Flying Solo

IMG_1548, originally uploaded by linseyis.

It’s been nearly a month since Nikolai landed in Bangkok, all bleary-eyed from nearly thirty hours of traveling and nearly four months without me. And since my love was only by my side for four weeks (thank you, Bangkok protestors…it was only supposed to be three) I couldn’t seem to find the time to write or read or anything if it didn’t involve him.

I had grandiose plans to write about my kayaking and Nepali adventures, but now here it is, December, and I’ve yet to write anything. So, in the interest of your leisure time, my sanity and a whole slew of other things, I’m going to break from my traditional narrative that focuses on one person, time or place. Instead, I’m gonna give you some details about The Adventures of Nikolai and Linsey, since some of you want to know “what the hell [we’ve] been up to. Here are some highlights:

Nik and I celebrated my birthday at Chakrabongse Villas on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. The former summer villa of the queen, Chakrabongse has a long history of writers holing up in one of its six cozy rooms and getting to work. Books line hallways and room shelves. Two tables sit riverside, and Nik and I always had breakfast to ourselves, watching longtail boats jettison up the river. The managers at the Villas ordered me my very own chocolate cake for my birthday! We ate by candlelight and lounged by the pool, lined with blooming white orchids and paper lanterns.

From our riverside hideaway, Nik and I hopped on a train and headed northeast, to the border town of Nong Khai. Convinced I had to express the Martha Stewart in me, I purchased banana tree trunk, banana leaves, orchids, marigolds and pins so Nik and I could create our own kathrongs to float down the river during the Loi Kathrong festival. It was the perfect activity to fill our ten hour train ride, and a local woman, terrified that we were doing it all wrong, came to our aid and helped Nik and I fold banana leaves and arrange the float. That night, after learning that our hostel was booked despite reservations, and all other accommodation in town packed for the night, we found a room—on a boat—floating on the Mekong. We threw down our stuff, grabbed our kathrongs and headed out to the middle of the river. Candles and incense lit, we watched our homemade symbols of new beginnings carry down the current.

Over the border in Laos, Nik and I hopped on a bus headed to the town of Vang Vieng. On the local Thai bus, the rear seats and the entire center aisle was stuffed full of cases of 10W4; another stop and the bus loaded at least one hundred pounds of food stuffs on board. A third stop and six baskets full of chickens were placed on top of the roof. I told Nik, as poultry feathers blew though the open window and into my mouth, If this thing gets in an accident, we’re screwed.

In Vang Vieng, we celebrated Nik’s thirty-third birthday by floating down the river in inner tubes, beer in hand. We watched the 20-somethings guzzle Singha at the bars along the bank; they flew over our heads via zip line and splashed into the water close enough to make our tubes shake. Nik and I were content to float lazily along, watching the karsts interrupt the blue blue sky. Though, if Nik’s back were intact, I’m sure we would have been just as happy to fly through the air.

From there we made it to the World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang, a beautiful corner in Laos where three bodies of water intersect. We had all sorts of activities planned: trekking, elephant riding, staying in a village, renting bikes and visiting local craft markets. But someone had other plans for us, and instead, we found ourselves hunkering on and over the toilet, falling prey to a duel case of food poisoning. I have to say, you really test your love in a nascent relationship by becoming violently ill for over twenty-four hours together in a confined, windowless, stale-air space. I am happy to say that Nik and I and our love survived. We got to ride the elephants after all and kayak down the river before heading to our island paradise in Ko Pha-ngan.

