Day 107: Social media addiction and a shower shit
My social media addiction seems to be getting worse since Chiang Mai. Photo: Jason Howie
I GIVE a nod to two guys driving touring motorcycles with large panniers as they plod through the only real road in Phu Chi Fa, a little collection of homes and guesthouses clinging to the mountainside.
It's not until after the two riders drive by, blanking my nod, that I realize I just look like a random white dude with a pink fringe wearing a skirt (technically a longi), not really one of the pack.
Inside the only restaurant in town, I take my second favorite table. What has become my defacto regular table is occupied.. The restaurant is open on two sides: the roadside and the backside, which opens up over the extraordinary valley that I've spent the last couple days skirting around.
This morning, like yesterday morning, and nearly every morning, the valley is shrouded in clouds. The restaurant offers a view of a gray canvas framed by jungle. Behind the restaurant is the only jungle I've seen at this altitude. The rest of the land in the area has been re-purposed for agriculture.
The slick linoleum flooring of the restaurant gives under the weight of each footfall, hinting at that possibility of the entire place, which is mostly suspended over thin air, collapsing.
The dice holds its tongue as I order a sour pork omelet and a bowl of soup that I've discovered here. The soup is reminiscent of Vietnamese pho, but without any noodles.
Hanging from one of the restaurant's wrist-thick support beams, next to a Thai couple who I spotted having dinner here last night, is a segment of sugarcane with a a Titan Beetle tied to it.
I wander how you can track down a beetle battle.
My phone is relatively silent during breakfast, which is a shame. It seems that when I'm desiring a chat, even mindless Facebook messaging, nobody is around. Then, when I settle into something, such as a book, my phone starts to blow up. Last night marked a week since leaving Chiang Mai and the mini friend group I had there. Since then, I've been completely on my own.
It's not a into-the-wild sort of alone. I meet locals, share half a dozen words and even some smiles, but there isn't any real communication, at least not at the level I'm craving. I'm finding myself constantly checking Instagram to see if I have any more likes or followers, even manically opening Facebook Messenger, though it bings whenever I have a new message. It's hard to tell if the phone works like a little band aid on a big cut or makes being out here on my own a bit tougher – not that it's that tough – because I'm skirting around things rather then being fully committed to where I am, drinking in the scenes, the people and trying harder to communicate with locals.
Eating breakfast and listening to the podcast 99% Invisible, I watch the clouds in the valley slowly thin. They thin until the the mountains on the far side and all the ripples of hills between the two of us come into focus.
Looking a bit worse for wear, Rocinate and I manage to get on the road by 12:43pm. I've got red duct tape slapped across the side of my helmet like war paint to keep my visor in place after the screw popped out of it a couple days ago. Rocinate is missing a handlebar guard.
I hadn't realized it until I went out for a ride yesterday that when she had her little stumble and fall in the parking lot a couple days ago, she hit the ground a lot harder than it sounded, bending the guard so that it catches the clutch as I let it out.
I was forced to take the guard off until I have the chance to bend it back into shape.
Nonetheless, despite being a bit off canter, Rocinante and I are on the road, slowly patrolling the corn fields, mesmerized by the faces of the short hill tribes people harvesting corn. A cluster of them sit picturesquely on a bit of land that stretches beyond the curve in the road. A blue sheller stands alongside the road as the locals pile bags of corn kernels into a dump truck so they can be moved down into the valley to be processed.
Looks rest up in the mountains. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Past a sign with a photo of a large snapping turtle pointing to some attraction up a side road, I start to worry about fuel. I'm down to one bar. However, minutes later, as the road spills out into the valley, I arrive in a sizable town.
A woman hand cranks green petrol into a five-liter glass cylinder before turning a nozzle and emptying it into Rocinante. We put ten liters of fuel in for 300 baht flat.
A soft sadness sweeps over me as I continue along the road through the valley, where small towns alternate with rice paddies and bits of jungle. It feels like the first, cold drizzle of spring.
I miss the mountains. I miss the corn. I miss the farmers up in the highlands.
I'm surrounded by a face of Thailand that I recognize, or at least I think I recognize at touring speed. I'm sure if I slowed down to a putt I'd catch some nuisances. However, my mind is in neutral as we hum along.
I check the die to see what direction to head as the road I'm on hits a T-junction.
