Sickness, Singapore and the Land of Oz
September 1st, 2002
You know those travel posters, the ones with the perfect white sand beach on crystal blue waters, fringed by a line of towering coconut palm trees? You know, the ones you see in every travel agency’s window?
It really exists.
Okay, so it was monsoon season and the waters were a bit muddy for good snorkeling. So the sun wasn’t shining 24 hours a day. The thing is, when Sean and Kim were huddled in front of a computer monitor almost two years ago, planning all the inane details of this trip, Kim turned to her husband and said,
“Okay, I don’t care where we go or how long we stay or whatever…at SOME point during my honeymoon I want to be sitting on a white sand beach in my bikini with a fruity little drink in my hand with one of those little…umbrella-thingies that they put in those kind of drinks. Just once in my life, I want to be there.” As any wise husband-to-be would have done at this point, Sean replied,
“You got it, babe,” snapped his fingers and his personal assistant jotted it down next to “rescue damsel” and “catch the bad guy.”
Well, maybe he didn’t call Kim “babe,” but on the island of Koh Samui it all came true. We checked into our private palm-frond-roofed bungalow on Lamai beach following a long bus/ferry/pickup-truck ride from Bangkok. Within a few hours we were relaxing in a beach-front cafe in the company of a jolly bunch of Irish travellers and were well on our way to having a fantastic time.
The weather was a bit spotty for the first few days, but we were in such excellent company it didn’t seem to matter. We snorkeled in the ocean just a few yards from our front door, chasing crabs and brightly-colored fish around the coral formations. Sean went to see a bunch of local fellows kick the crap out of each other at a Thai boxing match and we saw a snake show wherein the handler had been bitten so many times that he was willing to demonstrate his immunity to various insect and snake venoms by allowing them to bite him in front of a live audience…repeatedly.
We drank plenty of fruity drinks, ate our weight in seafood and discovered that our arrival in the area coincided with the monthly full moon and Thailand’s world-famous full moon party, held on the nearby island of Ko Pang Yang. Not really being into the whole rave scene, we debated whether we wanted to attend when our new Irish friends talked us into it – explaining that it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event many people would give their eyeteeth to see: thousands of people dancing the night away on a moonlit Thai beach to the very latest and hippest DJs flown in from around the world. So we tossed a few bottles of Red Bull in our backpacks to get us through until morning and hopped the ferry that night with our friends, headed for the party. On the way Kim turned to Sean and said,
“That’s funny…I feel seasick. I never get seasick.”
Sean nodded, noting that he also wasn’t feeling too steady. Oh, it was a bad sign of things about to get much worse. In the whirl and thump of a terrific beach party and without partaking of a single drink, your authors found themselves in the throes of some wicked bad food poisoning. We managed somehow to catch a speedboat back to our island to experience an agonizing jeep ride to our hut where we ran relays to the “loo” all night, consoling each other that we’d feel better by morning. Morning came and what was left of us staggered to the pharmacy where a very understanding clerk gave us some pills and a few nasty-tasting packets of drink mix meant to restore our electrolyte balance. 24 hours later we were much better and decided to turn into vegetarians for the rest of our time in SE Asia.
Two days later we spent 24 hours travelling from Ko Samui down to Singapore in order to be on time for our flight to Sydney, Australia. Singapore was an absolute contrast to the rest of Asia; a space-age looking, immaculate city with every possible modern convenience. A former British colony, Singapore was handed over to the locals who follow the British laws more strictly than the Brits ever intended (for example, you may be fined $500, caned and jailed for any of the following offenses: littering, spitting in public, jaywalking, walking on the grass, picking flowers or being in possession of chewing gum).
We wandered the Indian quarter, various markets and shopping malls, ate most of a durian (an infamously stinky Asian fruit resembling a spiky football) and took the immaculate metro right to the airport the following morning, refreshed and ready to catch our flight…only to discover it didn’t exist. Our flight hadn’t JUST been cancelled, the airline had actually stopped flying to Australia altogether. The representative from Gulf Air was very helpful, however, and treated us to a free lunch while we were hanging around the airport all day, waiting for our re-booked flight out on Qantas that evening.
Which brings us to our current location: Sydney, Australia.
Beautiful Sydney, how many ways do we love thee? We love thee to the height and breadth of thy harbor bridge, with all the strength of the stiff breeze along thine coast allowing us to once again wear closed-toe footwear and clothing that covers most of our pale bodies…oh, joy for those of northern European descent! Sydney is a marvel of a place, reminding us so much of San Francisco…but cleaner, less hills, and more coastline. Chinatown, the Sydney opera house, the old colonial buildings of The Rocks, glistening sky scrapers, DRAFT GUINNESS…and everything is in English! Ah, it has been a wonderful set of days wandering this beautiful place, chatting with friendly locals, hearing didgeridoo music everywhere, seeing the local zoo (koalas and platypuses!), eating western-style steak and potatoes, catching the night ferry over to the old quarantine area for a late-night ghost tour and staying in possibly the nicest, best-equipped youth hostel we’ve ever seen (heated pool, nightly movies, huge free kitchen, adjoining bar and internet cafe, etc).
But all of this is just a 7-day anticipatory pause before our three weeks in New Zealand, where we will be joined by Jen and Aubie, two excellent friends of ours from back home.