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04.02.2004 - 7:04 p.m.

Saturday

I am…

…trying to stop myself from reading every single damn one of the books I brought in the first few hours of my flight from Seattle. Reminding myself it's unlikely I can find more reading material on our trip, I pull up the screen attached to my seat and flip through the movies. It is only due to a sorrowfully poor selection that I watch the last half of School of Rock. Later, bored senseless, I watch the first half. Yawn.

--

…marveling at the automatic beer pouring thingie in the United business class lounge in the Narita airport. You put a glass under a thin metal spout, push a button, and whiiirrrr - the glass is tilted at a precise angle, and beer runs down the side of the glass until a perfect head is created millimeters from the rim. When it's done, I take a tentative sip and can't help grinning foolishly.

"Best part of the lounge," says a conspiratorial voice next to me. A man is mixing himself a gin and tonic and has the same foolish I-can't-believe-this-is-free look. I nod sagely.

--

…on the seemingly endless Narita to Bangkok flight, and I'm checking out the available movies. Haunted Mansion? Jeez. Sighing, I watch School of Rock again. Double yawn.

--

…moving hesitantly through the customs area of the Bangkok airport, a little confused by all the hustle and bustle. Finally, I spot JB waving at me, and I rush up swelling-music-style and hug him excitedly. "How was your flight?" he asks, smiling. "School of Rock sucked, but the free booze was cool," I say. "How about those beer dispensers," he says, and I give him the old Eddie Izzard raised eyebrows. "WAY cool," I say, flashing a profoundly corny thumbs up.

Flying halfway around the world? Myeh. Flying halfway around the world with FREE BEER? Priceless.

--

…squeaking in shock and dismay as my hairdryer, up until this exact moment in time a benign and helpful appliance, begins making a very loud ratcheting noise, shoots an alarming spray of sparks out the back end, and releases a cloud of vile-smelling black smoke. Thinking fast, I immediately drop it in the tub. Safety first! Luckily, the tub is empty and I yank the plug from the socket, leaving the dryer to puff angrily for a bit before dying once and for all.

I observe a moment of silence during the burial-by-wastebasket of my loyal hairdryer, and curse my neverending stupidity (like, the volts are, um, different overseas, I guess). Little do I know that due to the sheer lameness of hotel dryers (really, who can dry their hair with the strength of a halfhearted warm exhale?) and Thailand's intense heat and humidity, I have doomed myself to a week of dorky pigtails.

--

…clinging nervously to my seat as our hotel car careens through the streets of Phuket. We fly along bumpily, passing slow-moving trucks by edging into the oncoming lane, missing cars by what I am positive are inches. Being in the left lane confuses the hell out of me, and intersections are baffling to the extreme. "Buckle your damn seatbelt," hisses JB, as we narrowly scoot by a large rickety metal bus. When we arrive at our hotel, the Impiana Cabana, I thank the driver so profusely I wonder if I'm suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

--

…floating in the Andaman Sea. The water is unbelievable, so warm and luscious and clear. Waves are gently rolling in, and I rise and fall with them, hands outstretched and head thrown back. I am weightless, I feel transformed. My lips taste of salt and my skin is tingling all over as I float, bobbing slowly, thinking of nothing.

--

…sitting at a bar called The Shipwreck on the infamous Bang-la road in Patong. It's blaring American music (Pearl Jam, The Eagles, Bruce Springstein) and we're shouting over the din as we watch the activity at the "ladyboy" bar Moulin Rose across the street.

"That one is definitely a guy. Look at the face."

"I don't think you can always go by the face…but I agree with you. The hips are really narrow."

"What about that one, in the red dress?"

"For sure a guy. Wow, she's really stumbling around. Damn, she's loaded. Or he. Whatever."

"The one in the white headdress -"

"Now, see, I think that's a girl."

"No way, dude."

"But she's got tits! Big ones!"

"Hello? Surgery."

"Hmmm. Oop, yeah, I think you're right. Jeez. You can't be sure of anything around here."

"You can be sure of one thing: your wife's a girl."

"And everyone else is up for question."

"You got it, buster."

Later in the night after a vendor walks by us carrying several plates of snacks:

"JESUS. Did you see that?"

"Yep."

"Were those bugs?"

"Yep."

"Fried crickets, it looked like?"

"And cockroaches."

"Wow."

"Yep. Okay, what about that one?"

"Totally a guy. I think."

--

…having my leg slowly rubbed by Lalla. Lalla is what you might call a tenacious saleswoman. She emerged from one of the many massage stalls along the beach and followed us to our chairs on the first day. "Massage? Thai massage? You try today?" We assured her we would think about it. "Maybe later," we said. Lalla did not give up. Several times over the next two days she waved at us, smiling and nodding. "Massage today?"

Finally, she must have decided to A) Always B) Be C) Closing, because at 4 PM on our last day she appears next to my chair. "Massage…madam, today?" she says, her friendly teak-colored face wrinkled into a smile. She starts slowly massaging my shin. "Nice massage, relaxing."

