My dad sent me a message a few days after I arrived in India, saying that there was nothing wrong with bailing out early and heading somewhere else. For contrary to what most backpackers would probably advise, I had my complete three-month itinerary fully fleshed out before I left Paris with almost everything booked and ready to go; it's the Type A virgo in me that feared not being able to get to my next destination because maybe the flight was fully or the price had spiked and exceeded my budget. Besides, I like knowing where I'll be in x days. Uncertainty is my greatest fear and enemy.
I wanted to fall in love with India, I suppose because I had such a romanticized, exotic vision of it going in, but the turning point came fairly early on in Agra when I began to feel overwhelmed. Too much heat and humidity. Too much unwanted attention. Too much anxiety over getting sick. (As much as I love dal, curries, naan and rice, I missed being able to enjoy summer staples like salads, fresh fruit and iced drinks). These were a lot of the same issues I had in Morocco, only there it was more tolerable because I was rarely alone.
India has backpackers in the sense that there are plenty of foreigners around carrying weeks/months' worth of stuff on their backs, but it lacks the youth hostel culture that has been integral in me making new friends on this trip. Instead there are guest houses and luxury hotels, neither of which are particularly conducive to meeting people. (I did manage to socialize with other travelers; just noticeably less than in previous countries). I was already heading to Bangkok and Chiang Mai after...but wasn't everyone always raving about Thai beaches?
So, it was decided: I would cut out Jaisalmer, and take a much-needed vacation from vacation. Lonely Beach on Koh Chang seemed appropriate and, conveniently, I could get there by bus directly from BKK airport. (Lonely Beach is actually a misnomer; normally it's party central for the budget traveler set but since this is low season it was pretty chill). The problem was that I'm not good at doing nothing.
Here is what I did on the first day:
Woke up around 10am.
Went to the beach and sprawled out in the sun.
Thought about writing or taking photos, but pulled neither notebook nor camera out of my bag.
Stayed until it started raining.
Ate a late lunch.
Got a Thai massage.
Got a pedicure.
Walked along the short street that constitutes the "village" of Lonely Beach.
Returned to bungalow and lounged in hammock.
Read in bed.
Went to sleep.
As lovely as it was, I knew that I would die of boredom before enduring two more days like that. So I started planning.
The following day I went with Koh Chang Boat Tours out to several nearby islands for a day of swimming, snorkeling and squinting out at the sun reflecting off the endless undulating sea. Except for some initial rockiness that made some passengers sea sick (and for me induced a hangover-like desire to curl up into a ball and not move), it was great. I felt like a little kid again splashing through schools of fish and checking out coral and sea urchins on the ocean floor.
I got thoroughly sunburnt, which I'm actually okay with because it ought to help restore my skin to being a uniform color. Having eschewed tank tops, shorts and dresses for the last five weeks out of respect for certain sartorially conservative countries, my arms are quite brown as are my perpetually sandaled feet, as though these parts belong to a different ethnicity. (Many Thai people have asked me if I'm Vietnamese, whereas at home my usual shade of pale tends to beg the question, "Are you Korean?")
Next time: I take a Thai cooking class.