Sunday, December 10, 2006

Vacation Land

The difference between ‘travel’ and ‘vacation’ is that travel is a way of life while vacation is an escape from life. At the moment, here on an island in the South of Thailand, I feel like a traveler caught in a vacation. And it sucks.

I got sick soon after arriving in Thailand, some sort of stomach bug that hits everyone in Southeast Asia eventually. The bug kept me stuck in the smell and smog of Bangkok for three days, unable to escape the demented backpacker festival of Khao San Road. The illness peaked on the King’s birthday, a holiday when everyone in Thailand dresses in yellow and fireworks explode through the night; I contributed to the occasion by crouching over the toilet in the flickering light of a fluorescent bulb and blasting celebratory yellow explosions of my own.

The smell of Pad Thai frying in a street-side wok makes me gag. I usually love Thai food. This is cruel and unfair.

I fled Bangkok on the night train to Surat Thani on the day after the King’s Birthday, paralyzing my gut with four Immodium AD. As the train rolled South, I started thumbing through the Lonely Planet’s guide to Thailand’s Islands and Beaches, which reads ominously like a eulogy:

“It’s hard to believe that this polluted beach was once a pristine strip of white sand.” (Koh Phi Phi)

“The whole western coast is lined with beaches and crammed with resorts.”
(Koh Lanta)

“It’s definitely worth a visit for it’s remaining deserted beaches (they haven’t all been developed – yet)”.
(Koh Pha-Ngan)

Lurching through the rocking train carriage at 2 am (the Immodium had worn off), I resolved to keep moving South until I escaped the crowds, crossing into Malaysia if necessary. Unfortunately, in my weakened state, I was in no shape to battle the furiously efficient machine of the Thailand tourist industry.

“Hello Good Morning where you go!”

It was 6 am and the woman at the train station was somehow managing to scream and smile at the same time.

“You! You! Where you go?”

“South.”

“OK, you go Krabi!” She stuck a blue sticker on my shirt.

“But…”

“Go, go, that bus, see, that bus, you go!”

So I went to Krabi. Along with 50 other sleepy white people. In Krabi, I got to make a choice between Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi. I chose Lanta, and got a red sticker to go with the blue one. When my head stopped spinning, I was sitting by a beachside pool in the midst of a Swedish family reunion. The toilet flushes and my bungalow is clean. At the moment, that’s good enough for me. But as soon as these antibiotics kick in, it’s time to escape Vacation Land.

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2 Comments:

Blogger ryan said...

given your weakend state and the fact your not solo i guess its understandable, but there are many, many places for authnic traveling in Thailand. what about Ko-surin NP? 2 islands one small building, no guest house, sea gypsies, sharks, turtles, puffer fish and a trail circling the island... 1/2 of the 15 people on the island are Thai.
see you soon!

7:31 PM  
Anonymous travis said...

clenched cheeks and teeth are only gonna get ya so far...sometimes a break from the break is necessary... i think ill be eating imodum like pezz whence i arrive there....tora

11:49 PM  

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