Current Location: Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand
Current  Weather: Hot and humid of course
Days Gone: 17
Days Remaining: 199

They say that when you rent a motorbike, make sure to point out every single scratch to the provider so that you do not get charged a fortune for “wrecking the bike” when you return it. Back on Koh Tao, I talked two guys I met into renting motorbikes with me and touring the island’s hectic and dangerous roads for a day. There were several driving rules that I had to learn very quickly. First, drive on the left side of the road. I became aware of this upon arrival in Bangkok (when the taxi driver seemed to be driving in all the wrong places) and one embarrassing moment when I tried to board a bus from the wrong (right) side. Putting it into practice was another story, instincts die hard. Second, the biggest thing in the road always has the right-of-way. The hierarchy goes something like this: Cargo vehicles >> Buses >> Trucks >> Cars >> Motorbikes >> Pedestrians. The third rule is counter-intuitive; motorbikes can drive however and wherever they want. This last bit was perfect, as any time I found myself instinctively drifting to the right side of the road, I just appeared to be a typical, rebellious, Thai motorbike driver. Well, except for the fact that I was wearing swim trunks, sandals and a daypack.

My new friends and I quickly became separated in the traffic between various beaches and lookout points, and so individually resigned to exploring the island independently. I must say, riding my motorbike up those thin mountain roads, paved only with dirt, grooved from water runoff and pocked with stones the size of cantaloupes, was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. There was one hill that was so steep my bike couldn’t bear my weight. I had to jump off the bike and roll the accelerator while climbing carefully next to it. Coming back down the mountain was even worse. I was in constant fear that my brakes would burn out, and I would careen down into the jungle and meet my demise.  Obviously this was a grand experience overall and I highly recommend it to anyone who has decent balance on two wheels!

There comes a time when traveling when one has to put aside motorbike adventures and take care of basic needs. Things such as dirty laundry and ever-growing hair come to mind. For the most part, in my experience, local laundry facilities are plentiful. They usually advertise a price per kilogram of clothing. You drop off your clothes, they weigh them, give you a number, and tell you when to come back. You pay upon picking up your clothes, identifiable by a plastic bag with your number written on it. Always make sure to count the articles at drop off and again at pick up. Prices on the islands of Thailand usually run 40 baht per kilo (or 60 baht for 2 hour express). That’s about $1.20 per kilo, or a mere 54 cents per pound. I had just about all my laundry weigh in at 2.5 kilos, so 100 baht, or about $3, got all my clothing clean and fresh (and even folded). I’ll probably do laundry every week or so, but it’s far less frequent when I’m living on beaches because I tend to just wear swim-trunks and sandals every day.

I walked around Koh Pha Ngan yesterday in search of a haircut, and after zig-zagging through the streets for about 20 minutes, I found a beauty salon. I walked up and asked the owner if she did basic haircuts. She looked at me funny so I made a buzzing noise and moved my fist across the top of my head. She smiled and said, “Yes, yes, 150 baht.” In good form, I replied with, “too expensive, it’s very fast.” She retorted with a 100 baht offer, which I accepted, and got my hair cut by someone else for the first time since Nicaragua a year ago.

If your needs turn medical, you are in for a real adventure. Pharmacies are everywhere, and it seems that everything is available over the counter. At some point on Koh Tao, my left ankle and foot began swelling up and became extremely sore, to the point where I was limping heavily. I popped some Ibuprofen and the next morning the swelling had decreased and the pain was 90% less. I figured it would be fine in a couple days. Yesterday, here on Koh Pha Ngan, my whole foot was still swollen and it appeared to be holding fluid. It had been four days, so it was definitely time to have a pharmacy adventure. I stopped in the first pharmacy and had a broken English conversation with the white-coated Thai man behind the counter. After showing him my swollen foot, he handed me a pack of ten pills called Reparil-Dragees and wanted 150 baht (about $5). I decided to do some further research, so I turned to the internet where I discovered the drug in question was indeed a powerful anti-inflammatory that would suffice for my medical ailment. Also, if anyone reading is able to find out if Reparil-Dragees requires a prescription and how much it would cost in the United States I’d be curious to know. To compare, here it cost me about $3 total (30 cents per pill) and a bit of internet research.

Shout outs go to Luke and Yi, my buddies and motorbike partners from Koh Tao. Peter of Phoenix diving. Christoph with his amazing camera case and ever more amazing outlooks on life. Samuel, my Malaysian dive partner, and his girlfriend Emma from, if I remember correctly, England. Lisa and the rest of the Canadians from the Drop-In bar. Tash and Sarah, two couchsurfers now sharing my air-con room at Paradise Bungalows. And finally, the brief encounter with Andy, thanks for your advice about Vietnam, Cambodia, and Chiang-Mai.

Last thing consumed: Bread and jam from 7-Eleven
Thought fragment: I was going to write a bit about the power outages and resulting consequences, but the post is probably already too demanding on some attention-spans. Also, the frequent laying around on beaches and swimming in the ocean parts seem to get omitted, they’re just not as interesting to read about (though absolutely pleasant to experience).

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What do you think of my latest undertakings? Leave your questions and comments below!

May 28, 2010

Comments

Hey Collin,
I so enjoy reading about your adventures. Nice photos. Do you remember Ms Frizzle's Magic School Bus? I can also see a children's books (leave out the alcohol) on the Adventures of Collin. A great way to learn culture and geography. Where was the 'high wire' picture taken from? Amazing. As I read about your ankle I'm having an aha moment and thinking unless you recall an actual 'mis-step' you may want to consider it could be gout. If you're eating a lot of high purine foods, an abundance of alcohol, and not much water it can cause a flair up. Google gout and change your diet for a bit and see what happens. "With a deepening of focus, keen prepartion, attention to the path below our feet, and respect for the destination at hand, it is possible to transform, even the most ordinary journey into a sacred journey, a pilgrimage."
Quote-phil cousineau Safe travels grasshopper.

@Susan The wire photo was taken from my second story balcony here on Koh Pha Ngan, it's of the main street that runs parallel to Had Rin Beach. I don't think the foot issue was gout, but either way the treatment is anti-inflammatory meds so I'm in the clear regardless. It's practically back to normal now. Hurrah!

Hi Collin,
I, too, am thoroughly enjoying reading about your adventure. You are amazing!! Unlike so many others here at home that are into the "Twilight Series" I find your post so much more interesting!! Keep writing and glad to hear your foot is on the mend. 🙂
Aunt Cindy

Just showing an electrical contractor your street pics. I wonder how often people there get shocked normally, especially during a lightning storm. We just blew this picture up, on a 64" flat screen…..holy *^#~< !
I would be curious how many baht per/kw cost is !
You must have looked like Barney Rubbles helping your Honda up the hill. You might want to put the snickers on for better braking on your next downhill.
Be safe.
Uncle Tim

@Tim I'll try to find out the baht per kwh cost, though I know for sure it's much higher on the islands (I think almost everything is run on generators). Yeah, definitely laying off the Snickers, but that's more because they are an expensive imported luxury here. They run about $1 US for a fun size Snickers 😛

@Cindy Glad you're enjoying the adventure too, thanks for reading!

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