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Sex in the Sub-City
Thailand Diary, Part 2

Stolen Arms and Third World Charms

Day 19

Ko Pha Ngan was like, well…let's just say it was something of a disappointment. Like Kho San Road on the beach, it was made up of very rambunctious, outgoing backpackers who had come to party. The bars on the beach, where most people congregated, only played trance and top-40, and not even current top-40. They were stuck in some kind of time warp, and night after night I heard "Jump Around," "Hip Hop Hooray" and for some strange reason "Mr. Jones." To these songs and others everyone danced wildly, helped along by beer, various drugs and buckets of Red Bull and vodka.

The Full Moon Party was just the same, only on a much large scale. Party boats from the surrounding islands dumped buttloads of revelers on the beach, and instead of just a few sound systems there were scores, all playing the same music. Every few feet a set of speakers blasted similar tunes, and one could walk the entire duration of the beach and feel like only one song was playing. The crowd was part raver, part local Thai and part Eurotrash, thinly disguised behind glowsticks and necklaces and hats with blinking lights on them.

There was also a disproportionate number of big, beefy guys, and from certain angles it looked like these were the only people on the beach. At one point I accidentally stepped on one of these brutes' toes, and suddenly found myself hoisted in the air and cursed out in a strange tongue. I'm six-three and almost two-hundred pounds, so anyone who can lift me up like a feather is not someone I want to have a disagreement with. So when he put me down I smiled weakly, shrugged my shoulders and got the hell out of there.

Another factor adding to the strangeness of the evening was the fact that the party was on Al Qaeda's hitlist, and to make sure nothing happened a huge warship was docked right off the beach. To make matters worse, a few days beforehand large amount of weaponry and explosives were stolen from Laem Ngop, an easy boat ride away. Everyone I spoke to, no matter how much in the party mood, was secretly nervous, preparing for a repeat of what recently went down in Indonesia. Luckily, nothing of the sort took place.

Around four in the morning, unable to tolerate the crowds anymore, I headed to the Rasta Bar to meet some friends. The only bar on the island - perhaps in all of Thailand, perhaps anywhere - that never booked bands and yet housed a full set of equipment for anyone to come and play on, the place became my haven. Nearly every night I found myself there playing the bass, jamming with an assortment of musicians. One night it was reggae, another classic rock, another jazz. Tonight I had free reign, so I opted for some hard, heavy funk. For hours I laid down one bass line after another, daring the guitarist and drummer to keep up with me. What began with only a few spectators ended up with a packed bar full of people drinking and dancing. Inadvertently I ended up having a great Full Moon night after all.

Day 21, Christmas Eve

My girlfriend was coming today, and to prepare for this I changed addresses and moved into a nice, remote bungalow called the Lighthouse. Located about twenty minutes from all the action, and situated on a hill overlooking the water, it was gorgeous, well-run and friendly. When she arrived, after a delay of a few hours because of a sudden, dramatic rainstorm, I was so happy to see her I didn't want to let her go. Over the next few days we explored most of the surrounding area, splitting our time between the long, lovely beaches and our guesthouse, which was all cushions, hammocks and good, cheap food. It was the best way to spend one's time imaginable.

Day 24

Today we left to go to yet another island, Ko Lanta, a somewhat remote and decidedly untouristy place, populated largely by Muslims. To get there we took a "sleeper" boat, where we stretched out on mats in a long, low-ceilinged room. Next to us was a wailing baby, who apparently was crying because of the heat. Her father, a middle-aged German guy married to a young Thai woman, kept directing my fan onto the head of his screaming kid, and I kept moving it back. Finally, he kind of jerked it and the thing broke, so all of us were fanless. Fortunately a crew member arrived and opened the windows, revealing a spectacular view. More stars than one could imagine.

A few hours later we were loaded into a taxi and taken to a little store/restaurant, where we had to wait for a bus to Ko Lanta. The bus was late, and while waiting I was entertained by the likes of Air Force One and Exit Wounds. Because the bus was late, we missed our boat, and so had to wait two more hours for the next one. When we finally got in it was practically nighttime. Luckily, our bungalow was beautiful and clean, situated in a coconut grove, seconds from the beach. I slept soundly, with no annoying babies or fan-hoggers to keep me awake.

