Day 1: The monsoon season arrives
The beach was clear of people and the waves clear of surfers at Memories Bar in Khao Lak. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli
It's only 2pm, but I'm exhausted; it's been a big day.
The perfect weather that waved me off as a crossed Sarasin Bridge and left Phuket broke shortly after I reached Phang Nga, so after an hour and half of driving in a gentle, cool drizzle I worked my way back down a dirt path to Memories Bar, just north of Khao Lak.
The beach dogs seem wrestles, give a few shark barks as I arrived, but quickly turned friendly.
I figured I'd hole up there for the night. Not terribly keen to pitch a tent in the wet. However, the large, unfriendly woman waddling around in a acid-tripping Micky Mouse curtain of a shirt and a pair of boxers that she regularly unwedge from between her cheeks every so often curtly informed me that there were no bungalows available.
Clearly a bridge to be jumped off later.
Sizable, sloppy waves, brown from the storm, are spilling onto the sands in front of Memories. I make myself comfortable on a rustic wooden bench and allow the dice to order me fresh young chili with squid. I would prefer to strip off my modern-day armor, better known as riding gear, and crawl into a bed. Nonetheless, the ominous gray sky feels alive – there is energy in the air; I just need to cut off a slice of it for my own fuel tank.
The beach itself is littered with organic material, they kind of post-storm beach that makes you want to walk for kilometers, eyes sifting through the trash, sticks and coconut husks for some hidden treasure.
If the waves keep their form I might have to rent a surfboard and see what happens. Not exactly what I anticipated for the first day on the bike – but that's Dice Travels.
My minds not relaxed yet. It's still thinking of Julia, and her tears – probably too afraid to look at the condition of my own heart. It's also preoccupied with 'media'. Thinking about posts, pictures and what needs to be written. There will be a tough balance between documenting and presenting what's happening and actually being present to enjoy, and suffer through, it.
After eating, I was still torn: I wanted to get myself established somewhere so I could sleep, or at least start looking at visa options for Myanmar and seeing what attractions will be between me and Bangkok – where I'll have to get the visa. But, it was also a shame not to get involved with the waves.
So the die was consulted. Even numbers: I pay my bill and move on. Odds: I rent a board from the boys at Memories – who lay claim to being the 'Original Beach Boys' despite an age disparity.
The red die bounced on the table then showed three white pips: surfing it is.
After battling out past the breakers, I struggled to find a wave to take me back in. A newbie to the sport, I'm prone to bail if the wave looks like it's going to break over my head. However, these waves look steep and big 10 meters away and then fatten out by the time they get to me, not breaking fast and hard like they do in Nai Harn Beach in Phuket. The a long board would have been better suited for the conditions than the short one I grabbed – should have let the dice decided on this as well. Though the idea of swimming a longboard through the waves still gives me pause.
The shoreline, however, is stunning. The landscape is masked in a veil of light gray with a few clouds slipping through the casuarina forest that dominated the shoreline.
After finally finding the right position and growing a pair, a single wave picked up the board and gave us a gentle drop as I stood on it, riding it out as it seemed to find new energy in the gradually shallowing water.
Surf session in the bag, it was time to wash off the sand, track down a squire to help me put back on my armor and get back on the road. The skys were clear of storm clouds, but the gray layer of altostratus clouds predicted more serious rain on its way. By the time the bike bounced back to the main road, it was heavily raining. The desperately needed southwest monsoon season had finally arrived, nearly a month late, but just in times get my dice properly wet.
On the main road, emotions are in a bit of a tangle about whether or not to touch base with people via Facebook, about the need to save money and about the lack of interest in pitching a tent in the rain. It could have been a dice decision, but then again – I'm very glad I don't give them the option.
Turning back on my tracks, I pull into Tiffy's Cafe, a Thai-German Restaurant that does bicycle tours and rents rooms. I stayed here once before, when I was in Khao Lak to write one of my first dive columns about the Similian Islands (ended up spending the following day with Giant Manta Rays).
By the time I arrive the monsoon weather has already done plenty of damage, leaving me dripping wet as I pulled in. Everything is soaked through. Luckily, I have the dorm room to myself, so plenty of room to hang everything up.
Throwing in the towel on being a unemotional nomad, I get in touch with people back home (Phuket). Julia, is ecstatic to hear from me – to worried that she'll ruin the Dice Travels vibes if she made first contact. Cian, who saw me off from the bridge along with his beautiful fiance, also got in touch. We reassured each other that just because I was hitting the road for Dice Travels and leaving so much of what had become my life behind, I wasn't leaving my wonderful friends out in the rain.
Then, after a pleasant pumpkin curry with chicken, I'm truly ready for bed.
Daily Updates are not edited and function more as daily journal entries – so if the plot seems to be allover the place or missing entirely and the tenses changes faster than a kaleidoscope, well, that's just the way it is.