Saturday, September 5, 2009

Full Moon Party - Hat Rin - Kho Phag Nan

So, last night was the full-moon party. This party is notorious the world over. Some people fly to Thailand just for a few days to go to this party.

I took a boat from Thang Nai Pan at 10 o'clock. It was dark, overcast skies and dripping rain. The boat pulled up to our shore and the people were hunched over (hiding their faces from the rain). One of the British guys getting on the boat with me said it felt like a Burmese refugee, midnight boarding crossing. I thought, "where is Rambo when you need him?"

The boat ride was slow and wet. I opted to take a longboat instead of a speed boat because the Thais overload the speed boats and one capsized a few years ago returning from the full moon party (killing 15 foreigners). However, I'm sure that the sensation is not the same on a big, loud speed boat. When we came around the bend from Hat Yuan and saw Hat Rin (I could actually hear the bass from the house music before I saw it), it was all lit up, fire and flashing lights, fireworks and beach dancing that was a sea mob on the shore. All of the passengers on the longboat sat up, the girls' faces came out from beind their bags and everyone seemed to smile with anticipation. The excitement was palpable.

When the boat hit the shore I was the first one to jump out. I landed in sea water up to my knees and stormed up the beach with my flip flops in hand. A girl was sitting Indian-style doubled over herself - passed out at eleven. Everyone was painted and half-naked. Dancers in the sand, on tables, fire twirlers, and stalls selling cheap booze in plastic buckets covered the entire beach from end to end. Will and Amy, two people staying at the same place as myself on Thang Nai Pan came running up to me. They had just gotten their arms painted and each had a bucket. They wanted to go and have a drink and a dance, but insisted that I get some paint on me first. I went to the stall and asked the man for two geckos on my face (one on each cheek).

From then on, it was all dancing. I saw two Italian men that I met a few days earlier and it was automatic hugs and buckets.

Will and I agreed that all of the music had been sped up a notch. So, it was David Bowie, MGMT, Black Eyed Peas "Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night," but all Red Bull remixes. Guys were tackling their friends in the sand and then rolling over laughing uncontrollably. Girls and girls and boys mad kissing and licking faces in sweat and fire flash flesh pandemonium. One girl just had a mass of pink paint on her palm and went around leaving handprints on everyone's chests and arms.

I danced. I danced like I hadn't danced in years. Cathartic.

Got the 4 a.m. boat back to Thand Nai Pan. Woke at 11. Everyone out front having breakfast, telling the same story: buckets, bars, dancing. Jason, the Aussie, never came back. Scott said not to worry (Jason can drink beer for 50 straight hours apparently - nothing unusual).

Threw the football with Ben and took a swim. Talked about Sasha Baron Cohen (Kazakhstan has the best potassium, all other countries' potassium is inferior). Recharged my MP3, listening to The Sounds as I write this.

Got an email from Thomas (already in China). We are on for Cheng Du for September 18th. Gonna need to figure out my China visa. Will head back to Bangkok on Friday or Saturday. Then it is China and Tibet. Should be good.

Photos from full moon party will follow. I bought a plastic disposable camera not to get my brand new one wet or destroyed. Will post.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tan Sadet Waterfalls

Wednesday, Sept. 2nd.

The beach just south of Thang Nai Pan is called Tan Sadet. It is much smaller and more "secluded" than Thang Nai Pan (which is saying a lot). The entire beach is powered by generator and it shuts off at 10 o'clock every evening.

Sabrina, Rasmus, a couple from London, and I hired a longboat to take us to Tan Sadet with the intention of hiking to a series of three waterfalls just a couple of kilometers behind the beach. The boatman was wearing an Arizona State University "Sun Devils" t-shirt. I was tempted to explain to him what an evil shirt it was, but ultimately decided that he probably wouldn't understand.

When we arrived at Tan Sadet, a girl was jumping on a very large trampoline on the beach. As soon as Rasmus saw her, he looked at me with mouth agape, "We have to do this!"

After jumping on the trampoline, we made our way up the steep dirt road to the waterfalls. The road was dangerous; we were slipping and sliding on foot. Multiple, deep and gnarly ruts wound down the center and the sides of the road. A middle-aged German man, on a huge Kawasaki dirt bike, came roaring down the road and stopped to ask us for directions. He was wearing a t-shirt and shorts (the standard uniform for anyone on a Thai island). His right elbow was skinned badly and tendrils of blood poured down his forearm and dripped from his wrist. He was all smiles, laughs, and merriment (like a kid with a new toy). After learning that the beach was just a kilometer down the road, he insisted he was fine and went tearing off down the road behind us.

The waterfalls were not as impressive as we all had expected, but the rocks were cool and we climbed them as far up and down the river as we could. Rasmus was determined to see a snake, but was left unsatisfied.

