Terror in Paradise

*Warning! Warning! If your first name starts with Ja- and your last name ends in –ert, and you happen to be Todd’s mother, cease and desist reading! You will not enjoy this!

We’ve had quite the weekend. On Friday night, we headed to Koh Samed with a bunch of teachers from Toddy’s school. It sounded like just another average weekend in paradise with beautiful beaches, clear water, fun friends, banana pancakes drowning in nutella, etc. Blahblahblah. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Little did I know that the weekend would give me a new appreciation for Canada’s obsession with over-the-top safety regulations. While I generally appreciate Thailand’s environment of anything-can-happen, a few occurrences this weekend made me experience emotions that I haven’t felt since riding rotting Soviet Era carnival rides in Azerbaijan. Let’s break it down into three li’l vignettes.


1. We left the school campus after school ended on Friday, and pulled up to the mainland pier a few hours later. The teachers, full of joie de vivre, hurtled over multiple slimy guardrail-less gangplanks to the waiting speed boats. In a moment that will forever remain emblazoned on my brain,* I witnessed one of the teachers falling off the gangplank and fully submerging herself in the disgusting oil-laced water surrounding the dock. While this would have been adequate excitement for one evening, the best was yet to come. Once all 30+ teachers were inescapably ensconced, the speedboat’s very own Captain Ahab decided to see exactly how many horses were actually powering his engine. He gunned it over/through/against the heaving waves, which felt more like concrete than water. The darkness and wetness combined with the eerie glow of squidding boats to create the impression that we were headed for soggy doom. All around me, people were moaning with terror, which only seemed to excite Ahab. He looked disappointed when we finally pulled into the dock.

Todd regained his equanimity when he realized that his fellow math teacher Greg was actually his long-lost, slightly larger twin brother.



2. Our second adventure with good ol’ safety happened when we decided to rent scooters on Saturday. We snickered when we saw the hefty tires on the scooters.

The Spunky Sarah models Hefty Tire Chic.

It soon became apparent why we needed them. The roads on Koh Samed look like they’ve spent their lives hanging out on a major fault line. And that is the paved roads. The dirt roads are infinitely worse. Imagine scrambling a peak in the Rockies on a scooter. A few of us may have gotten some serious air time.

Biker Scootcher gang.



3. On our last night, we went to a fire show. I had no idea what this would entail, but fire always sounds like fun to me. There were several hundred people on the beach waiting for the show to start, and many of them were, to put it politely, a little sauced. The show began with Thai dancers tossing flaming balls/bottles/ropes in the air in time to pulsating music. The also regularly unleashed balls of flames into the air which lent a comforting scent of kerosene to the event.

Testosterone and flames never seem to end well.

I enjoyed this until they let off a few blasts of fire next to my head. The show continued with fireworks, more balls of flames, more sloshes of kerosene, etc. Ahh. This was a nice experience, I thought. Time to go home.

And that’s when the opportunities for audience participation began. These included: limbo-ing under a stick engulfed in billowing flames, skipping with a flaming rope that tended to wrap itself around peoples’ legs, and my personal favourite, heaving uncoordinated bodies through a flaming hoop.

There’s no combination quite like billowing hair and billowing flames

Look ma! No brains!

The wind and sloshes of kerosene were unpredictable, as was the (still sauced) audience. The night ended with multiple audience members chasing one another up and down the beach with roman candles. A night to remember.

And just in case you needed to lighten up a bit…You really can’t argue with their logic

I still think that Canada goes overboard with safety regulations, but I’m starting to see the point. .

*Forgive me, Therese.


I think that social media often presents a one-dimensional view of a person’s life, making it seem more perfect than it actually is. One of my friends jokes that most of the images on Facebook are actually posed shots that people have taken of themselves: “Look at me! I’m soooo happy!! And my life is super-fantastic!!”

An example. Generally, this style of photography is more successful if you
a) photoshop the camera out of the picture, and
b) avoid taking photos that are obviously in your bathroom

Sometimes, however, life really is one-dimensionally super-fantastic. This past weekend, we left our sewage-scented apartment and headed to an island off the coast of Pattaya with a group of other teachers. Koh Larn has numerous stray dogs and cats, beautiful beaches, and accommodations that don’t wreak of raw sewage: a recipe for success!

Look how much I love puppies, Todd!! So much!! Why won’t you buy me a puppy, Todd??

Interestingly, the entire island was populated with a combination of Thai locals and Russian tourists. An ice cream vendor asked Todd if he was a Russian model. Maybe if the teaching thing doesn’t pan out… We spent most of our time swimming in the giant bathtub that is the Gulf of Thailand. Not to make generalizations about the apparel choices of other nationalities, but the speedos and thongs were out in force. We were also treated to several lengthy photo shoots involving ample curves amply exposed.

The beach, including a fully dressed Thai man, but minus the naked Russians.

On our second day on the island, we rented scooters and took a tour of the island. I realize that the legal system may not impinge on fun in Thailand as much as it does in Canada, but even so, I was surprised at the scooter rental process: Todd signed his name to a contract that the shop handed to us, and they gave us four scooters. No identification or deposit or credit card number required. I guess the fact that we were on an island limited our escape routes, but still…

This was a photo op: Todd had his own MANLY scooter (complete with MANLY helmet and MANLY murse).

It was great to get out of the city, and a super-fantastic time was had by all.