Paradise Lost

At this point, you probably have a few questions for me. Like, when am I ever going to stop this traveling nonsense and go home? And why do I get to spend my days lolling around here while you're somewhere cold, gray, and rainy, putting on another sweater to avoid the chill and cursing the fact that you left your umbrella at the office, and wouldn't it be nice if something kind of awful could happen while I was enjoying the white sand and turquoise water of the Gulf of Thailand, so that then you'd feel a little bit better about the unjustness of it all?

The answers, dear Internet, are a) next Friday, and b) OH, DO I HAVE A STORY FOR YOU.

The plan was that we'd spend our last week in Asia doing a spot of island-hopping in Thailand, lying on tropical beaches, reading a book a day, and ordering large plates of fresh pineapple. We took an overnight bus from Bangkok to Chumphon, arrived at 5am and waited around for a minibus to take us to the ticket office, bought a ticket and waited two hours for a bus to take us to the ferry terminal, got on board the ferry and endured the three hour ride out to Koh Tao, picked up a truck to take us around the island to find a suitable place to stay, looked at four different beachfront guesthouses and then came back to the one we liked best in the first place, and then finally, finally, collapsed on the beach and spent the rest of the day prone, communicating only in grunts and only about beer.

Things were all going according to plan until about 3am, when I awoke in our, ahem, rustic beach bungalow to hear a noise. A sort of....rustling noise. Like someone was looking for something. I convinced myself it was the fan blowing across the plastic bags that held my clothes---dear god, do you know how happy I'm going to be next week, when I can finally keep my tank tops in a closet and not a beat-up Old Navy bag?---and went back to sleep. I woke up an hour later to hear the rustling again. And then I woke up half an hour after that. IT'S THE FAN, I kept telling myself, all in caps, just like that. I was trying, of course, to block out the other voice, the voice all in caps and in italics, which was saying WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT'S THE FAN? IT'S NOT THE FAN, SWEET CHEEKS! THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE ROOM!

I should point out at this point that the rustling was coming three inches from my head, where my backpack was lying on the ledge next to the bed.

I woke Sean up and we lay there listening to the rustling together. It was loud. It was close. It was---"I can't stand it anymore!" I shouted. "Please just turn on the light and see what it is!"

Here you are, Internet, here's the best part. Oh, you'll be glad of your cold, gray, rainy town now.

IT WAS A RAT. An enormous, bloated, charcoal-gray rat, with a long thick tail that continues to make me shudder whenever I think of it, a rat who had somehow sniffed out the jar of peanut butter we'd bought in Vietnam and forgotten about, and who had spent the last few hours nibbling his way around its circumference. It stared at us for a moment---the word insouciant came to mind---and then darted across the ledge and disappeared, although I don't know where, because my face was buried in Sean's collarbone and I was screaming too loudly.

That's the interesting thing about seeing a rat; you're not quite sure how you'll react until it happens. Because while I do own a large collection of lipglosses and willingly go and see Reese Witherspoon movies, I never thought that when I saw a rat, I'd be the type to jump into the arms of the nearest available man (who, by the way, refused to pick me up and let me just dangle there around his neck like a dead weight, THANKS SEAN, I COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED), and I never thought I'd do that cliched standing-up-on-the-bed-and-flapping-my-arms-ineffectively thing either. And yet I did both. Quite remarkably well, actually. I'd like to thank the Academy.

So we left that resort the next morning, after an argument with the manager ("eh, you're paying ten bucks a night, what do you expect?") and while I may not have exited with the grace I wanted---"I'M GOING TO TELL EVERYONE THAT PRANEE'S BEACH BUNGALOWS ON KOH TAO HAS RATS IN THEIR ROOMS HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT PRANEE'S BEACH BUNGALOWS?"---we did at least exit, and that's all that counts.

We're in Kho Pha Ngan now, where the sand (impossibly) is even whiter, the water even clearer, and the rats have yet to make an appearance. Well, in the room, anyway. Because come to think of it, the chicken curry I had for dinner did taste a little strange. Not quite like chicken. Perhaps not quite enough like chicken, anyway.

1
Jemima
Oct 21, 2006

Oh, Good. You're alive. I was starting to wonder. The white sand beaches sound heavenly, especially since you have to wear a DOWN PARKA to go to the beaches around here. You think I'm kidding, but I'm freaking not. The rat sounds even worse than a palmetto bug...but maybe not as bad as a flying palmetto bug. This is why you should travel armed with cooking gear, because then you can smite Templeton with your frying pan. Or cut off his foul tail like the boy in The Witches. Ooh! I bet it would wriggle like a lizard's tail when it was cut off. Mwahahahah! What, I'm not helping?

