Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On the island of Koh Tao

So, it turns out that internet service (wireless in particular) is pretty dodgy in Asia. Who knew? Well, Melissa knew. She tried to warn me, but I just couldn't understand until I'd experienced it for myself.

On Koh Phangan, the entire resort lost internet service for a day or so. Here on Koh Tao, after I wandered for a half hour, bought a couple dragon fruit and (fried?) banana with honey, sat down at a nice little cafe which boasted free wireless, and ordered a coffee drink, I was informed that their wireless was down. First, a toilet that can't handle toilet paper, and now this. I'm ready to call this whole thing off.

Nah, just kidding. I mean, that stuff really happened (the internet and the poop-paper thing), but I'm growing more and more comfortable with life here already. This place seems to be something of a compromise between the bustling-to-capacity Bangkok and the considerably less developed area of Koh Phangan where we stayed. There is also the added bonus that there are fewer large vehicles here than either Bangkok or Koh Phangan, which means that renting a motorbike is less of a daunting idea. Remember, it's not the road, your vehicle, or even yourself that is the biggest danger while driving.... it is the other drivers. And holy balls, were the car and truck drivers of Bangkok and Koh Phangan terrifying.

Yesterday, after arriving at the new hotel, "Buddha View", Mel and I took a quick walking tour of part of the beach and the area paralleling it. It's more or less a tourist paradise. You walk outside our hotel, and there is a beach thirty feet away, as well as a cafe, a restaurant, and a massage parlour offering 60 minutes of Thai massage for 250 Baht, which is something like 8 bucks. I think that that is actually kind of expensive, compared to less touristy areas in Thailand.

I've spent more than I would like, so far, but much of that has been for transportation costs that I intend to avoid in the future once I begin to 'settle down' a bit. Before Mel goes back to work, we'll be heading out to Malaysia, which is less touristy and even less expensive. I'll likely stay there after Mel leaves, and will try to further familiarize myself with life in the tropics.

This is starting to get long (this IS long, right? I don't know, I've never blogged before), so I'll stop here. I'll try to be more consistent with this, but it depends largely on the internets. If I drop off the grid for a short while, don't be scared! I'm not.


High five!

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I don't know if this is normal or if I should be concerned, but it still hasn't clicked yet. I know that I'm on the opposite side of the world (relative to all but one of my other friends and family) but I don't feel it. On an emotional level, I just don't understand. What do you mean, the plan worked? How is it possible that after all the time I've spent thinking about this in the theoretical, it is now occurring in the actual? Dat shit don't make sense yet.

But hey! Here I am. So here's the quick, hopefully-not-boring story of my trip so far. I'll try to abbreviate it by leaving out excessive details and having a poor memory. Actually, no I won't. This is going to be long. Even if you've liked my blog so far, prepare to hate it ...But please don't actually hate it.

Aaaaand go.


Honest-to-gods terror. It's what I felt as I made the final move to quit my job; It's what I felt on the way from Meadville to Pittsburgh to be dropped off without a car, phone, or most of my earthly possessions; It's what I felt on the way to the Pittsburgh airport; It's what I felt even as I made my way through the airport and eventually boarded my first flight, wide-eyed and ready for some random diety to reach down, slap me across the face, and point one large finger back toward home. Instead, I met Frank.

Frank spoke with a kind of measured calm that could have talked me away from a building ledge, or convinced me to just put down the bomb and have dinner with his family rather than going down in a bloody blaze of glory. "Come on, spaghetti's better than being dead," he would say to me, one hand outstretched. I might try to reason around his statement, but would be unable to do so. Inevitably, I would concede, step away from the ledge, and hand over the bomb. Then he really would take me to have dinner with his family. He really meant it, the whole time.

Frank talked with me for a majority of the flight. He was a teacher on his way to Haiti to build homes for the destitute. He described the terrible conditions down there, the squalor those people live in. He told me he'd gone there several times for the same purpose. As if he secretly knew me, he advised me to let go of my hate. No kidding, he did. And he told me he admired what I was doing. This guy, who was headed to a foreign country for the sole purpose of working his ass off to help out the locals, said he admired what I was doing. It would have been easy for him to think of me as just some naive, pre-college-trust-fund kid with more money than brains, but as far as I could tell, he meant what he said. It still doesn't make sense, but I still believe him. He just seemed like that nice of a guy.

