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Archive for the ‘Koh Phangnan’ Category

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I don’t remember much about the New Year’s Eve I spent with 20,000-some drunk people and exactly 20 TEFLers on Koh Phangnan, but I’m going to assume I had a fairly amazing time.

What I can recall are the two separate modes of transport that attempted to kill me in the space of a few hours as I tried to leave the island on New Year’s Day.

The first was a boat taxi from the main beach, Haad Rin, which hosted the New Year’s Eve festivities, to the beach we stayed on with our local friend, Nini, who works at a hotel on Haad Yuan where a few of the TEFLers working in the South had previously stayed.

Despite Nini’s warnings about the water conditions (he kept motioning with his hand to indicate the size of the waves, while explaining that he wasn’t going to try to get back to Haad Yuan for awhile), we foolishly decided to hop on a boat taxi between beaches so we could attempt to get home in time for school the following day. It was about 8 a.m. when we came to this decision, and the beach was still pumping disturbingly loud house music to entertain the few thousand drunks who remained from the night before.

We had already missed the 7 a.m. ferry we had to catch to make our noon flight out of Surat Thani, but we thought we might be able to catch a bus or a boat or a train of some sort and get back in time to teach the next day. To do that, of course, we had to retrieve our bags from Nini’s place on Haad Yuan.

So we piled into a little wooden boat with a not-particularly-trustworthy-looking engine, the same one we had been using all weekend to shuttle us back and forth from our beach to Haad Rin. We could see that the water was choppy, but we didn’t expect the ride to be quite as memorable as it was.

We spent the next twenty minutes or so laughing nervously, as waves poured over the front and sides of our little motorboat taxi. So there we were, being swamped by waves every minute or so, still dressed in our New Year’s Eve outfits from the night before (mine was a pair of mesh shorts, Nike flip-flops, and a black button-down shirt), trying to convince ourselves that the boat wouldn’t actually capsize, and that the driver must know what he’s doing, and that he wouldn’t have taken us out in this if it wasn’t safe, and…

The driver, the same one that had driven us around all weekend, was laughing. And cracking jokes. He had a huge smile on his face for the entire ride, and he kept saying things like, “Don’t pee in my boat.”

On my left and still drunk from the night before was my Scottish friend, Sharon, who can’t swim. That hadn’t stopped her from climbing into an inner tube and drinking her way down a river in Laos the weekend before, but it added a bit to our anxiety nonetheless. Sharon spent the ride telling us all about a conversation she had apparently had with someone on the beach who claimed he/she had been in a boat exactly like this one that actually did capsize in similar conditions. I imagine that conversation couldn’t have been much more than a few minutes before Sharon, by Scottish friend who can’t swim, climbed into a little wooden boat with a not-particularly-trustworthy-looking engine and began to be pelted with waves.

In any event, we eventually made it to our beach on Haad Yuan, where my friend Joel stumbled out of the boat and nearly got himself run over. We then spent a few hours trying to figure out how we were going to get back to Chaiyaphum and generally enjoying the fact that we were all still alive, before someone arranged a motor taxi to take us back to the main beach and on to the pier to catch a ferry. We had already decided that we weren’t getting on another boat taxi, so a motor taxi seemed the natural solution.

We had been told that there were no motor taxis from our beach because there were no roads to drive on. This was mostly true. The ‘taxi’ ended up being the back of someone’s pickup truck (he was driving into town with about nine friends and a few dozen trash bags), and the road ended up being a steep, winding, mud path that was slightly wider than our pickup truck.

And so it was that the ride back to Haad Rin was even more memorable than the ride from Haad Rin had been.

Instead of nine TEFLers and one laughing driver, there were four TEFLers and nine locals (including a few women and children, who sat in the front) to laugh at us as we held on to whatever we could grab in a clumsy attempt to avoid falling out of the truck. In my case, it tended to be either Sharon’s knee or my overnight bag (which was particularly foolish, since my overnight bag was just sitting in my lap, not any more attached to the truck than I was).

At one point, the inevitable occurred and the truck got stuck on a particularly steep, muddy incline. It took four or five attempts to push the thing out (the women, children, and foreigners all got out of the truck and the half-dozen Thai men pushed). My contribution to the effort was mostly to stand with my hands on the back of the truck and try not to slide all the way down the hill, which was quite difficult in the slick mud.

By the time we got to the pier, I didn’t mind that the only way we could get home was a 14-hour bus ride. I was just glad we would be doing it on paved roads.

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