Damned if it doesn't feel good. So for 240 baht (about $6.25) I find myself stretched out for an hour on a brightly colored mat under a canopy of large cloth umbrellas, Lalla's fingers working deeply into my muscles. Lying like this, hearing the surf rolling in, listening to the musical Thai chatter of the other women doing massages and manicures, feeling warm breezes playing across my skin, I feel exotic, heady with pleasure.

--

…putting my menu down and looking with dismay at JB. "The hell?" I say.

Despite the huge seafood display out front, the only seafaring item on the menu is fish and chips. Other choices include hamburgers, fries, fettuccine, and caesar salads.

JB drops his menu. "Come on," he says, and we walk back to the display. A hostess comes over, and JB starts pointing at things. "Prawn," he says. "Cockles. Mussels. Lobster." She piles food in a basket. "Shrimp," he says. "Vegetables." "You want grill?" she asks, and he nods.

A short time later our table is groaning with the weight of our meal. Everything is cooked perfectly and tastes fresh and spicy and garlicky and delicious. Rice arrives, and cold beers, and small containers of sauces to dip things into. Nothing we are eating is on the menu, and people nearby look on with jealousy as they bite into their club sandwiches.

"You're so cool," I tell JB, and I mean it.

--

…perched on an underwater stool in front of our hotel's poolside bar. It's the first time I've ever seen a 'swim up' bar, and I find it a fine concept indeed. I'm swirling my legs in the balmy water and tipping my face up to the sun, feeling like all is right in the world, when JB says in a wondering tone, "Jeez, I bet there's a major collection of pee in the water right around here."

I take a huge gulp of my fruity served-in-a-coconut drink and cough wildly.

--

…goggling at the full spectrum of human bodies on display - running into the surf, lying on beach chairs, walking along the shore - it's as though we have traveled to Body Acceptance Island. Naked breasts are everywhere, some youthful and perky, some heading south at a rapid rate. The sausage-casing European look is de rigueur for most of the male tourists on Phuket; they trudge along with their dainty bits crammed into unflattering bikini pants, their bellies more often than not billowing hugely over their waistlines.

As for the women…I am, literally, the only person on the island with a one-piece bathing suit. I console myself by remembering what I read in a guidebook before leaving: supposedly toplessness is disrespectful to Thais, who do not follow this carefree custom. Still, I regret not bringing a bikini, because here there are no reasons to feel self conscious. Yes, there are the requisite number of whippet-thin model types, low cut swim briefs clinging to their James King poolboy hips; more covetous to me are the bodies with curves, the girls with lush hips and sweetly indented waistlines who look good no matter what their pose (no unsightly pooch when sitting, damn them). But others spill from their suits in great furls and rolls, Akira-like, their flesh unfettered and escaping in every direction; dimpled, wrinkled, and often tanned to the point of absurdity.

After a while, everyone looks beautiful in their own way. After a while, I think I could let loose of worrying so fiercely over what my exposed belly looks like.

If, you know, I had brought something other than a one-piece.

--

…shrieking in JB's ear. "SLOW DOWN!" I screech. "PLEASE!"

I'm clinging to JB while we fly across the water in a jetski. It's my first time riding one, and I'm oscillating between screaming in terror and laughing hysterically.

Another jetski rider approaches, and JB and the rider exchange glances. To my horror, they each give each other slow nods. "BABYYY!" I bleat. "PLEASE DON'T RACE -"

Too late. Since it's JB's lot in life to embrace both danger and competition, he's doing the jetski-equivalent of flooring it, and my butt loses contact with the seat completely.

"AAAAAAH!"

I picture myself flying off the back and, of course, being instantly devoured by a shark.

"WHHHAAAAAAHH!"

JB finally slows from his Mach 10 speed. "Babe," he says, irritated. "You're yelling in my ear."

--

…more than a little dizzy as I take in the view at Vertigo, on our last night in Thailand. I savor the scenery while managing to insert an entire Phuket lobster into my gullet, possibly by unhinging my jaw.

--

…weeping softly and steadily into my blanket at the end of Big Fish on our return flight. I can't tell if it really is sad, or if I'm just glad it's not School of Rock.

--

…home again, home again, jiggety jog. We left Bangkok at 7:30 AM Friday, and arrived in Seattle 8:30 AM Friday. This is as mystifying to me as the voltage thing, frankly.

I have some tan lines, a bunch of itchy mosquito bites, and a slew of grand memories. I'm too tired to think of the right words to say "it was a wonderful trip". But maybe those are the right words, after all.

It was a wonderful trip.

--

I'll be posting photos soon, so fire up those high speed connections, dammit.



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8 comments so far.

I have moved. - 1.03.2005
Obviously, a work in progress. - 12.27.2004
Happy holidays! - 12.24.2004
Listen, I am not a complete dick, it's not like I want Joe to die alone surrounded by cats or something. - 12.23.2004
Plus I am convinced my butt is extra big when it's upside down. - 12.22.2004

yay, diaryland