I arrived on Koh Chang three days before the New Year's Eve. It wasn't my first time here. I had a few days to kill before my Vietnamese visa was active.
Koh Chang is Thailand's not-so-hidden-anymore gem located in the east. The name, due to its shape, translates to "the elephant island." Useless fact: elephants are actually not indigenous to the island. They were brought in later to please the tourists.
My typical day on the island consisted of curing a hangover, pretending in front of myself that I'm working, and partying my ass off until early morning hours.
Rinse and repeat.
Who would have thought that a trip to the beach will completely change my life for the next several weeks.
I was hanging out at my go-to beer bar, the Zap. I met an Aussie girl. Her name was Chloe. She was in her early twenties, doing her compulsory gap year world tour. She was stuck on the island for a few days because one of her girlfriends experienced the famous Thai brush with death on a rental bike. As it often happens, the girl was drunk, had no driver's license, and no insurance either. Contrary to popular belief, healthcare in Thailand ain't cheap. The girls had to chip in and wait for a few days until their friend was released from the hospital.
We danced for a couple of hours and had a few beers. Suddenly we realized the bar was almost empty, so we decided to go to the beach. I rolled a massive joint with all the weed I had left on me.
It was a perfect moment. We were alone on a tropical beach surrounded by palm trees. The ocean was calm that night, making almost no sound. I could only feel a slight breeze coming from the seaside. She started to talk.
— You know, Kemo. I'm not here because I'm into you. I'm here because I can't stand being alone anymore. I'm sorry I said that.
— It's fine. I understand.
— Have you ever gone skinny-dipping? — She asked.
— No, but I always wanted to try. — I lied with a huge grin on my face.
We stripped down, she took my hand, and we slowly walked into the ocean.
The next several minutes were surreal. I was swimming naked with a beautiful girl, high as a kite, in one of the warmest oceans on the planet, while the first rays of morning sunshine were hitting my back.
— This is why I travel. — I thought.
Then I briefly saw something out of the corner of my eye. Some shape was moving around where our clothes were.
— Oh, for fuck's sake. Couldn't they give us a few minutes?
I stopped kissing the girl for a second. I clearly saw that the person is walking away. I ran out of the water as fast as I could, my dick out and all. The dude on the beach started running, but I had to try and get him. It turns out, he was way more drunk than me, and I managed to catch up to and throw him to the ground.
I was sitting on him naked. I searched him but didn't find anything that belonged to me. The guy was terrified—probably thought I was going to rape him or worse. He explained that he wasn't trying to steal anything. He couldn't see anyone in the ocean and was just curious. I apologized and ran back to the beach.
It turns out all the clothes and my belongings were already gone. Only the girl's clothes were left. My wallet, $50 in the local currency, the key to my room, and my only credit card was gone too. Without it, I couldn't pay out any money. Never travel with only one credit card.
I noticed that there was a group of guys with bikes standing not far from us and one of them was driving away. I had a feeling he might have my wallet, but there was no way I could ever catch up with him. A few others were still there. I walked up to talk to them, naked as I were.
— We don't know anything.
— Right. And If I give you a hundred dollars, will I get my credit card back?
— Sure, but tomorrow.
— Guys, you can't use it anyway. I'm going to block it in a minute with one phone call.
— Tomorrow doesn't work for me!
— Then we can't help you. Sorry.
— Give me at least some of my clothes.
— Ask your girlfriend to share some clothes with you.
— Give me my clothes, you cunt!
The boys started laughing at me. Chloe came around too. This whole situation made me so angry that, for the first time in my life, I felt like physically threatening someone. I looked around and grabbed a rock from the ground, which now I realize was a dumb idea. The second I started walking towards one of them, they all started to laugh again, said something to each other in Thai, and quickly took off.
I was naked, with no money, and with a rock in my hand. A brand new hangover started to materialize in my head.
On top of that, the girl looked at me, got scared, and started walking away. Things didn't look right. I realized that chasing her naked, with a stone in my hand, isn't the best idea. I had to come up with a plan. I couldn't just go to town like that.
I walked around the beach and found some banana trees. These plants have some truly enormous leaves. I took a few of them and sat down in a popular spot on the beach. I waited for an hour before the first tourists appeared. I waved and shouted!
— Help! Help me!
A Russian guy rushed over. I told him what happened and asked if he can give me his towel. He agreed. I gave him my email address so that we would keep in touch. Finally, I had something to cover myself with.
I got to the main road and tried hitching a ride to my part of the island. After a while, an old Thai man picked me up. Pretty sure I wasn't the first white dude in a towel he's seen in his life. After all, it was a tropical island. I introduced myself and told him what happened. He spoke perfect English.
— Don't worry, kid, I'm going to take you to your hotel.
We started driving. The guy wasn't saying anything, so I had to keep the conversation going.
— Can you imagine how the world would work with no roads? No paved roads, no paths, and no railroads.
The high was wearing off, but my head was still full of weird thoughts.
— No roads? What are you talking about? I come from the village and as far as I remember the roads were always here. How else would people drive to other people, to weddings, to the temple, to the shop, to work? Without roads? You must be a city-slicker asking weird things like that.
— Not really a city-slicker. More of a road-bum than a city-slicker. So, anyway, what is a road?
— Kid, the easiest way to understand what a road is is to use your legs. Preferably barefoot. The road has to be sandy. You want it to be some decent sand. And hot. It has to be hot. Or cold. Like during the winter. But you won't find that here. And the legs—they have to be young—for old hoves don't feel a lot. You also want a puddle in the middle of your road. A root. Or a rock. And hurt your toe or your ankle. To know well what a road is, you have to walk for a long time. And when you face crossroads, you have to choose the wrong way. Walk into dense bushes. Oh god, how good it is to see a fellow human being then, say your greetings, and ask them for the way home.
— And what will they respond with?
— Home? You're going in the opposite direction! Come with me. I'm going there too.
— And what's next?
— And then it's good. You walk, and you talk, and it's good.
— Alright. We're there!
— Thank you so much.
He took me straight to my hotel, where they gave me a new key on credit.
I checked my assets. I had about thirty American dollars in cash, a laptop, my clothes, and an extra towel. I Skyped my bank, blocked my card and ordered a new one. It will take about three weeks until it arrives in Thailand.
I went out, exchanged the dollars, and ate some Pad Thai. My head pounded like a drum. I could still feel the taste of last night's alcohol in my mouth. It turns out the trip to Vietnam would have to be delayed for an indefinite amount of time. I also had to figure out some way to get cash in hand as soon as possible.
The next day I got a job. The best job on the planet. But that's a story for another time.