I’m sitting in front of a pool that sits on a the Gulf of Thailand. It’s February 20th, and I’m getting sunburned no matter how much sunscreen I apply. There are kids are running around, no older than eight. They are speaking English but their accent is one I’m not used to. Listening them is a reminder of how beautifully strange we are allowed to be when we are so young.
“If I sit on this, then I am your God!” The spunky curly haired blonde boy calls out to his sisters and cousins. He is riding one of the round orange tubes that has “Baby Float” in blue letters printed on the side.
“I am a white shark!” One of the girl shouts as she bobs her head in and out of the pool water. “Which were actually grey. Not white.”
“Oh no! Alicia, I am dying! Quick! My last words, ” she swims over to the side nearest my chair and flops her head onto the pool’s edge. “Know that I will always love you!” She reaches her hand out as if grasping for her dying light and then perishes into a dramatic floating heap for about three seconds.
She then swims away to talk to a stranger that has just dove in with his son.
“You speak French,” she says to the man.
“Yes, I am French,” he replies in English
“I can speak French too,” she informs him.
“Oh yes? Tu parle francais?”
“Oui.” She confirms and swims away. I smile at her fearlessness.
My friends and I showed up about five days ago, and no less than twelve times a day we find ourselves sighing in disbelief: “This isn’t even real life.”
Because it isn’t. Thailand is paradise, where beach front bungalows cost less than $15 a night and an hour long beachside massage in a bamboo hut costs about $10. Did I mention this is on an island resort on the bluest of turquoise blue water you ever did see? There is that.
The first few days we spent hopping around different beaches, stuffing our faces with Thai food, lazily mozying around town on rented motorbikes, and talking to the friendliest locals. Although the I’m not sure I would call the locals locals, because I’m not certain anyone here on Koh Phangan is a local. Most everyone is someone who came here on holiday, and ended up staying to open a Mexican restaurant as the years stacked up. The majority of the resort staff is from Burma, and I’ve only seen one small primary school on the whole span of the island. It’s an island built around tourism, which makes getting essential western products like Kit Kats and Reese’s peanut butter cups as easy as hitting up one of the five Seven Elevens on the island. Although the island is super westernized, riding around the island is like stepping into a Jurassic park movie. Massive palm trees canopy up and over the roads that wind through the mountains. Their roots curl into snake like patterns in the sand, thick vines of alienated trunk swing in the constant sea breeze, and the lush greenery of tropical plant things threaten to overtake you as the scenery hits you at 50 kilometers per hour.
I love watching the expressions of fellow tourists zipping around on motos. Everyone has got a goofy drunk smile plastered on their faces, intoxicated by the feeling that their free spirit has finally taken flight. Drunk on disbelief that a place like this could exist, and that we are lucky enough to grace its sandy beaches, if only for a moment to gasp at its wonder and sigh at its fated departure.
Koh Phangan is most crowded during the Full Moon party, which is basically a massive rave on the beach that involves glow in the dark body paint, buckets of booze (literal buckets), a 1,000 baht ($33) entrance fee, and trance music. We weren’t there for the full moon party so the island was a bit quieter because of it. It’s got a nice relaxed beach bum feel where people from all over come. Lots to do as well. One of my favorite adventures was taking an elephant trek, but more on that, with pictures in the next post.
In other news, I move to Xi’an tomorrow to start my new position as a Regional Support Officer for my current company. Sad to be leaving my friends here in Wuhan, but that is a part of the deal as an expat. Not sure I will ever get used to meeting awesome people only to say goodbye a mere matter of months later. I’m excited to see the ancient capital of China as well as try out a new post outside of teaching. Been busy, and things are about to get busier with training and city hopping, but busy is good! Hoping to post more as this New Year rolls on.