Well, it finally came. This past weekend was the first time we got out of the city and boy did it feel good. The teaching job was starting to wear on me and the weekend away was very much needed.
We all got out of our classes a bit early on Friday so we could catch the first bus back to Hua Mak. We ran from the bus to our rooms and packed feverously. I pakced a bit the night before, but of course I didn’t put everything together until getting back. I got changed, threw anything I could find in a bag, and ran out the door. We had chartered a bus to pick us up right from Hua Mak (well, 5 minutes down the road) and bring us to the pier in Rayong where we could catch a boat to Koh Samet (Samet Island).
The bus cost us 650 baht (a little more than $20) to take us to and from Rayong. It was really perfect for the group of us 12 ajarns and was MUCH easier than going to Ekkami and taking the public bus. We would have filled half a bus as it is and it would have taken twice, if not three times as long in transit time as the public busses stop all over the place!
Having all the ajarns in one place was awesome. We just spent the whole bus ride talking about people we worked with and just laughing about how rediculous our jobs are. It was nice to comeserate with people who had been there for longer than a year and it was always great to hear the legendary stories that are passed down from year to year. Quite the bonding experience a two hour van ride makes!
We got to the pier around 8:30PM (we left a little after 6) and found a speedboat that would take us on the 10 minute ride to Samet for 1800 baht total. Split 12 ways it was only 150 baht a person which is about $5. We hopped on, rode off, and made it to the island (and got dropped right off at Saikaw Beach) in about 10 minutes – awesome.
Wandering around and finding a place to stay was a bit more of an escapade. Imagine a quiet beach town on a Friday night that’s rudely interrupted by a throng of 12 ajarns looking for a place to stay. Ok, so it wasn’t that bad, but it was probably close. We all wanted cheap rooms but nice rooms and as with most things a compromise had to be made. Some of us went for the nicer rooms and some of us went cheap. Being the money-conscious man that I am, I went for the 250 baht a night room at Naga with a shared bathroom. It wasn’t too nice but it had a bed, oscillating fan, and mosquito net and that was enough for me! I stayed in a room with Nick (the bed was plenty big for both of us) and so we dropped off our things, showered off quick, and went out to Naga bar to watch the World Cup match on the projector they had set up down there. It was a nice, relaxing night really – we all took it easy because we knew more ajarns were coming (some from St. Gabriels college downtown and some more from ABAC) the next day.
Saturday we all woke up and leisurely wandered downstairs to breakfast. We ate at our place and I had some delicious eggs, bacon, and ham with toast. The toast, oh the toast! It was spectacular. Nice, thick, hearty bread – I haven’t had anything like it in a month! It was worth the 170 baht just for the two slices of bread alone. In fact, I took pictures that I’ll put up on my food blog in the near future!
After that, it was beach time. I ran to 7-11, got some water, and plopped myself on the beach in a beach chair with my book to read. I’m not a huge beach guy, but I LOVE using the beach as a place to read and catch up on my reading. I only just finished ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ so I dove right into ‘New Deal or raw deal,’ a book on FDR’s New Deal policies that I got for Christmas. It was a wonderful read and i tore through 6 chapters that afternoon.
Now, I’m sure y’all are thinking, ‘well did you even go in the water?’ Of course I did! The water was a beautiful blue (though not perfectly clear) and I swam for a few hours when my eyes got tired. It was warm, though not as warm as Costa Rica’s water, and there were almost no waves. It was nice to just hang out, chat, and relax in the deep blue sea.
That night, we headed back to Naga to watch more of the World Cup matches. A few kids went to Ploy Bar for their ‘Full Moon Party’ so I tagged along but after realizing it wasn’t quite my scene (too loud and it’s really not the real Full Moon Party anyway) I headed back to Naga to finish out the night there. We played plenty of card games (Superlatives, Ride the Bus, and I taught people how to play pitch), played a little ‘hot seat’ to get to know eachother, and I got to chat with a bunch of people I don’t see very often including Paulina and Ashley (two girls from St. Gabes that were with us the first time in Thailand) and Emily, a good friend of mine that I just met from JMU. It was a late night (4AM) but with the relaxing day on the beach it didn’t seem very late at all.
Sunday we woke up, cleaned up our rooms and checked out. The lady at the desk was nice enough to let us keep our things there and come back to shower and clean up after the beach even after we had formally checked out. We had breakfast at Naga again and I had this amazing sandwich that piled two home-made sausage (some of the best I have ever had) on top of a fried egg and bacon and it made my morning. Then, we got our last few hours on the beach, I finished reading as much as I could in my book, and we left the island around 4PM on another speedboat that picked us up right from our beach. The van was waiting for us when we got back to the pier and we were back at ABAC by 7. What amazed me most about the return trip is that the St. Gabes kids left before us, took the ferry over to the pier (slower, but cheaper) and then took a public bus, and didn’t get back to their place until 11PM! We were more than happy to pay the extra baht for the transportation after hearing back from them!
And, that was it. So ended our wonderful weekend at the beach. It seemed so short, and seems even shorter and uneventful now that I’m writing about it, but never underestimate the relaxing powers of a change of scenery and doing absolutely nothing for a few days.