July 14, 2007

Postmortem
Ao Thong Nai Yai (Ko Pha Ngan), Thailand

"Okay," was my monotone reply to her. Maybe I should've acted more surprised when Lindsey said she was leaving, but I saw this one coming ever since we arrived at the bay, two days ago.

It was a sunny, blue-skied morning, the quality of which I hadn't seen in weeks—and I was on the beach, basking in it. You've got to seize every opportunity for such things (in the middle of the rainy season) in the tropics, because you never know what the next hour will look like.

In the grand scheme of my life, Lindsey was, in many ways, like one of the clouds that wafted past me overhead—here one minute, gone the next. And sometimes, when you're on the beach, you only remember the clouds that rain on you.

I returned to the chalet this morning to slice into the tasty looking pomelo I'd bought the evening prior. As I cut into the green, spongy sphere—the largest of all citrus fruits—and offered some of the refreshing, exotic item to Lindsey, but she declined. Moments later, she reappeared on the patio and said, without emotion, "I'm leaving with the Germans. There's nothing left for me here."

"Okay." I replied neutrally, returning to the sphere.

We squared up financials for the room, and before I'd even eaten two or three chambers of the fruit, she'd taken her backpack and walked it next door—apparently she'd been busy packing while I was on the beach.

The three left (without packs) for a restaurant on the shore while I was still standing on the patio, eating. Those words were my last to Lindsey. She made no attempt to say goodbye.

The Beginning of the End

Doing a bit of a Tarantino, I'll jump back to the day of our arrival on the island…

Riding on the benched seats in the back of the truck-taxi, shared with Lindsey and the Europeans, I saw a probable glimpse of the future. The Swiss girl explained that they were only going to stay at the bay for two nights, before relocating to Haad Rin (in the southeastern corner of the island) for the Half Moon Festival—which is just like the Black Moon Party: An absurd attempt to try and give tourists a reason to visit the island when their holiday doesn't coincide with the ever-popular Full Moon Party.

I knew that I wasn't going to relocate to go to this event. I had a sneaking suspicion that Lindsey would want to—why wouldn't she?—and that these two would probably provide her with a comfortable means of doing so (and leaving me, in the process). God bless them.

I saw little of Lindsey during our time together here; she was either alone, or in the company of the Swiss and German girls. I was happy she was bonding with them, getting socially exposed to other nationalities, but I could see her withdrawing and distancing herself from me at an ever increasing rate (not that I could blame her).

I was tired of trying to initiate conversation that was going no where. It honestly felt like we were a married couple in a loveless relationship. We'd speak to each other to manage the single key to the room, and I'd see her when she came back to go to bed, but that was about the extent of it. Yesterday we hardly talked at all, as I was absorbed an Andy McNab novel (finishing it off in single day).

I was never anything but cordial with the girl though, at one point even considered inviting her to journey up to Laos with me. But there just wasn't any conversational spark to our days. And this, this is really at the heart of why we're not traveling together anymore.

Conversation is Key

Right from the get-go at the Bangkok airport I sensed something was off. I thought things would improve as she caught up on sleep, but there was just none of that conversational chemistry that had been there in the U.S.

It really bothered me that Lindsey wouldn't look me in the eye, especially when she was talking to me. To hold an entire conversation without ever making eye contact with me is troubling.

I look at a person when I speak to them. I look at a person when they're speaking to me. I look at a person when I'm observing them out of curiosity. Hell, I'll look at a person because it's more interesting than anything else in a room.

I'm guilty (and very much aware) of having an intense gaze that sometimes makes people uncomfortable. My aquamarine eyes can be a bit too piercing, and I too have even become a little uncomfortable from a handful of encounters with guys who seem to have similar tendencies—one of us has to back down or we'd be in a staring contest.

Lindsey never seemed to want to know more about me, whereas I tried to get conversation moving by asking inquisitive questions about her. Perhaps the only probing question I remember her asking was: "So how is it that you can afford to do this?"

Daniel, the young Aussie fellow I hung out with in Malaysia, was full of questions: What was your scariest moment? What's the worst thing you've ever eaten? Where would you go back to? …Why?

I have no problem with conversational silence, I can really enjoy a good comfortable silence with someone, but days just seemed to be awkward around this girl.

I have no doubt that Lindsey will be fine. She's an intelligent girl that just needs to walk a little more on the tightrope of life without the safety net of daily phone calls to mom and the company of close friends. This is not Venezuela, it's Thailand, the land of smiles. Travel is easy here, even for a 21-year-old girl from the United States.

Running for the Border

I'm going to pick up the full cost of the bungalow for the night, then jump off the island tomorrow. Thankfully, my skin has remembered the color it should be, and after six-hours on the beach, I think I'm about as bronzed as I'm going to get (without putting some serious sunbathing effort in).

