Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Koh Lanta

This is more like it. Lanta is a great deal more relaxed - in some ways - than Haad Rin. But I'll get to that. I want to be brief as the beach is calling.

Firstly my booking to get here supposedly involved a minibus to the port, a night boat to Surat Thani on the mainland, a bus to Krabi and a ferry to Koh Lanta. All in all I was looking at 15-16 hours travel. The minibus packed to capacity, most of the packing being done by three drunk Danish guys and one drunk Canadian. The Canadian wistfully hoped he would get a bed on the night boat with the three Irish girls from the night before. "They can really pack away the drink!" he said. As it happened he did, or certainly a stretch of mattress near them. The night boat had around six standalone beds and then 60 places on the floor, each space occupying half of a thin mattress. To be honest we were really sleeping on the wood floor, the padding being minimal. Naturally a monk got one of the standalone beds, though I wondered what he made of the perpetual jabbering of the Irish girls righ next to him. We landed, not at 5 a.m. as stated, but 4 a.m., and from there we were taken by open backed truck to the bus depot. It opened a few minutes later. As an aside let me tell you that all that guff about Thai hospitality is guff. Sure there are nice people, but by and large they're the same as anyway, but when they are rude, as was the girl in the depot, they are RUDE. Not to me, in this case, but she demonstrated her formidable talents to an admittedly obnoxious American. At 7.00 the bus arrived and off we set to Krabi. Never expect an empty seat beside you; they pack everything to capacity here.

Now things got annoying. On presenting my ticket for the ferry, I was told I would have to pay for another minibus to another port to get a different ferry. I remonstrated and initially was given a boarding pass, but before I could use it was pulled back. The very rude ferry girl insisted I had to get a minibus. I insisted I had already paid for everything. In the end I had to watch the ferry leave. She called head office and a minibus was arranged, though without my having to pay. It seemed clear where the mistake lay.

The minibus driver drove me around alone for a while, stopping once to let a buddy try to selll me accommodation. I should have taken it as it transpired, but I didn't. Then we picked up the capacity load. I have to admit I enjoyed that trip as we had a Corkonian couple, a cute Swiss girl and two young Kiwis all in the mood for talk. The minibus took two ferries and finally at around 2.30 I arrived on Koh Lanta. Unfortunately at that point we all went our separate ways.

I then tried to get accommodation. I wanted a place on Long Beach, a popular spot, and rightfully so, it being very long and very lovely. Scorning help that said all places were already booked on the beach, I set off walking with my backpack. Koh Lanta is considerably hotter than Haad Rin, and considerably longer. After five minutes I was collapsing. I might point out that many comments have been made on the size of my pack (not packet, I hasten to add). Every reception I went to seemed to confirm the knowledge that everywhere was booked. Fortunately some bored receptionists in a fancy resort took pity on me and arranged a taxi to take me to the other end of the beach and better prospects. Eventually I got a place, cheaper than Haad Rin and with t.v. and a hammock. Not too keen on the outside loo though.

Anyhow I am starting to relax, helped by clear, calm water and some good restaurants. There is still a bit of the Bangkok chicanery, and I am not keen on the mosquitoes (my resort sits by some stagnant pools), but there is lovely scenery, geckos on the walls and frogs by the pathway. Every morning and evening Muslim prayers echo over some nearby loudspeaker (the island is 90% Muslim), and at the exact moment the sun drops below the horizon the cicadas raise their chirps in an unbelievable roar. They must be incredibly sensitive to light levels because I cannot notice any real difference in the sky light at that moment, though I trust their judgment.

Reading wise I have gratefully finished the Lovecraft stuff (it gets very repetitive, despite some good stories). Salinger is once more on the menu. 'Raise High the Roofbeams...' was enjoyable, setting a time, place and situation very well, and, though Seymour Glass never appears in person, he is on every page. 'Seymour: An Introduction' in contrast, is the toughest piece of Salinger I have had to read yet. It's not difficult, just dull, self-indulgent, back-slapping stuff, more about Buddy Glass (presumably Salinger himself) and his preoccupations than anything else. I suppose I should make the blasphemous confession that Seymour himself doesn't overly interest me. I know it doesn't have to be a 'rattling good yarn', but if this is in any way autobiographical, it is hardly enlightening, and if it is entirely fictitious, it is pointless. Still I have gone this far, I will finish it.

Anyway to the beach!

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