Feb 12, 8:30pm
We’re just getting ready to head out for dinner. There are lots of great seafood places have a bed of fresh seafood in front. You point at the fish or giant prawns that you want to eat, and they will weigh and cook them for you right away.
Today was a pretty boring day, actually. It felt like a very typical vacation. I went out for breakfast, and then checked out the local markets, which sold the same tourist crap as Bangkok, but at twice the price. I walked up and down the main road of Patong too, but got a bit overwhelmed by the touristyness of the place.
In the afternoon, we took a taxi out to some of the local shopping malls. Not much to see there either, other than the fact that it’s odd to see a giant, modern shopping mall appear out of the jungle.
The highlight of the afternoon was lunch at a hilltop restaurant overlooking the island. We had a variety of seafood dishes prepared to Thai taste, which is to say very spicy. There was even a Chinese pork dish I usually consider too unhealthy to eat at home. But since I’m on vacation, anything goes.
In the evening, Sarah and I went to arrange our minibus ride to Khao Sok National Park, where we’ll spend a day or so before heading to Koh Samui. Afterwards, I took a few quick snaps of the tsunami damage, and picked up my laundry from the hairdresser’s (!) where I had dropped it off. It was nicely folded and packaged in plastic. The total bill for 10 articles of clothing was 100 Baht.
Feb 13, 8pm
Something finally caught up with me. I’m not sure if it was the food, or the heat, the dehydration, or the level of activity, but I feel like I was hit by a truck. I couldn’t eat dinner last night, and I felt like I was going to fall asleep at the dinner table, so I went back to the hotel early. By the time I got back, I really needed to lie down. Whoever the Thai version of Montezuma is, he was having his revenge with me all night.
I think this is the first time I’ve felt homesick. Everything is great here when you feel healthy, but when you’re unwell, it feels like a hostile place. I can now identify with Jen, who said she missed the “coldness” of Finland when she was in Canada. I am now missing the “coldness” of Canada: not in the temperture sense, but in the sense of everything being orderly and working and comfortable.
Getting up at 6:30 this morning to check out of the Burasari and catch the minibus was not easy. I ended up sitting at the very back, above an axle with no suspension, and a very loud diesel engine. Every single bump in the road seemed to jolt directly up my spine.
Because Sarah and I were going to Khao Sak park instead of Surat Thani like the rest of the minibus passengers, we got out at this tiny town called Takua Pa. It was more of an intersection than a town. The minibus driver gave us some rudimentary instructions for catching the public bus to the park, and he also asked some of the locals waiting at the bus stop to help us out. I think that Takua Pa is the smallest place I’ve ever been. Sarah wasn’t even sure it qualified as a “place.” A little girl, about 7, was staring at me with wide eyes from behind her mother’s protective arm. I guess she’d never seen a ferang before. I put my hands together in the traditional “wai” greeting, and said “Sawadee-krup!” to her. She gave me the brightest smile, and returned the wai. I think that was the best moment of my entire day.
Soon, a pickup truck stopped at the bus stop and the driver, a young Thai woman, beckoned us over. She was going to to the park, and offered us a ride. We put our stuff in the back of the truck and climbed into air conditioned comfort. This was a nice ride. She worked for one of the bungalow resorts that are clustered outside of the park entrance, so we ended up renting one of her bungalows to stay for the night. It’s a very simple place. Just a single room with an attached bathroom and shower, for only 300 Baht per night. There’s no air conditioning, but it’s equipped with a large fan that cools it quite adequately.
I tried to make the walk with Sarah to a swimming hole about 3km into the park, but halfway there I just decided I couldn’t make it. I was still feeling very weak, and the 40 degree heat and humidity wasn’t helping either. I can honestly say that this is the hottest weather I’ve ever encountered. There is no relief from it. A cloud of dust floats everywhere. Sarah continued on her own, and I trudged back to the bungalow to pass out.
It’s just after 8 now, and I’m ready for bed again. I haven’t really done much today except for sleep. I barely ate anything either. I’m hoping to feel better tomorrow. We’re going to try to catch a minibus and ferry to the island of Koh Samui in the morning. I think this is the most negativity you’ll hear from me on this trip.
Feb 14, 2:30pm
I’m on a ferry heading from Don Sak pier to Koh Samui. We bought tickets near Khao Sok Park for this trip, which included a minibus ride from the park to Surat Thanni, a bus ride from Surat Thanni to the pier at Don Sak, and the ferry from Don Sak to Koh Samui. Along the way, our minibus driver got pulled over by a local cop straight out of CHIPS, complete with brown polyester uniform, tall boots, and aviator glasses. I was shocked. I didn’t think there was anything illegal on the roads in Thailand. Along the way, we experienced a lot of speeding, passing on corners, and driving on the centre line of the highway. Once, while we were passing a truck, another minibus passed us simultaneously. Anyway, presumably some money changed hands between the driver and the cop, and we were on our way.
We don’t have a place to stay in Koh Samui yet, but these things have ceased to phase me.
Feb 14, 8:30pm
We found a place to stay, after much driving around in a taxi. We traveled through two of the island’s biggest beaches before finding a single available bungalow. We would have preferred separate rooms, but this was all we could afford. At 2500 Baht per night, it’s not cheap. Seems that all the European tourists have flocked here, rebooking their trips to Phuket after the Tsunami. So, we’re staying in this overpriced bungalow high up a hill on Lemai Beach.
The scene here is much like Phuket. It’s a party town, but scaled down a lot. It’s got a real dusty, backwater feel, but is clearly geared towards tourists. The streets are crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with tourist shops: travel agents, bars, souvenir stands, t-shirt vendors, money exchangers and laundry washers. There’s a distinct lack of culture; or more precisely, it’s the culture of a tourist town on the upswing, with everyone in town scrambling to dip their pan into the river to scoop up the dollars and euros flowing by. The atmosphere is a little bit soul-sucking. I think we’ll cut our stay short, and take a sleeper bus back to Bangkok in a couple of days.
Tomorrow I’m going to spend the morning finding a new place to stay for one more night, then try to do some shooting in the afternoon.