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.