What the Hell’s a Pino, Anyway?

We’re now back in Bangkok but as promised we stayed on Koh Pha Ngan as long as possible, livin’ it up to the fullest extent of the law (and beyoooond). Yup, how we managed to fit it all in is a trade secret (What trade, you ask? Never mind.) that I’m just not at liberty to discuss. Suffice to say, in a mere three weeks we were able  to cram in a volleyball tournament (Oooh!), a Songkhran Festival (Aaah!), and a Full Moon Party (Really? Not a quarter-moon, or even half?) while somehow still finding time to eat, lay on the beach, and sleep at least ten hours a day (Silent awe). Naturally, what with our hectic schedule and all, Laynni’s just chomping at the bit (don’t worry, just a figure of speech…………this time) to get home and has been counting down the “sleeps” (which is technically down to one but will really work out to two, assuming we sleep sometime on our 20 hour return flight). As for myself, I haven’t been nearly as enthusiastic about leaving but will be able to live with it as long as when we get home the sun is shining, the golf courses are open, and the Leafs are still playing. Wait a minute, that last one’s already taken care of  (thank you, Cujo).

After Jamie and Mike left we moved to Coral Bungalows on the other side of the peninsula (Sunset Beach, as opposed to Sunrise beach; get it?). It’s about a ten-minute walk to the town and/or beach from there and besides the token exercise we get walking back and forth it also gave us a chance to participate in a long overdue experiment in dance-music deprivation. We wanted to see if we could possibly live without the soothing, sensuous sounds of throbbing dance music from dusk till dawn.  I mean, how can a person reasonably be expected to relax, let alone sleep, without being treated simultaneously to several (allegedly) different types of dance, techno, trance, funk, groove and hip-hop? Of course, the real pros, folks with far more experience than us, can recognize all of the sub-groups as well, like ultra-trance, deep funk-trance, house-trance, speed-trance, etc, etc, etc. Luckily, the one thing they all have in common is a whole lotta bass, because, let’s face it, the last thing you want to be caught without at four AM is a whole lotta bass. Anyway, our new locale had none of these features and yet eventually we succeeded in adapting enough to sleep right through the deafening silence. Chalk one up for evolution.

During the few days prior to April’s Full Moon Party the Big Boom Bar (Can you guess where it got its name?) put on a 2-on-2 beach volleyball tournament. Finally a chance to showcase the skills honed through years of intense training on the beach at Waskesiu. I teamed up with a Calgarian named Bryn whose dad used to coach the women’s national team. Unfortunately for our cause, genetics apparently decided to have a little fun with him, only providing him with a level of talent sadly similar to my own. Still, we had a chance, right? I mean, we’re both “not bad”. Hmmm. In retrospect, a more fitting description might have been “outclassed”. In our first game we were thrashed 15-3 by a pair of Israelis. Ouch, who knew? That quickly changed our expectations from “You never know”  to “At least we’re guaranteed three games”. In the end it didn’t turn out all that bad, though. That first team (Called “Dynamo Chillun”?? Mind you, we were imaginatively named the “Canucks”) lost a thriller in the final and I found out later that one of them plays on the Israeli National Team (yeah, I never knew they had one either, but still……….). Anyhow, we split our other two games, missed the playoffs and good fun was had by all. The End.

