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The Dashing Life and Exuberant Times of Brian Harrison....And Other Rare Anecdotes

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Sort of Healing in a Bar

After the first day of meeting these first friends and going romping through a jungle to find Nina's land, we...we, that is, Nina, Jeorgen (the retired Danish engineer), and I skipped off to a bar with live music. Yes, and those who have traveled to any tropical corner in the world will know the place. Bob Marley will be blaring and many of the musicians will do everything they can to look like Bob Marley, sound like him, play like him, and smoke like him. It doesn't matter what portion of the world you are in and how far removed from Jamaica. Bob Marley is the residing ghost tyrant of such haunts and there is nothing you can do about it, but just..........bend down low..."let me tell you what I know now....Long time"....

...Sorry, sorry. You see even writing of such joints, the spirit is intoxicating and can trip one into the groove. Looking around these dives, you find the same backpacking crowd and if you haven't observed this, I would venture to say it is a sort of nuevo tourism wave, though to call any of them tourists would be met with a scoff. Yet, this type of tourism tries to get away from mainstream tourism and like so many things out there that try to avoid a label, it suddenly becomes mainstream. Burlap sacks are the heyday and the clothes are a hodgepodge yarning that looks tribally or authentically weaved from the respective country that the backpacker is visiting or has visited. However, most of these are mass produced and sold only to the tourists for the locals never wear any of that stuff. And you will find the majority of the same designs from Central America to Thailand, from Bali to India, and there is no deviation in the styles. I once noticed a nicely colored bracelet in Eastern Europe the same that I had gotten in Nicaragua. Devastating. But yet, these home-woven scarves and pants and other trinkets allow the tourist to sit in a coffee shop in any tropical island with a tourism scene and to “feel” a much more part of the local scene and NOT feel like the fanny-pack wearing business man on vacation supporting corporate tourism. But let there not be any mistake about it, these tribal-crafted scarves and shirts and things ARE the new tourist flowery shirts. Tattoos are popular as well. Though, they usually are of some momentary significance like a massive elephant on the calf to commemorate one's month long romp through Thailand. Do I think that one day, this person will regret getting that elephant tattoo 20 years from now when, God help us, we all get old and with age we get to look like elephants ourselves to match the tattoo? Why, yes. Sorry. I am being a harsh critic and I probably sound older than I am. If I am wrong. Then fine. Get yourself a whole herd of elephants painted on one's legs, buttocks, face, wherever. I am not one to judge. Just observe.

This restaurant and bar that we sat at allowed one to sit on the floor on these nicely crafted pallets that fit the aura of the place. And the musicians played song after song. It seemed to me that the only way to be in the band would be to be Thai and to have long hair. I could count on my hands how many Thai men I saw that had long hair my entire time in Thailand, (unless you count the ladyboys), and half of them would have been in this bar. It goes without saying, whenever I had my long hair people would ask me if I played guitar or just assumed I did. I could see the stereotype being reinforced here. All of them looking like Bob Marley like I said before. Except for one, and he was my favorite. He had a hat on with a large feather protruding out of it. I believed he was the Bob Dylan of the bar. For he sang his songs in a raspy bluesy voice. And had this western pearl snap shirt on. Anyways, it was a bar full of Bobs.

But we were sitting there taking it all in, along with the fruit shakes, when it looked like one of the managers was scooting by. And Nina began to talk to this Thai man. He had long hair too, but was a bit older and was going bald. And he had a fu manchu, I do believe. Before long she is doing her acupressure on him. For Nina's job back in Denmark was as a licensed acupuncturist and she was supposedly so skilled at it that people would pay her big bucks so that they could go, lay down, while she inflicts all types of pain on them. The first day, I meet her, only the day before, she was enjoying pinching up under my arm that nerve very hard that made any man scream. And this is what she was doing to the owner of the bar, inflicting torture on the poor soul.
But strangely enough, he was not trying to escape. He was only wincing greatly, and squinting. I saw tears almost come out of his eyes, yet he didn't jerk his arms away from Nina's clutch. She kept pinching right away and saying things to him in Thai. Me and Jeorgen continued to sit there enjoying the music, while the people that worked the bar, foreign girls, looked over at us all wondering what Nina was doing to their boss.

Eventually she finished and he got up. I didn't know if we were going to be thrown out of there by the motley of Bobs. But before long, a lady comes by with 3 Mojitos for each of us and said they were from the owner. I couldn't understand it. I figured that, yes, some people liked massages done very hard. But I don't know, Nina didn't do normal hard massages on muscles, she pulls nerves and tendons almost.

