Contemplations on Hedonism and Self-Indulgence in Koh Lanta, Thailand

Apologies, friends, for I have been living in the jungle…Wi-fi is less readily available here and is certainly very expensive…I intend to catch up on posts as soon as I move on to my next destination.

The following post was written about 10 days ago, but – as such – I haven’t yet been able to publish it…there is more to come! I hope everyone is well and happy! 

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Penang, Malaysia. Border crossing into Thailand. Hat Yai. Overnight stay at King’s Hotel. Shuttle to Hat Yai bus station. Wait. Bus to Trang. Wait again. 3 hours later, ferry to Koh Lanta. Voila! We’re here!

Route from Penang in Malaysia to Koh Lanta, Thailand

Route from Penang in Malaysia to Koh Lanta, Thailand

Our previously posted ‘extenuating circumstance’ led us to miss out on Koh Lipe with Lili, Mandy and Dave. We travelled directly to Koh Lanta…the second destination in our shared itinerary.

Koh Lanta is an island to the south west of Thailand on the Andaman Sea. Mainly Muslim in composition – with a Chinese Buddhist minority further south near Lanta Old Town – it is known as a hippie island (and is for some reason) compared to a calmer version of the partying Koh Phangyan in Thailand’s gulf.

Though – arguably – all tropical beaches are idyllic on the premise that the waters are warm; marine life is diverse; and sun-chasers are able to satisfy their penultimate desire of becoming brown like a cookie… Koh Lanta, in herself, hasn’t succeeded in luring me in… in the way – I feel – an island should.

Yes, there is – what appears to be – a 3km windy beach… composed of white sand… white sand that is interrupted by thousands of beautiful sea shells washed up to shore from the low tide… yes, there are bamboo bars; bamboo restaurants; bamboo bungalows; Jack Johnson-style chill out music in some places; and wind chimes playing their own music in others… but there’s still something missing from the island…

The waters aren’t crystal blue…transparent… the sand from the seabed is too frequently tantalised by the daily coming and going of the tide… impeding visibility when going underwater for a bit of a snorkelling adventure…

Beach in Koh Lanta, Thailand

Beach in Koh Lanta, Thailand

The main feature of the beach is the hedonism… the self-indulgence… the plentiful cushions lain in an array on elevated, bamboo seating… the Happy Hours… the cocktails…the high-pitched shrieks of a Thai waitress saying ‘Welcome to Koh Lanta!’ at every passers-by… bungalow resort upon bungalow resort upon yet another bungalow resort… between them… I seek culture… essence… or something – anything! – that isn’t designed to invoke pleasure upon the falang… but I struggle to find it.

It’s an artificial beach… I am more aware of its’ artificiality than I am of the beach. This awareness makes it difficult to relax… or rather, to relax fully… as, instead, I contemplate why I am there… why I am being ‘served’… why those ‘serving’ me are awake and working as I awake… or why they are still working and awake as I go to sleep…

Maybe it’s me? Maybe it’s the context of travelling that I am currently experiencing… maybe I would appreciate the hedonism more if I had just finished working behind my computer for 6 months – day in and day out – finally to arrive to achieve some sort of ‘break’… to awaken myself in Koh Lanta from some kind of fast-paced, cosmopolitan coma.

But then I ask myself why I didn’t feel this way about the Gili Islands in Indonesia… I ask myself what it is about Koh Lanta that makes me feel so unappreciative of what is evidently ‘beautiful’… in most people’s definitions, that is…

One theory I have is that I never met anyone quite like Sapiik… or ‘Oyot’, as I described in previous blog posts. Sapiik appeared to enjoy his work at Freedom Bar… he did anything and everything for me, and always had time to engage in conversation… to share his culture… his language… to share his time with my friends to the effect of them becoming his friends when we returned to Gili the second time…

I never felt as though Sapiik was ‘serving’ me… but for some reason, in Koh Lanta, I felt constantly as if I was being ‘served’… and it made me feel uncomfortable.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a waiter at Liz’s wedding in August… it was a beautiful wedding… and quite high profile… in that the now former Greek Prime Minister – Andreas Papandreou – attended… I don’t remember who it was that made the initiating comment, but someone said: ‘it must be wonderful making cocktails at weddings… and quite special to return home to share with friends and family that you had served food and drinks to the Greek Prime Minister’.

