Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 11 Pang Nga Bay turns into a “chili” night

A medium sized sea ferry sat waiting for us in the harbor as we over slept. The hotel phone rang out in the dark. When I finally figured out that it was real and not a dream, the “Happy Lady” that pointed us around Phuket yesterday, said something I didn’t understand. It sounded like “pick up 10:00” followed by something in Thai. Finding our watch, it was only 8:15 so maybe someone had arranged a wake-up call. But something didn’t sit right, so I sent Alex downstairs to figure it out. He burst back in the door just as fast as he had left saying “we’ve gotta GO”. Clothes, towels and beach gear whirled as we went running to meet a mini van full of other groggy tourists.

The ride out to sea was beautiful and ugly at the same time. Heavy rain clouds and thick fog hung out in the bay. In a way, it reminded me of home, but a lot hotter. Towering islands and rocks that appeared to be floating haunted the horizon. We arrived at the James Bond Island, were The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed, and again felt like cattle. Tourists were everywhere, some of them the disrespecting type, but most of them where shelling out money for souvies made in china. The island was just packed as full as it could be and there were more people coming ashore. Sea-taxis lined up with the edges of their boats touching. One would come in and sandwiching the taxi using the dock. Then tourist climbed over themselves, and the now empty taxi just to get ashore. I wish I could have appreciated the island more, but in truth, it really couldn’t be seen. Back onto our boat, where there was a sense of calmness. The crowds disappeared as the captain drove away.

Sea canoes hit the water with a slap, and natives jumped in the warm water just behind the canoes. We then were encouraged to go two by two into the awaiting canoes. I was impressed about the free style of the activity, as were not even required to wear life jackets. Our guide paddled us around showing us rock figures and sea caves. The caves had absolute darkness, but our guide knew where to go. In some areas, we laid back in the canoe to avoid a skull to rock collision. Beyond the caves, virgin salt-water lagoons rested.

Back to the main boat for a quick lunch of fresh fish and seafood. The wonderful ladies that spoke no English, cooking our meals, seemed to understand my shrimp allergy. They made me special dishes that were vegetarian instead. I wanted to tell them just how happy they had made me, but I didn’t know how. After lunch, there were more caves to be explored. And when the natives got tired of paddling us around, they took us ashore on uninhabited beach. The water was so warm and so clear it was like a dream. For a while, I wondered if I actually answered the phone for this day to begin. We made water angels in the breaking surf as the boat crew set up a game of soccer.

Later for dinner, Alex had an unforgettable experience. He chomped down on the second hottest chili in the world, mistaking it for a green been. His face became red and sweaty as he reached for something, anything to cool the pain. His ears began to ring and pop, and sweat dripped. I felt so bad knowing that pain myself and knowing that I couldn’t really do much. After finishing all the water we had on the table and his plain rice, the burn slowed. The normal antidotes for chili burn are not always easy to get. Milk and juice I have only seen at breakfast, sugar is not always on the table and bread is a special order. But he survived, if only to learn a lesson about being more careful while eating, and to not always trust what is on the plate.

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