Published on May 19th, 2013 | by Snoesje1
Finding My Way (2) – Koh Lanta
‘Most people can look back over the years and identify a time and place at which their lives changed significantly. Whether by accident or design, these are the moments when, because of a readiness within us and a collaboration with events occurring around us, we are forced to seriously reappraise ourselves and the conditions under which we live and to make certain choices that will affect the rest of our lives.’
-Frederick F Flack
I found this quote when I was randomly reading my old dairy during a bored-to-death compulsory course named ‘Chinese Style Socialism.’ My dairy is my personal defense against boredom, anxiety, fear and any other kind of negative energy that makes surprise invasions on me. And also it helps to keep track of the fragmented moments which touched my heart, and the fleeting inspiration I had on my seemingly pallid days.
This quote echoed within me profoundly. For me, the place is definitely Koh Lanta, a tiny little island where I had spent 9 unforgettable days together with my man who I will call G in this post.
From Van, to Speed boat, to Truck, to Motorbike
On the plane to Koh Lanta, I was expecting finger-licking Thai curry, heart-melting fresh fruit juice, comfortable king-size bed with impeccable white linen from the moment I would set foot on the island. However, what awaited for me at the exit of the teeny-tiny airport of Krabi (compared to Shanghai) was an extremely slim swarthy Thai young man with a big smile holding a sign of G’s name. At that moment, I realized that I had forgotten all about the 2 hour long distance from the airport to the resort that we booked.
Without much chitchat, we followed him to a white van which was so spacious that it could almost hold 10 people. The van took off and outside the window I could see endless colorful bungalows, billboards with Thai characters which looked a lot like bean sprouts to me. However the freshness was little by little replaced by my increasing thirstiness. Where is the pineapple juice?!
About 1 hour later, the van stopped at a pier. Three other thin Thai boys helped us board a speed boat. Finally we were headed to the mysterious island, to the pineapple juice.
OH, how I loved the way the spend boat galloped on verdurous water and left a white trace behind. I held firmly onto G’s waist and let the tear-inducing wind mess around with my hair. It was a luxury I didn’t have back home, Shanghai, where I always had to keep myself decent thinking: what if I bump into someone I know? Here in Koh Lanta, nobody knew me, and nobody cared.
The speed boat ride was so exhilarating that I even stopped yearning for pineapple juice for a moment. Right after the brief speed boat ride, we were moved to a truck. I saw more blue-eyed and golden-haired, tanned westerners than local Thai people. They were walking idly under the glaring sunshine on the side of the roads. I thought to myself, I need sunblock, now! I know tanned skin can be beautiful, but still I don’t want it.
By the time we finally checked in the resort, it was late afternoon. During the transfer from the airport to the resort, I thought the first thing I wanted to do after checking in was to take a nap and sleep off the weariness from the trip. But the weariness magically disappeared and I hopped on the back of G’s rented motorbike without even unpacking first. We were so eager to explore.
Motorbike really is the most romantic and intimate and practical transportation there is, especially in Koh Lanta. The roads are well maintained, wide and flat without too much traffic. Both tourists and locals use motorbikes to get around. The locals drove in a rather fearless and determined manner, because obviously there had a specific destination, and stuff to do. Naturally tourists drove in a careful and aimless manner, making stops here and there. G and I stopped at the pharmacy for sunblock ,and then stopped at the 7-11 for some water and snacks, and then stopped a restaurant called ‘Sisters’ for the things I had been craving for all day– Pineapple juice and Thai curry! It tasted like heaven.
Our bungalow was located close to the beach in the jungle. When awakening early in the morning, with absolutely no rush, no worry, no pressure, I put on my silky summer dress and went out to the bathroom. The bathroom was outside in the open with walls around but no roof. A branch of a tree craned its neck towards our bathroom as though it was trying to snoop around. A few birds hopping through the trees in matinal excitement. Our neighbor’s bathroom was on the other side of the wall. Sometimes we couldn’t stop ourselves from laughing out loud when we heard a thunder-like sound made by the angry stomach of our neighbor in the morning. Thai curry probably was the evil backstage manipulator.
There was no need for shower in the morning, when living in the jungle, because after a deep peaceful sleep at night, we were already freshened up. On the other hand, after a long sweaty day going around the island a shower in the evening was most welcome.
The Sunset Beach
The beach stretched away in a gentle curve towards the bay, behind it were hills covered with jungle. The first row of coconut trees inclined irregularly towards the turquoise sea. The sand was powdery and in the color of ivory. However I could never lie on the lounger on the beach in bright daylight with a book holding in my hands and read, like the way other travelers did. Any beautiful words would fade in comparison with the greatness of the sea stretching as far as the eye can see.
My ultimate fantasy about the beach was walking on a sunset beach, where nature was at her most benevolent. G and I calculated the time of sunset beforehand so that we could catch the moment. We took a walk barefoot; hands in hands, letting the powdery warm sand caress our toes. There were a group of young people playing volleyball, mother watching kids building castles with sand, a man sitting motionlessly in a chair with a beer in his hand and staring at the sea with no expression on his face. Waves washed over him again and again, but he didn’t seem to notice. Walking towards us was an older couple who were also holding hands. I turned my head and looked over my shoulder to sneak a peek of G’s charming side face, only to find that he was affectionately gazing at me.
I was the observer of the scenery, and I was also part of the scenery.
Unexpected things always strike no matter how meticulously you think you have prepared. When we booked the hotel, we made sure to choose one with all around free wifi available because we needed it for work. Not until we actually arrived, we found out the wifi they mentioned on the website was only available in public area of the hotel, such as the lobby, and the cafeteria. So G and I went out on a mission of finding restaurants or cafes with free wifi and power socket. After a few hours of driving round consuming 100 baht worth of gasoline, we located a restaurant called Kung and a cafe called Panorama. If working in the office is like a horse running with its nose being pulled, then working at the cafe or quiet restaurant is like a steed galloping across the vast grasslands as free as the wind. I feel lucky that I get to try all the approaches at this relatively young age.
Bikini and Hijab
The majority of the population of Koh Lanta is Muslim. And the majority of the tourists are Caucasians. I would often see tourists wander around in Bikinis, even outside the beach area. After all; they came to Koh Lanta to get away from it all. And then I would also see women cover themselves from head to toe with long skirts and hijabs. I was touched by the harmonious coexistence of Bikinis and Hijabs. I wanted to blend in, so I ended up wearing a headscarf and hot-pants.
There is far more to Koh Lanta than I could ever verbalize. I fell deeply in love with it even though the damp air made my hair sticky, and I ineluctably got tanned and other trivial things I thought I cared about. On the last day, the white van appeared in the front yard of the resort and we had to leave. Although I enjoyed my short stay in Koh Lanta much more than all the other places I had ever been to, there was still part of me wanting to leave. I guess life itself often subscribes to a mode of changing destinations, teasing us with freshness, and wearing us with repetitions. I left Koh Lanta as scheduled, leaving a part of me behind.