WORLDROMPER

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Helen Keller


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Thailand Revisited: Swimming with Sharks and Barracudas on Ko Tao

Written in October 2008

I write from the spectacular island of Ko Tao, a little gem only 45 square kilometers, beautiful and very sedate compared to wild Ko Pha Ngan. The island is ringed not with a

Ko Tao

Ko Tao

road but with giant rounded boulders and a brilliant blue surf, topped with lush green palm trees and thatched bungalows. Most of the island can only be reached by boat or ATV. There is one main beach with one little thoroughfare which is a sidewalk and a road all at once. Watch out for those scooters! Beep beep!

Ko Tao has some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world and is the second most popular place to get certified to SCUBA dive (the first is somewhere around Australia’s Great Barrier Reef). The whole island is powered by generators and completely shuts down November to December for the rainy season. I had a taste of the impending wet yesterday after breakfast when a massive rainstorm flooded the one street, making it a rushing river under 3-4 inches of water.

Snorkeling!

Snorkeling!

It was a deluge of crazy, heavy, bouncing rain for about ten minutes- then it stopped completely, and the rest of the day was a crystal-clear perfect sunny day of blue skies.

I am not here long enough for the four day course in SCUBA and am in fact waiting at the port right now to catch a ferry to anolther island, Ko Samui. But I did spend all day yesterday snorkeling in pristine waters, submerging myself in another world, a fish world. Fluorescent fish stared at me, long silver barracudas darted by my legs, and bright golden jellyfish the size of half of my pinkie drifted along with two even smaller fish for company. Huge schools of tiny shimmering minnow-like fish washed over me, making me feel like I

*Sigh*

*Sigh*

was flying more than anything on earth has (with maybe the exception of skydiving). Lumpy, prickly sea cucumbers did nothing on the sea floor, miniscule glowing blue fish darted around yellow and purple coral, anemones pulsed with the waves, tiger fish came right up to my mask to inspect this weird-looking sea creature and ever so often, a shark would drift by. Not a Great White, mind you, only about two meters long- but still a startling sight in the open sea! I suppose they were reef sharks but I didn’t ask them. Either way I can now brag about swimming with sharks! I swam with sharks!

Pan Pan

Pan Pan

I spent the whole beautiful day yesterday on a long blue and orange boat, diving into different areas of underwater wildlife and coral reef, stopping only for lunch and a banana-coconut milkshake. Now when you are me, it doesn’t matter if you spend all day long applying and reapplying sunscreen, and I did- you still get burned if you are lounging for hours in the tropical sun. Having a lobster back makes carrying my pack a bit difficult- luckily I have just a 2-3 hour ferry ride to Ko Samui, and that’s it- back to the beach and the ocean.

Beautiful

Beautiful

Ko Tao has to be one of the most beautiful islands on earth- a sedate, sleepy place with little more than dive shops and crepe carts. I toasted the sunset on top of the island last night then went for barbeque. Ko Samui is another party mecca and I will be glad to experience the difference between the islands once again.

I am not sure what day or date it is, my computer says 9:10 AM, and I am guessing Thursday or Friday or Saturday.

Much love to everyone,

Shilo

One more!

One more!

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Thailand Revisited: Full Moon Party on Haat Rin Beach

Every full moon there is a big rave on the beach on a little island in the Gulf of Thailand. During high season, it is the biggest in the world! Read on, please, but I will tell you now that by far my favorite part of the party were the fire twirlers! Fire twirling just may be my dessssss-tiny.

No room in the songtaew? No worries! Just hold onto the back! No seriously- HOLD ON. And hold on to your alcohol too!

Getting there: No room in the songtaew? No worries! Just hold onto the back! No seriously- HOLD ON. And hold on to your alcohol too!

I have discovered the home base of fire twirlers in this universe, and it is Ko Pha Ngan’s famous beach, Haat Rin. I have seen a lot of bad-ass fire spinners at festivals in the states but nothing to even compare with what was going down during the Full Moon Party. The speed at which these guys (I was the only girl I ever saw with a fire staff in her hands) spin SO fast it is hard to believe- it makes me want to pump iron to bulk up my arm muscles and start an apprenticeship with a Thai master. The twirlers only give themselves about 8 inches of hand space as well, so practically the whole staff is on fire, unlike at home where most twirlers just light the tips of the staff. The Thai boys are daring fate to light them on fire, and I want to do it too.

Fire limbo!

Fire Limbo!

