Monday, June 9, 2008

Koh Samui

My left eye is really bothering me at this point, despite removing my contacts.


Heavy clouds hung in the sky as we docked on Koh Samui. Christian, the Swiss girls, and I trooped off and, of course, were instantly hit up by touts who wanted an outrageous 8 bucks per person to take us around to the other side of the island. Per person! And these were songthaew -they could easily fit all of us inside. That's 56 bucks for a 20 minute trip. We tried to bargain with him (the guide book says it shouldn't cost nearly that much) and he pulled the typical Thai taxi driver tantrum, threw up his hands and walked away. Again, he'd rather not make any money then bargain. The guide book recommended just walking to the main road and hailing a passing taxi -- not one that's waiting for you. We watched as other tourists grimaced and shelled out the dough. The road was a bit far from the ferry, but we strapped on our gear and headed out.

As we stood on the corner, our taxi driver reappeared. He'd do it for 7 bucks a person now. We countered with 4. He drove away -- I guess to wait for the next ferry (which was hours away).

Another a moped pulled up, an older German guy with his Thai wife on the back. Now, I realize that many different nationalities actually do fall in love, but at this point every time I saw a white guy with a Thai woman, I only thought, "Ugh… creepy sex tourist." This guy told the Swiss girls and Christian (who were all now leaving me out by talking in German, which is understandable) that he'd take us to the beach we wanted for 20 bucks. He bids us to come with him down the road as he went to get his truck. We start after him but a pack of dogs come out to greet us and the Swiss girls start screaming. I tell them to look at the dogs' tails, which were all wagging friendly-like -- the dogs were just saying hi, not attacking. But we didn't continue down the road, deciding to stay near the main road.

Our taxi driver reappears again and this time he's thought things over and could possibly take us for 6 bucks each. We told him we'd already found a ride for 20 bucks but if he wanted to beat that, that's fine. He grouches and gets back in his truck but doesn't leave.

A few minutes later, the German guy reappears with his truck and waves us over. He doesn't want the taxi driver to see him taking us because it's illegal to drive a non-licensed taxi. Oh dear. The taxi driver is eyeing us and comes over and starts yapping. The German guy's wife says something and he leaves but he is definitely not happy. The woman tells us that she told him we were friends and they were giving us a ride.


We pile into the back of the truck and off we go. It turns out to be quite a drive and a cramped one at that. We try to find the hotel the Swiss girls had looked up but have no luck and end up in a very nice cottage-type hotel room, steps from the beach. After settling, we all troop out to find food. Koh Samui turns out to be quite expensive (although Christian and I shared a room again at about 6 bucks each). We went to restaurant after restaurant where all the main courses were 7 dollars or more. Of course it seems ridiculous now to be put off by that, but when you're used to eating wonderful meals for minimum money, it's a lot. We ended up at a fairly bland spot but I had the crab noodle salad (basically glass noodles with a little bit of greenery and seafood) which was pretty good. Except when I chomped down on a ridiculously hot pepper and tears started streaming down my face. Gotta look out for those, they bite.

My eye looked dreadful that night and hurt pretty badly. I got little sleep. Christian had told me when we were in Krabi that once he was on vacation with his girlfriend in Australia and she came down with an eye infection. It hurt her more and more so she decided to go to a hospital except they had no car and the closest hospital was 75 miles away. They had to hire a taxi and pay an arm and a leg to save her eye because, as it turns out, she had some sort of flesh-eating bacteria which had already eaten out a chunk of her eye! So of course this story is in my head and then Christian brings it up again.

The next morning, the eye is even worse. And it won't stop crying. Christian's already up and out and about. I decide to go to Subway for lunch and also stop at a pharmacy. My weeping eye is so painful, I don't know what to do. Nothing at the pharmacy is suitable. I shuffled blindly back to the beach, found Christian surrounded by all the gorgeous, nubile Swiss girls and tell him I'm giong to the hospital. I went back to the room where I start crying in earnest. Christian comes in and asks if I want him to go with me. He clearly doesn't want to and I'm not about to ask a him to give up beach time with 6 lovely ladies for me, the ancient one. Plus… OF COURSE I WANT HIM TO COME. I don't want to go to another Thai hospital by myself -- particularly since this one was guaranteed to be not as nice as Bumrungrad. But I tell him no, it's okay, go have fun on the beach as I wash my eye out again. He wavers, "Are you sure?" NO I'M NOT SURE! "Yeah. I'll be fine." "I think maybe I should come with you," he says -- but not sounding too sure of it. WHY IS THIS EVEN UP FOR DEBATE? "No, it's fine," I say, crying again. He goes back to the beach. I go to find a taxi. I can't believe he let me go alone.

Taxi charges me six bucks to go about 4 minutes. The hospital is a smallish clinic. There are two people waiting. I sign in and am seen immediately. A nice doctor and a couple of nurses make me lie down on a gurney where the doctor swabs my eye (fun!) and then the nurses basically hold me down and pry my goopy, inflamed eye open and rinse it with saline for 5 minutes. It wasn't exactly painful, but incredibly uncomfortable -- seeing liquid pouring in my eye for so long. I tried to pretend I was being tortured and needed to stay strong and valiant. But that sucked.

Then the doctor bound my eye up with a cotton wadding and tape and sent me away to another window to pick up my "painkillers" and antibiotic eye drops. Painkillers! Yay! The nurse hands me a foil packet of painkillers I've never heard of before: Paracetamol. Oooh! The doctor had anaesthetized my eye while swabbing so it was feeling pretty good at the moment but I was looking forward to dozing a bit when I got back to the hotel and could take one of the pills. I paid the bill - 30 bucks for doctor and antibiotics and pain pills.
With my sense of balance and depth perception impaired, I weaved out into the parking lot to wave down a cab on the street. One stopped immediately. I told him the hotel and asked how much. He said 12 dollars! "It's half a mile away and I just came out of the hospital!!! What would Buddha say!?! It cost 6 to get here. I won't pay more than that." He smiled sheepishly and off we went.
Back at the hotel, I walked lopsidedly down the the beach. Christian and his harem were playing card games and they all gasped dramatically when I approached. I told Christian I was going to sleep for a bit since I was taking painkillers and they'd probably knock me out. I took the pills with some water and Christian walked me back to the hotel room, holding my arm. I couldn't really make out steps very well with only one eye. I lay down and Christian told me he was going out for a bit, and did I need anything. I told him I wanted a real eye patch, if he could find one. I figured if I was going to wear this stupid cotton one, I might as well go whole hog and have a scary black one. Really take this new pirate look all the way. Or at least get a parrot.
I try to sleep… waiting for the wooziness to come on. Been awhile since my neck surgery but I remembered the relaxing "duuuuhhhh" sensation. It wasn't coming. I fell asleep eventually and when Christian returned, they still weren't working. Disappointed, I got up. My eye still hurt. No luck with the eye patch, Christian said. Hmmm. I found a black pen and went into the bathroom.

Dread Pirate Maureen Elizabeth

That'll do.

We met the girls for dinner -- another unremarkable Thai place. At one point one of the girls tried to convince Christian that another girl had been Miss Switzerland the year before (Miss Swiss! Swiss Miss! Hahaha). Christian nodded and congratulated her. What are you supposed to say? "No you weren't!" and if she was, she'll be insulted and if she wasn't…she'll be insulted.

We decide to take a walk and find an internet place after dinner. I’ve popped some more painkillers and they’re still not working. I got online and looked up paracetamol. It’s Tylenol. Dang.

Christian and I decide that Koh Samui is boring and overpriced and decide to head for Koh Phangan the next day. The girls are going to stay another night.

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