Randomness is part of travelness. And as travelness goes, tonight was filled with randomness. I bumped into a group of six (newly-acquainted) people this evening: four Germans, and two Austrians. Just walked past them on my way down to towards the beach, here at Ton Sai; and next thing I knew, I was off to "The Kasbah" with them, to join in on dinner and drinks. Then, what do you know: just after dinner, it was happy hour — 2-for-1 on Sang Som (Thai whisky) and coke — so out poured the rounds. And what's more: amidst the rainbow-coloured décor and the haze of weed smoke, we managed to find a Jenga set; and we enjoyed several hilarious rounds of this game (always funnier after a few drinks). Strange night, but good times.
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.
He was with me omnipresently, during my sojourns in hippie-thronged Mexico and South America. He abandoned me in North America and in Europe, where nobody can fit so much as a pony-tail into their hectic modern lives, let alone a daily dose of stoned inner peace. But now that I'm in Thailand, I can most definitely say that my old friend Bob Marley is back, and that he's bigger than ever. Bob is, of course, the undisputed king of all Reggae, the mascot of all hippies, and the master of all chill-out music. His red-yellow-green, dreadlock-infused banner flies tall and proud, everywhere you may go in Thailand.
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.
After only one night here (after getting back from the Doi Inthanon trek), this morning I said goodbye once more to Chiang Mai, and jumped on a minibus to the town of Pai. Pai's about 3 hours north-west of Chiang Mai — as the bus crawls — and it's a chilled-out place where everyone goes to relax, to find inner peace, and to meet the friendly crowd. I got picked up from my guesthouse at 9:30am, and it was a very chatty crew that we had for the morning road trip. As well as Marie and Claire (with whom I hung out almost the entire time that I was here), I also met the two Dutch guys, a vegan Aussie couple, and an older Israeli couple. By the time we arrived in Pai, I realised that I already had myself sorted — ridiculous how easily we travellers magnetise to each other, at times.
And if you've looked at any of my photos from the last 4 months or so, you'll understand why this is such big news. That's right, people: I'm not kidding, I'm not pulling your leg; I've actually done it. For the first time since leaving Oz (about 6 months), I've finally had a haircut. And for the first time since coming down to South America (about 5 months), I've also had a shave! My reasons for not doing this for so long were many, as were my reasons for deciding to end the experiment today. Anyway, I did it this afternoon, here in Otavalo. And I'm now shorn as a sheep, smooth as a baby's behind, and cold as a Jamaican in Siberia. And the hair is gone.
Along with Einat, and some Argentino hippie friends of hers, I hung out on the beach all night tonight in Máncora, lying by a bonfire. There was a big bonfire going on at the busy end of the beach — just outside Sol y Mar — but we made our own, a lot further up, away from the big crowds. Was a bit cold, but the fire kept us warm enough (the rum helped as well :P). I fell asleep when the hippies started singing entire albums of Argentinean songs. Not a bad night, really, if a bit weird.
I've met a lot of interesting people on my trip, but Kate would have to be the most unique soul I've come across so far. She's been in South America for over a year — she lived in Cusco for 6 months, and she's just broken up with a local Ecuadorian boyfriend that she had for a long time — and she plans to go back to Cusco, and to live there indefinitely. She's a "healer" — you know, into traditional rituals, herbal medicine, shamanism, and all that tree-huggin' hippie stuff — and she wants to pursue healing as a full-time career move. Met her randomly in Chiclayo today, and had a great time hanging out with her and going sight-seeing with her.
I met Athena up at Grouse today. We happened to both be hiring skis at the same time, and then we kept bumping into each other on the slopes all day, and doing a few runs together now and then. Athena's orignally from Melbourne, but she spends most of her time these days working on an organic veggie farm in California. Yep, that's right, folks: she's a major hippie (she has an impressive head of dreads, too). Today was her first time skiing in 12 years, but she said that when she was little, she used to go to Mt Bullah (in Victoria, Australia) all the time.
These two Israeli guys were staying at The Weary Traveler. They're both — eh, you know! — real easy-going, laid-back guys. Actually, they're both rather stoned. Shay is also an accomplished juggler, who can do an impressive act with his throwing sticks. Nir wants to go to Italy to become a doctor. They've both done South America, and have plenty of good stories to tell about it.