What a day of highs and lows on lovely Koh Phangan! Because it costs quite a bit to hire a taxi on the island, we decide to rent a car and spend a long day exploring on our own. At 10am, a little yellow jeep showed up at our hotel, and before long, we were off. Not off at great speeds mind you, as neither the rented car nor the island roads were keen on that. It was the hubby’s first time driving in 3+ months, first time driving on the left side of the road in over 20 years, and the first time ever shifting a manual transmission with his left hand. The blinker too was opposite where expected and on at least a dozen turns, the wipers were going across the windshield when the blinkers should have been on. Without seatbelts in the back of the tiny cab, the boys were squirming and loud. And, the navigator, it turns out couldn’t tell which end of the map was up. And, all that was just INSIDE the car. Outside the car, the roads are rocky, bumpy, twisty, and complete with obstacle after obstacle. Massive potholes, cows, dogs, scooters, small lakes, deep ruts, signs we couldn’t read, and even monkeys were all part of the driving adventure.
As we got close to our first destination, the road turned to dirt and the roads got even steeper. Scooters driving by rented by foreign tourists were slipping around, and I was secretly pleased that we a little 4WD car. The area that we were close to, Hat Rin town, is famous for its Full Moon parties – the party each month where everything (yes, everything) is brought out in excess for a party to match no other. Tourists and travelers alike flock to the island for the raucous, and extra medical teams are dispatched to the island. While the scene is not ours (and we are purposely staying on the complete opposite side of the island while we are here), we got a kick out of the truck load of tourists ahead of us on the road who were clearly starting a few days early.
We stopped at a waterfall which was a hike down from the road. It was a stunning series of rocks and flowing water, and we hiked and swam upstream for a long while exploring. We were the only ones here and swimming was perfectly refreshing after the hike. While traveling with children is often tiring and can challenge any parent, moments like these are what it is all about. Reveling in the cool water in our own private stream, we clambered over rocks, slipping into the water on occasion, and laughing at ourselves. The forested jungle around us was lush with many different shades of green, and we floated and splashed our way through the water. Truly amazing.
From there, we drove to the next waterfall. Here we encountered the group from the truck so it was a much more lively place. The waterfall created a bigger pool for swimming before rushing off down the hill over a series of rocky streams. At one point, Lorenzo got too close to the side of the pool and was sucked down backwards. Not expecting to be going backwards down a waterfall, the look in his face was of extreme terror. Bouncing down with the fast flowing stream, he got banged around a lot, but most of the damage was the fright. (Still, now, I am not sure who was more scared – me or him. Yikes!)
After a little more swimming, we decided we had better head out if we were going to see any more of Koh Phangan Island. Plus, I had noticed a few sprinkles of rain and was a little nervous about the steep drive back into town on the dirt roads. Just at the end of our hike up out of the jungle, Nathan slipped on a rock as he was rummaging in his backpack for the car key and scrapped up the whole front of his leg. It was an ugly scrape and within moments, his calf had swollen up to twice its size.
Trying to be macho, we drove off but as we neared town, but I convinced him to stop at a Medical Center to have it cleaned. We followed signs on a back road to a place that looked like it could have been a medical facility and walked in. The only ones there, we were greeted instantly by a lady who ushered him onto a room with a bed. There, she cleaned, swabbed, poured stinging cleaner on his leg, and bandaged him all up. She spent more than 10 minute with him, teaching him what to do later, restricting his swimming (yes, poor guy!) for a couple days, and sending us home with more iodine for daily cleaning. She was gentle and kind, her English was well spoken and she always had a smile on her face. At the end of it all, we got the bill. Any guesses on how much it all cost? The bill for all her time, bandages and future cleaning solution? At home, it could have been $150 for the doctor’s time alone. And, we would easily have paid it for the peace of mind of knowing his deep wound was property looked at and bandaged. Here, it was 150 baht. For everything. She could have charged us anything and we would have paid it. Instead, she charged us only $5. The good heart of a medical doctor in Indonesia 20 years ago still brings tears to my eyes; we were charged almost nothing for a house call to our inn when Nathan was so very sick. That doctor spoke next to no English but it didn’t matter. He sat calmly and patiently by Nathan’s side, stroking his back, with kind words and sympathy. The doctor or nurse today has again given me faith in the medical world. There was no talk about health insurance, liability insurance, health care, health costs, etc. It was about doing what was right for a fair cost.
After the medical clinic, we made our way to Hat Rin town where we grabbed lunch overlooking the amazing beach. Unlike Salad Beach where we are staying, Hat Rin Beach is huge. The sandy part of the beach is enormous and the view from the beach is spectacular. If I WAS the type of person who liked to party in a drunken stupor with thousands of my closest friends, THIS would hands down be the place. It really is stunning.
We ran a few errands in town, stopping to see a few more sights on the island. Finally, since we had eaten such a late lunch, as the evening set in we all voted to stop at a recommended ice cream spot for an early dinner. Yep, ice cream for dinner. The boys were pleased.
We all ordered big ice creams. I opted for getting mine served in a coconut – yum! Elio ate a little of his ice cream and then just wanted to cuddle with his mom. Big alarms went off in this mom’s head. (Turning down ice cream to be cuddled? Uh oh!) We enjoyed our ice cream and headed back to the hotel. By the time, we drove 20 minutes back to the hotel, Elio was boiling with a fever of more than 101!
At only 6:30pm, with dinner eaten and showers taken, we all tucked ourselves into the big bed to cuddle and watch a movie. As with everyday, today was a day of highs and lows. Despite all the bumps, bruises, scrapes and fevers, we all agreed it was a great day in Koh Phangan!