Day 4: I’ve never seen Titanic but I’ve been to The Beach
December 28, 2009
Someone left their shit in the hallway outside our room last night. It’s no one from our party – the 100L backpack, dirty, poorly stitched novelty flags and filthy runners strapped to the side are too bohemian for our posse. I bang a few doors down and finally find the German it belongs to. He heaps thanks upon me and swears that he had dinner with us last night then left his gear outside our room. He also swears we’re French. I should have taken Adam’s advice and pilfered the thing. Adam is a dick.
My good deed done for the day, a skip in my step and a hangover that’s waiting to be drowned in Chang and his friends, we’re off to grab a bite in town and see what Phuket proper has to offer. After 30 minutes, passing on curry for breakfast and taking down a big ham and cheese sandwich, we’re left with two questions; where the hell do people stay in Phuket, and why can every country in the world make fantastic French bread save for South Korea? Note to Korean bakers; sugar is for candy. Not bread.
The sun is shining bright in the sky today. No clouds to be seen. I’m itching to get onto the water and I hustle everyone back to the hotel. We tidy up after lunch, put our gear together and are shuffled off to the seaport by our price gouging van driver and into the face of island adventure. We hope. God, we hope.
Let me save you the retelling of a four hour tour by knocking it out, point form.
• Zach drops his wallet into the ocean and we Spider-man the side of the boat to recover it. We receive cheers.
• The boat is dangerously oversold and the only seat available to me is on the cooler of beer. I guard it with my life.
• My face is sunburned. Horribly.
• People who smoke on a boat, upwind, should be bound and tossed overboard. I mean this with every fiber of my being. Actually, people who smoke near people who don’t should, in general, be lashed with something wet for every stick they suck. Seems only fair to me. If you’re going to make my eyes water and my lungs explode I should be able to beat the living shit out of you. Just saying.
• Ko Phi Phi erupts out of the horizon like fire crackers. It’s stunning. 5km away you want to dive into the water and swim the difference. You swear you can make it. If you weren’t full of Chang, you might try it.
We make port with the other 5000 ships and are hustled into the city center. I’ve never been bombarded by hawkers like this; even Marty is at a loss for words. Boat rides. Snorkeling trips. Dope. Burgers. Rolex watches. Buggery. If there were tuk-tuks on this island I’m sure my head would explode. But there isn’t and I’m hungry so it’s time to unload and get our grub on.
As luck would have it, we decide to lunch at the same place where we’ll be leaving from on our adventure to Maya Bay. A late addition to the itinerary, we’re planning on spending the night camping on The Beach. Originally I had visions of a camp fire, relaxing to the sound of badly-strung guitar solos and sipping on some rum. In reality, there’s little chance any of us will sleep, a good chance someone will fall into the fire (me) and the odds are short on someone drowning. Relaxing is not the operative word. Jimmy Buffet just got real uncomfortable, wherever he is.
I’m getting ahead of myself. We lunch at the café and it’s curry around the horn once more. The drinks are flowing free now, too; coconut rum smoothies, cheap beer, one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor. We’re anxious to get settled, suffering from a touch of heat stroke and a bit drunk; things turn explosive when the bill comes since none of us can tally up and we’re at each other over the accounting. Eventually the troubles are squared away and we dump our thousands of pounds of junk into the backroom, hopeful we’ll see it again but too worn out to care. We need a beach.
We split off and wander for a bit before we board yet another boat for Maya Bay. Megan and I check out prices on authentic Ray-bans, shorts that are guaranteed to disintegrate upon first wear (pack underwear) and all manner of Chinese-handcrafted trinket we’re assured are homegrown. We probably buy too much. When we rejoin the group the mood has lightened considerably thanks to a round of beers and Marty’s Irish compatriot, Brendy G, who has joined our cadre in the search for fun. Brendy has been touring around SE Asia a while now, packed up and left the rat race behind a few weeks ago for sand, surf and as much cheap booze as he can handle. He’s been to Vietnam, Cambodia and is off to NZ and Australia next. We’re mostly jealous of Brendy G. This trip isn’t going to last long enough.
