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balance (2): ko lanta

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

ko lanta

i woke early, reluctant to move due to my illness, but feeling it was time to move on. i caught the ferry from ko phi phi to the nearby ko lanta, which i was told would be more my style. on the ferry i met a nice young thai boy named mi. he was trying to convince me to come to his bungalow, but i decided instead to follow the advice of the same belgian boy and go stay at a place called ‘the sanctuary’ instead. upon my arrival at the pier, i was led towards the back of a pickup truck which would taxi me to my room. in it were a dutchman who was a regular to the island and two british boys who were not. they were unfriendly as could be to me, going so far as to talk over any questions i had for them and pretending i did not exist. i shrugged, as winning over europeans on this trip is not high on my list of goals...& hoped things would look up once we arrived at the sanctuary. ko lanta is a large island, geographically very like ko chang, however the roads are only intermittently paved and the rest of the time are pothole-ridden deathtraps. lanta must be the least developed of the larger thai islands. there was an initial town composed of two main streets lined with shops, and an occasional semblance of civilization evident by scattered internet shops and mini marts, but overall there is not much to this place. the beaches are long, with dark sand, lots of shells, and rampant driftwood. the water is not especially clear or pretty. there were few people to be seen.



we arrived at the sanctuary, which had burnt completely down and been rebuilt completely back up within the last six months. it was a small plot of land covered with grass sod and lined at the perimeter by several very close together particle board bungalows. i acquired one from the polite muslim owner, assam, who was wrapped in a sarong and squinted at me underneath silvery eyebrows. the room was very nice, and the bathroom was outdoors, with a rock floor and a large bamboo branch that served as a natural showerhead. a brown toad greeted me by hopping over my feet as i surveyed his territory. the porch had a hammock and wood slat benches. there was a pet monkey tied to a stick, and a small beach.

i wandered out to the restaurant to eat something, where the staff treated me very indifferently and insisted upon speaking english though i was hopefully practicing my thai. i had been told that this place had great food, but i was served the worst meal i had had since arriving in the country. my nam prik was a biteful of fish, some soggy rice, and some similarly soggy cooked vegetables. i have eaten nam prik several times before and it has never been this bad... the vegetables are supposed to be raw, for one thing. i sighed, ordered a pot of tea, and went to sit in my hammock to read my book (‘the wind-up bird chronicles’ by haruki murakami, highly recommended).

soon, loads of british people started to trickle in, two at a time, until the entire place was full of them. most of them were regulars who were returning after a long absence. they took over the place and soon were drinking and laughing loudly (nothing against the british in general, but i can’t stand them in packs). my room opened up straight onto the restaurant, and i felt very conspicuous in my lack of privacy. i shuffled out to the street to have a look around but there was not much to see- several groups of muslim women wrapped in head scarves stared me down. groups of dirty construction workers paused to stare as well. dust from the road obscured my vision and made me cough. i went into the 7-11 and bought some throat drops and a juice, and went back to my room for a nap, feeling very unwell.

my nap turned into my sleep for the night, but it was tortured by the sounds of the british people laughing, kids screaming, and no less than five places blasting very loud, very bad music far into the night.

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