In almost every shop on the island there are motor scooters sitting out front, available for rent for as cheap as $5 a day. If you know how to ride one this is a perfect way to explore. With a semi-complete system of roads that can carry you to the beaches on every side of the island, you could easily pass a day exploring from the back of your bike. However, more often than not the tourist renting the scooter has never ridden one before, and when they come across the first pothole, the first stretch of road covered in sand, they fall, damage their bike and probably themselves, and are forced to pay up whatever the shop demands of them to retrieve their passport they have left as collateral when they bring back the bike. Most of the time it is no use going to the police, because they are more often than not on the side of their countrymen.
That day Isabel, Hannah, a German from the hostel and I rented bikes and explored the island from end to end. We stopped to ask other tourists who were doing the same thing what beach we should go to and then off we went. Besides its natural beauty the island offered cheap places to learn Maui Thai boxing or earn a certificate in diving. During the ride I could look off along the road and watch as tourists swatted at each other with foot and fist, attempting to replicate in one week what true fighters spent a lifetime learning. To say our farewells to the day we rode our scooters to the highest point on the western half of the island, taking a steep dirt trail where I stopped to watch as the novices on their scooters fell time after time trying to crest some of the steeper hills. On top of the mountain was a rocky acropolis where we joined others to watch the setting sun with a cold beer in hand and backs burned red.
That night we ate dinner before heading to a bar on the beach to enjoy the last night we would spend on the island. I saw what was happening even as I did it, laughing at myself as it happened. Alcohol and a pretty girl had driven me to recklessness. Before I had given it any thought I had stumbled my way beneath a flaming limbo stick, jumped into the sea fully clothed, tried my hand jumproping a flaming coil and getting burned in the neck in the process and dove through a ring of fire, all in an alcohol inspired attempt to impress a girl. I have lowered myself into a state of reckless folly, becoming what in my years of travel I have disdained most in others. That night it struck me that I was living a life that was not my own. A year ago I had been living like a vagabond. I walked from France to Spain with my possessions on my back. For four months I travelled across Morocco spending as little money as possible, sleeping on a beach or in the woods when a room in a hostel that cost as much as a beer back home was too much for me to spend.
Right now I am a tourist, not a traveler. But this journey has only just begun and I hope as I move away from Thailand and those that flock here I have the chance to see the region for what it truly is- the home of peoples and cultures that have been here long before European travel agents turned it into a package holiday for affluent youths that come wanting to take a trek off the beaten path without getting their feet or conscience dirty. Let those that want it have the beaches and DJs, but I have yet to discover what I am here for.