The Night of All Nights
Continued from Border Runs and the Breaking Point.
I pulled into Khao Lak at 2am. The town was dead. There was one main road running through the town and there wasn’t a single soul out on the streets. As I learned over the next few days, Khao Lak was the furthest thing from a backpacker’s hangout. For some odd reason, it had transformed into a five-star resort vacation spot for Germans. I spent three days surrounded by German families and old people. If it weren’t for the world-class diving, I would’ve bounced in a heartbeat. But I digress.
That first night in Khao Lak was probably the worst I’ve ever experienced on the road. Worse than my first restless night in Europe spent on the cold floors of Luton airport, worse than the night I spent in the Bolivian salt flats shivering and suffering from altitude sickness. No, this was the granddaddy of them all. After this night, I truly came to appreciate a soft bed, roof and walls.
– – –
Looking back, a lot of it was my fault. I can be a stubborn sunovabitch and when I get an idea or principle stuck in my head, I’m sticking to my guns, come hell or high-water.
I poked my head into a few of the hotels only to find them completely empty and dark. Maybe showing up at 2am wasn’t the greatest of ideas. As I walked around, I saw one light on at a German themed bar. I walked in and found the owner and his wife closing shop. Surprised to see me in my T-shirt, shorts, sandals and full backpack, they asked me what I was doing.
The more you travel, the more you realize how amazing we humans are. Seeing my plight and pathetic appearance, the man graciously took me into his car and began driving around town to search for hotels. We came across a few but there was a problem. The few hotels we could find that were open were charging $30 for a night, despite the fact that it was already 3am. Not only was it a lot of money, but I was paying full price for half a night!
“HELL NO, I’m not paying that much!” In an act of part madness and all stubbornness, I decided in that moment that I was just going to crash on a beach. I let the German man know of my plans and asked him if he could drop me off by the beach. As I got out of the car, I thanked him for his kindness and trudged towards the sand.
– – –
As a five-star resort town, Khao Lak is built up. Luxury hotels have concrete decks and lawn chairs right up to the ocean and there’s nary a strip of beach that’s still pristine. The bar owner dropped me off at one of these hotels and I decided I’d spend the night on a lawn chair. Thankfully, Thailand in March is warm and spending the night in shorts and a T-shirt wouldn’t be a problem.
I picked a spot next to a manned security post, sprayed on as much bug spray as I could and began setting up my “room”. I’m sure the guy saw me, but he never said anything. He most likely figured that anyone pathetic enough to sleep on a lawn chair probably didn’t pose much of a threat. Worried about my large sack because it contained my entire life, I set it on a table, wrapped the strap around my arm and attempted to doze off.
I was dead tired but sleeping on a lawn chair isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world. I was also anxious about my surroundings and mosquitoes continuously buzzed in my ear. Sleeping was hard and it seemed like I was constantly drifting in and out of consciousness. In the end, I knew I got some because when I woke up, the early morning rays had begun to stream in. I looked over and my bag was still there. Thank god. I looked down and my watch read 5:00am. I had made it, kind of. Despite my best efforts and the miracles of DEET, my body was ravaged. Mosquitoes and whatever other bugs had forced their way through my defensive countermeasures and raped and pillaged my arms and legs. Fuckin’ tropical destinations, you gotta love it.
Dirtier and more exhausted than when I left Ranong, I was ready to collapse. The sleep hadn’t really rejuvenated me, rather it was just a useful way to pass the night away. I had to find a hotel and this time I’d book it even if it was $30/night. I retraced my steps to the road leading to the main strip. As if anything else could go wrong, I encountered a lone dog who started barking at me. No big deal, just one dog. I turned around a second later only to see that his buddies had joined him and now there was a pack of 5-6 dogs barking, growling and snapping at me. I felt the adrenaline course through my veins and I thought to myself, “I’ll be GODDAMNED if I make it this far and get mauled by DOGS.”
I turned around to glare into their eyes, stood up tall and straight and began backing away slowly. Alpha dog or not, it was enough for them to let me pass through without further incident. Out of danger and onto the main road, I resumed looking for accommodation. Most of the places were still closed and the town looked as dead as the night before. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of fruitless searching, I found a spot where a sleepy Thai crawled out of bed and answered the door. He had a nice private bungalow available for 800 (~$23) baht. I told him 500, he wanted 600. I stopped trying to bargain. It was 6am.
I grabbed the keys and dropped my stuff on the floor. I jumped into the shower washed off the last 2 days of dirt, grime, frustration and anger. Finally clean and content, I collapsed into bed.
It was some of the best sleep I’ve ever had.