Thungsong? That Town Doesn’t Exist.

Thungsong?  That Town Doesn’t Exist.

I have a lot to say, so I’m just going to dive right in.

Time feels like it is flying.  This Sunday will be 4 weeks that I’ve been in Thailand.  It feels like forever, but then I think back to what’s happening in the States and realize that people have barely put their holiday decorations away.  My sweet kindergarteners in Austin are just now starting to get back into the groove of school (or at least trying to.) How is it possible to feel like a lifetime has gone by in 1 month?

Last weekend I went to the beach with my Soi 39 loves.  There were 7 of us that met up in a small beach/tourist town called Ao Nang and it was exactly what I needed.  Ao Nang was exactly what I pictured my life being here.  Gorgeous beaches, drinks brought to us left and right, pedicures and massages, awesome bars and restaurants, long tail boats, islands, and the most beautiful water you could imagine.  I was with good friends, in a crappy dirty hostel, and loving every minute of it.  It was perfect.  And as much as I pictured that scene in my mind when picturing this experience, something happened to me on the way to Ao Nang that made me realize (or reminded me) that this isn’t about the beaches or the coconut drinks or the tan I’m going to leave with.  It is about the weird quirky moments I’m going to have along the way, that will stay with me forever and change me as a person.


The daughter of the owner of my apartment building drove me to the minivan station Thursday after school and helped me buy my ticket to make sure I didn’t get ripped off and that I actually ended up in the correct city, I love that girl.  When she left I was sitting next to an older Thai woman who started asking me questions about why I’m here, where I’m from and we chatted for a bit.  A few minutes before my van was supposed to leave, I asked her how I would know when it was my turn and she said that she would help me.  A few minutes later a man started yelling in Thai and she jumped up, pulled me out of my chair, dragged me to a van and shoved me inside.  She apparently was riding the same bus to get home, so she climbed in and sat down next to me.  She asked me where I was staying in Krabi and when I told her that I was crossing over on Railay Beach (which you need a long tail boat to get to), she looked a little uncomfortable but I ignored it and turned to stare out the window for my 2 hour ride.  A few minutes later the bus driver stopped to pick someone up, and a few minutes after that he stopped again to hop out and do something.  The lady appeared to be getting really agitated, but I figured she just needed to get home in a hurry.  After the driver got back in, the Thai lady tapped him on the shoulder and said something in Thai and all of the sudden the ENTIRE van of about 18 people erupted in a chaotic Thai conversation.  I had no idea what was going on, but I started to realize they were talking about me when I kept hearing “farang” (white person) and “Railay.”  I looked around and realized that everyone was pointing or looking at me, and some people were making frantic phone calls.  I began to freak out a little if you can imagine.  This went on for about 20 minutes until finally the Thai woman turned to me to tell me that I needed a long tail boat to Railay, and that I would be cutting it close to make the last long tail.  She told me that people were calling the dock to see when the last boat left, and that if I missed the boats I could stay with her for the night and she would take me to the pier in the morning.  That moment may be my favorite moment that I’ve had in Thailand so far.  I could tell it was no big deal to this lady, but it meant the world to me to feel like someone actually had my back and wanted to make sure I was okay in such a foreign situation.  In fact, it wasn’t just her who had my back, it was the entire van of 18 Thai strangers, all coming together to help out a strange farang.  It was extremely humbling and one of the only times I have felt truly safe and protected in this country, and that it wasn’t just me watching out for myself. Our XploreAsia director, Mike, used to joke about how for a while we will just pass Thai people and see them like trees..not people to communicate or interact with…but one day we’d start looking at them like humans.  That day I started looking at the Thai people as humans that I can actually interact and make connections with, even for just short fleeting moments.

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After that moment of clarity, happiness, and a brief high of excitement to be in this place, I ended up sitting on a sketchy dark street corner for 2 hours waiting for my friend to meet me so we could head to the pier together.  When we finally got to the pier, we figured out that we actually weren’t staying in Railay for the weekend, but in Ao Nang which is actually about a 30 min Songteaw ride from Krabi.  Basically I was responsible for raising the blood pressure of 18 Thai people for absolutely no reason.  I met a man at DFW Airport the day I left who told me that he’d lived in Thailand for a while, and he said “It is a wonderful place, but you will definitely have peaks and valleys.”  It makes me laugh so hard now, because I could never have imagined how true that statement would be.

The beach was a peak.  A type of peak you can’t explain to anyone.  It was very hard to leave my friends on Sunday and come back to my town.  I knew that meant going back to work, no beach time, no Soi 39 girls, no dirty hostel where we all lived in one room. I miss the dirty hostel!


When I was leaving Ao Nang, I went to 3 different information desks to ask how to get to the minivan station to go back to Thungsong, and every single one of them said the exact same thing.  “Thungsong? Can you spell it? Are you sure you have the name right? What country is it in? Thungsong? No…no that town doesn’t exist.” (That’s when you know you live in a small town.  It’s two hours away from Ao Nang.)  I’m not sure I’ve ever been that frustrated in my life.  It’s hilarious now.

Thungsong does exist, though.  It is my life now.  Thungsong is going to have a profound impact on me and I will look back on this town for the rest of my life, probably with mixed feelings.  But for whatever reason, this is where I am, and it is very much real.  After a month in Thailand I can feel myself coming back to life.  I’m not going to sugarcoat my experience for anyone, and I will be straight up honest…I completely skipped the honeymoon phase.  But I am started to breathe deeply again, and I can feel my smile becoming more genuine every day that I’m here.  Tonight I went out to dinner with a Thai woman for her birthday and a few of the foreigners here.  I had ridden my motorbike to dinner and was wearing a flow-y cotton skirt.  On the way home from dinner the wind was blowing hard and as soon as I turned onto the highway my skirt completely blew up and I couldn’t get it back down.  I was flying down a dark, empty highway on my bike with Stitch on the seat and my skirt pressed against my shirt and I just busted out laughing.  I laughed the whole way home, and it was a peak.

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