Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Sun Tours - Koh Phag Nan
Over the past few days, a large group has formed on Thang Nai Pan. At any time of the day I can walk out onto the beach and find a table of 6-8 people that I know. One person will disappear for a massage, one will go lie on the beach, two of us will go throw the football/frisbee, and then come back. A steady, yet unspoken, rotation has been created and maintained. So, out of 10-14 people, a few are always around.
On Monday, ten of us rented a boat for an around-the-island tour. It was planned to leave at ten. If I wanted to take a decent shower, have a complete breakfast, and mentally prepare for an all-day boat adventure, I would need to wake up at 9 (the earliest I've been up since arriving in Thailand).
I got up early, had my shower, and ate a large plate of mixed fruit: banana, mango, pineapple, and watermelon. A French woman, named Mary, sat at the table with me silently drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. The beach was dead quiet.
By the time everyone was accounted for and ready it was 10:15. Boys in kayaks came out from the boat to pick us up. As soon as we all got on, our guide, Chris, explained to us what the events of the day would entail. He talked about the different beaches we would see. He talked about traditional fishing villages, snorkeling, swimming, and kayaking. Everyone was smiling with anticipation and off the boat went.
Chris is from Estonia. He went to a boarding school in Sweden. After a few years of making a career in the banking business, he quit and went traveling. He's been living on Koh Phag Nan for 4 years now, is married to a Thai woman, owns his own property and house, and has "made a life for myself." He looks younger than me, but I'm not sure.
The first stop was at Bottle Beach. There are absolutely no roads that lead to Bottle Beach. The only way in or out is by boat and some months of the year the waves are so bad many boatmen refuse to go there. The captain stopped the boat and we all jumped in the water. After everyone swam around and did a bit of kayaking, the boat was off again.
The fishing village was interesting. It was actually where I stayed five years ago, my first time to Koh Phag Nan. For the next stop, we rounded the northwest corner of the island and the water was extremely choppy. Everyone jumped in to snorkel anyway. The coral was beautiful and every possible color of fish was present.
It was at this time, while the rest of us were finishing up snorkeling, that Rasmus decided to make a sport of jumping off the boat. At first, it was just the deck. Then, he graduated to the rail. Finally, it was from atop of the captain's cabin. Even the crew began doing backflips off of the boat. This only encouraged Rasmus further. For the rest of the day, at every stop, jumping off the boat was mandatory.
After that, we ate the lunch that the captain had prepared for us. It was probably the best-tasting lunch I've had in Thailand. The captain watched us eagerly to see our reaction and the vote was unanimous. Everyone loved it. He was a proud captain.
The captain was worried that the sea along the western coast would be a bit too difficult, so he suggested turning back and finding a place to fish. We all agreed.
It was during this cruise back along our previous path that Rasmus came running up to me.
"Would you like to do something really exciting, buddy?"
"Tell me what it is first?" I asked.
"No! This is a yes or no. Very exciting! You want to try?"
"What is it?" I asked again.
Rasmus was visibly displeased with my lack of sense of adeventure, but he told me anyway.
"The captain said he will tie two kayaks to the back of the boat and pull them along with us in them." Big smile.
After that, almost everyone wanted to try it...and they did. So, there was a bit of kayak-surfing/wakeboarding. I was able to stand up for a good 30 seconds on it (but sat back down after I nearly fell). However, Sabrina was in the kayak next to me, and when she fell out it looked so fun, I leapt. Watching the massive boat turn around to retrieve you is a special sight.
Then it was fishing. I think Camilla caught 13. Jason, 16. I caught zero, but I am certain that that was because I was going for the bigger ones, deeper down.
Then it was Tan Sadet for more boat jumping and sunbathing.
When we got back to Thang Nai Pan the excitement, energy, and overall contentment of the day was clear in everyone's face. Everyone was eager to tell the same stories that all the other's had been present for, and the others were eager to listen. Food and drink came around, we all took turns disappearing to shower and change, the same stories told by someone new, laughter. Some came back, others went. How many fish did Camilla catch? How many backflips did Rasmus do off the top of the boat? How bad did the cut on Jason's foot look? How good was that lunch? How funny did Scott look falling out of the kayak?
It was neverending. No one wanted that day to end.
So, we all went dancing at the Jungle Bar and Red Bull, vodka/whiskey till four in the morning.