Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 33: Superman’s Stag Party

Following a glorious lie in we awoke in each other’s arms around mid-day, stopping at yesterday’s football bar for a traditional English fry-up before heading into a nearby mall in search of some suitable footwear for the forthcoming wedding, due to storing my Chelsea boots at the Lub D hostel in Bangkok at the start of my trip. After strolling around and purchasing a few little bits and pieces for our future home, we went to a nearby market where I picked up some fake Birkenstock sandals for £4. That’ll do. We made our way back to our room, got showered and ready for the Stag and Hen parties, leaving our guest house around 7pm and taking a ten minute stroll to Alexa and Hayden’s fancy hotel, where all of the wedding party were gathering for drinks. It was lovely to see our soon-to-be happily married friends and being introduced to the thirty-odd family and friends who had flown over from England and Australia to this magical middle ground, to witness true love combined. I was introduced to Aimi, who was the female version of me in the sense that she was married to the best man, Richard, whereas the maid of honour, Sarah, was on my arm. Aimi informed me of Richards plans for all the guys to go and watch the Muay Thai boxing, and said he’d organised some VIP tickets for 2000 baht a pop if I wanted to join them. I jumped at the chance, it was something I had been interested in seeing, but there was no chance of going with Sarah who is not one for organised displays of violence. Richard took Hayden away after secretly distributing a bunch of Superman t-shirts to the six of us guys who had opted in for the boxing, and we all put on our kit for the evening. The groom and best man returned shortly after, Richard also wearing his t-shirt and Hayden in a full Superman outfit, blue spandex, red cape, complete with bulging padded muscles on his chest and the hugest cod-piece ever, stuffed down the front. Beautiful. We all cheered as he got straight into character, ready to save the world, or destroy himself trying. Sarah had been carrying a bag full of hen party accessories around Thailand for the past two weeks, and shared out an assortment of pink feather boas amongst the girls and adorned Alexa with a tiara and white veil, a garter belt, and a sash which read ‘Bride to be’. Despite the general tack of such things, she still managed to make it look classy.
Happy Hens
With an hour until the van came to separate the men from the boys, I decided to do Sarah and I the favour of going back to the hotel to get us more cash as I didn’t have enough to cover the boxing, let alone the boozing which would go alongside it, and Sarah hadn’t brought much either. We were still in the travellers’ mind-set and hadn’t considered paying for any extras. I found my way out of the mazy corridors at their hotel and started walking at a fast pace. After about a hundred metres, the skies opened up, a torrential downpour the level of which I had yet to be caught out in. I considered going back, but I hate turning back once I’ve set off for something, so instead I started running. The more I ran, the wetter I got, it was after all still thirty odd degrees so my clothes were acquiring water both internally and externally. I stopped at a market which was closing down, in search of salvation in the form of an umbrella to save my clothes from being fully drenched through, and after some panicked running around I found a guy who had them. I pointed to a crappy little one asking how much, “500 baht” he replied. I looked him in the eye with an expression of ‘as if it’s worth that’ before saying “give me the sunshine price”. He was playing hardball, but said he had some rain Macs, which he spent a few minutes looking for but couldn’t find in his mass of hidden boxes. That’s the thing with shopping in Thailand, it takes seconds to find what you want, but ages bartering over prices whilst they try and stitch you up for as much as they can. After what was probably nearing ten minutes in this increasingly flooded market, I managed to get him down to a much sunnier price, and darted off, arriving back to our hotel looking like a drowned rat. I grabbed a towel, dried myself quickly as best I could, took a few thousand baht out of our hiding place behind the fridge and shot back into the ocean-like street. Time was running out by this point so I tried to get a tuk tuk to take me back, but literally no one was willing to take me without first ripping me off, so I ended up jogging all the way back under my flimsy new umbrella. I arrived back at the hotel to be met with the pity of the others as I sat, soaked through next to a small fan, trying unsuccessfully to dry myself. By the time I knocked back a much needed beer, the minivan arrived. There was a couple sitting on the front row who found it very amusing to see eight Supermen loading in behind them, and they took a few photographs as we set off. We pulled up outside the place and were directed up a narrow stairwell with a policeman waiting at the top. Hayden was in front of me and was immediately stopped by the cop, who said “YOU SUPERMAN, WELL I POLICEMAN” and then grabbed a massive handful of his crotch whilst cackling like a deranged Lex Luther with a pocket full of kryptonite to take down our hero. We ran away, laughing at the sexual assault he had committed on our groom, but this was a stag party in Thailand after all, so you have to take the assault which a pinch of salt, a few tequilas, and then worry about the counselling a few years later.  I think it was mainly just his balls anyway, the balls are ok, I guess.

The Super Stags
Little kids warming up
We were lead to our seats in the small, brightly-lit arena to rounds of applause and cheers from people in the crowd, and were shocked to see that by some stroke of luck Richard had scored us the front row. Now when I say front row I don’t mean five metres away with a railing separating you, I mean we could actually use the ringside as a place to rest our beers. I was at one end next to Richard, Hayden was beside him, then Bob, Alexa’s father, followed by Hayden’s old German friend Borg, Alexa’s seventeen year old brother Easton, Hayden’s good friend James and finally his older brother Darryn, who completed our motley crew of mainly Aussies and Englishmen, being served constant beers and chain smoking cheap cigarettes as we waited for the fight to start. There was an announcement being played on loop, repeatedly saying “TONIGHT! MUAY THAI BOXING. TONIGHT. 9’OCLOCK. TONIGHT” which wasn’t in the slightest bit annoying. The announcement stopped and the first fighters entered the ring. As I was on the end, every fighter in that corner had to walk right by me, up the metal stairs to my right and over or under the ropes, depending on their size. I was aware that young kids always fight first, but I was pretty shocked and surprised to see a little boy in my corner and a little girl in the other, both of whom couldn’t have been older than eight years old. It was an uncomfortable first fight, it felt pretty wrong to me, even though there’s nothing to say girls shouldn’t fight if they want to, seeing such a young little thing going head to head with a boy just wasn’t that enjoyable to witness. I was urging her to win, and she gave as good as she got, but I think the little lad just pipped her to it. Between each round a fighter would come back to my corner and I’d get splashed by the ice buckets and water being poured over them, a great addition to the experience. It also made for some great photo opportunities of capturing the tired fighters in their brief moments of rest before going straight back into trouble. The boxers got progressively older as we got progressively drunker and more into it, making a few bets with each other and the local bookies there, who were clearly more ‘in the know’ than any of us drunken foreigners. I took a trip to the loo to piss away some cash, and went to wash my hands at a sink where five or six young Thai lads in shirts and trousers were waiting. As I turned on the tap, one guy gave me some soap and another stood behind me and started slapping my back with cupped hands, which made a strange popping noise as he went along my spine. It felt good so I left him to it for a few seconds, then he put his arm up and underneath mine and cracked my whole back sideways to the left, then to the right, then straight, making my spine pop numerous times and leaving it feeling wonderful. Another guy gave me a towel for my hands, and then used another one which he quickly whipped up underneath my Superman t-shirt, wiping my back, then chest before I could even realise what he was doing. Another guy came from behind and pulled both my ears downwards simultaneously, causing an unusual crack in them which I’d never experienced. At that point I started to back away whilst handing over a tip, a flurry of thirty seconds or so had seen me attacked at all angles and I left the toilet feeling fresh to death. Richard was watching on and found it all too amusing, I told him it was the best value £3 tip I’d given in a long time. There was a really good fight between two teenage boys and I could see it going one way so I decided to shoot some video. Within one minute, I’d captured the knock-out blow. The other kid laid watching birdies tweet for a few seconds then came to. His opponent came over to make sure he was ok and gave him a hand up. It was a nice moment in amongst the madness; respect within battle always shines through.
Every fight was accompanied by a couple of live musicians who created atmosphere which some repetitive, engaging beats on their tablas, backed by a guy laying down some atmospheric flute which danced in-between each hit. The fighters seemed to sway, bounce and attack according to the steady rhythm that filled the hall. They were like the snake charmers of the affair, except when they played, people would fight. The main event saw an Australian guy named Victor against a French guy called Anthony and we were all cheering on the Aussie to the point of losing our voices. It was pretty back and forth, but Victor edged it. They all left the ring, and we clambered up to get a few photographs of our gang, before going down to congratulate Victor the victorious and get another snap with the sweaty lad.


