Wednesday, October 31, 2012

koh lanta

after i left bangkok i flew to phuket, spent one night there before heading to an island called koh hae. there are no stores or roads on koh hae. i rented a sada, which is basically a bamboo hut without walls. i  stayed on the island alone for four nights before heading to koh phi phi. i couchsurfed on phi phi (pronounced pee pee) for three nights before heading to koh lanta.
monkey beach

my sada on koh hae

in october 2010 i met susanna for the first time. she was a couchsurfer i had lined up to host me on koh lanta. koh lanta is a beautiful and often under rated island off the west coast of thailand.
and now, nearly two years to the day i am back on koh lanta with her.
this time i wasn't couchsurfing with her, but instead she helped set me up with a place to stay. she had a friend who was a yoga instructor at a resort on the island. her friend was away on vacation and needed someone to house/dog sit. so i lived in a bungalow over looking the beach on a resort property for a my first week on koh lanta. it was amazing! i literally could hear the waves crashing while i fell asleep each night.

susanna and i with our morning ceasars
when my week house/dog sitting came to an end i needed to find somewhere new to stay. this task was made so much easier because susanna knows basically everyone on the island. she put me in touch with a friend of hers named nikki. susanna told me that nikki was in need of a nanny for her 19 month old daughter layla. in exchange for looking after layla she would provide me with a place to stay. so the next morning susanna drove me over to nikki's place and introduced me and left me to settle in.
so here is the deal.
nikki and neng are a couple. nikki is from england and neng is thai. they have been dating for years and have a 19 month old daughter, layla. over the past four years they have built and ran a hostel together. neng built it from the ground up. recently they decided to break-up and in turn they sold their business to an american/thai couple. the day i arrived was also the day that nikki and layla moved out of their home with neng. it was a very weird environment to enter into. but upon my arrival i met mimi. mimi is a girl from lybia who was also working for neng in exchange for a place to stay. mimi explained how she became involved. there is an organization called help exchange. i'm actually kind of surprised i hadn't heard of it before. basically you get a free place to stay in exchange for doing a little work each day. the work varies depending on the organization. anything from farming, to child care, to construction. so mimi had come to be staying here by sending an email to nikki and agreeing to help take care of layla and help to build some of the cafe that neng was working on.
neng and nikki also have a property just down from their hostel. this property is called the funny farm. neng is in the process of building a clay house. and then turning it into a cafe/bar. aptly named the clay cafe. after mimi explained all of this i was starting to understand. then she told me that there were more people living here too.
there were five of us in total working and living at the funny farm. roman the frenchman, luke the american, mimi the lybian, martin the norwegian and me.

funny farm
my "room" at the farm. my bed is the one covered in a pink mosquito net
the funny farm family
the clay cafe construction
before i got there mimi had been on layla duty. but she deemed layla to be "the spawn of satan", so i took over layla duty when i arrived. mimi was moved to kitchen/clay duty. and the boys were in charge of getting the roof of the clay cafe up. we worked anywhere from 2-4 hours a day.
in our spare time we ate. we ate so much.
in the mornings after we woke up we would all gather in the kitchen and discuss where we wanted to eat that day. depending on what we chose, we would base our morning or afternoon excursions on proximity to the eating establishment. our favourite islands restaurants were the greek taverna, run by greek expat couple, and the red snapper which was a decadent western restaurant run by a dutch couple. roman and martin were both chefs and relished the daily foodie binges.
mimi and i had rented scooters from neng's brother for three dollars a day. so we doubled up on the bikes and took off to explore the island. visiting the national park at one end, and exploring many of the white sand and turquoise blue water beaches.

my shower/laundry station
living on the farm was definitely rustic. we had to make sure to tuck in our mosquito nets each night or we would wake up to find ourselves covered in mosquito and red ant bites. the washroom was small and dirty. to the point that i couldn't bring myself to use it. i showered underneath the tap (photo above) and i would take an early morning stroll into the papaya and palms trees that surrounded the farm to find a new place to squat each morning. we called the tap that i showered under laya's shower. because that black bucket that is beside it is used as her bathtub everyday.

i was neat living with people from all over the world. and hearing their stories. what brought them to this little island, and to this funny farm to help neng build a cafe made of clay. we all bonded so quickly and it was a shame to see everyone go.
our last day at work
after our last day at the farm we all left in different directions. roman headed to laos, martin headed to phi phi to begin his dive master internship, and mimi and i headed north to bangkok for two days. we called it our bangkok 48. we fit as many thai delights into my last two days in thailand as possible. we went to a VIP movie theatre, hunted down a famous mango and sticky rice place, bought illegal dvds, shopped for cheap pharmaceuticals and got one last thai massage.
and that was it. i hugged mimi goodbye and hopped in a taxi.
"airport please"

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