Asia | South East Asia | Thailand | South Thailand | Trat | Ko Chang – Day 65 – Koh Chang, Thailand
A loud bang! A smack of a crack. A coconut ready for freedom took its singular plunge of independence and landed on the corrugated tin roof of my otherwise bamboo bungalow. Happily I am some 30 metres away in my shaded nook here on Lonely Beach. I have just checked the trees directly above me and note, with a sense of retroactive relief, that none is harbouring potentially lethal kamikaze coconuts. I also note that had my bungalow been roofed with thatch, it would now be considerably more susceptible to whatever monsoon moistenings should choose to follow the coconut’s lead.
The coconut’s plunge has reminded me of a just-slightly-in-left-field guy I traveled with in Vietnam six years ago. His name was John and, as we were relaxing on China Beach, he seemed to be contemplating in that just-slightly-in-left-field way of his. I asked him what he was thinking about. He said, ‘Think of a palm tree.’
‘Uh huh’, I replied.
‘Well, if you think about it…’
‘Well, now I understand why an Asian could never have discovered gravity like Newton. He would have been killed.’
(Last I heard from John he was covertly taking photographs of Japanese women somewhere near Tokyo and publishing his photos online.)
Aside from killer fruit, the main action here is body surfing. This is the process in which I attempt to turn my body into a surfboard (with no passenger mind you) catching the waves just as they start to break and enjoying the free ride. The waves here have varied considerably in size both day to day and throughout a given day, generally growing with the rising tide toward late afternoon. The two-metre walls of water are the best and the worst rides, depending on my timing. I’ve mis-timed my entry into a couple of them and been flipped 360 in about a second, and have had my sandy bottom slammed into the sandy bottom. But when I’ve turned and wheeled into the crest just right it’s like flying on a pummeling cloud of cotton bubbles.
Thailand also provides another kind of thrill ride which, like body surfing, takes place in a constant roar of ever-changing motion all around you; a ride in which timing is of particularly acute importance: motorcycle taxi in Bangkok. This is an activity not to be engaged in without fully paid-up travel medical insurance. And you may require reference to the ‘Extreme Sports’ clause of such coverage. Several times during my last go-round in Bangkok I had occasion to cling to the saddle on my way to and from various destinations. Riding on a motorcycle taxi in Bangkok is something like being a passenger on a guided missile except that if the driver does his job properly, you don’t hit any of the hundreds of moving targets — other vehicles — which are zipping back and forth all around you. It’s the ultimate real-time engineering challenge for the driver, fitting the bike and the splayed legs of driver and passenger between the constantly shifting and darting traffic, at speeds which easily surpass the ‘oh-shit-if-we-crash-now…’ threshold. The other distinguishing feature of such a ride is the that it takes place in the gaseous distillery of Bangkok’s main roads, something like what I imagine whizzing along the surface of Jupiter would be like if that planet suddenly became clogged with frenzied traffic. And for all this, they give you a silly little pink helmet which wouldn’t even meet code on a construction site in China. And you know what? It’s a total blast!
But I’ll happily take Koh Chang’s island pace as I wind down my travels. I’ll just try not to rediscover gravity.