January 21st – Krabi Town

After checking out of my hotel, I went to the nearby coffee shop with a slightly optimistic frame of mind. I had tried to kill as much time as I could in my room prior by exercising and slowly packing/showering, as my check in wasn’t until 2pm in Krabi town and sometimes they can be really tight with times. I slowly sipped on my sup-par coffee and read a little of my book, using the wifi of the café to get an idea of the location of my new place in relation to the city, and it appeared to be decent. I was prepared to be in a place where tourists tended not to venture, and where I might have trouble communicating in restaurants etc., given what I had read on tripadvisor forums and similar review sites. Krabi town was around 30 minutes away from Ao Nang by taxi, so I thought I would walk to the busier area where slightly more tourists where and try flag down transport from there.

I paid for my 50 baht coffee, packed up both my backpacks, and walked down the road that didn’t feel like pedestrians where meant to be on it. There was a huge heap of rubbish piled up, that I noticed men with torches would rake through at night. There was a sign saying ‘litter here please’, which I wasn’t sure if it was meant as a bizarre instruction or not. I didn’t litter there.

It was around 11:30 on a Saturday, which I assumed would be a relatively busy period in the tourist town of Ao Nang and thoughtI would be able to get a passing tuk-tuk or taxi easily. I had forgot that I was over 30 minutes walk away from where anything was happening. I put out my hand, but the majority of tu-tuks/taxis where wither full, or didn’t stop for me. I walked further up the road each time, but the pattern seemed to continue. One or two did stop, but they quoted me prices above 500 baht, which even for southern Thailand was inflated. I was sweaty and it was raining, so I was on the verge of paying the inflated rates, when an ‘airport official limousine’ taxi pulled over, quoting me 200 baht. I realised that he was employed by the airport to take passengers to their hotels and was on his way back, via Krabi town, and this was an unofficial ride with all profits going into his back pocket. I liked his entrepreneurial/fraudulent attitude, so I tipped him 50 baht when he dropped me off.

The route the driver took didn’t particularly sell the location, unless you’re into dust and sun-bleached signs for convenience stores that are no longer open. I didn’t particularly mind, given that I was prepared for an under-stimulating experience. My hotel was particularly cheap, around £10 a night, but the quality was a lot higher than that of most on a similar budget. I was greeted by the very friendly and very camp concierge (though such a term of reference feels inappropriate in a budget guest house) who showed me to my room. It was a lot bigger than I had imagined, relatively clean, and the aircon and wifi worked. I was pleasantly surprised, and just hoped that there was somewhere nearby where I could eat and buy water. I dropped my bags, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and headed out to see if there was anything around other than dust. I was handed a map by the front desk staff, which indicated where anything worth seeing was. I had already spotted a 7 eleven about 5 minutes walk away which gave me a feeling of security, knowing that I could get supplies there if I was stranded.

I feel like the mind has a tendency to create problems to solve to keep itself distracted from dealing with the knowledge of impeding limitation of how many days we have left to live. When travelling, your problems might be concerning more basic survival, but once they are catered for the mind tends to go a little deeper and remind you of the lack of purpose to your own existence, at least on the level of the human experience. When you’re home your purpose may be your job, your family/friends/partner, your hobbies, etc. When you’re alone and all you have allocated to worry about is maintaining your survival as comfortably as possible, you can come face to face with the demonic profile of meaninglessness. In a way I wanted to work harder to find a shop to buy water, to prolong my delusion of purpose.

After walking for around 2 minutes, I got a feel for the area and was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of reggage bars, cafes, and massage parlours on the street I was staying. I hadn’t anticipated seeing hostels of many hotels, but it appeared that Krabi town did attract other travellers, just not as many as Ao Nang. It felt like it was a place where locals and tourists where in equal measure, maybe 60/40 to locals, and so there was a greater sense of authenticity and a much more relaxed, hassle-free vibe. I felt a wave of appreciation as I walked towards the river, spotting places advertising vegan food and having the sun coming down accompanied by the coastal breeze. I took some photos to send to my girlfriend – they all made the area look relatively rough, which I suppose is accurate in regards to visuals. As I walked I would plan a rough itinerary for the the coming days. As an example, I’d spot a coffee shop where I would plan to eat breakfast the next morning, or I saw a temple which I thought would be nice to visit in the afternoon when it’s a little cooler and the sun was setting.