Then she told me what the guy said. That he had had problems breathing for a long while and just felt like crap for a long while. And Nina comes along, gives him several painful shocks and now he can breath like he was much younger. He rewards us by sending us drinks over.
Then Jeorgen added a bit of revelation. That perhaps one of the most remarkable things about Nina's ability is not just her skill at healing, but her ability to intuitively sense the medical problems of others. That she had sensed this man's discomfort when he had simply walked by. Jeorgen, who had known Nina for a long time, added that her treatment is mainly for people with serious problems. And that a relatively healthy person wouldn't be able to tell the difference. That might explain why I felt nothing but discomfort when she was at work on my arms. That, and I'm just a big baby when it comes to nerves and tickling.

We left the bar. I did a little bit of dancing but I won't bother you with that.
We each depart to our separate bungalows with the mosquito nets that were right on the beach, I had geckos sharing the room with me. More to come...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

In Search of Nina's Land

The adventure all began on a ferryboat. The way that adventure should really always take place when the morning rays have first broken the chains of the night and the day whispers in soft gusts with the wind that laps against the waters and gently rocks the boat that you are on, taunting and hinting of adventures that are about to be born. Though, I recall at the time nothing so impressed me that morning for I was groggy and slightly irritated. Why? A rooster had woken me up even before the sun had arrived and I was still pissed off about it. And I had to kick my way out of my hotel room for after threatening the rooster numerous times, my door shut and locked me in it. I stole out of the guesthouse in Trat as quietly as I could after that. But enough about that, I sat on a boat that was to take me to an island and I had a book out and I was slowly getting away from cursing that blasted rooster and enjoying the morning sun and wind, and waves and water. Magic Intoxication, if one is aware, when I spotted them.

Mainly, a tall older white gentlemen. And a younger lady with curly hair. (a usual sight in Thailand) and 3 juveniles, and a Thai male. So 6 in all and I could not tell what their relations were to each other. The lady approached me and asked me if I could take their picture and that's where it all began. A conversation commenced and I understood half for the winds sweeping the top deck of the boat along with her low voice made it difficult to understand what was exactly being said, but I did understand that she was offering me a ride in their car with them to the other side of the island which I liked and decided to just go with the flow. And sometimes, this “go with the flow” attitude is the best recipe for a marvelous experience.

The island was the 2nd largest in all of Thailand and had mountains and jungles and beaches. It is called Koh Chang which translates into Elephant Island. Its called that because they say it looks like a herd of elephants. I still don't know if they mean that the mountains or the maps resemble elephants. But they are wild elephants that roam the island, though not indigenous. They were brought here for labor long ago and since remained and became wild. However, some are still used for tourist trekking. Where tourists can pay a fee and ride the elephants through the wilderness. So, in a ways, the name Elephant Island is aptly put on many fronts.
It wasn't til I was in the car with them that I understood what was going on. This lady's name was Nina and her family owns land on this island. In fact, her mother used to live on this island years and years ago. Nina had been living in Denmark for the past 20 plus years and was having to be reacquainted with her land. That was the sole purpose of her trip to find the present markers and boundaries of her land which were two plots at different areas on the island. Both of which were pretty much in the jungles of this island. The older white man was a retired engineer from Denmark named Jeorgen. They had a long, strong friendship that stretched back to Denmark. Now, he lives his unhurried retired life in Pattaya, where she is briefly staying.
The other Thai man was her driver, a man named Tong, who didn't speak a lick of English. And the 3 boys were all the friend of a friends who were invited out here for a day trip and a picturesque romp through the jungle. And now, I joined their number. There wasn't much hesitation on my part. And I don't even recall much pleading. It was just “We are going into the jungle to find my land...and you should come with us.” And that was all it took.
I was only a little worried about finding accommodation that night but they assured me that it wouldn't be a problem, so with no further worry, I remained in the car as it whisked around the coast of the island. Here there were many changes that Nina observed, for years ago as a girl few of these businesses were running. Now, the tourist craze that is sweeping, that HAS swept Thailand has caught up with this island as well. So the usual bars and restaurants, guesthouses, massage parlors, fruit shake stands, T-shirt kiosks, and resorts had popped up in the past decade or so. Outnumbering the few ones that were there before.
The 1st plot of land was located near a road that lead to a National Park where waterfalls spilled marvelously enough to attract the camera action of many tourists. This part was near one of the elephant trekking companies where they had these large stable areas and elephants would stand in them when they weren't being lead around the trails. Guesthouses were also popping up here and there and Nina's land lay right near the park entrance across a stream. So to get to it we had to strike off the main road and descend down to the stream right where the security guard sat in his booth for the National Park and then we had to cross the stream by either wading in the stream or hopping across on rocks. It made us look like we were trying to find another way of getting inside the park without paying the entrance fee. But we did it anyway and nobody yelled at us.
And then up a bamboo ladder that lead us up onto higher ground where this old shack on stilts stood and that looked all but abandoned. We didn't tarry here for very long but kept going further into the trees until we found ourselves in what looked like a type of makeshift rubber tree farm. The rubber trees had these large diagonal slashes in them and fastened around the bottom were little plastic bottles cut in such a fashion to collect the bleeding sap of the trees and that was the collection of old rubber. I recall peeling some of the rubber out of the tree and it was much like a weak rubber band.
We kept going a little ways til we came to an old well that looked very dangerous for it was basically a square pit dug some 15 to 20 feet deep and stumbling through there at night or if someone had covered it up would prove detrimental for there looked of no way of getting out if you were all alone. Somewhere around this well, was the cement rectangular bars that were the markers to her land and we took pictures of this.
We turned to go back to the car and had made our way to the abandoned shack on stilts when behind us in the rubber tree forest, I saw this dark shadow peering from foliage to foliage. It was this man wearing nothing but underwear and carrying a knife and his skin was darker than the jungles. He emerged from the bush and he had these tattoos painted all over his body and looked young sort of warrrior like. He did not look angry. A conversation in Thai was struck up and we plunged back into the forest following this man in his underwear carrying the knife and I had no idea what was going on. But some deep conversation about the land was being had.
It turns out that the man supposedly stayed at that shack on the weekends and the knife that he had was only for scraping the rubber from the rubber trees and he apparently only wears his boxer shorts when he is out working in the forest. So no hostility. A type of friendship was begun. And he had joined our entourage.
After the long foray into the forest and whatever they were talking about, we went back to his shack were this man in the underwear with the knife, emerged wearing shorts, shoes, a nice collared shirt, a cap, and was not holding a sharp object. He cleaned up really well, and looked like a different person like he was a Bangkok socialite, which I think that is where he was actually from.

