Day 7: Merry Christmas you Filthy Animal, and a Happy New Year
December 31st, 2009
What a year it’s been. I’ll save you the proselytizing for another blog; this is all about Thailand, so in a way, it’s about looking forward. I could talk all day about what I learned, what I did, what I didn’t do this year, but I’d rather deal with the here and now. And the here and now is Ko Phi Phi, New Year’s Eve, the calm before the storm. For better or for worse we decided to skip the hedonistic bash out at Ko Phangan and get into things in our own little slice of heaven. Only a few more hours to see how that plays out.
I’m refreshed. There’s no hangover to work through, only one to grow into tomorrow morning. We’re all feeling the same, generally; it’s a calm blue ocean out there, but that tide is gonna come rippin’ in at some point. The only thing left to do is decide when. Zach, Megan and I decide that there’s no time like the present and after a little breky at the swim up bar (perhaps the only place in Thailand that the food is below par) it’s a date with Mr. Chang and co. The infinity pool at the hotel has been our haven for more than 48 hours now; we can see the beach and we can watch the boats coming into and out of the bay while we’re served drinks, so why go sit in the sand and get trampled by hammered Swedish tourists? The only negative aspect about this is that my back has turned deep shades of crimson from leaning over the pool barrier. Can’t win em all, but you can win most of em.
Reality bites. What we’ve been putting off for days – months, if you count the fact that we should have sorted this when we were all back in Korea – has become a tough reality to face. I need to get to Ko Samui by the third to catch a connecting flight to Cambodia. The rest of the crew need to find their way back to Bangkok for a midnight flight to Seoul on the 2nd. No one wants to compare travel agents or prices or do anything other than drink beer and relax by the pool. This is torture. This is hell. Megan and I did a quick recon mission this morning to see who was offering deals (read: we stopped at the first agent we could find) and he told us to come back as a group this afternoon. Well, here we are. And it’s not proceeding quickly.
Our agent, as friendly as he is, doesn’t have a clue. He used to be a math teacher he says, god bless him, but he can’t count how many are in our group or do the simplest of travel math. “I have a flight back to Bangkok from Phuket on the fourth!” he exclaims. I think Kevan is about to roundhouse his head into the ocean. “We need to be back a little sooner than that,” Marty quips through clenched teeth. I know that I’ll be doing the ferry-bus-ferry route out of here, across to Krabi, overland the Surat Thrani and onward to Samui so I just want to get everyone else booked up and ready. Our man is not helping. It is 40 minutes before we come to the conclusion that we’ll all be leaving here by boat (we knew this coming in) and going in totally different directions. The crew will be heading back to the Phuket mainland to catch the notorious overnight bus to Bangkok (12 hours? Shoot me now) while I’m off to enjoy a leisurely six hour pair of cruises. I guess I can win…
We finally break free from our travel responsibilities. It’s New Year’s Eve, so it’s time we started making bad choices. First on the docket; the tattoo parlor. Phil has been aching for a little ink since before we landed and he’s had all of us on the bandwagon; more than once we’ve been one or two beers shy of group Big Dick Swinging tattoos. If you know a little Tropic Thunder, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You know you’d do it, too.
Anyway, Phil picks out a little piece for the inside, meaty part of his arm then picks out the meatiest looking tattoo artist of them all to get down to the tap, tap, tapping. It’s a long process for such a dinky little thing – some Thai characters that may or may not say I love ladyboys – but worth hanging around to see the pained look on Phil’s face while he tries to act tough. Kevan can’t watch because he’s dangerously close to getting a ladyboy of his own; we’re not even sure if he’s talking about tattoos anymore.
Post self-mutilation we find a posh little joint with a deck that serves the greatest Oreo shakes in the universe. Not kidding. When we order food we’re chagrined to find that just about every place on the block is closed until after dinner time, prepping for one beachside buffet or the other. But our host, man our host is a good one. He’s Swedish and his kitchen is preparing a billion heaping helpings of meatballs, so he offers us a set of the big ones each. Never have I tasted round mounds so delectable. I can say that with all honesty. None of us – myself, Megan, Zach nor Phil – complain that we’re gouged on the price, either. We celebrate the taste sensations of the early afternoon with a round of strong strawberry cocktails. It begins.
We clean ourselves up – who knows why – and I stop off at the beach bar to ready a few buckets of rum. It’s not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Not by a long shot. But it tastes good and it’s cheap. Happy New Year. Megan, Zach and I head down to the beach for a massage before the evening’s entertainment. The massage is good and all, but not the mythical Thai massage of legend that you’re expecting, that you hear so much about, en route to the islands. But for $6, what do you expect?
Another note on the massage; all the stomping, cracking, pushing, shoving and pulverizing is great, but what I didn’t know is that you’re never, ever supposed to drink before or immediately after a massage because of the toxins and fluids released into your blood stream. This is largely to blame for my 3pm wakeup tomorrow. Largely.