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Krabi Town – Nicer than it looks

I wanted to make an effort to try eat at more local-appearing restaurants than typical tourist places. Partly to save money, but also to experience dishes that weren’t just catered to westerners. I found a very basic restaurant with varying colours of plastic chairs and metal tables with laminated menus on them, many of which where partially illegible as the laminate had peeled and the paper was water damaged, or sun damaged, or both. It was a muslim place and appeared to be family run. The one table occupied had who I assumed where the owners, eating together with a tv on in the background, drinking water out of metal mugs. I sat down and a lady from the table approached me, handing me a menu without making eye-contact, her head pointing towards to table she had just left, still engaged in conversation. About 10 seconds later she looked at me to gesture asking me what I would like. I asked what there was that didn’t contain meat, and she pointed at something on the menu saying “only this”, which I ordered with an iced green tea. I can’t remember what it was, but I remember enjoying it and feeling happy to be there, despite the questionable service. You learn not to expect formalities or manners in a lot of cheaper places, but are almost happy for it as at least the staff are being authentic and not being nice just because they get paid to be. I used the wifi to call my Mam, updating her on my travels. She swiftly changed to conversation to tell me something negative to do with her work or home (I think both). She had requested updates on my travels but never really seemed interested in hearing them, which I have come to both expect and accept. She has such a strong pain body that without it she is void an any identity as it’s all she has ever known. I really hope she learns authentic happiness in her lifetime.

I felt particularly relaxed for the first time since getting into Asia, and experienced a wave of optimism that was unfamiliar but welcome. As I walked around the area I sensed it was just a local town, that had catered to tourism in many ways, but also had its own existence independent of tourism. There where a few guest houses and hotels, and a few very westernised cafes, but for the most part everything was pretty similar to how it might have been if only locals spent their time there. I found a café called ‘Amazon’, which was just opposite a temple that I had already allocated a visit to for tomorrows activity. I ordered a (still strikingly) acidic coffee and sat and finished my first blog post, which I had intended to be around 1500 words or so, but ended up being 6000. I wanted to document everything I had experienced that made the days leading up to my travels feel so daunting, and ended up writing an outpouring of autobiographical psychoanalysis that seemed appropriate as justification for my state of being. The post was intensely personal and talks about things that I would struggle to open up about to some friends and family, yet I’ve put it on a public platform for anyone to view who wishes to do so. I knew that nobody really would read them anyway, but the process of writing was a positive ‘cosmic-mirror’, and helped me make sense of my thoughts, so inspired me to continue for my own means. I haven’t pushed it at all, and I have no intention of trying to – it’s just nice to write.

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Amazon Coffee – a Thai Chain

As I wrote a little girl, maybe 6 years old, kept coming over to me very shyly and staring. I wanted to feel comfortable as she was incredibly cute and endearing, but i found myself not wanting to make eye contact and hoping she would go to her parents or another table who where more apt to deal with basic human social skills. It can be very frustrating being 27 years old and unable to deal with communicating with a being so young it would be a challenge for them to not be the essence of purity. Even a smile would have sufficed, but I automatically assume I’ll come across as a creep with a open-mouthed, oversized teeth bearing smile, and my closed mouth smile just looks passive aggressive, so I just pretend to not notice and have a vibration of self-loathing resound and then settle into my psyche.

