Thursday, 14 November 2013

FURTHER TRAVEL TALES: Thailand & simplicity

In a near forgotten past and in a life before children, there was a young girl who wandered without bags under her eyes but with a bag on her back. Here she returns to notes she made while visiting Thailand back in 1999  

Dawn, and the sleepy stillness of Chumphon, a tiny Thai fishing village, is broken. The boat to the island of Ko Tao, slowly moves past the preparing fishermen. Some of them wave over, but most just stare intently from their three tiered blue and white trawlers that are all lined up and gently moving together. Engines chug. The backdrop is that of large honey glazed palms glowing in the morning light. 

Locals and backpackers: both dependent on each other and for this moment, both curious about the other. The sun salutes all. The backpackers settle into more comfortable positions on the top of the deck, putting on their imitation sunglasses they picked up for a pittance on the Khoa San Road. The crews continue to work. The glint of a metal bucket dangling on a rope reflects in the water it is about to be washed in. Tanned bodies in brightly coloured sarongs compliment both images. Moving towards the open Gulf of Thailand, we leave the fishermen to their new day. 

As Ko Tao gets closer, the boat drifts to a stop. We are dropping some people off on an out-of-reach mini-haven. There are a series of these; aqua and gold, all complete with a wood hut. A thin white line connects them: sandbars that will disappear as the tide comes in. Solitude, now within reach for these lucky few, appears divine.

When the boat touches the so-called Island of Emotion, Ko-Tao is more than welcoming. Soft sand and clear warm water greet the few of us getting off here. We are opting out of the next stop, a ‘full moon party’ destination, for a more natural high. Already it cannot disappoint.

The boat turns back to the flying fish and leaves us to the waiting utility van. Hanging out the back we wind round to reach the west coast and a resort named Buddha View. This is a dive school, and not what I am looking for. For the others though, it is perfect.

I wave, and picking up my dusty pack, begin to walk the coastal road that has become too steep and narrow for a vehicle. Only bougainvillea and hibiscus accompany me. Every so often there is a clearing in the bush, which affords me a view of the beach. The tide leaves a few long-tail boats behind, scattered elegantly on its puddled yellow floor. I hike further into the trail seeking a secluded part of this paradise.   

I can see it before I reach it. Aptly named ‘Sunset’, it is on a point that juts out into the water. A short man with smiling delicate features comes forward to greet me as I clamber down onto the private beach. He appears to be a complete health nut, which is fine by me. I tell him to wake me in the morning for the three-hour session of yoga and meditation he is boasting about. Then I rock to sleep in the perfectly positioned hammock.

The next few days are spent in a routine of exercise from seven ‘til ten, followed by a breakfast called ‘Morning Health’ which costs more than my nightly accommodation. Freshly grated coconut tops plump raisins and chunks of fresh papaw, watermelon, pineapple and banana. Underneath this, muesli, cashew nuts, yoghurt and honey delightfully fuse. It is filling enough to last me through to my evening meal. 

Swimming and reading pass the time, and each day with its four hours of electricity create a charm of their own. I wash my hair in a basin under the palms and feel more alive than ever. I sit for hours watching the patient fishermen whose baggy trousers billow in the breeze. 

The evening meal varies as to what they have caught throughout the day. Tonight it is red snapper with Thai herbs and spices.  I sip on my guava tea and recline on cushions in the candlelight whilst the water laps beside me and the simplicity overwhelms.

I'm linking this piece of prose to Prose4Thought