Happy hard-nuts
We left the venue feeling elated, with around an hour and a half before we’d planned to reconnect with the hen’s who had been off for dinner, before moving on to some sort of gay man’s sex and karaoke show. Borg walked us along the dodgy street that Sarah and I had been down the previous evening, and we were all getting a lot of attention. The women were not shy about grabbing at our crotches as we walked past every bar, I suppose it’s a cheaper way to advertise than printing flyers.  We were led into some strip club which had two long platforms forming an L shape and televisions everywhere showing the live match between Chelsea and Liverpool. It was a strange juxtaposition of football and pussy in one, a bar built purely to satisfy the needs of typical men. I’m sure they would’ve had food to gorge upon along with the constant booze, should we so desire, although most of the dudes in there looked hungry for something else. I found myself amused by my urge towards watching the game, rather than the women, but every so often a pimply little arse would pop in face, vying for my attention, and money of course.  The line ups were ever changing every few minutes and each girl was numbered, so you could pay a bar fine in order to have the girls company. It was like a vending machine, except you type the number into the waitresses head and out pops herpes. I’d rather have a Kit-Kat. The match ended 1-1, a decent result for an Arsenal fan, and we vacated the premises after emptying our glasses of rum and beer, only to go straight into another bar, except this time it was a ping pong show. As I walked in, there were a few punters onstage with balloons held between their knees and a girl bent over in front of them with a straw held in her Minnie Mouse house. With one blow, all three balloons were popped and I spotted our girls all sat along the opposite side of the stage laughing. I went over to reunite with my favourite person in the world and we shared one of those passionate kisses where everything around you falls away and only you remain, just two figures, floating through space and time before being warped back to the here and now. Magical. We couldn’t believe the coincidence, of all the ping pong shows, in all of Patong, we had to walk into the same one as them. Perfect timing. I remained on the girls side (where I’ve been for most of my life), whilst the guys were getting harassed by the feverish working women of the night across the other side, and they filled me in on their evenings exploits. The next thing you know, Hayden is onstage, sat up with a woman laid down in front of him, shooting half of a banana out of her own makeshift fruit basket, urging him to catch it in his mouth. We stood there screaming “NOOOOO”, whilst the bride’s Mum and Grandmother looked on in stunned disbelief. It was priceless. Luckily he is a smart guy, and only caught it with his hand, although when he cheekily popped it back in I felt a collective cringe. Good job he was marrying someone with a great sense of humour or he’d have been in the dog house before even saying ‘I do’. I walked back over to gather the guys so we could hit the Banana Bar and Disco (no relation to the showgirl) we’d heard about, and looked up just in time to witness the new girl onstage drop something from her insides into her hands. Then I saw movement. Then all of a sudden, the spreading of wings. It was a LIVE BIRD! My jaw hit the floor, it was too much. Almost speechless and fully disgusted, I returned to the girls and Aimi said that it was the first time she’d seen a real life ‘pussy’ eat a bird. I cracked up and told her I would write that down. Done.

I ran a little upfront and blagged the club manager to let Hayden and Alexa in for free, and then hit a few shots of tequila with James, Richard and Superman, bonding further with my new brothers. Every one of the gang were such open, great people, and I knew that we were in for a good few days in each other’s company. I have no recollection of the music which was being played, but I remember dancing along pretty happily with our joint forces until the older members of our crew were nearly falling asleep and the younger lot perfectly paralytic, and ready to drop. We left our family and ended up getting lost, wandering aimlessly for twenty drunken minutes, away from the direction we were meant to be heading in.  Ready to collapse, we jumped onto a passing tuk tuk and were swiftly dropped off, only a staircase away from sweet sleep, where we laid to rest and let another day die.

The Last Shot

Monday, 28 January 2013

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 32: Life’s a leech

The feeling of excitement at the sound of your morning alarm is a rare occurrence, but that’s exactly what I experienced as I awoke in our miniscule shack just before 8am, knowing that another good day was there for the taking. Yet again, there was building works right outside of our room, this time two guys hammering more wood onto another of their half made huts. Noise had been a common occurrence for the past few days, wherever we’d been staying, but was probably due to the early season which we were visiting in, where everywhere was preparing for the onslaught of sun-chasing travellers looking for somewhere a bit nicer to spend their winter months. We gathered with the gang for a quick breakfast, then hopped on our long-tail boat which took us back the way we’d kayaked the previous afternoon.