His response was something along the lines of: ‘I’m an Engineer. I work 16 hours a day… and I still don’t have enough money to make ends meet… to go on holiday… to enjoy myself in the way that you do.’ He was bitter. He was bitter about needing to serve the likes of the Prime Minister… who he believed was responsible for his own life’s mess… and he went on to differentiate us… guests of the bride and groom… from himself.

I wondered whether… on Klong Kong beach in Koh Lanta… waiters and bungalow owners felt the same way… whether they too served tourists with bitterness… feeling as though they had some greater vocation… or whether they truly enjoyed and appreciated all that they did…

Nonetheless… in my search for something authentically Thai … I ate a fair few Masaman and Paneng curries… I allowed my fingers to dance when writing all 44 consonants and whoever knows how many vowels of the Thai alphabet… I shared a fair few Sawadee-ka’s and a fair few Kapunkaa’s whilst being served in the very hedonistic bars that I’ve now contemplated and criticisedI had the opportunity to notice that most Thai sentences end with a polite ‘ka’… or – after the kindness of one very pleasant waiter in the town of Sawadan – the opportunity to practice reading key words off a Thai restaurant menu: like, Keang (curry), Goong (prawns), Gai (chicken), Neua (beef), Phak (vegetables) and Phet (red / hot)…

Most importantly of all… I achieved my purpose in Koh Lanta… to reunite, catch-up and spend time with my wonderful B*tchz – Lili and Mandy – to make up for lost time since going to high school together in Athens.

 

I shall write a bit more about our (mis) adventures in a future blog entry. J

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7 thoughts on “Contemplations on Hedonism and Self-Indulgence in Koh Lanta, Thailand

  1. doofus, glad you are excited but u havent told me whereabouts u’d be and when!
    we are staying 2 days in bangkok and rest in phuket and will be going to the koh around there and krabi.. looked into road trip to samui but its apparently 6 hours….. hmmm still planning but we are booking flights this week xxx

    • i’m in kho phi phi at the moment… i was just in the jungle for 10 days in Railay… if you plan on going there… I’ve just come from there and am still there, so I’m afraid I won’t be coming back! If you want to see me book for Vietnam… or – book a flight to Bangkok, and book a separate cheaper flight from Air Asia… to give you more flexibility … just a suggestion. Phuket… I’ve heard it’s a bit poop… but – we’re going there for a bit after this, so I can let you know before you book. It’s suuuuuuuuper touristy… depends what you’re looking for hun. Mua! how exciting! But make sure we see each other!

      • ti lesss?!?!
        still you havent told me where u’d be from 31 March – 8 April.

        Anyway we are booking as we planned! hope we’ll be close enough to see eachother!

        Miss u xxxxx

      • ela goose! I answered you! I have no idea where I’ll be, but I know I won’t be in Thailand as we’re in Thailand now! Nonetheless – I know it’s your first time in Thailand and you will adore it… maybe plan for more time in Koh Phi Phi than Phuket… just a tip! I’ll keep you posted where we are – love you and miss you hun!

  2. …I seek culture… essence… or something – anything! – that isn’t designed to invoke pleasure upon the falang… but I struggle to find it.

    Just looked up ‘falang’. Mistakenly found ‘Falange’ and saw that it was a Fascist group in Italy… wrong context, I thought. No, wrong word and tried again. Falang or ‘Farang’.. the generic Thai word for a Westerner… OK, that fits.

    I know we’re in different stages of our lives, but being the ‘falang’ that I am, I sure wouldn’t mind a break from the real world and some hedonistic pampering in a place like Koh Lanta as you describe it.

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