Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thailand – The Beginning

I am now back in Japan. Relaxing in a capital city of the most southern island, Okinawa.  I have a few empty days while I wait for a friend from NY to arrive and accompany me around the island. And so I finally have time to write about my adventures in Thailand.

My sister, Vira, and I arrived in Bangkok late in the evening on December 21st and were greeted by warm air, smell of curry and tourists. To my surprise, the one thing that shocked me to the core was seeing white faces again. I got so used to be the only “white” face in an endless sea of Asians that seeing fare skin again, actually made me stop in my tracks. Of course the abundance of blue eyes and blond hair practically vanished as soon as we left the airport.

We met our friend Natalie, who arrived from New York, around midnight; and slept in the airport while waiting for my best friend, Olga, to arrive from Ukraine the next morning. Finally reunited with my friends after being apart for four months, we couldn’t get enough of each other. But we had to make a quick decision. We had a little over one week until we had to return to Bangkok (my sister was leaving back for Taiwan on January 1st) and needed a plan of action. The decision was unanimous, we’ll fly all the way south, rent a car and slowly make our way north, back to Bangkok.

The flight was only a few hours but after getting lost in numerous cities in the south and taking wrong recommendations from the local travel agents, we made it to our first stop after nightfall. Exhausted and dirty, all we wanted was a hot shower and a cold beer. Angry at some locals for cheating us on several vans’ rides and frustrated at the owner for promising us hot water in the shower and not getting it, we were gloomy and depressed.  But adopting an old Russian proverb: Утро вечера мудренее (The morning is wiser than the evening), we went to sleep, knowing that tomorrow will be a new day.

We woke up to rooster and bright sunshine. Taking a cold shower and finally stepping outside our cabin, we knew just how lucky we got.

What we didn’t see the night before in the darkness, has come in full light in the morning hours. On the left side, our cabin was situated next to a huge limestone cliff, standing amidst palm trees and wild flowers and right in front of the cabin, only a hundred feet away, laid a boundless sea. It was a site to see. Without a soul in site, the sea rested peacefully, caressing us with its fresh breeze. Without a second thought, we changed into our bathing suites and ran into warm water.

This is the same picture as above. Isn`t this cliff enormous?

We spent the whole day exploring our beach on land and in water. Endless caves shared their mystery with us. At one point, we tried to swim into a cave with a very narrow entrance. Huge walls with sharp corals and unknown insects surrounded us. The inside of the cave glowed with clear blue water and tiny rays of the sun. It looked mesmerizing. Suddenly a nearby passing boat sent big waves towards the entrance. We tried to swim away but the waves kept pushing us into the cave. We knew we had to swim harder. The cave was rapidly filling up with water and the waves violently crashed onto the sharp coral reefs which our heads barely missed. The next few seconds seemed like hours to me. My heart filled with fear. I am a very poor swimmer and have a huge phobia of deep water. I also knew my sister and friends, who were fighting hard with waves, were even more worried about me. The last thing they wanted was for me to panic. Somehow, we managed to swim away from the entrance. Trying to catch my breath, I laid flat on the water, wanting nothing more than to stand on solid ground.

My fear and love for the ocean is almost incomprehensible to me. I love the sea with all my heart. Its endless surface is calm and beautiful. Its salt water is healthy and rejuvenating. Its warmth is welcoming and reassuring. And when the sun sparkles on its waves, there is nothing more divine. Yet, my phobia of not having a solid ground under my feet is...well it’s just that, a phobia, an irrational fear. I really want to overcome it, but have yet found strength.

We spent several days in Hat Yao. Swimming every day in the ocean. Exploring a nearby park full of monkeys and tourists. Eating delicious coconut curry soups and spicy mango salads. Becoming friends with the owner’s son. Talking endlessly about our lives. Soaking as much rays as possible during the day. And fighting with mosquitoes at night. 

Finally it was time to move on; we rode a van to a nearby airport (3 hours away) where we rented a much needed car. I volunteered to be the driver for two reasons. First, I spent 3 months in Japan and by then was quite used to driving on the left side of the road. Second, my nature is such that I am a control freak. I did not want anyone else to have control over my life. It seemed ok with everyone else. My best friend, who has navigational skills of a GPS sat next to me in the passenger seat and we took off for Trang.

Here`s our beautiful Toyta Vios

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