The quiet joys and foibles of solo living.

Lonely in Paradise

koh panghan

I like this photo, where you only see half our boatman and half his coconut drink. Because my point is, you only see half the picture.

What you see in the background is idyllic Bottle Beach, on the far side of Thai island Koh Phangan. What you don’t see is the background boredom and loneliness that can be experienced by going to an isolated place on your own. If you’re me.

I’d already spent a week staying near the busier portal of Thong Sala. I had ridden a motorbike up and down scary humpback roads, and past ‘gas stations’ with large glass bottles of petrol stewing scarily in the sun. I’d done the Full Moon Party at Haad Rin, mingling with wild-eyed British party-goers. (from a random Trip Advisor review: If you like parties, you have to surely visit this cult event. Everybody is painted and enjoys holidays.)

Eventually, I caught this boat to Bottle Beach for some rest and relaxation, but it was a place for lovers. Alone, I was surprisingly lonely, even more so when I tried to chat with other guests in nearby huts, or at the communal café, and realised I was one of the only English speakers, surrounded mainly by insular German couples. It was quite a contrast with my friendly Haad Rin experience.

I was used to travelling alone and being alone, but in this place which encouraged intimate moments and quiet reflection, I reflected that my R & R was going to be quite a short stint. I wasn’t in the mood after all.

Bottle Beach was quite lovely. Not fully ‘The Beach’ lovely, but with elements such as the blue, blue water, white white sand, and the coconut trees—oh the deadly coconut trees. I’d been informed that more people in Thailand are killed annually by falling coconuts than by motorbike accidents, and the helmetless way people hoon around here, that’s saying something. So in paradise, one can’t even sit and read a book in the shade of a tree.  Speaking of books, I read ‘The Beach’ by Alex Garland shortly after leaving Thailand, thankfully. It might have haunted my experience, especially since I had stayed in a guest house very similar to that in the opening chapters. But then, probably most backpackers have; it’s part of the Bangkok-on-a-budget experience.

In paradise, I had a couple of massages, lay in a hammock, walked ankle-deep in swirling water of a lagoon, swam occasionally in blood-temperature water full of floating organic debris, sunbathed and finished my book, drank coconut juice, watched my water-bottle holder being slowly and thoughtfully dismantled by a monkey, and caught the boat back outa there. I was there about 48 hours, all up.

(July 1998)


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This entry was posted on June 1, 2015 by in Travel anecdotes.
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