I consider that to be the de facto start of my trip, and a foreshadowing of what was to come. While the 27 combined hours of flights and layovers, two days in chaotic Bangkok, 11 hours of train, 1.5 hours of bus and 2 hours of ferry were rough, I'm starting to feel good about this decidedly drastic decision. The people of Thailand have been overwhelmingly friendly. Smiles and nods are quick and convincing, everyone is very helpful, and while Bangkok was a bit stressful, peace seems to win out everywere else. So far, so good.

I lied. This isn't a story of my whole trip. But I'll get to the other stuff eventually, and I'll tie off this entry by describing a portion of last night.

Around 8, Melissa and I wandered along the beach. The lights of the quiet restaurants stood out in the darkness and reflected off the gently lapping waters of the bay. People sat, walked and mingled here and there, carrying on quiet conversations. There were absolutely no loud drunken partygoers, which was a testement to Melissa's wisdom in choosing a hotel far from the site of the Full Moon Festival. Menus sat on podiums which stood facing the water at intervals, often accompanied by collections of freshly-caught fish that were available for barbequeing. Eventually, we chose a restaurant and had dinner. I had 200 grams of fresh barracuda, cut and grilled thirty or so feet away, accompanied by a surprisingly delicious salad. I also had a 32 oz Beer Chang, 6.4% AVB. Part-way through our meal, our friendly and charming waiter took a break from serving food. He took off his shirt, lit each end of a stick on fire, and did a fire dance for twenty minutes. After he finished, he resumed waiting. Total cost of my portion of the meal: 240 Baht = $8.

After we finished and paid we walked back along the beach to our bungalow. I still don't know how this is admirable, but I really, really enjoy it.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

There once was a man from Bangkok-it...

Day 3. The locals still do not know that I am not Asian. If they do, they don't seem to mind; if they mind, they still have not shown their true feelings despite, the fact that I am hopelessly incompetent at speaking their language. When I look in the mirror at night, I promise myself that I will take classes. I will become one of them, even if it kills me.

Hi all! After 27 hours of combined flight and layovers, a couple days of recovery and fun, and 11 hours of train, Melissa and I are now waiting for a bus that will take us to a ferry, which will take us to the fabled isle of Koh Phangan. From there, we'll find our hotel, and I will post several pictures! Hurray!

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Quiet Storm before the... wait, no I messed that up.

I went out to Quiet Storm today for one of my last breakfasts in the US for ever and ever; or at least a while. It was a cold walk, made even more so because I lent my winter coat to my sister, and had to resort to some of the few items of clothing I've held onto for use over the next couple days. Unfortunately, none of those items included gloves. Since my hands were  too cold to hold the Kindle, I had some time to think. Aside from the normal daydreams about being assaulted in Garfield, I decided that instead of perusing the Internets or reading Haunted, I would pull out the Lonely Planet guide to southeast Asia and actually learn about my destination.

You might be asking yourself: "Why did he wait until now to read that book, and is he mentally challenged?"

I don't know, and probably. Irregardless, It was delicious and relaxing, as always. It is tragic that I only discovered this place a couple months before I shipped off. I don't recall what I ate, but it was a hash of some kind that tasted like glory and barely controlled fearful anticipation.

Note: I am aware that Irregardless has not been used appropriately and has, in fact, been used in the exact opposite way it was intended.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"A good traveler has no set plans and is not intent on arriving." - Lao Tzu

I'm terrified, more or less.

Tomorrow, I'll be driven to Pittsburgh and dropped off at Nicky's Thai Kitchen to have dinner with +ERIC AYALA . I will have no car, no phone, and only the two bags I will be living out of for an indefinite amount of time. Three days later, after the  lunches, dinners, parties and the first Penguins game of the season (awww yisssss), I will board a plane and fly first to New York, then to Shanghai, and finally to Bangkok, where I'll meet up with +Melissa W . We'll spend two days there, then several more on Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Festival.

Then? I don't know.

I intended it to be that way. No, really, I did! I wanted it to be open-ended, free of conflict and the constriction of excessive planning. I wanted to step foot into some foreign world, separate from everything (or almost everything) I knew, and simply... exist. But my fear is growing in proportion to the proximity of the flight, the final step that will set me loose on the world.

I feel like I'm standing at the edge of some abyss. I have a vague idea of what lies below: unintelligible languages, strange foods, squats toilets with no means of sanitary cleanup... but man, this is starting to get a bit more real than I had anticipated. It all looked so simple on paper. Hell, I didn't even think this plan would work. Like literally every single person I told about my "plan", I figured it would be disrupted to ruin by some unforeseeable problem, or simply fade either from possibility or my consciousness. Instead, here it is.

Here I am.

Will I jump?


Hell yes, I will.