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Welcome to paradise! Sort of.

THAILAND | Wednesday, 20 December 2006 | Views [4362]

Nai Pan Yai three days before my arrival. Photo courtesy of Harry.

Nai Pan Yai three days before my arrival. Photo courtesy of Harry.

All the ingredients were there on Ko Pha-Ngan for the perfect beach holiday, white sands, warm turquoise waters, cheap bungalows, a handful of travelers. Unfortunately, Melbourne's uniform gray skies followed me across the globe. Apparently, the monsoon has been loitering in the Gulf of Thailand, timing its visit to Ko Pha-Ngan coincidently enough with my own arrival. Dammit. No rain but strong winds quickly turned my hairdo into a bee hive. Luckily enough afros are back in fashion or did I miss that trend too?

And with everything else that has happened thus far, the journey south was a tale worthy one, so allow me to elaborate. On's face visibly distorted with despair when I ate my last meal at May Kaidees before leaving Bangkok. When she gave me a Christmas card that offered a gift that is cute, funny and useless all year round, herself, I left with the impression that she had grander designs for us than what I had entertained. (Hahaha, that last sentence contained a Freudian slip in that the gift was 'useful' and not 'useless'. Who's with me on this one boys?)

As I had gone to the bus station myself to buy a ticket, it meant that I boarded a bus identical to the one I expected to, and not half the size or three times the age that often happens when purchasing tickets through the travel agents. The 10 hour trip actually passed quite comfortably. The fun started as soon as I arrived in Surat Thani. Being dropped off at the bus stop the guide book said never got used, a perfidious local took off with my bag, throwing it in his taxi and shouting that there was just enough time to catch the 630am boat. 80 baht ($3 AUS) seemed reasonable so I ordered he take me to the pier. Still sleepy, the alarm bells didn't ring when he dropped me at his mates travel agency instead, then shot off before giving me change for 100. 250 baht for an express boat was the rate 3 years ago yet my still dozing mind didn't object to 350 for a more scenic route. A long trip around town picking up other suckers meant I missed the 630 boat or more likely, it never existed.

Fearlessly I boarded a craft whose unseaworthiness was beyond question, thanks to its decrepit appearance and the tip of a similar craft sunk less than 200 meters away. My stomachs hatred for the sea came back quickly, but not as quickly as it did for others. It has been my observation that in relation to sea faring, Thais can be divided into two categories. Half are born with saltwater in their blood, while the others are totally unable to handle even the ripples from a fart in the bathtub. Sure enough, all the Thais traveling on my boat were from the second category and went a few pastelly colours before settling on a lovely green hue. Crashing through three meters waves would have churned the hardiest of stomachs in the floating pile of firewood we found ourselves in. In the dip between waves I could see a wall of water higher than the windows above me. White knuckled, I was unsure whether I was going to evacuate from either end of my digestive system.

The two hour express boat dream evaporated into a 5 and a half hour nightmare that took us via Ko Samui. Totally unsuited to my desires, as the East Coasts version of the densely populated Phuket, I still considered stopping on Samui purely to feel solid ground again. With my ass feeling like road kill, I soldiered on and arrived in Ko Pha-Ngan by 2pm. Yet another hour wait was necessary as I chose the only taxi not to have gotten enough passengers to leave immediately. Eventually, I decided with the 4 other travelers to cop the difference rather than wait for the next boatload of people. It's only money after all and I was doing a smashing job of wasting as much of it as I could.

One of my fellow taxi riders was a charming German man called Harry. I discovered this when the name was repeated frequently in German with another Austrian guy with us who also happened to be called Harry. Not wanting to feel common or to prove that most native English speakers are too lazy to learn another language, I kept my own counsel until we arrived at Ao Thong Nai Pan Yai. Here I followed German Harry to the place he was staying and took up lodging in a wooden bungalow for 200 baht a night. This was the price Harry gave me because the owner was not in his usual hammock and remained unseen until the following morning. Another wonderful traveler was also staying there, Matt from London, but after all sharing dinner and breakfast together, Matt braved possibly worse seas to make his way onto India, slightly scarred by the stories of my own experiences there.

As predictions for the crap weather ranged from 3 days to a month, I decided to stay another few nights at least before possibly trying for calmer seas on the other side of the island. Given the underwear endangering boat ride, I am reluctant to leave so quickly and face a similar journey so soon. At least I had the peace I sought to do the things I wanted, even if there may not come a time to chocolate my skin to the same extent that Matt managed.

Tags: Beaches & sunshine

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