Tung Dap Homestay

by Noelle Smithhart

After leaving the school, we spent two nights with a host family in Tung Dap, on Koh Phratong Island. This part of our voyage was filled with amazing beauty, gracious hospitality, and even more delicious food.
I wrote this while I was there. Words won’t do the experience justice, but they are the only way I can convey the two days we spent there:

I am listening to conversations in languages I do not understand. The wind talking to the trees. The clucks of chickens and roosters beneath the beams of the house I am sitting in. The scent of onion, sizzling as our hosts prepare dinner. Children’s brief calls. The silence of cats and dogs sleeping. The rumble of man and machine. The dash of geckos on the roof. I may not understand them, but knowing them, in this moment, gives me peace.

We are in paradise. Where a flicker of light could be a spark on a tractor or a firefly. Where little boys catch bugs and give shells as gifts on long beach walks. Where the crescent moon catches where the
sunset left us on the last horizon. We can get lost in stars and styrofoam signs. The water is warm. Did you feel the foxtails tickle your arm? Did you let the sand fill between your toes? Did you breathe in the salty air? Breathing in and out with the currents.

May I remind you again that we are in paradise. Where bright eyes meet ours with smiles. Where the baby sits behind his father’s wheel.

What woke you this morning? The far off fisherman’s boats? Scooters? Ducks? The booming, buzzing sirens of the cicadas? Or did you rise when our host tossed the dry grains of rice in her pot? Did the alpha wake you with his growl? Or the roosters echoing each other’s calls?


As my eyes closed to rest on our mats, the vision of a miracle played itself out on the backs of my eyelids. My toes still felt themselves being sucked into the muck near the newly planted mangrove seeds. I feel the layer of fine sand coating my skin. And now we rise to Nescafe. Rice and shrimp. Folded mosquito nets and textiles. Let us never finish this conversation. As the sea gypsy “Noi” tone loops in our memories.