In Koh Phangan we stay at a small bungalow guesthouse complex. A instantly falls in love with our hammock on the front porch and many hours are spend there dangling in the shade singing, reading, iPading and so on. We are a short walk from the beach and we spend a lot of time swimming and snorkeling. There aren’t as many fish to see as on the beach in Koh Tao but it is still exciting. However, I am weary of venturing out too far into the sea with A since there are a lot of sea urchins and dead coral that would be very uncomfortable to step on. She hangs on to me whenever she is not comfortable putting her feet on the sea ground and with the weight of her plus my own weight I try to stay floating because I also don’t want to step on the huge sea urchins with their long poisonous spines.
I keep worrying that A might step on one and so keep telling her to be careful which in the end gets very exhausting for both of us. I decide that she knows to be careful and after that I am able to relax much better.
We rent a scooter from our very friendly hostess and ride around the island. We go to see a waterfall and a small very beautiful beach that connects to a tiny island with a sand bar. The weather in Koh Phangan changes rapidly and we ride in the pouring rain getting completely soaked as we go. I am afraid to crash in the rain so I go very slowly. I have never ridden a scooter before so I feel quite brave riding around with A behind me. The first time I have to cross the road on the scooter I need to go up a very small but quite steep piece of road and I have no idea that I need to use the hand break to keep the scooter from rolling backwards so I try to hold the whole scooter back with my weight. Something snaps in my left wrist as I strain to hold the scooter and since I can’t hold it I speed up instead and cross the road in front of a lorry. I quickly learn what the hand break is there for and after this incident everything goes fine. A sits behind me and shrieks with excitement as I tell her to hold on tight.
One day buying water across the road we see a group of bacpackers leaving their guesthouse on scooters. They are carrying their big rucksacks on their backs as they go. The last one to go is a woman with a huge blue backpack. She looks both ways as she speeds up across the road. I notice that she is going very fast and immediately know that she doesn’t have control over the scooter. She wants to slow down but instead speeds up even more and crashes directly into a big upright cooler containing beers. The cooler’s glass door is splintered along with all the beer inside. The driver is unharmed but in shock, she cries as her friends stand around her in a circle and offer comforting words. A looks at me with wide eyes saying she feels very sorry for the girl who drove but she is very happy it didn’t happen to us. I think to myself how very easily it could have happened the first time we drove the scooter.
We enjoy Koh Phangan. A is playing with our hostes’s small daughter and I have time to read and to write. I am contemplating where to go next. I haven’t decided if we should go to Malaysia or Cambodia. We have to leave Thailand within a month and as much as I don’t want to plan too much I can’t help myself thinking ahead all the time. I try to tell myself to relax and it mostly works. However, there are no market places around. All the food we eat we have to buy in restaurants. And while it is cheap I can’t shake the feeling of being a tourist. I know we are tourists but I really didn’t want for us to be ordinary tourists when we left to go on this journey. I had told myself I wanted to show A a different way of life. A new perspective. getting away from our humdrums back home and trying something entirely different. I wanted to travel as low budget as possible and we are doing that. But not quite. We are not hitchhiking. I am weary of hitchhiking with A. I somehow can’t combine the two things; parenting and hitchhiking. We have done it back home a few times with delightful results but here, in Thailand, in a completely different region of the world and just the two of us I don’t feel comfortable doing it. It isn’t because I think it might be dangerous I don’t think that at all. It is more a question of letting go of my inner planner. My need to know where we might end up, my need to know that we will have a bed to sleep in come nightfall that’s what keeps me from doing it. I simply can’t imagine the two of beings stuck somewhere in the middle of nowhere without a place to sleep. Of course I did not bring a tent. Having to carry all our stuff in my backpack left me with no space for a tent. Anyway, in Koh Phangan there isn’t much point in hitchhiking since we will most likely be picked up by a songthaew that will charge us money. It is really expensive getting around without a scooter here.
I am also weary of sleeping in dormitories with A. I am not keen on sharing a room with some drunk bacpackers and I am slowly becoming aware that a lot of the travellers we meet are young males travelling in groups and looking to get drunk cheaply. It angers me that people don’t think about things more deeply and I get annoyed with some of the travellers I see even though I know there is no point in getting annoyed or judging other people. Nevertheless, I am happy we are in Koh Phangan during new moon in the low season so there really aren’t many travellers around. Most travellers we have met on our journey so far have been young hetero couples, families and groups of two or more males or females. We have seen no mixed gender groups, hardly any solo travellers and no female solo travellers. Least of all solo female travellers with children so far. But maybe we haven’t been to the right places. I know that right now we are doing the touristy sites so there is no point in getting angry at the tourists we meet for being here I tell myself.
We still enjoy the stunning nature that Koh Phangan has to offer, the warm weather, the beautiful sea and all the different creatures that live on this beautiful island. A is getting really good at English since that’s the language we use everywhere and we are learning a few Thai phrases too.
Of course there are some challenges to being on a journey too. My challenges mainly have to do with me not being able to always control my mind. Sometimes my mind races and I think about all the things that I should be doing instead of being happy and content with the things I am actually doing. I worry way too much about sticking to my budget. I get stressed out about A not eating the food she has asked for at the restaurant and having to throw away food because we are not able to keep it in the tropical heat. I try to tell myself that this is the way it is when you travel with children. It works somewhat but not always and sometimes I struggle with my inner sceptic and scold myself for not always sticking to my ideals. This sometimes makes for a mother who is not always patient and understanding and I find myself hissing at A. But A is resilient. She gives me time. She even pads me on the back and says it’s okay mom. And when she does things like that I know that I must be doing something right.
So, I try to keep my sceptic thoughts to myself and only let them out after A is sleeping. Here on the tropical islands we have mostly the same rythm as the sun. Going to bed early and getting up early and it feels absolutely wonderful. However, one evening after A is asleep I sneak to watch a movie I have on my small laptop. It is Benny and Joon. I have never seen it before and absolutely fall in love with Johnny Depp’s character. All evening I dream of having a person like that by my side. I know A would fall in love with someone like that too.