Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Koh Phangan Dreams: Haad Rin Sunset Beach 1993

The wonder of coming to rest on a South East Asian shoreline. A tropical palm-fringed beach, a gently lapping turquoise ocean - and a beach bungalow amongst the palms...

Beach bungalows on Full Moon party island 1993
Haad Rin Sunset beach, Full Moon Party island 1993
'And then I was happily installed in paradise with my friends from home - in the set of beach bungalows on Koh Phangan which would, over the next twenty years and counting, become my second family home' Mia's Koh Phangan Diaries 1993 

Koh Phangan Feb '93

There was nothing to do now, except wind down and take it all in.  Exhaustion had finally taken me over, but it was a lush exhaustion - after five months on the road, suddenly there were no more buses to catch, no travel plans to sort.  Just a white sandy beach on which to warm my bones, a beautiful horizon to watch the sun sink into.

And a simple thatched hut amongst the palms; 
enough to make me feel perfectly at home.  

I was lapping up my friends' company and the perfect paradisiacal setting I found them in.  Koh Samui stretched out in front of us, 15km away across the turquoise ocean.  In the distance, to the west, the sun would set behind Angthong Marine Park islands, often hidden by a thin veil of cloud on the skyline...  A sunset lover's paradise dream.

beach bunglaows and jungle koh phangan
Jungle-clad mountains rising up behind Bird Bungalows, 2011
Island Life on Koh Phangan 

Behind us the jungle-clad mountains rose steeply up from the beach land.  We were surrounded to all sides by thick groves of coconut palms, coming alive each night with the sound of cicadas.  And nestled amidst all this, a small clearing with bungalows and restaurant, that I'd never even imagined could be so perfect.  And me, a dreamer.

We'd all congregate around the same table to eat and talk, 
and tell all our traveller tales.

The thatched bungalows on stilts were perfect too.  Eight of them in all, four facing four, with rustic restaurant and kitchen in between, and showers and water trough behind.  The layout seemed to promote interaction with other travellers, more so than at other bungalows spread out along Haad Rin's sunset beach.

Thick grove of coconut palms, Koh Phangan 1993
Thick groves of coconut palms, Bird Bungalows 1993
Workings of a Koh Phangan Family

The family at this laid-back Koh Phangan bungalow complex - Mama, Papa, and the other generations - spent all day lounging on a large wooden table outside the kitchen, only seeming to move when we asked them for something.  To start with they seemed strangely removed, only ever giving the slightest acknowledgement of our requests. 

But in getting used to their mannerisms, we'd seen quite a different story.

I'd often catch the portly Koh Phangan Mama, with her betelnut stained mouth, chuckling at us in a maternal fashion.  They seemed to look after us as much as they could - and we seemed to provide them with an endless source of amusement.  It was great to sit on my porch and watch the workings of a Thai family.

Being fascinated by other people's lives the whole way across Asia, coming to a stop, I'd found they were as fascinated by our strange ways, too.  Lounging on their platform, singing to each other in their tonal language - and laughing at us farang!

It was the perfect end to my virgin six month journey across the Indian Subcontinent, to come to rest here in the Far East - in the Gulf of Thailand - and to still be in view of, and interacting with, some native lifestyle.  Even now, in what was the easiest piece of travelling I'd done across the miles so far...

Koh Phangan Feb '93

locals enjoying sunset haad rin sunset beach
Koh Phangan Thais enjoying sunset, Haad Rin Sunset beach
Little did I know - twenty years later - I'd still be staying at Bird Bungalows, 
chewing the fat like a native, with those very same Koh Phangan Thais.

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