A Year in Seoul - video by Maddy

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Thailand Part 2: Moving South

My route to Koh Tao... went to Surat Thani when I could've just gone to Chumphon, but no harm done. It was a good trip.

A view of Bangkok

View from the train as the sun rose

Ferry to the islands

First glimpse of paradise

On the train to Suratthani I was seated across from a handsome Iranian muay thai fighter named Amil. I quickly discovered he was quite the talker, and I learned all about his life over a delicious Thai dinner that he ordered for us.

He had been living, working and fighting in Bangkok for eight years now, and although he didn't say it, I got the impression that he's very good at what he does. I've always found it interesting that all of the boxers I have ever met are the gentlest people outside of the ring. Not only did he have great stories to tell, but he was amazingly curteous to everyone around him. He told me he had just been accepted as a contestant on The Contender Asia and he hoped to use the TV program to help bridge the divide between Iranians and Americans. His goal was to fight an American and knock him out... not because he hates Americans, but because doing so would ensure the American fighter would invite him to the U.S. for a rematch. Amil wanted to befriend the American after the fight and show the world that there could be peace between members of both countries.

He told me he was extremely happy to be having dinner with an American and promised he was going to mention our meal on the show. I'm going to have to watch it to see if he really meant it. He also talked about his family for a while. He told me his mother was learning English and that she wanted to come to Thailand to see him, even though he goes home a few times a year. When I mentioned I was an English teacher he immediately took out his phone and said he was going to call his mother. I thought it was a joke until he handed me the phone and a sweet woman with surprisingly good English began talking. Life is so strangely wonderful sometimes. I never imagined that I'd be sitting across from a professional fighter on a train through Thailand talking on the phone with a woman in Iran. I even have an invitation to visit their home. I might have to take her up on it sometime, although Amil advises I put it off a few years.

I began to grow very tired at around 11 pm, so I climbed into bed and slept soundly until we arrived at the station at 6 am. From there we took a bus to the ferry port.
Koh Samui, Koh Tao, and Koh Phangan are islands off the southeast coast of Thailand that are popular among backpackers for their diving, parties and close proximity to one another. Island hopping is easy, and travelers rarely visit just one of the islands. Each has its own appeal and vibe, however, attracting a slightly different set with its unique scenery and atmosphere.
I was supposed to meet Maddy and Andrew in Koh Phangan and was going to arrive at about noon. It was a beautiful day and the ocean was calm so I enjoyed the ride staring out into paradise under the hot afternoon sun. Amil got off at Koh Samui, where he was meeting a fellow fighter to do some training. We said goodbye and I promised to watch him on the Contender when it aired in late fall.

I arrived in Koh Phangan and headed to an Internet cafe. When I checked my email, however, I discovered a message from Maddy saying that she and Andrew had not left Kho Tao as planned and wouldn't be able to meet me until the following day. By this point I was a little burned out on traveling solo, so I decided, what the hell? I'll take the two hour ferry ride to Kho Tao and find them. I had the name of their bungalows, and I figured they couldn't be that hard to track down. This meant, however, that I had done a complete circle of the islands. Kho Tao is the farthest to the north of a little group of islands and I could have taken a shorter train trip and saved a bunch of time.... oh well, it was a good trip and I wouldn't have changed it.
I arrived in Kho Tao around 3 o'clock and headed to their bungalows. I figured I would find Maddy's towel hanging on the front porch if they weren't down by the beach and that's exactly what happened. They weren't there so I decided to wait down by the ocean until they came back. The water was crystal clear, the island was gorgeous, and I couldn't have been in a better mood. Five minutes after I'd started swimming I saw Maddy and Andrew walking up the beach. Of course I decided to creep up on them as awkwardly as possible then run at them from the ocean. We had a glorious reunion as if we hadn't seen each other in years rather than days and caught each other up on our adventures.
Now that we were back together, things were about to get interesting...

1 comment:

  1. Amil expressed his take on US occupations ?? must have been an enriching conversation with both Amil and his mother...wish I could be privvy to....like a mouse in your pocket !!!