Happy New Year! While I have no idea what’s in store for 2009, I can for certain tell you how the waning hours of 2008 were spent.
After whiling away the early morning hours staring at the ocean in front of Relax Bay in Koh Lanta. The majority of our group decided to hike along the shore to Long Beach. Early on in our trek it became painfully obvious that this would not be a leisurely stroll. In fact, it basically turned into an intermediate rock climbing exercise; one that I wouldn’t recommend doing in flip flops. There were a few treacherous steps including one where for a moment I considered heading back, because believe it or not, I do value my life. It was made even tougher due to the fact that I was also wearing a back pack, but Eric and Judy helped me manage some of the tougher footholds and despite there being even more rugged terrain, everything that followed was a piece of cake. Miller acted like a sherpa at a few points, though his beach hat suggested a more relaxed occupation, as we risked life and limb a few rocky feet above sea level amidst an ocean of abandoned sandals stuck in between boulders.
When we reached Long Beach we settled into the Moonwalk Cafe after a brief encounter with Jason’s parents at their resort. We ordered food and drink and were met by the few who didn’t traverse the rocky expanse in favor of the road. From the Moonwalk we made for the water, setting up shop in front of a nearby resort and getting our swim on. My ears were still clogged, but I enjoyed my time at sea as much as I could. At one point Andrea heard ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” playing on shore, which was a tip off to just how bad my hearing was getting, since I couldn’t hear a note.
As we frolicked in the Andaman Sea, the skies were growing cloudy. Our fun was cut short and we began to pack up our belongings and head for the safe havens of Relax Bay and Mook Lanta. The clash of clouds and sun created some astonishing visual candy, though the prospect of rain loomed over our New Year’s Eve.
Back at the cabana I enjoyed a lukewarm shower and readied for the onset of ’09. As I was getting clean I applied some eardrops I had purchased earlier at the diving shop and was miraculously cured of my left ear ailment using that little ear tool they give you with most drops…and just in time for the new year.
The majority of our group was eating dinner at Relax Bay. They had a 2000 Baht Buffet that was included in their deal, so they were more or less required to partake. Seeing as Morwin, Ken, Miller, and I were not staying there we chose to save $60, instead opting to eat at a restaurant on the road. Before we grabbed dinner though, we stopped at a local bar/art gallery/internet cafe for a drink. As we entered, so did one of the street dogs who then followed us and sat under our table for the remainder of our time there. It was a kind of odd, but funny occurrence, though not uncommon as street and beach dogs seemingly tend to follow people everywhere in these parts.
Our next stop was a Rasta-themed restaurant/bar called Baan, that seemed to be teeming with stray dogs that you might alternately describe as scruffy and rabid-looking. One in particular had a downright frightening countenance with a jaw that looked as though though it was a cross between a beak and a snout. He was more or less camping out in our area and we held out hope that he wouldn’t come closer and infect any member of our group. Luckily, we finished our meal without ending up his victims.
From the stray haven of Baan, the four of us began to wander further down the road. We stopped at a convenience mart where Ken picked up a bottle of Thai Whiskey. The cashier gave both him and Miller a New Year’s gift in the form of a packaged pastry to accompany the alcoholic beverage.
With whiskey in hand we walked even farther along in the direction of Long Beach, passing bars called “The Irish Embassy” and “Shooters” before making a left turn towards the ocean. We found ourselves at the same swimming spot from earlier in the day amidst some sort of New Year’s pageantry and lantern lighting.
We moved a little further along the beach under the cover of night to sit in the shadow of blackness and admire the sounds of the sea. Ken passed around his whiskey and we sat largely in silence until the phone rang. Kayvalyn was calling to alert us of the final plan for the evening. We were to meet at a place called “The Funky Fish” that wasn’t too far from where we were staying, or at least that was my understanding. When I told Ken, Miller, and Morwin; they said they had seen the establishment in question on the way. What I didn’t know was that by “on the way” they meant on the way from the ferry when we first arrived the day before.
