Visualizing the Tunnel’s End Light on Ko Samui
No time for a proper update, I’m afraid — I’ve got only 14 quick days left in Thailand, and a frightening number of rock-hard mattresses and mango lassies to investigate in the meantime. I did get a bit of unexpected news via email last week, however: It seems my original commissioning editor for Southeast Asia on a Shoestring has gone on maternity leave, and that her replacement has been given the green light to “shadow” me on the road for a few days. As far as I understand it, this shadowing business is a relatively new concept in the Lonely Planet universe — the idea is that by trailing an author for a week or so while he or she goes about their business, LP management will be able to better understand the ins and outs of the authoring life. Of course, having been a “shadower” myself once (I followed LP author Alex Leviton around Sardinia and Rome for a week shortly after being brought on board at LP), I am only too aware that to truly understand the life of a travelling journalist, one has to actually be a travelling journalist. Most people don’t understand me — or worse, they don’t quite believe me — when I try to explain exactly how difficult and demanding this lifestyle really is. And that’s because travel writing, as far as I’m concerned, is the ultimate trial-by-fire journalism experience. To truly understand it, in other words — and to then learn it and master it — you’ve got to actually do it yourself, with no help or hand-holding from anyone. Which is all a sort of roundabout way of saying that when my boss joins me here in Thailand in a week’s time, I plan on putting her to work. That’s a concept, no? This job seems to get a tiny bit stranger every day. Assuming I can find the time, I’ll do my best to post any awkward or unusual travelling-with-my-superior stories on this page.
In the meantime, for those following along on a map, I’m currently on Ko Samui, and was most recently on Ko Tao — incidentally one of the most popular places on earth to earn an Open Water scuba diving certificate. My two days on Ko Tao, as absolutely gorgeous as the place was, were bittersweet. Trekking for miles and miles up and down muddy dirt trails in search of cheap beach bungalows was the last thing I wanted to be doing — especially when I knew that half the island was currently 30 metres underwater, gawking at box fish and sea snakes and the like. Poor me.
Ko Samui, however, I’m finding quite nice, despite the fact that I was caught in a pissing, rainy downpour last night while I walked back and forth on the beach road for nearly an hour, trying to find my guesthouse. Eventually I asked a motorcycle taxi driver for help, and he responded by asking if I wanted cocaine.
My plans for this evening: I’ll be taking a speed boat from the pier here on Samui to Ko Pha-Ngan’s Haad Rin, where the monthly Full Moon Party is due to take place. I’m not much of a drinker these days, so I’ll most likely be experiencing in the spectacle from behind the lens of my digital camera. I’m particularly interested in tracking down and documenting psychotic backpackers. Apparently guesthouse owners on the island have been handing out a dangerous (but natural) psychedelic plant to Full Mooners who ask for Magic Mushrooms — this plant is said to induce a state of almost total psychosis, including completely realistic hallucinations that supposedly last for three or four days. Apparently at the nearby psychiatric hospital in Thong Sala, additional staff are brought on every month during the Full Moon Party, in order to properly deal with the overflow of travellers experiencing particularly bad trips. (I believe I’ll be sticking with the bottled water and massaman curry, thanks very much.)
In other news, a brief blog post of mine recently went live over at lonelyplanet.com; it’s about Karen refugees currently living inside the massive Mae La Camp in Thailand’s Tak Province. You can read it here.