Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On a beach in Thailand...

Ahh, the power of the internet...here I am, not ten metres from the beach, and still able to post about my goings-on. The road to this small beach may be non-existent, but the internet is fast and ubiquitous. This is where I'm staying.
View Larger Map It's pretty much heaven on earth, white sandy beaches, delicious restaurants of all kinds right on the beach, many people of all different ages, and a relaxed and easy-going island atmosphere. Today it's been raining and windy, but otherwise the weather has been picture perfect. The moon is so bright at night that you can see as clearly as day. I don't have any pictures for yout yet; my camera is up at the bungalow and I don't feel like walking up to get it.

The trek to get here was a slog. After taking the train into Sapporo on Thursday night, there was a mixup, and I couldn't get into my friends house. I ended up sleeping in an internet cafe near the station (although that's not the hardship it sounds, cafes in japan have private booths, showers, free drinks, and reclining chairs..they're meant to be slept in by people who missed the last train home. If they didn't leave the lights on, or play soft-jazz all night they would be perfect) which ended up being a good move. I had to take the first train out in the morning to make it to the airport on time, but even being so close to the station I still missed as I took to long showering at the cafe. In any case, it didn't particularly matter, as it only takes 10 minutes to check-in, go through security, and board your plane in Japan. It's sooo much nicer then the endless lines and security rigomarole of home.

I arrived in Bangkok in the afternoon, and the weather was absolutely stiflingly hot. I took the bus into Banglamphu, the backpackers district, which was an adventure in itself. As you leave the airport, you climb onto the elevated freeway, and shantytown's and slumbs spread underneath you, until in the distance, highlighted by the blood-red sun, (which is red because of the smog) you see the skyscrapers of downtown. The vista aggressively highlights the economic disparities here, and it was the first time that I really felt that I was journeying through Sout-East Asia.

The drive through Banglamphu was similarly gorgeous, as the whole area was lit with lights, and the streets teemed as the Thai election, the first since the bloodless coup in 2006, was taking place two days later. After more than in hour in the inner-city traffic, made worse by cars parked in the street, and scooters weaving through the crowds oblivious to cars, pedestrians or sidewalks, we made it to Th Khao San, the backpackers street, and one of the major places of residents for tourist in Bangkok. The street was completely packed with people of all nationalities, going into and out of bars, restaurants, go-go dance halls and a thousand other places. I wandered around, somewhat lost, for 20 minutes or so, until I manges to find the ferry company to Koh Phangan. I caught the bus, which took around 12 hours to reach the port town. And from there, I took the ferry to Koh Phangan. It was similarly sweltering in Thong Sala, the main port city of the island. As soon as I stepped off the ferry I was assailed by taki drivers, offering to take me where I wanted to go in their songthaew. The songthaew is basically a pickup truck, with benches put along the sides in the back, and an open but covered roof. They are the main transportation around the island, if you don't take a boat, or rent a scooter.

After a harrowing hour long journey through the jungle which could optimistically be described as "roads," but which are in reality so washed out as to be dirt and rocks slopes, I finally arrived at my destination, the small beach of Au Tapan Nai Noi.

Since then, I've been lolling on the beach with the friends I've made here. Sleeping, swimming, and suntanning during the day, partying at night. It has been so idyllic and relaxed, that is, except for the crazyness that is the Full Moon Party.

The Full Moon Party has to been seen to be believed. It is an absolute madhouse, quite unlike anything I've been to before. It outdoes any rave, any rock festival that I've ever seen. Jen and Jackie, two Canadians who now live in Kenya, started the night off with me quietly enough. First, we made our way to one of the beach resorts down at the south end of the beach, as they had happy hour, and 100 baht cocktails from 5-7. Afterwards, we walked down to the other end of teh beach, and had a large thai barbecue at a different resort. We absolutely gorged on seafood and other treats, (I had sirloin steak and mussles with thai curry, which was unbelievably good) as we knew that we'd be drinking a lot later. We had a couple of large bottles of Singha, (a thai beer) but I took it slowly and paced myself, as I knew it would be a long night. Finally, at 11pm we caught the longtail boat down the coast of the island with some other friends of ours, and arrived at Had Rin, the site of the full moon party.

It certainly wasn't what I expected, and I think because of that, I didn't take full advantage of it. We disembarked from the boat, and made our way up the beach to the drink stands, where a hundred different stall where all selling the standard Full Moon drink, a plastic bucket, into which they poured a bottle of thai whiskey, a can of coke, and a bottle of Thai Red Bull. The whole thing went for the equivalent of $8. Now, to some of the more hardcore among, that may sound somewhat large, and yet tame, but let me assure you it is not. The Thais invented Red Bull, it was first made here, and it is quite a bit different than the stuff back home. Thai Red Bull is rocket fuel, as there are no legal limits on the amount of caffiene, guarana, and (I suspect) pseudo-speed. I was already half-cut when I arrived, but promptly bought a bucket, drank it, and went into a trance, dancing to ear-splittingly loud House music for 6 hours straight, till the sun burst over the sea. All in all, I have perhaps 15-20 mins of memory of the event, the rest is a blur. I didn't move around, I didn't see my friends, but I did acquire several mysterious bumps and scrapes.

Unfortunately, I missed the boat back to my beach, and was hence stuck on the beach at 8am, as the music continued to pump and people variously, threw up, took drugs, passed out, had sex, and went swimming in the garbage and piss-filled water. Although the party was set to continue until 6pm, (at which point the Christmas Full Moon Party was to begin) I desperately wanted to leave. As I am staying at a small and distant beach however, the taxi drivers wanted a princely sum of over $40 to drive me back home. I decided to take the taxi back to Thong Sala instead, hoping that the ferry would arrive with new tourists who also needed a ride to the beach. Unfortunately, no one arrived who did, except for Jen, but I never saw her, as she was passed out not 20 metres away in a different taxi. I gave up and paid the money, arriving back at the beach around noon. I stumbled home, striped down in my bungalow, and passed completely out.

Finally, around 6pm I woke up, and headed out for dinner. My Christmas night was fairly quiet, but after the crazyness of the night before, that whas undeniably a good thing. Today, I've been calling home, browsing the internet and taking it easy. I still have more than a few days here, which I am very thankful for, so in the next couple days I will probably do some scuba diving, snorkelling and hiking, that is, if I can peel myself off the warm sand and away from the embrace of the beach bar...

1 comment:

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