Day 177: A Phangan In The Arse

It was the first time in a while that I got the chance to have some me time. I had a great day. I hired a bike, explored the many roads of koh Phangan, granted it was because I got lost, but I still explored nonetheless. I witnessed yet another beautiful sunset on the beach, and had two long Skype calls to family members back home. It was a great day to be me. So please read on if you wish to learn just how my day panned out.

• It was strange to be sharing a room with Anna and have her be the last one to wake up. While we were all travelling Malaysia together, she was always the first to suggest setting an alarm to wake us up early. I guess it was because we were now on the islands, and lie ins, and lazy days come with the territory.

• I was the first to wake up, so while I waited for the girls, I enjoyed an episode of Boardwalk Empire. Some 50 minutes later they were both awake, and the three of us went for breakfast.

• We had breakfast in the restaurant of our resort. I ordered porridge and water, and took the first of my final three anti inflammatories. It was a rather boring meal for me. Because we didn’t get wifi in our room, the only time we could use the Internet was at our restaurant. So for the best part of our meals, the girls played on the phones and were very unresponsive. It’s a sorry state of affairs, but if you should look around the room the next time you go out for a meal, you will notice a generation with some form of gadget in their hands. Rather than talking with the people sat around the same table. Call me old fashioned, but I believe when friends enjoy a meal together it’s to socialise and converse, not have their faces buried in a piece of technology, Facebook being the usual suspect. Reading the he said she said b******* that fills people’s dull and boring lives, as if it were front page news. It’s funny, it’s wasn’t until I left England that I truly realised how much rubbish certain people post on Facebook. Why do I need to read what so and so is having for dinner, or why they feel the need to tell others what the weather is like outside their windows. I have my own eyes to see for myself. One day we won’t even have to leave our homes to interact with people, and we’ll be more plugged into the matrix than we already are.

• When the girls eventually put down their phones and began talking again, we discussed where we’d stay that evening. We had a good deal going at our current place. We were paying only 600 baht for an a/c room, for three people. Making it one of the cheapest places we’d stayed for some time. The only downside to our accommodation, it was in a bad location. We were staying in Haad Yao, and the area was like a ghost town. There were no other backpackers, except for the ones that rode through on their scooters. Seeing as we’d come here for Sangkran (the water festival) we’d soon have to think about moving to a busier area. The festival itself wasn’t for another few days, and we knew we wouldn’t get anywhere else for as cheap, so we made the decision to stay at Hut Sun Resort for a couple more days. It would allow us to save some money before the crazy antics of the Thai new year.

• It was near the end of breakfast I remembered 3 days had passed since my initial rabies vaccination shot. I would have to locate a clinic on the island in order to get my second one. The girls decided to sunbathe all day (not that they’d get much of a tan, the weather was overcast with a chance of rain) leaving me to my own devices. To get to any of the clinics on the island I’d need a vehicle. The taxis cost too much to get anywhere, this left me with only one option, to hire a bike.

• I headed to reception to ask the lady if it would be possible. She presented me with a rental form to fill out, and I had to leave her with my passport as collateral. In the time it took me to go back to the room and grab it, she had wheeled around a small black and white scooter. When I sat upon it, I learned it was too small for me, to which the lady laughed. I asked her if she had any bigger ones, she said yes. It would cost me 200 baht a day, instead of 150 which the other one was, all for the luxury of having legroom. I signed the rental form, but on the back of it was a list of parts and prices, all of which I’d have to pay for should they get damaged. After they wheeled the second bike around, they checked it over meticulously. There was a reason for this. On Koh Phangan there are no garages, only handy men that do their own work, meaning if anything on the bike should be broken upon its return, the person who rented it was liable for the costs. At the start of our trip we heard many stories of tourists who had been charged for damages that already existed. Lets just hope these guys were genuine, and wouldn’t do the same to me.

