Making New Friends, Some Unwanted
When you are traveling you easily come to be defined by your first name and where you’re from. One of the first questions inevitably asked upon meeting is “where are you from?” We usually get an answer to this question before we even catch their name. Most of the time we figure out how long they are traveling and how long they have been and will be in Ton Sai. The next logical question for us is “are you climbing or traveling?” Most of the time people staying longer than a week are climbers. There isn’t that much to do on Ton Sai if you don’t climb. You can take a snorkeling trip, hang out on the beach or rent a kayak, but other than that most people bore fast and move on.
We’ve met most people while out climbing or at dinner. We’ve been getting dinner at the two cheap food stalls in town. Collectively referred to as Chicken Mamma because of the nice ladies running them and the delicious BBQ chicken legs they serve. They are pretty much as far away from our bungalow as we can go. It takes us a whole 10 minutes to walk there but we save about 30 Baht per meal. It might not seem like much, but in the grand scheme of traveling for more than a year every little bit counts. It’s also kind of fun because there are only about 6 tables for two stalls so it lends itself to sharing tables and meeting new people. Travelers tend to be really friendly and easy going. It’s been great meeting new people at dinner or hanging out with people we’ve already met.
Our first night at dinner we met a few guys from Alaska. They gave us some great tips for finding the cheapest beer and water. They also told us to tuck the mosquito net under the bed and make sure you aren’t touching the net. They had woken up with mosquito bites in every spot their bodies made contact with the net. We were stoked to learn that lesson the easy way and save ourselves from the itchy aftermath.
Nothing makes community quite like a monkey attack. After the monkeys descended a few days ago we started chatting with all of our neighbors who shared their stories of unwanted guests. Besides the monkeys who tear up the room, rifle through your things, poop all over the place, and steal your stuff, several of our neighbors had bed bugs, scorpions and fire ants. We came home one day to find a couple frogs chilling in the corners of our room. One of them hopped clumsily into the bathroom and down the drain. Our other frog friend hung out in the corner and was gone in the morning. I think it’s safe to say we’ll take frogs over scorpions, fire ants and bed bugs.
We discovered that a surprising number of people are on long trips of a year or more. Not just the climbers, either. One guy we met had targeted a year and realized that due to poor budgeting he was only going to make it about 8 months. His biggest expenses were scuba diving, transportation and beer. We realized before we left that we were going to have to make some adjustments especially since it would be a little impractical to travel with a kegerator and brew kettle. Either way it’s important to recognize that you can stretch your money further by staying in one place longer, budgeting well, and depriving yourself of some luxuries you regularly had at home.