At the end of 2010 I made a trip into South East Asia. I didn’t have a return ticket, and I didn’t know what to expect. Waiting for my plane at the airport newsagent I found a small leather diary, I decided at that moment that I would keep a journal of my travel experiences. What follows are excerpts from that journal; the good times, the bad times, and all the times in between. The experiences I had were often strange and exciting, and yet the best times were always the most simple, such as catching a 12 hour night train and being gently rocked to sleep in a tiny bunk bed next to an open window. I also had some horrible experiences, which will also stay with me. Within the first couple of days I had an accident which eventually put my sanity on the boil, but ultimately led to a complete reconstruction of my outlook on everything, for the better.
I didn’t start writing in the diary until after the NYE full moon party. The plan was to fly from Melbourne to Bangkok, stay a night there. Fly to Koh Samui the next morning, ferry to Koh Phangan for the full moon party… We hadn’t planned on anything beyond that, but knew we would probably end up ‘island hopping’ to places like Koh Tao and Phi Phi Island, before somehow ending up in Northern Thailand/Laos. I don’t remember much of landing in Thailand, except that it was dark, and our taxi driver didn’t speak English. I also remember the cigarette packets were really strange here. We checked into some hotel, I didn’t write the name down, and I don’t think I will ever go back anyway.
The first entry was about the full moon party, I honestly don’t remember much of that night, and a lot of what I do remember will never grace the net. But I will dot point some of what happened:
- Flew to Koh Samui, C somehow missed the plane, or wasn’t allowed on I don’t remember which, but it was very funny. We were offered free sim cards upon leaving the plane, and then at the baggage collection we were talked into buying phones to complement our new free sim cards, quite genius if you ask me! We got on a ferry which took us full speed towards Koh Phangan…
- Checked into our bungalow’s at Buritara Resort (Koh Phangan), one of our pre booked bungalows had been taken already, we had a feeling that on NYE it would be a first come first serve deal with accommodation considering how many people needed a place to stay. Amazingly, the staff offered us to stay in the owner’s penthouse, which was ridiculously huge.
- Strolled towards the chemist to stock up on drugs. My only over the counter drug buying experience prior was in Indonesia, there you had to buy a prescription for whatever you wanted from a doctor and then take that prescription to the chemist. The prescriptions were cheap and it was easy enough, but it was impossible to get it straight from the chemist. So I told the group to wait behind so I could go in and try and talk the talk with the woman behind the counter, it would be much easier to get her to hand over the goods if it was just one person asking, rather than 8.
Surprisingly the woman didn’t give even the slightest shit and dished out drugs like they were lollies, we all flooded in and bought sheets of xanax, valium, ritalin, oxycontin etc etc. It all was very, very cheap (350 BHT a sheet). R a slightly chubby mate of mine wanted to buy duramine, this diet pill which apparently works a lot like speed. He said he wanted it for the high, but it was clear that he wanted to lose some weight.
- We retreated back to our suite with our drugs and started drinking and doing lines etc. We then got a tuk-tuk to the main beach and bought some buckets. There were tables full of the stuff, each sand bucket was a different colour and was full of bottles of vodka, bourbon, sprite, kratingdaeng (red bull) etc.
- Went to pee in the ocean as I really needed to, a little wave came out of nowhere and knocked me over, my phone was completely fucked and I got pee all over myself. Some others also peeing in the ocean had a good laugh at my expense.
- Countdown, I remember a lot of fire! I also remember losing my sandals and walking on a lot of glass, seeing a lot of people fucking. And I even saw a guy attempt to rape a girl on the beach, me and R ran up to her and threw the guy off. The girl was passed out… I don’t remember what happened after that, all I remember next was me and R looking for N and C, finding N with his shirt off being loud and yelling at strangers, something about their mum’s being a slut. I went into the 7/11 on the corner and when I came back out N was holding his nose, while blood was pumping out of it like a faucet. R became furious and demanded to know who did this to him, N said nothing. R cracked N’s nose back in place, N eventually caved in and pointed to these two blonde girls and said ‘he was with them’. We walked over to the girls, apparently he had been mouthing off to their brother, and after calling his mum a slut he hit him in the face. I think he deserved it, but R got way too involved and ended up running after this guy. He came back moments later telling us to run away as he was being chased by a group of big asians. We hid in the jungle for what must’ve been at least an hour, R’s hand was covered in blood.
