I got up early, stuffed my bulging pack, and started walking the 12km towards long beach. After turning down numberous taxis, I finally hopped into the back of a pickup truck and he dropped me back at my old bungalow from 2 nights ago. Long beach is so much nicer, atmosphere and beach, than the others. It felt good, like I was the prodigal son returning home after leaving and realizing how good I really had it.
After swimming and lounging around half the day, I decided to do something productive. I rented a motorbike from my reception office, they made a call, and in about 10 minutes I had a shiney brand new motorcycle looking at me. I sat on it, the guy spoke no English, and handed me the keys. I never even put my name on a piece of paper, etc. I guess he figured that I couldnt get it off the island anyways so I would not steal it. Its brand new and IPOD green…pretty cool. There is only one problem…its embarassing to admit, but I have never driven a motorcycle before. I wish that I had taken the time before I left home and learned, but like most things, I figured the best way would be to jump in the fire. I turned the key, kickstarted it, and threw a shovel of poo into the proverbial fan.
The people in reception were laughing at me, somehow they could tell that I was a newbie. My facial expression of sheer panic and terror maybe? The death grip I had on the throttle? Anyway, there was no “practice area” so I hit the main road full throttle. I was a little jerky at first, and stayed way off to the side of the road as people zoomed by me smiling, pointing, and honking. After a little ways, my confidence increased and so did my speed. I was running around 50kmh. I rode all the way to the end of the road at the bottom of the island, a spectacular, cool, beautiful ride. As I went farther, I saw no more tourists and lots of Muslim thais. The kids waved, I beeped my horn and they would jump up and down. After about 2 hours of riding, I was very confident and was running as fast as I could. What a thrill! Despite the sketchy road in the south, gravel, holes, dogs, goats, and insects hitting me in the face…I never went down. I was weaving and twisting, passing on the wrong side at 60kmh, doing everything a good cyclist in Thailand does. I learned, all you have to do is beep your horn and then there are no rules. Sidewalk, median, left side, right side, 4 to a lane….it doesnt matter. Just join the symphony of horns and youre all set.
I even made it to the sea gypsies. They looked like a bunch of stoned Thai guys to me, same kind that throw fire and work at every bungalow. Oh well….they did have some unique jewelery for sale and I sat and talked with one of them. He had a tattoo of a native American chief on his arm. I told him that I was from the same area as the Cherokee Indians and he got all excited so we talked for a bit. He has never been to American but is fascinated by native Americans, their culture, etc. Nice guy, I hope that he makes it to a reservation one day.
This was a great place to teach myself to ride and I’ll definitely get a bike in the future, its worth the 200 Baht for the freedom alone. I just hope I dont try to drive on the left side of the road once I get back home…Ive been here so long its natural now!