March 06 2010

The day began late. We woke up at about half past ten and started by taking a swim. Then we took the scooters and found a small Thai kitchen in Haad Yao, where we got breakfast for 60 THB and ice coffee for an additional 30 THB. When we were finished, we continued to Thong Sala and picked up a (free) map of the island outside one of the 7-Elevens. Next to the 7-Eleven, there was a market area where they seemed to have all kinds of Thai food, so we took note of that for future reference.

Sand road on Koh Phangan
A typical jungle road

When we had the map, we started our bikes and went looking for waterfalls. This took us to the north eastern part of the island; to the road to Than Sadet and what’s marked as Stone Beach on Google Maps. The main road – the one that also leads to the location of the half moon festival – is quite rideable, two-up on these small scooters. The first kilometers are paved, but even when it turns into a sand road, it’s not worse than that some forethought and care is enough to ride it: Study the road, choose a path, and just ride.

The point where we turned
Sometimes it's best to just give it up

However, I misjudged the distance traveled, and took a wrong turn in an intersection, down a new road that isn’t marked on any maps yet. It was rideable for a couple of kilometers, but after that, it became a total, deteriorated mess. In a downhill section. A steep one. In fact, it was so steep that I had real trouble getting my scooter, loaded with myself and one passenger, to stop. The picture to the right here shows the place and gives a feeling for the state of the road, but fails to convey the frankly scary angle of descent and the softness of the sand.

There problem here is traction. Each wheel has a certain amount of it, and once you’ve used it up, it starts skidding, and thus actually loses a lot of it’s friction against the ground, in the worst case causing you to start building up speed again, if the hill is sufficiently steep. The problem is, if you use up all of your front wheel traction, you’ll be using your own body for creating friction against the ground in no time flat. And that’s the primary cause for Phangan tattoos.

Tanja and I after turning the scooter around
Turned around and ready to go back

This time, I managed to slow down to a halt and even turn around to warn Tanja who was riding behind me before she got too far into the dangerous part of the slope. Tanja had Jasmine dismount, then dismounted herself, and began trying to turn the bike around with the engine running. Now I had a deja vu feeling from the last time we were on this island: I had a vision of her slipping, twisting the throttle and falling, dragging the scooter on top of herself. I immediately shouted that she should wait and that I was coming up to help her. Luckily, she hadn’t really begun doing anything that could cause my vision to come true yet. I turned her bike off, and together we pushed it around. At this point, looking up at the she part we already managed to pass, she got a bit scared and started thinking of us pushing the two bikes back up the hill through the loose sand. I quickly assured her I’d ride them up and that there was nothing to worry about, and so started her scooter and gave it a handful of throttle, and skipping and sliding over the strange mix of stones and loose sand made it up to a flatter part of the road, and then ran back down to turn my own bike around and did the same with it. Now we also got a feel for the lack of low-down torque in the Honda Click-i: My bike, carrying Madeleine and me, actually stopped in the middle of one of the hills on the way back to the main road. It went slower and slower, and I heard the variator slip more and more, and in the end we were at a standstill. I just grabbed two handfuls of brakes and asked Madeleine to dismount, and the poor girl had no choice but to walk up the rest of the hill, occasionally pouring water from her drinking bottle over her own head, while I had to give the scooter a completely open throttle and ease up on the brakes to start moving upwards again.

After we came back to the main road, we decided to go to the second marked waterfall, counting from the road between Thong Sala and Haad Rin. The first one, we quickly found out, was something of a gamble to try and reach. I’m sure we could’ve made it with our scooters, but the road really was more fit for ATVs or 4×4 pick-ups, and getting some road rash this early in our vacation would be pretty much no fun at all, since wounds practically don’t heal in that kind of climate, so we simply elected not to try it.

Tanja and I enjoying nature
Who said a tub has to be hot?

The second waterfall was a great place. Lots of cliffs to climb around on, and a natural pool for two, complete with back massage. The water that streamed down was warm enough to sit in for several minutes at a time, unlike what one would expect from running water, coming from Scandinavia. Some local kids were splashing around, enjoying themselves mightily and trying to impress us tourists.

At the mouth of the path down to the waterfall was a small restaurant, where we had some canned ice-tea when we got back up. After the ride and our dip, we were hungry and felt like dinner, so we made it back to Thong Sala, to the food market we had “found”, where we had spring rolls, BBQ chicken and corncobs, at 10-20 THB a piece. We were completely full after eating for about 60 THB per person.

I like setting suns. I could set them anywhere.

On the way back to Haad Gruad, we rode the coastal route, and enjoyed a picture-perfect sunset.

In the evening, we went to Haad Rin again, Madeleine and Jasmine to enjoy the night life at the beach, while Tanja and I strolled around, both at the beach and in the different shops. We went to a massage parlor where she used to know some people, but they were all gone, replaced by a new work force, which didn’t stop us from taking an hour of Thai massage. The price here was 200 THB for an hour of traditional Thai massage, and 250 for oil massage.

We also went to look at a shop with silver art which Tanja liked last time we were here. This time the girl who owned the place invited her to a workshop the next day; 1500 THB for a six-hour day, including transport from our resort and also including the use of up to 5 g of silver.

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