We began to walk back towards our resort when I called Kayvalyn to confirm our direction. She noted that she heard it was 4 to 5 kilometers from the resort in the direction we had come from.
We promptly came upon the convenience store from before and asked for directions there. . One of the men eating dinner told us he was in the band that was playing at the Funky Fish that evening and that the bar was 1 to 2 KM down the road. We started off in that direction when I had an attack of logic and reasoning. I thought that all of the Thai people we had met so far had little to no regard for accurate time or distance, so if this guy said 1 to 2 Kilometers, it was probably closer to Kayvalyn’s 4 or 5. Realizing this we decided after walking a considerable amount to hop in the back of a truck for 40 Baht each and arrive at a much swifter pace.
As we were dropped off we happened upon Kayvalyn’s high school friend, Earth, who was with some other Thai folk, a few of whom had also graduated Syracuse. I don’t remember their names at the moment, but I know there was a Pat, a Vipat…and that’s all I can muster.
We walked around the outdoor expanse for a bit. There was reggae music playing and past a fence there were lanterns being lit and sent out above the Andaman sea. We had seen them being deployed previously from our darkened stretch of beach en masse, resembling some sort of anti-aircraft fire.
Miller and I went to release one of our own. We bought one for 100 baht and went to get Ken. Then we had an Australian help us to release it properly. After one false start we successfully let our good luck charm go. All of the while fireworks were being set off mere feet from where we were standing without any regard, warning, or supervision.
The rest of our group arrived at about 11:20pm and the drunken revelry promptly began. There was little or no growing indication that the New Year was approaching, just a general curiosity over when the countdown would start. At around 11:57 we had a hunch there would be no countdown and as Jeff’s phone struck midnight, we had our own countdown, “10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1! Happy New Year!…Should old acquaintance be forgot…”
After one round of Auld Lang Syne and New Year’s congratulations there was another countdown, another a cappella rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” and repeated sips from everyone’s buckets of booze. With each successive sip we’d scream, “buckets of booze” like a drunken Spring Breaker .
From there we moved over to the reggae show and watched the band whilst imbibing the spirit of the New Year. We noticed our Thai GPS system from the convenience store was singing in the band. How about that?
As the evening carried on, more and more people dropped out. I think I stayed pretty late. I had managed to procure some sort of foam beads and while I was waiting in line for the bathroom I befriended a Finnish guy and an English girl. The Finnish guy though I was either from Greece or Canada. I think that was a compliment, meaning he didn’t immediately take me for an obnoxious American. But like Lee Greenwood, I’m proud to be one of those.
At the end of the night, I hopped in a taxi with I think Judy and Eric or Ken or someone, but possibly not. I woke up on New Year’s day feeling entirely nauseated and hungover. I got a quick breakfast early, but returned to bed until 11:45am. For some reason I desperately wanted to get to the beach before New Year’s day in New York, which would have been Noon Koh Lanta time. I made it by a thread and took the lone photo of the day…of my feet as I looked at the ocean from my covered beach perch.
The rest of the day I did precious little in the way of activity, though I did go to the road and got a Thai massage from a weird place that wasn’t nearly as good as Health Land. It wasn’t questionable but seeing as I was the only person there, I was afraid some stranger might come from the backroom, knock me out, and steal my things. I had my eyes open half of the time. My masseuse wasn’t necessarily built for this kind of work either. Her fingers were plump and her skin rough. She spent half of the time during the first twenty minutes staring aimlessly out the window as she lightly kneaded my left leg. Oh well. It was less than $10 and I guess sometimes in Thailand you do get what you pay for.
I spent the rest of my day back at Relax Bay, under a covered, cushioned awning staring at the sea and reading next to Jeff, Liz, and Joel. I took a quick dip, but was just mostly determined to finish reading my first book.
I met up with a large part of the group for dinner. Andrea, Meghan, Jeff, Andy S, Andy C, Tracy, Morwin, Eric, and Judy all congregated around the table and I later partook in Ice Cream with Lauren and Rosario before calling it a day. Morwin, Ken and I retreated to our room to read/write and just plain fall asleep…goodnight.