We had a one hour hike which would lead us to the Namtaloo Cave, followed by another hour inside, then the trek back to our temporary, humble abodes. As we started our guide told us that there would be a few spots where we needed to cross small rivers, and after navigating through various jungle on our narrow pathway we reached the first. We were also warned about the leeches, something which Sarah had been shitting herself at the thought of for the past few days, but there was not much that could be done to avoid them, except prayer and good luck. I suppose long trousers could’ve helped, but I only packed one pair of black shorts and they barely covered my lanky limbs, which probably looked even more appetising than the four hot wings for 99p deal, which you can get from Big Portion Chicken in Hackney, to the awaiting bloodsuckers all around. I pulled off my trainers as did Sarah, to avoid having to march around for hours in drenched footwear, and we followed the others. By the time I got my trainers back on, it was time to take them off again, and we were falling behind with all the messing around, so I walked into the river with my trainers on my feet and my lady on my back, dropping her off at the other side safe and dry. We did this method another two or three times, but were both getting stressed out, Sarah by the fact that she was doing something she really didn’t want to, and me by the fact that she wasn’t having a good time. I knew she was doing it for me, and that made me feel bad because I’m only ever happy when she is. It didn’t help when she decided to hop over a few big rocks on another watery path and ended up slipping, smashing herself, thigh first, down onto harsh rock, and soaking her feet in the process, rendering my previous work of carrying of her pointless and her having an even worse time than before. I found my first leech having a go on my hand after exiting another watery trap, and spivved out in a ‘GET THIS FUCKER OFF OF ME’ kind of fashion, whilst Natasha smashed it off of my hand with a rock. It was much smaller than I’d imagined, obviously yet to be filled with my blood, however because of how they hook into your skin, the bites don’t stop bleeding for ages after you’ve ripped the little shits out of you. Nasty likkle raas clarts.
Entering the cave that I nicknamed 'Nick'
We reached the entrance to the cave, where Sarah’s worries were forced even further by the fact that there were a few points inside which were flooded by a freshwater forest stream, and we’d have to swim through them, in the dark, with only head torches to light our way. A few years back a big storm made the water level rise so high that a group going through it all died; another factoid to worry my wonderful woman. Nevertheless, we all entered slowly, the lights from each of our heads flickering like fireflies as everyone looked around excitedly. We reached the first flooded part, which we all jumped in to, one by one, swimming across for a few metres before clambering out into the serenity that only ultimate darkness can bring, this is until your mind starts thinking about what else could be in there with you. I wasn’t thinking about the leeches, I wasn’t worried about insects, I was just enamoured by the beauty of the surrounding rocks, admiring the formations within this secret dwelling. In the past, this cave was a hideout for communist students fighting the Thai Government back in the ‘70's, but now it’s a key point for trekkers from around the world to navigate. Sarah was struggling through, quite clearly scared and not having the best of times, but she was brave and persisted with the support of our gang, myself and the Belgian boys all giving her a hand when needed. My favourite point of the cave was when we had to head upwards between two rocks, there was a narrow gap between them, and no floor, just rushing water beneath us as we split our legs and arms on either side and jumped ourselves along the gap. On the other side was another pool of water which we had to jump into and swim across. It was up to our necks or further and took some heavy swimming in our clothes and trainers, then we climbed out at the other side, checked for more leeches, and then looked up to see hundreds of bats, all hanging from the ceiling. A number of them would fly around when we shined torches on them or made noise, whilst others remained still and seemingly asleep. There were huge exotic looking spiders everywhere as well as scorpions, frogs, and god knows what else, but that didn’t stop us all turning off our torches to experience the pure, peaceful blackness until one by one, people switched back on. My torch came on last, I could have stayed there for a good few hours, or at least until ‘The Fear’ crept in. I kept trying to placate my lady by assuring her that it’d be over soon, and we had a branch to smoke upon our exit. We walked through for another fifteen minutes, until we could see natural light cracking through the distant exit. We splish-splashed through the final dash, stopping only for our guide to pick up a couple of toads, which both reacted by instantly playing dead, in order to protect themselves. He sat one of them against a rock, and placed the other right in front of it, so that it looked like they were having a snooze and spooning. We took our final steps back into the scorching sunlight, looking back to see how the trees and bushes almost fully hid the hole which we came out of. All of that mounted tension immediately lifted at this point, Sarah didn’t die and neither did I, all was well in the world, and would be even better once we’d made it back to our floating salvation. Despite another leech trying to have its way with my foot, the returning march through the forest seemed a lot easier than on the way there. Perhaps we’d just gotten used to it by this point, everything is easier to deal with when you’ve had a bit of practice. After a short trip back to the floating raft houses, I dived straight into the lake to cool off, then we gathered for a final spot of lovely lunch before grabbing our bags and bidding the delightful local folks a fond farewell, before smoking our joy on the boat ride back to the pier, then driving back to our original accommodation in Khao Sok.

Hanging off the ceiling, I know the feeling.
Spooning frogs
Sarah the Survivor

Tired Team Canada
We decided that rather than staying another night at the Jungle Huts, we should pool our money with Team Canada and try and get a ride to Patong Beach that night. After a fair amount of haggling with our guide we managed to get his boss to drop the originally ridiculous quote down enough to make it worthwhile, and the seven of us waited at the huts with our worldly possessions for a new driver to turn up. I went to grab our laundry back, and get some drink and snacks for the journey, and after handing over a 1000 baht note for 110 baht worth of goodies I left the store and soon realised the girl on the till had given me 990 back, 100 baht more change than she was meant to. I walked back in and tried to explain, but she didn’t seem to fully comprehend her error, still I gave her back the 100 anyway and left with my karma fully intact. As much as I like free money, if she’d had it docked from her wages I’m sure she’d have felt it a lot more than I would. It’s despicable how little the Thai workers get paid, however, I’m sure just like everywhere else, their bosses do alright for themselves. After the best part of two hours wait, having our first chance in a few days to contact the world outside, a van rolled up and we loaded in. To kill a bit of time, Sarah and I decided to co-write a silly little story, one word each continuously until the end. She went first, and it ended up like this:

‘Ten thousand years ago there lived six magicians. Many students eagerly gathered at Glastonbury trying hard to understand the secrets of their ancestors. All minds together would unlock the bubble world, but there wasn't enough love leafs to create transsexuals. Fire breathing dragons appeared; everyone started laughing at their cocks. Later the demons from limbo stole the magicians’ sleeves so they couldn't fly anymore...’

I spent the next few hours doing my usual writing in the dark, doggie chasing his tail trick, ending up in Patong Beach after two hours of fast driving from our man with van. We bid him farewell, and walked into the place we’d heard was pretty decent. It was full. The place next door, named Kamilla, looked decent enough, and had a sign in the window saying ‘Rooms 400’. I had a quick chat with the lady owner, and managed to get three rooms for our gang at a discounted rate. Sarah and I took the first one, and went up the stairs, straight into a pretty fancy little room which had air conditioning, a lovely double bed, wardrobe, TV, fridge, table and en-suite wet room. Comparing it to where we stayed the previous night would be like comparing Johnny Depp with Johnny Vegas, it was more than adequate for our needs, and only a five minute walk away from the main streets. After a quick bang and shower in succession we hit the streets to scope out our surroundings, and within two minutes I passed a bar, and noticed that Arsenal was playing against Fulham on one of their screens. I looked at Sarah and she read my mind, leaving me there to watch the last five minutes whilst she went into a shop. It was 3-3 at home, another not great result as it stood, but I hoped that my watching would somehow swing the balance in our favour, since I’m a very lucky man. Whilst standing at the doorway I noticed a few local ladies of the night standing nearby, fanning themselves on the corner. Three big Indian men with moustaches approached a slim little thing, trying to work out a deal with her, which judging by the interested looks on all of their desperately depraved, drooling faces would’ve meant a situation no human should ever have to experience. I don’t know the quoted price, but it was no dice, and they shuffled off down the road to try and satisfy their twisted urges elsewhere. I was thankful. Back in the world of football, the dying seconds of the game saw us given a penalty, and I excitedly pointed it out to Sarah who was walking back towards me. Our dynamic Spaniard Mikel Arteta stepped up to the spot, but had his effort saved by the goalkeeper. “FOR FUCKS SAKE!” I shouted as the final whistle followed right after, and a Thai guy beside me laughed at my aggravation. At least some happiness was caused by our inadequacy to get a decent result.

