Published: May 7th 2009January 9th 2009
An almost safe place to watch the incoming storm. Snazzy touches are bountiful around these parts. Actually, the bar is inside the pool. Fantastic attention to detail at every turn.
Up early enough to catch the sunrise the next day, December 31st. This was to be a long day. New Years Eve has a worldwide reputation for being the one night of the year when all men (& women) forget their troubles, get pissed & pretend to love everyone. Spent a while making the trek down to the beach along the twisty cliffside path, over little bridges towards the hole in the rocks in the halflight. We were met at the beach by two of the resident dogs. A white almost labrador looking girl one called Snowy & her brother, a black 'n tan bitsa named Bongo. (these were longstanding names - I hasten to add, not related to the fact that Mums old Kangoo was called Snowy or Dads cool van is a Bongo, just one of those Cosmic Coincidences that were mentioned in the film Repo Man)
The sun rising from the ocean, breaking through what seemed to be an engineered hole in the distant cloud cover was somewhat magical, from the first pastel traces of colour through to the full blown blaze of brightness seemed to flash by in a blink. Apparently, the nearer to the equator
you are, the quicker the sun moves. Makes no sense to my small brain, or indeed to the majority of members of The Flat Earth Society, but I'm just a stuffed toy, what do I know . . .
The pukka Jeep was ours for the day once again so headed up north to the next civilised bit of coastline, Thong Nai Pan. Once an idyllic beach littered with bamboo huts, now an idyllic beach jumbled with very posh 5 star resorts. Although I generally have a problem with over-development, this seemed different. Most residents were of the Business Class Brigade. The portly, stern looking middle aged men with no fashion sense accompanied by either loud, orange middle aged wives or "travelling companions" - a good thirty years younger than themselves. The BCB are world class winners in the Smug & Rudities Olympics. The staff at the place we chose to breakfast were on to this & had their own ways of dealing with these pompous arses. I'm not saying that they spat in their food or anything ghastly like that but there are ways of getting your own back on the finger clickers without resorting to nastiness.
For example, the length of time between ordering a meal & it arriving at the table seemed directly linked to the attitude of the customer. It was also nice to note that despite living in the BCB world where all is smooth & cosy, they had all had to endure the same bone crunching drive over the bumpy dirt track from the opposite side of the island as the rest of us. No wonder they have such a mizzog expression on arrival, its really not what they're used to.
Our impression there was one of lushness. First wander on the beach was impressive, minions out on the soft sand putting out tables & lights in readiness for the nights celebrations. Mostly blue sky hindered by a nasty looking dark storm out on the horizon. We found a table at one of the impressive beachfronted establishments beautifully set around an infinity pool with a trendy glass bar built within & duly ordered our last brekkie of the year. We were terribly nice so service was swift. So was the incoming storm though. Within a couple of minutes a brisk breeze had become a fairly hefty gale, staff appeared from
nowhere to frantically drop rolls of bamboo blinds to protect the inner sanctum of the restaurant from the inevitable. 20 seconds after we moved tables towards the back, one of the support beams, whipped loose by a flapping blind, was bought down with a loud thud spearing our still warm freshly vacated seats.
Before long our hearty breakfast arrived. Three types of posh bacon, scrambled eggs & potato cakes accompanied by a medicinal Bloody Mary & a large Singha to calm the nerves, whilst raindrops the size of snooker balls hammered into the pool beside us. Another almost magical moment. The power of nature establishing herself but in a strong warm way. Nothing like the cold sharp spells of bitter rain back in the cold place. This is the kind of stuff you want to run out into with a bar of soap & some shampoo to take advantage of the balmy shower opportunities.
Once the weather subsided, we headed down south to Haad Rin, home of the infamous Full Moon Party, at the bottom tip of the island. The rain had made the rocky road over the tops somewhat precarious however,
turning the red sand surface into a slimey goo. We passed many a stranded car & van on the steeper sections. Its easy to see how one side of the island is completely cut off at certain times of the year. A welcome relief to hit the tarmac of the main road by the 7-11 at Ban Tai. The sun was shining, the sky was blue. No sign of the mornings storm, we'd moved microclimates.
The final 15 minutes drive from Ban Tai to Haad Rin is an interesting little trip. A fair bit of straight flat palm lined road, interspersed with hilly twisty chicane sections which have those on scooters getting off to push as the incline is so steep. The final run down the hill into town is also worth a mention. Great views of the sea on both sides as you approach the southern tip. Its a busy town, always seems to have a buzz about it, the few narrow streets criss-crossed with bar lined alleyways, We had to zigzag our way through the narrow maze in our mighty pick-up to find a suitable parking place, parking being one of the least developed industries in
this part of the world. Found a space in what may have been someones front garden, locked up the monster jeep & took a stroll along the beach in the sunshine.
Some effort was being put into setting up the New Year celebrations along the beachfront. Bass bins the size of garage doors were being rolled out on logs by teams of smartly uniformed bar staff at each of the main resort stretches, each seeming to be going over the top to outdo the local competition. Interspersed between the stadium sized stacks were bars & beachside Bucket Bars. The signs were clear, each sold a Fuck Bucket for around 5 dollars.
Back in The Cold Place, a bucket with a ready made hole from the Pound Shop costs, well, around a pound. Its more here but at these bijou bars, its not the bucket itself that's fucked - its the drinker of the contents after the sixth or seventh attempt to find the hole via a straw once the receptacle has been filled with vodka/whiskey/gin plus coke & a can of Red Bull stuff. This should only be attempted by those under 30, with a strong constitution & a healthy liver!
Headed back to Mai Pen Rai at sunset to catch the evenings festivities. Spent a good while chatting with a local dude called Porn. Very cool local(ish) lad who spends a few months a year in Switzerland as he was married to a lady from there & they have a child. The rest of the year is spent on Ko Phangan making & selling intricate jewelery & this funds his European trips. Some Germans were teaching him a Bob Marley song on a guitar, he's a quick learner & real cool dude. This place has such a relaxed atmosphere even when there seems to be not much happening, its always interesting. These Humans fascinate me,
Another strange reality of being on such internationally inhabited foreign shores is the strange phenomenon of residents of different countries suddenly bursting with excitement every hour, as the midnight bell tolls in their various homelands. The Aussies had kicked off the evening. By the time the midnight hour came, we had had a good few New Years toasts along with the grumpy Old Timer resident hound, Barbecue. A character of some repute. Some of our gang had celebrated the New Year with special
mushroom flavoured milkshakes then stumbled & giggled on the beach in the dark trying to set off fireworks. Most of the crew made it through to 7am & caught the sound off the wind up radio of Big Ben doing his thing, danced to Auld Lang Syne on the warm sand underneath the stars, before staggering back to the rustic comfort of our cosy clifftop bungalows.