Friday, August 28, 2009

30+ hours of bus travel (in two days)

The bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok was 12 hours. I slept for a few hours, ate phad thai, and browsed through a half dozen bookistores. At six in the evening I got another overnight bus to Suri Thani. At ten to six the next morning, the bus dropped us all off at some dilapidated bed and breakfast in the middle of the countryside. Not one of the road-weary travelers knew where we were. Morale was "low," at best. One girl in a beige tank top fell asleep on a picnic table on the front lawn as the sun came up. An eager-to-drink young Brit, named Neil, started calculating in his head and figured we couldn't be far from the pier we needed to be at to catch the boat to the islands.

To make a long story short, a large passenger van came at 8:30. Everyone jumped excitedly to their feet and scrambled for their oversize backpacks. For it was unspoken that the capacity of this van was fifteen, maximum, and there were twice that number of us.

When the driver approached, he said, "Kho Phag Nan."

Many of the faces frowned in disgust, and disbelief. Only a portion were going to Kho Phag Nan. The others were headed to the neighboring island, Kho Samui.

Inside, my heart was doing gleeful little somersaults, but I didn't want to gloat. As flatly as I could, I shook hands with Neil and told him I looked forward to seeing him at the "full moon party." the following Friday (when he would be on Kho Phag Nan).

It's amazing how quickly strangers can bond during trying experiences. And, needless to say, those two hours of clueless waiting as the sun rose and began to get beat-hot were extremely trying (one indistinctly Scandanavian couple lost their collective "shit" and were giving each other the silent treatment). It also says volumes about one's character who can endure such events without any noticeable signs of disturbance. However, such a character was absent that morning.

So, I got to the boat about 9:30. Then I waited some more. I sat with a Kiwi (from Christchurch) who has been living in Melbourne for the last five years. He confessed that he felt like Melbourne was his "home." I told him I felt the same way about Seoul. There was a young Korean man, with two Korean girls, on the boat as well. Once I heard them speaking, I said, "Hello," in Korean. Though visibly surprised, they didn't seem eager to talk.

At ten o' clock another van of passengers boarded the boat, and in came Neil (with a big shit-eating British grin). The boat dropped him and the others off at Kho Samui first. This time he feigned nonchalance at the fact that I had another hour on the boat and he would be having a "bucket" on the beach.

Although my initial plans were to get a longboat to take me around to a quiet, secluded beach on the northeast, I struck up a conversation with the aforementioned Kiwi and a Scottish girl, named Claire. It was brought to my attention that there was a "half moon party" that evening. The decision was clear: get a room on the loud, popular beach, Hat Rin, go to the "half-moon party," and search for quiet and secluded on the morrow.

Although that last bit is in the past tense, as I write this in my little notebook, it is 10 p.m. and I am heading to said party shortly. Details on that to follow.

Additionally, it should noted, as soon as I hit the beach I spent three hours in the water. I am pink all over and my skin is unusually warm. I fear the shower in the morning.

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