The springs of the bed jab stiffly into my back as I lie there staring at the bottom of the top bunk above me through the mosquito net. A blanket of humidity hovers over us and makes sleeping a less than enjoyable experience. The muffled sounds of someone having sex in our twenty bed hostel dorm room resonates in the darkness, mixing with the snores and grumbles of the drunken sleepers occupying the other beds. Beyond the walls are the faint noises of techno music and drunken revelers keeping the party going as long as possible. I lie there tired, bruised and drunk from a day of fun, excitement, memory loss and new experiences. Drunken exhaustion washes over me and my eyelids feel like weights. As my eyelids close the last thing I feel is a warm, aching pain in my left forearm.
The sun feels warm on my face as I recline back on the grass and open my eyes. The main bay on Phi Phi island sits in front of me. Boats weave in and out of the way of each other. People hustle and bustle this way and that, shepherding tourists to and fro. The water, while beautiful everywhere in the area, has a rainbow sheen dancing across its surface from the gasoline, oils, and other fluids expelled there. Shay, Jess, Lauren, and I sit there patiently waiting for our sail-boat to arrive and take us on an adventure. Uncertainty and regret hang over our heads as we wonder if the 3,000 baht was a worthwhile investment. It is done and over with, though, so we take the optimistic route and hope for the best. Our boat arrives and we are greeted by Bob, the captain, and his crew. Each of us, about 12 in total, step onto the deck and prepare ourselves to head out. We write our names in marker on our chests, presumably to identify our bodies, whether they are drunkenly passed out or dead. The boat pushes off and I lie back down again and bask in the beautiful Thai sunshine.
The needle punctures my skin over and over again as I lie there on the black leather bench. My left forearm has a warm, intense scratching feeling radiating from it. My right hand holds onto my cool, sweating Chang. The pain, dulled by my state of mind, is still quite noticeable as I watch the artist precisely jab and stab my arm by hand with definitive and confident movements. The black ink on the needle slides in and out of my skin like a hot knife through butter. The smell of tattoo ink permeates my nostrils. I sip my beer and watch contently. Slowly the dull colored stencil fills up with pitch black ink and my new tattoo leaps to life. Finished, Shay and I pay, get out our camera, and take a picture of our artists. Faces centered. Focused. Click.
Click. The loaned camera does its job and snaps a picture of Shay feeding a small monkey a lychee. The tiny hands reach out assuredly for the free snack that Shay nervously holds out in front of her on Monkey Island. The other passengers from our boat are all around us, marveling at the monkeys turning up out of nowhere for a chance to get some free grub. Wave after wave come, and when one decides to take a fateful leap onto the canoe we are dragging with us, we decide it has become all too real. It’s time to get the hell out of here. We start the swim back to the sailboat. The crystal clear blue water tumbles and turns with the power of the tide as we fight to make it back and move on with our journey. Tired, I pull myself onto the boat and sit down with a Chang on my knee, ready for the next part of the journey. Only, I’m not. While I took the seasickness pills, they haven’t kicked in yet. The rocking and rolling of the boat has my head and stomach feeling perilously close to all out expulsion. I close my eyes and try to talk myself out of losing my breakfast, lunch, and the couple of beers I had already downed.
My stomach twists and turns inside of my gut as I slowly come down from by drunk. I turn to Shay, “We need food.” Chili cheese dogs and chicken nuggets? Definitely. Food acquired. Consumption started. While sitting and eating, a couple of British travelers, about the same age as us, sit down at our table. We chat about traveling, about our lives, about Phi Phi. We exchange stories about the places we’ve been, the places we want to go. It’s always refreshing meeting new, like-minded people while abroad, and this is no different. Alcohol on all of our breaths, we continue on with our discussion as the food disappears from our plates. New friends in new places.