Time for the infamous, psychedelic, psychotic, stupendous, outrageous, electrifying, mind-altering Full Moon Party I’d heard so much about. You may remember that back in February I skipped it, citing a whole host of half-assed excuses (“but I was using my whole ass”; Homer) going with the misguided theory that quantity equals quality. Well, I wasn’t about to let that happen again. We simply had to find out what all the fuss was about. So, firmly committed to the plan, two mickeys of Sangsom and several beer later we stumbled (literally) over to join in the madness. It turned out to be, shall we say, a little different than expected. There were more people on the beach than usual (at night, anyway), and the tables did go all the way to the water, which was pretty wild. And, of course, there were a lot of wild ‘n crazy  fluorescent plastic neck-thingies (those things could make a funeral seem festive, after all) but, all in all………….it was OK, I guess. A little disappointing, really. As for details, well, I have to assume that there were some. I mean, there always is, right? The problem is that it appears to be beyond my level of recollection to relate any of the relevant particulars to any third parties at this juncture. That’s supposed to be a somewhat dignified way of saying “I don’t remember shit”.  I do recall Laynni and I going for a swim but couldn’t begin to explain why I climbed up into somebody’s boat where, Laynni claims, I just sat staring straight ahead like an “idiot”. I’m sure there was a perfectly good explanation. Unfortunately, it’s probably buried
in an empty Chang bottle somewhere.

April 13-16 was the Songkhran Festival, a four-day Thai New Year celebration (some celebrate for a full week). The traditional Thai recipe for revelry turned out to be surprisingly light-hearted and fun despite the antagonistic and semi-violent nature of it all. The basic idea is simple. Completely drench every person you see with as much water as you can get your hands on, by any means possible. Naturally the kids in particular love this holiday and every street immediately became an inescapable gauntlet of hoses, pails, and water guns. As they say in the movies, resistance was futile. It’s easy to see where the idea came from, though, since this is the hottest time of year in Thailand, with each day somehow able to outdo the last for stifling temperatures. With that kind of heat, getting wet becomes almost a treat. It was especially non-traumatic for me considering that I actually went the final two weeks without ever wearing a shirt (I’m serious – not once), which I believe is yet another personal record.

As for our day-to-day routine, it’s pretty easy to sum up. Get up, go for breakfast, lay in the hammock and read, go for lunch, go to the beach. Repeat. Not too demanding yet surprisingly satisfying. Then, every afternoon around four when shade fell over the courts, 4-on-4 volleyball would start up. Even though my schedule was pretty tight I somehow managed to squeeze that little daily perk in. It turned out to be a lot of fun, not to mention pretty competitive, a little surprising considering the strange mix of characters involved. For one reason or another Had Rin has the highest concentration of Israelis this side of the Jordan. The English are practically in plague, and no game would be complete without a Canadian or two playing quietly in the corner, carefully bothering no one.
Rounding out the usual bunch were a few local fairies (the best word I can think of; not quite girly-boys but full-on role-playing homosexuals all the same, and the types that would feel flattered by that term), Pino (a friendly, five-foot tall Italian guy who owns a restaurant there and plays everyday without fail ) and at least one or two pony-tailed, speedo-clad Eastern Europeans. Quite a crew, I tell ya.  As for the Israelis, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some small personality traits that seem common to the majority (although not all).  Really nice guys, good players, and they love the game, but for some reason they cheat like three-handed card sharks. It’s truly bizarre! I can promise that you’ve never seen so many disputed scores, phony line calls and blatant net crashes (Are we calling net violations? No? Look out, coming through!). We found that it all worked out fine in the end though, just as long as we made sure there were a couple on each team. Maybe the UN should think about using that tactic (Laynni thinks I should take that line out but, hey, I think it’s probably a little late for me to start trying to be politically correct).

Well, that just about sums it up. As I said, we’re back in Bangkok now and have a day of shopping, McDonald’s and, possibly, some Patpong sex shows before our plane leaves tomorrow morning. I guess it all had to end sometime.

Memories………

We’ve been writing down some miscellaneous odds and ends about our trip in general, and SE Asia in particular, that may or may not have made it into past e-mails. Once we get home I’ll be sending out that, along with any (remotely) interesting details about our last day in Bangkok and our flight.  After that, well, you’ll all once again be free to spend your precious internet time reading gossip columns and perusing forwarded lists such as “20 Hilarious Things Men Do As Described By Women” or “You Know You’re A One-legged Yuppie With A Bald Cat When………”.

We’ll be arriving home at 5:30pm on April 24th and hope to see you all soon. Bye for now.

p.s. We completely missed Easter

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