01 October 2005

The Krabi Epic

Disclaimer: This entry has the ugliest html known to man.


Life lesson #3, re-learned for the 5886th time: Dehydration and sleep deprivation are not my friends.

Seven easy steps to break a mind:

  1. Wednesday night: Skip out on a giant international pow-wow at Kamlangdee in order to get plenty of sleep. (BAD idea)
  2. Thursday afternoon: Run out of 5:30 class, quickly change out of uniform (leave in the International Relations Office), and meet the girls at the bus stop.
  3. Catch a 12-hour bus to Krabi
  4. Fill head with feverish thoughts, catch less than an hour of sleep. Don’t drink much. (Bus toilets…uggghh…)
  5. Catch a songthew (pick-up truck converted to a bus) to the pier. Strike up a conversation with a 72-year-old Swede who’s traveling the world with his shiny red accordion.
  6. Jump into a long tail boat.
  7. Arrive at Railay Beach completely delirious and try to locate a room with 4 other girls.

Wow. Twelve-hour buses are an experience. Who knew that a $13.25 ticket buys:

  • transport (all 12 hours of it, woohoo!)

  • 1 “fruit cake sweet rolled”

  • 1 “orange yogurt drink”

  • 1 viewing of a gory Thai movie with lots of guns, zombies, and ghosts

  • dinner at a rest stop, including rice and UMOs (unidentified meat objects)

  • a place to sleep—theoretically, you fall asleep in Bangkok, wake up in Krabi at 7 am, refreshed and ready to start your day. It saves on hotel expenses…

"All I need is a flask of whiskey and a hot guy to pass out on." --Lobin aka Robin

Railay is undoubtedly the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. And I don’t even like beaches. When the boat slid into the bay, I was suddenly in postcard land. Holy hell monkeys. (Picture: Man-magnet Jill hits the beach.)

When we went for a swim, the beach was practically deserted. The water was insanely blue, green rocky cliffs towered above, and all I could think is “This is so beautiful…why isn’t it making me happy?” A liter of bottled water later I concluded that it’s impossible to be happy and dehydrated at the same time.

Even water can’t fix everything…Railay felt so…empty. There were bungalows, shops, restaurants, sand, vendors…and no soul. It was probably just the sleep deprivation talking, but I hated Railay the first day. One of the most beautiful places in the world…and all I wanted to do was go back to school…or find my monastery again.

Four of us girls signed up to go on an 8 hour snorkeling trip to 7 different nearby islands. Sea urchins rock my boat. (Anything with deep blue fluorescent spots gets my vote…presidential candidates, take note.) We stopped on an island to watch the sunset and eat dinner (See Liz's sunset picture)…that’s where the Israeli bombardment began.

They say that Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country to never have been colonized. In reality, it turns out that Thailand is an Israeli colony. Waiting for dinner, I struck up the usual travel banter with my fellow snorkelers:

Where are you from?
Israel.
Oh. What about you?
Israel.
You look totally different, where are you from?
Russia. But we moved to Israel.
Fuck.

I soon learned that 70% of the tourists, backpackers, and climbers at Railay are Israeli. Apparently, most Israelis want to travel the world after they get out of the army, and Thailand is a popular destination.


After dinner, it was dark, but there was one more stop on our tour. We jumped back in our longtail boats and stopped at a cove. I cannot begin to describe what I saw…The water was inky dark, and I felt incredibly vulnerable, thrashing in the water, gulping air…and furiously quashing thoughts of lurking sharks and other unfriendlies.

The water glowed.

Well, not the water exactly…there were these tiny, dancing, swirling globes that lit up as I churned the water around me. When I put on my mask and ducked under…it was another world. They were everywhere, swirling, luminescing with my movement…spinning through my fingers, curling around my arms…I could have stayed for eons down there watching them….