2
Sarah
Oct 21, 2006

Coming face to face with a rat like that, I've a feeling I might do the arm-flapping thing too.
I can't believe you're coming home so soon. You were already on the road when I first found your blog and I realise now that some part of me must have been assuming that you'd just keep travelling for the rest of your life in order to keep me amused with beautifully-written travel tales.

3
Phc
Oct 21, 2006

Oh god, I am so sorry. Rats are the worst thing ever. I came face-to-face with one (in a garbage can) about 10 years ago and I still feel traumatized about it.

And don't worry about rain here... it's supposed to be 82 in San Francisco today!

4
Sheila
Oct 21, 2006

Really? The word INSOUCIANT came to mind whilst you were staring down a rat? Really? BECAUSE THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD COME TO MY MIND WOULD BE FAINTING DEAD AWAY.

5
Sheila
Oct 21, 2006

Really? The word INSOUCIANT came to mind whilst you were staring down a rat? Really? BECAUSE THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD COME TO MY MIND WOULD BE FAINTING DEAD AWAY.

6
Sheila
Oct 21, 2006

Oh gosh... I got so excited there that I double posted. I'm still trembling for you.

And I'm sorry.

7
Julie
Oct 21, 2006

Poor rat. He just wanted some peanut butter. Why didn't you offer him a sandwich?

8
Erica
Oct 21, 2006

Or make some Rat Satay out of him if the peanut butter is nearby?

Also, the newest Bachelor is a graduate of the college I teach at and they are having a meet and greet where you can enter to win your own "fentessssy date" with him.

9
Susan
Oct 21, 2006

Holy fucking hell.

I need to go have a shower now. RIGHT NOW.

10
Meg
Oct 21, 2006

Oh, HOLLY. I feel for you. See, I always thought I'd be fine, too! I was a camp girl! I'd been in the woods all the time! I was hard core!

But when mice appeared in a cupboard in my kitchen, I dropped a jar of sundried tomatoes and screamed like a wee girl. There were TWO OF THEM. MAYBE MATING.

I phoned my friend Jonathan, who laughed at me and refused to come over until I literally began to cry on the other end of the line and question his love for me.

Which was also fairly pathetic. And likely why we did not marry.

BUT THEY WERE NOT RATS.

I cannot imagine a rat. A nasty peanut-butter-wanting-rat.

You, my friend, handled it brilliantly. Don't even sweat it. Rats deserve screaming.

Nothing But Bonfires: Because bungalows should be rat-free.

11
Betsy
Oct 22, 2006

Rats, ew.

Is it bad for me to be sad that you're comming home soon? I've enjoyed your trip so much!

And Meg that line is priceless.

12
Jennifer
Oct 22, 2006

I see rats more than I'd like to admit, as this is a diry, grimy city... and yet, every time one scuttles across the sidewalk in front of me, I instinctively let out one of those girly, movie-worthy screeches and jump a mile into the air. I've been here 7 years, and I'm still doing it. i think it's hard-wired into our brains.

But a rat is better than someone stealing all your stuff, which is where I thought you were going with this story. I need to stop watching Law and Order, I guess.

13
Susie
Oct 22, 2006

Who goes to Vietnam and buys peanut butter? Anyway, what time on Friday are you coming home? It's only me and Daddy in the house right now, and Daisy, who is wrecking all our puzzles!

14
laurenkie
Oct 22, 2006

Oh man! When I read that it was a rat, I laughed so loudly. I'm so sorry! eeekk! Grossification!

15
s@bd
Oct 22, 2006

um.
yuck.

And, 'insouciant' is one of my favourite words.

16
Sara
Oct 22, 2006

I have never encountered a rat--thanks to all that is good and holy--but I did meet it's cousin, the opossum while in Florida. That evil thing was as big as my first dog and was not afraid of humans. In fact, when I shooed it (after shrieking like a little girl, an act my brother will not let me live down) it gazed at me in a rather insouciant manner as well. It finally sauntered off after my brother gave it a couple of jabs with a pool noodle(an act I will not let him live down), but not before baring it's nasty little teeth and hissing---I swear to God, HISSING!--at us. Rats....*shudder*

I have been travelling vicariously through you and have enjoyed it immensely. Hope your last week is fabulous.

17
Kelli
Oct 23, 2006

*Shudder* As soon as you started talking about being able to hear something scratching and crawling in the dark I feared for the worst. And in my book rats are the worst -ugh,ugh,ugh-with their long, nasty tails...yuck.

And I definitely wouldn't worry about jumping on the bed screaming. A few years ago, I awoke to the sound of gnawing in my apartment in the middle of the night and when I turned on the light? A mouse (I know, not even as nasty as a rat...but still in the rodent family) was chewing its way up from the basement through my floor. I was so scared I drove the 3 miles across town to my boyfriends house wearing only my pjs..and had to throw rocks at this bedroom window so he'd let me in at 3am.
I think I'm still shuddering from that experience.

