Today was my third and final day on the idyllic Moondance beach, and it was no different from the days before it. More of relaxing, more of occasionally taking a dip, and more of doing very little. I found Robert in his usual nesting-spot, sprawled on the sand next to a big rock; and in the afternoon, we were joined by a friend of Robert's, who's just arrived direct from Austria (and who's not gay — although he does run a bar in Graz), as well as by Iris and Andrea.
After a difficult and lonely afternoon of separation — hell, it must have been almost 5 hours — this evening, we the Open Water crew had a grand and long-awaited reunion. It's been a while, but it was good to see everyone again :P. To celebrate, we drank the legendary farang beverage of southern Thailand: the bucket. Buckets come in two sizes: huge, and f$#%ing huge. Their contents generally consist of whisky, Red Bull and Coke; but they also come in numerous other, more exotic varieties (and, should you drink them on Ko Pha-Ngan of a full moon, less legal varieties :P). Tonight was my first bucket-drinking experience: and please G-d, may it be my biggest. Because if it gets any worse than it got tonight, then I'll be dead.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
"Advance Australia fair!"
Jan 26th — Happy Australia Day, folks!
We may not know all the words to our national anthem (and some even deny the existence of a second verse). We may have less respect for our politicians than for a skunk in rehab. But there's one grand tradition for which us Aussies do hold national pride: we know how to put on a good BBQ! So, to celebrate this momentous day — when, 220 years ago, an English dude landed on our beloved soil, whacked a Union Jack into the ground, and promptly impaled several tribes' worth of Aborigines upon it — the Aussies of Ko Tao pulled out the grill and sizzled up some sossies. The fine folks at Chopper's (the one-and-only Aussie bar on the island) offered a free BBQ for 2 hours this evening: all you had to do was purchase a beer, and a generous plate-full of meat 'n' salad was on the house. Aus-tra-li-a, F$#% YEAH!!
I really should stay longer here in Pai. It's such a nice place. Anyway, despite the great friends that I've got here, and despite the urging of said friends for me to linger, tonight was my final night here: what can I say, except "the south is calling"? This evening, I enjoyed a delicious Thai curry for dinner with Sonny (can't remember the name — but it's one I've never had before), while the two of us engaged in our final heated political debate. Then, it was back to the sewer bar: it left such a good impression on us last night, that we just had to return for more.
Every bar in the world is unique: but few are as unique as Pai's "sewer bar". On the main street of Pai, they have a hilarious setup: the town's largest supermarket (not very large) is also the town's cheapest source of alcohol; and in order to cash in on this fact, they've got a long line of picnic tables and benches available right outside! So you can buy your booze for less, and not even have to worry about finding somewhere to drink it. There is one small catch — namely, the sewerage drain that runs uncovered down the side of the street, and that makes the picnic-bench area positively reek — but 'tis a small price to pay. And in my opinion (and if you have a different opinion, then you may kindly shove it up your a$$ :P), this only adds to the ambiance. There are some things you can only do in a small town in Thailand.
This evening's colourful introduction to cosy Pai was a visit to the town's night market. Marie, Claire and myself went exploring the street or two that comprises the market: primarily to grab a bite to eat (actually, we grabbed several), but also just to peruse. The food is definitely one of the market's highlights: although some of the dinner-food isn't so crash hot (my "omelette and rice" dinner was rather ordinary), the snacks are incredible. The shmontses are arrayed in abundance: some of them quite amusing, althogh most of them just regular hippie junk. The highlight of the market, however, is the nightly dance show: a large group of young local Thai girls perform an elegant traditional routine, garbed in their finest silks; while their friends accompany them with flutes and violins.
Everyone's dream is to find a bar where you order one drink, and where they insist on refilling that one drink for free, all night long. Tonight, that's exactly what I found: I ordered one whisky and coke; and the lady behind the bar just kept topping it up again and again. Not a bad deal! The place in question was the "quintessential dodgy Thai bar" — quite a sight in itself. Deplorable Thai pop music playing non-stop. Ladyboys hanging out on the benches. Rickety old pool table with awkward legs and chipped balls. And to top it off, a z-grade horror-slash-porn movie on the TV (monsters exploding out of the stomachs of naked women, every 2 minutes or so). Why don't we have places like this back home?
I made it to the Kabul hostel by about 4pm this afternoon — only to find the hostel staff hopelessly knee-deep in some sort of paperwork (how much paperwork can a hostel have?), and a queue of about 30 people waiting to check-in before me. Bloody Spanish: they really are an inefficient bunch, aren't they? Anyway, at least they're inefficient with a smile. I grabbed a sandwich for lunch, and played a game of pool in the hostel lounge, while I waited to check-in — which I was eventually able to do, about an hour later. My introductory first night in Barcelona wasn't a massive one, but it was good relaxed fun nonetheless.
I've been to cities that never close down — but I haven't yet found a town (anywhere in the world) without an Irish pub. Congratulations, Ireland: us Aussies only have ourselves everywhere on the planet; you guys have taken world conquest that one step further. Flannigans just goes to show that Kitzbühel (and the Austrian Alps) is no exception. Flannigans is loud, it's smoky, and it's packed every night of the week. This evening — after our enchiladas — Jake and Mitch continued their après-ski tour of the town, by bringing the gang over here. These two Aussie brothers are incredible: they walk into Flannigans, and half the pub is rushing up to talk to them — seems that they're best mates with everyone! Flannigans has a fairly large contingent of "regulars": and if you hang around, you soon get to know most of them. This really is a very gemütliche place, after all.
Ziss is how ve do things in Osstria: after ve go skiing, ve have some fun, ja! And as they say: when in Austria... you know what I mean. For my first-ever European "après-ski" evening, we didn't do anything too big. It was a fairly relaxed evening at Snowbunnys: the place was rather quiet tonight (much like the slopes during the day), so it was mainly just the crazy swedes, the Aussie amigos and myself. I tried out the Snowbunnys après-ski shower for the first time, and I was impressed. Us Aussies cooked up some shared pasta napolitana (with a side of mash) for dinner, which was delicious and quite filling. And once again (like last night), we hit The Londoner pub once more, for a couple of drinks and a quick shmooze.