The rain, the rain and the slow boat

When traveling in low season, rain is part of the deal.

As I type this, I’m watching some German tourists trying to take a speedboat back to the mainland from Ko Mak and it’s going to rain.  I mean, 20 minutes ago it was bright sunshine, waters like the Mediterranean blue, and calm.  Now the winds have picked up, cloudcover ensuing, and thunder.  They’re out on the pier through all of this, with a 2 hour speedboat ride ahead of them without cover.  Hope your luggage is waterproof!

Yesterday, our trip over from Laem Ngop was super–a transfer boat rigged with deckchairs and blue raincover tarp–we chugged along for three hours and then took a long ride over some tough roads to the far side where we stayed at Ko Mak Resort.  Beach out front with a view to die for, sterling low-season prices, and only two other families here.  Looks like we’ll scavenge for an umbrella and take a walk.

With the weather and the low season, however, travel times and routes are intermittent.  We might make it back to mainland tomorrow, maybe on Monday…it all depends on whos is going when and how.  As the locals say, “sabai, sabai” (take it easy).

Ko Chang to Ko Kud? Faith-traveling

Low season in a low-touristed area has been tough. Places open/close at odd times, services are limited to demand.

We’ve had a great time in Ko Chang, visiting a wonderful waterfall yesterday via motorbike. Rain comes and go, but we lounged poolside yesterday ready to escape indoors or have a coffee and read a book by the beach.

We’re looking toward Ko Kud as our next point of visitation, but a lot depends on slow transport there, booking a place, and confirming that it will work. I think there should be a section in bookstores called Faith Traveling–just jumping off and hoping for the best, no complaints.

On the road IT

What to take, what to take?  Four words: as little as possible.

Before leaving, I considered taking some sort of iPhone device–something that could be both computer with wi-fi, music storage, and photo machine–without carrying four devices weighing over 10 lbs.  Too much to ask?  Well, not to mention balancing it with 1) access, 2) power, and 3) storage capability.  It still hasn’t come to the consumer level.  Even the iPhone is lacking in several of these areas (no AT&T coverage in areas of Thailand, poor image quality on the camera, only 8GB storage), though the wi-fi portion was highly desireable (though wi-fi is lacking in Thailand).

One of the saving graces has been Skype, found on most Internet cafe machines at the touristed areas).  Now to get my family onto Skype themselves–tough, as that means leaving the computer in a central place to receive the call, having a headset and camera, and leaving the computer on all the time, and being home to take the call.  Like the old days!

Vacation does mean getting away, but, as I posted earlier, making travel arrangements on the road is like it was 20 years ago–using a “communal” phone at Internet cafes, having little ability to retreive messages, and coping with other telecom issues.  

All I can say, however, is that running an Internet cafe is one tough business–dealing with all of us complaining first worlders wanting help with our email, gak!  How ugly!

On the road

These days, we’re kicking it summer-style in Ko Chang, and island off the southeastern coast of Thailand, around where it meets up with Cambodia. It’s pretty jungly here–lots of overgrowth, showers in the afternoon, and plenty of wildlife (snakes, monkeys, lizards, etc.) which you’d expect in a jungle. Still, we’re not roughing it by any stretch. Today is motorbike day, so we’ll be patroling the island and trying to keep cool with the “natural air conditioning” while there’s no offshore breeze and trying to avoid the rain showers. Actually, yesterday while we were bussing from Bangkok, the winds were rattling the roofs around us…yikes…and then it was over in 10 minutes.

Serious lack of Internet

Before travelling to Thailand, I asked my wife what it would be like not to have the Internet for a month.  I couldn’t find out if there were any wi-fi hotspots in her family’s part of town, and I knew that bringing a laptop would just be something extra to carry if there wasn’t.  I decided that, since we were at her family’s house, we could use their computer (if needed) and possibly an Internet cafe.  I basically needed the computer as a transfer device to take photos off the camera and onto my iPod for storage.

What I think is surprising is that, yes, we can go without the Internet (and without a cell phone) but it’s a bit like returning to the horse-and-carriage days.  You can get there, but it’s slow going.  Thailand seems to have one of the worst middle-of-the-road problems for telecom–a poor landline infrastructure to support any local (home) growth, so no DSL or local wi-fi hotspots provided by kindly homeowners.  This also means that we’re dependent on public stations which, seemingly, are as poorly maintained as a few years ago.  I’m having trouble uploading my photos and the connection keeps crashing (and is shared by lots of folks like myself who want more bandwidth than we’re given).

Of course, this means a more hands-on experience with the world.  If you want something, you have to figure out a way to find it and to get it.  Asking someone for directions, remember that?  Wondering about price comparisons when shopping?  That’s right.  Buying something used?  Check your local newspaper or fliers on walls.  Want current news?  Use the tv (and watch the same footage over and over and over in the same hour, with only three major stories) or read the paper (actually, the Bangkok Post print version is probably the only paper I know of that is qualitatively better in print form than Internet!).  What time is that movie showing?  Go to the theater or call and ask.  Want to use your favorite web-based application (Skype, etc.)?  Gotta find out someone who has it installed on a public terminal–good luck.

Life without the Internet is not all that bad.  I’m reading a lot more.  I’m happy not knowing about the news (though I miss the current events happenings).  It’s a bit lonelier, the world is, but I feel little more like people see me and I see them too.