Later that night at a beach bar, I was watching an 8-year-old Thai completely school me in with his fire-spinning routine, and I ran into Arick and Asaf, two Israelis from the snorkeling trip. We started talking and it was all downhill from there. From then on out, every sentence of the conversation was laced with absurdity and 5 layers of sarcasm…just the way I like it. I haven’t met many people here with kind of sense of humor here, and I miss it. I almost feel as though I’m forced to be someone else when it’s not there…

Top five things I learned from Israelis:

  1. Most American humor is actually Jewish humor.

  2. All Americans are devils.

  3. There are different kinds of American devils with different names, like Satan, Lucifer, and Laura.

  4. “Lo-rah” in Hebrew means “not bad.” (Ironic, huh?)

  5. No, you’re not a liar…you’re just stupid.” –Asaf

I went rock climbing with them and another Israeli the next day in a jungle valley. On my second climb, I lunged for a hold outside of my reach and missed it. I began falling for what seemed like a very long time. I remember thinking the belay must have failed. My mind was so calm, so peaceful.

“Rock climbing in Thailand…not a bad way to die.”

Then my rope jerked and I bang-scraped to a stop against the rock, no worse for the wear.

At the end of the day I was tired, sore, filthy, dripping with sweat, covered with mosquito bites…and magnificently happy. As I looked up at the cliffs and the valley draped in green foliage, I wondered what I had done in past lives to deserve such luck, such contentment. (Look for the blinding white legs to find me in the cliff picture...)

That night, there was a wicked Reggae band playing at one of the bars. I listened and danced, grinning like a fool. Later, I sneaked back to the beach for a night swim. I spent hours swimming with the phosphors, floating in the waves.

The next day I hiked up to a lagoon and then a viewpoint. I ran into more (you guessed it) Israelis, and startled a Thai guy on the jungle path. He spoke excellent English and carried a nice camera. When I climbed back down to the beach, I bumped into these guys running up the path:


Forget tuk-tuks, pushcarts rule all!

Later that day, I was running on a slippery sidewalk to catch a longtail boat back to Krabi, when my feet flew out from under me and I wiped out in the mud. A graceful exit. “Hmmm…falling on my ass in the mud like a stupid American Thailand…terrible way to die.” I broke my sandal—a tragedy.

I bumped into the Thai photographer again on the boat from Railay to Krabi. He had a shiny bike with him, and he said he was cycling all over Thailand. Cool.

When Robin and I got off the longtail boat, we had no idea where we were. We knew we wanted to get to the bus station by 5:00 to meet the other girls and catch a ride back to Bangkok. We walked for a little while and then realized we were much farther away than we wanted to be. Then our guardian angel (the photographer Thai with a bike) appeared.

“Where do you want to go?”
“The bus station. Can we catch a songthew?”
“The bus station? Oh, no problem. Very easy. Hitch a ride.”
Hitch?”
“Yeah, I traveled 15,00 km for a few years by hitching. But not anymore. Now I bicycle… It’s easy, watch.”

He flagged down the next vehicle that rolled by. It happened to be a small blue pick-up truck packed with people. Robin counted 13 in the truck bed, and I saw at least 6 in the cab. It looked like a family: young girls, old women, a few boys…

“Ummm…I don’t think they have room for us.”

I don’t know if he heard, he was already speaking Thai to the driver. He turned back, smiled, and said, “It’s okay, hop in.” Robin and I looked at each other…then awkwardly climbed into the truck bed and crammed ourselves into a corner. We thanked the cyclist profusely. “Be careful,” he said with a smile.

What a fantastic ride. The truck bumped along and jungles flashed past us. This is Thailand,” I thought as my mind swam in deliriously happy circles and my foot cramped beneath me. Crazy. Never thought I would ever hitchhike.

I slept much more on the bus back to Bangkok.

I double-checked my seat when we left the bus, and I still managed to leave my cell phone behind. Bugger. Oh well.

We were back in our beds by 6 am Monday morning, and I was back in school and Organic Chem land by 10:30 am. Good times.






Longtail boats. The talent Ms. Liz took the sunset picture, and I think Alana took the incredibly blue sea photo...

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