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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Part I: Monsoon Season Pours on Thai Island Trip

Story and photos by Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter

Only the flimsy wood at the bottom of the boat separated me from the Andaman Sea. With each wave the tiny boat leaped towards the sky. The small man driving the boat ( photo, right ) kept clinging to the steering wheel. The motor behind him was red with rust.

Each time the boat bounced along the curve of a wave, I screamed, “Aiieee!“, and my Thai boat mates would laugh in unison, “Ha, ha, ha.“ Sometimes our sounds were drowned out by water falling on our heads. I tried to keep my eyes shut. The salt water was stinging my eyes.

We finally arrived at Bulon Don Island, the destination of the three other passengers, including Ana, the teacher for the children of that tiny community. She waded in the pale green sea towards the two goats grazing on the desolate beach. Her jeans were completely soaked under her long Muslim tunic. We waved good-bye while the rain became thicker and drenched us even more. Ha, ha, ha.

My destination was a nearby island where there is electricity only a few hours a day. On my way there, I realized I could be stranded on the island until weather conditions were safe enough for a little fishing boat to sail away.

A few days earlier the trip began on a placid morning when it was not raining. I went on a ferry boat to Satun, Thailand, from Langkawi, Malaysia, where I am living for now.

On the ferry between Malaysia and Thailand, the people panorama started changing. On deck, Thai men were passing around a bottle of whisky and smoking cigarettes (photo above). To Muslims, those items are “haram” (forbidden), and in Langkawi, they probably would not be consumed overtly. Also unlike Malaysia, where English is widely spoken, people were speaking to me in sign language.

At the ferry station in Satun, two immigration officials sat behind what looked like ticket booths at a movie theatre. Peering at me through metal bars, one of them asked, “Where you go? ” I said, “I don’t know. I want to go to a wild island.” He looked at me blankly; he did not understand, but he stamped my passport, and I entered a ferry station where most of the businesses were closed.

In that economic desert, a travel agent, An, was looking for business. Since it was monsoon time and “off season” for tourists, he insisted the only island I could go to was Lipe; a speedboat went there once a day from the pier at Pak Bara.

I did not want to visit a developed resort, but I had to go somewhere, so I headed for the pier. The van ride I negotiated with An turned out to be public transportation that stopped at storefronts and sheds. A couple of hours later, the van driver dropped me off at an open air market in the town of La Ngu.

“Now take moto-taxi,” the van driver said. I did not have other choices, but even if I did, I could not communicate with anyone. So, I hoisted myself onto the back of a motorcycle. My 5’4” frame towered over the skeletal body of the driver.

At first, it was not raining hard. Then, as we whizzed along on the motorcycle, the rain started pounding on my head. I was not wearing a helmet. I could not help shouting, “ow, ow !“

Of course the driver could not see anything because of the thick rain. Even if I could speak loud enough for him to hear me, we did not have a language in common. So, I did not try to interfere with my destiny.

TO BE CONTINUED…Part II to be posted soon.
Copyright, 2010, Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter


  1. now i understand why you prefer to speak the local language of any place you visit! sounds quite hair raising to be entirely in the hands of people with whom you are unable to communicate! awaiting part 2 with baited breath! felix

  2. Felix: It is not just because of the inconvenience that I do not like to be in countries where I cannot communicate. I like to be in countries where people speak one of the languages I speak because language is the door to the culture. We miss nearly everything when we do not speak the native language. Carola, Earthy Reporter

  3. oh carol what a life you are living! absolutely amazing, daring, and courageous. i'm enjoying it vicariously, which is more my way. i can imagine the rain after experiencing a downpour in sao paulo. love your posts! jane

  4. Jane: During the downpours when we were in high school in Sao Paulo, at least we were not fully exposed to the rain while riding on flimsy boats and motorcycle taxis !

  5. That sounds really wet! And desolate. Somehow you made it back to post on your blog! Amazing!

  6. Definitely looking forward to Part 2. And since you are writing this for us to read, I am guessing it turns out well and you survive the adventure! :-)