March 18th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

We planned some activity again today, but this didn’t involve any up-at-the-crack-of-dawn stuff.  As usual, we had a leisurely + substantial breakfast – we really are living like kings at the moment – + then set off.  We planned to visit Big Buddha, a temple set on its own small island a few kms around the coast.  If possible, we wanted to walk to it along the beach – it didn’t look like it could be too far.  It seemed, however, that we’d bitten off more than we could chew, for when, after a long hot plod, we finally rounded the point at the far end of Chaweng, we were confronted by another huge sweep of a bay, no Big Buddha in sight.  We were undecided as to what to do – in the meantime we had a swim to cool off.  It was not pleasant, however.  In direct contrast to the sparkling clear water just around the point, the water here was thick + unpleasant – it felt oily, tho’ not polluted.  Then we decided to go on at least a little further, + soon came to a building fronting onto the beach.  At first we thought it must be a lavish private house, but it was soon obvious that it was another resort, similar in style to all the others around the island, but aimed at a much more affluent group.  A lot more care had gone into such things as landscaping – the individual bungalows, tho’ of beach hut exteriors, were larger +, I would guess, more luxuriously furnished.  We went in, both to get some directions + to buy a coke if the price was reasonable.  It wasn’t – it cost $12, exactly twice the normal price, so we didn’t bother.  They were, however, able to direct us on to the road to BB, assuring us it was impossible to walk around the coast.  The road was a bit of a shiock, however, + not a particularly pleasant one at that.  It was a dirt track, obviously bulldozed thro’ some years before, presumably to service the coconut plantations, tho’ we couldn’t be sure, + still getting enough traffic along it to keep it well open.  So it was an easy enough walk, apart from the heat + the dust, + the fact it was very boring – it threaded thro’ the stunted palm trees with not very much in the way of rhyme or reason, without passing many houses, + without any beauty.

We were just about wilting, when, like a surreal mirage, around the corner ahead of us came, tinkling his bell, an ice-cream man on his motorbike.  And in 2 minutes he was gone again – only we were left, clutching our ice creams, + feeling somewhat stunned.  It was, in fact, pretty revolting stuff, with a flavour of cheap bubble-gum, but it was cold, + wet, + welcome.

We had plenty of time to build up a thirst again before we came to the next watering-hole.  We came to a sign advertising a beach bungalow down a track; after a brief debate, push on or have a break, I won + we went down there.  Luckily, it was not far; it was also pleasant, secluded on its own beach.  We slaked our thirst, + then, succumbing to temptation, I ordered a hamburger.  It took quite a while to arrive, + when it did so, it was just meat + salad – no bread.  It was very difficult to explain to the bloke that a reasonably vital ingredient was missing, but when he finally got the idea, he took my plate away for 5 mins.  There was a happy ending, however – when I finally received my complete burger it was delicious.

From here it was another 2 kms to the temple – more hot, dusty walking.  We were very relieved when it finally came into view – + impressive view at that.  The temple itself consists of a 30 ft statue of the seated Buddha, sat on top of a hill on its own island – connected to the main island by 2 small causeways + approached up a long staircase.  It is more impressive from a distance than close up, actually – closer inspection reveals it to be on the tatty side.  We had a coke at a stall (I have become a fizz addict) + then set off back, this time by the main road.  We were lucky enough to get a lift al most straight away, on the back of a coconut lorry, out to the round the island road – precarious + uncomfortable, but helpful.  We had to walk a couple of kms along that road before being picked up by a Chaweng taxi-truck.  He only charged us $5, which isn’t at all bad. 

And I arrived back in the nick of time to get in on the volleyball game.  Too many people this time, so not so good.  The majority of the people here are German.  Over on Bophut everybody seemed to be French, but that must be where they all head, for they don’t have a noticeable presence here.  And there were a few of each of the common travellers’ nations – English, Canadian, Swiss, etc.  There are more Americans than one would expect, + fewer Australians.  After the game, (we lost 1-2) I sat down with a Kiwi couple I’d met before.  Val joined us when she’d finished her book, + we spent the first part of the evening with them.  The conversation didn’t sparkle however – despite some superficial similarities, we really had little in common.  My meal was dreadful too – wiener schnitzel that was stringy + gritty.  The first culinary let-down.

In contrast to the lazy hedonism of the past couple of days, quite a trek. I suppose the first resort we came to was a harbinger of what was to come – a more exclusive (and thus more expensive) offering… though nothing in comparison to what there is now, by all accounts.

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