Well, I made it to Ko Chang with very few mishaps. Ten hours by bus, the back of a pickup, and ferry, plus incidental waiting time. (Here “Thai time” doesn’t mean a pretty good Thai restaurant on El Camino, but the happy tendency of the 5pm ferry to turn into the 6pm, 7pm, or 8pm ferry, depending on the whim of the operator.)
Ko Chang is a very lovely, largely unspoiled island in Southeast thailand, quite near the Cambodian border. I’m staying on Klong Prao Beach, which is one of the more southern beaches, very nice and quiet–unlike White Sands Beach further north, which is full of backpackers, nightclubs, etc. Here there are a few people on the beach, but not many, and they’re mostly Thai.
I’m staying at K.P. (K.C.? can’t remember) Resort, which consists of a bunch of bamboo huts on the beach. Mine is small and very cute, maybe 8’x10′, with rough wooden frame, thatched roof, and woven-palm-frond door, held up off the ground by stilts. Inside, a single naked bulb dangles from a wire next to the door, but flip the light switch and nothing happens: electricity is only supplied from 6pm to 6am. I see many candle-stubs in the doorframe, so I’m not sure the electricity works, even then. I’m glad I brought a flashlight, just in case. A large mosquito net hangs over a very well-used queen-sized mattress.
My hut faces a very lovely, quite deserted beach. The sand is very fine-grained, but clumped into thousands of tiny little balls like tapioca, with little “runways” of clear sand going every which way. It looks rather like obscure runic script on a field of sand-pellets. Walk across the beach and dozens of tiny crabs scurry into their holes–less than 1/2″ across, they build both runways and pellets, as they dig through the grains for food. (I wish I had the slightest idea what species they were, or what they eat. But I didn’t get a good guide for sea life before coming here.) It’s truly the perfect beach for just sitting and contemplating, or sipping freshly-squeezed tangerine juice at the open-air restaurant, journal in hand.
I’ve spent considerable time hiking along this beach now, although mostly back and forth. I got wandered north up the beach this morning, passing many beached coconuts and a few Thai people, before coming to a little inlet at Blue Lagoon Resort. Looking into the water, I saw thousands and thousands of black spiral shells–then one moved, and I realized I wasn’t looking at shells, but thousands of hermit crabs! Then I saw glassfish, and lots of tiny minnows–almost every body of water seems to teem with life here, unlike California streams which seem to be only lightly populated, if at all.
I forded the inlet (the water was only up to my thighs), and continued up the beach until I found the bamboo huts. I decided I liked them better than the place I stayed last night, so I checked in, and trekked south to my old hotel. This time I got wetter–I had to rescue my digital camera and my passport got a little wet–so I figured the tide was coming in.
I packed up and inquired about a taxi: it turns out they only run once an hour, so I started trekking north on foot. I’m glad I dumped another ten pounds out of my pack before I came here (I left it at the guesthouse in Bangkok)–it’s now down to 30-35 pounds, which was quite feasible for the mile or two I carried it. (I did get awed/pitying looks from the maids, though–probably because my pack is almost as big as I am, when I’m carrying it. One drunken night I’m going to see if I can actually curl up inside it–I suspect that, except for my shoulders, I could. It makes for quite a sight; I’ll see if I can get a picture.)
Remembering the inlet (and the tide), I lined the inside of my pack with a large trash bag. The bottom of the pack did get wet (the tide was still rising) but fortunately, the triple layer of water repellent kept the inside completely dry. (I admit to being paranoid and overprepared, but hey–it paid off.)
A small pack of Thai children were playing in the inlet–one of them very kindly stopped me, scouted out the shallowest spot, and showed me where to ford. Lots of big smiles, even though we couldn’t understand each other at all.
On the way to get my email, I went along the beach, and rather than fording the inlet again, walked up to the main road along a dirt road used mainly by tractors. At the end of the road, I broke through some underbrush and found elephants! four of them, standing and munching placidly by the side of the road, flapping their ears to stay cool. (That’s what I love about wandering–interesting surprises pop out of nowhere.) The place I found does elephant treks, asking an extortionate 800 baht ($20) for two hours–more than my entire hotel bill for the week–but I may go anyway. Elephants are just way cool. (I’m planning on an elephant trek out of Chiang Mai, or I would have been on one immediately. 😉 )
So anyway, here I am, in a world without running water (but with email 🙂 ), lots of deserted beach, where the taxis only run once an hour and life runs slowly. I walked 45 minutes to get to Internet access (major junkie I 😉 ), and email is extortionately expensive (4 baht/minute = $6/hr, but I talked the guy down to 3), so I don’t know if I’ll write anything more while I’m here. Truly, the “beat” here is more laid-back…sit on the beach, relax and contemplate, maybe write a little in my journal. So you may not hear from me again until I get back to Bangkok.
I just heard from my mom, who suggests that I might find “the right guy” in an AIDS organization in Bangkok. I think that, now that my brother is safely engaged, she’s going to try selling me off again. Oy vey. I think I’d better tell her about the dancer. 😉