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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Part 2:Monsoon Season Pours on Thai Island Trip

Story and photos by Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter

Rain kept beating me on the head as I rode on a motorcycle taxi. The driver could not possibly see the road through the rain, so I assumed he arrived by instinct to the pier in Pak Bara, Thailand (photo below).
He was about to drop me off at the deserted pier, next to a few rickety boats creaking in the wind. So I said, “hotel, hotel.” I bent my head sideways and closed my eyes as if I were going to go to sleep. He said, “bungalow,” and took me to the Bara Guest House.
My bungalow bathroom was like a cement tunnel (photo below), and one had to pour buckets of water into the toilet to flush it. However, it was not raining in there.
Later I met a young Greek man while I ate seaweed soup at a food stand on the sidewalk. The Greek god had big green eyes set in a bronze face, framed with black hair. The tall, muscular man said he had been in Pak Bara for three months since his boat broke down. “Then you meet people. You don’t know what will happen next,” he said, stroking the belly of a young Thai woman in a red mini-dress.

I told him people keep telling me that during the monsoon season I can take a boat to only one island, Lipe. I said it is not possible that people who live on other islands are trapped there for months. He confirmed that little boats do go to some green islands.

So, early the next morning I spoke to travel agents who sat at tables on the sidewalk near the pier.One agent, who had permed his straight hair into curls, said with an effeminate flick of his hand, “Ugh.. what would you do in Bulon Leh? Everything is closed there.” Then I met Yoh, who spoke Thai for me to a boat driver heading to Bulon Leh. However, the boat would not leave that day in stormy weather.

Since I was stuck in Pak Bara, I upgraded my lodging. For $15 (instead of $8 for the bungalow), I settled into Best House Resort, which offered hot showers and air conditioning. The room even had original art work on the walls ( photo below), and on the TV, Hollywood celebrities were speaking in Thai.
The next morning I arrived in Bulon Leh on a little boat that made the 20 kilometer trip in about two hours (see beginning of last story). The boat took supplies, including styrofoam bowls, (dead) chicken, and kerosene for electric generators.

On shore, I squeezed out the water bulging in my pants pockets. I felt like a pickle marinated in brine, but then the rain was washing away the salt.
I walked across a stretch of grass to a row of rooms, which turned out to be the school. A woman covered in clothing, Muslim-style, greeted me; that part of Thailand is largely Muslim. She put her umbrella in my hand, pointed, and said, “bungalow.”
A muddy walk later, I met Bit at Bulone Resort, which had two rows of huts; one row was on the beach, where I would be the only guest.
From the porch of my hut, I watched the Andaman Sea in rainstorms and in drizzling rain (photo, left). Suddenly about 6 p.m. the rusty ceiling fan started whirring. The few hours of electricity for that day had just been activated.

During the green curry dinner on Bit’s porch, he told me he used to take tourists snorkeling at Bulon Leh 15 years ago. Then he met his future wife and stayed on the island. Bit’s wife and her 11 siblings, the Orgsara family, own Bulone Resort, managed by her Swedish brother-in-law.

The next morning it was deemed safe enough for a boat trip, and I was ready to leave. A cart pulled by a tractor took a few of us to the boat. There are no roads on the island; the tractor chugged along on a narrow trail through the dense greenery.

At the pier, a 50ish overweight Frenchman, who said he lives mostly in Thailand, nestled near a young Thai woman. I remembered what Marsha P.Waren, a US native who was a teacher for 4.5 years in Thailand, had said to me. She called trying to catch a foreigner “a career choice” for Thai women.
On the mainland at the food stand on the sidewalk, I met an elderly Swedish man  living quietly ever after on Bulon Leh. He was with Mark from UK, who spoke elatedly about Serendipity, the upscale resort hotel he was about to open on Lipe island. Mark, perhaps in his 40s or 50s, left behind him what he described as a stressful lifestyle as a salesman; he sold his property and put everything he had in the new business. “It is the first sort of nutty thing I ever did,“ he said.

A long trip later when I was back home in Langkawi, Malaysia, I vowed not to go ever again on a journey during the monsoon.
Copyright, 2010, Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter


  1. i admire your adventurous nature carol! i couldn't do what you are doing so i thoroughly enjoy reading about your exploits. everywhere you go someone speaks english, spanish or portuguese? or international hand signaling works? your lodging in langkawi was not what i expected to see after reading about these "side trips". it looks very posh. i'm glad on your returns home you get to be so comfortable. and it is super that jill came to share in the adventure! i await the next installment. jane

  2. Jane: In this part of the world one rarely encounters people who speak Spanish or Portuguese. In Malaysia, English is widely spoken. Perhaps that is because of a relatively high educational level, and also because it was a British colony for more than 150 years. In Thailand, one must use mostly sign language. I live in a posh penthouse in Langkawi. The rent is very cheap.

  3. UPDATE: Mark from U.K. was mentioned in this story. He was the man who was very excited about the upscale resort hotel he was about to open on a Thai island. Soon after I met him in Pak Bara, he became very ill from dengue fever. Now, more than two months later, he is still in critical condition.