It’s just about two weeks now here at Khlong Prao Beach, by far the longest stay yet of my trip. And the enchantment just keeps on coming.
I actually managed to leave the beach this week and had some adventures via motorbike around the island. I rented one for 2½ days, cruising around the very few roads that somewhat circle the island. It was the scariest riding I’ve yet done, what with the incredibly steep roads, with fairly easy to ascend inclines, but with the most harrowing imaginable descents, with my hands on both brakes and my right foot desperately and failingly searching for yet another the entire time. It’s no wonder all the tour books warn of the dangers and subsequent common accidents that tourists encounter on the roads here. I wondered, more than once, whether I’d be one of them. I’m glad to say I survived completely unscathed.
The island is truly gorgeous – tall mountains all around, deep, thick rainforests, too mosquito-ridden to venture much into, but beautiful nonetheless. Elephants are everywhere – Koh Chang means elephant in Thai, so they are plentiful. Monkeys, too, which I’ve learned to stay away from, what with their penchant for stealing any and everything you may have that they might like to grab away.
I stopped, took walks and swims at the many beaches, enjoyed yummy meals and drinks at beachside restaurants and snuck my way into some fancy resorts for dips in their refreshing pools. In all my wanderings, I there was only one other beach almost as perfect as this one. Many of them are rocky, one is filled with beach parties and the 20-something crowd and the main one is wall-to-wall establishments. Yes, this is definitely the best one on the island – such the wise traveler I’ve become!
The fact that I chose two days that had some of the best weather I’ve seen since I got here and the subsequent ones filled with storms and rain made me feel even better. I did end up drenched by a rainstorm the first day of my cruising as I was headed home in storm that came in with powerful wind and pelting rain. Fortunately, I was only a few kilometers away and the rain was warm. Now that I have that out of my system, it’s back to beach combing, lounging, writing and reading. Still, I couldn’t think of a better way or place to close out my journey.
And close it out I realize I am doing. Just a week from tomorrow evening, I will be on board a flight bound for Tokyo and then from there to San Francisco. Am I ready for this part of the trip to be done with? Oh, so hard to say – surely I miss most the familiarity and comfort of ‘home,’ although I won’t be back to the place I currently call that for a few months still. But the Bay Area, having been home for so long and still holding so many and so much of what I hold most dear, will be a welcome respite from my solitude and my sense of foreign-ness here. It’s hard to imagine how it will be and I find myself not dwelling on it much, as comfortable as I’ve become in staying in the moment of now. But before I know it, I’ll find myself there. Until then, I’ll do my best to stay right here, a place I’ve come to feel most comfortable and content.
I’ve been here long enough now to recognize the changing cycles of the sea and they continue to enthrall me. The storms that roll in are especially captivating. Like today. It was a beautiful morning, the sky azure blue, with bright white, puffy, cumulus clouds interspersed. There wasn’t a dark cloud to be seen anywhere. I reveled in a long, early morning beach walk and then an equally long swim. The ocean was quite churned up after the last days of storms that had rolled in. I had noticed on my recent days’ walks that a whole slew of huge, dead jellyfish lined the beach. While I was eager to get in the water, I figured that if there were this many on the beach, there were likely even more in the water. And those, I imagined, were still alive. Best I stay out of it, I advised myself. Then a big storm suddenly came in yesterday, churning up the sea, bringing the tide in many hours earlier than normal, with waves way too big to venture into the water. I remembered, too, the many placards posted along the beach, warning of deathly rip currents that come in during the rainy-season storms. It seemed the prior two days of jellyfish on the beach were a warning of the coming storm and I was glad to have heeded it. With the threat of stinging jellyfish, dangerous waves and possible rip currents, I sadly, but safely kept my distance from my longing to swim. There would be other days, I reassured myself.
Sure enough, this morning was that time. All the dead jellyfish I had seen only yesterday were now completely gone. The waves, while still bigger and more frequent than had been the norm, were definitely quieter. I took both those signs as green lights to get back in the water. The waves were the biggest I’d yet been in here, but I still felt quite safe. They were plenty big enough to ride as I splashed and swam, exhilarated by their surging power. After more than an hour, I came back to my hut and began to organize some of my things in the very preliminary preparations for my return trip home. Still only early afternoon, I figured I had at least another swim or two and then plenty of time for writing and reading.
But with the next storm’s arrival, my swimming for the day was done. This one, like all the others, came out of nowhere. Suddenly the sky, which just minutes before was clear and bright, darkened in no time and the wind picked up like wildfire. I’m right at the edge of the water, as I’ve mentioned, and again, early in the afternoon, the tide came in, not waiting for its usual early evening arrival. And the wind – wow – the wind blew in with a force that made me wonder whether a hurricane was coming with it. Sand blew fiercely all around, while the wind carried the flotsam and jetsam that the high tide had recently brought in. I could hardly open the door to my hut from the pressure of the wind against it. I was warm, comfy and cozy, but I could see water leaking in under my door and hear the wind whipping at my window. I thought quickly about the huts further behind me and what it would take to move there quickly if need be. But before I could even begin to make any of that happen, as quickly as it came it, it retreated. While the rains stayed for a while, the winds that had so abruptly arrived had just as swiftly disappeared. It remained stormy and dark for the rest of the day – perfect writing and reading weather – weather I wouldn’t like one bit if I was here only for a few days of a sun and fun holiday. But I’m not; and I love experiencing the many moods of the sea and this season that brings it all in.
We’re soon approaching the Full Moon – Bella Luna! – and I’m eager to see how that will affect the tides and the ever-present storms. And still, I’ll keep a watchful eye on my clear and present neighbor, the sea.