Day 25

The ocean turned out to be littered with rocks, so there was no swimming until high tide. So G. and I decided to rent a motorbike and check out the other beaches. On the way it began to rain, and the dirt road we were on instantly turned to mud. We wiped out a few times, and the last one was pretty bad, leaving a nice gash on my arm and our clothes caked in clay. From then on I decided to only ride on pavement.

Later that night, after returning the bike, we took a shortcut on our way back from dinner. It was pitch black and we could only see a few feet ahead of us with a flashlight. Suddenly I noticed a pair of massive gray feet before me, and realized that it was a elephant, standing right in front of us. I shined the light all around us and saw two, three, four, five of them. We had walked right into a circle of fucking elephants. They made no attempts to acknowledge us in any way, and simply stood there, silently and stoically.
We discovered that this was some kind of holding area for them, when they were not providing rides for lazy, cheesy tourists. Poor things.

That same night we spotted two cats chasing crabs on the beach. Instinctively I grabbed one of them, where he soon settled in my lap and refused to leave. By now it was raining again and I didn't want him to stay outside, so I took him back to our bungalow, where he stayed with us all night.

Day 27

Today G. and I walked to a beach on the north end of the island, where we did a little swimming before heading back. We decided not to take the road but remained on the beach, which we thought would be a nice stroll, but turned into something out of Survivor, Thailand. I immediately procured us some sticks, which came in handy as we climbed through bushes and thorns, over rocks, and on porous sand covered in flies, spiders and crabs.

The rocks were a little troublesome at times, especially the ones close to the water, as they were often wet and slippery. But we managed, after an hour reaching a small, private beach, then more rocks, then an even smaller beach. Finally, another hour later, we arrived at our decent-sized, not very private beach. Slept soundly that night, sans pussy.

Day 28, New Year's Eve

We decided our beach was too lame to spend New Year's so we rented a motorbike and headed for town. Checked out the "hottest" club on Ko Lanta, Earth, but it was dead, so we went to the Reggae House, which was even more dead but right on the beach and so at least had a nice view. Around eleven headed back to Earth, but it was still dead, so we decided to screw town, head back to our beach and get fucked up.

On the way it started raining, then oddly enough hailing. The water and hailstones were practically horizontal, and so were flying right into my eyes. It was painful, and I was worried that my contacts would be dislodged, so I had to literally drive with my eyes closed. When we finally made it back, we took shelter in the dining area of our bungalow. We were soaking wet, and made an interesting contrast to the party underway, everyone happily dancing to traditional Thai songs. Around 11:55, after purchasing a bottle of Thai whiskey, we ran to the beach so we could be there when midnight struck.

Later ended up at the Feeling Bar, where we joined a motley crew of revelers dancing, drinking and twirling sparklers. By now we were quite drunk, especially G., who insisted we go for a swim. It was still raining, and there were more rocks than water, so I wasn't too psyched about the idea. So I watched her strip off her dress and climb into the sea, topless. I followed reluctantly, cursing myself for listening to her, as every few minutes I cut my feet on the rocks. Finally I sat down in the water and she joined me, where she started going off on a drunken tangent about life and taking chances and how I never did and on and on. And maybe she was right, because all I could think about were my feet, and how I didn't want to be there anymore, so I got up and made my way back. Just as I was nearly out of the water, the bottom of my left foot got sliced on a rock. It killed for the next two days.

I was pissed at G. for making me go in the water, so at that point we parted ways. I went to check out a party on the far side of the beach, and didn't catch up to her until much later. She told me she'd met some firespinners with poi and fuel, and she'd even been spinning herself. Later in the night she got to spin again, and even though she was soaking wet and had little chance of burning herself, I was worried, because it was obvious that she was very drunk and had little control over the poi. But she was having a great time, so I let her do it again before we went back home. I was still kind of pissed at her, and she at me, so we basically took out our aggressions in sex. We fucked until the sun came up, and by that time had no problems with each other.

Day 30

Left Ko Lanta for Bangkok. Next morning took a 6:30 a.m. bus to Cambodia. A few hours later we stopped just outside the Thai border, where G. and I got our visas. Soon we were at the border, which was a nightmare. The town was all dirt and sand, and had a wild, lawless feel, like a place in an old western. Only this one was filled with shoeless kids tugging on or clothes, asking for money, and men and women without legs or arms holding out cups as we walked by. Then we waited in never-ending lines to get our passports stamped. On the last of these, I mistakenly greeted the Cambodian man with a Thai greeting. The look on his face told me he did not take kindly to being addressed this way. I had forgotten the history between the two countries, and how there was still a lot of animosity. Even our destination, Siem Reap, meant "Siam defeated."

