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.

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