The second leg of our Songkran holiday was a trip to Phuket. Bunny, Bobby and I stayed in quite a nice hotel near Patong beach. Big soft beds, dark curtains, clean bathroom - not a cockroach or gecko to be seen. It was a a bit of an upgrade from our apartments, and not especially expensive. Marie and LeBlond had lucked into a sweet flight/resort deal, and their hotel was on the other side of the island. This proved to be a bit of a logistical nightmare, and I wasted a fair amount of time and money with tuk-tuk and taxi rides back and forth across the island.
While parts of it were undeniably beautiful, there wasn't a lot that Phuket had to offer that I couldn't find on Koh Samet for a lot less money and a lot less hassle. Phuket is much bigger of course, so there's just more... more bars, more restaurants, more beaches, more hotels, more markets, more drunken farang all over the place. Yours truly included, naturally. I haven't been to Koh Samui or Koh Chang yet... but I'm guessing they're both a good middle ground.
Bunny, Bobby and Marie enjoying the exculsive resort beach.
Rebel - tropical paradise edition
On our second night there, after a wild goose chase of trying to find a cool bar somewhere between our respective hotels, I decided to ditch everyone and go back to Patong Beach. I walked along the beach, watched people set off khom fai (lanterns) and just took in the sights. I walked up the main bar street and got myself a drink*. Between the markets and the bars and the people from all over the world walking around - there was a lot to see. Eventually though I just wanted to sit down and chat with someone. The bars are all pretty open, so there's not much of a distinction between the street and the bar. I saw a couple of English guys playing connect four so I went over and made a comment.
We started chatting and one of the guys asked how long I'd been in Thailand. Between the booze and the earlier transportation frustration and just an acute case of 'living in Thailand' something snapped**. I nearly burst into tears when I said "I've been in Thailand for eight months." The one guy replied, in a very calm and charming British way "Don't worry darling." and soon enough I was having another drink and playing connect four with them. No deep connection or insightful conversations... we just played and I felt a bit better. And when they left an older Swedish guy came by and I played with him for a while. It was nice.
Eventually I decided to call it a night and began wandering in the general direction of my hotel. Now, those of you who know me can testify - I have no sense of direction whatsoever. I knew we were on a side street off a minimally paved road***. But as I wandered down it, I just wasn't sure - I turned and walked a block in the other direction, but nothing looked very familiar there either. There were a bunch of Thai security guards outside a half-finished building and they asked where I was going. I told them the name of my hotel and they waved in the general direction I'd come from. I went to turn around, but they pulled up a chair and invited me to sit down for a minute. "Slowly slowly" they said, which I think is the direct translation for the Thai expression "wait". They were drinking beers and I figured - why the heck not.
We started chatting, 90% in Thai and it was really fun. It was amazing, really, how much we could communicate with a minimal amount of shared vocabulary. We talked about the situation in Bangkok. I told them what I saw: Color red (point to shirt), S-Soldier - muay Thai (Thai kickboxing). We talked about religion. He asked "You Christian?", I replied "Yes, you like Buddha?" We talked about family and relationships, I told him I didn't have a boyfriend or a lover, he told me he'd been alone for 10 years, but that he had two kids, a daughter and a son.
At some point I took out my camera and made him look at nearly every picture on my memory card, pointing out any and everything I knew the Thai word for. Showing him a picture of an elephant "Chang", a cat "Mao" and repeatedly "Puen chan" (my friend). After a couple hours my new friend told me I was a good woman with a good heart, mimed putting a ring on my finger and more or less proposed to me. It was sweet. It's all a bit silly in retrospect, and a very alcohol inspired interaction... but at the same time, it's exactly the kind of thing I want out of this trip. Just to sit and chat with people, to try to make some kind of connection, make some memories.
When I decided to make another attempt at going home, he offered to drive me. I got on the back of his motorbike and we drove all around town, far from where I knew my hotel was, and to a different hotel of the same name. I had him stop and ask for directions to my actual hotel, which he did. When we got there, it ended up being no more than a two blocks from where we'd been sitting and chatting. He asked for my phone number... but, no. Impossible. Some things are better left as crazy hazy memories.
* and by 'a drink' I mean a pint of vodka and a bottle of Pepsi.
** In the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy there's a line about how, in a moment of crisis, every sentient being gives off a signal of exactly how far away they are from where they were born.... it kind of felt like that.
*** Much of Patong beach was damaged by the tsunami of 2004, I think it's 90% rebuilt... but there's still a lot of rebuilding going on.