We finished our trek in the small town of Pokhara in Nepal. But we truly came down from Nepal at our next stop: Ao Nang, Thailand.
A mid-size tourist town in Southern Thailand near the main tourist hub of Krabi, Ao Nang is where we laid down to do nothing but read and hire people to return feeling to our muscles. After 20 days of 8+average hours of walking, we sought out a daily regimen of Thai massage to bend, crack, turn and knead our bodies back into some level of compliance.
It wouldn’t happen overnight, which was exactly what we hoped: allowing us to explore the streets for another of Thailand’s main attractions: FOOD. As mostly everyone knows, Thai food is tasty and amazing. But coming from 20 days of eating lentils and potatoes, to me, it was: life affirming, ethereal, majestic, other-wordly – take your pick.
I found the taste and flavour so fucking amazing after our utilitarian, unadorned, “food as fuel” in Nepal, that it almost felt necessary to hold on to the restaurant table for support after every bite.
La petite mort.
Oh behn, c’etait beau.
As we carried on this love affair at food stalls on the street, we watched others conduct their own walking down the street in front of us. Rose and I would play a game, guessing if the Western guy walking with a Thai girl on his arm were “For marriage” or “For money”. True, there could also be a third category “For money by marriage” however, we wanted to keep it simple.
While I’m the romantic between us, cupid’s arrow rarely left its quiver and in our completely unscientific study, Commerce beat Cupid resoundingly. Beat it by a lot of Baht. (Unnecessary to emphasize it again, I know. But I just like the sound of that sentence)
An explanation: Indonesians would constantly mistake Rose as Indonesian. In fact this happened in almost every country, but it seemed the most frequent in Indonesia.
So, on those occasions in Indonesia when we’d stroll into a slightly nicer restaurant than our usual beachside food joint, filled entirely by Western tourists who might not have ventured out of the tourist quarter, whether it was in my imagination or not I thought I spotted an eyebrow raise or a longer stare than normal, suggesting something salacious ala: “Oh he’s with a prostitute” (not an uncommon sight in much of Southeast Asia).
We’d both laugh about it, of course. But in Thailand it was a non-issue as there were many couples who appeared to be in it “For the money”, and if someone were to think the same of us, we’d blend right in.
Being mistaken for a national, however, did have a lasting effect on Rose – she now had firm evidence of something she’d long suspected – she could be a spy! Of course, Indonesian spies may not be in high demand at all, but Rose is forever looking for new angles and things to pursue, and at the very least she could add it to her list of ideas.
But don’t tell her: it’s safe to say her cover is blown because of this blog.
After five days of beach and kneading, we turned things down even more and headed to an island farther south: Koh Lanta, where we stayed for 10 days staring at sunsets with a small handful of people, walking up and down the beach:
Interestingly, we learned that Koh Lanta was a huge draw for Swedish and other Scandinavian tourists. So much so that not only did one restaurant on the beach have a buffet night with smoked salmon and meatballs, but other restaurants had Swedish products, and there was even a school devoted exclusively for Scandinavian kids.
As we navigated along the Nordic beach, passing blonde bobs all along the way, somebody else showed up in full force, to nail the point home – ABBA.
Every day, at the place we stayed the soundtrack was on a loop. Over breakfast we were asked to “Take a chance on me”, which when looking at an unfamiliar dish in a tin container at the buffet kinda seemed fitting, plus after two plates of breakfast, when I was considering taking a rest from another plate, up they came again to remind me “The Winner Takes it All” – and I stood up to resume my food assault.
All fine and well, but by afternoon hearing a steady flow of “Dancing Queen”, “Fernando”, “Money, Money, Money”, “Mamma Mia”…I’d had enough.
With our guesthouse soundtrack filled with other AM Gold ditties like the Bee-Gees and Kenny G, and cloud-filled sunsets our vista (that oh so common motif on AM GOLD record covers), I felt like I needed gold chains around my neck and a lot more chest hair. For Rose? Maybe a perm and the album cover would be set.
Minus those, however, this is the runner-up:
Next stop Phuket to meet up with some friends who we met in Australia, and had since set up a Facebook campaign after hearing of our possible demise in Nepal. I think Rose and I were both excited to meet our first friends after the Nepal media blitz and be able to prove, incontrovertibly, that we were alive beyond email.