Next we were back in the car, after crossing that stream and the bamboo ladder and headed off this road down a dirt one til we got to another local's dwelling place. And here we were visiting either an old friend of the family of Nina's or an actual relative, I could not remember. But this man also was scantily clad and had tattoos on him. He was older than the first guy and after a long while of dallying at his place. For that is the Thai way, lots of dalliance, he threw on a shirt and all of us made our way trying to find Nina's 2nd plot of land.

It was the 6 of us in this car. And both these locals sat on the scooter of the “guy who was previously only in underwear”. And we drove further south where the tourist civilization and civilization in general all very got scarce. There would have been a highway ring that would have circumvented the entire island but this southern portion of several kilometers had not been paved so the road ended here and therefore society ended here. Right before the jungle swallowed up this main road, there were smaller roads that lead into the interior until they too were swallowed up in the jungle. One one of these ventured. But it was difficult in a car for the road was growing more and more narrow with the encroaching rainforest. We had lost sight of the two locals on the scooter and did not know where they had disappeared to and had no reception out there. So we had to dally a bit waiting on them. And eventually they emerged and we struck down one of these narrow roads until the car would go no further and then we started hiking. The 3 boys remained napping in the back of the car. I wonder if they knew what they had gotten themselves into. They were all about 14 and that age where anything they do where they have to accompany others is lame. So the rest of us, go hiking through the rainforest on this trail. We cross over several dry stream beds but these just require us to step on rocks for fortunately it isn't the rainy season in Thailand now. By this time, I am carrying Nina's purse and sometimes her large Ipad that she was using to take photos of everything. And I was helping her step across the dry riverbeds. When deep in the jungle, we finally come to these same cement markers that marked her land. But there there was absolutely nothing else around. Several photos are shot and conversations made and yes, just basic Thai dalliance as usual. And we headed back to the car. And I thought that would've ended the adventure there. But that was only the beginning.

They did as they had promised me, they drove me to a beachside bungalow area where I could get myself a bungalow for the night. And then they'd would depart and make the long drive back to Pattaya. This was late afternoon and I went for a swim with them. But the next thing I know, Nina wanted to start developing on her land. So she wanted to stay a night as well and Jeorgen, the very silent retired Danish engineer, also. The boys had to be at school the next day, so they had to be driven by Tong back to Pattaya. So meanwhile it was the 3 of us, each with a separate bungalow, staying on Elephant Island.