It was four o’clock in the morning in our Phi Phi hostel dorm. Our new roommate, Andres, had finally stopped vomiting and was now presumably passed out on the floor of the communal bathroom in some state of undress.
I could make out my friend Brian across the hot haze of the room as he covered his face with his arm.
“I may be thirty years old,” Brian groaned to me, “But there are few times I actually feel old. Now, however, is one of those times.”
I needed to pee, and breaking down the bathroom door was seeming like a better option now than finding a place outdoors. Even at this hour, the dance floors and thumping beats were going strong. At the moment, they were playing an electronic remix of Jingle Bells. Booty dancing to Jingle Bells?? Who does that?
Our fourth, Swiss roommate, Hans, staggered in and declared his need to urinate. We explained the situation. Hans began kicking and punching the bathroom door. He yanked and yanked at the handle and then crashed to the floor when the knob broke off the door and screws went flying. There was still no response from the bathroom.
“Yah, yah, I’m sure he’s fine,” scoffed Hans dismissively, grabbing a pen and jabbing at the bathroom lock. At last it popped open and Hans dragged a semi-conscious Andres out and joyously urinated.
I peeked over to the floor and realized that Andres was not only half naked, but covered from head to toe with iridescent orange paint.
“Estoy bien,” croaked Andres in Spanish, “No te preocupes.”
“We wanted to see for ourselves, right?” I said, swatting at the mosquitoes who were feasting on my sweaty skin.
“Did you hear about what happened yesterday with the hostel manager?” Brian asked with a chuckle. “You know, the guy with one arm?”
“Naw, tell me,” I said.
“Well, I couldn’t deal with the buffoons on this island today, so I spent the whole day watching Thai music festivals on TV with the Thai staff,” Brian began.
“And the manager confided in me that yesterday at around five am, these French blokes were making such a racket that he went upstairs to ask them to be quiet. They just laughed at him, and when the manager went back downstairs, the French guys started stamping on the floor to make the manager’s room shake.”
“WHAT!” I gasped, shocked. “Jerks!”
Brian laughed. “Yup! So you know what the manager did? Get this. He marched right upstairs and KICKED both the drunk Frenchies in the RIBS!!”
“You’ve gotta give him respect for that,” chuckled Brian. “The manager told me he makes just 6,000 Baht ($181) a MONTH, and works all day, seven days a week. He doesn’t deserve that kind of disrespect. And the French guys accepted it, too. They knew they were wrong.”
We were both silent for a time as Andres crawled up onto his bunk. Next door, two women began a screaming argument.
“It is a bit dark, though, isn’t it,” murmured Brian.
Oh, thank heavens we don’t have to deal with that madness anymore! This afternoon, after a one hour ferry ride through sapphire seas flecked with sun diamonds, I am now on beautiful and quiet Ko Lanta, and I couldn’t be happier.
I have splurged on a 400 Baht-a-night ($12) bungalow on Lanta’s Long Beach (outer view pictured to the right, and inside kingdom to the lower left) in a resort with a glistening pool overlooking the ocean (pictured, proudly, to the lower right). There’s even free Wi-fi in the cafe!
I feel my adulthood and sanity slowly coming back, and my health resurging. This is good because I need at least a sprinkling of adulthood and sanity to continue facilitating this beautiful Ghana-Boston student penpal exchange that we’ve begun with the youth center in Ghana where I’ll be working, come January. Bless you, Ko Lanta, for your tranquility!
In so many ways, Ko Phi Phi seemed to me like a teenage world completely unsupervised by adults. The main tourist area has spun completely out of control, strewing the detritus of unbridled hedonism into every gutter.
Here in this Ko Lanta cafe, I just met a family who had also recently fled Ko Phi Phi, and like me, all of them came down with fevers and stomach chaos the moment they stepped onto the crazy island.
Perhaps if I had taken the time to catch a boat to the more deserted beaches around Ko Phi Phi, as a friend recommended, or perhaps if we hadn’t arrived in high, high season, we would have seen a glorious other face of Phi Phi.
As it is, however, Brian put summed it up best: “Ko Phi Phi is an absolutely beautiful island, overrun beyond belief by absolute nutters.”