A teacher training odyssey in six parts.
Part 4: In which the stars align and I have an out-of-body experience
“Let’s go to Samui,” Journalist told me. She had a friend staying there for a week. “We need a break from this place.”
The waves were too big to take a longtail boat, so our third Saturday on Ko Pha-ngan we rode the four-wheel drive truck over the slippery hill to Haad Rin and caught the ferry to Ko Samui. Samui is one of the sister islands of Ko Pha-ngan, bigger, famous for its airport and fancy resorts, counterfeit leather goods and for all the people who die there riding scooters on vacation.
At the ferry dock I popped into an internet café to check my email. It only took a minute.
“It’s done,” I told Journalist. “I’m divorced.”
“Oh, sweetheart,” she said, tilting her head. I could barely hold it together. “Good for you.”
On Samui our hotel cost $47 a night but was new and modern, with crisp white sheets, A/C, a hot shower and a mini-fridge. I took three showers and in between all the toweling off we lazed about in lounge chairs on the beach, shopped, drank mango smoothies and generally tried not to feel guilty about not doing yoga. Before I knew it we were checking out and loping to the corner where the taxis had been waiting the night before.
There weren’t any.
We looked out into traffic. Taxis were coming all the time. We waved, but they zoomed right by.
“Why aren’t they stopping?” Journalist said. “There’s no one inside.”
“They go to airport,” a voice called out to us. “Where you go?”
We turn. Four motorcycle taxi drivers sat there in the shade, waiting.
“The Big Buddha ferry,” Journalist said.
“We take you!” he said. “We take you right now. One hundred baht.”
“No,” we chimed, quickly. “We want a regular taxi.”
He shrugged. “No taxicar here. Wrong way.”
I walked a few yards off and waited for another taxi. In Thailand, it is rude to show your palm to someone, so you hail a taxi by holding your arm out at about four o’clock and waving your hand, palm down. Still, no one stops. I lower my arm.
We are now officially late. If we don’t get a ride right now, we will miss our ferry. The next one is in five hours. I don’t want to wait five hours.
“We go slow!” he called to us. “Safe. Very safe. Okay?”
My driver lurched and darted through the traffic, racing Journalist’s driver up and around and down the winding, sandy streets. I begged him not to race. “Ha ha!” he yelled, passing Journalist and jabbing his finger at the other driver.
“You lean!” he yelled over his shoulder at me. He swerved the bike sharply to the left and then to the right. “Lean!” he cried. I thought I was leaning already, but he was insistent so I clutched his waist and did it a little more.
“Yesssss!” he shouted. “Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssss!” I felt dizzy, like I was going to slip like syrup onto the sandy concrete and be licked up by ants. I closed my eyes and spied myself from above. My hair whipped my face, my knuckles clenched and white around this tiny, faceless person. I was wearing shorts, sandals and no helmet. People died here every day doing exactly what I’m doing. If we skidded across the pavement right now, no one would feel sorry for me. Not one person.
Seven minutes later we leaned simultaneously to the right in one final act of international relations and came to a stop on the dirt road to the ferry dock. My driver clicked up his plastic visor, grinned and extended a palm out for 100 baht ($3). I could have kissed him, but he was wearing a helmet and we were late.
Kristina Chandler is a lawyer and certified yoga teacher who began practicing yoga in 1994 to rehab an injury, fell in love and has been hitting the mat ever since. She’s practiced yoga all over the globe, from Bali to Sweden and many places in between. Check out her other musings on yoga here.