The boat bobbed into Thong Sala, the main port town of Phangan, and banged into the dock. Passengers pushed against one another, clamoring out of the boat and spilling out onto the concrete pier.
A line-up of Thais was ready and waiting for the crowd of tourists, clutching laminated signs for their various resorts, or offering hotel rooms and taxi rides to those who hadn't made plans.
But Anna and Chara did have plans. They would stay at Lek's auntie's place. She had a villa on a beach on the southeast coast. Anna had explained that the road to get to the secluded beach was really, really bad, and not many taxis would drive there. But it was worth it. Mae Gob, as she was called, had developed a soft spot for Anna, and had told her to come and stay with her any time she was on the island.
"Her place is really, really traditionally Thai. It's not a luxurious modern villa like you might imagine. Lots of teak wood and uncomfortable furniture. Overly air conditioned. But epic views, my GOD," Anna had exclaimed. "And the beach is pristine. It's like your own private beach because no one is ever there."
"Come, follow me," Anna grabbed Chara by the arm once they were off the boat, and they bolted through the crowds, past the hawkers and drivers, to the parking lot. "Jak!" Anna exclaimed, slapping the strap of her bag on Chara's shoulder and running.
Chara slumped under its weight and followed Anna with her gaze. She jumped into the arms of an uncharacteristically tall and muscular Thai man. As Chara approached, now lumbered with both her backpack and Anna's heavy duffle bag, the man's face came into view.
He had the typically small, flat Thai nose, and slicked back dark hair and bushy dark eyebrows. But his eyes were shockingly alluring: a warm auburn-gold color that seemed to twinkle. They matched his confident smile, through which Chara noted straight, white teeth: not a common trait amongst locals here, Chara had observed. His plump, perfect skin made him look fresh out of university, but Chara had learned from Anna that Thais often looked far younger than they were. He was purrrrdy. Chara slowed and gave herself a moment to swoon as she approached.
When Anna released her arms from around his neck, Chara got a better shot of his body. His tight tank top revealed rippling stomach muscles, and thick, defined biceps bulged out from under his broad shoulders. On his lower half, he sported board shorts and flip flops.
He widened his golden orbs at Chara as she approached, and his face softened.
"Jak, this is Chara. Chara, Jak is Lek's cousin. He's gonna take us to his mom's house, Mae Gob. That's Lek's auntie I was telling you about, who we're staying with."
Jak opened his mouth to speak, but moments passed before any sound came out. "Hi, Chara. Really nice to meet you," he said finally, with surprisingly perfect English. He even had an American accent!
"You too, Jak. Thanks so much for giving us a ride," Chara responded, still struck by Jak's beauty.
He took Anna's bag without even tearing his eyes from Chara, who he seemed to be studying as if she were a wrapped Christmas present and he was trying to guess what was inside. "Here, let me help you with that," he took Chara's heavy backpack from her with ease and tossed both bags into the back of his flashy white pick-up truck. "Your chariot, ladies," he announced, opening the passenger door of his truck. He pulled a lever so the passenger seat shot forward, allowing access to the back seats.
Chara climbed in the back, and Jak pushed the passenger seat back into place for Anna to climb in. The interior still had the 'new car' smell. Chara sunk back into the leather seat, enjoying the blast of the frigid air conditioning that provided a stark contrast from the heavy heat outside.