Tonsai. Where our journey started that day.

Capitalist Trash Enjoy Custom Comfort: Part One

-Mostly T & A-

I would like to think that slow mornings typically lead to exciting, life-changing days. But since that hasn’t been my experience I had no reason to believe that this usually slow morning would be any different. The air conditioner, set on 20 degrees, was humming along on the medium fan speed, which was needed to cool off the previous scorchingly hot Thai evening. But in the morning, after blasting all night, it was quite cold, making getting out of bed all that much tougher. Maria had woken up earlier. She was still out of whack from her flight into the future and had headed out for a stroll to get coffee. I made slow moves towards getting my ass out of bed, going through my classic morning routine that I had sworn I’d change years ago — check Facebook messenger for friendly updates, check Whatsapp for business material, check Instagram to see how many people liked my picture of that stupid/beautiful thing I posted the night before. It wasn’t too long before I was sitting up on my pillow and ready to start my day, despite still being in bed. And it only took me 50 minutes! Maria brought me coffee in bed, which is one of the sexiest things one person can do for another person, after of course, listening.

We had decided the day before that we would rent a kayak and paddle over to the island 900 or so miles away. Ambitious. We went to see Noot. He was the man to see about things like this. He seemed to be the man to see about… anything really. I imagine if we needed assistance in disposing a body Noot would respond with a “Krab”, a polite acknowledgement, and pull out his carbon copy receipt book, start writing and spout out a surprisingly low number in Thai baht, “Baet roy ha sip Baht, krab”- 850 baht please, he would say with an extension of the arm to receive the cash in his right hand while he kept his head down on the multicolored paper to finish writing my bill of sale before ripping the pink copy from the book and shortly thereafter, I can only assume, commence to disposing. Noot had a generous and authentic smile that really made you feel good. Thailand has the nickname “Land of Smiles” but I have found that a fair portion of those smiles are not so honest. And believe me, this is no indictment of those that wear their fake smiles around us “farang,” western folk. If I had to deal with some of the people that come traveling through this beautiful country as much as they did, I might have trouble feigning a genuine smile from time to time as well. But Noot’s smile, even with his single tooth, was something of sincerity and joy. He had lived a good life. He had lived a free life. He had lived a life free of any visits to the dentist.

Noot and Joaquin Phoenix (circa 2010), moments after ordering the disposal of a chatty British ex-pat.

I had noticed a slightly strange dichotomy between what I assumed were local Thai folk working the bar and restaurant and the long boats and the people running the hotel where we stayed. The people working at the fancy hotel, which seemed to be the only hotel in Tonsai, looked like the Thai people I’d seen on billboards all over Chiang Mai, which is to say, they were pretty white. It’s hard to imagine they grew up around there and just somehow maintained that porcelain white skin with the use of a sunbrella and some sunscreen. I assumed that many of them had used snail white cream — a toxic cream that many Thai people use to lighten their complexion. This did seem a little off, the two very different groups of people working at the beach, but not strange enough for me to think about it for more than a moment because, food.
 
 We made arrangements to rent the kayak and then had a banana or something equally as unsubstantial. Noot told us they had really good food there and that we should wait and eat on the island. He also pantomimed why it’s not good to eat before doing a strenuous exercise like kayaking across an ocean — shoveling invisible food into his mouth, paddling invisible paddles, then grabbing at his fake stomach ache and grimacing. Maria and I agreed with Noot over the sounds of our bellies roaring at us in defiance and we set out in the kayak to cross what seemed like an ocean separating us from the island across the way. 
 
 About 10 minutes in we looked towards our destination and turned back to look at where we had come from. We hadn’t gotten far. How was this possible? The waters were not rough. The tide mimicked a small ripple made by a Vern Troyer cannon ball. We took one of a hundred breaks we would take to bask in our sun-basted regret. We laughed about what we’d gotten ourselves into and then picked up our paddles and got back to work. It was really only about an hour and fifteen minutes before we made it to the coast of our neighboring island. It felt really good to not be in the kayak anymore, but that feeling was fleeting as Maria reminded me that we still had to paddle back eventually. Something I totally knew, but also, somehow in that moment, didn’t know. 
 
