Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Travels Without Charley
In Thailand the summer vacation for elementary and high school occurs now through May 18. This means that we volunteers are scattering to the winds, pursuing our South East Asia dreams to the degree allowed by our finances. Many of the other Kru Assassamak have their parents and siblings coming for visits, and most of us are spending at least a little time in the touristy south, along the famed beaches that have drawn the likes of James Bond (not sure which film though to this day they call it James Bond Island) and Leonardo DiCaprio in the much and deservedly maligned The Beach. I have very limited funds but I am splurging on a liveaboard dive trip off of Khao Lak which visits several well known dive sites including one first discovered by one of my all time heros, Jacques Cousteau. I can readily call up his French accent describing the wonders of the sea, and I think his reverence colored my outlook on nature. After all he was cool and he was French, and so as a young person I felt that, since my mother was French, some of that must surely pass on to me as well. I left NKP for Bangkok after the usual Thai bus clusterfk, which meant I missed my train connection and then had to sit in another bus station for 9 hours while I waited for another bus south. This ride was more comfortable, but deposited me at the station at 4 am which meant I had to wait another 3 hours to meet my friends coming in from Koh Tao. Another bus then ferried us across the narrow southern strip of Thailand to the town of Khoa Lak, a town with a main street with a multitude of dive shops and restaurants catering to falangs. It feels strange to be amongst a predominantly white tide again, and we seek out the spots where the locals dine, and I am eager to somehow distance myself from the pasty shoppers. Alas. Of course, Thailand needs these tourists and they provide a good way for many to support their families.But there is a lack of authenticity and a feeling of transience in such places- a similar vibe in ski resorts and beach fronts everywhere. There is a preponderance of Germans and Swedes here. The place we are staying has nothing but books in German, and our entire dive operation is run and owned by Swedes (except for Keith, a Brit, who manages the shop and whose sparkling personality convinced us it was the shop for us). I have limited access to the internet so my entries will be even more spotty than of late and I have no way to add photos for now, so I hope you will bear with a bit more stream of consciousness and mistakes. I am paying a bht per minute to bring you this so I may even get cut off mid stream. Anyhoo, my old body is doing its best to adjust to the demands of a poor man's travel. RIght now my feet are still swollen up like ballons from the hours on the busses. It was hard to leave NKP, my friends there and the comforts of my known routines, but it is good too- to face again the anxiety and the uncertainty, to again throw myself into the void and to seek a perspective from loneliness. To leave my bed and my pillow. To leave the people I have grown attached to. To leave my laptop and the latest news of the Libyan war and Charlie Sheen. It cleanses the palate so to speak. I think and see differently.