23:58 March 8, 2554
We departed from the lovely, artsy Bodega Hostel, much more like a hip indie café than a backpacking refuge.
The reasons for it being rated the number one hostel in all of Thailand were more than apparent. Bright murals covered each of the walls, as Jack Johnson swirled from the record player.
And the most vital asset of all, the bathroom, had real toilets.
Not to mention that it was all so gloriously clean.
With actual hand soap, mirrors you could see your reflection through, and working fans.
The latter of course made it difficult to keep the toilet paper down as a seat covering. Seeing as it was so keen on blowing away, swept up in the eager fan, right in that instant between placing it on the toilet rim, and racing to pin it down with your behind. After one too many failed attempts I lost hope and plopped down a la mode, hoping that they cleaned the toilet seat as often as they seemed to clean that luminescent tile floor of theirs.
We left sipping orange juice from glasses clean enough that it made you actually want to drink out of them, a sincere first in all of Thailand.
We had planned for the day a speedboat tour of the islands off the coast of Phuket.
A ridiculously touristy, vaguely embarrassing endeavor?
But we took our chances and held our breath that we wouldn’t run into anyone we recognized, besides each other that is.
The tickets cost the obnoxiously high tourist price of 3,400 baht a piece ($113.00 US).
A fact that once Nissi discovered, she simply snorted, and told me to go hide around the corner.
Not three minutes later she found me, holding those very same tickets, “Sold at 2,000 baht a pair, thank god they didn’t see your hair!”, she exclaimed.
That pretty much sums up all of Thai marketing and business management.
The whiter you are, and the more jewelry you wear, the higher your price tag goes up. Needless to say, it’s been quite an adventure and Nissi hasn’t necessarily been enjoying experiencing the other side of the spectrum too much…
Once aboard the shoulder to shoulder packed speedboat, our guide popped one hip, leaned back exuding a smorgasbord of attitude, and with a flick of his short cropped hair, introduced himself as, “Shakira.”
We performed quite a convincing role of playing tourist. Visiting beaches so crowded you literally had to wait in line, squeezing past hordes of sweaty foreigners just to take a single picture.
It was all so breathtakingly stunning, and the beauty was almost outrageous.
However the herds of human we were required to step over in order to so much as get a grain of sand between our toes, magically diminished the enjoyability of the entire ordeal.
As Shakira gleefully announced, we visited the island that Leonardo DiCaprio’s, “The Beach” was filmed at!
A statement which meant absolutely nothing to me, but I’m sure someone somewhere will appreciate.
After our “snorkeling experience” in which I saw far more plumber’s crack easily sliding out of slippery swimsuits than I did exotic sea life, we took a whirl around Phi Phi Island. (Pronounced pee-pee)
Give yourself about three minutes to get over the name.
I couldn’t believe I was going to visit someplace called “pee-pee islands.”
Tour books actually printed it in their pamphlets!
Wonders never cease.
After several chortles of laughter and a decent share of potty talk, I was over it.
Breezily ordering tickets and selecting destinations, letting “Pee-pee Islands” slip out of my mouth so soberly, you’d think I was a native.
And it was beautiful.
To say the absolute bare minimum.
Think tropical island.
Go onto the nearest photo shop application in your imagination.
Turn up the turquoise of the water by a couple hundred notches.
Brighten the sun.
Soften the sand.
Add some texture to the coconuts hanging in bunches beneath each tree.
Let the aroma of fresh island mangoes waft nonchalantly through your hair.
And go ahead and add a “ding” to the smiling teeth of the deeply tanned European’s sunbathing in their banana hammocks, and not much else, lined up in a logarithm on beach blankets.
As is only natural in a map-less journey, it seemed as though our destination had found us.
So we promptly left the tour.
A friendly perk of carrying your life on your back in a single damp bag is that it makes for easy departure and an instant change of plans.
Dawdling along the beach, I heard my name being called.
That was a bit strange.
I know it’s a small world, but I really wasn’t expecting a reunion with any third grade teachers…I turned around to see Chris yelling my name.
Chris is better known around Webster University as, “The guy with the pink shorts.” He’s from Holland, and in the best of all possible ways, I guess wearing pink shorts is just something people do a lot of over there.
And when I say that, I mean really, really tight ones with herring bone checks on them that kind of bulge out excessively in all the most awkward of places.
Seeing Chris was the first surprise.
Surprise number two was when Chris introduced me to his girlfriend of three years.
You learn something new every day.
I wondered if she’d be interested to know that he asked me out on a date not a couple of weeks ago.
Wandering back along the crisp beach in search of our hut, it began to shower.
An instantaneous temperamental shift from pristine blue paradise, to dark rolling rainclouds with a thick, sinister downpour unmercifully willing to drench.
We were caught beneath a rundown overhang, pressed close to the hatch bungalow so as not to absorb the drips pelting down from the tip of the roof.
Rain on our Phi Phi Island vacation.
Despite the irony, I needed to pee, and I could feel a headache began to pulse its way into my consciousness.
I sincerely wished to be anywhere else in the world right then.
So I did the only thing possible it seemed there was to do.
I took off my clothes.
Running, palms wide, and mouth open into the rain like a maniac with arms twirling.
I felt the rain.
Felt each one of the endless droplets bombard against my skin.
And I felt the stares of a hundred beach bound tourists caught under the awnings.
Forlornly gazing at the sopping beach, repetitively checking their iPhones for the weather report. In much the same manner that continuous pushing of the elevator button seems to make it operate faster, frequent weather updates just may improve the atmosphere.
My sun burnt body in its bright orange striped bathing suit, the archaic one with the stretched out elastic, jumped, and danced, and smiled as I felt the mud cake generously between my toes.
I felt as though I could have walked a thousand miles out into the shallow clear water.
And just kept on running into that gusty warm wind and inhaling that sweet palm leaf smell of banana tree forever and ever.
Eventually, my meditative trance fixed on the gorgeously elegant rocky coastline was shattered, as two Thai boys ran out into the aggressive rain kicking a soccer ball.
They passed it back and forth before a couple more men ran out to join them, and a few more.
Not one to be left out, I barreled over to partake in their festivities.
Granted I was a bit redder than them and the only one with sequins on my bathing suit, and my soccer skills were significantly lower than theirs, as in, nonexistent.
But no one seemed to mind.
And with the addition of a few more players, we had ourselves a full-fledged soccer match, shirtless against shirtless amidst the white shards of bursted lightning and deep cracks of hollow thunder.
Muddy in places I didn’t even know existed.
Wet and soggy, sopping solid through.
Exhausted and out of breath.
I ran back into the knee-deep water to be alone, and to savor that natural type of no laundry detergent necessary post rain clean sort of nature smell.
And looking out, I realized that I didn’t know life could be this beautiful.
No really, it sounds drippingly romantic of me to say, but just standing there in the bay, toes dipped into the soft mellow sand with water so clear that if it wasn’t for the bright tiny fish darting from crevice to cranny, I wouldn’t be able to tell where sky ended and water began.
But I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be with life.
So much beauty and crackling lightning and shatters of thunder overlooking the gently ominous rainclouds on the horizon, interrupted only by jagged peaks of dark rock.
It was one of those moments.
When there’s nothing else at all in the world that you can do, besides stand there and marvel, mouth agape, but throw your head back and thank whomever.
Whatever glorious being that happens to be occupying the great omnipotent nametag of almightiness, and whisper,
“Thank you for life.”
Because there’s absolutely nothing else in the world that needs to be said.