Freedom is a 50cc Rental Scooter

Day 7: Ko Samet

After eleven hours of sleep I feel like a polar bear coming out of hibernation. It’s 520 in the morning and my face and back are the colour of a pale watermelon but I walk towards the beach anyway, trailed by a couple stray dogs who chew on the bottom of my dress.

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Only the locals are up at this hour, preparing for another day of the same same but different.
I wolf down eggs and fruit by the water while my server attempts to teach me a handful of Thai words that will come in handy if I ever decide to join the Thai Cartel. Super.
A lazy swim decides that I will stay here another night. This place is expensive, but who am I to leave the beach for cramped bus seats and air conditioning?
As I wander aimlessly from beach to beach, a wave of queasiness hits me. Uh oh. Too much coffee? The beginnings of a seven day diarrhea marathon? Before I can wonder too much, an overweight Thai lady blocks my path.
“Hello miss, you need massage. We have all type. You want strong I do strong. (She grabs my neck to demonstrate). Anything you like. You lay down, relax, is in shade. I do coconut or I do aloe if you have too much sun.”
None of these are questions. The next hour is part relaxation, part pain, part involuntary acro-yoga. Breathing exercises are absolutely necessary at certain points, like when her whole body is suddenly beneath me as she holds my arms and yanks me into a backbend. If you aren’t flexible, this broad will MAKE you flexible. Any queasiness felt previously is now gone and replaced with an all-over ache. I could be found minutes later with a rum smoothie in hand, expending just enough energy to get the straw to my lips.
Then Relaxation Guilt hits like a brick wall. Ohmygod I’m on a tropical island I have to be FUN! Time to rent a scooter.
I ask the lady at the rental place to show me how to work it (The bike, that is).
She looks at me.
“Your first time?”
“Uh, yeah.”
She laughs nervously.
“Um, well, second,” I lie, referring to the time in Costa Rica I tried and failed to rent a motorcycle after stalling twice.
But this is Thailand. She shows me how it works, snaps a photo for me and sends me off with a map. Freedom!
Ko Samet is shaped like a T-bone steak  and I go sailing down the long bit, pulling over to take a dip at a windy beach. I am totally Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider, as I rip along the road on my bad ass 50 cc rental, hair flying out behind me. I hike amongst the rocks and inukshuks at the tip of the T-bone, looking out to the island of Ko Chang.
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But it’s at the other end where everything comes alive. Shops and buildings and street food vendors – street food, baby! Traffic is thicker and wilder. Local kids play soccer in dirt fields. The tourist are younger and better looking and shmancy resorts  are scarce.
I eat a salty catfish before pulling into a hostel down the road advertising dorm rooms for six bucks a night. Just great. The booking lady at the ferry dock said there was no hostel on this island and I had to book a guesthouse four times that much. Scammed!
A British dude with long hair and bracelets at the front desk says he MAY have room available tomorrow. Well, MAYbe I could stay one more night for that price. I chat with a girl named Claire on the patio who just spent a month in India and her stories make me even more excited to visit that country. Her friends arrive and we exchange contact info, but my scooter is almost due back, so I take that baby for one last post-sunset joyride around the island.
Back in my part of town, I menu hop til I end up back where I’d met Claire. Her posse walks by as I’m eating dinner and I join them for drinks next door after.
We down a few brews with the bartenders, playing connect four until our eyes are at half mast.
Then I walk home and close my eyes the rest of the way.


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