Day 82: Battered & Drained, We Find Heaven...
Trip Start May 20, 2008
77Trip End Aug 19, 2008
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14 hours had passed since we first boarded that Singaporean sleeper bus the night before. I woke up uncomfortable and sweating like a dog, having long since forgotten what it feels like to have a sore-free butt. There was enough air and cushioning that I was able to clock a decent six hours of less than decent sleep, Jeff clocked significantly less. Both of us were miserable. We pulled into the main Far-South Thai city of Hat Yai around 9ish or so and were deposited at a commission-paying travel agency instead of the bus station, irksome and forcing us to hire motos the rest of the way. The motorbike drivers upon finding out we had no onward bus tickets also tried to deposit us at their own commission paying establishment. After some victorious haggling that I was really not in the mood for we got to where we needed to be and caught the next bus to our semi-final destination of Krabi (ferry launching point to the islands), a further four hours North by way of chicken-bus.
We both slept through most of this ride, but again it was that kind of bumpy, shallow sleep that doesn't really help much beyond making you even more tired than you already were. Not surprisingly it dropped us off far from the town center and forced us into the waiting arms of eager crafty tuk-tuk drivers. The particulars of the remainder of this journey don't particularly matter. What mattered was our absolutely, utterly battered and drained state; the sleepless night bus only compounded exhaustion that had been building for weeks. All the hassles of traveling in the developing world, all the constant haggling, the fact that most of these cities were more quirky than pleasant... all of these factors were removing any sense of relaxation. Being on a genuine adventure, removed from the comforts of home, is exhilarating but takes its toll on the nerves. Both of us had technically been traveling for almost three months now and had seen some amazing sights, experienced moments and emotions generally better handled older individuals and had put our metal through the ringer. Though I can't speak for Jeff's Taiwan experience, I myself very rarely if ever felt like I was actually "on vacation." Most of these destinations weren't really the greatest spots for stress relief anyway, no one really travels to a place like Kathmandu or Phnom Penh to "get away from it all." As our ferry pulled out of the Krabi Town pier and the warm pattering of the Indian Ocean took hold however, that feeling changed completely.
After tossing my straining rucksack down in the ferry's luggage corner I made my way up top to the sun deck, where dozens of fellow backpackers were sprawled out napping, tanning, letting the water spray at their faces. I leaned up against the railing, took a deep breath and just let my brain shut off. In an hour I'd be on a shimmering traffic-free island paradise nibbling away at $1 pad Thai and letting the waves have their way with me. I'd done the humanitarian thing, the intrepid thing, the cultural thing, the crazy city thing, and now at long last it was finally time to relax. At about 4:30ish the backpackers began waking up from their naps and poked their heads up to look around. Ko Phi Phi, setting of Danny Boyle's The Beach, lay before us. I don't think I'd ever seen a landscape that could so accurately be described as "looking at a gemstone." The cliffs were covered in this deep, emerald jungle growth, the water was spotless, crystal clear blue, rainbow colored longtail canoes bobbed up and down along the shore... Heaven! We rounded some limestone coves, drifted into the main lagoon, and for the first time in three months I felt like I was on vacation.
The rest of the afternoon's schedule:
5:00 - Check-in to $3 a night inn.
6:00 - Scramble up a hill & take in one of the more gorgeous views I've seen in me life
.7:00 - Shower
7:30 - $2 Green curry, mango shakes, and a banana crepe
8:00 - Beer!
At around 11ish, our stumbling around Phi Phi Town lead us to a peculiar bar with a Muay Thai kickboxing ring as its center piece. Alongside this ring was a sign: "Fight your friend for a free bucket drink!" Two professional locals with only their dense, hardcore toned muscle for armor stood up to fight themselves and set the standard all the Westerners would be held to. There are no rules in Thai kickboxing and their brawl was likewise brutal. When they were finished, an overweight wannabe Frat-dude stumbled up in his boxers and waved (I assume) his friend up to fight. Technically one of them won but it was pretty embarrassing for both parties. I kept half-jokingly pestering Jeff to fight me just for the sake of the silly story that would make, but I was unable to talk him into it. The boxing got old after a while leading us to visit the beach for some after dark fire-limbo. We tried but failed to participate and spent the rest of the night staring at some fire jugglers do their juggling thing. Pyromaniacs, them Thais are...
Food Poisonings = 0
Mosquito Bites = Not Many
Terrible Sunburns = Several