it all started a few weeks ago, when i was trying to decide what to do with my break, and karen says to me...oh, there's this one place with treehouse bungalows! problem was, we didn't know what the name of the beach was, or of the resort (resort is a very loose term here in thailand), or whereabouts on the island it was...we knew which island it was on, and who might know the other info, but that was the full extent.
so wednesday morning, after many fruitless attempts to pin down this information, i set off with instructions to get myself to ko samet (the island), and high hopes of achieving my treehouse dream. i got to the 'bus station,' and a woman motioned for me to get on the bus currently in residence. 'going to rayong?' i asked? she nodded, yes, without appearing to listen, and i got on with no small bit of apprehension.
after a half hour or so, she called out 'rayong' and motioned me up to the front of the bus. 'that was quick,' i thought. turns out that we were nowhere near rayong. rather, we were on the highway, and the actual bus to rayong was three vehicles in front of us. our driver was attempting to hail their driver so that they would pull over and let me on. i've been victim of this passenger-swap before, albiet on a lower, more songthaeowian level, but in the middle of morning traffic, on the highway...?
at any rate, after several failed attempts, the other bus was signalled, and i changed hands like some sort of contreband. the money-collector on the second bus asked, in the usual, friendly thai manner, where i was going. he then (also in the usual, friendly thai manner) assumed the role of 'helpless-farang protector.' he not only carried my bag for me off the bus, but took it (and me) to the songthaeow that would then take me to the ferry, informing everyone along the way that i was going to ko samet (in case i should get lost after i left his care. this turned out to be fortunate). he put me on a blue songthaeow, which then swapped me for another blue songthaeow (mercifully before either of them had set out on the road). once the vehicle was filled to a profitable capacity, we left for the ferry. since my bus-friend had alerted all and sundry to my destination, at least three people turned to me and said 'ko samet!' when we arrived at the ferry, which was indistinguishable from the rest of rayong since the water was completely hidden from view.
using the information i had, i'd surmised which beach i figured the treehouses to be on. to get there from the mainland, i had the option of either a speedboat (which would take me directly to the beach of my choice for $60) or a ferry (which would take me one beach over from where i figured i'd start my search, for $6). since i'm fabulously wealthy, i chose the ferry, and sat down to wait. before long, i was placed on a little motercycle sidecart to be taken down to the docks, only to be swapped en route for another motercycle sidecart, this one already containing two people. i sat sidesaddle with my rear on the motercycle and my feet in the cart.
the other farang in the cart and i were commanded by the third occupant, a stern thai woman, to get on the big boat. we clambered aboard, he with a touch of protest since he had paid the 2000 baht for the speedboat. not to worry, she said. the ferry was merely a stepping stone to the speedboat, which soon pulled up along side it, and which, for some inexplicable reason, could not pull up to the dock and be boarded directly. being the only passenger on the ferry, i was soon upgraded and ordered into the speedboat along with my sidecart companion, as well as a german fellow, his thai wife, and their beautiful thai-german daughter.
rather than drop us off at the main beach (which my dignified farang friend had paid for), the boat driver dropped us off at some unidentified locale, claiming that he had someone to pick up from there. this beach being rather closer to my intended destination than the main beach, i could do no more than murmur insincere sympathies to my disgruntled friend before taking my leave. since there was no dock, we were all forced to take our chances with the surf. thus ended my guided transportation, and i set out on foot.
a man at a booth marked 'information' gave me directions (read: pointed in a direction) to ao thien, my beach of choice. i clambered over rocks for a space of probably twenty minutes, but did so around a bend in the island, and ended up at the self-same beach where i had started. not willing to ask the same man for different directions, i did an about-face and headed the opposite way. another twenty minutes of clambering brought me to a sign that said 'songtien beach --->' and since thai things written in english that sound the same usually are the same (frinstance, chonburi is correct, as is chon buri, chonbury, chon buli, and i've even seen tonburi), i figured this might be it. i straggled through a forest path and down a narrow flight of stairs before arriving on songtien beach.
the woman in the information booth of the first clump of bungalows knew enough english to ask me (repeatedly) if i wanted a room, and my attempts to act out 'treehouse' brought only stares, and a gesture for her friends to come check out the crazy farang. i carried on down the beach, asking after treehouses, until someone replied with an 'ah! apache!' and pointed still further down. still further i went, this time asking after the 'apache.' each clump of bungalows had its own distinct style, and they were, for the most part, slap bang up against each other. not so the apache. every bungalow was different, and placed erratically around the site. every table could seat more or fewer amounts of people, in greater or lesser degrees of ease. and there she stood: my little treehouse. i had planned to play it cool, but when one of the three perpetually-on-duty-never-actually-present staff opened the door to my balcony, i cried 'i'll take it!!'
it was the only one of its kind: the interior was nearly all bed, the mosquito netting was pink and filmy and made me feel as though i slept in a cotton candy tent, and from the balcony i could spit into the ocean. two shabby but servicable lounge chairs and one dirty plastic table furnished my little balcony, and there i would sit for hours, hidden from the world by the trees but visible to the ocean and the sun. the entire area below my house i claimed as MY beach, not that any of the resorts other five or so inhabitants ever challenged my claim. i could see the sunrise from my window, and awoke early, but rested, every moning. i walked out to the edge of the rocks and sat and stared in the water. i tried to catch crabs (the sideways-walking kind, not the other kind). i read four books, two of which were excellent, one was alright, and one was altogether crap, and then the propriotess gave me a battered copy of jane eyre to take home. the last quarter of the pages have come detatched, so i'm reading it to make sure it's all there before i pass it along to kyla, who is my bang saen library. in the evenings i would play cards with two girls from the uk. on friday i took a boat tour around the island, where i met four other farang. we stopped and snorkled twice, had a picnic on the boat, visited a fish farm, and generally lounged and sunburnt ourselves to a crispy glory. i met a dog who lacked the usual mange and dangly teets, and named her foxy. she followed me everywhere, and i suspect her of having slept on the landing to my house.
it was fabulously good to come home. i feel quite relaxed and bored with myself, ready to take on my handful of responsibilities again. i missed the boys terribly. it's good to be home.
i'm coming home canada-wise in twenty-six days.