The Beach: Oh Thailand, what are you doing to me part 2

The morning light caught my face as I lay in the comfortable bed of my guesthouse. I woke up and walked to my bathroom/oasis and freshened up. Compared to the hostel from hell this place was absolute luxury and I relished privacy and the lack of horny Italian men.

Way back when, Thailand was just a dream to me. I`d watched the film `The Beach` and dreamn`t that one day I would make it. I did manage to make it in 2013 when I travelled from the other side of Thailand just to see `The Beach`.

I had no plans for the day, the sun was shining so I decided to revisit my old pilgrimage spot.

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When I climbed on the rickety long tail boat  memories started flooding back. I instantly regretted booking a long tail rather than a more expensive speed boat. I was in for an adventure.

The salty sea stung as it flew up towards my face. My unruly hair made a break for it as my hair bobble disintegrated and abandoned ship. The driver of this boat was in a hurry and he wasn`t going to let 6 foot waves slow him down.

We skimmed across the sea, occasionally dipping into a wave causing a bucketful of sea water to soak us. Eventually we make it to Monkey island and ravenous monkeys started clamouring on the boat.

Rather than giving the monkeys bananas or other monkey appropriate food stuff, the driver of the boat handed a can of full sugar coke to the monkey who casually grasped it and retreated to the safety of a nearby tree. The monkey deftly opened the can by the ringpull and swigged the can of coke in one, not spilling a  drop. He then crushed the can with his tiny fingers and threw it into the sea and went back to posing for photos with tourists.

Monkey island was quite bizarre.

A monkey actually eating a healthy banana rather than a can of full fat coke...
A monkey actually eating a healthy banana rather than a can of full fat coke…

The next stop was viking cove for a spot of snorkelling. As I remembered the snorkelling was amazing and I saw so many fish and a sea turtle. It was quite upsetting seeing tourists kicking the delicate, bleached coral and spying crushed coral next to the boats anchor.

Last time I visited Maya Bay I had to climb up a slippery staircase to reach the island. I prayed that the boat would land us directly in the bay, but alas, 400 Baht will not buy you that luxury.

We parked the boat at the edge of a cove `Ok, Maya bay, you swim there` the boat driver said, gesturing over to a muddled mound of  twisted rope. Shit. Last time I must have been here at high tide, now it was low tide and it wasn`t just the stairs I had to contend with but over 10 feet of intertwined rope.

But I`m a world traveller, I`ve done this before and I`m strong. This would be easy for me.

The rope 'ladder' at Maya bay
The rope ‘ladder’ at Maya bay

I jumped off the boat into the water, the waves felt stronger than they looked on the boat. I swam as fast as I could towards the rope, trying to stay far away from the waves crashing on the sharp rocks to my right.

I reached the rope but my struggle was not over yet. People clung to the rope in pain, struggling to traverse it In front of my a hysterical woman was being calmed down by her boyfriend. I have no boyfriend, I`m here alone and have to fend for myself.

I pushed past the woman as courteously as I could, my skin slipping across her smooth tanned skin. I pulled myself up and climbed as fast as I cold, ignoring the searing pain in my feet and my British manners. I made it to the slippery stairs and carefully held on, pushing past the nervous women, sinking my feet flat on the wood to try to keep my balance.

At the top of the stairs I heaved a sigh of relief. I made it! I slowly walked down the stairs and was surprised to find myself sitting at the bottom. Like in 2013 I slipped down the stairs….

The slippery staircase
The slippery staircase

Once in the island it was as beautiful as I remembered. I met a lovely German girl on the boat who showed me her new bamboo tattoo that she got on the island. We swam, took photos and enjoyed beautiful Maya Bay before making our way back to the boat, down the treacherous stairs and ropey assault course.

We had a few drinks at a beach side bar to celebrate the fact that we were still alive and made plans to meet for dinner later. I had a Thai massage to ease my aching muscles.

As I was walking towards my guesthouse I came across a scuba diving shop. The guy there was friendly but not overly flirtatious like the other dive shops so I decided to book a spur of the moment dive for the next day. The instructor said that the boat would sail to shark point, the best place to see sharks n the area apparently.

I had always wanted to scuba dive with sharks. What could go wrong?

Maya bay. It really is beautiful.
Maya bay. It really is beautiful.

Find out in part 3 of `Oh Thailand, what have you done to me?`

A scary encounter in Tokyo

I’ve always talked about how safe living in Japan is. Since I’ve lived here I’ve not felt scared once. That’s a big contrast to the number of times I’ve felt scared in England and in other countries when travelling.

It’s just safe, isn’t it?

One weekend I was in Tokyo. I spent the day exploring the old quarter of Asakusa. I prayed at Senso Ji temple, got my fortune read (A bad one…) and ate delicious okonomiyaki, one of my favourite Japanese dishes.

I was having a pretty good day.

I was staying in a Japanese style business hotel and was the only woman staying there that night. Despite this I felt perfectly safe whilst I was there, even if I did have to share a bathroom with all the men.

I wandered to the local 7-eleven to get some snacks and drinks for the evening. As I turned back onto the main street and walked towards my hotel, an old man appeared in front of me.

At first I just thought he wanted to practice English with me. Even in Tokyo there’s not that many foreigners so many people strike up conversation. Then it dawned on me. It was 10pm, pitch black and I was alone.

I don’t think he wanted to practice English.

I looked at him and was instantly mesmerised by his insanely long fingernails. He held out his hand making a kind of ‘Okay’ sign and started to shout ‘Money, money, money!’, aggressively in English.

I was still perplexed about what he wanted. Why does he need money? Then it dawned on me that this was not a kind and friendly old Japanese guy but someone who was confident enough to approach a 5’8.5 woman on a main road in Tokyo.

So I ran.

I only ran a short distance but I could hear his wheezing behind me. He was following me. I took a risk and stopped and turned back, He was shirking away back into the shadows.

At first I was perplexed about what happened. Then it dawned on me that he could have been trying to mug me, he may have even had a knife. The most probable explanation is that he’s a crazy old man or a desperate homeless man.

I walked back to the hotel as fast as I could. My heart beating fast and my mind racing. It affected me much more than it would have in a different country. I feel safe in Japan so wasn’t expecting any confrontation.

It reminded me to keep my wits about me a little bit more in Japan. Not to take the feeling of safety for granted.

At Sensoji temple in Asakusa
At Sensoji temple in Asakusa

 

Have you ever had an aggressive or violent incident happen to you in a supposedly ‘safe’ country? What happened and what did you do?