Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Koh Chang: Island

A six hour bus journey from Bangkok then a rust-bucket ferry against a head-wind to the island and a sawadee (sort of open-truck) to the Koh Chang Paradise Resort. We’re cashpackers, so a little luxury (still under $50 a night) was in order.  Pretty stormy for some time but then the sun would break out. This is monsoon season and I like the thunder, lightning and boat loads of rain. The food here is something else – cheap and tasty. I haven’t eaten any western dishes since I arrived, apart from a few fried eggs at breakfast.
Walked a few kilometres to a waterfall in the centre of the island which was blue and cool. After walking through sticky jungle, it was a joy. The pool was deep but as you swam to the foot of the waterfall the current was so strong it was impossible to get under the water.  There’s elephants here for treks into the jungle but I’m not sure I like to see them tethered.
Interlude - Daoism
Water is a recurring metaphorical image in Daoism, where its ability to go under, over and around obstacles is seen as illustrative of the ‘Dao’ or the ‘way’, taking the path of least resistance. It has its origins in the 6th century BC, from Lao Tzu and is centred around one concept the ‘Dao’ or the ‘way’. The idea is to go with the flow, leading not by intervention but example and light touch.  It is largely a Chinese religion or perhaps better described as philosophy or belief system. It’s familiar to most people as the ‘balance of ying and yang’ or’ feng shui’. In fact, it’s a complex philosophy with a dualist ontology and strong moral dimension. This means balancing the opposing forces, represented abstractly as ying and yang. This is taken very seriously and members have been excommunicated for using animal parts from endangered species just because of the imbalance it causes in nature.  There is this move, identified by Nietzsche as the foundation of the Abrahanic religions, from a dualist ontology, or at least a description of how nature or things are or become, to a normative ethics and guides to behaviour. Curiously it may have laid the conceptual soil for Mao and others form of dialectical materialism, but was in fact crushed by the Communists, especially during the Cultural Revolution. It is now flourishing with over 26,000 temples in China.
Thirty years ago these places were full of Germans, now it’s Russians. This gives a certain ‘Gulag canteen’ feel to breakfast rooms and restaurants, as they’re a pretty serious bunch. The guys all look like bouncers, their wives/girlfriends like small blonde Russian dolls. Another obvious phenomenon is the older guys with younger Thai girls. Not much dinner conversation between them either. Our waiter, or should I say waitress, was a ladyboy, with a rather diffident, take me or leave me, manner.  It made a change from the overwhelming, and genuine, friendliness of Thai people in general.
Drove around the island, and stopped off in the police station to get a ‘loss form’; for my glasses. They were ripped off by a large Monsoon wave when I was swimming. It also ripped down my shorts to my ankles and nearly drowned me. All I felt was a hit on the back of the head and the feeling of being dragged under and back out to sea. I had to swim like hell to get back on the other side of the breaking waves. The police were amused, as they spoke no English at all – so we used Google translate to explain the whole farrago, which caused much hilarity, one coming up with ‘transgender environment’. God knows what the previous tourist inquiry had been about. They were laughing away, shaking their heads at my nose a couple of inches off the page when I wrote my statement.
Monkey business

Stopped to see the expected monkeys at the side of the road, although this one seemed to enjoy the electricity wires a little too much, I’d say. Is there any other species that is so determined and pleased to show and play with its genitalia?

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