Solo Travel in Thailand: Out of My Comfort Zone, Part IV
I walked along the path alone looking for anything that looked slightly populated. I barely made it around the first corner before being stopped by two men promoting a nearby bar and promising a good time. Since I did not have concrete plans or friends to consult with on the venue location, I passively complied and headed towards the bar named after phallic yellow fruit. I crept up the narrow circular staircase into a lofted smoky bar playing slow jams perfectly in simpatico with the chill island vibes. The place was disappointingly empty, so I pulled up a bar stool, ordered a cocktail and sat down to assess the situation. I debated just going back to my guesthouse to rest before my Sunset Tour early the next morning, but as the wise Tina Fey once told Lindsay Lohan, “You’re already out.” Since we all know how well that worked out, I stayed.
A couple of cocktails later I carefully climbed a ladder in a dress to a higher lofted outside area, being careful not to expose myself. It was even emptier than below, but I opted to try and enjoy the cooler air and view of the lit lively village down below. When simultaneously sipping my drink and checking social media no longer kept my attention, I decided to leave to look for better entertainment. I headed for a ladder on the opposite side of the platform because it looked sturdier and more fun. Since it was quite dark, I failed to see the step down and did an awkward ankle flub waddle maneuver before catching my balance. Thinking no one had seen me, I continued limping towards the ladder before a man’s voice came out of the shadows to make sure I survived unscathed. I turned around to find three moderately attractive males sitting in a wooden booth in yet another lofted area. I made a lame joke and invited myself to sit with them in their secret seating hideaway.
I suppose I should improve my facial expressions until I am successfully able to fake interest in stories of hippie backpackers’ spiritual awakenings.
We sat and chatted for a while, but after going through all the obligatory introductory questions and discovering we had nothing left to discuss, I needed an escape. I sensed a pang of disappointment when they learned I was traveling solo without potential suitors to coincide with their clique. They also seemed disinterested in someone who lived locally but without the exotic appearance. In their defense, they have far more in common with the waves of trust fund tourists also traveling on their gap year. I suppose I should improve my facial expressions until I am successfully able to fake interest in stories of hippie backpackers’ spiritual awakenings. When the conversation could no longer be resurrected, I excused myself using the fail-proof restroom routine. I swiftly scooted out of the booth and descended down the ladder, making great effort not to trip again, securing a graceful exit.
Once safely downstairs, I made a B-line for the bar and was just breathing a sigh of relief when a tall, gangly, untraditionally handsome man with mad scientist hair swung around and struck up a conversation. As unsurprising as it probably was to him that I was a stereotypical teacher in Thailand, I was equally as unfazed to learn he was a diving instructor and lived the life of a modern-day vagabond. He, whose name I cannot recall, explained that he drifts between guesthouses on a monthly rotation with as little as one backpack of his own belongings. I envied his uninhibited behavior and admired his delicate environmental footprint. Regrettably, I strongly value a hot shower, clean underwear and my own pillow far too much to ever commit to such a transient lifestyle. The Drifter and I chatted briefly before he introduced me to his like-minded pals. One of which was a French woman, dancing seductively and somewhat whimsically by herself on the open dance floor. Mon amie was definitely feeling the beat, or the beer. I was so mesmerized by all the oddities that when I finally turned around, Drifter had found himself a new female friend, with blonde hair. In that instant I realized it was time to leave and go get a bamboo tattoo, so I snuck away for the perfect parlor to drink and ink.
Regrettably, I strongly value a hot shower, clean underwear and my own pillow far too much to ever commit to such a transient lifestyle.
In Koh Phi Phi, outdoor tattooing shops greatly outnumber any other business. I passed several searching for the most welcoming until I found a cozy, vacant parlor with eager artists ready to draw. I wanted to get something extravagant of Angelina Jolie-esque status on my back between my shoulder blades to symbolize my cultural experience. Given the popular five-spired Ha Thaew tattoo was extremely intricate, it was going to be expensive and take a substantial amount of time. I needed to get this accomplished quickly before rationale conquered my momentary spontaneity. Luckily, I did not have enough money, a sentence I will most likely never repeat again. Therefore I went the more practical route, my first name should I ever forget my identity, only in Sanskrit (Chandra is Hindu) for edgier artistry. I researched the translation using the ever-so-reliable Internet. I showed the “professional” my tiny-tat intent and he began preparing his tools to permanently mark my skin. I nestled myself in the chair and laid back with a beer in hand, satisfied with my sheer brilliance.
Considering I had drunkenly tatted myself once before during a memorable winter weekend in New York City, I was a seasoned veteran. It happened between the bar and brunch, after a very long night that turned into morning with two friends in the East Village. We had petite matching anchors inked on the inside of our left wrists, mere days before I moved to Asia, that now serves as a sentimentally silly memory of home. Because of my self-diagnosed imbalance disorder, I needed to have my new similarly sized design on opposite spectrums of my body as to not upset my “Zen,” so I chose to brand the right side of my foot, just above the heel. As the man concentrated diligently on my footwork, I clutched my beer and flinched when the “bamboo” needle penetrated my skin and skimmed bone in such a sensitive area. Once completed, I proudly walked my new tattoo to a packed beach party to tell anyone willing to listen before finally conceding to my exhaustion and retiring for the evening.
I woke up the next morning without regret and surprisingly pleased with the new addition imprinted on my body, in the form of a story, stamped with a piece of my journey. It barely even bothered me when my native Indian friend told me that it was translated incorrectly, but theoretically means “moon,” as Chandra is a lunar deity. Through a tiny coincidence that perfectly embodies my preference for the night, I suppose I succumbed to spirituality after all, despite my many attempts to resist.