Ko Phangan: Same Sh*t, Different Island
After last evening’s a 1-hour boat ride from Ko Samui, where I was determined not to spend the night, I found myself amidst more of the same tourist hustle and bustle on the home to the infamous Full Moon Party, Ko Phangan. After trekking the entire island for cheap accommodations, even more so an impossibility than last year when my tour guide published the cheapest bed on the island was at Tommy Resort. (Tommy is now a full blown resort with brand new bungalows fetching 1000+ baht a night.), I found nothing. Some fly to Samui and travel to Phangan for a full blown island get-away. Breezing through myself, I couldn’t find any justification to pay American prices for ample shell and sarong shops and crowded beaches lined with bars. I made my way to the quieter neighboring beach, Hat Thien, by way of an expensive longtail boat taxi, to nab a dorm bed at The Sanctuary, an “alternative” resort perched on the cliffs of the beach.
The spa supposedly offered health and wellness services at “backpacker” prices. Of this claim being true, I wasn’t certain. But of vegetarian options at their restaurant, I was. (The journey not completely fruitless with the presence of fruit.) I wound up getting one of their last dorm beds, which pleased me fine as the next step up would have set me back an additional 500 baht. I quickly had a seat in the open-air restaurant facing the shore and ordered a dinner that was completely unnecessary considering my lunch. The usual pretentious conversations were going on around me, in higher pitch because of a burgeoning migraine. I devoured my tofu burger, which was scrumptious, and my pineapple shake, which was mostly ice, as if they were the secret anecdote to cure my throbbing head. Neither helped, unfortunately, and soon I was in my dorm bed, immobilized by my now full-fledged migraine. Feeling every creak in the wooden floor layout of the resort, the new-age music seeping in the room from the cafe like some nimble vaporous cartoon cat responding to the aroma of a roast and, later, Al Gore’s voice during the 9 o’clock showing of An Inconvenient Truth and, later still, the distant echo of my text messages breaking through the island’s iffy service: all mixed within dream and reality. After ear plug insertion and the utilization of my sleep mask (purchased at Rite Aid by Union Square. Aw, Union Square.), sleep came deeply finally.
After that evening, I hoped to start the day on an invigorating note. I was well-situated to do so at The Sanctuary… though not as much as I had expected. I had learned that their services, like Tommy Resort, experienced a dramatic inflation over the past year. With massage at 600 baht an hour, internet at 240 baht an hour and a 1-day fasting program (my primary interest) at 2,500 baht, not including its regimented menu of cleansing shakes and broths, all of which out of my price range to humorous levels. I partook in the morning yoga at 250 baht and a fruitie (fruit foodie) breakfast of sliced mango, papaya, banana, watermelon and pineapple, a energy boosting blueberry smoothy and a slice of wheat with jam. The yoga class wasn’t very challenging and extremely repetitive; I’ve had better impromptu classes in motel rooms in New Hampshire! But the beautiful Amazonian instructor was very thorough, sneaking up on my feet during the ending guided meditation in corpse pose and massaging out the, I suppose, visible tension of my feet like a neat freak would straighten a crooked frame out of habit. She then traveled to my shoulders and head’s temples like she had some kind of stress radar! (I know, pictures of the toast and jam but not the Amazonian yoga instructor…priorities!)
Alas, it was time to quickly bid farewell to the Sanctuary and Ko Phangan, in fact all of the islands. My journey to the mainland would utilize every mode of transport and settle me far North from the scalding sun that has shattered my skin into a mosaic of peeling brown and bright new pink. After my longtail boat ride from Hat Thian, a minivan to the pier on the other side of the island, a 4-hour catamaran trip up the Gulf to Chumphon, to another minivan ride of 3 hours to Hua Hin, to a motorbike ride, the scariest one yet, to my accommodation for the next 2 nights, my cranium cradles yet another headache. Convinced it has something to do with: A) being island-bound for a prolonged period of time (says the Long Islander turned Brooklynite) B) my dramatic intake of saturated fats, new to my system, via coconut oil C) caffeine uptake, I hope to get to the source of my headaches by beginning my own Thailand detox. 2 weeks to ween myself off this way of life!
Goodbye to these weird congealed concoctions:
The biggest kow dom mat ever.
Coconut mystery treats purchased at the coconut capital of Thailand, Surat Thani.The mystery is over: They have corn in them (!?)And the kow dom mat, made with black sticky rice. Another first.