Published: November 13th 2012November 13th 2012
Man's new best friend?
Multicolored umbrellas cast shade upon the beach chairs below. A rainbow of frozen beverages, locked into death-grips, are slurped up by their consumers in a race against inevitable melting. Bikinis, speedos, flip flops, sunglasses. Forgotten smudges of creamy sunblock cling to unflattering body parts. Hot sun, scorching sands, boiling sea water. Lobsters turn belly up right in the surf and offer themselves with a side of melted butter...
It's officially the first place in Asia I've been where there are visibly more foreigners than locals. As if a virus-induced zombie apocalypse has hit Europe and a lucky bunch escaped only to rot away on this island. And like the doomed populations they left behind, the escapees drag their limbs down the sand grunting for piña coladas instead of brains. But isn't that why we traipse off to some beach at the edge of the world anyway? Isn't the goal to become more or less mindless
in an attempt to forget about all our worries? To enable a groggy sedated
state in which we marinate in for as long as time and money will allow?
This one long stretch of beach I walked along had countless occupied beach beds aligned
I don't know...
perfectly with even spacing in a cookie-cutter manner. I started looking at the lounging people's faces as I strolled by. If I had one dollar for every smiling face I saw, I'd have about fifty cents
. You do the math. What I did see was the following: 1.
A few bewildered blank stares that seemed to be the result of heat discomfort. 2.
Displeased pouts accompanied by wriggling body-types that couldn't quite find the right way to lay. 3.
Frowns hovering above open books suggesting the reader was hoping their paperback would morph into their wifi-enabled tablet they'd left back at home.
I had half a mind to walk up to some of them and simply ask, "Are you happy here? Do you even like it here?". But I didn't. Partly because I didn't want to come off creepy and partly because I didn't want to interrupt the self-torture.
Before I came here I was recommended to do so by multiple people, including this one backpacker that described Koh Chang as, "truly paradise!"
Ive come to loathe this word... Paradise. I find it's being used too frequently and often out of context. What does paradise
even really mean? Palm trees? Beaches? Strawberry daiquiris? I looked up two definitions of the word 'paradise' written as follows: 1.
A place of extreme beauty, delight, or happiness. 2.
A state of supreme happiness; bliss Hmmm... I must be in the wrong place.
I've noticed I sometimes paint a negative light on the places I write about. Not entirely, I mean I just try to portray my observations as accurately as possible. *grins innocently*
I find pride in telling the truth and refraining from any sugarcoated text. But I'm wondering... Lately, have I become a Scrooge? And of traveling no less? My favorite thing!? Because Christmas is around the corner and I'd simply hate the nickname Ebenezer, I'm going to attempt to be more "glass half full." Besides, what better time for sugarcoating things than the holiday season, right?
Sweet sweet mango-infused concoction... I tilt the sweating glass up as each glob of frozen juice billows down my neck. With each gulp I momentarily forget about the ruthless sun. Kids play in the surf while their flushed-skin parents struggle to turn over in their beach chairs. Uneven tans. Timid ocean breezes. Some distant banter.
This is Kamoon, isn't she pretty? :-)
I kick my feet up, breathe in deeply and then release a long sigh. I imagine all my worries casting out into the sea, whisked away by the undertow. My eyes gently close and I (believe it or not) crack a smile. Yes, an actual smile. *I guess I'll add a dollar to that fifty cents from earlier
* Squinting, I peer out from under one eyelid and notice my mango smoothie is nearly melted. I partake in a mixture of stirring and sipping in an attempt to savor every last ice chip swirling about the glass. I set down my nearly finished drink and gaze at the glimmering sea. I start to feel... Relaxed... Tranquil... This place is nice, i think. I feel... Happy. Could it be? Could it maybe possibly (by some chance) just be... Paradi*coughs*
Let's not get carried away with ourselves quite yet...
A husky white-haired man in a flamboyant blue speedo with a yellow sunset stamped on the rear walks past me and over to his wife. A black and white captain's hat sits on his head titling slightly to the left. His mustache perched on his grinning upper lip. *add another dollar
* He looks
AKA my hero
like he's ready to commandeer a gay cruise ship. I can't help but admire his public boldness.
It reminds me of a conversation I had with an older man in Amsterdam. He explained to me that after a certain age it's easier to get away with "stuff." He claimed it's due to a mixture of not caring what others think anymore and the ability to blame your actions on the idea of becoming senile.
I'm not gonna lie, I nearly bought my own captain's hat and joined the trendsetter. But I didn't want to cramp the old man's style.
Well there's only so much lounging on the beach one can do before getting the itch for a little adventure again. Many people know Koh Chang by its nickname, Elephant Island. Upon arriving it's not difficult to see why. Elephants can be seen from the road grazing in fields and animal sanctuaries. So, naturally I booked an elephant tour.
First I'm driven to the center of the island (back in the jungle yet again). Secondly I'm thrown on an elephant that trudges into the wilderness, me bopping up and down and nearly falling off at one point.
Feisty "little" guy
After the trek it was feeding time. Whole bananas, unpeeled. Feeding them was quite fun other than the elephant snot remnants left on my hands from their trunks. *cringes*
The last activity was the best by far and the reason i booked the tour in the first place...
They let us swim with and bathe two of the massive creatures. In the river, a dusty elephant would roll to one side allowing me to climb atop it and give it a good scrub with a special brush. Of course I got sprayed with trunk water and the whole nine yards. As he rolled to his other side I went plunging into the river. *Splash*
. It was playfully amusing, and the other three tourists I was with were having a blast too. You'd have thought the four of us had coat hangers in our mouths with the everlasting smiles plastered on our faces. *4 dollars
* I was laughing like I did in my youth and all it took were a couple of filthy elephants.
If there's any rule to eating on an island it should always be: Order the seafood
. I went a little overboard and ordered curry blue
crab, BBQ'd snapper, and jumbo prawns. All in one night. Oh! And a sugary Coke! After turning my stomach into a saltwater aquarium I didn't feel a tad bit guilty about it. Nope. And I pretty much repeated the feast the following evening.
By my final day on Koh Chang i was in a particularly peachy mood. The once corpse-like tourists hankering down the beach seemed suddenly perkier. Livelier. The walking dead were now running, jumping, playing volleyball and very much... Alive! And as if an antivirus and antidepressant had suddenly gone airborne, the energy level skyrocketed and smiles appeared plastered to everyone's faces.
Three people posing sillily for a photo. *3 dollars
Two kids happily splashing in the surf with their parents *4 dollars
Glasses clink in a group during a cheerful toast *5 dollars
A flirtatious couple play-fight under the palms *2 dollars
Which brings the total in the end to about $20.50
. Hmmm... Not bad for a bunch of zombies. And, it's conveniently just enough to pay for my visa at the border. As i cross over into Cambodia i'll make sure to keep a keen eye out for this elusive
And another day comes to an end...
"paradise" I keep hearing about... Where's my captain's hat?
There are more photos below