Alternative Asia Bargain Hounds

Alternative Asia

Bargain Hounds

Ton Sai Kalligynaikos

Thai kindness and the end of the world.

Ao Nang, Thailand and Dublin, Ireland
31st March, 2002

Light changes.

We come to the end of the world again. A thirty hour journey, then the Airport bus passing through Dublin. The old city hasn't changed much. The air is cold, crisp yet damp in a way I haven't felt for a year.

Memory is a seperate place. Casting my gaze backwards I see the different parts of this journey like islands glowing in time: this one is Cuba, this is Mexico, this New Zealand. Each is a bubble, self-contained: friends, adventures, thoughts and excitement that were vital, alive at that time . And yet each does not connect with the others, but exists, seperate and perfect within itself. I am aware that I exist in each as well, but I find it hard to believe now that I was ever in all of them. There is too much memory for one man to contain.

I moved slowly though the last of Thailand. From Phuket to Ko Phi Phi to the beaches of Krabi where frothing limestone cliffs towered above soft beaches. I met a friend and we spent our days bathing in limpid waters and walking down the uncluttered sand.

What more perfect place to end a round the world trip? Everything was easy and relaxed. Thai people are relaxed and modest and always cheerful. Even Stargate SG-1 makes more sense dubbed into Thai. You aren't distracted from the running around and the blowing things up by a load of foolish dialogue. The only possible problem comes in the restaurants. The waiters will avoid giving offence by not staring at you. And you should not give offence by staring at them. How you ever manage to order food or ask for a second beer under these circumstances is a mystery. It's best not to be in a hurry.

Who were all those people that fortune put in my path? I don't regret meeting one of them. Many brought me new ideas when I most needed to hear them. The great tragedy of extended travel is to meet so many wonderful people, to live for a while in such interesting places and times, and then to have to leave them, not knowing if you will ever find them, again. My class in Havana, the funky tour in Central America, my English girls in Canada, Vancouver, the BC tour, Rocky Mountains...

Who was it that lived through so much? Who jumped down the waterfall in Mindos? Who came face to face with a dolphin? Who put all his travel documents into Julien's washing machine? It must have been somebody else.

The Sea Urchin

In all my travels, I had hardly received a scratch or even caught a cold. Two weeks in Thailand, and I'm a wreck. I have almost broken a toe, lacerated my hand, and caught a sinus infection. My anti-malarials made me unable to tolerate the sun in this, the hostest of all my destinations. I developed heart-burn just for laughs. On Wednesday I went for a relaxing stroll in my bare feet along Ao Nang beach, and I stepped on a sea urchin. These aren't poisonous, but their spines break off under the skin and become infected in this tropical climate.

I had a look. There were at least ten spines in my foot. I would have to make it all the way back to my room - on one foot - and try to hack them out with my knife. I was still kneeling on the beach, cursing my fortune, when I felt a polite tap on my shoulder.

It was one of the Thai beach masseuses, ordinary local women who offer Thai massages in the shade of the palm trees. She indicated I should follow to her mat, where she examined my foot, along with three of her competitors. They shook their heads, murmured encouragement to me in Thai, and set to work. It took them over an hour, working with a safety pin, a pair of tweezers and an ordinary lime for disinfectant, to extract all the tiny spines. I would have given up long before. I was astonished at their diligence, and their kindness to a smelly foreigner.

I offered them money for the time they should have used earning money for their families. No, they would not have it. A gift then? I will get you something. No, please, they would take nothing. What else should they do when someone needs help?

So much for Thailand.

Zur Burg führt die Brücke

So much to remember. What should I want from memory? For this year I wanted to open the gates, let water rush out and rage where it would, carrying my body along just once before twilight. Sacrifice my few hours and raise them up to the gods, so that what was, is, and will not be forgotten. Defy inevitability and say, before sinking to the undergloom, that I lived well.

And have a few laughs.

I find, to my chagrin, that I have made promises that I did not fulfill. I said that I would find a mysterious telephone number scrawled on the back on of book of matches, and allow it to lead myself on an adventure filled with exotic locations, sultry nymphettes, high-stakes roulette and exciting car chases.

I said that I should be captured by a strange tribe, and win my freedom (and the headman's daughter, Iwantcha) by predicting an eclipse / saving them from cholera / faking my own re-incarnation.

None of this has happened.

But I have seen the light change, between the breaking mountains and the turmoiled sea, from the brilliant desert to the life-bound cities. I have laughed and spat and cursed, climbed and fallen, chatted-up and been shot down. I have beaten men in fair contests. I have sunk my own canoe. Beautiful women have loved me. Beautiful women have laughed in my face. I have been challenged, on my courage, to speak the truth, and I have sometimes succeeded. Even a crow can dare the wind, sometimes, and glory. There is nothing to regret.

Light changes everything.

Les sables et les étoiles

Et les lignes doux dans les sables laissé par nous, vivront pour nous,
Entre les mers foncées et la lune,
Toi, oubliant le ciel, et moi, la terre:
Cassé, pas cassé, jamais étrangers,
Nous pourrions être beaux là.
Ainsi, bonne nuit, belle amie,
Toujours TonSai.

 

 

 

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Rai Leh

 

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Longtail Boats

 

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Longtail Race

 

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Cool breeze

 

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Ton Sai Beach

 

 

 

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The Facts

Where I stayed

How I got around: Thai airlines to Phuket, ferry to Ao Nang. Local travel agents can arrange everything without hassle.