Diary of The Travelling Seanchai :-
International Linguist on the Wrong Island
2007-01-24 to 2007-01-29
Well I said I wouldn`t write unless something interesting happened and well something did… I got lost!! Very lost! Wrong side of the country lost but more on that later!
My last two days in Ko Phi Phi were great! It has been the highlight of my trip to date and that`s saying something. It was with a heavy heart that I left the characters of The Rock and also Lung, chef extroadinaire in Papayas restaurant where I ate every night for a week. In SE Asia, most restaurants have animals walking around in them, particularly cats and dogs! His cat got too hot and jumped into the fridge for an hour to cool down! Picture attached! (My attempts to lock the fridge were thwarted!)
I was leaving on Sunday so we climbed to the top of the island to see the amazing views, it wasn`t Everest or anything, only about 15 mins to get there but it was well worth it. Unfortunately my camera has broken and now I am reliant on friends sending me on pictures. I will get a new one though as I can`t be without one!
I am always palpably aware of the fact that in our own little way, each traveller is representing his/her country and culture and we should be always striving to leave a good impression on people from around the world that we met. Unfortunately some Irish guys have undone a lot of good work by reportedly beating up another guy on the island the other night. The sick irony of it though was that these guys were from the Irish Army and they were on holidays from a posting with the UN Peacekeepers in Kosovo!! Ha ha, if that`s the way they act `keeping the peace` God help the Kosovans.
But being beaten up by Peacekeepers must be like getting drank under the table by a Mormon or being out sung by a mute! In other words it should really never happen!
Another thing that doesn`t usually happen is me getting lost! I have a fair idea how I wanted this trip to go but I have always left myself open to fluctuations and slight deviations from the path if needs must, but I have found myself a long way from where I need to be!
It all started with Mick (from Luang Prabang, Pai and Bangkok fame) giving me a stubby (beer) holder from a bar called Choppers that he made me promise to go see. Well, I have undertaken this search for the Holy Grail with great gusto and I was sure that the bar was on an island called Ko Lanta. Of course, any kind of cursory look at the stubby holder would have told me that the bar was in Koh Tao! That`s on the other side of the country!
So I got to Ko Lanta and I am staying in this beautiful bamboo hut right on the beach in a little resort with just 11 huts! When I got there I asked two English lads from Banbury in the UK (Lee and Justin) where Choppers bar was. They looked at each other, and being frequent visitors to this part of the world both said that it was in Koh Tao! I told them that I had come to Ko Lanta just to have a drink in that bar as a promise to a friend and they died laughing! The bumbling Irish stereotype was confirmed and I made some new friends!
I was invited to play football at the daily 5pm game that the 76 yr old patriarch of the family business, Papa, has to play daily. So there I was playing Ta-Kraw, a game where you have to keep a small ball made out of reeds off the ground with extra points being given for flair! It took some getting used to but then I was flicking like nobody`s business! Afterwards I got invited for their sunday roast dinner which Papa had been cooking all day. My story of how I was on the wrong island had been told to all the locals and they loved it!! They kept saying “You very stupid but very lucky!”
But Lee and Justin turned out to be two of the greatest characters you will ever meet! Both 30 somethings, they had a zest for life that made mine seem positively pedestrian! The locals all knew and loved these guys and after an evening with them I could see why!
Just some of the stories that came out of the evening; Justin was in Bangkok and he stumbled into a brothel that he thought was a bar. Not being one that partakes in such sordid behaviour and who, quite to the contrary, despises the practise, insisted on paying to take all of the girls out for the night! So he had all these working girls walking around with him from bar to bar just drinking with him! It must have been some spectacle but the cost for such an extravagance reached into the thousands of dollars!
The dance music was pumping from the bar in our resort and Justin kept throwing his hands in the air, until he dislocated his shoulder!! apparently this happens a lot and he knocked it back in (same as Mel Gibson`s character in Lethal Weapons!). But then a few minutes later he was back to his dance music and throwing caution to the wind again!
Too many years in the clubs has dulled the senses and the hearing because when he was told that there was no weed here, he said “What are you talking about” (pointing to one of the other lads), “He`s Norwegian!” . He was trying to explain how to say Bad Karma in Thai but the words always started out as `Nong nang` but every time he tried to finish it, it had a different ending. So `Nong Nang Bebala` or `Nong Nang Be La La` which prompted Lee to say “What about Nong Nang Be Tipsy and Nong Nang Be Po and all the other Teletubbies?!”
Nicole and Carsten from Germany were the next to come out with a memorable comment as Carsten is a devotee to tattoos with his entire torso covered in intricate designs. I asked why did he get so many, he said it was like an addiction. I couldn`t grasp this so Nicole tried to clarify it for me by saying that getting Tattoos was like Pringles – “Once you pop, you can`t stop!”
Talking nonsense must have been infectious because one of the other Germans then wanted to go for a Night swim. With the currents we advised him against it. I said “Neinen Nachten Svimmen” in one of those terrible put on German accents from the WWII movies and they all looked at me. I thought they were impressed but my pronunciation hadn`t been up to scratch as I had just told him “No Naked Swimming”! He thought I was telling him not to skinny dip as the word for Naked in German is Nackt!! What made it funnier was that I was making up Svimmen as I didn`t know the word for swimming but guess what, I was right!!
Schwimmen is how it`s spelt but I was now officially tri-lingual (English, French and German) but then it occurred to me that I can still speak Gaelic so when I told Nicole this we both said (in a broken Italian accent for some reason) that I was “Quatro Linguale” which immediately prompted us into saying that I was `Cinquo Lingual” now that I clearly had added fluent Italian to my repertoire!
This and so much more all happened in the space of two hours and when there was a lights failure (pretty common apparently), we just sat around, talking and listening to nature. One of the main dangers in our resort though is the really big threat of falling cannonballs, sorry, I mean coconuts! We spend our times walking around looking up, waiting for that fateful sound of a coconut breaking off and coming crashing down. The `en suite` toilet in my room has a wall around it but no roof so I sit on the toilet or stand in the shower craning my head skyward to ensure I don`t become a victim of the worst kind of toilet humour!
I`m sure that there is a astral or geographical explanation for it but it`s amazing in Thailand when you see the moon moving across the sky and actually `setting` as we have seen the sun do on so many occasions! So I sat on the beach and watched this new phenomen and realised how very lucky I was.
Lee and Justin have gone to Koh Tao now and I will set off tomorrow and join them. I am sure that more adventure awaits with these lads and I am equally as sure of it that I was destined to come to the wrong island first and then head over with these two nutters! It also means now that it looks like I might be at the Full Moon Party in Ko Pha Nang on the 2nd of Feb if any of you are going to be in the area.
So even when I screw up on this trip, it comes up roses! You can expect now that the stories will definitely be coming thick and fast!
Talk to you all soon and keep those messages on the message board coming!
Slave Ships, The Holy Grail and Full Moons