“Actually, we teach English in Taipei, Taiwan,” we tell Carol, our new Canadian mother-figure. She tells us about her daughter who wants to go to Africa and volunteer. She picks our minds about living abroad. She asks Jess, who has been to Africa, about it. She wonders aloud about the difficulties of having a child living half-a-world away. We assure her that, while it’s not easy, it is very doable with the use of Skype and constant contact. She seems, at least a tiny bit, more at ease with the idea as our boat pulls up next to a cliff and anchors. Beer bong before cliff jumping? Good idea? No. Good idea in the context of a booze cruise? Well, ya. We down our beers and immediately jump in the water, our stomachs feeling like stones. We opt for the seven meter jump over the 15 meter one. Definitely the right decision. Carol snags some pictures of us in our moment of flight, blurs of white skin and colorful cloth. It’s all over within seconds and we decide against pushing it and going for round two. Instead, we pick lounging and drinking in the beer in our hands and the sights all around us. After thirty minutes, our time there is up. We hop in the canoes being towed behind the boat and are dragged along slowly as we head towards our next destination. Jagged cliffs covered in twisted plant-life jut out of the sapphire water like balding, disfigured giants. Boats ferrying other tourists pass by waving. I lie back, stare at the increasingly pink sky as I drag my hand through the warm water, and scream to anyone listening, “I love my life!” I grab Shay by the shoulder, lean in to talk, and…
“Shay. Shay. Shay! Wake up!” Shay’s hands reach up sheepishly and rub the drowsiness from her eyes. She looks at me, startled at first, and takes a moment to compute what is happening to her. I assure her that it is, indeed, me, her boyfriend, and coax her out of bed. We begin to walk – stumble is probably a more apt way to describe it – down the paths lined by the bright lights of stands, hostels, bars, hotels and shops. Energy and noise buzz all around us. I have no idea what time it is, but it doesn’t seem too late because the level of intoxication surrounding us still seems under control, more or less. For the first time, I notice my legs hurt like hell. I look down and there are gashes, scratches and cuts covering my shins. What the hell? Come to think of it, my lip hurts, too. What happened?
We slowly swim towards the beach the only way we can: over a coral reef. The coral cuts into my legs like razor blades with each and every misstep. I do my best to avoid it, and, thanks to the swimming shoes provided by Bob, I do a fairly good job minimizing the damage. As we slowly navigate the mine-field that is the reef, we see a beautiful, black and white sea snake gliding through the reef like a tiny sea monster. It glides with ease that is instantly enviable, not even bothered by our presence in the least bit. Knowing they are extremely poisonous, we take a bit more care not to do anything too brash. Finally, we make it to the beach and are greeted by a guard happily chewing betel nut, his blood red teeth bared in a big smile. He offers us some. We drunkenly oblige before being led up into a cave that holds century-old Chinese cave paintings depicting boats sailing across the massive, rocky cave walls. We stare in drunken wonder at the ancient artwork before heading out to watch the sun set. The sun sets directly in between two faces, illuminating the fact that they look like a man and woman closing in for a kiss. The suns glowing aura sinks in between their lips, touching each softly in the way it has done for centuries, probably longer. We all line the beach watching, drinking and taking pictures. A great ending to our cruise. Just as the sun sets, my world turns to black.
My eyes open slowly at first, not focusing on anything. I feel intensely groggy as the world around me slowly blinks back into focus. Sounds seem muffled and indecipherable. Lights are overwhelming. I have no sense of time or space. Where am I? What the hell happened? What the fuck? I stand up somewhere on the island of Phi Phi, in an unknown place, possibly an apartment complex, and immediately decide I need to evacuate. I crash through some bushes, avoid some locals who are more than likely talking about the intoxicated foreigner (and that much is understandable), and burst out onto the road. I stumble drunkenly, groggily through the throngs of people with nothing in my pockets, and no shirt on my back. “I’m ok,” I think to myself as I do a quick body scan, but, holy shit, that was one hell of a ride.
Ok, this is a true story, and we will post a more detailed list of the goings on of our booze cruise. But, until then, we encourage anyone who is ever on Phi Phi Island to seek out Bob’s Booze Cruise. You can do so here, here, and here.
Also, if you have any comments, anything to add, or, really, anything at all, leave it below!