- I don’t remember anything else, except it being bright out all of a sudden, my cousin D was completely lost, and there was no way for us to look for him without risking getting beat up. So we looked desperately for a way home, a transgender prostitute wouldn’t stop following us either, we spotted a tuk-tuk in the distance, ran for it, and jumped in the back. Cool getaway!
All in all the full moon party was shit, I had heard stories of mythic status about the parties when they had first started happening, but nowadays it is so completely hyped up and full of kids that it just wasn’t fun. We went back to our resort, R and I decided to go for a walk to find somewhere to get a massage. On the way we saw these two white men with thick beards crouching down over a dog on the curb. The dog was on it’s belly and was panting very fast, it’s tongue had given up and was parked on the gravel road. “how long has the dog been like this?” I remember asking. “We’ve been here for about half an hour” one of them said. I took a long drag from my cigarette, looked at R, and nothing more was said. We sat there and watched that dog die, it looked quite peaceful though, it never looked as though it was in real pain.
But there was nothing we could’ve done to save it’s life. After it died, we offered to help the men carry the dog into a wheelbarrow and bury it next to a tree. Turns out the men had been living in Thailand for about 10 years and had even set up their own scuba diving business in Koh Phangan. They gave us their business card, which had a cartoon squid on it which we immediately recognised from some of the signs we had seen near our resort. They told us we would have a free dive for helping them out, we were stoked and said “seeya tomorrow!” R and I eventually found a place to get a massage, R passed out and was snoring loudly during the entire massage, it was very funny. I felt sorry for the girl though so I woke him up.
Crashed at 5pm, woke up the next day at 9am, and D had returned.
JOURNAL ENTRY # 2 – Koh Phangan, “The Accident” Sunday, 2nd of January, 2011
This is the first thing I saw after my accident, luckily I had a camera handy to take photos. This is what I wrote in my diary for that day:
“Had an accident on the motorbike today, my foot was spilling out blood, luckily I had a first aid kit nearby, some friendly tourists helped patch me up and I taxied to the hospital, the nurse cleaned my wound and then stuck a needle in it. The pain I felt is unlike anything I have ever experienced, I almost passed out from shock, then they stitched me up and I went home. Nothing more needs to be said about today.”
In retrospect I can see why I didn’t write much about today, this was day 2 of the trip, I was filled with excitement and energy, and was then offered a dose of reality. I don’t want to go into too much detail about what happened, just know that it was a drunk and stupid mistake and it cost me my ability to walk for the next two weeks. Me and my friend Z were both in accidents, and were both rushed to the nearest clinic. It was a small clinic, one big room, which contained the reception desk, and two blue shower curtain type things with small white board looking beds in between them. It was not the place you would want to get stitched up at. The ladies that worked there were very aggressive, not in an angry way, just in the way they handled wounds. My foot was covered in dirt and gravel stones, and the thai lady just ravaged it with a cloth, rubbing it against my cut like she was trying to start a fire. I almost passed out from blood loss and the shock of all this pain, so the nurse gave me a swab dipped in god knows what to inhale, it made me feel a little strange but it kept me from passing out.
