Arriving back on Koh Phangan, I set out to find a nice little beach resort with a hut and white sand. I had a mission to find accommodation for four people: Hollie, her daughter Hannah and Hannah’s friend Jay, were arriving in a day and they were sort or relying on me to scope out the options. My priorities were as follows:
- Good comfortable bungalows
- Separate, but equal, accommodations
- Right on the beach
- No more than 1000B ($33)
You’d think “no problem’, eh? Well, I scoured the island. Checked about three dozen places….and could find lots that were missing one thing or another, but it was almost impossible to find something that had all of them. In the end, I generated a list of about 6 places and decided to let the other folks decide, as it was too much for me to make the call.
Then, as a last resort, I pulled into a place called “OK Bungalows” to check. First impression…not so great. Run down, beach was muddy and a handful of various buildings just jammed together on a lost little beach. But it was getting late and I needed a place to stay, so I just rented an a/c cabin on the water for myself. The manager, a chubby Aussie named Greg was pretty jovial, and before long we were drinking some beers and talking about life. He was upgrading the website for the place, so I showed him some WordPress tricks and got him going. Then the other residents got back from dinner and I joined them on one of their porches.
The real sweet thing about this resort turned out to be that the handful of people who were staying there had decided to make a real effort to bond, and they brought me right in to the fold. There were a range of people, but they were really having fun being a little family. There was Cyd, late 20s from Cairns, Australia who was a yoga teacher. Every morning, she ran free yoga sessions that everyone went to. Then there was Jason, a mid-20s glassblower from Seattle who looked remarkably like President Obama. He was very fun to chat with, with a strange eloquence mixed with a comfortable insecurity that put everyone at ease. Then there was Hayley and Taylor, two girls in their early 20s who had been college roommates but now both lived near Seattle. And last was Jovanna, late 20s, who was from Brazil and had this amazing accent that made you just listen to everything she said. And of course me, old enough to be the dad, In fact, we laughed about the family having two dads (me and Greg) and five kids.
It was a fun place to stay, we had a nice dinner together, and the next day was Songkran (Thai new year) so we all went out to play together. Greg had bough some bright tropical shirts for the gang before I had arrived, so everyone but me had these great costumes (it was fine that I didn’t have one, I still felt like part of the clan), and we headed out on our scooters together.
Hard to describe Songkran. I have no photos, as I did not bring my camera (any pictures here were scabbed from the interwebs). Traditionally, it’s a celebration of several things…Thai New Year, the start of the rainy season, and the end of the hottest days in Thailand. It used to involve monks gently dripping water on people’s heads as a blessing, but it has recently evolved into a massive waterfight free-for-all that takes over pretty much all of Asia.
Try to imagine a festival where everyone is dressed in bright beach clothes, armed with super soakers and water cannons, where businesses and houses put huge buckets of water out on the streets for reloading, where stores cover their electronics with plastic and where every third house has a table out front selling water guns., and where hundreds of people are engaged in the mother of all water fights. Everyone is soaked to the bone, laughing and spraying each other. It was a blast! Even the rain did not dampen the celebrations.
This guy’s blog has lots of photos from our festival: http://phanganist.com/content/songkran-festival-koh-phangan
Here another shot from the web….yes, it was this crazy. 🙂
There was some interesting decorum around it: I noticed that no one got vicious…no spraying peoples eyes, or being abusive. Just a squirt and a laugh. And when kids were the target, people were gentle, just spraying their legs making them laugh. And if some idiot had an iPhone or an iPad out taking photos, people were very good about not spraying the camera (if they could help it). And if someone was smoking a cigarette….believe it or not…no one shot it out of their mouth! I have to admit that I was very tempted, though!
And there was a huge stage set up with blaring music, so people were drinking, dancing, eating street food, spraying water, wiping colored talc on each other, and having a blast, It really was a ton of fun.
Then the power went out on the ENTIRE ISLAND, and the festivities just sort of petered out. But it sure was a party to remember.