A clear plastic bottle was knocked around in the waves among the cans of Angkor and bottles of whiskey from the previous nights bonfire on the Island of Ko Ta Kiev. The bottle stood out because the label had been cleanly ripped off and a faded note had been stuck inside. The note was from a couple traveling between the islands of Koh Pha Ngan and Ko Tao, Thailand about 250 miles away. All the note asked for was an email to let them know who found it and where, but I wondered if they were looking for much more. Maybe hoping the bottle found a place where the lonely planet hadn’t built cities full of tourists, where the sounds of waves haven’t been replaced with blaring techno beats. If so, the bottle had come to the the right place, but I wasn’t going to waste my time or theirs telling them where. There’s a reason why.
Originally I traveled from a Mini version Bangkok, Phenom Pen Cambodia, where people travel for hundreds of miles to see the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge regime and party in clubs where the only females are westerners or prostitutes. Heading south I avoided the coastal city of Serendipity which ironically means “pleasant surprise” as most run away after one night of stepping over 20 something year olds throwing up in the surf. About 15 minutes south there’s Otres, a quiet stretch of beach run primarily by a laid back community of expats where you can relax and buy a beer or a joint for a dollar.
Sitting at the hostel on Otres beach, which is more like a wooden structure with a roof and soft padded bowl chairs, a pretty blond Danish girl that resembles Sal from “The Beach” walked in (Birdy). After a friendly chat we made rough plans to travel to one of the islands off the coast together. These islands are several tiny islands that you won’t hear about until you get close to them. All I knew is they are apparently what the Thai island used to be.
A few mornings later I wake up for the 8am boat with a pounding headache and “the fear” (the fear of what you did the night before) because of an argument with a canadian girl (Quebec). I give myself 20 minutes to decide if I can stomach packing a bag and jumping on a boat. I think, fuck it.
On the boat I realize the night of drinking grew our island crew from three people to eleven. Four guys and seven girls total, not a bad ratio on a deserted island.
A boat ride to the island typically cost about $12 dollars per person each way, but we found a way to book a day boat trip with breakfast, lunch, drop off and pick up from the island the next day for $12 each. On the island we grabbed the only two bungalows available and a decaying two story tree house chained to several trees 20 feet in the air for $5 a piece.
Once settled in on the island the hangover waned enough to get a bearing on the situation and to realize where I was. Ko Ta Kiev, an empty island off the coast of Cambodia, with white sand beaches, clear turquoise water,and a few bungalows, the infamous absinthe distillery and our crew of backpackers. The Beach 2 began.
The day was filled with laying around, swimming, making Angkor Watt sand castles, improv’d games of baseball and throwing fruits at bottles for points. Among the crew there was a beautiful tan Canadian girl (Mel) that was the only appropriate character for my girlfriend in the The Beach 2, but unfortunately, like the first movie she had a good looking French speaking boyfriend who was also good at soccer (Tebo).
That night we started a bonfire, drank whiskey, beer, played games that had many people stripped of their clothes and swam in the ocean lit by swarms of glowing plankton into the early morning. A night so serene and amazing, all we could do is fight time to keep it from slipping away.
After finally surrendering to exhaustion I woke up on the second floor of the tree house looking over the ocean with the only trace of the previous night, a sand pit with a few smoldering coals, a makeshift sign that read “The Bitch” (clearly a misspelling) and a few bottles one of which included “the note”.
So why wouldn’t I tell the couple who wrote the note about this paradise? Because by the time they would get there, the island wouldn’t be. In one month the bungalows on the island have been instructed to shut down to make way for a Chinese casino that has leased the island for 99 years. But, I’m not mad. What made our time together on the island so special wasn’t the people or the island. It was our individual pursuit to find something more. A pursuit that has brought us through hell and back. Endless nights on sleeper trains, through hostels, venturing thousands of miles in aggressive pursuit of the unknown for the mere possibility that a night like ours would happen, and when it did it was magical. That’s what made our night special. The only way anyone will find that is by searching themselves.