The New Year’s holiday is usually a fairly loose time, and the days we spent on Koh Pha-ngan were no exception.
The island itself fulfils any expectation you might have had of the verdant beauty said to reside on the outcrops scattered amongst the gulf of Thailand, but sustained tourist trade has stripped it of much of its charm. The winding roads that hug the coast are lined with resort after resort, and the main beaches are crowded with a miscellany of revellers and ravers. You’re more likely to find Singapore slings and g-strings than you are a quiet place from which to appreciate the beauty; but therein lies the attraction. For the backpackers that come to experience the hedonism of the legendary full moon parties the island is paradise, and they are not often disappointed.
Our timing meant that we had come at its busiest period, and as a result found ourselves surrounded by travellers far more transient than ourselves: huge peroxide addled gym freaks, fresh from the Perth mines and ready to spend, the dollars in their wallet matched only by their surrounding vacuum of taste. But the settings were stunning and our immediate company excellent, so under the guidance of our Good Friend Tramadol we set about making ourselves at home.
The first evening was notable for the ride to Haadrin more than anything else; a misguided decision to seek respite from the sardine-packed interior of the taxi leading Brothers Fox and I to cling precariously to the roof as the converted ute sped towards our destination. So it was with bruised ribs and eyes stretched wide that we arrived, laughing from the adrenaline, acutely aware of the stupidity of our bravado.
The addition of sunlight the following morning revealed just how lucky we had been. The roads are carnage, and the drivers ruthless, pushing straining engines up steep inclines of concrete ribbon that drop steeply away into bordering jungle, breaking suddenly to avoid overtaking scooters as they recklessly navigate yet another blind corner. It wouldn’t take much for disaster, but somehow all works, that is if you discount the Western casualties from scooter accidents. But we were pressed flat on the roof of a ute, safe as houses; an appropriate approach when you consider the liberties taken with transport across the third world.