• I then had the issue of locating a clinic. When I asked the receptionist where the nearest one was, she informed me it was in the same area as the pier we’d arrived at. Not knowing how to get there, I asked for a map. Unfortunately the resort didn’t have one, leaving me with only my memory to guide me, after the kind lady gave me directions. This is what she told me.
“When you reach 7Eleven, turn left”.
“Go straight, then go left again”.
“Stay straight until the road splits, and go right”.
“Keep going until you pass petrol station, take next left, and you’ll reach the area the clinic is in. If you get lost, just ask someone and they’ll direct you”.
I paid a woman 50 baht for half a tank of fuel, and with a new bike, and a bright red helmet, I set off.

• The ladies directions were all very good in theory, but when put to practice, were a very different story indeed. The evening before, we were told how the 7Eleven was only a 20 minute walk from our resort. Well, after riding in the same direction as we walked for 20 minutes, I didn’t find it. All I stumbled upon was desolate road, after desolate road. In the end I decided to turn around and go back. On the return journey I noticed a sign. It read “hospital 1.4km ->”. I decided to follow it and see if it was true. When I arrived, I was tempted to see if they offered the shots. It was then I remembered the local hospital in Laos, and how bad it was inside. I immediately got back on my bike and turned around. As I continued along the original road I’d set out on, I began to recognise the familiar surroundings of Haad Yao, it was then that I couldn’t believe my eyes.

• Somehow I’d managed to ride past the large white building that was the 7Eleven. I completely blanked it earlier on. The first thing I spotted was a large 20 foot white pillar erecting from the ground, atop it was the famous orange, red and green coloured sign. How I missed it I’ll never know, but now I knew where it was, I was back on track. I took the left (which was now on my right) as the receptionist had instructed, but it was here that her directions fell apart. After taking the left and going straight, I was confronted with a t-junction. I figured this must be where I had to go left, so I did. Only I was met by desolate road after desolate road once again. The roads on the islands are a lot worse, I guess it’s because there aren’t many road maintenance teams, if any. You do see the occasional hole covered with a thick paste of Tarmac every hundred yards or so, but I think that’s only when the roads are really bad. They are caused by the extreme temperatures of the sun, after beaming down on the concrete, all day ever day, after a while it causes the ground to expand and crack. This leaves craters in the floor, and more often than not, these are the cause of reckless drivers injuries. That’s why you’ll often see small shop owners watering the roads outside their businesses. This helps to keep the concrete cool, and in turn, prevents it from breaking.

• I figured if I returned to the t-junction, that perhaps the woman meant to take the right, instead of the left. So I followed that road for about 10 minutes, but again, I found no signs of the road splitting off. All I found was more desolation, and two men chopping a mountain of coconuts. Frustrated with myself for not being able to find this illusive clinic, I returned to the resort a defeated man, where I found Sarah on the beach. She managed to cheer me up after telling me a story of a bird pooping on her as she led on the beach sunbathing. When I’d finished moaning, I recalled the hospital I’d visited earlier, and decided to speak with the receptionist again. She told me the hospital did in fact store the jabs I needed, and she had taken customers in the past after they were bitten by dogs.

• Not knowing why she didn’t just tell me that in the first place, I hopped back on the bike and set off again. I had grown accustomed to the roads now, after having spent a good couple hours recovering my steps. I knew where all the potholes were, so I was able to ride a little faster than usual. When I reached the hospital, I was handed a piece of paper to present at the information desk. I explained to the man behind it how I needed my second jab, to which he asked if it was my first time at the hospital. This was soon followed by him speaking in Thai, and the woman around him bursting out laughing. I presumed he made some joke about me being another tourist getting too close to the animals. One of the women looked at me and smiled, then handed me a form to fill out. I walked over to a nearby bench to begin writing my details.

