When we arrived in Bangsaphan it was already dark and we had no idea where we were or where to go. (Surely this doesn’t surprise you.) We knew the name of the hotel where our newlywed friends had stayed a few years ago and figured we’d stay at the same place, a series of little bungalows right on the beach called “Lola’s.” So as not to alarm you by suggesting we’d become prepared travelers, we kept with our usual style of not having made a booking. When we got out at the bus stop (which, like Indian bus stops, was not recognizable as such) we asked a few locals if anyone could direct us to Lola’s. The language barrier prevented much success. A motorcycle taxi offered to drive us there one at a time for 100 baht (about $3) each, but we declined, assuming it wouldn’t be so difficult to get ourselves there on foot. A kind local with limited English knew of Lola’s and pointed us in the right direction. We started walking along the road out of town.After walking for about 20 minutes in darkness on a road that seemed as though it was leading us straight to the middle of nowhere, we were growing concerned that perhaps that helpful lady had misdirected us. Or perhaps our destination was too far away to reach on foot. We considered our options. Just then a car drove up alongside us and rolled down one of its tinted windows. Inside we could see three people who looked as though they were about 17 years old. They wanted to know where we were going. The conversation was difficult because their English wasn’t great, but they seemed to know of Lola’s and confirmed we were going the right way, although they didn’t sound too sure. They offered to call Lola’s for us. Fortunately we had thought enough to take down the phone number. Lola’s phone rang and rang and rang with no answer. That can’t be a good sign, can it? We thanked them and continued on our way. A little while later the helpful lady rode up on her motorcycle. It seemed as though she wasn’t sure we were heading the right way after all, and offered to call Lola’s for us. Again no answer from Lola. The helpful lady apologized that she couldn’t give us both a ride on her bike, but suggested we just stay at a little place nearby. We were pretty attached to the idea of a beachside hut though. As we stood there talking, the car with tinted windows showed up again. They’d come back to help us! The three teenagers talked with the helpful lady for a while and then indicated for us to get in the car. They were going to drive us! Holy kindness of strangers, we were saved! We piled into the back of their car with our bags and thanked them profusely.They drove us to Lola’s, which turned out to be way too far away to walk to at night with backpacks and no idea how to get there. One of the kind strangers got out of the car to inquire about availability. Lola informed him that she had no available rooms. Our kind strangers looked at us and asked what our plan B was. Oh, um, we hadn’t gotten that far. They proceeded to drive us around the area for the next 20 or 30 minutes looking for places within our budget where we could stay for the night. Everything was full. This was not looking good. They pulled the car over and talked amongst themselves for a few minutes, seemingly brainstorming a solution to the problem they had taken on. We felt a bit guilty for drawing such kind, innocent people into the dilemma stemming from our own poor planning. Finally the driver of the car turned to face us and asked, “My home?”On the way to her house, the kind strangers asked us if we were hungry. Yes! Using Google Translate we suggested we all get some dinner together, a good opportunity for us to repay their kindness. They made a quick stop, ran in to pick up some takeaway and wouldn’t accept our money. They stopped at a 7-eleven (did you know that Thailand is full of these qwik-e-marts of the past?), not allowing us to pay for their snacks and beverages either, and then we arrived at home. Home was a spacious apartment complete with two funny little dogs, one of whom resembled an animated mop. We ate the dinner they purchased for us realizing that no one else intended to join us, had some limited but kind interactions with our hosts (whose names we have sadly since forgotten, the result of never really fully understanding them in the first place), and went to bed with grateful hearts.In the morning one of our hosts drove us back to Lola’s. Lola told us her place was booked out for months. This news made us a little nervous. Our generous host drove us around the area and inquired at various guesthouses with no luck until we finally found a place next to the beach that had a vacancy. It wasn’t a very pleasant place but it was cheap and at that point we would have been happy to stay almost anywhere. We thanked our host again, gave her our contact information and a handwritten note of gratitude in a pretty envelope and said goodbye. After all she’d done for us, she was probably relieved to finally see us off.We ended up spending just one night in that place and then moved next door to a much nicer place. Due to the onset of the hotter season coupled with the hit Thailand’s tourism has taken as a result of the king’s martial law, we were able to afford staying at the nicer place while remaining within our budget. Thanks, King, for the affordable stay! Located a stone’s throw from the beach, we stayed at Sunrise for two full weeks and spent our time rotating between the following activities: sunbathing, walking along the narrow beach collecting seashells, reading books, meditating, eating rich Thai food with meat and seafood, napping, working on creative projects, poking at jellyfish that had washed up on shore, swimming in the remarkably warm and shallow Gulf of Thailand, eating fresh tropical fruit, finding crabs and sand dollars, lounging poolside and for the first time in maybe two years, eating real ice cream. David even substituted dinner several nights for a “coconut explosion,” coconut ice cream served inside a fresh coconut served with the coconut water on the side. If we’d lost any weight from our parasites and vegetarian lifestyle in India, we’d quickly made up for it in Thailand. As far as we were concerned, Bangsaphan was paradise. It was exactly the decompression we’d sought.We rented a dirt bike for a couple of days to work on our motorcycle skills and enjoyed a couple of trips into the countryside. We drove onto a peninsula located north of our home and found a secluded cove with white sand beaches and a big Buddhist temple. We drove south the next day and navigated our way through palm forests on red dirt roads. We practiced driving through sand and getting familiar with handling the bike on various terrain. The dirt bike was a fun toy.We headed back to Bangkok for a couple more nights at PanPan before catching a flight to Cambodia, but not before penning this letter from our hearts:
You’ve amazed us. We will miss your caring, helpful strangers, your coconut soup, coconut milkshakes, coconut ice cream and coconut coconuts. We will miss your magical fireflies, mangroves, friendly street dogs and beach cows. We’ll never forget our full moon night swim in the shallow, salty bathtub that is your gulf nor the sunrise we watched from your beach while the boats returned from a night of fishing. We’ll never forget the time Austin sipped a gigantic Thai iced tea while riding on the back of a dirt bike, the people who waved to us just because, the bioluminescent specks illuminating the tide at night and the fact that total strangers picked us up off the road and brought us to sleep at their house. You were exactly what we needed, only better. Can’t wait to see you next time.
Your forever fans,
Austin & David