We walked through the seedy main streets, Sarah somewhat un-enthralled by what was on offer whilst trying to scope out somewhere decent to lead Alexa’s hen party to the following evening. I was excited by my ugly, flashing, vibrant surroundings, it reminded me a lot of the dodgy places in Bangkok where I’d had a good laugh with the Lub D hostel crew during my first few days away, and I was looking forward to experiencing more of the same madness with my best friend now in toe. By this point we hadn’t really witnessed the ultra-seedy side together, and I was eager for us to see some crazy shit . We went full circle, ending up back at Kamilla, where we firstly searched for our favourite movie channel (the only thing that was good in Koh Samui), which wasn’t available, but we found another showing films in English, which went on in the background yet again as I wrote myself to sleep whilst Sarah was zonked.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 31: Thank you, forever

Cheow Lan Lake

8am always comes too soon, usually four hours too soon for me, but this was another day where sleep would be sacrificed in exchange for adventure. I rolled out of bed and headed up the road with a huge bag of laundry, dropping it at the only family store that was open and telling them I’d be back the following evening. We had a quick bit of grub before being loaded into a van with five strangers who would also be joining us on this trek, three Canadians, Mark and his two children Natasha and Connor who were in their late teens/early twenties, their friend Stephanie and her Australian boyfriend Julian. Our guide stopped after thirty minutes or so, so he could shop for supplies whilst we checked out the local market, before driving us to the pier where the long-tail boats were docked. We chucked our bags and bodies onto the awaiting vessel, and spent the next ninety minutes sailing across a huge reservoir, passing towering walls of lime stone and various tree tops which stemmed up from underneath the clear greeny-blue water. The loud clattering of the engine behind us was near deafening, and somewhat ruining the peace for us both, so I ripped a few bits of material from my vest for Sarah to put in her ears, and put the other bits in mine. Much better. I sat back in peace, thinking about love, and the fact that I had yet to write a poem for Alexa and Hayden’s wedding, which was the reason we were in Thailand in the first place. I like to let ideas stew, and then come out naturally, so just thinking about that lovely couple, their forthcoming wedding and the strong bond they clearly shared had the words flowing as easily as the river we were drifting on.

Let your love be like the stars, dazzling the sky in spectacular style.
Let your love be like a river, flowing continuously for miles and miles.
Let your love be like the sun, the golden glow which lights the day.
Let your love be like the moon, illuminating the night to show us the way.
Let your love be like a forest, rooted deeply to the ground.
Let your love be like a flower, a blossoming beauty uniquely bound.
Let your love be simply love, a bond of happiness, deep and true.
Let your love last forever, a new beginning from the moment you say "I do"

By the time I’d finished writing and shared it with Sarah, the ride was over, and we arrived at our destination, a series of bamboo raft houses which were built right on the water at the edge of the Cheow Lan Lake, surrounded by a mountainous backdrop with jungle just beyond. It was beautiful. We put our stuff into our huts, then dived into the cool water to relieve our skin after too much time sat on a boat in the mid-day sun. We had a spot of lunch cooked by the locals running this little site, which consisted of Massaman Curry, Sweet and sour chicken and vegetables, and a load of rice and fruit for dessert. It was all delicious and definitely filled the final hole of the two day hangover which was nearing its end. Suitably stuffed, we decided to go out for a little kayak ride with Connor who was raring to go. He hopped into a yellow, one man kayak, and Sarah and I jumped into a blue, two man version. It was by far the worst one I’d rowed in since being away, and we struggled to sail smoothly as it’s flimsy body rocked on the water, but we did ok, riding for a while, then stopping by a cliff where we looked up to see a few cheeky monkeys swinging around the treetops and making noises at us. Connor was a really cool young chap, very chatty and funny, and we had a good time talking as we paddled along to the end of the route, before turning around and paddling back to our base. Julian and Stephanie were waiting, so I dived out of my kayak and held it steady for them to board, before doing a bit of swimming then getting out to dry off. By the time we made it back to our hut it was starting to spit, then it got a little worse, then a lot worse, lashing down upon the tranquil lake, and dripping through holes in our roof. We were glad we’d gone first in the kayak, and were now in the relative comfort of our hut, lying on a mattress on the floor, keeping warm in each other’s arms. The sound of the rain got louder and louder, masking the sound of our lips meeting, and bodies pressing together, and by the time our romantic episode was over, we were too tired to care about the rain, or move from the wet spot which the leaky roof had created, we just lay there satisfied, staring at the ceiling until we dozed off shortly after.
Peace on Earth
I was in a sweet shop at the airport, and as always, I was on the rob. Eating whilst choosing, putting some in my pockets, purposely miscounting the amount I had to pay, whatever it took to score as many free sweeties as possible. When I left the shop I was chased by security and spent the rest of the dream running around the airport hiding. I could look further into why I often have this reoccurring theme in my slumber, but considering the amount of sweets I consume from day to day, I just put it down to my addiction.  A couple of hours later I awoke and went out to find that nobody was around, and we’d seemingly been left behind, but it turned out that there wasn’t much happening, so I just got chatting to a Belgian guy who was also there for the night with a few friends, before returning to my lady, who was stirring on her soggy mattress. We all regrouped for dinner around 7pm and were served with what was quite possibly the best meal of my trip so far, huge freshly caught fish grilled to perfection, Thai style omelette, and loads more vegetables and fruit. These guys live good. By 8ish we got back on our long-tail boat and went on a night safari, on the promise that a lot of the animals would be waking around this time and we’d see a few. It was pitch black on the river, and our guide spent his time sailing from place to place, and shining his big torch into the trees, to no avail. I’ve seen more wildlife under our living room sofa, but I found it pretty amusing to be on a safari with no animals. At one point there was apparently a big white bird sitting at the top of a tree, but it could have been a branch for all I could see. After nearly an hour of floating around aimlessly like a turd in the ocean, we stopped at a spot where our guide told us that you could see shooting stars every ten minutes or so. We waited. We waited some more. There was a lot of space to cover but I hoped that I could see another if I constantly flashed my eyes around the sky, and it worked. I’m pretty sure that I saw one briefly, however it was ten times duller and nowhere near as sparkly as the one that I’d seen in Koh Phangan a few days before, still, beggars can’t be choosers, unless of course they are choosing to beg, in which case they get what they want.