I love the boat. This one is smaller than the ferry that brought us to the islands and we’re not packed into it like sweaty pink sardines. There’s space to stretch our legs, a spot for our beer and a nice sea breeze blowing in. Our sea crew, 17, 18 years old with leathery skin at least twice that age introduce themselves to us and covertly select targets of their affection for the night. It’s obvious to everyone they have a thing for the Swedes. Poor, naïve Swedes. At any rate, we’re whisked off to the limestone caves for the ubiquitous tourist dump, but before we can become too disheartened our crew tell us that they’re just kidding, no one wants to see the caves, and they pull into a cove and tell us to walk the plank. So we do. For about an hour we dive off the boat to swim with the fish and snorkel with the sea below, toss around fresh fruit and scratch the itches left behind by the hungry little mouths. We even have enough time to practice our back flips from the bow and tease Kevan about not being able to do one and having to wear water wings into the ocean. Poor Kevan. Not a fan of the leisure sports.* Far, far too early for my tastes we’re loaded back on the boat for our sunset cruise into Maya Bay. I know it’s supposed to be beautiful and all, but I just want to play in the water. I like to jump off things. It’s what I do.
We roll into the bay and I fire off what will later become my hallmark shot of the trip; a longboat sailing into a setting sun. If it were on fire and people were jumping into shark infested waters and a North Korean sub were attacking I could sell it to the American media for millions of dollars, but alas… a simple boat traverses the calm seas. My Pulitzer Prize will have to wait. We land ashore, cast our bags and shoes into the brush and break out the cameras, soccer balls and beers. Sweet, merciful beers. Beers, the beaches of beaches and the sunset. I have found the single greatest place in the world and I never want to leave.
Here’s where things start to get blurry. Dinner time. I’ve taken my photos – they aren’t very good – forsaken a stroll because it’s getting dark and I don’t want to get eaten by a crocodile or shot by the drug dealers on the other side of the island and I’m a little famished. So while we’re waiting for dinner we all get together and settle in for a long winter’s chat. The Canadians that came with us, they’re a good time. Loads of laughs because they’re a little rough around the edges and traveling for the first time. Gotta love a group of people that wear socks with their thong sandals because their feet are sunburned. Can’t forget the tattoos of their favorite car brands. I know I’d like to drive a Ford, someday. Anyway, they are good people and easy going and the beer flows as free with them as I’ve ever seen it before. It’s a good start to the party on Leo’s Beach.
Adam breaks out his guitar as the night wanes on but Marty decides to steal it. Marty knows how to play the guitar. Marty surprises me. Adam breaks out the bongos and Marty yells at Adam for breaking out the fucking bongos so Adam puts away the bongos. Marty is George Harrison. Marty is Pat Benetar. We laugh about this. Marty finishes playing the guitar and we drink more and I chase Marty around the campfire for calling me fat and I catch him and he tries to give me a DDT but he only weighs 35kg so he swings from my neck like a Bangkok whore’s fake pearls. I will wake up with an ache in my neck that will last until New Year’s Eve. Can’t blame Marty for everything, though. It’s my idea to sleep on the jugs of water and not the beach. Jugs of water are not comfortable and microfiber towels do not provide much warmth. These are the things I learn on Maya Bay.
The rest of the night exists somewhere in the memory I haven’t been able to access, might never be able to. Our guides become increasingly animated then relax in one fell swoop. They are super high. So high that the beer-tender gives me four beers and $17 in change for a $10 bill. I’m drunk enough not to notice for ten minutes and when I try to correct his error he takes offence and calls me a liar… for trying to give back the extra money he gave me. We skip the Muiido Olympics: Thailand 2009 because someone would almost certainly break their neck during jungle high jump. Megan goes missing only to turn up in the famous hammock in the rocks. Kevan tries to fight Adam’s annoying Canadian friend…and we urge him to do so (Kevan knows how to kick really, really hard). I drink too much, go for a midnight swim, lose my bearings and end up on the far side of the bay where one of our tour guides and the easy-going Swedish girls are getting into things… well… island beach style. I finish what’s left in my bucket – it’s rum, in case you’re guessing – take one for the road and curl up on my empty jugs of water for a few winks. I love Thailand.
*For more on Kevan’s leusire adventures see a coming post on Osan Skating 2008, Dragon Valley Skiing 2009 and Man Sunday Screen Golf 2010… scary stuff.
Shooting Day 4:
I had a blast on Maya Bay, but as a photo trip, I could have done better. Sometimes, though, you need to hedge your bets and just have a good time. I would love to go back and explore the island fully and take a thousand and more more photos, but I can’t complain about the time I had. I also got a chance to use my new ND1000 filter for the first time, a 10-stop behemoth that lets you take fantastic long exposure shots in the middle of the day. Just make sure you take off your lens cap when you’re working on your “shot of the trip…” you don’t want to ruin those. Like I did. Three times.