The final day in our journey to Khao Sak takes up back into the city of Surat Thani where we relax for a few hours before heading to the Chak Phra Festival. The Chak Phra Festival (Pulling the Buddha) takes place on the eleventh lunar month in Southern Thailand and symbolizes Buddha's return to earth from heaven. The festival also marks the official end of the Buddhist three-month rain retreat.
For the majority of August 9th, I was laying in bed, attempting to get comfortable. My stomach had been acting up for the past six months and August 9 was the day when I woke up and knew something wasn't right. First I feel a slight pain around the solar plexus area, then gradually it got worse to the point where the pain level jumped to an 8 or 9.
When this first started happening, I thought it was some bad salad. Then I thought it was the flu, then something I cooked and the last two times, the culprit seemed to have been peanut butter. I have never went to see a doctor about this because I just thought it was food poisoning or something I ate didn't agree with my stomach.
On one of the occasions I vomited like never before in my life. Painful, hard core puking that laid me out onto the bathroom floor. Beau, my wife had to help me up off the floor and guide me back into bed. The vomiting episode took something out of me. So far, what it took from me never came back and ever since then I have felt different.
Beau always stays cool and collected when I am ill. Most of the time she'll say, "Don't worry, you'll be better in a little while." When she saw how I was puking and sweating and how difficult it was for me to stand, it was one of the few times I could see the concern in her eyes. She wanted me to go to the hospital, I refused simply because I wanted to lay in bed. Two days later, I was up and around and doing much better.
One thing strange coinciding with these episodes is a strong urge for ice cream. I love ice cream and always have, but the majority of the time I have the discipline to only eat it once in a while and when I do, I eat relatively small portions (a scoop or two, maybe three). The pit of my stomach would start to get warm, then hot, and in my mind, the only option was ice cream. Ice cream cooled off my stomach and made me feel better.
Even before reaching the legal age of driving, I was always on the go. In my teens I was either lifting weights, listening to music, usually stoned, or going somewhere. I didn't care where I went, I just knew I didn't want to sit at home. I sat at home when I was forced to and that was it. When I was 17 I left home, never to return. Nearly 40 years later, nothing has changed.
I returned from Cambodia just before Christmas and have only been back for a month. Yet, I find myself yearning to go on another adventure. Sightseeing, going where tourists go, is far from satisfying. I need to go somewhere challenging, off the beaten track, where few travel.
For years I have been contemplating and dreaming of traveling to the Dark Continent. Not just anywhere in Africa, to places like the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and Burundi. For the life of me, I have no idea why I find these places so appealing. Clearly, these are some of the most corrupt, dangerous, wild countries in the world. All I can come up with is that they are four of the least known, undeveloped countries in our day. Or maybe I'm nuts. How may people do you know who have photos from these countries? Better yet, how many people do you know who have really good or great photos from them? My guess is no more than one or two—if you're lucky.
Myanmar is another place that, aside from the major cities, remains free from tourists. After a dozen trips to Myanmar, I remain enthralled and eager to explore more of the country. My trip to Africa is now scheduled for the end of May. To me, this is a long way off. I may attempt to squeeze in another trip to Myanmar in February or March, but it depends on the status of my funds. Few people, including Burmese, ever experience or see the northern portion of Myanmar where I plan on going, a pristine area that time seems to have forgotten. It is just the sort of place I am looking to explore. It is an adventure.
My trips to Africa and Myanmar will both happen. At this point it looks like the African countries will be Malawi, Tanzania and Rwanda. I may pass on Malawi and venture into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but more than likely I will wait for a second trip for this. The DRC is a difficult, time consuming place to travel and while my heart says go, my brain says wait until I have a trip to the region under my belt.
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