Episode 21: Koh Tao/Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand
Skin colour (Tom): Pages of library copy of the Da Vinci Code
Skin colour (Jane): Pages of library copy of Ice-making for Eskimos
Location: Haad Yao, Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand
Date: 23rd July 2010.
Well, I finally managed to drag myself away from the blistering, blinding sunshine of the beach one minute away from our very comfortable room to write an update. Whilst we’ve been lazing for a couple of weeks and there have been very few excursions to update you on, we’ve also had time for a great deal of people watching, and the last time I checked my bitchiness monitor it had exploded.
First things first – how many holes (excluding pores) does a healthy male human body have? It’s a question which has divided opinion between two people with too much time on their hands on Thailand’s stunning islands and we’d be grateful to have it cleared up. I can’t offer a beard stroke prize as usual unfortunately.
My last update came to you from Koh Tao in the wake of the beard assassination. Since then we’ve moved on to Koh Pha Ngan for a change of scenery, but more of the same white sands, relaxed locals (there’s a deliciously named Laotian taking care of us here – Ham), good food, strong beer and clear, calm seas.
For those of you now wanting to poke our eyes out with a sharp stick, I should admit that the sea here is several degrees cooler than in Koh Tao: a Baltic-approaching 28 degrees. Sorry.
It’s fair to say that we’ve settled into something of a routine on these beaches – admittedly a little different to our routines in the UK. We usually rise late, watch a spot of BBC World News (about 80% trailer, 15% business news and headlines every 17 hours) and then head to the beach to claim our loungers.
We then spend as much time as is bearable sweating and listening to our skin crackle in the sun (about 15 minutes) before dashing into the sea and then retreating to the oasis of the shade. At some point we’ll partake of the excellent light meals on offer before spending the rest of the afternoon reading (Jane reads like a robot and has got through just under 14,000 books in the last 3 weeks), relaxing and occasionally braving the mid-thirties temperatures for five minutes ninja-tanning.
After a shower and a couple of beers in our room, we’ve usually expended sufficient energy to justify dinner at one of the chilled out beach-front restaurants, where we have a front row seat for the fire-twirling lads on the water’s edge (oh, for a minor mishap).
It’s certainly a life we could get used to, but it’s not all milk and honey – one torrid night as I was tucking into a splendid, creamy Masaman curry I was lightly hit by 3 fruit stones. I never identified the culprit, but you can imagine how that would bring you down.
The only other downside to Koh Tao and the beach on which we were staying (Sairee) was the senseless decision to allow motorbikes on the 2m wide walkway behind the beach. The (sometimes clearly incompetent (and drunk)) riders were no respecters of pedestrians or sensible speeds, so you’d often have to dive headlong into the bushes as one screamed past in a swervy blur.
You may remember that our first dive on Koh Tao was something of a non-event, thanks to unusually poor visibility. Our second attempt was much better, giving us our first experience of diving a wreck.
All things come at a price, however, and we had to put up with an American guy who was a militant underwater photographer. If he wasn’t creating a marine traffic jam, he was leaning on the coral, or swimming straight into other divers. His disappearance (to photograph some sand I would imagine) towards the end of our dive was met by indifference by our Divemaster and she only went in search of him grudgingly.
She and I were the first to surface and our first three words were identical and in harmony, They rhymed with “Lotta chat”.
Our time on the beach has allowed for a great deal of anthropological study (along with some philosophical Q&A sessions such as the male holes one above), the results of which I’d like to share with you.
Now, perhaps I no longer have my finger on the pulse of youth culture and fashion, but what possible reason is there for wearing boxer shorts under your low-slung board shorts? As far as I can tell it looks preposterous and (although I can’t explain this) seems weirdly unhygienic when you are actually going in the sea in said gear.
My Gramps, who used to baulk at an untucked shirt in my teen years, will I’m sure be apoplectic at this latest style news.
The men who dress this way (it’s not just teens btw), will for the most part belong to another recently created and disturbing set of individuals. Call me an old-fashioned, red-blooded, normal bloke, but isn’t shaving all your body hair off a little….. I don’t know…….. effeminate? Try telling about a quarter of the fellas on the beach that.
I’m sure there are some reading this blog who do it. Come on, own up. Gramps? To my mind the only possible excuses for this oddly ladylike behaviour are if you are a professional swimmer, a werewolf or suffer from full-body folliculitis.
We’ll come back to our human study after I’ve told you about the porn cruise. It was billed as an innocent snorkelling trip around Koh Tao, but you wouldn’t have wanted your kids sat where we were I can tell you.
In fairness, the snorkelling was good, only marred slightly by the behaviour of some of the idiots onboard – throwing rice, beer and cigarette ends overboard and kicking lumps out of the coral. We rolled our eyes in that British way at the littering (after all, it was too late by the time it had hit the water), but Jane couldn’t help telling off the coral kicker (French, for the record).
It wasn’t long after our crowded boat set sail that the filthmongers started their lewd show. First, the large German unit in front of us got to his feet to take a photo, revealing the clear outline of his dormant penis just inches from our noses (he was, of course, wearing Speedos, but they seemed to have been made in the 1970s out of a thin, gauze-like material and had partially perished).
Then, a middle-aged French woman, not wanting to be outdone, spent the majority of the day with about 60% of her boobs escaping from the underside of her bikini. The fact that her boobs started at approximately her navel did not help.
The final, sickening coup de grace was delivered by a 65-year-old woman of unidentified nationality who was sat next to me. On the homeward portion of the cruise, she decided to get changed “under a towel”. I found this out when I turned in her direction to be greeted by her matted, slightly damp from the snorkelling, muff.
I’ve been washing my eyes for a week now, but the unwelcome image seems to be permanently burnt onto my retinas.
And my goodness, but haven’t we met a lot of folk on a “break” from University. It must be a tougher gig than in my day, when I had about six hours of lectures a week and could barely tell the difference between term-time and non-term-time.
It also raises the question of funding. Back in the day, I could barely afford 8 pints of lager, 6 bottles of Apple Source in “Ziggy’s” and a kebab from Oke’s kebab van of a Thursday night. Now light relief from Uni is a two month jaunt around this neck of the woods, frolicking with orangutans and being molested by ladyboys. I suspect I know the answer to the funding question and yes I know that jealousy is a terrible thing.
Continuing the “I’m old and bitter” theme, most of these kids don’t even look as if they’re having a good time. We’ve lost count of the number of groups/couples/solos who are just sitting around, staring into space, mouths agape (and not in a good way).
I surreptitiously watched (OK blatantly spied on) a group of girls having dinner the other day and in 15 minutes, not one word was spoken by them. They also only seemed to be eating chips, but that’s another story.
Are these people so bored by being on a fabulous beach, where everything costs pence, that they’ve lost the will to live. Why aren’t they all just sh**gging each other?? Surely that would cheer them all up?
You may however be wondering why, when Thailand is such a large and (apparently) interesting country, we are basically bumming from beach to beach instead of seeing the sights. The truth is, we both read the guide-book cover to cover and could only find one place (Chiang Mai) that we fancied going to see. And as Chiang Mai is at the other end of the country, we decided to sack it (and its centuries of history) off and work on our tans. It’s not a crime.
We’ll keep our eyes peeled on the beach for more human interest stories, and my next update will contain the results of our taking to the open seas (again) but this time while we attempt to get to grips with sailing in Phuket. That’s assuming I don’t capsize the bugger and drown us both.