Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Koh Yao Island - Day Five - From Elephants to Snakes

From elephants, we moved on to a local restaurant for lunch. The entire time, I was pretty depressed that it wasn’t street vendor food. I was even more depressed when more white people showed up to eat there. The bathroom, however, thrilled me. The last time we were in Thailand, almost all toilets were like this one...a simple hole that you perch your feet on both sides, do your thing, and then "flush" using a nearby bucket of water. In the past four years, Thailand has westernized most of the toilets. So, yes, finding this toilet was like finding an ancient Thai gem.

From lunch, we went into Ao Nang village for the “shopping” portion of our tour. It wasn’t my speed of shopping so I sat outside with Man while David went on a mankini hunt. Don’t worry, dear readers, it was unsuccessful. Man laughed at David, telling me that it is normally girls who like to shop. We then went on to discuss the finer points of Lady Boys until David came out bearing a new shirt.

It was hot. Hot. HOT. My body temperature quickly rose and steps were taken to cool me down immediately. Once I was good to go, we started to head back to the pier. Passing a long stretch of street vendors, I asked if we could stop. Man was incredulous that we wanted to stop for street food. Never in the history of the Paradise had a guest wanted to eat from street vendors when out on an excursion.

These vendors were awesome! Their carts attached to their motorbikes and they would just cook up food while sitting on their motorbike seat. We walked the length of the vendors and found two that looked delicious. The first was making som tom, green papaya salad. We ordered it “ped ma”, very spicy, and finally experienced some of our first truly spicy food of the trip. Of course, it still wasn’t spicy enough for us. The vendor’s husband was grilling up chicken so I ordered a large piece of that. It was served to me without the traditional spicy chili sauce…Silly Thai’s making assumptions. Man went to ask for some for me, arguing with the vendor that I could handle it. David had ordered tofu pad thai from another vendor and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced in the wonderful world of pad thai. We slurped down every last bit of our spicy second lunch and headed back to the pier.

By the time that we got back to the Paradise, it took all of my strength to stay awake until dinner. We both pulled through with a dip in our pool, a shower, and some reading. Arriving at the beach bar early, we found the general manager sitting alone. We sat down with him, ordered a drink, and enjoyed a cigar with him as he lamented about it being one of his last. The next day was his wife's birthday and it had been a promise a long time coming. He was a delightful individual to speak with, having a sound mind and an impressive business history. Retiring to Thailand to manage a beautiful resort on a small island was his version of paradise. Ours too. I'm convinced that David and I have twenty more years to make bigger names for ourselves so that we, too, can retire fabulously at 50 (or 55, if I want to totally morph into my father's mini-me). Being an orchid fan, I commented on the beautiful orchids growing on every tree. He explained their symbiotic relationship and how the orchid helps prevent a specific type of palm disease. All trees were numbered...David thought that it was so that you could figure out which villa was yours at night when you had a few too many drinks. Instead, they were numbered by the island's environmental police. Michael told us of the strict building laws, the strict nature laws (basically, you cannot remove any plant unless is has fallen), and how they number each palm tree to ensure that none have been removed. If one dies, it must be replaced within a specified time period. Thus, we learned that 40 does not say "turn right! This is your villa, drunkie!" but instead provides a way for the environmental police who randomly jump out of the forest to patrol the land keep track of the trees. In the meantime, nine year old girls in Bangkok are selling themselves.
Soon, the Gokce's showed up and it was drinks all around. Another honeymooning couple, Keith and Brethney (of Dublin), arrived. They had met the Gokce's previously, sat down, and immediately ordered us a round of drink. And another. And then another. Those crazy Irish. Brethney said that I completely looked Irish. If looking at her was any comparison, I totally do. We had the nose, the lips, the hair, the skin, the eyes. We spent the night drinking it up. Every round we tried to buy was refused between the Turks and the Irish. When on vacation, we develop bad health habits. At the same time, we're being active all day. I believe in a counterbalance there.

It was nearing nine when the bunch of us headed off to dinner. The five others walked through the sand directly to the restaurant. I, on the other hand, had to use the facilities so I took the dark path where the beach meets jungle to get to the restroom. While on the path, I noticed something up ahead about five feet.

Slithering, it made it’s way to the path. I hadn’t even completed the mental thought of, “Oh my god! Is that a COBRA?!!!” before three staff members ran up to the path with large sticks and started whacking away. My fear was confirmed. I was watching a five and a half foot long cobra being killed in front of my very eyes. As they picked up what I presumed was a lifeless body, I started to rush toward to ask if I could see it. No one would let me come near and quickly ushered it away behind a fence.

As I rounded the bathroom to the dining table, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone what I had just witnessed. As soon as they saw me, everyone started saying things like, “I’m glad your okay!”, “Good thing you came from that direction! There’s a cobra out here!” I related the cobra killing back to all the guests and got filled in on the parts that I missed. Apparently, right before our group headed from the bar to dinner, a three year old girl saw the cobra and said “snake” to everyone. The cobra went right past the restaurant and onto the path where I was coming up. The three employees that had killed it? Brave restaurant servers. Later on, one proudly came over to me with his cellphone bearing a photo of the dead cobra.

While the official hotel stance on cobras was “deny, deny, deny”, one staff member told us that there was another one that they had been trying to catch. It was currently taking up residence under the spa pavilion. “Don’t worry! Not king cobra! Only ngoo how si nooan! King cobra bites throat. Other cobra bite legs and ankles. You survive leg bites.” For some odd reason, this didn’t make me feel better. From then on, each step we took was a bit more tentative. Upon our return to the states, we discovered that the “ngoo how si nooan” (equatorial spitting cobra) is highly aggressive, straightens up and spits poison into your eyes from up to three meters away. That’s right folks…with three meters being over nine feet, that five foot distance between me and the cobra provided absolutely no safety from possible permanent cornea damage.

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