January 20th – An Internal Monologue of an Uneventful Day in Ao Nang

Despite the mosquitoes and lizards I found in my hotel room, I decided that the presence of such beings was worth the pay of of not having to go through the inconvenience of packing up all my stuff and moving to a new area for another day. It was only really ants that where reoccurring visitors at this point anyway, which I felt I could handle. I neglected to mention in the last post that after a somewhat frustrating process of delayed emails at irregular intervals to the yoga place, I had managed to secure a place on the retreat, and so booked for one more night in the guest house I had spent the previous 2 nights, before heading to Krabi town for the weekend. I had heard that Krabi town didn’t have much to offer and was more a local town, so I figured it would be an opportunity for me to get some work done, worst case scenario.

I had a lot of trouble trying to use my preloaded STA Cashcard, which I had put £5000 on to sustain my trip. It operates through mastercard, but is nowhere near as straightforward as the typical credit card procedure. It’s probably too dull to write about in detail, but after enduring ambiguous, unprofessional, and contradictory advice from multiple help line sources (with the exception of the facebook team) I managed to get it sorted and was able to book my flight to Chiang Mai for the Thursday night, following the retreat. I felt better having satisfied the overly active problem solving part of my mind with some kind of itinerary. I have never been in a situation where time is a burden because of how long, rather than how little it lasts. Maybe as a child on Christmas eve.

I spent my last day in Ao Nang mainly eating, as after you’ve seen the beach, there’s not really a load to do. I have realised through my trip that my pleasure from travel doesn’t really come from doing most of the things that draw in tourism, such as island hopping, diving, elephant riding (though that’s automatically written off from my itinerary given the reported cruelty). My enjoyment comes from adopting an almost anthropological perspective of travel – observing behaviours, demeanours, mannerisms, environmental interactions, dialects etc. Observing a culture of bacteria in a petri dish through a microscope with a lens formed from another culture that lives a bit further away. I want to see beautiful beaches and mountains and all that, but I also want to taste ingredients that are novel, contemplate alternative perspectives on lifestyle, and communicate with local people in a way that is pure and authentic despite language barriers, such as laughing or expressions of gratitude. Not in a customer service kind of way, but in a pure, human way. It was rare to experience in somewhere so typically tourist orientated, but that makes it more special when it happens (it didn’t happen on this day).

My day must have been relatively uneventful as I can’t remember a great deal of what happened, other than going to a coffee shop in the morning and spending some time researching places to go to for when I’m in India. I was (and while writing this on the 11th of February, still am) keen to cut my trip short for reasons of both finance and resistance to uncertainty. As I’m sure to have mentioned, few cafés’ in Asia seem to have soy milk other than chains, and I have come to hate myself for always asking for it, but coffee is really, really bad, and often drinking it black tastes like your swilling a mouth full of copper coins. Again, it’s tolerable for the caffeine effects, which I am somewhat reliant on to relax, ironically. I think it’s because it allows my synapses to fire quicker and put my anxieties into greater perspective, thus subduing them. When it wears off I’m back to feeling worried. And dehydrated. The second cup is never as good as the first. You’re just chasing the dragon.

I walked around Ao Nang a little more, revisiting areas I had been the day before. I got the gist. Tour operators, restaurants, suit shops, street vendors etc. In retrospect (after arriving in the Philippines) I have come to appreciate a little bit of tourist tack – it settles the nerves and gives you a little security that you’re somewhere you’re safe to be. I did appear to adopt a somewhat tourist attitude, in that I was keen to a buy a knock-off fjallraven bag. I had been worried about my 15l backpack being over-stuffed and potentially braking the zip, however it has a detachable daypack which I was using to bring my notebook etc. around with me. I figured that if I just attached the daypack to the backpack then I could transfer a few items and ease the tension on my zips, meaning I needed a new bag to transport my valuables. The Fjallraven bag seemed a good idea, as although I wasn’t too keen on it (I feel almost de-mascualinated by it’s tiny size) I thought I could give it to Magda, my girlfriend, when I return home. I felt bad that I had no room to bring back gifts, so this was a two birds one stone situation.

Krabi rains a lot, and it gets pretty uncomfortable when you’re hot enough to be sweating but some old sweat has cooled down and acted as an adhesive for your hair to your forehead, while simultaneously getting rained on quite torrentially. I wore a black poncho over myself and my bag, but it seemed to trap the heat, making for an all-round unhygienic experience. I suppose that’s typical of tropical environments. I walked back to my hotel, feeling a little purposeless, but I knew that I would have felt that back home aswell, and one of the reasons I was travelling was to confront these things and get past them. I tried to not attend to it with any detail.

