HOW TO GET NAKED (ISLAND-STYLE) IN THAILAND
- •Join a Tour UnnecessarilyIt's your first time in Southeast Asia, you're traveling alone, you're 19 years old. You join a tour to be on the safe side. A rookie mistake. You are now stuck to a rigid itinerary in a country whose largest import is drunken Brits.
- •Find That Special SomethingThat je ne sais quoi, if you will, that tickles your insides, brings a rosy blush to your cheeks—and makes you wake up in the morning covered in hives.
- •Be ResourcefulYour tour is filled with older couples and, hence, you are traveling with a mobile pharmacy. Take whatever Rosemary offers you. Slather yourself in tiger balm. Yes, you will be falling into an antihistamine-induced sleep as you hike through the jungle, and the elephant ride will just be a fuzzy blur, but Rosemary and her gal pals have an extra walker for you to borrow.
- •Get Off The GridThe tour ends, you have hives in places your eyes have never even seen, and there are three days before your flight leaves out of Bangkok. The nearest $9-a-night island-hut-on-the-beach is a 5 hour bus ride, 1 hour ferry, and 45 min tuk tuk away. RUN DO NOT WALK.
- •Succumb to the PatriarchyYou feel young, beautiful and free as the humid island air whips your dirty hair away from your face in the back of a speeding tuk-tuk. But this illusion is promptly broken when an older American man points at your hive covered arm and says in a whisper that implies authority and grave danger: "you should get that checked out." And suddenly, with a talent many older white men seem to possess, he has you wondering what's wrong with your body.
- •Seek Medical AttentionFind the women-run clinic in Khlong Prao. At the doctor's prodding, you peel off your clothes in the waiting room, seduced by the tube of sweet cool relief in her hand. Spread-eagle in front of the clinic's floor-to-ceiling window, you eagerly perform a twisted rendition of gymnastics, bending over, raising legs, pulling aside the last literal and metaphorical threads of dignity, as you go further with this woman than you have with any of your acne-ridden high school boyfriends.
- •Go HomeYou will never know for sure what caused this allergic reaction. One night, years later, when it reappears with a midnight-vengeance, the hot searing sensation will take you back to that clinic and you'll suddenly find yourself standing in the refracted light of the waiting room, eyes closed, legs wide, ready to sell your soul to the cool fingertips of salvation.