Wednesday, August 15, 2012

To Be Awake is to Be Alive

A few weekends back, Buddhist Lent meant that Stephen and I had four days to
jet set (well, more like a 9-hour freezing-cold or steaming-hot bus trip) off to an island destination. Living as far from the coast in the boondocks as we do, we had been waiting for a reasonable gap of time to find ourselves on an island. After about 3 months of living and teaching in Thailand, we were more than ready to catch our first glimpse of the beautiful beaches and sea. We stayed in Pattaya (although notorious for being the sex capital of Thailand) and enjoyed multiple feasts of Indian food, as well as some German beer and a Mexican burrito. Oh, thinking about it now makes my stomach ache. Or maybe that's just the food poisoning. Anyway...we made ferry trips to the island of Koh Larn and finally got to experience the type of freedom and relaxation we so desperately needed. On our last day soaking up the sun on Koh Larn, we rented a motorbike for 250 baht (not even $10) and ventured all around the island. We explored every beach and made some incredible memories. All in one day, we managed to: drive our first motorbike in Thailand, scramble across rocky cliffs, discover caves and secluded beaches, have monkeys climb all over us, experience the awfully uncomfortable (but hilarious) sensation of fish sucking on our toes for 20 minutes, drink alcohol out of a pineapple/coconut and swim in the salty, bath-like waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

This next part is an excerpt from and email I sent to my friends.

The story I want to tell is about the drawing Stephen and I had made of us while there. Well, the TWO drawings. So, on our...second night? Yeah, on our second night in Pattaya we were walking down "Walking Street" (can you imagine?) past all of the drunk tourists and big-busted ladyboys when we came across a line of street artists set on the sidewalk with their easels. "Alas! We should get our picture drawn together!" said he. "But of course!" I replied. So after selecting the perfect touristy cowboy hat with "Thailand" embroidered across the front...Stephen donned the garb and the two of us sat down to be drawn for approximately 1-1 1/2 hours. He wouldn't let me hold my Leo in the photo, unfortunately. With every swift, skilled maneuver of his hand, the charcoal marks on paper quickly became a picture of a happy couple. A guy came by, selling cardboard tubes to roll our drawing up in, so Stephen smartly purchased one to ensure its safety back to America. After all was said and done...and rather drunk at this point, Stephen and I began our 10-15 min. journey back to our hotel. It was about 3 a.m. and after purchasing some water in a 7/11, Stephen turned to me and sheepishly showed me the empty cardboard tube...cap and our beloved drawing...GONE. Tired and panicked, we quickly retraced our steps. Cutting in and out of crowds...bouncing off of prostitute's bosoms, ducking under countless merchants arms, laden with flyers to ping pong shows and roses. We wanted none of it! We wanted our precious picture we spent 600 baht on! (quite a steal, really) Even with my wonky right eye! (the artist's rendition..I don't have a wonky eye) So...we had to accept that our picture was lost and gone forever. We could only hope that it got into the right hands. Into the hands of a couple like us...or Kyle and Gannett. Someone who could appreciate the subtle humor of Stephen in his Thailand hat positioned behind myself, looking out into the distance. It was beautiful...

But the story doesn't end here! Our sadness over this tragedy was incurable. We decided that we would make a second attempt the following night. After spending an incredible day on the island of Koh Larn (swimming in the ocean, motorbiking around the island to our heart's content, monkeys climbing on us) on our last night (our last chance!) in Pattaya, Stephen and I made the trip through the depraved modern Gomorrah of Walking Street to find our artist once again. In true farang style...Stephen and I could not recognize our artist at first (I know Asian people are differentiable, but it sometimes takes a moment when you are remembering a face from a drunken night) the time we realized it was our guy, two girls sat down in front of his easel. We couldn't figure out whether they were getting their portrait drawn or not. They seemed to just be talking. "Should we wait?" "Do you think he's just hitting on them?" "Maybe they're friends catching up..." "Should we just have another artist draw us?" "What if the picture doesn't live up to the one we lost?" "I don't want to be rude and interrupt..." "What if the minute we sit down to another artist...the girls get up?" "Do you think we look awkward just standing around watching this guy talk to these girls...?" "Maybe we should put a time limit on it." "Let's go get some water, then come back and see if they're gone." "Okay, they're still talking...I'm getting tired." "This is stupid. We're over-thinking it." "Let's just go for it at this point...let's pick another artist." SO...after a ridiculous amount of time deliberating how to right our sensitive situation...we walked along the row of artists, considering their artwork. I came across a guy on the end who had drawn a picture of Morgan was impeccable. Freckles, gray hairs and all! This was our guy. Needless to say...this guy drew us for 2 1/2 hours. Yes. It was amazing. Exhausting...but so worth it. Everyone was stopping and watching him draw us...Taking pictures of his work. "Oh, how beautiful..." to the picture of Stephen in his ridiculous hat and I. As you guys know, some of the worst situations really do create for the best stories, sometimes.
 Our first attempt.
  The Masterpiece.
 Leaving Pattaya on the ferry.

 Koh Larn in the distance.
 Mmm, just what I wanted!

 How to Get a Severe Sunburn in Thailand 101: Fall asleep in overcast weather, under an umbrella without wearing sunscreen.

My Koh Larn souvenir.
 Washed-up coral.

Queen of the cave.

 Scramblin' Steve.

 Weird that Patron is the cheapest.
 Oh, yeah...
 And I met Micheal Jackson!

 Reunited with the beloved Doner Kebab.
 Alibaba's Indian restaurant.
 Palak paneer and Channa Masala. Salivation.
Pickin' wigs on Walking Street.
 2nd trip to the island, motorbiking.

 Monkey Beach.
 No words.



Stephen wading.
 Colorful boats.

 Hiking about...

 Found our secluded beach.

 More Indian food. Aloo Gobi, Aloo Naan and Kedahi Paneer.
 Fish socks.

Okay, I will end this with a video which captures the sheer insanity of the "fish socks". Why would anyone PAY for this?


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