Ko Payam, 21 December – 26 December
21.12.2008 - 26.12.2008 30 °C
The four of us catch the bus to Ranong (3hrs) – a hole of a place close to the border with Burma. From there we catch the slow boat to Ko Payam (2.5hrs) laden up with locals and suppliers. A slow, relaxing journey follows that takes us past many uninhabited islands. Home to around 500 people who mainly make their living from fishing, growing cashew nuts, coconut palms and rubber trees, Ko Payam counts only one village, a pier, a temple, and a few shops and is very much of the tourist radar (you can tell by the number of hippies running around). Moto-taxi’s take us to “Ao Yai” the nicest beach on the island. Alana lucked out and got the frail old driver who for starters dropped her and the bike while stationary - confidence shot right from the start! =)
The road to Ao Yai is a narrow, cracked concrete motorbike track (no cars allowed here) with a few restos and homes along the way but most of the island remains undeveloped (for now) so it's a real treat to be here before it becomes the next big thing. A beautiful long beach dotted with bungalows and chill out areas, complete with a few low key bars is our home for the next wee while. We find small but cheap bungalows by Joker Bar and move in just in time to appreciate the sunset with happy hour pina coladas at the neighbouring bar - served in plastic cups, classy!
The bar is having a "black and white" party that night and they've gone all out with fluoro lights, streamers and costumes (it really does look wicked!). After dinner and some beers we get adventurous and drink Sangsom whiskey and coke at the beach fire while one of the British expats tells us he came here for a holiday four years ago and pretty much never left - he built his own bungalow on the beach for $50. He reckons we won't leave this place in a hurry - many farangs seem to stay on... "welcome to Hotel California...such a lovely place".
Time to meet our hosts at "Joker Bar" - there's crocodile man (covered in tattoo's, piercings, and wearing a cape) who speaks in nonsense "How are you today... for tomorrow?". And Tiko who assumes managerial position one moment, then breaks out into manic laughter and crazed ramblings the next. They give us the "catalogue" menu to order from (which is a blatant copy of the fancy Russian Resto's menu on the other side of the island) and say we can have whatever we want - yet everything we ask for they apparently have to drive to the Russian Resto to check, then come back to us and apologize for unavailability. As such it takes a while to get a feed and everyone ends up with random food that was never ordered in the first place. At least we got a feed though - considering they're all high as kites 24/7. We chill out on a bamboo bed on the beach, amongst cushions and axe pillows until happy hour commences and it's that pina colada time again.
We hire dodgy manual motorbikes and head off to explore the island (which doesn't take long as the island measures only 4x7km at it's largest points). Past the pier, Buddhist statues, and shrines, and over to the other beach to chill out at Hippy Bar. Then back to the pier to stock up on booze for our xmas eve eve party - one large Mekong whiskey and coke, one large white rum, some assorted pina colada ingredients and one big plastic bucket from the general store. Back home we decorate our xmas palm with beer cans and an angel made by the girls "so pretty", drinking homemade cocktails from the huge bucket on the deck surrounded by balloons and our xmas palm.
Our party overshadows life at the bar and the jokers keep coming over to join in on the fun and impart their wisdom. They even play "Job to do" all night at our request (a wicked and very popular thai reggae band). We get really excited when santa, with his yolly grey beard and big pukenui, arrives at our xmas party - but our excitement is short lived as the American santa grumps at us for being too loud (I guess he has a big day tomorrow...). Stargazing and beach fires follow when our buckets go dry.
Christmas Eve begins hungover and with a large nasty centipede in Leesh's bag, a huge fat black spider in her bungalow, and a mild motorbike crash on the way to brekky, breaking the side mirror. But we have pressies by the tree so life is still good! Hooray for Xmas! We then bid farewell to Leesh and Skiv who leave us for Bangkok and find a fabulous resto that gives us a free xmas eve buffet dinner (because rich foreigners had already paid for it). Love the xmas spirit!
Merry Xmas! We treat ourselves to a large pot of Italian Espresso Coffee and chocolate brownies at our new fave resto, while lazing in the hammock. We then migrate to the beach for more lazing, eating and drinking all day (as you do on xmas) and toast to all our family and friends with many a delicious pina colada.