Happy New Year 2023!

I hope that everybody is enjoying either their New Year’s Eve or, as we are, New Year’s Day. As I write this, it is just after 10 in the morning on Monday, January 1. Kan and I woke up early, had some breakfast, and are now being rather lazy in our hotel room just 700 meters from the beach where we celebrated the New Year last night. Due to the heavy traffic (and we were on foot!) it took us more than two hours after the main fireworks to return to the room early this morning.

I am happy to report that neither of us drank any alcohol at all during the festivities. We each had a massive smoothie (coconut for Kan, mango for myself) with our much-too-early dinner and water dominated the rest of the evening with the addition of drinking the water from a coconut on the beach and a can of Sprite just before midnight. I think we may have been the only sober adults along the entire stretch of sand along the Andaman coastline. As mentioned, we had an early dinner (later times were completely booked — everywhere!) at a seafood restaurant near the hotel. Tasty, but we certainly were hungry when we got back to the room; luckily, there is a Family Mart just downstairs.

After dinner, we spent the early evening hours just walking amidst the growing crowds. We avoided the main bar areas as they would be wall-to-wall people and eventually made it to the beach. It was much easier to just walk down the beach rather than along the roads. There were huge crowds of people — and a concert stage — but nothing compared to just a few hours later. To add to the festive atmosphere, the Royal Caribbean Lines 3-year old Spectrum of the Seas was offshore for most of the evening. This massive cruise ship measures 1,139 feet long (a few feet longer than the RMS Queen Mary 2 which was the longest ocean liner ever constructed) and able to handle a maximum of 4,905 passengers. Still, it is only the 21st largest cruise ship currently in operation. Yeah, I like big ships.

Tired of walking, we found a fairly reasonably-priced place to sit; price-gouging was in full force with this being the first High Season (and New Year’s celebration) allowed since pre-pandemic times. (The Thai government considered cancelling all Christmas and New Year’s “expressions of joy” due to the severe illness of a member of the Royal family but was seemingly ignored by all tourism and hotel operators.) Our chairs only cost 40 baht each and the required drinks to be allowed to sit on the chairs ran from 40 baht for a can of soda or bottle of water to 200 baht for a fruit shake. Closer to midnight — when thousands more had descended onto the beach and empty space to sit was no longer anywhere to be found — I overheard 1000 baht mentioned to rent a chair! Kan went off to find a toilet at one point and it was all I could do to prevent her chair from being re-rented. She soon returned to report that the toilet was charging 40 baht to use it (normal price is 5-10 baht) so she spent nearly an hour making her way to the hotel room and back in order to use our toilet there.

We sat in our chairs on the beach from just after 7:30 until just before midnight when we were forced to move by too many people stumbling into us! Alcohol and walking on the sand apparently are a bad combination. Another bad combination is a foreigner trying to light and launch Chinese balloons. There were many vendors roaming the sand selling these despite their being completely illegal in Thailand following a number of disasters a few years back; I saw several police confiscate a few of these but they soon gave up due to the sheer numbers.

The lanterns are large envelopes of fabric with an opening at the bottom in which a paraffin candle is mounted. This is lit and the lantern — when prepared properly — will fill up with hot air and rise into the air. It’s a beautiful sight to see but extremely dangerous if not launched properly. The trick is to light the candle and then hold the lantern down against the sand. This allows the gases to fill the balloon so liftoff can be achieved. However, the vendors never explain how to do this to the tourists so many will light the candle and then attempt to fling it up into the air. The result almost invariably is that the fabric collapses upon the candle setting the entire contraption aflame. These fall into the crowds (the launchers never seem to think to go to an empty portion of the beach) with the expected results — people get severe burns on their hair, necks, faces, etc. In the past, a number of these lanterns have caused forest and building fires and two (in the same year) managed to cause fireworks factories to explode! So, we watched the lanterns that were successful and tried to duck when low-blowing balls of flame came too close to our chairs.

The fireworks were sporadic from around 8:30 from location at the northern and southern portions of the beach and became rather constant from 10pm onwards. At midnight, it was full-on in all directions for 20 to 30 minutes and then fairly regular late into the night. The last booms I heard from our room was some time after 4am. Trying to get off the beach was a task navigating around all sorts of revelers, some extremely drunk and belligerent. Once we arrived on the beachfront road, things took a turn for the worst. Traffic was completely stopped — we saw a number of taxi drivers just set out chairs and tables next to their cars and sit drinking Thai whiskey — and there were thousands of people packed in trying to go either south (as we were — away from the main entertainment zone) or north. Most of the pedestrians were fairly chilled but there were others who seemed to want to cause trouble at any opportunity. It took us a good 30 minutes just to cross this road! Once on the other side, we felt like salmon swimming upstream as everyone else was headed in the opposite direction, including a number of people pushing their motorbikes along the sidewalk rather than staying stuck on the street.

As I mentioned, we finally got back to the room after 2a.m., only stopping briefly at the Family Mart downstairs. We spent some time checking out our photos and videos — Kan’s were, by far, much better than mine as my camera just could not handle any nighttime shots — before climbing into bed. Today, we are being lazy but will go to eat sometime in the afternoon (the lovely lady had just turned-in for a nap).

A few weeks ago, I had a great idea for a New Year’s Resolution but cannot for the life of me remember it now. I stopped making resolutions several years ago as I never kept them. As I write this, the only goals that I can think of for 2023 is to read more books, save more money, and become better organized. I don’t really have any vices so I cannot resolve to drink less alcohol (what’s less than none?) or to stop smoking (I never started) or anything else. I am in a great relationship now — my first in more than a decade — and I just want to do whatever it takes to keep it going. With Kan, that is pretty easy as we are very much alike as well as different enough to keep things interesting.

While 2020 and 2021 were complete shit-fests, as was the first quarter of 2022, my life has improved steadily in the past couple of months and I am happier now (and that feeling has been constant) than at any other time that I can remember. Every day brings more joy than I ever imagined and whenever there is an unfortunate occurrence, it soon disappears into the land of forgotten memories. Thank you, Kan, for being my everything now and, I hope, forever.

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