Wiggling my shoulders further down the hammock, my feet creeping up the other side to compensate for the shift, my back pushed into the pillows. The netting snuggled close on my arms, enclosing me but allowing the soft ocean breeze to caress my body through the net. With each soft push the hammock gently swung back and forth.
The sun relentlessly bore down on my surroundings, thankfully deflected by the roof over my hammock. I’d already embraced the sun a bit too much in the earliest day of the trip. For now I was content with my book resting on my stomach, my thumb poised to turn the page.
The trip to Otres Beach in Cambodia had reintroduced me to books and their teleportation abilities were just as mesmerizing at this beach. I gleefully dusted off the key to my imagination and lost myself in the halls of my mind. I’d remain lost each day until the mosques called their followers to prayer and the sun was preparing to dive into the ocean.
10 Quick Tips:
1) Pack Sunscreen (it’s super expensive here)!
2) Long Beach is a great place to swim but can be crowded
3) Go to Klong Klong Beach to see ocean life without getting wet. Fish and octopi get stranded in pools of water when the tide goes out.
4) Quiet place compared to Phuket but book before you go (especially around New Years)
5) Rent a moped to get around (250 baht for 24 hours)! The fuel is expensive (40 baht) but you get further for cheaper than a Tuk Tuk.
6) Buy your harem pants here (500 baht). They are handcrafted, a bit more expensive but they will last longer
7) Cheaper food = inland. Expensive food = by the beach
8) Cheap beer = 7-11 as always (and there is a 7-11 on this island)
9) Monkey Bungalows and Bar (a.k.a. Monkey Bar on the beach) is not the same as the Monkey Bar
10) SO MANY REGGAE AND SKA BARS. Are you a fan?
I’d caught up to my friends in Khao Sok, a national park in the south of Thailand, after exploring the waterfalls, Cheow Larn Lake and Namtaloo Cave. We took a bus to Krabi and then a ferry to Koh Lanta.
The trip was tranquil with islands slowly materializing from the horizon and slipping by just as quietly.
The ferry was so packed that passengers were squeezed along the side rails. My friends and I sat with our backs to the windows, our legs over the water and our butts planted on the little space left between.
Sometimes small long boats would buzz up to the lumbering ferry, hovering by it as they called out for passengers. They’d flee soon after, racing ahead as impatiently as children.
The laid-back atmosphere bred a trust in the environment, however, my first name should have been Icarus thanks to my crispy relationship with the sun.
Right after my friends and I landed at Koh Lanta it was decided that my last name, along with the rest of the group members, should change to Stupid too—or maybe Reckless.
Icarus Reckless. Yep, has the right ring to it.
It was the peak of the tourist season and the New Year was almost upon us. But none of us, NONE of us, had thought to book a place to stay. After an hour of scouting for a place to stay we were utterly shocked to find nothing available within our budget range.
Our hustlers had packed us into a pick-up, herded us to five places, called three others, and “no luck” (we weren’t entirely sure if the whole island was booked as they claimed).
In the end though, we acquired an amusingly rare achievement to add to our library of youthful naïve circumstances.
We slept in a massage room.
The room had no washroom, a glass wall with no curtains (and therefore no privacy) and it transformed into a city block of boxy mosquito nets when the evening descended.
But it worked for us and we were laughing throughout the evening at the idea.
“Heh if anyone asks where we are staying…”
“We say we acquired a whole message parlor of course!”
“Of course lol”
The evening after we graduated to two rooms at the Monkey Bungalows and Bar, the place that had offered their massage parlor for our weary heads.
The best part of the transition from massage room to guestroom was the move itself.
As we stood around a small stand acting as the guesthouse check-in, the man in charge pointed at a small chalkboard, lecturing us like school children.
“A5 is taken but B8 will be open so we’ll move you (gestures at half of us) to B10 and you (points to other half) to A2. Then A2 will be taken so you will have to go to B8. Which ones want to go to B10 (pause for breath)? Ok fine that half will go to B9, no B10, oh wait no A3 would be better…”
When we had finally sorted through who would go where for how many nights, we scouted out our next activity. The options were eating, sleeping, swimming or drinking. Easy stuff. The trip turned into a cycle of activity during the evenings and leisure during the day.
At one point we rented 250 baht mopeds for 24 hours (no motorcycle licenses among any of us and I was the only one with experience with motorbikes).
The driving was successful and uneventful with a lap to the Old Town and back (40 baht bottles of fuel available along the road).
Our luck ran out just before we returned the bikes.
We had just shot past the rental shop and I tapped one of my friends, who was currently the driver, on the shoulder to turn around. She pulled over, checked the road and we went into the tight turn to get into the lane heading back.
The turn was too tight.
It was a slow-motion fall (I swear with time for a theme song and everything), with my friend and I ejecting from the bike safely and avoiding being burned by the engine.
However, my knee ended up cushioning my friend from the gravel and I scraped a sizeable hole in it (I have photo proof but I will refrain from posting it). My arm was pretty scratched up too, but we got up, brushed off the dust and found all of our limbs in workable order.
The most distressing thing was a woman who kept saying the scooters kill people between asking if we were OK.
We had crashed in front of a pile of onlookers and I was the centerpiece but we’d live to see another day. After my friend apologized profusely with me shaking my head and saying I’d suffered similar injuries from my own dirt bike accidents, we bought some antiseptic, cleaned the wound and moved on brandishing our “souvenirs” as my friends called it. Silly Germans.
My friend dropped off the scooter with the others and we weren’t charged anything.
Night after night we bumped into a famous Thai reggae singer called Job 2 Do (and he totally embodied the island atmosphere).
The repeated meetings were a funny coincidence because we had a fan in our group. She was ecstatic to find him on the island singing at small bars. We had heard of a large concert with expensive tickets but the bar visits were free—much to our delight.
When New Years arrived we’d settled on the idea of stocking up on 7-11 beers (80 baht ish), heading to Long Beach and club hopping.
When we got to the beach that evening I can honestly say I feared for my safety. I’ve had my fair share of dangerous firework encounters because in Canada we always set off our own. I’ve set up fireworks upside down and dodged fireworks gone haywire. But these conditions were outright terrifying.
Plenty of alcohol + a dark beach + cheap fireworks (box or handheld) + tons of drunk people
= a gauntlet of fireworks
I kid you not. We were walking along and suddenly a stream of fireworks was set off a meter from us. We passed a number of groups and had to jerk back or sprint ahead as fireworks whizzed across our path.
After all was said and done, we found a spot on the beach to settle and the atmosphere was festive with people from all over congregating there. We played a card game with a Canadian we met the day before and happily drank our beer.
Then we danced like crazy, first at an electro-trance bar and then a reggae bar with (you guessed it) Job 2 Do doing his thing.
When the countdown ended hugs were shared all around and a wall of fireworks rose from the beach. I’d never seen so many fireworks in my life. It was a thrilling display that had us glancing left and right for half an hour!
I couldn’t help but wonder what the local population thought of this feverish sample of western celebration. Their New Year traditionally hadn’t arrived yet. Songkran and the year 2557 are yet to come.