Ao Nang Temple.jpg
Around 25 minutes away  from where i was staying

When I think of being back home I am filled with misery at the thought of walking around the city centre of Sunderland. It’s a terrible place to live and has nothing to offer anybody, other than family if they happen to be there. I had used my studying period at the uni there in the past as a search for purpose, and then working and freelancing after that. While planning my trip, I used the logistics of the trip as my distraction from fundamental dissatisfaction. I always try to create my own phenomena to find purpose, the way we all often do through TV or work-related drama. It’s like we’re killing time by distracting ourselves until we die, and distracting ourselves from thinking about the fact we’re going to die. Being where I was and living the way I was did give me an opportunity for new, novel distractions, but also retracted my go-to devices I would used to feel something. This was what I was experiencing.

I moped around in my room for a while, relentlessly googling the passing thoughts of the neurosis of my mind. In anapansati meditation you attend to your breath only, and when thought’s arise (which they always do) you observe them rather than engage in them, coming back to the breath. I was basically looking into all of the thoughts that would likely have come up if I where to traditionally meditate, such as ‘Is Krabi dangerous’, ‘Are mosquitoes in Ao Nang carrying malaria’, ‘vegan food Krabi’ etc. My internet search history would probably provide a very useful indicator of my personality type to a psychologist. I spent a little longer worrying that I would be getting out of shape due to my drastic change in exercise routine, and then opted to shower and face the poorly lit, horror-film-set-style walk to the restaurant I was at the previous night with the forced sentimental acoustic music.

I made the walk, still with my guard up somewhat as a natural response to the environment, and sat on the one table in the restaurant that was free. It had been raining, and the seating was a little wet in areas that hadn’t been protected by the umbrella and had dishes on the table, but I was ok with that. I realised I wasn’t actually that hungry, and had made the journey for maintaining sanity as opposed to for nutrition or pleasure. I also realised my over analysis of every action towards myself. I’ve learned I’m naturally really judgemental. I don’t see it as negative, or positive, but I’m aware that I do make assumptions in regards to the behaviours, actions, and demeanours of others, but mostly myself. I don’t seem to attribute positive or negative to the traits I judge of others, but rather try contemplate the source (e.g. defensiveness as a result of being attacked in the past). For myself, I tend to be a little harsher even when I understand the source. Over-eating was a habit set in the past for comfort, and my mental disorder regarding body shape was a result of that. Still, I’ll often find myself looking in the mirror from various angles tensing my arms or lifting my t-shirt and squeezing the areas of my torso where there is fat. My over judgemental mind was a result of being scared – ‘how can I evaluate all situations to ensure I survive as comfortably as possible?’. This does allow me to have increased compassion for others as a I can relate to their behaviour and trace back the sources, but when it comes to judging myself, I can be a bit of a dick.

Chinese Cake.jpg
Vegan junk food!

I was in the restaurant now, and felt that in sitting down I had already committed to ordering food. I do really love Thai food, as I’ve mentioned a lot, and often find myself justifying eating a lot by reminding myself that my diet will only be this way for a limited time while I’m in Thailand. I ordered tofu fried in holy basil and rice and a soda water, and read as I waited for the food. When you’re eating alone going to a restaurant is a very different experience than going for a meal with somebody else. The prospects of 3 courses in one place seems silly, as the time between each item of food isn’t occupied by conversation. I would have liked to speak to somebody, but similarly I do have a tendency to prefer to be alone. Social interaction with strangers can make me judge myself even more harshly as I often say stupid things through my nerves, so I try just avoid it. Soon after eating I paid and left, a little bloated but satisfied by the food quality.

I contemplated trying to get a taxi to my place, but as I was to learn the following day, it’s not easy sourcing transport from where I was. After a paced and anxious walk I arrived back in my room, which hadn’t been cleaned and still had a bin full of used toilet from the previous 2 nights. That made me uneasy, but there was no public bin outside and I felt weird carrying a plastic 7 Eleven bag full of 48-hour old shitty toilet paper into town, so I just left it.  I knew that tomorrow I was going to Krabi town, which I was unsure about, but looking forward to seeing. It was only 2 nights, after all. I don’t remember how I spent the remainder of the night, but as I’ve been writing this blog I’ve come to learn a lot more about how my mind seems to function (or at least I’ve psychoanalysed myself thoroughly with no real qualification to do so), so I can assume I probably felt sad, then happy, then ok, then went to sleep.

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