At the world’s biggest beach rave you also find people on flaming stilts twirling fire poi, fire limbo sticks, and a giant flaming jump rope, which is all fine and good until the naked guy jumps in (everyone’s like AHHHHHHH! Quit jumping up and down over the burning rope, please!!!!) – but then again, as I have said before, you always know it’s a party when the naked guy shows up! 

At the Full Moon Party about 90% of the people are about 90% fucked up, which makes for some really interesting firey accidents- I saw the flaming jump rope wrap around someone’s body no less than ten times, and people face-planting into the firey limbo stick.

From booths labeled “Fuck-it bucket” and “Love you long time in a bucket” and

Thirsty? Sober? Have a Fuck-it Bucket!

Thirsty? Sober? Have a Fuck-it Bucket!

“Jesus’s favorite” you buy plastic pails filled with a fifth of liquor (your choice) and a couple of cans of mixer. Not doin’ it for ya? Go for the GALLON bucket. THAT not doin’ it for ya? Try a “trance shake” (use your imagination) or buy some mushrooms, available anywhere and everywhere. They even have a new herbal hallucinogen on Haat Rin which lately has been landing farang (Westerners) in the loony bin for days on end. I didn’t try it because I am not stupid- however tons of people on the beach were obviously tripping balls, like the guy who ran up to me and my friend, grabbed us by the arms and screamed in our faces: “THERE’S A PARTY IN THE SKY- and NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT IT BUT MEEEEEEE!!!!” then threw his shirt into the ocean and ran away zig-zag style up the stairs and climbed up the roof of the bar.

Bar @ the end of the beach, next to the party in the sky!

Bar @ the end of the beach, next to the party in the sky!

Haat Rin Beach is a perfect crescent of paradise lined with bar after dance club after booth selling liquor buckets after bar after bar after bar. Bright colored Christmas lights and rainbow spotlights run down the beach; for a few bucks you can buy giant paper lanterns to light a fire under and let loose until they float up into the sky towards the bloated moon, coming together to form Orion’s belt. It is very beautiful, as are the crowds of young men and women dancing and going nuts.

pa1301061

Black Light Art

Besides hella fire twirlers there is also TONS of blacklight body art. They have huge sheets of designs to choose from, and one of the more popular designs by far is the 7-11 logo. What? 7-11 seems to be the national store of Thailand; they are everywhere. Yeah, can I get a big 7-11 across my back? Sweet! Dude! Sweet! Dude!

Music booms up and down the beach: electro, drum and bass, progressive house, breaks, hip hop, tech house, and of course, psy trance. It isn’t the tropics without some frickin’ psytrance! There were probably about 15 different stages set up along the beach; the weird thing is that often the speakers are about 30 feet from each other, so unless you are in the thick of it up at the front, the bass booms together and you hear a trainwreckish mix, like drum and bass and Deadmau5. 

I was very disappointed to find that most stages did not have DJs, only music. In fact I saw only two DJs all night, and I was looking- one playing breaks at the bar on the end of the beach with a great view of the chaos, and a drum and bass DJ named Sith. In case you didn’t know, I am a fan of DJs. I think the personal interaction with the audience creates an energy that is missing when all you have are speakers. No DJs? Just lame. Sorry.

Drunken Beam-Boxing

Drunken Beam-Boxing

The beach is beautiful, the sand is perfectly soft and white, the night clear, and the party is ON! I wrote earlier about how there are no assholes or jerks on the island of Kho Pha Ngan. Boy, was I wrong! There are TONS of them, and they congregate together on Haat Rin Beach to howl at the moon, get drunk, and box with each other on a balance beam over three mattresses- quite entertaining to watch, I must say.

All down the beach there are eight year-olds selling glowing red horns and flower leis and whatever. The amount of beer bottles in the ocean is only outnumbered by the number of cigarette butts. Partyers just throw their butts into the surf while standing next to an ashtray bucket on the sand, which really ticked me off.

I started to pick up a few of the hundreds of glass bottles floating in the ocean, but then I noticed this guy urinating right beside me into the waves and decided otherwise. People all up and down the beach are pissing in the ocean, dancing in the ocean, puking in the ocean, fucking in the ocean- often within a few meters of each other. Girls who have lost their shirts. Guys eating sand. It is funny and sad all the same.

Fire Jump Rope!

Fire Jump Rope!

I wish I could report that the world’s biggest beach rave was the best party of my life, but as you might be able to tell by now, it was not. It could have been; maybe I should have had a trance shake. The rave was really pretty messed up, although I wasn’t. When I travel alone I try to keep my wits about me because it is just really stupid not to. No one is getting me home but me, and it would be days before anyone realized Ms. Shilo wasn’t blogging anymore.