Finally she said to me, your leg is fucked pretty much, you need to get it stitched up. There was a catch, because of where the cut was positioned, along with how wide and deep it was, stitching it up would’ve made the skin very tight. Apparently there was a 70% chance that the skin would die and I would have to get skin grafted from my butt to replace the dead foot skin. Also walking would be impossible as any slight pressure on the foot could cause the stitches to reopen. This was a really shit clinic just in case you forgot. My other option was to avoid the stitches, but then I would pretty much have an open wound, I would have to clean it everyday and it would take about 2 months to heal. I really didn’t want to have to carry this mutilated responsibility on my foot with me for the rest of the trip so after some tense thought I opted for the stitches (I really wanted to think it over a cigarette but I wasn’t allowed to move). The woman stuck a needle into my cut, and the pain was frightening. And I’ve been attacked badly by a German Shepard before. All my friends were drunk and N was filming the entire operation, I never got to see the video because he felt bad about it later and deleted it. But apparently it was really hard to watch. I couldn’t feel any pain, but I could feel all the sensation, and it felt like someone had stuck their hand inside my foot, apparently that’s pretty much what they did. Anyway, here are some pics:
JOURNAL ENTRY # 3 – Koh Phangan “Iodine” Monday, 3rd of January, 2011
“Captain’s log: It is day 3, I think. I had a shower this morning with my crutches, it was a struggle! I actually fell over in the shower, I had to cover my foot in plastic bags and a I slipped and banged my head on the wall… not a great way to start the day! It’s my last day at Buritara in Koh Phangan, despite having a fucked foot I am still very happy to be here! All I can say is, Thailand is a beautiful country, full of happy and genuine people, while Koh Phangan is bathed in sunshine and a refreshing cool breeze. The island is covered in thick jungle and every time I see the mountain in the distance my eyes are fixated on it, it’s presence is paralysing! I have to go to the hospital today to get my wound cleaned, or else I could risk infection”
“At the clinic Z and I got our wounds cleaned. Forget what I said yesterday about the injection, this was the most hardcore pain imaginable. Luckily I get to look forward to this pain every day until I get my stitches out! When the nurse poured iodine on my cuts it reminded me of that scene in The Simpsons when Bart does chores for that old lady and cuts himself weeding, the old lady gets the bottle of iodine from the medicine cabinet, and then all you can see is her shadow pouring the stuff on Bart as he screams loudly! (I actually screamed ‘FUCK’ so loudly that I startled the nurse and everyone else in the room. The iodine was unlike any iodine before it, most iodine is a very watered down solution, but this stuff was 100%, it was thick like oil and jet black) Supposedly motorcycle accidents are so common on this island that the scars have become notoriously labelled as ‘Koh Phangan tattoos’. I was thinking about getting a tattoo while I was here, and I guess I got one! 1 page is not enough for a whole day, so I’ve decided from now on to try and fill the book for the whole two months, and just re date the pages.”
P.S: Always bring a first aid kid with you if you’re travelling. My brother bought me one before the trip, and I almost didn’t pack it as I thought it would be unnecessary weight (I packed very light), turns out it saved my foot from infection as I was the only one at the accident site with a first aid kit
JOURNAL ENTRY # 4 – Tuesday, 4th of January, 2011
“It’s about 11:30am, the taxi is waiting outside our resort in Koh Phangan (we stayed an extra night, double the length of time we had originally planned to stay) the taxi is going to drive us all the way to the ferry port (40 min away) and then the ferry will take us to Koh Samui (30 min away) all for only 200BHT each! That is a very good deal and is almost too good to be true. The taxi driver is very patiently waiting for us and the weather is equally still and calm; the sun has yet to bear its fangs. I have not been sunburnt yet, instead I have a healthy brown glow!”
“Turns out it was too good to be true… on the way to the ferry, two random Thais appeared out of nowhere and poked their head through the taxi window asking us for an extra 200BHT each, waving our ferry tickets in the air. I forgot to mention that the taxis aren’t what I’m used to seeing in Melbourne, or even Indonesia. The taxis are sort of like jeeps, they are quite open and the passengers climb in from behind and can feel the breeze blowing inside. I love the taxis here! Once we arrived at the dock I immediately noticed 2 massive boats literally crawling with people, it was as if a giant had spent all day grabbing handfuls of people and dropping them onto the boats. The sun was really hot at this point, I was pouring sweat. The act of hopping all the way across the massive pier and then struggling onto the overcrowded boat with my bags and crutches was way too overwhelming. It was at that point that I was finally struck with the depressing reality of my situation: without my right foot I can’t travel, I need to rest until I get my stitches out, but I can’t stay in one place long enough to fully recover (I was with a group of 8 friends who I didn’t want to slow down). Once I was on the ferry, all eyes were on me, the crippled one! I was told to sit down by some cute blonde girl with a friendly smile. She had a foreign accent that I couldn’t place, I was too exhausted to find out where she was from, so I didn’t ask. I noticed that by the look of all the people I’ve seen so far, and especially the people crouched on this ferry, that this country is one of the last havens for punk kids and hippie wannabes that want to follow the romantic life of the 60s. The hippie trail runs through Thailand’s arm like a vein that has been stabbed carelessly by opium filled needles, junkies crawl the country looking for the ultimate escape, a fix that will ease their longing for something more to their life. Glazed eyes stared at me as I was thinking this. They call the trek through Northern Thailand towards the Golden Triangle (which is where Thailand, Laos and Burma stare at each other, separated only by the Mekong river) the banana pancake trail. It’s called this, apparently, because hippies that make the trek stop for banana pancakes at each stop on the map”
“I’m currently hanging out in my new temporary home in Koh Samui with D; a small hotel room. He brought me some pizza and a pair of sandals… he really is the maddest dog in the world! Watching TV in bed, some bullshit channel is on, a choir singing something along the lines of “the full moon is driving away the darkness and brightening the world, its feminine power will rebuild Thailand, economy and the mind are one!”
