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Published: February 15th 2009
Ok, so its been a few hectic weeks of lying on beaches, basking in the sun and the occasional bucket, so as I await the imminent arrival of The Parentals to join my jaunt for three weeks around Laos and Cambodia, I thought it would be a good time to try and get some wordage down. In the format of a well organised essay I will structure it with a sophisticated framework of subtitles (possibly underlined if I work out how.)
Ton Sai, Railay Beach
This was where I left off in an internet cafe in Au Nang, the nearest town to get vital provisions which could then be smuggled back to our beach. Ton Sai was a haven for people seeking out the chilled and friendly, and as huge karst limestone tore into the sky between us and Au Nang, it was isolated enough to keep away the touting tuk-tuks, massages and lady-boys which seem to pollute anywhere in Thailand after it reaches a certain tourist threshold. The general vibe held my attention, but it was the people that really held me there, much against the mad rush of getting from place to place and seeing EVERYTHING which tended to be the dominant force in India. We called our quintet The Gaggle, which if it wasn't made up of such a diverse and interesting (you can count me out of this one, if you like) group of people we may have come across as rather sad. But somehow, writing "sweet" and "dude" on our knuckles, creating secret signs and setting "mission objectives" (which will not be divulged further) created a bond between such different people that we practically owned that beach. The Gaggle was first out lounging on the mats under the stars, The Gaggle introduced the newbies to the beach bars playing the best music that night, and The Gaggle was always last to leave, often after the power had been cut from the peninsula. The Gaggle was where it was at, and if you were ther, you would know that. (Haha, okay I will move on.)
The Gaggle split and vacated our 5-bed bungalow, but I struggled to escape the lures of Ton Sai and stayed another night, saving Bhat by camping out under the stars on the sandy beach in my incredible mosquito dome net, something all travellers should posess- just like a tent, but without the privacy.
Ko Phi Phi
I then headed on to immerse myself in the tourist experience of Ko Phi Phi. Joel (gothic Swede and gaggle member) and I went on a sunset cruise where we went to monkey island (an island without a monkey in sight) and snorkelled where we found Nemo and took some cool underwater photos with Joel's rather nifty underwater and shockproof camera, presumably bought to withstand the sweat and brawls of a Slayer moshpit. The cruise took us onto where "The Beach" was filmed, and we watched a manic game of Thai football (these guys have some real skill... the British clubs are bound to be full of them in a few years time) right where the actors played Volleyball in the movie. It does not seem so crazy now, but when you watch the film as much as it is played in Thailand, you almost feel like you are in the film, just a decade late.
I stayed in a hostel offering the cheapest beds on the island, but still pretty pricey. I was sharing my room with a mental. An absolute maniac. He was crazy. I spent most of the time at a safe distance trying to diagnose him from the knowledge I learnt in India. Let me explain:
I haul my rucksacks (my babies, true, loyal, travel companions) up the flight of stairs to The Rock Hostel, where the receptionist is not around, but a sign scrawled in angry red pen tells me the ROOMS ARE FULL. Just before I turn around to look for somewhere else, a bull-dog cross with ugly, angry mongrel comes hurtling down the stairs towards me. Now through my travels I have developed quite a strong dislike of dogs. I apologise to all dog lovers, and I would like to reassure you that cute, tame pet labs et al. are okay, but strays are usually yappy little things that loiter around you all day, waiting for the opportune moment of darkness and a dog-mob to form, when they own the streets and will terrorise any passer-by. However, 99% of the time you are okay, if you know how to handle them. For example, the other night I was walking along a quite stretch of beach (with glass bottle in hand just-in-case) and a fierce dirty brown mongrel waited for me to pass him before charging out and barking away and growling at me. My hand turned white with its grip on the bottle (and the lovely thought of Rabies) but I kept my pace, used every effort in my body not to flinch, and evaded any eye contact and the barking progressively decreased as I walked away.
Now my room mate, what to say? He came charging down after this bull-dog thing and I realised the dog was not going to ravage me, it was simply being chased by a thirty something skinhead torso completely covered in tattoos ("bamboo man, none of this needle crap, this is real authentic Thai bamboo tattoos, you see?!") yelling at the top of his voice in a thick Irish accent, how that dog has bigger balls then any of us, then proceeded to "play" with the stray, yelling endless profanities at it, mainly about how he was going to get it a good Bitch. Okay.
Just when I turned around to keep on looking for a room, I got a huge slap on the arm (I guess the traditional slap-on-the-back was hindered by my huge rucksack) and the crazed Irish-man said "Jonny from Cork, man, great to *profanity* meet you, you *profanity*" Rather than running away as fast as I could I managed to "hit it off" with him by saying how I had a Maths Teacher from Cork once (A man who used to break metre rulers across his primary students bottoms, throw board markers at them on a daily basis, and was alcohol dependant) and he said that Cork was the Capital of Ireland. "Too *profanity* right, that *profanity* knew what he was talking about, you know Jock (umm Jack actually), you are going to fit right in here." Jonny said there was a spare bed above his, that people didn't know about in a 4 bed dorm, and I could stay there. I did, but spent the minimal amount of time sleeping there as possible, as whenever I was dozing off that afternoon, he would come in, climb up to my bunk, and shake me saying that I am "effing brilliant man, and speak a lot of sense about Cork."
Thankfully the next day Jonny was off on a flight to Australia as he had happened across some of these stray dogs in the early hours of the morning, and, low and behold, his flattery on the size of their balls, and his reassurance that "he didn't want any effing trouble from them" fell on deaf ears, and he got a chunk of his left bicep, tattoo and all, taken out by a probably rabid dog. He obviously had no rabies vaccinations, so it was all quite serious- something I had to emphasis to him as he didn't really "get it."
Aside from Jonny, I met some great people there, and we spent our time strategically going from bar to bar to get in on the 10 minute "free bucket" window. A guy and gal from Glasgow brought a welcoming accent which took me back to my summer saving up in Edinburgh. We all watched the fire stunts- professional Poi along with drunken tourists trying the paraffin drenched and lit fire-ropes and limbos. I wisely stayed out of it all, after a little incident back in Ton Sai of me trying a spectacular dive through a hoop of fire, and ending up catching my heel.... the blood... so much blood. (There wasn't a lot actually, but still.) Also of note (and of memory) there was a great game where everyone had a balloon attached to there ankle and you have to hop around, bursting others, whilst protecting yourselves. Out of about 30 people, I came 4th (despite not popping any other balloons... sly tactics of not making any enemies) and got a free beer. Woo, the culture I have been enriching myself in of late.
The Gaggle reunited as planned in Phuket for some much hyped Karaoke. It did not disappoint, we had our own little booth, and after getting over the initial language problem (as in it was all in Thai) we found a great array of English songs, I did an emotive Hero by the one and only Enrique, bad enough to have caused him to kick the bucket, Gabriel did a little better, but Joel rescued things with an incredible Guns 'n' Roses, and then the title of God of Karaoke went to the married couple fresh from working in Japan, Todd and Alicen, where even there, they are known as "The Karaoke Couple". Incredible talent. Love Ballads have never sounded so good.
The night could have ended early, but we agreed that was no longer an option, and we hit Patong getting engulfed by the "otherside" of Thailand. A highlight definitely had to be Alicen feeling like the Thai table dancer could do with some company, so up she went and joined her- much to the delight of her husband.
Similar antics fun filled antics came in thaw following week, but for the likes of diving at Ko Tao, Full Moon Party and a very Thai Valentine's Day, I will delight you with those tales next time....
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