• When I was done, they gave me a doctors card, and directions to where I had to go. There was a room next door with nurses and beds inside. I proceeded through the door and handed over the card. The nurse told me I had to keep it for a second visit. Should I still be in Koh Phangan on the date of my 3rd and final jab, I could present the card and get a discount on the medication. Seeing as this was my first visit, I’d have to pay the full price of 860 baht. I was told to take a seat, and all of a sudden a short girl with a needle stood before me. I was trying to look around the room to see if they were using sterile equipment, but my vision was obscured by the standing nurses. I quickly asked the girl if the needle was clean, but she didn’t speak very good English. Making a “huh” sound in response. No sooner than I looked to my left to ask the nurse if it was all clean equipment, I felt a sharp prick in my right shoulder. It was too late now, suddenly, rabies was the least of my worries. She also injected the fluid differently to how I was used to. Instead of squirting the whole lot in, she pumped the needle a couple times in my shoulder. When she removed the needle I asked the nurse beside me if it was all above board, to which she said “yes, everything is single use”. The young girl then washed her hands, and I was told to go to cashier number 2 to pay for my treatment.

• As I left the hospital grounds to ride home, I noticed a girl with her thumb out. Unlike in a car, if you make eye contact you can keep driving because you feel protected in your little bubble. It’s a different story on a bike, I looked at her and smiled, and I even acknowledged her with a nod. It then dawned on me that I should probably stop, otherwise it was all a bit awkward and I would have sent her the wrong signals. Without thinking about it, my hands gripped the brakes and I came to an abrupt stop. The girl had a septum piercing, and long brown dreadlocked hair, tied up atop her head. She wandered over to me and began telling me where she wanted to go. She was mentioning locations, street names, and reference points that were all Latin to me. I explained how I was going in the opposite direction to Haad Yao. She didn’t mind, and thanked me for stopping, then went back to hitchhiking. Some part of me wish I took her though, as it would have given me an opportunity to get to know the island a little better, as well as a chance to meet someone new. I had to tell myself that she was probably a psychopath and would have robbed my bike, to avoid the feeling of being a “NO MAN, NO MAN, NO MAN!”

• I made a brief stop in the 7Eleven for a few canned drinks. I deemed my can of Fanta a reward, like the sticker a child gets after visiting the dentist. When I got back to the resort, I threw Anna’s can up to her, as she was sat in the restaurant Skyping her family, then I met Sarah back on the beach. I stayed with her for a few minutes, then went to the restaurant to use the Internet. I spent around 45 minutes adding more blogs to WordPress, and when I was done, I decided to see if any family members were on Skype.

• Luckily for me, both my mum and my nan were online. I spoke with my nan first, and the conversation lasted 45 minutes. We covered many topics, the most important of which being the dog bite. I managed to put her mind at ease, and explained how slim a chance contracting rabies was. I showed her the resort we were staying at, as well as how dull and grey the sky was outside. After I said goodbye, I spoke with my mum. I was very hungry by this point, and aware that I’d need to take my second tablet very soon. I managed to have yet another long phone call with her, that too was close to 45 minutes. We also covered various topics, and at one point I got a little deep. I explained how I’d received more appraisal on WordPress about my blog, and how more people had started following it. I told her that it was true what British comedian Ricky Gervais said, “you can only do what’s true to you, the second you begin to be false, that’s when you’ll be caught out”. In a way my blog proves that. I write each post for me, I don’t do it to impress anyone, the fact I get people liking what I have to say is just a bonus, and it means a lot to me when people write me messages saying that they enjoy them. But if all that stopped I’d still be writing, because since travelling I have found something I am passionate about. It’s the same as my tattoo, I did that for me, I picked images that I loved, and from that I found a love for comic art. That too is something I have found people love. Some even go as far as stopping me in the streets, from time to time, to talk about it. As I’ve grown older I have realised I am a very passionate person, and I have lost the ability to care what others think of me, or what I do. If you’re reading this, or have read any of my blogs, and like what I have to say, then god bless, I love you all.

