It’s my last night here on Koh Jum, where I have grown very fond of a place called Freedom at the end of a 2km beach. They have a 90degree view of the sea, so you can see both sunrise and sunset and the bungalows are nestled into the low hillside, with open air showers, open windows and amazing views of the sea.
I’m not staying here anymore, I’m over at Joy Bungalow two resorts along which is nice too and the staff are all characters; but i’ve been coming up here to Freedom for breakfast most days, making the most of their Wifi (which is better than Joy’s, which is almost pointless of promoting as a Wifi signal). Have been finding myself struggling to pull myself away from Freedom having made friends here. It’s also the most picturesque place on Jum I think, they play decent music of a chilled variety – electronica, reggae and the usual guitar stuff – and the staff are all really friendly.
It’s very relaxed here, a low key sort of place, where you can sunbathe (they offer free sunbeds, which is quite rare on Jum), and I’ve been eating lots of tasty hot and sour soups, drinking coconut shakes, and then when i’m bored of my book which I picked up second hand, exploring the island on motorbike. Koh Jum is like the old Thailand, before some of the other more well known islands became really popular with tourists. Imagine, no Seven Eleven! That’s almost unheard of in this part of the world.
There are only about 5 cars on the entire island. It’s pretty hairy driving! I decided to do a tour today on my scooter, and found myself at Bonhomie, a rustic resort on Koh Pu, the Muslim end of Jum that kind of has its own identity. The residents of Pu are very proud of having their own name apparently. It’s a totally different vibe down there. Pu makes Jum look like Phuket. When you head to Pu, you start to see Jum as being quite a lively place.
So I stopped at the end of the sandy dirt track, having expected the road to loop back round to the side of the island I came from and asked a local guy where the road had gone, and we ended up sharing a Sprite together at his beach bar, swapping Tsunami stories whilst he tried to set me up with his smiley younger friend. On an island of only 1500 people, I can’t image your dating prospects are very good.
But I’ve felt very safe here. I walked along the beach last night from Andaman, another popular resort on the next beach along. Throughout the 45 minute walk in pitch blackness with nothing but the stars and my headtorch to guide me, not even the darting crabs got a squeal out of me.
The kayak trip to a neighbouring island on the other hand really tested me yesterday. I don’t usually freak out or get scared but already on this trip my nerves seem to be a little more frayed than usual, making me feel like more of a girl than I ever have. Jungle monkeys had a rave on my roof at Jungle Hill on the first night which was genuinely quite terrifying. Turns out that was not a normal monkey attack, and my other night there was much quieter. Then I got woken up by a skunk the night I stayed at Freedom (which my mind ran away with me on, as my hut was totally open and it could have come in if it had wanted to, very easilly); and then I nearly died yesterday on a mustard yellow kayak with my friend from London as we braced strong currents and choppy waves to zigzag through the 2 kilometre or so trip to the idillyc and uninhibited island of Koh Lola.
Lola didn’t look as tempting when we capsized about half way across the channel as a wave threw us off our rhythm. Chris would say that I lost my concentration for a moment as I reminisced about what apparently he could tell was going to be a really boring story – but actually all I was doing was trying to lighten the mood. It was pretty challenging out there, and whilst i’m no kayak expert I’ve got quite a bit of experience in the water. And i’ve capsized in boats before. Heck, I even often do it just for the laugh.
But I shat myself.
Unfit, breathless, and in deep water, around a kilometre from the shore, I felt out of my comfort zone – only a week since my life in my two-bed new build in London’s zone 2. We couldn’t turn the kayak over to start with, and it was all getting a bit pathetic as I couldn’t kick in the water enough to keep myself bouyant. Wearing my strap-on sports sandals didn’t help either, despite me proudly wearing them smugly as I’d climbed in.
There is no polite way to describe the awful fear I felt as I repeatedly tried to lampoon myself back onto the kayak like a beached whale. And despite a mini victory of getting back on it relatively swiftly, when we had both gotten back on the kayak and the boat was bobbing somewhat aggressively in the water I realised how strong the current and the wind was getting. I thought the ocean was going to swallow us up. Chris went quiet. Not a good sign. And kept saying ‘This is fun, I’m having fun’ through gritted teeth.
I asked if he brought a flare. It was said as a joke, but I was sort of serious. And Chris didn’t laugh.
Anyway we made it back alive (go figure?) and we soon forgot about it as we tucked into an amazing bbq fish supper at a place called Golden Pearl as we started to think about our new year’s resolutions with Norwegian Nathan.
Happy New Year!
Picture: Norwegian Nathan.