Part 2: Ko Pha-ngan | Travel Diary

Over the next week, I’ll be posting series of posts sharing stories from my whirlwind trip to South East Asia last spring. This is a little more personal than my typical content- enjoy!

Read Part One: Chiang mai

“Have you ever ridden one of these before?” He asks, tossing me a scratched up pink helmet.

“Oh yeah, a few times.” I lie. I’m about to climb on the back of a motorbike with Ben, a British man from Bristol I had met earlier on the island. Lured with the promise of Pad Thai, I’d agreed to explore the island via motorbike with him. After seeing dozens of backpackers sporting large bandages from accidents, I was nervous. Do they have tricycles here? Is that an option?

I trusted Ben as much as you could trust a stranger. After spending two weeks biking through Vietnam sans-accident he was practically a veteran. As I wrapped my arms around him and we zipped down the crowded streets of Haad Rin, my worries melted away. This was fun, actually really fun, and I took a mental snapshot. Sometimes you just need to stop worrying and let go.

We played pool and I peppered Ben from Bristol with questions, trying to learn about the stranger I had trusted with my life. He was an engineer in the real world, but he, like me, ran away to SEA to escape the monotony of a 9 to 5. The Thai islands were his last stop before going back home, but he planned on saving up to take a longer trip in the future.

“I don’t really know how to plan date without alcohol.” he sheepishly confessed after demolishing me in a game of pool. We found ourself in quite a predicament- it was the Holy Buddha day here in Thailand and all alcohol sales and consumption were banned. His confession caught me off guard. He used the word date. Were we on a date?

My dating life in the US could be summed up in one word: disappointing. In a city of seven million people, I struggled to find anyone who lasted past the second date. Hell, I considered it an accomplishment to make it to the first date. And here I was, half a world away, on an accidental date with a charming young man.

I knew I’d never hear from Ben again after these few days, but an ocean away from responsibilities and societal pressures, I was ready to throw caution to the wind. I’d already trusted him with my life on the motorbike, surely I could trust him with my heart, too?

My last morning on the island had arrived. My bags were packed at the foot of my bed and I was trying to muster the energy to get moving. The Full Moon Party the night before had left me exhausted, sore, and a bit queasy. My phone rings – it’s Ben – asking if I’m still in my room. Five minutes later, he’s at my doorstep.

“Stay.” he says.

Our little island tryst had continued on, to my surprise, and while we both knew the end was impending, neither of us were quite ready to admit it. It was almost like a game of chicken, waiting to see who would flinch first. There was a long pause.

“I’m sorry. I can’t.” and with that, we said our goodbyes and he helped me into my sambalat to the ferry dock.

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