That said, the atmosphere of the Full Moon party was great, and had I been there with a group of Seattle homies rather than just a few friends I just met, it would have been a different story. But it wasn’t. I had a great time and danced my ass off in the sand, but I didn’t eat any of it or lose any clothes or go home with a stranger- but yall should know by now that I am not like that anyway.

Round about 3AM I started getting that feeling of wanting to be elsewhere, the feeling of being stuck where you don’t want to be; you know when you are at a party and you want to leave and go home, but can’t, because your ride isn’t ready or maybe you don’t have cash for a cab, or your car is locked with the keys inside or whatever? That is a really bad feeling to have when you are about 36 hours away from your own bed in a foreign country halfway around the world. So I left the party and went home to my little bungalow on a quiet beach and slept a perfect sleep, then got up and played with puppies and had pineapple cheese toast for breakfast. It was fantastic.

I strongly encourage you to check out the Full Moon Parties on Haat Rin Beach on the island of Ko Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand for yourself. And of course, everywhere else in this world!

Much love from the tropics,

Shilo


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Thailand Revisited: Just Another Day on Ko Pha Ngan

Got up, ate breakfast, swam in the ocean, laid on the beach, repeat repeat repeat; had a massage, laid on the beach, swam in the ocean, ate lunch. Wrote in journal, read, sent postcard to grandmother, swam in the ocean.

Tonight I head over to the prefunk for the full moon party on Haat Rin Beach. Someone closeby is playing a ukelele. I smell like coconut.

Right now: back to the ocean, then beach, repeat repeat repeat.

This is the best blog post ever xoxoxoxoxox Shilo

pa120068


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Thailand Revisited: Salty Sunny Sandy Slathered Shilo aka Don’t Hate Me

pa110047

Written in October 2008

I am in paradise.

To get here it took a half hour taxi ride, a 13 hour overnight train trip, an hour and a half bus ride, a three hour ferry, and a half hour songtaew ride over the jungle: 22 straight hours of traveling. Add that to the 13 hour plane ride from Seattle to Seoul, the 24 hour layover in South Korea, five and a half hours to Bangkok airport plus another hour in a taxi into the city to be able to be here, right here, where I am now. And it is worth every minute, every squat toilet, and every penny. I am in paradise.

pa120050If it was easy to get here then it would not exist; this place would be filled with jerks and assholes. You have to make a real effort to get this far away from everybody, from everything you know. Time, effort, money. Will. Courage. You all have these things. You could be here right now; you could be here next year. What do you want in your life? I want paradise.

I am island Shilo. You have never met her. She is an insane brand of happiness, not just happy but content, an emotion which always seems to elude my restless self. I only ever seem to touch it on beaches, in the sun, covered in a magic potion of sunscreen, sand, salt, and coconut oil, with the song of the ocean in my head, hypnotizing me.

pa120069I have not felt this way since I was living in New Zealand, swimming in the South Pacific every day, baking in the sun for hours upon hours. I have stars in my eyes, mosquito bites on my legs, and freckles all over everywhere. I am in paradise.

I am on the island of Ko Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand. Remember that movie The Beach? They swam from here.

Ever heard about the biggest beach rave in the world, the full moon parties on Haat Rin Beach which draw 30,000 people? That beach is around the corner from my bungalow.

pa120057I order Pina Coladas, Sex on the Beach, coconut milkshakes. I wear a pink bikini and sunglasses and that is it. I eat banana pancakes and red curries. The water is a brilliant aquamarine, warm under the hot tropical sun; home to swimmers in speedos, snorkeling boats headed out for the day, softly crashing waves, and fuzzy green islands jutting up towards the blinding white-hot sun. Neon pink flowers drip off trees and onto hammocks where sweaty children sleep; the sand is as soft as cheese. Fresh fish are grilled just steps away from the shoreline; beers go down quicker than you can say ‘Chang,’ and echoes of electronic music find their way up the cove and into my ears. A scruffy mamma dog nurses three puppies- one white, one black, one tan. Mats are set up on the beach for massages, and beach chairs for bathing. I am in paradise.

The moon will be full in two days; it just happened to work out that I am here the right day of the month to go to the legendary beach rave. The party gods smile on me.

How I wish my friends were here with me, to dance. In paradise.

Much love from silly island Shilo whose brain has turned to mango ice cream and sticky rice.

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