Here’s a little table I drew to help me remember the currency:
Assuming $1 = 30TBH (Thai Baht/BHT)
100 TBH = $3.32
200 TBH = $6.65
400 TBH = $13.29
500 TBH = $16.62
1000 TBH = #33.23
5000 TBH = $166.16
10,000 TBH = $332.32
Hello = Sawatdee
Excuse Me = Kor Toht
Thank You = Korp Khun
Too Expensive! = Pang Mar!
Having a ciggie out my window, Light My Fire by The Doors is blazing throughout the street and a table with about 10 hookers are staring right at me, blowing kisses and shouting prices. Sucks to be them! (pun)
JOURNAL ENTRY # 5 – Wednesday, 5th of January, 2011
“Mental note: take malaria tablet today.
The seed of Buddhahood – the capacity to wake up and understand things as they are – is present in each of us, we only need to water it. Apparently when we join our palms and bow to another person, we acknowledge the seed of Buddhahood in him or her. This is interesting seeing as how 90% of the Thai population are Buddhists and they always bow to you when they say thank you. It’s 11:30 in the morning, I’ve been awake since about 8; I’ve been waking up surprisingly early in Thailand.
Today is my first day of solitary confinement, I am in my hotel room on the 2nd floor, the stairs are a bitch to get up and down and it is stinking hot outside; I really don’t have it in me right now to snail around in the slimey heat with crutches. D’s gone to the beach and I wish I could join him, I REALLY WANT TO SWIM! I haven’t swam once since getting here, well I did fall into the ocean while I was peeing at the full moon party, but I don’t count that as swimming. Funnily enough the reason I have this bung foot in the first place is cos we were all kicking back at this bar overlooking the ocean and I really wanted to go for a swim, Z and D both got on their bikes and headed back to the resort to get some swimming shorts, so I hopped on the back with D (I spent most of the day on the back of the bike with him looking for one for myself to hire, but couldn’t find one). D had never ridden a motorbike prior to this day but he was doing ok on it, and I trusted him; an accident was the last thing on my mind.
We arrived at the resort and I decided to ride with Z on the way back to the bar cos he was a self proclaimed motorbike guru, and I figured considering we were drinking I may as well ride with the best. About 10 seconds after getting on the bike he clumsily crashes it and we both plummet into a world of hurt – the concrete. A lot of strange coincidences have been happening. For example, a couple of days before the trip I took the day off work to go to the zoo, I called my boss and told him I couldn’t work cos I had crashed my bicycle (which I hadn’t) and hurt my leg, to which he replied ‘what bad timing!’ Also, the day before Thailand I was in hospital at 2am getting a last minute Hepatitis immunisation shot… maybe these were all omens?”
“The buddhists have an interesting way of getting their message across, one such example, which I can relate to now more than ever is: ‘when we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is happiness. But later, when we don’t have a toothache, we don’t treasure our non toothache’ Right now I know that when I can walk again I will be overcome with happiness, but days, months or even minutes later I won’t treasure it anymore. ‘Practicing mindfulness helps us to learn to appreciate the well being that is already there’. I have a long and exciting journey ahead of me, I just know that when my leg is better I will appreciate and use it to its fullest potential, I am going to be constantly mindful and appreciative of my ability to walk and I owe that all to the temporary pain and suffering I now have to endure, a sacrifice so to say (to this day, 28/09/11, I still hold this buddhist saying close at mind, and fully appreciate my ability to walk; often times while walking I’ll look at my feet and my thoughts will smile at the whole thing).
