One of the greatest joys of each of my 26 summers has been finding out what interesting patterns would sear themselves onto my skin by the end of August through a combination of creative swimsuit design, hours of the bike in cycling shorts, and unskilled sunscreen application. This has also come to include a Rembrandt-styled splattering of freckles, which I imagine to be my skin shouting at me to get out of the sun.
During more recent years in England, where the sun has yet to be discovered, summer vacations to the Mediterranean have given me more of a nice glow than the redness of a lobster learning of its fate, meaning that I’ve throttled my SPF usage down to 20 (yes, go ahead and yell at me).
So I was a bit surprised to find out (the hard way, of course) that the sun in Thailand is nothing like it is in Europe, and instead comes blasting out of the sky like that scene from Grease where the exhaust pipe of the car catches fire. Based on a conversation with an Australian this week, the issue seems to be the same between Thailand and Australia – that is, China’s collective exhaust pipe has left the country with pretty much no ozone.
Even having bumped my SPF up to 50 – which was literally the most expensive thing I have bought on this vacation – I’m still leaving the paradise of Koh Lanta with a tan line for each activity. Putting on sunscreen with the consistency of Elmer’s glue every two hours didn’t help much, but it did make me feel like I should have been wearing a red bathing suit and a whistle around my neck.
The silver lining is that, at least for the rest of 2017, I’ll be able to look at the line across my thighs and remember my first time riding a scooter in Thailand (I’m happy to say that was the biggest casualty of the day) or see my own rendition of the Danish flag on my back in the mirror and think about all of the sunbathing I did and snorkeling with some of the cutest fish I have ever seen.
Of course, the irony of all of this is that during all five nights that I stayed on the island, I only saw sunset once. Koh Lanta is supposedly renown for gorgeous sunsets, but what they forget to mention on all of the travel blogs is that the tropical climate here takes a particular vengeance, with afternoon thunderstorms beginning at around 4 and lasting well into the evening. Anyways, the one that I did manage to see was so spectacular that I don’t even mind. It was worth it.
In any case, even having not been to any other Thai islands, Koh Lanta is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen: it’s basically a massive jungle with a beach all around the edge and full of smoothie stands, with not a Full Moon party to be seen. But pack your own (strong) sunscreen, or you’ll be wasting around eight beers on the beach just to keep yourself from getting fried.