I finished my post, still surprised at the quantity of words, and then continued browsing the surrounding area. The first couple of weeks in an area so drastically different to what you’re used to gives your body a workout – it has to adapt to to the climate and sunshine, so your skin feels as though it’s expanding and swollen, constantly wet with sodium infused sweat that you can almost taste. Your skin stings, and you’re squinting a lot. It’s a kind of growing pain, but once you adapt and get a regulated to a new sleep cycle etc., then things get a little better. There where 2 markets in the small area of Krabi town, one that was definitely a result of the influx of tourism, and another that was for locals. The local market was selling vegetables and meat, and has a few food stalls with silver dishes beneath a rotating fan made of bamboo, brightly coloured plastic tables and chairs. There are similarly garish coloured baskets containing varieties of condiments such as fish sauce, or chillies in vinegar, and metal mugs filled with water and straws. Although I can rarely eat at such places, there is a high degree of satisfaction I get from seeing such curated vulgarity that Is typical of Thai eateries.

After walking around the area enough until I got the gist, I headed back to my hotel. At this early point in my trip I was still not able to sustain long periods of exposure to the sun, and my sweat was burning my skin that was still far from adjusted. I spent a little time in my hotel room, googling things in the area like recommended places to eat etc. Food was, and to some extent still is, one of the dominating factors in my interest in travel. I didn’t really get many hits, but I had spotted a few restaurants that had things I could eat so I was content. Krabi town was also noticeably cheaper than Ao Nang. Rather than save money, I figured out that I would probably be happy to just spend the same as I would have in Ao Nang on food in Krabi town, and just eat extra as a result. I acknowledged to myself that this was likely an extension of searching for something outside of myself to make me feel less empty, but it was a pretty enjoyable form of self-harm.

I noticed a place earlier called ‘May and Mark’, that was hugely westernised but had a great menu and was really nicely set up. It was filled with white backpackers or more well off looking locals, and was one of those places where you’re brought a glass of water as soon as you sit down – though given to you with a familiar eye contact-less expression of resentment that you learn to not take personally. I looked in the breakfast section for what I would eat the next morning, before picking a tofu pad see eaw as my first dinner of the evening. It arrived and was pretty small and didn’t have much flavour in comparison to other dishes I had been eating in Thailand, but the texture of the fried wide rice noodles was incredibly satisfying. It was like eating hot and sticky, but firm, marshmallows – a little like ‘moochi’, which are Asian dumpling style deserts made of glutinous rice, often stuffed with things like peanut butter or taro. It was not filling whatsoever, but it triggered my new found appreciation of stir friend dishes, that I had always neglected in favour of Thai curries.

Straight after leaving I went to the local market for a second dinner. I had developed a greed-induced technique for overeating, wherein you eat consecutive meals in quick succession before your stomach realises that it’s too full. I was keen to try at the places where locals where in abundance and tourists weren’t, and they had menus with items on that I hadn’t seen before. I found a Muslim food stall that fit that description perfectly, and picked the one dish that was vegan by chance, which was mixed vegetables in coconut milk with rice, for 50 baht. Though it wasn’t particularly delicious, it felt satisfying being around Muslim people wearing head dresses and in a pop up style restaurant with aged Islamic posters hanging off the wall and be reaffirmed that everything projected about the whole population of those who follow Islam from the West was contradicted by my empirical experience. I was smiled at when served, accommodated to my diet, and treat with genuine customer service on a basic human level, as opposed to the false economy fuelled approach encouraged by western models. I’d hardly see the food was made with love, but at least it was made with sincerity, which is what I was craving.

Now bloated as my technique was unable to cater to the greed of my mind, I returned back to my room, passing a few guest houses with reggae bars along the way. I never used to particularly like reggae until I went to Chiang Rai in 2015 with my cousin, who would always want to go to them and I grew to associate it with being in Thailand. I wanted to sit in one and read or write while merging into the background and contributing to the relaxed vibe of the environment, but felt like I would just appear too weird. A few people on the way back said hello and welcome to me, but weren’t trying to sell me anything. They where just nice people, which I had been acculturalised to approach with suspicion. I was keen on getting a massage at some point, so made that my goal for the following day after passing a few parlours on my way back. I had experienced what felt like my new shoes being worn in enough to not hurt so much anymore. My experiences the days prior where mainly just the adjustment period where your ankles bleed a bit and you get a few blisters, but I now was beginning to settle.

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