Enjoy your last days of travel -- may they be entirely bug, rodent, and snake free!

18
Nikol
Oct 23, 2006

I want to go home and clean my apartment. Thrice.

19
Diane
Oct 23, 2006

'EEEK and SHUDDER!!!! at the thought of a rat nibbling at anything much less your back pack. I would never have come up with rat=insouciant - mine would be more like rat=horrible illness and I must shower right away!! But this is why I love to read your blog - you can even make an encounter with Ben amusing.

May the remainder of your trip be bug, rodent and snake free and may you find a use for the beach towel!

20
notsoccer mom
Oct 23, 2006

that resort looks so beautiful. i've really enjoyed travelling vicariously thru you... i'd never ever have the opportunity or nerve to do what you've done. so thanks. glad you have had such a good time. safe journey home!

21
Liise
Oct 23, 2006

Gag reflex in full effect after the last sentence. GAH!

22
Gallaudet
Oct 23, 2006

Ah. I am glad to hear that Roger the Rat, or his first cousin, still lives on Koh Tao. He lived in our bungalow, at the Sensei Paradise, for two weeks, and spent every night lying on our porch, reading my book and eating the candy bars I'd carefully hoarded for the next day (because, you know, candy bars are so hard to come by on Koh Tao).

Seriously, the dude showed up every night and demanded candy. Which we obediently handed out. One night, after the ritual candy-handing, he disappeared, and we heard a crash from the bathroom.

What's that? I said.

That's Roger, said TTD. He's trying on my wetsuit. He wants to be a muskrat.

23
Kari
Oct 23, 2006

ohhh, that I were on Ko Pha Ngan...watching badly subtitled American movies at bars, fire dancers on the beach and young tourists drinking out of buckets. Are they still playing Black Eyed Peas songs every third minute at the clubs?

24
Moose
Oct 23, 2006

That's horrifying! (And terribly funny.) What's frightening is that such things can happen anywhere. I woke up one night in a NY hotel room to hear a rustling in my snack bag. (Note: never, ever have a snack bag, not even in a supposedly civilized city.) A rat was chewing on my Cheetos. Even now, months later, I still have to stifle the urge to jump up and down and shriek.

25
culotte
Oct 24, 2006

I'm sorry, I'm having a difficult time thinking of a witty comment, as every molecule in my body just shuddered, and I've taken refuge under my desk, where thankfully there is no peanut butter and subsequently NO RATS.

26
Maggie
Oct 24, 2006

Brilliant! I had a rodent encounter myself last night. Of course, it was in a sorority house (screaming times twenty-five) and those who encountered the mouse were actually SEARCHING for it (for to buy him a cage and a wheel and feed him cheese all day and all night until he loves us forever), but still, when he ran across someone's foot, all bets were off and there was screaming (times three) and running around (times three) and the flailing of arms (times six, because we each have two arms), and it was great.

27
jes
Oct 24, 2006

My husband and I have developed a tradition of playing Scrabble while flying together. Last night, as we were returning to Dallas, he attempted to place the acronym "ROUS" in honor of you.

I wouldn't allow it though, because I'm hardcore.

28
Anne
Oct 26, 2006

heh

same thing happened to me. Was travelling with a friend in Vietnam. Woke up in the night to see a huge rat run between the mosqito net and headboard on my friend's bed. decided not to wake her. about three days later she admitted she saw a rat run across the top of my bed in the same way on that same night. i knew those huts were sketchy. but there was nowhere else around, and the beach was stunning. So, in retrospect, it wasn't so bad.

29
Bevvy
Oct 30, 2006

Ewwww rats. I have a couple of rat stories. Both extremely horrifying.

I went to the University of Georgia back in, well, I'm not telling 'cause it shows how old I am. If you left your dorm at night you knew you had to watch for rats. They were crawling in and out of the trash cans, the creek in front of our dorm, etc. The students began complaining about them. UGA insisted there was no rat problem. Then a girl was walking back to her dorm after class in the middle of the day while wearing flip flops. A rat ran up to her, chomped down on her foot and would not let go. You guessed it: UGA still insisted there was no rat problem.

Second story: I was visiting my younger brother and I went to get some ice from his freezer. There was a strange looking "package" in the freezer so I asked him what it was. He kept telling me I didn't want to know but naturally I kept asking. He told me it was the pet rat he and his ex-girlfriend had. They had recently broken up, then the rat died (although I don't think the two were related in any way). Her parents had a big farm so he froze Henry the rat until she could come get him to take and bury at the farm. Don't even get me started on what I think about people wanting to keep a rat as a pet (but I'm blaming the ex-girlfriend for it).