The massage-e wraps and we clean ourselves up – those oils leave you slipping around like a greased pig – and I shave in the single greatest vacation stache of all time. I look like a young Burt Reynolds, so I’m told. It’s a good one. We meet up with the boys on the porch of our tiny little hut and enter into a little merrymaking before we’re joined by an uninvited guest – the drunkest Australian anyone has ever met. I’ve seen this guy all over the island making an ass of himself; showing girls the bad angel wing tattoos on his back, replete with a Rock N Roll tagline; fall-down drunk on the beach by nine at night; forcing the bartenders to play all the shitty 80s hair rock he has on his iPod. Coming to join us isn’t going to end well if this guy’s looking to start something. Not with Kevan and Zach at 2-0 in the ring and coach Marty screaming everyone on at the top of his little lungs. Aussie is after it, too; it doesn’t help that Marty’s sticking him in the ribs with everything he’s got, calling him John when his name is Jerry and talking about the kind of place Sydney is… no matter Kevan is the only one of us who has been there and he hasn’t said a word. When Aussie’s hand slips low on his bottle for a better Marty-bashing grip the rest of us are nearly out of out seats, hearts thumping in anticipation of a scene that will do little more than land us in a beachside Thai jail cell for the night. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m starting to resent the bullshit and I’m going to dummy both of them if they don’t quit. Kevan, I believe, senses this.
“Too right then ya bell ends, that’s enough of this horseshit. I’m off to the beach to get fackin’ drunk.” Megan agrees, Zach wants in and Phil is out of his hammock in a shot, bless his little heart. My mood as dour as it’s been the entire trip, I slump off without so much as a word. The Aussie twit, he knows I don’t like him. Says so, points it out. “You don’t like me much,” he says. He thinks he’s BDS, coming after the biggest guy in our group. The bigger the are, the harder they fall. I’ve heard it. He thinks it. Sadly, I have the shortest fuse of our lot. I bite really hard, too. This guy doesn’t want to get into it with a man with a moustache and a belly full of cheap Thai rum. On the beach, later, I tell Marty so. I tell him that I don’t appreciate being put in the middle of that kind of bullshit. We all know I can step in it deep on my own, thank you. I’m hard on Marty and I feel bad as I’m chewing him out but that’s how it goes with your best friends on the beach; sometimes you bitch and bicker. Makes the good times even better. Ten minutes later we’ve forgotten about it and Marty’s kissing me on the lips. I don’t approve of this much, either.
Arm length portraits. This is where my photography has dipped to. Seriously. Arm length portraits… with a point and shoot camera. It’s a good one – a great one, in fact – but still. Facebook party photos. This isn’t me. I’m sitting on the beach, it is New Year’s eve, I’m wearing a mustache and drinking from a bucket shooting arm length portraits. How the mighty have fallen… funny, though. The arm length portrait is the only photo from the whole trip that Megan and I have together. Our shots on Maya Bay didn’t turn out because no one knows how to focus an SLR, apparently. Whatever. The stache memories will last a lifetime.
Second night in a row I’m first on the dance floor. I don’t even know who I am anymore. It’s not like a dance floor anywhere else, either. No pushing, no shoving. The Euro folk know how to move and stay out of each other’s way. I’ve almost totally forgot about life in Korea. The only one who doesn’t get this, funny enough, is Aussie. An hour into the festivities he’s rolling in the sand with an enormous Swede – one of the guys we saw drinking tequila from the bottle shortly before noon – and he’s having his face turned into hamburger meat. No one is stepping in to help the man from down under. I’m not going to start a new trend. Back to the dance floor. Turn my headphones up. Ugh!
Sometime after the stroke of 12 – there’s no official countdown, since there are no clocks on the island – our group is split up. Lord knows who Phil is hanging out of the back of and ditto on Kev. Megan, Marty, Zach and myself take off for a little downtown cruise and while it begins as nothing more than a casual drinking exodus, it descends into a shock and awe contest of epic proportions. Tequila here. Jagger there. Vodka somewhere else. This is what happens when you drink with Americans. Casual doesn’t even enter into their vocabulary. “Let’s get wasted, whoooo!!!!”
I’ve been thinking, all night long, that I’m pacing myself. That I’m not that bad. Why, I might not even have a hangover in the morning! I am, of course, delusional. Know how I know? Sometime after three, we’re back on the beach. Megan is sitting in a broken plastic chair and Zach is showing Marty and I how to cinch in military-grade headlocks. We all take a turn. We’re stubborn, so we choke each other good and hard. At least Marty doesn’t swing from my neck like Spider-man. I’m still a little sore off that one.
I’m staring at the ceiling/thatched roof of the hut. There’s a gecko going after bugs. I don’t want him to fall into my mouth. I don’t know what time it is. I don’t think I brushed my teeth. Megan is covering her head with a pillow because the bar next door – the speakers are literally backed up against our hut – is playing some insane new breed of death techno at full volume. My ears are ringing. My neck hurts. I’m going to be sick, but I’m too drunk to roll over. This is 2010. Happy New Year.
Shooting Day 6:
Photos on New Year’s Eve? Come on… there’s only one way to do it. One way, and one way only. The point and shoot camera. Arm length portraits. It’s just what you do. You’re not even allowed to use an SLR on New Year’s Eve, as the legend goes. There’s no fun in that.
© 2010 Flash Parker