CD so I can make a half-assed attempt at learning some phrases. So far I recognize two whole characters and can say "hi" and "thank you."

I went shopping again in Hat Yai, because there's not much else to do there and it's cheap. I bought a snake field guide, the language stuff, lots of ibuprofen, and new headphones, and got myself a much-needed haircut that included 3 shampooings and a great head massage. Now my hair isn't parting down the middle and feathering like a 70's porn star's anymore! Two nights in Hat Yai was plenty, so I took a minivan to Krabi yesterday. I expended a lot of energy last night trying to find a way to watch the Academy Awards live this morning, but the cable channel that carried them wasn't available anywhere nearby. Thus I spent all of this morning glued to Channel News Asia and Fox News for updates. Yay for Peter Jackson & "Return of the King" - 100% deserved, on every count!

I'm not sure where to go from Krabi. There are too many options, and I have some random time restraints due to my 30-day visa and the fact that I'd like to meet my aunt when she's in Bangkok early next month. As usual, I'm making things more complicated for myself than necessary, but still... Ao Lang? Ko Lanta? Ko Pha-Ngan for the infamous full moon party on the 7th? Ko Phi Phi or Ko Tao or Phuket for diving? Myanmar for a few weeks? Decisions, decisions... any suggestions?

-T
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