Village Voice

Amy Salmon's E-Mail from Thailand (Part 5) 

Here in Chiang Mai we are heading full blast into the rainy season, which I'm getting the feeling is going to be pretty much exactly how it sounds.  It's also known as the monsoon season, of course, but I've yet to hear a Thai refer to it as anything but "the rainy season".  And rain it does, in bucketfuls.  It's also gotten significantly cooler, even when it's not raining, which is nice, although the humidity is still high.  But the mountains are gorgeous and the air is much fresher.  The city has a different feel to it, it's quieter, and there aren't as many tourists.  Possibly because when the rains come down with such force it's not exactly pleasant to be out and about! 

My trip to southern Thailand was quite an experience.  It has a very different feel to it than I've found in Chiang Mai.  I found the Thais to be not as open and friendly and much more bent on commerce.  I felt that everyone I met wanted something from me.  I've spoken with other travelers who had similar experiences; I think it's because they've gotten so many tourists that they're jaded with foreigners in general.  I found them to be much less genuine than anyone I've met in Chiang Mai, which is interesting to me since this isn't exactly a backwater, and we see our fair share of travelers here, too.  Maybe the distinction lies with the fact that Phuket and Krabi and the southern islands see many more "package tourists" with tons of money who come to spend it, or come to get drunk and stoned, or come to have sex with as many Thai men/women as possible.  Sad, but true.  Here we tend to get more backpackers and ex-pats, people who have more interest in actually living among the Thais, studying one or another aspect of Thai culture, and want to get to know them in more than just the Biblical sense.  

The scenery was breathtaking, especially when I first arrived, flying in over Phuket.  I really thought the sea was the sky; it was such an amazing color.  I got the bus from Phuket over to Krabi, which is still on the Andaman Sea but on a different peninsula; Phuket juts further out towards the Indian Ocean, which is why it was harder hit by the tsunami of 2004.  It took about 3 hours on the bus, and then I got a city bus to Ao Nang Beach.  My first night I stayed in a nice place, but there was no view at all to speak of, which I found disappointing.  I did go for a nice walk on the beach and saw a great sunset.  That was my favorite night, really, because the weather was the nicest, and it was just really beautiful.

I got up the second morning and when I went down for breakfast it was raining.  Most restaurants in that part of Thailand (and many here, too) are outside, with varying degrees of cover.  My plan was to head over to a nearby island where my friends used to live and where I planned to spend the rest of the week, which was accessible only by longboat.  The rain tapered off, and I found my way to the pier in Ao Nang and found the place I needed to be to get the longboat for Ton Sai.  Then I waited an hour and a half, closer to two, until there were five people to go to Railay (another, bigger island) and Ton Sai. 

The boat finally arrived and one of the longboat guys helped me get my (very impractical for southern Thailand) suitcase into the boat.  He held it over his head.  It didn't get wet.  I did, nearly up to my thighs, getting into the boat.  We finally got over to Ton Sai, and he brought my suitcase up, and I got wet again getting out.  He set it down on the sand, took his money, and left, leaving me with a suitcase on an island with no pavement.  And at this point I was already tired, hot, and drenched.  

However, determined to soldier on, I lugged the suitcase over to the bungalows I was looking for, called Mambo.  I got a bungalow for $5 a night, which seemed like a great deal until I saw the place...which was a little shack made of some kind of organic material, like palms, with a tin roof.  There was a little desk with a mirror and a little chair, and a shelf with a mattress on it, with a large mosquito net suspended above it.  There was also a fan, and a door at the other end of the room, which opened out to a patio type thing, uncovered except for some pretty big trees, with an outdoor shower and a toilet.  No sink, just a bucket with a faucet and a smaller bucket, which is the Thai version of a flush toilet -- you fill the smaller bucket and pour small bucketfuls of water down the toilet until it’s clear.  I started to rethink the Ton Sai plan, but I was prepared for rustic, so it was all good.   

There's no electricity on Ton Sai during the day, and with only one small window which opened out onto a courtyard through which I had no view except other people, so it was pretty stifling in the bungalow.  I decided to head out and see what there was to see.  It turned out to be not a lot.  I introduced myself to Jenn's friends, but their main way of spending time seemed to be sitting around smoking pot.  That doesn't interest me, so I moved on.  The beach is nonexistent for most of the day when the tide is out, and there is just a great big bed of rocks.  The island is also pretty small, so long walks on the beach are pretty much out.  Not quite what I had in mind.  Since I was going to read, write, relax, sleep, and veg on the beach, it was seeming like maybe not so great a place.  That was when I stopped rethinking the Ton Sai plan and started making the Get Off Ton Sai As Soon As Possible plan.

To top off a somewhat anticlimactic trip, I got stuck for five hours in the airport in Bangkok on my way home.  I didn't hate the whole trip or anything, but I'm also not in a hurry to go back to southern Thailand.  I'm holding out for an actual ocean and pricing flights to Australia

Return to Village Home Page