Sunday, February 04, 2007

Day of the Full Moon

You wouldn't have known there was a nearly full moon last night. The sky was clouded over for much of the day and in the evening it poured, a real tropical drenching. The front hallway and the back balcony were quickly flooded. The water did a real percussive number on hundreds of tin roofs. Suddenly the streets were empty. Slowly a few umbrellas emerged. The rain didn't last long but the clouds remained and sprinkles were intermittant. It was strange to see Lamai Beach so quiet.

We decided to risk going out. I was hungry for meat. "I need a steak," I told Thim, my local guide and interpreter of cultural life in Thailand. Turns out the Thai word for a slab of beef is almost the same. We found our way through the sprinkles to The Outback, an Aussie bar and restaurant on the corner of the main interesection in Lama Beach where I thought I could find an excellent cut of meat. On the wide screen TV they were telecasting a championship darts match. The excitement was palpable. I ordered a New Zealand ribeye steak with chips, salad and a Heineken, a real man's meal. None of this wimpy rice stuff. Business was slow because of the rain. We watched a few motorbikes going past, their drivers holding umbrellas. On another TV set in the bar, surfers were riding the waves in Australia and in San Clemente, California. I half expected to see Santa Cruz. The steak arrived and, although smaller than I pictured, it was all that I wanted it to be. Thim tried the chips with katsup and liked them. They disappeared quickly.

After dinner we retired to the Coco Bar at the end of the avenue near the Amadeus and my second-floor room. Business was nearly at a standstill because of the weather, even in the bars. The pool table was empty and we played a game. Both of us were terrible, and the game might have gone on forever. Except that I was a little less terrible than Thim, and I won. Thim's friend Nat from Non Som, a small village near Udon Thani and the Laotian border, challenged me to another game. My shots were improving but most were shy of the mark. It was close. But through a few lucky moves, I won that one too. I felt like Rocky Balboa.

There are two sides to Lamai, this one with its tacky shops and proliferation of services, from laundry at 30 baht per kilo, tattoos and money exchange, internet and tickets to everywhere else. The shops are jammed along both sides of a narrow street, one way along the northern half and two way along the southern. Electricity wires are strung helter skelter everywhere. It's a wonder no one gets electrocuted when it rains. Two-way traffic is a mess. It's mostly taxis, motorbikes and pickup truck buses that circle the island, with an occasional delivery van or tour bus. I've seen very few bicycles, which I found odd, but perhaps they do not last very long in a collision with a motorbike.

The other side of Lamai is the beach. It, too, is overdeveloped with luxury resorts like the Aloha and the Golden Sands, as well as tiny bungalows with fans and mosquito nets over a skimpy mattress, like the one I saw after I arrived at White Sands. These are intermingled with restaurants and bars, all down the beach, at least as far as I've walked which is not all the way to the point. But no matter what you do, the graceful palm trees, sand and the surf remain, the waves continually sweeping footprints away, and the turquoise water beckoning.

This morning I strolled down to my usual spot in front of the Bao Bob, but all the lounges were full. So I took up residence next door at the Cafe del Mar. Their cappuccino was passable. Earlier I'd walked down to get the Bangkok Post, the English language paper, and I folded it carefully in the wind. There was nothing about George Bush and only one story about Iraq. Apparently General Casey is not in agreement with Bush's plan to increase troop levels. Ho hum. The story that caught my eye, however, concerned the two pandas at the Chiang Mai zoo on loan from China. Their keepers are doing everything possible to get them to mate, a notoriously difficult task. This includes showing them videos of other pandas mating. I nearly fell off my lounge after reading that. Does this mean that pandas are susceptible to porno? A (t)horny question.

Driven inside by the rain last night, we turned to the TV for entertainment and I selected "Pirates of the Carribbean" dubbed in Thai. It was terrific in Thai or English. I love it that Johnny Depp used Keith Richard as a model for his character, Jack Sparrow. I remember flying first class to Hawaii with the Rolling Stones in 1974. Before the plane had even taken off, Keith dumped his drink into his lap and the seat cushion had to be replaced. Depp is much funnier. The cable TV is a strange concoction of Thai soap operas, news and patriotic programs, along with stuff for the tastes of tourists, in French, Italian, German and English. The other day I saw part of "Seven Year Itch," include the famous scene of Marilyn Monroe over a subway grate, her dress billowing up around her. It was great, even in Thai. For some reason, the offerings are mostly dubbed, in English or Thai, making it hard to watch something together with Thim. Either she gets it, or I do. Sometimes I turn to Fox News (where are you, CNN?) in search of something about home, but invariable am appalled and scandalized by what I see. How can Bill O'Reilly dare to call his show the "No Spin Zone." Fox News is ALL spin, right wing Republican spin.

This morning we had breakfast once again at the Jungle Juice Cafe a short walk up the street. It's owned by Ta, a woman in her 30s who speaks good English and serves a mean scrambled egg with toast breakfast. She told me she graduated with a degree in art design and the small store front restaurant shows excellent taste. There is a fountain and pool and Thim pointed out to me the two turtles ("tao" in Thai) that hide underneath a rock. There are also a pair of parakeets (Thais love birds and leave their cages outside rather than in the house). Ta also offers a wide range of fresh juices and interesting and healthful mixes. The last couple of times we've arrived before she gets back from the market with fresh fruit, and her cook, who speaks no English, takes our orders fromThim (whose English is just a bit more expansive). Then Ta pulls up on her motorbike with a dozen plastic bags containing fruit and veggies. Ta has a French boyfriend her the laptop available has a french keyboard which for some reason transposes "y" and "z," making for interesting garbles. This morning the internet connection wasn't working and she asked me to have a look. I jiggled a few wires, concerned lest I might be electrocuted, and, presto, it worked! Ta shared with Thim the book she had used to learn English on her own and a well-thumbed Thai-English dictionary. Up the street from the Jungle Juice Cafe is a Thai boxing gym and we could hear the thwaps of the boxers as we ate our eggs and toast.

Only one more full day left in the paradise of Lamai on Ko Samui. The clouds and the rain have interrupted my tanning regime and I intend to get out there on the beach tomorrow morning and darken sufficiently to last me through the remain winter up north. My thoughts are beginning to leave Thailand, even though I will have four days in Bangkok. I heard from Angie that her mother has died and she will be in England for the memorial service. I hope we can get together on the 10th in London. I still have not heard from Francois about seeing him and his family in Paris on the 11th. Weather permitting, I hope to get some major walking in during my brief stay in the French capital. And I look forward to see "Venus" in London with Helen. Peter O'Toole has apparently pulled off an Oscar-winning tour de force. And then there is my plane home on Valentine's Day, the cabin employes union at British Airways permitting.

Tonight is the all-night full moon party on Ko Pha-Ngan. I wonder if it will be televised?

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