Back at the raft houses, we went to roll some coral reef relief for our new family and I realised that one of my wooden beaded crosses was missing. I usually wear them everywhere, all the time and didn’t remember taking it off. I assumed it must’ve been pre-coitus, so we overturned everything, emptied our bags, checked under the bed and still it was nowhere to be found. I began to panic, those necklaces have been with me through all of my adult life after one of my best friends gave them to me, even during my near death on the mountain in Monument Valley, I remember feeling the cross cutting into my chest, which was laid across the rock face as I clung on for dear life. If they were gone, I would have been devastated. I rushed out to the decking where we ate to ask the others if they’d seen them, and as I arrived to where our group were gathered, I could see what looked like them, hanging around Connor’s neck. Near speechless and shaken, I said “Are those my beads?” to which he replied saying “I found these earlier, are they yours?” I walked around the table to where he was sitting in his chair and hugged him around his back, gripping him tightly and thanking the God which resides inside him. He explained that whilst swimming in the water he saw them floating towards him, and kept them because he thought they were cool. He put them back around my neck and I thanked him profusely, explaining the significance in the story of my life. There are few objects I treasure in this world, and these were definitely one of them. I rushed back to tell Sarah who was over the moon, and we both returned to the table to have a cup of tea and a smoke with the gang. After a couple of hours conversing over various card games it was time for ‘lights off’, and we all retired to our wooden shacks. We pinned our mosquito nets and lay on the bed. The still of the night provided us with hundreds of different sounds which created various visions, nature’s soundtrack. It reminded me of the night we’d taken mushrooms in Udaipur and were listening to the infinite life outside, the steady chirps like a metronome and the odd oncoming car providing a bridge to the insect orchestra, which would always kick into its short chorus, signified with a beep as the vehicle drove by. It was quite a struggle to settle, what with the constant bats flying in and out through the uncovered sides of our hut whilst we listened to the bubbles rising up beneath us, scurrying around the sides and general movements and flickers, constantly conjuring up images which were likely more scary in our heads than in reality. Nevertheless, I pulled out my iPod and speaker and stuck on Tropic Thunder to watch and listen to instead of what was in my inquisitive head. Unfortunately, I didn’t reach the bit where Tom Cruise dances, but I instead danced my dreams across the water, taking me back to my own unreality.

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 30: The day after the night before

Feeling about as stable as the British economy I somehow managed a cold shower, before packing once more and getting out the door. It was noon and a truck had arrived to take us to the ferry. No time for breakfast, no time for a morning swim in the sea, instead we surfed on the back of the bumpy vehicle, trying not to puke our empty guts up as we bounced towards the dock. We had enough spare time for me to sit on top of our backpacks whilst Sarah scored a couple ‘shakes and sandwiches from a stall nearby. I off’d the Pineapple ‘shake in seconds but couldn’t stomach the sandwich just yet, so I let my bag carry me for a change, and somehow ended up on the ferry. We found two empty rows of seats right away, and laid out on them trying to snooze for the two hour journey. It was less difficult than our previous attempt, still with a thousand grams of sugar from the energy drinks making us dream wildly whilst semi awake, but not the best rest we could’ve hoped for. We arrived at a place called Dan Sak, where a bus was waiting to take us to Surathani. Another few hours of bumping through tiredness and multiple naps and we arrived at a hut where we were told we’d have to wait for our final part of the journey, which would take us to Khao Sok National Park. We had nowhere to stay upon arrival, but the lovely old chap that ran the stopping point was a great help. He showed us a variety of places that he could book us into, and answered every question we posed to him with “OF COURRRRSE” before sorting us out with a nights stay in a jungle hut in Khao Sok. It turned out that he’d actually visited Sarah’s hometown of Scarborough, and the neighbouring town of Whitby and was raving about some fish dish he’d had there, making a smacking noise with his lips like a baby drinking milk from a teat to signify how tasty it was. He was great, I loved him, despite my raging brain he provided some much needed light relief, and looked after us well. Bless him.

Lion King whiskey: Guaranteed to leave you royally fucked.
A van came and we were told to board, but rather than take us to Khao Sok, it instead dropped us at another bus depot, where we then hopped into a different van and went on our merry way. By this point it was gone 6pm, and we were stopping and starting every few minutes, picking up and dropping off locals whilst the driver pocketed cash from each of them. By 9pm we arrived at the location of our jungle hut, in a location aptly named ‘Jungle Huts’, which had twenty odd stairways, each leading up to huts of varying sizes. We dumped our bags, booked a trek the following day with the manager there, then went off in search of dinner. I had my heart set on something super stodgy, preferably pizza, and low and behold, the last joint on this one road of commerce was a pizza place. I did a little ‘feed me before I die of starvation’ dance, ordered a couple of pizzas and stuffed my face with sustenance. I was saved. We got back to our room and started packing a few bits into a smaller bag to take with us to the huts on the lake where we’d be staying the following night, and just as we had everything out, the lights started to flicker. I got up and turned them off, then back on. They continued to flicker, made a strange noise, and then plunged us into darkness. I sat in the dark whilst Sarah went off to find someone to help us, arriving back with two guys and a torch. They were clearly not electricians, and had no idea what the problem was, so we had to pack in the dark, then drag everything to a new, bigger room which they’d opened up for us. By this point, we were both ready to die, so I put the dream gun into my cake hole and blasted my conscious brain all over the bed. Dead.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 29: The half-moon psychedelic jungle dance

I came to about thirty minutes before mid-day and staggered out of my room to be faced with a glorious view of the sea. I was still half asleep as I stepped into the blue, but soon woke fully as the cold water reached my family jewels, throwing my shoulders under to acclimatise before going for a morning swim. I arrived back after fifteen minutes, joining Sarah who was sat on the sand reading. I started getting into the ‘Steppenwolf’ book that I’d found in Pai, which is offered up as uncovered documents of a former lodger at the author’s aunt’s guesthouse, an alcoholic recluse who kept diary-like recordings of the events surrounding his lonely life and strange encounters.

After an hour or so of roasting on the beach we shared a Pad Thai for lunch, then moved a few metres over to the pool, where I spent another couple of hours doing my usual write, swim, write, swim, whenever the heat got too much to bear. Sarah slept for much of this time, joining me for my final swim of the afternoon. As we worked our way around the pool our lips met and, like dogs on heat, we were off. The throws of passion ignited and we gripped each other closely, doing terribly in our attempts to seem inconspicuous whilst in full view of builders noisily working through the window of the building beside us. It didn’t matter, we’d gone too far to stop and it felt too good to care. After increasing the fluid levels of the pool by at least a tablespoon, we returned to our room without being arrested, before taking a short ride up the road on our scooter, where we found a travel agent to book our onward journey to Khao Sok national park, and bought some yoghurt, which we’d be consuming our mushrooms with. Back in our beach hut we mixed our ingredients and scoffed the lot. I can’t believe that in all those years of munching on the nasty mush’ like a straight up sicko, always seeing it as the hell you must overcome to reach heaven, I’d never before thought to simply put them in a yoghurt. Not only was all of the nasty fungus and psilocybin taste masked completely by the strawberry flavour, I’d actually go so far as to say I enjoyed consuming them. Then the wait was on.