Sequestered away in a bungalow less than ten feet from the breaking waves at high tide, Nik and I lounged around back in Thailand. And when it rains, it pours. Literally. Days and days of rain, and my boy and I resorted to old timers tricks to pass the time: I taught Nik cribbage and how to shuffle, he hunted mosquitoes and we watched the downpour while sipping pina coladas. Three days of thundering skies and we had to get out, rain or not. We took our scoots around the island, got lost only once (20 kilometers from home in the pelting rain) and found a place that served apple pie while we snoozed in papazan chairs, perfect to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Still out to battle the rain and desperate for exercise, we decided to make the trek around the tip of the island to Bottle Beach. “This is what it must have been like for the guys in Vietnam,” Nik said as we slid down granite-backed waterfalls and steadied our balance with jungle vines hanging from trees. We collected river shells along the way, certain that our destination was “just around the corner.” But three hours, little water and no food later, we still hadn’t made it. I grew worried. It would be dark in another two hours, and I had the sinking feeling that the beach we headed to would be deserted. Indeed, it was. Except for one Thai man, sitting staring into the volatile ocean as though he had done for decades. In Thai, in a sand drawing, he explained that two routes led to Bottle Beach, and we had taken the more precarious one. He led us down the bottle-lined path to the more direct route. We were home, pina coladas in hand, in just under an hour.

Our Thai masseuse had mentioned something about not being able to fly. We chalked it up to the monsoons, to the fact that Ko Samui airport might be closed. On the road back to our beach bungalow, Nik said, “I’m not ready to go home.”

Turns out he couldn’t.

We were stuck on a tropical island. A damn shame.

Nik emailed his dad, asking for money for essentials such as “wine and massages.” We found an air-con room, a muay thai fight, a place with food and massages to die for and forgot about the fact that an anti-government group was planning a coup.

At some point though, we had to make our way out, so we jumped on a ferry, held on tight to the upper deck while twelve foot waves sprayed salt in our face and soured our stomachs. Another ten hour bus ride and we had arrived back in Bangkok, back at our secluded and quiet home, Chakrabongse. Atom waited for us at the gate, though it was nearly ten p.m. The next day, we hopped on an overnight train to Chiang Mai, where supposedly, Nik’s flight had been rerouted. The train ran only seven hours behind, though we did find out that the government offered free lodging and food to those stranded. Nik was stranded. Thank you Tourism Authority of Thailand.

I knew Nik had to get back to work. I knew he still needed vacation time to go home for Christmas. I knew he couldn’t stay forever. That at some point, one of us had to make money and the other one had to write. But leaving his brilliant smile and warm hands at the departure gate broke my heart. I sat on a green plastic chair outside the airport, watched his plane taxi and take off. I cried behind shaded lenses. I sat alone. Nothing to do and no where to go. Love of my life up and away, back home to my family and friends, all of whom I miss dearly. It struck me for the first time just how much I missed everybody.

No worries, though. I’ve found something to do and somewhere to go. Went to meditation and yoga. Haunted the markets. Broke out my notebook and cracked the spine of a book. On Monday I leave for the Elephant Nature Park, where I will volunteer for at least two weeks. They’re no Nik, but the big grey guys will have to do.

**New pics have been posted. There are TONS, thanks to my camera-addicted boyfriend. I didn’t make it through labeling all of them. Have an eggnog or two and scroll through while your at work.


4 Responses to “Flying Solo”

  1. 1 Romy
    December 10, 2008 at 1:29 am

    Hi Linsey! Glad to see you’re back up on the www. I don’t think that extra week Nik had to spend away from his desk should be held against him. A coup is like an earthquake or something. I love all the pictures. There was one of a rock that looked like a penis (don’t act like you guys didn’t notice that) and also a monk flipping you off. Good times! Love, Romy

  2. 2 Romy
    December 10, 2008 at 1:31 am

    I left a comment, but I got a strange message. It would just be dumb to retype it because you may have gotten it. Let me know, Romy

  3. December 14, 2008 at 10:46 am

    I did get it!

    Oh, good eye on the rock–it was called **oh shoot, I forget… Nikolai, do you remember? I’ll have to look in my guide book. Cool though, cause the water has formed the “grandmother and grandfather” rock (Hua Nin and Hua Hat??) one that looks like a penis and one that looks like a vagina. Gotta love Mother Nature and her sense of humor!

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