I turn left and continue to drive. Up ahead, a storm is brewing in the mountains.
I had put on my bright green-yellow rain gear first thing this morning to ward off any possibility of rain. Though it looks like rain is going to find me either way, bolstering my theory that all roads in Thailand lead to rain.
The sky is quickly darkening and the clouds out in front are softly grumbling.
I pop into a small, empty cafe with a needle work picture of Jesus hanging next to the door. The lovely owners are quick to bring me a glass of water as I wriggle out of my rain jacket, my riding jacket and my spine protector – there's a reason it takes so long to get going in the morning.
With my phone charging, I'm forced to leave Instagram, Facebook and Twitter alone – Tinder is already pretty much dead in this part of the country. I pull out a deck of cards and alternate between flicking them from one hand to the floor – as I attempt to learn a flourish called the Hot Shot – and reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Maruakami. Since Chiang Mai, I've found more time to read. It's always so nice to see how words I know, specifically verbs, can be massaged and manipulated to create new feelings. I still think about how the author of The Tiger's Wife talked about clouds being “anchored” to the mountains.
The storm is more patient than I am; perhaps it's never going to arrive. Either way, there is a curtain of rain not far ahead somewhere up in the mountains. There's no way to avoid it.
With the road wet, I'm forced to slow down on the hairpin turns as I work my way through the low jungle mountains.
Farther along, the roads are dry. I pick up speed, leaning deeper into the turns, but still not over committing. I'm eager for the day my knee drags across the road as I hurl the bike into a sharp turn. However, on these roads, with the possibility of a truck ending up in my lane as it looks for a better line in taking a corner, as happened earlier today, driving like that is just a calculated form of suicide.
I lick my top lip, feeling a bristly mustache. I've never had this much facial hair and I'm finding myself regularly stroking it, or in the case of my upper lip, sucking on it. Back in Chiang Mai, Yuki suggested that I grow it out. I must admit that it is helping to balance out my faded pink fringe and the bleached hair on top – all dice dictated outcomes.
It's getting late. It's time to call it a day, but the small villages we're driving through are devoid of hotels. Then we pass a little Thai-style “resort”, which is no more than a collection of a dozen or so bungalows.
I check the die. I do a U-turn and drive back to Nan Krasibrak Resort.
The resort is made up of tidy yellow bungalows with open gabled roofs. Thatch has been put over the real roof to add a “rustic” element to the little buildings situated in a small gorge below the resorts open-air restaurant.
The sun sets with no protest behind the Teak-studded forest adjacent to the bungalows as a deep blue settles over the countryside. The restaurant, which only has a few tables to cater to the bungalow guests below, is empty with the exception of me. I sit facing the view, what view there is, my back to the staff.
Feeling alone, despite “the help”, there is the vague since of being a master of an estate.
The women behind me are laughing, their voices going on and on. I'd bet real money they're talking about me. A woman's voice – no matter what culture – takes on a different resonance when they're talking about boys and men. There are four of them: the owner, the server and the cook, as well as a little girl named Sonya.
None of them speak much English, though May, the owner, tries her best. She's lovely and I believe is suggesting I consider the waitress as a girlfriend. The waitress is large 31-year-old woman wearing short jean shorts and a black t-shirt. Her smile shows off two heavily corroded front teeth.
Nan Krasibrak Resort was made up of a handful of cute, clean bungalows. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Back down in the room, I hope in the shower.
Usually when I do something gross, I figure, okay this is what most people do, but just don't talk about it. However, tonight in the shower as I'm using the hot water from the shower head as a warm Japanese bum gun – seriously best toilets in the world are in Japan... think heated seats – I cross a line. The use of the warm water is to promote blood flow to the region and to clean the area as best as possible, which is what is recommended for excessive anal itching. Letting a little turd slide out in the process, of course, is not.
Manually, and I do mean manually, I pick up a couple big bits and throw then into the toilet before mushing a smaller bit with my toe so it can be washed down the drain. Then, and only then, do I get out the shower gel and wash my hands.
Clean and fed, I settle in for the night. Under the strange green comforter with a mommy and daddy teddy bear holding a white rabbit, I open my laptop and watch a couple more episodes of Grimm. Just as I've found myself demonstrating compulsive behavior with my phone, I'm also using TV shows and YouTube clips as a crutch after my social life evaporated quicker than a light rain on hot Thai asphalt.