Coconut Bowling and Leering Cow: The Flee from Ko Phi Phi

So we’re on Ko Phi Phi and yeah, we’ve about had it up to our eyeballs with creeps, cockroaches, and crazy eyes. We don’t really have an exit strategy in place, except we’d really prefer not to end up in the middle of a human trafficking ring, but that’s just a personal preference.

In lieu of keeping ourselves alive, we make our way – swim-trunks, flippy-floppies, and backpacks  – to the main wharf of Ko Phi Phi.

This excerpt from the pages of my notebook that day:

“I just watched an older Thai woman clad in bright orange shorts sell premade ice-cream cones to the passengers on the top deck of the ferry. Using a 6-foot pole with a bucket on top, she exchanged ice cream for a few Baht. A device hand-crafted solely for this one, entirely absurd purpose, I was blown away by the ingenuity and considered stealing it for myself.”

I suppose I refrained, because I don’t think I have a six-foot pole hiding in the bottom of my backpack, but of course I could be wrong. Anyway, it was time to board the ferry. We hop on a small, and for all intensive purposes, sideways boat which boasts the marvelously absurd claim that it will somehow stay afloat and transport its passengers across an increasingly rough ocean to the coastal climbing town of Krabi. I don’t exactly believe it, but whatever, boat. Let’s do this thing.

Now I’m not sure if personal torture was something we’d decided we’d like to have along for the ride, but it most definitely came along, invited or not. (Unwelcome guest. Nobody likes you!) The nausea and the seasickness. Neither of which had anything to do, of course, with the buckets of vodka-soda we’d consumed the night before.

We should have also, probably, forseen the bus tragedy the moment we set eyes on the honking piece of rusty metal parading itself as a means of people-transport.

Chunks of rusty metal hanging at obscure angles off the dented, paper-thin skeleton frame. A step ladder that was broken, and a door that wouldn’t close. Mottled blue paint and duct-tape covering who-knows-what. And wheels, thin as a pair of Korean socks but a little more rusty and a lot less funny.

I’m actually surprised the threadbare wheels could even support the weight of the frame, let alone actual people. I guess the moral of the story is that they couldn’t…

So two hours of hellish bumpy driving on this liar of a piece of people-transport, and right smack in the middle of nowhere, one tire gives up. Just packs it in. Right there, perfectly conveniently, making the extremely obnoxious decision to be the biggest brat of all time.

The driver is off the bus and not a word is spoken to any of the eighteen sticky, sweaty passengers. For thirty long, stiflingly hot minutes. That’s a lot of slow seconds.

Eventually my bladder, which had grown rather insistent on being the centre of attention, expedited my exit from the bus.

And now just a reminder that we are, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. Just a place to change a tire, with a dirt road, some palms, a pile of coconuts and some trash. This made me, and my centre-of-attention bladder, quite unhappy.

So what do I do? What can I do? I walk down the dusty path until I’m somewhat certain no one on the bus can see me. Into some green-stuff foliage.

And there I am. Mid bust-a-squat, and I’m taking some time to observe my surroundings. There are a lot of palms, a bit of grass, a bird somewhere in the trees above. I’m looking left and right, and doing my best to ensure I hover high enough to avoid pricking myself with the thorny green plant below.

So imagine my shock when I raise my eyes from the prickly thing under my bum and find myself face-to-face with something no one should ever have to encounter while peeing.

It’s a big-ass bull. One giant man-cow. Just standing there, moo-ing. And staring at me (rather inappropriately, considering what I was doing). Where are your manners, man-cow?

I guess I wasn’t being as discrete as I’d thought. Perv.

Bladder relieved, and now we have a dusty, dry, boring situation. There is absolutely nothing to do back at the bus but wait. And sweat. And I don’t know about you, but waiting and sweating aren’t usually at the top of my list of fun things to do. The stupid tire isn’t fixing itself, and the bus is just too damn hot (milk was a bad choice).

“Let’s play a game.”


“So there’s this coconunt…”

Fetching bits of trash – old plastic coke bottles, beer cans, empty aerosol cylinders, little glass bottles and a random rusty wheel – we invent and set-up the 8-pin Dirt Road Coconut Bowling Championships. Coconut bowling, I say! (I won.)

The rest of the bus ride was rather uneventful, and the hunk of metal debris behaved much better with a new wheel.

When we finally wobbled our way to the port on the east coast, we caught another ferry and sat back on the deck, watching as little silver-backed fish sprung out of the water and played in the spray of the wake.

The sun sank into the ocean, and the distant lights of Ko Samui lit up as we floated by. And aside from the tropical breeze and the memory of man-cow, we could very well have been on a BC Ferry off the coast of West Vancouver – the lights of Ko Samui reminded us of Horseshoe Bay.

So what happens next is something so preposterous I’m not sure I can do it justice through words.

But while the ferry was still oh, a good 40-feet away from the wharf at Thongsala (the port of arrival on Ko Phangan), we were accosted (accosted!) by competitively screaming, abrasively yelling, fast-talking questioning-crazies. “Taxi! Taxi! Where you go?!” Still 20-feet away, and “Miss! Excuse me! Miss! How many people? Taxi? Bungalow! You come! Miss! Excuse me! Miss!”

They must have learned their manners from man-cow, because it was all sorts of rude insanity. But when we somehow managed to make our escape through the pamphlets and the shouting and the dirty, grappling arms, we navigated ourselves into a tuk tuk taxi and fled across the island to the beach at Haad Tian. And it was well worth it.

Oh, was it ever. :)