Right now I am in a cocoon waiting for the butterfly to realise its new wings. In my moment of absolute starvation D opens the door with a whole pizza, a bag of crinkle cut paprika chips and a bueno bar! He even brought me continental breakfast this morning. I told him I would never forget this and I meant that with all my heart, one of these days I am going to return the selfless care he has given to me. Just you wait El Roberto! I just took an antibiotic and am about to have the most satisfying post food cigarette ever!
Apparently it’s 4:30pm now, R, N and Z just burst into my room with smiles on their faces from the happy endings they just forked out 2000 BHT for. They all got their dicks sucked wearing condoms, which I reckon would be a waste of time as you wouldn’t feel anything, but they insisted the girls knew what they were doing and it felt great. Supposedly the girls had baggies of MD and let them snort lines off their tits. Z was the only one that fucked his hooker, haha good for him! R was ecstatic because the girls apparently kept telling him he had a big dong haha, he got a major ego boost from that, even though I’m sure they say that about everyone that walks in their front door with money. What happens in Thailand stays in Thailand! (I guess I’m breaking that rule by posting this here, but that’s why this post is password protected)
R just came back into the room – after bragging about his experience to C – looking for his cigs, he looked quite distressed and I said ‘not so happy now R!?’ Turns out we’re staying another night in this den, I want to stay at the bungalow down the road so I’m not so bored while I’m trying to recover. Our room started to stink of piss or sewerage and the water coming out of the tap was yellow, so we changed rooms to 201, just down the corridor.
This room is a lot smaller but much cleaner and more comfortable. We are paying 900BHT a night to stay here, that’s roughly $30AUD and only $15 each for me and D. That’s fucking cheap coming from Melbourne. I caught my first glimpse of the Thai equivalent of the Hells angels, a motorcycle chapter in Thailand calling themselves the Renegados or something like that, the gang seems to consist of white tough guy locals, eager to make a name for themselves on new land. They all wore leather jackets bearing their chapter name and logo, and shaggy blue jeans. I also forgot to mention that the Thai police here look badass, they’re all short and stumpy and look like they’re made out of stone, dressed in all black even in the thickest of heat; you wouldn’t want to mess with them!
Quick recap: we’ve been here 6 days, I’ve been out of action for 4, the others have 29 days left, D and I will roughly have 17 days left after they leave, giving us 46 days left. 9 pages for one day, that’s pretty fucked up! Probably because it’s been a day where I’ve been most alone with my thoughts and this diary. Think about how many thoughts fly in and out of your head every day, if you wrote everything down you could easily fill 20 of these books in one day!
I just got back from the clinic with D, we quickly hailed a taxi, only it was a taxi taxi, similar to taxis of the world, Koh Samui is a lot like Bali I’ve noticed, very different vibe here compared to Koh Phangan. The taxi driver didn’t take us to a clinic, but a hospital, the Thai International Hospital. It was a lot bigger and more established than the tiny 3 bed Thai Inter Clinic in Phangan. The receptionists and nurses were beautiful! Considering it was a big hospital I assumed it would be very expensive to get a doctor to clean my wound so I asked prices first, the nurse at the front desk wrote 1,800 BHT on a piece of paper and slid it over to me. I said it was too much: ‘paeng mar!’ and we settled on 600BHT. The doctor poured water over my bandages which felt really nice, and this super cute Thai nurse checked my pulse and blood pressure. Once the bandage was unwrapped I was face to face with a very ugly looking foot! The cut on my big toe looked mega infected, the doc cleaned me up without saying a word and then whipped out the glorious iodine. He told me to definitely come back everyday or I could lose my foot, he also said the stitches could come out in 10 days. D went to an internet cafe and logged into Facebook, apparently F sent us both a message saying she has been having bad dreams about us the past 5 days, seeing what we have been seeing. I’m going to bed now, today has been a very long day…”
TO BE CONTINUED.