My destination is Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. It will either take two overnight trips to reach/cross the border (if a mid-day layover in Bangkok is necessary), or just one, with a night spent at the border town of Nong Khai. I expect the transit to take a solid 35-hours without the layover, and pushing 50 with.

Ao Thong Nai Yai

This bay has been enjoyable, and I considered staying here longer. The sand is without question the best I've seen in Thailand, but the place is completely shut down by 23:00. A local working at one of the bars genuinely felt this was the best stretch of beach on the island, and it appears to be a favorite for couples and families.

The water is kinda the bummer about this place, though. The bay is so well protected that it can almost seem like a wave-less mirror. The bottom of the bay has a layer of muck, so the water takes on an unattractive grey/green look. The place is also very shallow, and when the tide goes out in the morning it exposes a significant stretch of rocks and gunk.

The price of Internet access out here is also rather mad. At B$180/hour, it's 12-times the amount I've paid elsewhere in Thailand. I'm going to take a pass.

In the end, I'm pleased I had a chance to see this side of the island, and I'm excited about the thought of jumping into a new country. I hear tubing down lazy rivers of Laos is a popular pastime for visitors—sounds like good times to me.

Comments:

Erik

July 19th, 2007

I would like to read Lindsey's side of the events that took place. Not only the relationship fiasco, but also her experience of travel for the first time, and travel to SE Asia.

Would you ask her if she'd be willing to publish her story, and would you be willing to post it? I realize this is Travelvice and your site, but you made her an important part of several journal entries and would like to hear a different perspective on recent events.

China

Craig | travelvice.com

July 22nd, 2007

Lindsey's a smart girl, who I'm sure could do a fine job articulating her experience in SE Asia. If she takes the time to write something constructive, then I might consider spending the money at an Internet cafe to publish it.

But in all honesty, I've moved on to happier thoughts. I'm now immersed and smiling widely in a totally different country, and this experience is so far behind me that the only reason I'm thinking about it at all is because of the hate/love/confusion e-mail and comments it's generating.

My moments are now focused on Laos, and I'm rather tired of getting pulled back into something that feels like it happened a year ago. Goldfish-syndrome, remember?

As for actually posting all these thoughts and events in a public place… Yes, I had a decision to make as to which side of the fence it fell on. And yes, this site is about travel, but it's also about traveling, and interpersonal relationships are a big part of it. I guarantee I'm not the only person who this has happened to. In fact, this is now the second time it's happened to me since I started in 2005, and this time I'm not keeping quite. These events were much to important for me to simply have said "things didn't work out with this girl I was traveling with, and now I'm headed to Laos."

With regards to the topic of Lindsey and my actions, I'm not interested in perpetuating conversation with anonymous people via the comments. I have a friend who likes to use the phrase "energy management," and I think it applies well in this situation. Comment moderation is on for a reason, so unless the feedback particularly constructive, I probably won't publish it. I get enough hate-mail as it is, and don't want to read any more of it on my site.

I hope you enjoy the stories and photos from Laos when they come online. I've got a sizable number of amazing snapshots to upload, and need an Internet connection better than what I've found thus far.

Cheers,

Sally, from Texas

July 24th, 2007

Next time choose a real woman instead of a dumb girl whose idea of a vacation is whatever she's seen on "WILD ON", no matter the location. Sadly, that's the image people in other countries have of us american tourists and girls like her contribute to that.

aimee

July 25th, 2007

Craig,

I am glad that you have moved on. As has Lindsey. She has had an amazing time on her whole journey & has had many exciting adventures since she has parted ways from you. If she decides to write about her experiences it will be "constructive" & i'm sure well worth the amount of $ it takes to publish it.

China

Craig | travelvice.com

July 25th, 2007

As I knew she would (but also glad to hear). It's hard not to have a good time in Thailand.

Andy HoboTraveler.com

July 25th, 2007

I enjoyed reading about Lindsey. I have been trying to remember, the last time I dated or talked for longer periods of time with an American or European girl. I think when I was in Tibet, with a French Girl about 4 years ago.

I normally listen to American or European girls about 5 minutes, then I just say No, walk away, I do not like to volunteer to be victim to their crap for brains.

Craig, bottom line, just say no to American and European girls unless they are just transparent and easily fun, any long drawn out negotiations are foolish.

21 American girls is like dating a 14 year old Africa girl, their emotional ages are the same. I recommend 25 or above, nothing below that has any sense, and just say NO to American girls, there is no need.

If I have to read Lindseys side, I will fly back to Thailand and personally slap you silly.

Why are all the sensitive types on your site? … hehehe

Andy of HoboTraveler.com

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