• It was good news all round back home, my family were healthy, and my mums old house had sold. Everything was going well. I explained to mum, that for just a little more money than the house sold for, she could have a beautiful three bedroom, sea view home in Thailand. She just sighed, then I rubbed salt in the wounds when I showed her the view of the sunset from our resort. When the phone call was over, I ran to the beach to get a picture of it. This one definitely rivalled the one in Lanta. As soon as I stepped foot on the sands, I felt as though I’d walked into a fantasy scene from a movie. It was close to how I’d imagine heaven to look. On the horizon were shining green lights coming from the anchored boats. The water was perfectly still, and acted as a mirror to its purple twin sky above it. To say the day was overcast and dull, it certainly dressed to impress at night. Kind of like the ugly duckling transforming into an elegant swan. Pictures never do phenomenal sights justice, looking back, I didn’t stay long enough to soak it in. I simply took a couple pictures and ran away. It’s the one thing I will miss most about the islands, their sunsets put any others to shame.

• When I got back to the room, I couldn’t even touch the door before it opened in front of me. The girls were coming out, as they were ready for dinner (or tea, as we Brits call it). With me being the only one with wheels, I took Anna on the back, and we went in search a restaurant, leaving Sarah at the resort to FaceTime her sister. We couldn’t find anything beyond the 7Eleven, and instead headed in the direction we went the previous night. We found a cheap place with a great pizza deal, I returned to grab Sarah, and the three of us sat to eat. For 140 baht, we received a pizza, garlic bread, and a fruit shake. When it arrived we realised why it cost so little. We had 3 pieces of garlic bread, a small pizza, and a regular sized fruit shake – talk about budgeting. It wasn’t enough for Anna and I, so we ordered an additional meal after. I had porridge, while Anna had a sandwich. When the bill came, they had charged us the wrong amount. The grand total for everything only came to 240 baht. At first we weren’t going to say anything, but out of fear of retaliation from a little thing called karma, Anna fessed up. They didn’t say thank you for our honesty though, probably because they felt embarrassed about making a mistake. Our consciences were clear, and that’s all that mattered. I then took Anna back to our resort, followed by a return trip for Sarah.

• Sarah didn’t want to go back straight away, instead asking for a lift to the 7Eleven first. We were running low on fuel, and I was concerned that we might not make it there and back again. Fortunately there are gasoline stands everywhere, so even if we did run out, we wouldn’t have had to look far before we were back on the road again. We grabbed some drinks, then returned to Hut Sun Resort. It was here that the girls learned nothing from my lesson of being bitten by a dog.

• The owners of the resort were closing up shop for the night, and their dogs were walking about the place keeping guard. They had three adorable crossbreeds which they got from Bangkok. One lady said the mother was a pug, and the father was part shitsu (what, a zoo with no animals?). They were the friendliest dogs, and complete opposites to the one that attacked me, and thank goodness, because Sarah was happily petting each if them. Their little expressionless faces were hilarious as they waddled around with various items in their mouths. At the time of our return, one of them had stolen somebody’s flip flop, and another had a big leaf in its mouth. I left the girls outside to play, then returned to the room.

• I led on the bed and almost got through a whole episode of Boardwalk Empire before the girls came in. I watched a second episode after that, leaving Sarah to Skype her family. Eventually we switched roles, they had the tablet while I worked on the blog. Unaware of how little battery I had left, I went into a trance, and began typing like a madman. I was so proud and passionate about what I’d written. I’d included interesting information, it was short, concise, and to the point, I explained about the hospital, and the quality of the roads, everything was just the right amount to digest without feeling as though I’d rambled. But all of a sudden, after I’d put in 2 hours work, and was half way through writing about my day, the battery on my phone died. Deleting all the proud work I’d put in.

• I was gutted, I immediately put the phone on charge in the hopes it would revive it, but it didn’t. By the time it came back on, everything had gone. So I apologies readers if the start of this post is rambled. I did my best to recalculate and remember what I’d written, but the passion had gone. I was too frustrated to think clearly, so when it came to writing a new, my brain kept trying to remember what was written before it. It’s not until after the hospital visit that I was able to write from a fresh perspective. I hope you enjoyed it all the same, it has taken me the best part of 4 hours to construct this one. It’s now midday, and I’m going for breakfast. Peace!

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