After the hell of this border town, we experienced an even greater one: the worst road known to man. At times if was fine, and others it was like driving over rocks and craters, like driving on the moon with full gravity. Then it got worse. The bus got stuck on a swampy bridge, and was apparently too damaged to continue. We were loaded onto a minibus, the tight quarters of which made the abysmal road even worse. Each bump shook every bone in our bodies.

After about an hour the bus dropped us off at a place called the Sidewalk Guesthouse. While it appeared fine, it was located a ways outside of town, and soon we learned why: the bus company had struck a deal with them, dumping us here on purpose so we would have no choice but to stay. All of the other riders proceeded to check in, but I refused to be scammed, so I insisted on being taken somewhere else. The bus had already left, so G. and I were ferried onto motorbikes with all of our bags. It was nearly impossible to stay on the thing while wearing my heavy pack, but we endured and eventually made it to the hotel I wanted to stay at. But the place was full, and so was the next one on my list, and so was the next one. We had no choice but to go back to Sidewalk, and even though it wasn't that bad, and was relatively cheap, I was in a pretty foul mood.

Day 32

Today we rented bikes and road to the famous Angkor Wat, one of the seven wonders of the world. On the way, and everywhere, in fact, were kids selling things - postcards, bracelets, drinks, toys, etc. - constantly screaming at us: "mister, mister, cold drink? You want cold drink? You hungry, you want food?" It was unavoidable, and the adults were even worse. Walking through town it was: "you want taxi mister? Want to buy marijuana? You want massage?" Everyone was a sheister and a schemer. While I couldn't blame them, it was annoying as fuck to deal with.

Angkor Wat, however, made it all worth it. It was beautiful, scenic and mighty, mighty impressive. After that we went to the Bayon, which was like Angkor Wat but more rundown, with massive faces carved in the rock. On the way there I saw some monkeys and stopped to look at them. One immediately ran over, and what was once cute was suddenly terrifying. It tried to climb up my bike, and in doing so began spinning my tire like a hamster in a wheel, gnashing its teeth and chewing on the spokes. I was shitting in my pants but G. thought it was cute and insisted I let it continue so she could film it. Suddenly it jumped up onto my bike and in a panic I shook the thing so hard that it fell off.

Then it decided to go for G. I happily watched as it first began chewing on her spokes, then jumped onto her bike. She thrust her backpack at it for defense, which it promptly began eating. After watching her suffer for a while I decided to save her, jerking her bike back so the monkey fell off. Then we got the hell out of there. Later we saw some others, one of whom ran right at me. I quickly sped away with the thing right at my heels. Fucker.

Day 33

We were told that the only people who were allowed to ride motorbikes in Cambodia were the locals, and so would have to pay for drivers to take us around. This sounded like a scam to us, so we went ahead and rented our own bike anyway, even though the renter told us that the bike would probably get stolen and we'd have to pay for it. Realizing that he was simply trying to frighten us into hiring him as a driver, we ignored his advice and took off to see more of the temples.

Our first stop was Ta Prom, the only temple complex left to the jungle, which was amazing. Rundown, dirty, old, covered in trees and bushes, it was wonderfully dark and mysterious. Later we went to Ban Srei, which by various accounts was as close as 11km and as far as 37. After about an hour, riding through pleasant farmland filled with cows, yaks, ox, pigs, dogs, etc., we figured we had to have passed it, and so we turned around. When we asked for directions we were told we had been going in the right direction all along, so we turned back. We finally found the place, and right before it was closing. Had only fifteen minutes to take in its intricate and beautiful carvings, the clearest and most expressive I had yet seen.

Day 34

Today the overall weight of Cambodia's "third worldliness" fell upon us. Almost right from the second we awoke we were bombarded with people plying their wares, whether it be the hotel staff (you want to go to ticket office? Me take you), or the street kids (mister, you want cold drink? You want postcard?) or the various people we encountered in the city (you need ride? You want massage? Marijuana?). It was just too much, and so while we spent the day visiting the remaining sites, at night we hibernated in our hotel room. Both of us couldn't wait to get back to Thailand.

To be continued...

--Russ Josephs

E-mail: [email protected]



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[email protected] | March 2003 | Issue 36
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