Hanging high
I always quite enjoy the unknowing after you’ve eaten a dose and await the effects. Mushroom trips are generally always different, as the strength and amounts vary greatly with every new batch, but I had faith that they’d be decent as I let the poison make its way around my body gladly, in my usual position sprawled out on our bed, offering myself up to the skies, ready to be taken. Just like when on the acid in Pai, I was in a vegetative state, the calm before the storm, and completely refusing to move as we listened to ‘Strange Days’, which is probably my favourite album from The Doors, before Sarah followed it with ‘P.S I Love you’ by the Beatles. By this point, she’d given up on me and went out front to hang in the hammock. After a few minutes of time with my thoughts, I had a vision. I called out to my lover “Sarah, when we get married, can we have a yellow ribbon tied around our hands?” She laughed and replied “Yes, but only if you come outside!” After another minute or two composing myself for the big move, I then took three wobbly steps out of the door, and laid straight on the hard marble deck beside Sarah’s swinging spot. The end of the Fab Four saw us joined by Patti Smith, who provided the soundtrack as Sarah and I laughed our arses off being increasingly silly with our shared thoughts and conversation topics. We concluded that if you had to pay to take a shit, there would be a hell of a lot more panicking young people on the streets of East London, running around on the rob, desperately looking for money, and also that although the general consensus of a down and out who is laying drunk in the gutter with piss running down his leg is that he’s in a bad way, he may be having the time of his life, feeling freer than ever before. I’m glad we took time to delve into these interesting theories, I mean, other than literally ‘talking shit’ what else is there to worry about? As we chatted, I saw what I first thought was a firework flash in the sky. As I followed its movement diagonally downwards, its effervescent glow illuminating the black blanket sky, I realised that it was a shooting star. Sarah had witnessed its flash too, but didn’t realise what it was until I called out in excitement before kissing her as I made a wish for us both. We made our way over to the pool as I was adamant that we have a little swim around before we reached the 9pm curfew which was stated on the rule board beside it. I dived in, feeling at one with the water as I flipped about like a dolphin, returning to collect my lover who I carried around like a baby, spinning under the stars and making us both dizzy. Then we kissed again and Sarah laughed, explaining that every time we’d kiss, she’d get the image of me as a cat in her head, one who had stolen my identity as her beau. With open eyes, however, I looked more like a seal or a fish, as my wet hair clung around my ears like a black swimming cap. I explained that I was Cat Top the Merman, half feline, half fish and half human, and splashed around like a hyperactive schoolgirl to amuse my lady, and myself.
Neon jungle
We’d been unsure as to whether or not to attend the half-moon party all day, due to the fact that neither of us were the slightest bit into psy-trance and rarely attended any sort of raves, plus we thought it might be a bit too intense whilst tripping, however after another hour or so hanging in front of our beach hut drinking my bottle Lion King Whiskey, which I’d brought in Laos for us to share, we both started considering whether or not to bite the bullet. I was being happily lazy in my own world, but after being joined by Matt and Mikaela, our neighbours who we hadn’t yet met as they’d been snoozing all evening, and making friends with them in the space of a few seconds, we decided to join them for a dance in the jungle. We caned our drinks, chucked on some threads and flagged down a truck that was on its way to the party, arriving in less than five minutes to be faced with a gaggle of goons in glowing garments, a neon army getting sloshed on cheap plonk by the bucket load. This wasn’t even the entrance, it was a makeshift bar outside for people to get their first drinks, screams and drunken fondles out of the way, setting the scene for the melee which was sure to ensue as they walked through the door. I kind of felt like an animal that’d just been shifted from the wild to a zoo, I was seeing all these strange creatures, and although I felt akin with their species, I knew I was a foreigner. Sarah re-affirmed to our new pals that “this isn’t really our thing” as we went through the entrance, noticing that we were quite possibly the only two people out of roughly a thousand that weren’t in neon t-shirts and vests. I wasn’t bothered by this, unless they had neon black ones I’d have to make do with my glowing plain white t-shirt swinging about under the ultra-violet rays. Matt and I knocked back our complimentary vodka and red-bulls and stood chatting, before I felt a tug, looking down to realise that a midget Thai woman was grabbing at my dick. I backed away bewildered and she gave me a cheeky smile, before disappearing under the legs of a passing stranger.

Wired weirdos wandering wildly in the wilderness

The girls returned carrying a bucket filled with the usual concoction of rum, coke and red bull, heavy on the rum, as always. Out of nowhere, a blonde girl came and grabbed me, and I turned to realise that it was my dear friend Ieke, who had been part of my lovely gang in Vang Vieng a few weeks prior. We had a massive hug and a good chat, catching up on each other’s movements before Sarah came over with the biggest balloon of laughing gas I had ever seen. I introduced her to Ieke, who had been hearing all about her when I was on my own, then we proceeded to start inhaling on the nitrous oxide. The first hit was big, it rippled across my eyes and into my brain, I had a quick break for a second to greet someone we’d met in Chiang Mai, Olaf, who had also spotted me in the crowd and came over to say hi. I clung onto the conversation like a cat thrown at the curtains, whilst simultaneously using the balloon as a third lung, until the switch in my mind flicked, sending me into a kaleidoscope of multiple realities before rebooting my brain, returning me to the spot where we all stood. We carried on having a laugh and a catch-up and then Matt turns up, holding yet another big bastard balloon. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially in my quest for YES! I squeezed the end to my lips, and started hitting number two, whilst still holding our bucket of booze. In this instance, like many that have come before it, I forgot my history with these balloons, how the second one is always much more of a mind mash and often twists me in uncomfortable ways. This was no different. After only a few blasts to the head something happened, I don’t quite recall the time frame, just a tornado of spinning, then a wobble, then an outer-body experience, watching as the floor moved closer towards my face. I came to, to find myself on my knees, clutching the bucket in one hand and tightly gripping the balloon in the other, with a shocked Sarah standing above me saying “What are you doing? Are you ok?” Despite my all too often dances with the Devil, I always remain in control, this was the first time she’d witnessed the big tree fall hard, but rather than panic, by the time I’d recovered she was a metre or two away, holding the bucket, hitting the balloon and bopping to the beats that blared across the jungle. That’s my girl, I thought, laughing at her priorities in the face of destruction. Usually, being wiped out so publically may be somewhat embarrassing, however, due to never having experienced being taken out so massively, I was actually pretty ecstatic it had happened to me. Perhaps I should start fighting again, except let people knock me out instead of punching back, it would definitely save me a pretty penny.

