Me and Chairman Mao
  Island in the sun.
We have, I am happy to say, spent most of the past week just hanging out in Ko Samui, and I have to say that it's not too bad. Of course, if you want to use some other phrase to describe it--a clean white sand beach, an ocean so calm that the waves don't even break when it hits the shore, water that's just the right side of cool to be refreshing without making you cold, and a seabed that's nothing but soft sand and is so shallow you can walk out a good two-hundred feet from the shore without even starting to have to worry about not being able to touch the bottom--well, you feel free to do so. Great, might be one word I would use. Awesome. Paradise. Whatever. Also, feel free to modify the description with a "really" or, depending on what type of person you are, even a "fucking" or, dare I say, "fuckin'." (With the last one, you could, if you wanted to, use the word "rocks" after it, as in "fuckin' rocks." Of course, I'll never ever talk to you and we can't be friends, but feel free to say it. It's a free country and all.) (Well, depending on where exactly it is your reading this.) (Shanghai, I'm looking at you ...)

Anyway, it's been fun so far, and the weather has been almost perfect, which helps. Sadly, TPT--the perfect tan--will not be achieved, but that's my fault. I have, you see, come to realize that achieving TPT requires the use of not just suntan lotion, but suntan oil--preferably with an SPF of 4 or lower--and since our friends from Seattle who met us here have, uniformly, mentioned that they don't really have any desire to see me lubing myself up with oil on an hourly basis (imagine that), I decided not to go that route. I know, I know--I'm such a nice guy.

However, all is not perfect in this paradise. Why? One reason: the speedo. Specifically, the male speedo, sometimes also referred to as the "banana hammock." (How's that for a mental image.) I know, I know, it's European and all that, but that's not really the problem: the problem is that it only seems to be worn by European men who are at least 50 years old, grossly overweight, and possibly with some combination of thinning hair or a Thai hooker on their arm. (Mostly the first, for the record, although the second has been observed.) There is a guy who insists on sitting next to us for some reason (in our same row of beach chairs, that is, not actually next to us) who not only has thinning red hair that sticks up in all random directions, a terribly ugly pair of what appear to be red Oakleys (which are ugly enough on their own), a bright red sunburn, and a teeny-tiny yellow speedo that only barely covers the important parts. (The yellow color does, of course, make it a banana hammock in the truest sense of the word.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the woman with him--I'm assuming it's his wife--is even worse. For some reason, she insists on being the only person on the entire beach who sunbathes topless. And not only is she somewhere in the 50s, but she's been in the sun a lot. A LOT. Her stomach looks like a brown leather jacket that was left out in the hot sun for 10 or 15 years, then suddenly bent in half so that it gets all terribly cracked and wrinkled. And as for the part above the stomach ... well, I don't want to get into too much detail, but I believe the phrase "like two really old deflated footballs" was mentioned. You will not be surprised to learn I make, on a daily basis, a concerted effort to not look in that direction, for fear of being suddenly struck blind. I think I'm going to be okay since we are leaving early tomorrow and I probably won't have to see either of them again, but you never know--I'm going to keep my eyes open just in case. Just, you know, looking in another direction ...

What else? Oh, I've also seen two full-face visors on the beach, which is amusing. Especially since the came attached to two of the skinniest people I have ever seen in my life. The guy's waist, I kid you not, is about the same size around as my thigh--maybe smaller. And no, I'm not THAT big, thank you very much--everyone knows the camera adds like ten pounds. Mostly to my middle, it would appear, but I assure you that is an optical illusion. Anyway, it would be funnier, except the guy struts around all day wearing only three things: a full-face visor, a bizarrely large silver chain with a dragon, and ... wait for it ... a speedo. And he's not even European, he's Japanese, so apparently that look is spreading. Like bird flu, but worse. We also stayed up really late last night (3 AM) watching the world cup final at a "hostess" bar, having our beer served by this haggard-looking woman in a short black skirt who'd obviously had some, erm, implants and was actually missing two of her front teeth. Which, granted, might be of benefit in her line of work, but still--the toothless whore is just not a good look for anyone, I don't think. On the plus side, the beer was cheap and it was probably better--although, I would guess, significantly less interesting--than watching the game at the "Pink Lady" just down the block, a massage parlor/paino (sic) lounge with the "prettiest hostesses in town." Come to think of it, I'm not even sure they had a TV. Curious. For the record, I'm also guessing they didn't have a piano, although I'm sure some "paino" could have been had there, for the right price.

Oh, and finally, to switch directions entirely, we also went to visit the Ang Thong (I think) Marine Park, which is about 20 miles west of Samui and was where THE beach in the book The Beach was supposed to be located, although, confusingly, the crappy movie based on said book was filmed on the opposite coast of Thailand, near Phuket. But whatever, the point is that it was very pretty. The only difficulty came when we decided to hike up to the lookout point on the biggest island in the park to get some pretty pictures. The hike was a little rougher than we thought it would be. I don't want to exaggerate, of course, but I believe the words "Bataan" and "Death March" were used together. It was only a 500 meter (only like 1/3 of a mile) hike, but it turned out to be roughly straight up. And the "trail" turned out not to be a path as such, but instead just some rope and a bunch of really rough rocks, so you had to literally pull yourself up in places. Oh, and it actually had the nerve to keep getting steeper the closer to the top you got, until the end involved a death-defying (well, as close as I'd like to ever come to death-defying) climb over some really sharp rocks at about a 45-degree angle to a rickety viewing platform. Did I mention I was wearing flip-flops? Not, perhaps, the wisest choice, but I made it. I also have some really good pictures, which will hopefully make it all worth it, but we'll see. Oh, and I forgot the part where we were almost attacked by a baby monkey (seriously), but I guess I'll get to that another time ...

For now, it's off to happy hour (2 for 1!) at the beach bar, and then on to Siem Reap to go back to the Angkor Temples (see link at right) with all our friends. It should be fun. We're going to visit some places I didn't go the first time, so I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully none of the places in question will be home to ornery baby monkeys who don't like the look of us, but I'll let you know ...
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