“Life is very complicated. Don’t try to find answers because when you find answers, life changes the question.”
My last day in Chiang Mai was a lesson in discovering my boundaries for physical discomfort. The recipe involves a handful of over heating, some exhaustion, a pinch of digestive issues and season with frustration to your liking.
The good part about being pushed to your limits is that you can always push past them. In the end being physically uncomfortable, even perhaps the most physically uncomfortable I have ever been, isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things. The lesson; What’s it like to be the most uncomfortable thus far? Well, it’s just like any other experience on the compendium of life. It expresses what it needs to express and then changes, just like everything else.
Arriving in Phuket at 1:00 a.m. I tagged along with a French couple and an American med student who were headed to Phuket City. When the taxi driver asked us what hotel we were staying at I casually claimed one of the afformentioned dwellings and ended up getting a discount as additional business.
I truly didn’t have a plan in Phuket and frankly didn’t even know where Phuket city was because I didn’t have a chance to look at a map. In the morning I chose the nearest breakfast nook filled with locals. The staff brought a tray of already prepared dumplings, fried fish and what looked to me like puff pastries. The puff pastry, bread thingy was put on the table first with a sweet chestnut spread and fresh coffee. Imagine the inside of a honey crueller, slightly less sweet to make it appropriate for breakfast with a delicate and smooth outer shell. With the spread it was a pairing that I would gladly suffer the post food choma for.
I checked out the trendy cafes serving Phuket style coffee that has to be one of the strongest *kapow* coffees I’v ever had. Served with milk and ice in a tall luxurious glass the presentation is not complete without syrop in a shot glass for your cosmology pleasure.
I felt like Moses parting the Dead Sea with each movement I made. The air is rich and thick with humidity and the faint scent of seafood makes its way through the busy streets. My mind noticed similarities between Phuket City and Havana but apparently it’s taboo to compare any place to another. I’ll pretend I didn’t make the comparison and leave Phuket City to reveal its flavour and uniqueness. Perhaps on another trip.
Prompted by another traveller I made my way to Koh (island) Phi Phi on the afternoon ferry. Kokyo, who I would later share a room with in Phi Phi, informed me about the secrets of the infamous ping pong show. In short don’t expect to see a ping pong show when you’re asked to see the ping pong show. That is all.
Arriving on shore of Koh Phi Phi I heard the Jurassic park theme music playing somewhere in the back of my mind. Like a little kid I perched myself at the front of the boat and marvelled at the untamed beauty of the rock formations covered with dense green jungle to meet the sparkling turquoise edges of the ocean in perfect harmony.
Again following Kokyo (whose name was given by her 4 year old brother) we found ourselves on the opposite side of the island at a room on the beach with the sand at our doorstep. As dusk fell the music began and we found ourselves next door to the seaside bars and fire shows famous to the islands. The music is fantastic and you can feel the base accosting your heart at every beat. The fire show is a must see. Gorgeous, shirtless Thai men handle chains blazoned with torches to spin them around their bodies in mesmerizing, seemingly impossible ways. If I hadn’t been driven to the flame like a moth to bright lights I wouldn’t have gone to see it on my own volition. Aside for being super cool, it captures the wildness and “anything goes” attitude of the Thai islands. Chang beer is cheap and delicious and the party goes on well into the night. Practice your limbo skills and see if you can win a free boozy bucket.
The next day Derrick organized an all day water taxi to the various beaches and sights surrounding the island. Everyone has their talents and Derrick’s is bringing people together. Organizing groups using social media is what he has done his entire trip.
We started out at monkey island which is small and predictably habitated with greedy monkeys. Go ahead and take photos but if you have food prepare to have your personal space violated. Next stop was an overcrowded yet beautiful beach that as already escaped my mind due to the hoard of selfie sticks and wifi seakers.
Next, a picturesque green lagoon, snorkelling with needle fish, and lunch at a quietly removed beach eased and prepped our sunburned bodies before heading to shark point.
Anchoring at shark point I grabbed my mask and snorkel with ferver and dove into the water as fast as I could. While the girls stayed back and the boys strapped themselves into their life jackets I swam with a vengeance to the large rock formation that the sharks are said to patrol.
Sharks still terrify me. In kindergarten I remember looking through picture books of great whites to seehow frightened I could get by opening the most fiersome page as fast as I could and then recoiling with terror at the image of raw, primal power. I have yet to come face to face with these incredible beasts but in the mean time any opportunity to share space with the species excites my inner flame like no other, silencing any lingering fear to a mere whisper.
With my heart pounding I streamled my body to try and intercept the path of a shark in constant motion. Suddenly and almost missing it entirely I saw the first 5 footer eyeing me carefully while continuing on its destined path. It only took about 0.5 seconds to be reminded of my very fleshy, human body as fear jolted through my body reminding me of my vulnerability. I only had to experience the fear for a few seconds before remembering that I am so far off the Sharks radar as potential food that I might as well not exist. In addition it’s actually quite difficult to cross paths with one due to their electro-magnetic signals. They don’t want anything to do with you and are aware of you the moment you place a toe in the water. Your only hope is to swim around and accidentally cut one off.
The second shark I saw was much larger and did a wide half circle to check me out before picking up pace and gracefully disappearing into the blue. The life jackets and gathering too close to the boat prevented the others from cashing in on the experience.
That evening the long day and persistent sun blessed me with rougey, tender skin and a deep, deep slumber.