I think I must be very tired. Or have been. I have slept for most of the past three days. I feel like a short-term Rip van Winkle, although, this being a beach resort in southern Thailand, nothing at all has changed in the time I have been away. The same warm sun shining down unceasingly on the picture perfect sandy beach that gently slopes down into the sparkling blue water. The same inviting hammocks under the palm trees. The same come-to-your-hammock service, the same menus, the same staff, the same customers, the same television quietly (or noisily depending on custom) broadcasting the same western movies, sports events and news. Definitely the same news. The same row of fairly much identical beach resorts for 100 metres in both directions. The same nowhere to go. But then why would you want to? Again, Thailand demonstrates its perfection.
I am on Koh Phangan (variously mispronounced – I always thought it was Koh Pan Yang), an island off the coast of southern Thailand that is most reknown for its 30-hour or so full moon parties – a chance to get Bohemian or Bacchanalian (depending on how far back in history you want to go) with a huge collection of the world’s backpackers. I would not have thought it would be my cup of tea at all. I continued to think that when almost all the people on the last ferry seemed to be young English people here to do stuff they would seldom do back home. But I had to abandon my prejudices and take this island for what it was once I arrived over here on the north shore. Home to fewer people, fewer parties (well, at least, well-attended parties) and distinctly fewer younger partier people. Bliss.
Speaking of Koh Pan Yang, I bought a book on how to pronounce Lao. Clearly titled by an optimist, it was called “Let’s speak Lao”, a noble aim indeed. How unfortunate for the writer (or at least titler) of this book that Lao is basically impossible to learn from a book. Like Thai, or Mandarin for that matter. So many tones. So impossible to figure out how they should sound from a book. Even a good book. Of course, I can not judge the quality of this one. Sponsorship by the Lao government (as evidenced by sale in the Consulate) suggest endorsement. But it isn’t entirely clear to me whether Lao government endorsement is a good thing or a bad one.
I feel like I have slept off all the hassles and worries and upsets of my trip. All left behind under my double-mattress-with-mosquito-net-and-fan-for-$5-a-night. The sleeplessness of the ferry from Italy to Greece, the Albanians who pushed in front of me in the bus ticket queue where there were no tickets, the discomfort of the smoky sit-up seats from Greece to Turkey, the endless poisonous air between Trabzon and Tblisi, the minor visa disasters of Georgia and Azerbaijain and even Turkmenistan, the overwhelming 40 degree days in Ashgabat and Mary, the tears (no, not mine) and taxi extortionists (yes, sadly) at the border of Uzbekistan, the breaking-down cars, derilict drivers and uncomfortable saddles of Kyrgyzstan, the endless trains of Kazakhstan, the insurmountable Russian bureaucracy, the wastelands and head injuries of Mongolia, the incomprehensible train announcements of China, and the unexpected speedboat showers in Laos.
All that stuff. Six months almost. Consigned to memory. And we know how reliable my memory is (the correct answer is ‘not very’). Thank heavens I took some photos. I guess I kept a diary as well.