Last night I was woken at about 2am by someone in a room above listening to the television on high volume. I could hear the applauding and laughing audience at regular intervals and once awake I had had enough sleep to not feel tired but I knew not enough to carry me through the coming day. I tossed, turned, fought with the duvet and the pillows, read, wrote and trawled endless useless pages of information on the web. Eventually I got back to sleep at about 4:30. I stirred about 4 hours later and it took a long time to feel ready to face the world. Shower, rummage through my bag, work out if with the washing that needed to be collected, I would have enough clean clothes to get me home at this point. Dig through the pockets that had been repacked, had random things stuffed into them and eventually feel a bit more in control of the things that I had carried this far. The bundle of wires, adapters and plugs we have used to keep certain things running through this trip has been lovingly known as the 'electric circus'. I untangled it all and left it neatly charging the things that had kept me entertained in the night.
There was the beginnings of thinking about possibly making a plan for the start of our escape route back towards real life. The first leg of this would be getting back to Bangkok. If you google Prachuap Khiri Khan to Bangkok there are plenty of guides. They tell you how to go the other way. When you're trying to reverse engineer the route, there's little helpful information other than 'the bus stop near the station'. Unfortunately there were no trains that would leave at a decent time or get us into Bangkok to allow us to enjoy our final evening. We needed more information, but for now it felt that in simply narrowing down the method of transport, we had done enough work for the day.
Sarah has been experimenting with what ingredient of common breakfasts in Thailand has an immense purgative effect (yes when you travel with family and add in having been a nurse, there's a lot of really basic but hilarious humour, usually concerned with expression and speed at which one dashes to the loo), my money was on the Coffee Mate. My position was strengthened when Sarah comes back with both our tin cups full of the hotel's complimentary coffee and drinks them both.
Chaiwat is becoming the regular stop. The food is great, cheap, varied and it's right on the doorstep. After a breakfast of a great stacked club sandwich and a real coffee we walked down towards the entrance to Wing 5. This is the area's Royal Thai Air Force base. It's also the site that the Japanese invaded and were fought off by the men and residents of the base who were unaware of a pre-arranged agreement of cooperation and fought until orders were given in person by a high ranking official. At this point and only this point did they lay down their weapons.
The base basically covers the third bay that makes up this stretch of coast and one beach in particular that is Ao Manou. This long stretch of white and gold sand is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. The first stretch near the base buildings is pretty populated but the further you move along the crescent of the sand the quieter it gets until only a handful of people are scattered across the vast space in front of you.
As we walked the sand thousands of tiny crabs scattered around us. It might be seasonal or tidal but I have never seen so many tiny creatures sensitive to the slightest movements scatter and bury themselves into the sand.
We start beach combing as we reach the quieter stretched of the beach. Shells wash up in the silt and the rapidly crashing waves bring more and more in towards the land as we walk the waterline, the gentle swell of the water running into my sandals. Some shells are brilliant white and others have wonderfully ordered, complex patterns in several colours. Reaching the far end of the bay, we turned to walk back the way we had come. Thailand has had long periods of unrest and there was a military coup occurring when we were here last. There is now a military government running the country. In general you see very few outward signs of change. There are more in Ao Manou. Huge swathes of land encompassed by the base have become restricted where you could previously walk freely, including the mountain path up to one of the temples looking over the bays and islands. You now have to sign in and out if you are doing anything more than passing through and must enter and leave in such instances by the same entrance, reporting to an official building where you are entered into a vast ledger. Remember what I mentioned about the creation of records for the sake of their existence?
Curating the handful of shells I had picked off the sand, I lay most back down and put a few in my bag. There's a stall selling cold drinks and we sit in the shade of the trees that edge the beach and enjoy a can of Leo, Singha's little brother. I sit and watch the waves roll into the shore endlessly and the sound of the sea as always is a little hypnotic and I could look across the bay for hours.
A number of people including the guards had looked at us strangely as we had walked across the base. Most people travel by car or by bicycle. We were the only people there on foot. The looks as we left were just as strange. Signing us out we crossed back into Prachuap proper. It was nearly five o'clock. Time to collect the laundry and think about some dinner. Once you start to walk around Prachuap proper, you find everything you could need is within a few streets of each other. Entering the laundrette a man who had not been here yesterday asks us for our 'card' - we hadn't been given a card and he gestures to the rack of shelves behind us with neat bundles of laundry, each in a plastic bag, inviting us to look for our own then. Only by chance Sarah spotted one of her running tops.
After dropping it back at the room we wander down to Top Deck. I thought I had a craving for a massive salad but settled for fried rice again. The food here is a little nicer than Chaiwatt but about three to four times as expensive but it does give you a first storey open view of the sea. The wind blows through with the slight taste of salt. I'll admit it, I don't want to leave this place and now having fewer days and nights than I have fingers on one hand, I can feel real life slowly making a grasp for me again.