Home > Uncategorized > Back to Koh Phangan – Part 2

Back to Koh Phangan – Part 2

The Koh Phangan tourist brochure said that Had Yuen, the next beach, could be reached via the Green Dot Trail. All I needed to do was to follow the green dots on trees, meander through jungles and clamber over hills. It should take me two, maybe three, hours of trekking. It sounded simple enough. I packed some water and set off just after dawn. It felt good to do something else apart from drinking myself silly and ogling barely-clad women on Thailand’s party island.

I didn’t complete the trail.

But I found someone who came and never left the island.

***


“Welcome to my home.” grinned Uss the Swiss. His arms were spread out in welcome as I slid down to him.
A colourful sign hung above him, it proclaimed ‘Sawadee Ban Phun Born’. This white man in his orange Hawaiian shirt intrigued me. I had spotted him shifting blue pipes in a little pool of dirty water from my perch on the dirt track.

“The Thais stole my water.” His French accent lingered gently on every word. “When I wasn’t here they cut into my water and sealed this canal with concrete. Now I have to cook my rice with dirty water. Look how thin I am now.” He flexed his forearm, it was sinewy and muscled. But his cheekbones stuck out from under his eyes.

Uss looked almost fifty. His beard was speckled with white and deep furrows lined his eyes. Yet he impishly pranced around me and gestured expansively. As we chatted, his life-story came out bit by bit.

“I have been here for twenty years.” Uss stated. “I told my partner to close my business and I will go into the jungle to smoke my marijuana. I live with my wife and there are my trees. We grow mostly fruits. Some lemons, some durians.” I saw grass and a smattering of slim trees around us. He pointed to my left and right. His fingers were stained with grey earth. “That durian tree is twenty years old. This rubber tree is nineteen years old. You can’t see it now but I live in a big hut further up.”

Twenty years ago, there are very few tourists here,” continued Uss, changing track without warning.

“Fifty families grew coconut trees and sold coconuts there and there.” He pointed in several directions behind me. “Then more tourists came and they sold off their land for some money. Now they have motorbikes and TVs. Many bills too! But no chili to eat.” His fingertips closed on each other as if holding up a chili padi and he laughed; delighted at his cleverness. His torso bobbed in time to his laughter.

Uss ran from the world a long time ago. The nine-to-five life annoyed him and he travelled extensively until settling in Koh Phangan. In fact, he was in Singapore some years ago!  

“I lived at a dorm in Arab Street twenty-three years ago. And I smoked opium with the Chinese.” He mimed lying down and puffing on a big pipe. “They would serve me tea as I smoked opium. That was the only time I was in Singapore. Now it’s very clean isn’t it?” Uss shrank away from me. He seemed to expect a beating but his eyes twinkled merrily under his shady trees.

 An hour passed by smoothly.

My head hurt to keep up with him; there were so many things that we talked about during that hour. Koh Phangan: Before the tourist hordes. Singapore: harshly critical of skinny white guys. The unchanging office: escape. Thailand: living with Thais and the jungle. The world: as it was a lifetime ago.

 Before I left, I took a snapshot of this unusual white man. As the shutter whirred and clicked, Uss the Swiss stood proudly in front of his colourful sign that proclaimed ‘Sawadee Ban Phun Born’: A picture of genuine contentment.  

Koh Phangan

What to do
Loads of beaches and beachy activities, massive party atmosphere in Had Rin, some trekking. Not a place to ‘find’ Thailand.  

Getting there
From Surat Thani: Night ferry only  
From Raja Pier:
Several ferries in the day (2 ½ hours, 200 bht one-way)

To Raja Pier: Bus from Surat Thani (1 hour, 90 bht, ask at Bus station)  

Sleeping
Resorts and budget guesthouses galore. Take your pick from the touts at the ferry.

I stayed in Stonewall Bungalows. It’s near to Had Rin but far enough to get some peace. The catch: It’s quite a climb up a hill.
Huts for singles: 150 bht / night (shared bathrooms)

Food
Plenty of food in the guesthouses or at the beaches.


 

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