Sometimes, I wish I were a fish. Like this fish. It is a nice fish. Instead, I am a man. A frail man. And I must take a ship to cross the ocean blue. This does not make me happy. I wish I were a fish.
Yesterday was a write off. Today I’m stuck floating on boats and bouncing along broken roads in the back of a sweaty, cramped bus. I really should have flown to Samui. I really should have.
Sue’s alarm woke me up bright and early and I finished packing my things (I still managed to forget some important pieces, which I will only realize a day or two from now). The morning begins with teary goodbyes on the pier and I toss my lot aboard the big ship with a cadre of other reluctant travelers. I have never wanted to stay in one place so badly my whole life.
Yet there are good days ahead. Today simply marks the end of the first part of this Asian adventure, from which I must reluctantly part. What lay ahead, though, should be spectacular; two days in a tropical paradise to explore on my own and 20 days to split between Cambodia and Vietnam. These are the things I’m thinking about as I settle into my uncomfortable plastic chair in the middeck. I shuffle back and forth between my seat and the top deck for 30 minutes or so, but there’s only so much sea air you can take in when you’re working on day two of an epic hangover. Exactly why I brought my iPod; Tropic Thunder awaits.
I hit the Krabi port after my movie and nap and am whisked away with a bunch of other pink-faced foreign devils for a shuttle ride to the bus terminal. The shuttle ride is not a lot of fun. I refuse to stack my bag of camera equipment on the roof – no racks, no bungees, just a man sitting up top hanging onto things for dear life – and have to hold it in my lap. For an hour. Sitting over the bus’s wheel well. While a woman from Nova Scotia (sigh, Canada) who would compete for space in three airline seats devours four candy bars and a 2L bottle of coke next to me. She’s getting crumbs everywhere. It’s not even Diet Coke. Come on!
Mercifully, the trip comes to an end and we’re left at the terminal to wait for the “express bus.” I’m not down for bad pad Thai at worse prices at the bus kiosk so I kill time on the coast, watching the fishing boats come in and out and move less than a few inches over the course of an hour. My whirlwind trip of independence and adventure is not exactly getting off to a cracking start. I do crack part of my skull trying to use a squat toilet in the dark shortly before boarding the bus, though. That counts for something.
Another boat. This one isn’t crowded; the hordes are leaving Samui and the outlying islands now, not entering. Doesn’t keep the prices at the port down any, though. I know I’m going to get gouged the moment I land, but I just don’t care anymore. My bag feels like it weighs 500lbs, I’ve missed what was a wholly epic sunset rotting on that boat and if one more sleazy tuk-tuk driver sticks his hand in my face I’m going to lose my shit. I miss my friends, too. So I accept the inevitable, bargain down a cab ride from the port to Big Buddha Beach and climb into air-conditioned solitude. It’s about $15 around the island – the worst fleecing I’ve taken on the trip by far – but who cares. I’m not going to die on the back of a scooter and I still might be able to dump the cabbies body somewhere and take the car on one last blaze of glory through the mountains…
Got off topic there.
My cab drops me off on the strip and I agree to a night at the first resort I find. It’s not cheap by SE Asian standards by any means, but it’s right on the ocean, the room is huge and clean and breakfast is included. I wash the grime of travel from my body, clean my battered camera equipment and sort out a plan of attack for the rest of my time alone. It’s taken all day, but things are finally starting to turn around. I spend an hour chatting with the owner of the hotel and her gaggle of children before setting out for a few wobbly pops and something light; my stomach started to turn on the boat so I’m off Thai food for the time being. It’s Lord Nelson’s English pub – owned by an Australian – for a wrap before a little wander about town. The traffic on the strip is intense – first time I’ve seen a real vehicle since Phuket, and it’s disheartening – and the hookers falling out of their clothes and the “bars” along the road are worse. Each place is owned by a fat, pink, sweaty foreign creep who winks at me like he knows what I’m thinking. Then I remember that I’m on my own, in what is little more than a den of sin, and I cringe. I decide to leave the midnight stroll to another time when my backside isn’t on fire and return to my comfortable lodging with some pepto from the local pharmacy. I check the clock. It’s 9pm. This reminds me of the first week I spent in South Korea, without a phone, the internet or TV. Only here I don’t even have a book (I’m sick of the Lonely Planet). I leave my fortress again and head for the massage parlor attached to the five-star luxury hotel next door. I can’t imagine anything in this place is sleazy and I’m about right; there’s another Canadian working on a separate “deal” when I arrive, and it’s not going his way. Cringe one more time. The massage lasts 30 minutes, though my bones will be sore much, much longer. I feel like a pretzel.
I return to my fortress for the final time and crawl into bed. I forgot that my gear was full of sand when I dumped it out onto the sheets. Not a good idea. I’m rolling around in gravel. Maybe if I lay still it won’t bother me so much…
The Beach is on TV. I don’t want to watch The Beach. Ever. I turn off the TV and go to sleep.
This trip has, admittedly, been want for photos from time to time when I haven’t been out to shoot something specific. I go off in spurts here and there, between drinking binges, making 200 frames one afternoon then struggling to find half a dozen the next. I rode two massive ships all day and should have worked some time to shoot details, but leaving my enormous bag of gear alone was one issue and my resurgent hangover was another. I had my camera with me when I went on the first late-night wander, but I wasn’t in the mood to brush off 500 hookers so I called it early. But plans for the rest of the trip, though; big plans.