Jungle Boogie
The party was kicking, we had a good gang, and the buckets were in constant succession, even the dreaded music was a lot more up our street than we’d expected. After all, we do have a past in which clubbing featured frequently, my DJ father owning a night club in Ayia Napa and Sarah being a former electro head, we were prepared, whether we liked it or not, and we shook the ghosts out of our souls as the beats thudded against our skulls. I found it funny to see Miss “This isn’t really our thing” dancing on a podium, mesmerized by the music and cocktail of cocktails. Some dude was standing nearby with his vest rolled up, showing off his abs to whoever would look, and it rang familiar with me. I looked up to recognise the baby face that they belonged to, a guy from Hertford, near where I’d lived a few years back. I’d recognise those abs anywhere, he used to go out with a friend of mine and every picture of his on Facebook saw him exposing himself, much to the amusement of my best friend and I who would always laugh at such embarrassing behaviour from the young lad. I went over and confirmed that it was him, and he told me they’d split up and he’d gone travelling. I left him and his six best friends, alone and exposed, grabbed my trashed woman explaining that it was now 5am and I wanted to go, and ambled outside, where we managed to find a guy with a motorbike who was willing to ride us both home on the back of it for 100baht. Sarah held him, I held her and we whizzed off. This was another moment where I could have feared for my life, up and down the hills on this chicken-chaser, but I just wanted my bed and to escape my beating head. Back in our room, we both threw up a load of booze and some dignity, which was running pretty low, and then got into bed, where I span out, trying to end what had been a heavy day and night. I got what I wanted.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 28: Operation: Sky High Supplies

I was at a festival in Victoria Park, it was dark, and Kings of Leon were playing to a cage full of people. My best friends, Mike and Sav, weren’t impressed, we were all big fans of the band in their formative years, but once they swapped their screaming rock and roll roots and tenderly delivered metaphors for catchy indie trite with pop sensibilities, like most of their original fans, we switched off. God knows why we were there, and he wasn’t talking. Then the music took a good turn, and the opening notes of ‘Tranny’, a song from their debut LP, blasted out from the speakers, exciting the gathered masses. I crowd surfed across the top, towards a gang of little, pasty faced, rude boys, wearing backwards caps and hoods, who started having a go at me for crowd surfing. I came down beside them, then spent the next few minutes explaining to them why you should always carry and catch kids who are crowd surfing, and how I once saw someone end up paralysed because I couldn’t be bothered to reach out and catch them (which was a lie). They got where I was coming from, picked me up, and passed me back onto my bed where I awoke beside my Queen of Dion.

I washed my face by diving head-first into the pool outside our room, spent half an hour swimming, then went back to pack and checkout. Sarah returned our scooter and we marched up the road in the heat of a bright, mid-afternoon, lugging our luggage lethargically. After fifteen minutes we were at the dock, sweating and dehydrated like we’d just crossed the Sahara. I got us some water and a big corn on the cob and we sat waiting for our ferry, with a sticker stuck on us which read ‘Koh Phangan’. We boarded with a bunch of other young adults and a few families, and sat at the outside back part of the boat, discussing where to stay and admiring the island views from the middle of the water. I decided I wanted to write, so went and sat in the cool comfort of the air-conditioned top deck to spill a previous dream onto page. Time flew by and we arrived at the island most famed for its drug and alcohol fuelled full-moon parties. Funnily enough, this is originally what put us off of coming here, Sarah not enthused by the stories she’d heard of such gatherings, vomit, death and decadence. I’d heard similar stories, but the sound of a wild party in honour of my glorious Moon at her fullest still sounded like something to experience. I often feel like it’s my duty to see and experience as much as possible, in order to have more to draw from in my future writing, this is why I’d been on my quest for YES! and although it is not always the best to put yourself through things in which you doubt, if you don’t go, you’ll never know. Everyone has different opinions on things, sometimes you speak to the guy who hates the smell of flowers, other times the one who fills his house with them. I wasn’t too bothered that we’d missed the full moon; instead it would be half full. At least we weren’t seeing it as half empty.

Due to having nowhere to stay we referenced a passage in the bible on Koh Phangan, and picked a spot in-between the place where we were told we could score weed and mushrooms, and the place where the half-moon party would be taking place the following evening. After a short drive we were dropped off at Macs Bay Beach Resort, on Ban Tai beach. It was a big, relatively fancy resort, which had a strip of simple and much less fancy beach huts along the sand, facing the sea. This was much more up our sandy street. I haggled the price of a hut down to roughly £10 a night for two nights, then chose the one which was furthest from the main resort, as they also had building works going and I didn’t want to have my peace ceased at 8am again. I hung my hammock between two beams and tied it tightly, testing its strength successfully using my body as a crash test dummy before relinquishing my spot to Sarah whilst I went for a swim in the sea. The water was a lot murkier here, you couldn’t see that clearly beneath you, and after a while, my paranoia brought me back ashore. What lies beneath is beyond most men, my imagination runs wild. We took a walk towards the pool, which was right next to the building works, and spent some time doing what we do when doing nothing, before showering, hiring yet another scooter from the manager of our place in order to go out on our evenings mission, Operation Sky High Supplies.
The view from our beach hut
It had been a few days without weed, but we knew we were in a much safer spot to score than before so we headed towards Haad Rin, where the full-moon parties usually take place. Unfortunately, what the map didn’t tell us was that the five kilometre drive was riddled with mountainous peaks and equally steep drops, nor was we informed by the bike owner that he was renting us a clapped out piece of shit that had trouble just starting, let alone navigating this kind of road. I’ve been in car crashes that were less scary than these summits which we struggled to overcome each time we reached one. We were literally cheering on our weak engined warrior to make it up each time, which it did, but not without its fair share of struggle and panic. By the time we reached Haad Rin Sarah was shaken up, as was I, and we were both fearing the forthcoming ride home. I saw a hostel with a bar and pool table, so I went and bought a beer and then got chatting to the guy behind the bar, a Mauritian named Robbie who was on a working holiday. He advised us on the best place to pick up some love, a place called Magic Reggae Bar. Who would’ve thought? He also told us a good place to get some nice, decent priced food, called the Crazy Elephant, so we went down the road where he’d directed us. After a few minutes a blonde Dutch guy called Morten who was at the bar with Robbie came in and said that he was off to get some weed, so could get some for us. I trusted his story so gave him 1000 baht and off he went, returning just as our meals did, with a small package to deliver. We thanked him, and then continued with our meal. As simple as that.
This is how the world looks on good acid.
We still wanted to find some mushrooms so, feeling replenished, we rode along the beach for a few minutes, then got off when there was no more rode and walked a few steps to the reggae spot. It was a shack facing the beach that was full of ultra violet lights and covered from floor to ceiling in quotes, people’s names and messages, obviously added to over time by patrons of the place. We enquired about mushrooms but the main man wasn’t there, so we were invited to wait and have a beer, and offered to buy joints, which we declined. We didn’t smoke any of our own as we had the death ride to endure and Sarah obviously didn’t want to do that stoned, so instead we had a drink and a chat, taking it in turns to find empty spaces, which we filled with messages of our own. Sarah first painted  Gandhi’s ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ on the wide leg of a table, then I wrote the most important piece of advice that I offer to everybody and anybody, simply ‘Love Yourself’, in bright yellow across a ceiling beam. The second most important piece of advice I always offer is ‘Make sure you sniff water and properly clean your nose after a night of snorting drugs’. That may seem somewhat comical advice, but some of the shit I’ve expelled after a heavy night has looked like somebody’s had a home abortion in my bathroom sink, so take note. After about an hour, just as we were getting antsy, the employee returned saying that his boss was back, and handed us two small paper cups, half-filled with mushy ‘shrooms. We tipped them into a plastic bag, thanked our friend, giving him 1000 baht and retreated gleefully to our vehicle.