 There was one shack, right where we pulled our kayak on to the beach that served “food”. I was craving some of the exquisite Thai cuisine I’ve come to love over the years. However, we came to find out that this shack, the only place offering food on the island, just had pineapple, chips, oreos, mama (Think Top Ramen from college years on steroids) and grilled corn. Didn’t Noot actually say that this place was better than the food at our resort? My mind wandered… could Noot eat corn on the cob? His teeth were so jacked up. Actually, I might be being presumptuous in thinking his teeth were jacked up because in reality I can only confirm that he had one tooth and he wore that peppermint Chiclet right at the front of his face like a light switch that only turned on.

Maria and I each got a mama and a corn and shared some pineapple. It was all delicious because we were extremely hungry. We had initially envisioned ourselves finding a nice quiet spot to lay and read, but since I’d left my David Foster Wallace book on the boat from Krabi and only had my book on Tantra, my interest in reading while on the trip had decreased considerably so we just ended up staring at women’s butts. I can’t say for sure, but I think I heard Rachel Maddow say that if you’re doing it with another woman, it’s not objectification. And if you making fun of them, well, that’s just entertainment. The beach was more crowded than we had anticipated. We hadn’t counted on all of the tour groups being boated in. But at least they brought all those butts with them. We had a great time critiquing the curvature and plumpness of some buns and “told stories” about people we didn’t know. There was a portly man that looked like he had been covered in rubber cement and used to clean the floors of a salon in Rome, Georgia the day before prom. He was with a blonde, curvy woman who wore a designer bikini with the tag coming out the top that read, “Mail Order.” Probably a fancy Russian clothing line. At one point I nodded in the direction of a woman and said something like, “…and what fresh shit is this?” only to find that the girl that was running to the ocean was most definitely impaired in some way or another, which made me feel like a total asshole for about…ten seconds. No point in beating myself up.
 
 After we’d seen enough butts and judged enough people to feel suitably bad about ourselves we decided we should start trekking home since we knew it would take twice as long to get back. The fatigue from getting there had already taken its toll and our muscles were already knotting up. Just before we threw the kayak in the water, Maria asked if I’d take a picture of her and she started to back into the water a bit only to trip and fall back about as gracefully as a drunk baby panda. We both laughed, hard. Then we heard a laugh and clap from about 20 meters away (That’s right, meters). It was a Thai man standing in his long boat, pulling in his anchor. We shared the experience with him for a moment before Maria said, “Ask him!” We had joked about getting a ride from one of the long boats that were constantly picking up and dropping off boatloads of tourists. At that point, I was so not looking forward to that trip across the water that I figured, “fuck it, why not?” and I approached him and asked if he would take us to Tonsai. We bartered for a minute and I got him down to 400 baht. Thank God. I was wrecked for days just from going one way. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like if we’d not been such huge pussies and done the full trip. As the long boat neared us to load our small kayak on it, we discovered that it was the boat that was hauling all the trash off the island. How fitting. After spending a couple hours talking shit and ogling people’s asses we could easily pass for trash. I helped our captain hoist the kayak on top of a pile of trash bags, hopped in and we rode off towards Tonsai. Maria and I shared more than a few glances with one another reassuring ourselves that we had totally made the right choice. For some reason I was reminded of Florida. Maybe it’s because that’s where I first met her. It’s either that or all the trash. 
 
 When we got close to our beach, we joked that we should ask to be let out on the far side with a little distance to the beach so Noot and friends couldn’t see our shame-lift. As though he understood our embarrassment, our captain did just that and we pulled it off with no one noticing. But then, why in forty fucks would anyone care in the first place? They wouldn’t and didn’t. Noot greeted us with a smile and helped me pull the boat in and then only charged us for a half day even though we stay out past 4 hours. Noot was a good dude. We made it back to our room, took showers and I collapsed on the bed for a bit. My pasty white ass was not meant to be in direct sunlight for that much time in a day, gratuitously applied sunscreen notwithstanding. We had a little bit of a lull in our day from there until we decided to go try and find something to eat. We’d noticed some people walking on the other side of this large concrete wall that separated our hotel from the rest of the island. It seemed peculiar but we had no reason to think anything of it until we walked through the threshold from our hotel’s side to the other side…