Monday, May 6, 2013

On Monsoons, Canadians, and Apocalypse Now

Dearest friends and loved ones,

We write to you now after a week on Thai beaches--which is to say, from paradise (if paradise is filled with mango sticky rice and Mai Tais, which I think it is). Coming from chilly fall weather in New Zealand and the rustic comforts of campervan life, I spent the first three days marveling at the tropical heat, the dramatic afternoon rains, and the simple joy of clean sheets. I should mention here that Gary and Nancy had hooked us up with a few days at a Marriott resort as a wedding present, so our introduction to Thailand was exceptionally posh, and happily so.

But the real adventures and lessons from the road were to come the moment we left the gorgeous luxury of our honeymoon resort and rejoined the ranks of backpacker travelers.

Lesson #1: travel companions
Nod and I count ourselves extremely lucky to be such great travel companions to one another. It's perhaps no coincidence that this is so--after all, our first 'dates' were in places like Jerusalem, Cairo, and outposts in the Saharan desert while we were both living abroad after college. If we weren't good travel companions, we never would have survived our first year of dating. We like to refer to this year--which included interrogations by Israeli border officials, numerous bouts of food poisoning, and countless moments of mistranslations--as our year of "team building." And indeed, team Wazi was born out of all those experiences, and more.

But while we can still enjoy passing hours together on bus rides or waiting out the rain with cards or our trusty new ukulele, one of the joys of the road is to be swept up in the current of other travelers, enjoying the moments of serendipitous connections with voyaging strangers. Last week, this connection took the form of a Canadian man, Anthony, who we met on a boat between Thai islands. Anthony embodied the image of Canadian niceness, keeping up a steady stream of friendly chatter while letting out a whistle and a "holy moly!" whenever he saw a beautiful tree, beach, flower, cloud, monkey, or bird (which is to say, often).

Anthony, the friendly Canadian

Since Anthony was traveling by himself, we adopted him as our surrogate wild uncle figure, watching him toss back an impressive number of margaritas (in the friendliest and happiest of ways) after two days of snorkeling together. It was with Anthony that we rented a local long-tail wooden boat to visit the famed Maya Cove (where "The Beach" was filmed), swim with parrot fish, and loll around in the bathtub-like turquoise waters of the Andaman sea. Nod and I would have enjoyed doing all these things ourselves, of course, but having a new friend to share our time with made it all the more memorable.
Snorkeling in Koh Phi Phi

Lesson #2: it rains, stupid.

So in planning the outline of our trip through SE Asia, we knew that we would be racing the clock--and the weather--to travel before the worst of rainy season hit. Now, as natives of temperate climates, Nod and I had only a vague notion of what rainy season means, but I'm pretty sure I pictured streets flooded with swirling, muddy waters and cows floating away in the currents. In actuality, so far it has only meant an afternoon rainstorm. Given that temperatures have reached the 90s most days, the rains offer welcome relief from the heat and provide a good excuse to siesta (as if excuses were needed).

Despite all this planning and thinking about how to avoid the worst of the monsoons, however, Nod and I actually did very little to, you know, actually prepare to get wet. I mean, how would you prepare for a monsoon? The word itself seemed too foreign to calculate in practical terms. So while we each packed a raincoat, we have nothing to protect our packs, nothing to keep our clothes dry, and I thought it would be a great idea to keep my computer and valuables in a leather messenger bag as we travelled. At no point did we consider that it might be a bad idea to board a leaky wooden boat in the middle of the afternoon with all our possessions on board.

Great weather for a boat ride... I mean, right?

In fact, the rain had already decided to pour before we even managed to get on board. Only 8 passengers could fit on board the tiny boat, and all of us, Thai and foreigner alike, we're already soaked to the bone. We wrapped a beach towel over our camera and computer, pretending this did any good, and began sloshing across the sea to the beachside town of Railay. Railay is actually on the mainland of Thailand, but it has the charming distinction of having no roads, so boat is the only way to access it. As we were to discover, Railay has the slightly less charming distinction of having an immensely shallow shore. Since we were arriving at low tide, our boat could only get within 200 yards of shore before it grounded on the shallow bottom. The only way to get there now was to carry our bags and wade to shore, a little too reminiscent of wading rice paddies in wartime photos. The water itself was 85 degrees, so it felt--not unfavorably--like walking through a kiddie pool fully clothed. I couldn't have been more pleased.

And now we're bidding the fondest farewell to beach life. Tomorrow we'll wade out to the same wooden boat (fingers crossed for no rain) and later board a flight to the northern city of Chiang Mai, known for its temples, cooking classes, and elephants. I'm elated already.

Until next time-!

1 comment:

  1. Looks like heaven! So excited and happy for you guys. Living vicariously through you :)