As we were leaving Tan Sadet, our longboat's engine went out about 80 yards from the shore. I am wholly convinced it was the gods' retribution for our boatman's t-shirt. This event forced us to make an at-sea boat transfer (which made everyone involved uneasy, but proved uneventful).

Back at Thang Nai Pan I had a chance to sit and talk with Ben and Camilla (the London couple I went trekking with). Ben spoke lovingly about the traveling he had done prior to ten years ago. For the last ten years, he has been living in London and has had his own small business. At some point it occurred to him that he wasn't doing what he wanted to be doing. So, he sold his car, his flat, and his business and plans to travel until he finds something he wants to do: six months or a year, he's not sure. Such stories always inspire me.

Fishing with Rasmus

The next morning at 10, while I was having breakfast on the beach, Rasmus came running up to me.

"Okay! You are having breakfast. That's good. I go get the rope, the hook, the things for the fishes to eat. The man was telling me the fish like to eat the squid and they like to eat late in the day. So, I think, three or four o'clock, something like this, we get the boat, we go to the rocks out there, and we get this fish. He pointed to a collection of boulders at the far edge of the bay, grinned with an excitement rarely seen, and then ran off down the road into the village.

For the next two afternoons, Rasmus and I were proper fisherman. We rented a kayak and paddled out. We had chunks of raw squid, a knife, hooks, bobs, sinkers and were getting it done.

On Monday, we only had one line: a little 30 meter finger spool. We were amateur at best. The first catch was a little, five-inch, dark-purple, spotted "grouper." It appeared quite spiky and we had no idea what kind of fish it was. Neither one of us wanted to take it off the hook.

"We are such pussies, no?" Rasmus asked with a belly laugh.

By dark, Rasmus was barefoot atop the boulders slinging this hand line 30 feet into the sea. We had it down to a science.

By Tuesday evening, we were pro. We each had a line and were fishing from atop the boulders. I stood on a boulder that seemed to hover ten feet above the water (ten feet above a calm recess in the side of the bay). The smaller fish were visible, and numerous, in the water below. We had caught a lot of those already and had thrown them back. At the bottom of this recess was a massive, submerged boulder with a dark space beneath it. The sun was setting. It was beautiful. The tide was coming in; I moved the "bob" about seven feet up the line: right where I wanted it. Then I fixed a gnarly chunk of squid to the hook. I must say, in all modesty, the throw was perfect. The squid sank to the perfect depth and lazily drifted with the waves past this dark space.

And, boom!

A black oval shot out from beneath the boulder and took the line. I pulled him up as quickly as I could. It was a 12-inch, maybe two pound "grouper" or rock cod (I got differing opinions) and it was gorgeous.

Back at the guesthouse, they were happy to cook it for me. They suggested frying it with some garlic and I didn't argue. It was quite tasty. I was a proud fisherman.

Afterwards, a bunch of us went to the Thai fights. The high whistle ringing and constant drumming was a steady soundtrack to the screams for blood and money. The bookies circulated among the seats shouting who they were betting on and collecting and handing out bills. I broke even with them, but I lost five dollars to a random, heavy-set Thai woman sitting behind me. She had a wide smile and a pleasant sounding laugh.

Day 5 on Thang Nai Pan

Island life has caught up with me (which I hope explains for the delay in new posts). It is so simple, island life, that it is pathetic.

There's an Australian here, Jason, whose steadfast routine consists of getting up between 11 and 12, eating breakfast, reading the newspaper, going for a swim, lying on the beach, and drinking beer from 3 or 4 in the afternoon until midnight. I have been here five days now, and he has done precisely this every day. He has been here for "only" two weeks now, but he has told me on more than one occasion that he once spent 4 months on Tan Sadet, the beach just south of us, a few years ago.

I was having dinner with Jason, and his friend from Sydney, Scott, on Sunday evening at the restaurant just beside ours. There was a show with traditional Thai dancing and fire throwers. I had a grilled Tuna steak that was to die for. At the table next to us was a girl from Laguna Beach, Sabrina, who has been living in Vienna for the past 13 years and her German boyfriend, Rasmus. They are both professional actors and mainly do musical theatre. Rasmus told me later that he was Jesus in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, "But I feel I was too young for this role." He is extremely energetic and talkative. He loves it all. He loves "this beach." He loves the island. He loves his girlfriend. He loves the dancing. He loves the fire. But most of all, he loves "this fish." He cannot get over how fresh "this fish" is. At first, I'm unsure if "this fish" is referring to the tuna or the snapper, but "this fish" is actually referring to all of the fish in general.

It must be added that Rasmus' favorite cocktail is root beer and vodka.

It was late in the evening while drinking this root beer and vodka that Rasmus looked at me, quite seriously, and said, "Let me tell you what we are going to do. Tomorrow, we get the boat, we get the rope, we get the things this fish like to eat, and we get this fish."

Like most late-night, heavily-imbibed conversations, I didn't expect any of it to come to fruition. However, this was before I really knew Rasmus.