New Years at the beach

Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
Trip End Jul 27, 2011

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Where I stayed
Bai Lan Bay Bungalows

Flag of Thailand  , Trat,
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The few days before our island departure, we are stressing, because everything is booked for New Years. Should we book a room ahead and pay the premium? Or should we risk it to just show up and shop for accommodation when we get there? We are worried to get stranded (literally!), so we opt for pre-booking in the end.

Our double-decker bus looks decrepit, especially the wind shield, not much of which is not cracked and taped. Constant stops along the way make us wonder if the engine will last. It's not the most comfortable of rides, but at least we have two seats to ourselves each. And what can you expect for under $20 return. The 5 hour journey takes many more hours, so by the time we arrive at the ferry dock, cross to our island, share a truck taxi to our beach and check in to our bungalow, the sun has already gone down.

Right away, the island vibe is much friendlier than our good old Khao San yell-y atmosphere. Ms. Am, our ladyboy receptionist welcomes us at Bai Lan Bay and keeps her (it took me three days to not say 'his') graceful manner, even while dealing with Shaista's panic and upset about the missing mosquito nets. Despite the friendliness, none of our complaints and requests actually get fixed. We send back 2 or 3 dishes, before they finally understand, when we say "mai pet / not hot", we mean not hot at all, not one bit, not even a little. Our question for the price of a full bottle of wine remains unanswered, because noone knows, the manager is not around and apparently noone ever wanted to order wine by the bottle before. It takes us, Manu and I that is, several glasses of wine to feel comfortable. As for Shaista, no amount of any substance could make her feel comfortable without a mosquito net. Having experienced her little phobia in the Peruvian jungle, I'm afraid to admit that I often don't even hear her mozzy-worries any more. It's sort of like others dealing with my constant being cold I guess. Manu has not reached the mozzy-worry-deafness phase yet. We are starting to get used to the signature scent of eau-de-citronella also. We all have our phobias! :)

The next morning, I am feeling very chilled. The island vibe is kicking in....Directly looking at the ocean, I am sitting at a table built over a hole in the veranda. My feet are dangling with the sea underneath me. People are nice. Their lack of service culture doesn't bother me. Neither does the pathetic breakfast. Or the bebbly beach. Or the shower that wasn't really hot and had no pressure. Who cares?! I am on the island!

On Koh Chang, people are riding motor cycles wearing next to nothing. Taxis are pick-up trucks with two benches in the back, fitting up to 12 people, two of those standing on a platform. "Happy Nooobees" tell us the local beach boys while handing out flyers for New Year's Eve entertainment. One beach called 'Lonely Beach' is not so lonely at all. It is the grungy backpackers mecca on Koh Chang, where the ratio of rasta-locks, tatoos and various levels of BO is highest. It also is the beach with the nicest sand and best parties. 

One night, we haggle for a shared taxi fare and refuse to pay the price the driver insists on. After several failed attempts at finding a cheaper ride, we realize we'd been haggling for 70 cents worth of savings. Traveling on a budget does that to you.
2011 arrives for us six to twelve hours ahead of most people we know. And I don't know of anyone else that was as lucky to celebrate it on the beach. I am no fan of the drumming beats of mostly trance and house. But it is quite the spectacle to watch. Western security forces would cringe at the lack of safety regulations. People drinking fluorescent mix drinks out of plastic buckets, the kind kids build sand castles with. Fire artists engaging intoxicated tourists into jumping fire hoops. Drunk (and who knows what else) party goers dancing on a 10 meter high, shaky scaffolding. Victims of the debauchery passed out in the sand, occasionally poked at by concerned other attendants to check if they still stir. Smashed guys using the ocean as their pissoir. And as the wee hours approach, previous strangers find each other. Some of them too high on whatever gives them their energy to find a place to go to. I wish I had witnessed this with my own eyes, but second hand heard that while the sun already shone again brightly, a handful of them were openly 'engaging' with each other, in plain view for whoever was still there. On the sand, in the water, under the water. I think I read somewhere that the sales of condoms on Thai islands sky-rockets before New Year. And the morning after pill demand climaxes after. I can not imagine what a sight it must have been on the most notorious of party islands, Koh Phangan. Wow! Even if this was not your scene exactly, it sure was a New year's eve to remember.

We decide we want to move to the nice sandy beach and stay one extra night. Flash back to the first entry from Thailand. We were supposed to learn a lesson about moving places then, remember? Turns out, we didn't pay attention at travel school. So yet again, we waste most of the day trying to find a place to stay. And so we spent our last day on our first Thai island with a little less beach time than we had expected. But we'll be back, no worries.
Happy New Year everyone!
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