Trang Islands Day 2: Terror at a Thailand Campground

Day Two

(see the complete Trang Island itinerary)

On the second day on Kradan we strolled the beach only to find that our sunscreen was apparently past its expiration date. Ouch. We returned to camp to a lingering smoke from burning trash. At the pavilion I asked for a cold Fanta and the attendant reached into the large cooler of Arctic water and floating ice chunks in attempts to find one. He failed several times, his arm in almost to the armpit, his face held in a painful grimace, so I took a Coke to spare him.

The tsunami warning system stood above the beach on a tall pole. With the maintenance of the park in mind, I wondered if it worked.

Signs in the foliage pointed out the route to higher ground 1100 meter to the north (with a dogleg to the west). Hopefully the warning system gives enough advance warning to run or one would have to surf the last several hundred meters. What’s **your** best time for one kilometer in loose sand? Signs were spread out about every 50 meters to keep you hopeful you were making progress I suppose.

As dusk descended on the island, the rays of the setting sun — invisible to us in the shelter of the island — struck the gathering clouds in the east turning them, and silvery surface of the sea, into pink cotton candy and orange marmalade. As the color show dimmed and darkened to purple, the park generator awoke with a sputter.

Though the darkness was dispelled throughout the tents, another ominous visitor arrived in the camp. This tireless spirit haunts all campgrounds in Thailand and nothing short of a monsoon can release its horrible grip on the campers. It’s inevitable. It’s inexhaustible. Guaranteed to make you wish you could stop up your ears with sand. What I might refer to as Slow Painful Death by Saccharine in the Key of D minor (the saddest key), doesn’t actually kill anyone, though one might hope for death or consider causing it.

Thai campground singalongs. You’ll see them coming: a group of enthusiastic young Thai guys with no intention of sleeping until next week sometime, tumbling out of the pickup or longtail boat with the telltale classical guitar. God help you if they have alcohol with them.

At first we heard the clatter like natives in the distance were going to war but couldn’t find any drums but a 10-gallon plastic bucket. (I was right about the bucket. With the lid to a pot for the riding cymbal.) But as we got closer we could hear the strumming and the crooning. The clink of a beer bottle and we knew we were in for a cursed night.

We walked past, forcing weak smiles at them, but they were lost in the rapture of some awful romantic ditty, the kind that will greet you at the gates of hell.

Exhausted, we lay in our narrow tent, radiating back the excessive rays we had absorbed throughout the day and trying not to touch each other, the tent fabric, or even the ground itself.

“How many songs can they possibly play?” I asked, partly to Peung, partly to cruel fate.

“Ten,” said Peung. (Fate never replies but sends a crescendo through the crooners outside so I know it’s listening and enjoying the moment.)

“Only ten? I admit it all sounds like the same song over and over, but…”

“No, I mean they will play until 10, I think, when the electricity goes out.”

I doubted darkness would deter them, but fortunately, it did. Without the light or a campfire, perhaps their fingers couldn’t find the chords. Whatever the reason, the Romeo chorus of Thai campers left us to smolder in our own skin in silence at least.

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