My simple advice

Perhaps it’s because we were expecting it, or perhaps it’s because we’d already experienced it, but for whatever reason, the drive back wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the one there. We still had to navigate numerous ups and down, but it was more downs then ups this time so it didn’t seem so much of a struggle. We picked up some munchies from the 7-Eleven and rode our spluttering bike back to our hut, where I tied the bag of ‘shrooms to our fan to keep them cool, and cut up the weed with some nail scissors. We had a fair bit more than we’d got from Richard in Chiang Mai, but still less than in London, which I think is crazy considering it’s grown around there in mass amounts. Regardless, we were pleased with our haul, rolled up some seaweed, and hit the beach in all its dark beauty to celebrate before bed. BOOM-BAT! Just as Sarah dropped off, I realised that Arsenal would be starting their Champions League match against Schalke at 2.45am local time, so I did some writing until then, and spent the next two hours trying to stream it on my crappy excuse for a laptop, with a crappy internet connection somehow reaching our little hut. The written updates on my phone informed that we were 2-0 up at one point, only to go back to 2-2 by the end of the game. The only brief spell of video I saw lasted roughly 30 seconds, and blasted out of my speakers unexpectedly, just enough of a clip to wake my sleeping girlfriend, then disappear again. Quality. 5am, nothing watched, a restless lover and a draw. What a way to waste a sleep. Still, even paradise comes with its downsides.

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 27: Mermaids and Fishermen

At 8am, the banging in my dreams started again. I awoke to find that it had now manifested itself into reality, as a bunch of builders were gathered just outside, chucking slabs around whilst smoking cigarettes simultaneously. We somehow suffered it for another few hours before waking up tired around 10am. We looked up another hotel in a different part of town which was meant to be near a fisherman’s village, and hailed a cab to take us there in the hope of some peace and quiet. The fact that the driver was charging us over £8 for a ten minute drive wasn’t the best start for him, nor was it bettered by the fact that we were still a way away from the village itself at this new hotel and wanted him to take us a little further, a concept which he couldn’t grasp. We begrudgingly offered to pay extra, but he was having none of it. He and Sarah ended up both shouting at each other for a few minutes before I had to step in, telling him to quieten down and chill out. Sarah was emotionally drained and upset at this point so we just gave up trying to reason, gave him his 400 baht and checked into The Mermaid Resort, about two kilometres away from where we wanted to be.

The hungry fisherman
After checking in, we went straight for our first bite of beach life, walking through the expensive side of an adjacent resort and onto the awaiting sand. Unfortunately for us, there wasn’t much of it. The beach itself was a long, narrow strip, with no more than twelve feet of sand between the ocean and the face of each resort. Despite this, and the overcast sky, we set down for a few hours, reading, watching a fisherman laying out circles of nets, listening to The Beatles, swimming, watching the fisherman retrieve his empty nets from the cold, emerald water, and catching a few spells of sun before resorting to our resort, where I sat writing around the empty pool for another hour, then showered. Less sand, more man, we entered a three-walled wooden shack down the street, hiring another scooter so Sarah could shoot us around for the evening.
The Big Buddha, just chilling...
First stop, we headed north for a few minutes and hung a Louis towards Wat Phra Yai, home of the islands most famous landmark, The Big Buddha. We paid our respects, and inspected the surroundings, shaking another pot of fortune sticks and collecting our numbers from the first ones which fell to the floor. I found the corresponding translation, which was even less coherent than the ones you find on Google, failed to relate, removed my shoes and moved on, up the stairs towards the Lord. He was big and gold, like Mr T’s jewellery, and surrounded by more jewels than the Queen, however, the area seemed pretty dilapidated, probably due to the fact that they didn’t charge us to visit and therefore can’t generate enough for its upkeep. If I had a big golden Buddha statue, I’d polish it like Ron Jeremy’s trophy penis. The ferry port was nearby, so we quickly rode there to book tickets for our escape to Koh Phangan for the following afternoon, then drove to the fishing village, Bo Phut, which seemed more like Shoreditch-on-sea, with its vast array of overpriced eateries in decent looking buildings, littered with more shops selling the same over-priced shit. Everywhere seemed too dear. I don’t mean to moan, I can afford to eat out in London once in a while, but I couldn’t afford to do it every night of the week. However those are the sort of prices each restaurant was offering, so we had to once again bite the bullet. We’d seen a Mexican joint on the way in, so we walked there, but were told as we seated that they couldn’t serve any Mexican food that night. I thought the lady was having me on, but it turned out that their chef was ill. I was bemused by this as cooking Thai or Mexican is pretty similar, and considered offering my services to quickly whip something up, but there was another place down the road, so we went there instead. We shared a few dishes which ranged from disappointing to underwhelming, paid our extortionist for the rank food and headed back to our bike, glad to be leaving the next day.

Back at our hotel, the film channel was showing Good Will Hunting, so we popped another tramadol and I got writing whilst Sarah watched. After that, Goodfellas came on, which somewhat distracted me from the task at hand. “GO GET YER FUCKIN’ SHINE BOX, TOMMY!”. This was immediately followed by Gran Torino, then a stupid Adam Sandler comedy called Grandma’s Boy. I’d had enough of writing, smoking and watching by this point, but was happy to see Half Baked come on just as I was getting ready to sleep. I realised at this point that the films were being screened in alphabetical order, and probably being broadcast from someone’s computer hard-drive, somewhere across the island. If I were being harsh, I’d probably go so far as to say this channel was the best thing about Koh Samui. This channel WAS the best thing about Ko Samui. Remember, remember the fifth of November, Ko Samui is shit.