Brian’s Other Island

Posted: Saturday, 6th Apr 2013 in Thailand

The wheels of the car rumbled across the steel deck of the ferry and finally crunched onto the island of Koh Chang. At last, I had arrived in my new home. What joy. As the island is a national park and mountainous, there is very little development except along the main tourist drag. There is one coastal road covering most of the island and connecting several what one were traditional fishing villages. Now, these villages have expanded and become part of the tourist trade. There are different sections: the higher end or posh section, the backpacker section, the Russian and Eurotrash section and the family section. Or at least that what others have told me

We took the eastern coastal road and were soon winding up hairpin bends at a stately pace while young Thais on scooters zipped past at frightening speeds. Apparently, road deaths are very high in Thailand. At first I was disappointed at the shabby tourist resorts and the lack on any planing or “design” but grew to appreciate the organic growth and development of the island. Footpaths would be nice though. The first village, White Sands, is, I suppose, the downtown area of Koh Chang with banks, police station etc. It’s pretty nice but as the road goes on, the touristy places predominate.

The weather here is ferocious, 39 Deg C and feels like 48 according to the weather guide. The humidity is very high and I struggle with that more than the heat. But, I am getting used to it and have a positive mental attitude towards the weather which I think helps a lot.

More tomorrow. I have my first weekend off work and will be donning my bush hat, sunglasses and lathering on the sunscreen to explore…

Kool Koh Chang

Posted: Tuesday, 2nd Apr 2013 in Thailand

Whatever else Koh Chang is, it’s not cool. Kool maybe but never cool. Scorching is not an exageration. I arrived on the island on Friday morning following a short car journey from Chantiburi. We got the ferry from a ramshackle but very human harbour. The ferry looked home-made and was certainly no Euro-sleek mass transportation system. Rather a method to get people and product across a stetch of water quickly and safely and it worked. It was a far more enjoyable experience than the ferries I have caught in Holland or the UK. Although most of the passengers were farangs (foreigners) there were also enough Thais for me to engage in one of my favourite occupations, people gazing.

I am increasingly impressed by the refined civility of the Thai people. they have an air of calmness and imperturbability about them that is such a contrast to the London I have just moved from. I have no doubt that they have a shadow side and that I will come into contact with that one day but, just for today, I am enjoying being a guest in this beautiful country and being amongst these beautiful people.

During the crossing, which took about 40mins, I noticed what looked like a dead bush in a flowerpot with pieces of paper stuck on it. It was on a table on its own. I had a closer look and the bits of paper turned out to be money, mostly 20 and 50 Baht notes. I asked an expat who is a longterm resident what it was and he told me it was a collection for a local Buddhist monastery. As the journey progressed, it got a bit windy as the ferry was open on all sides and the money looked like it might blow away. Some Thai people got concerned about this and brought the tree to a safer place. I noticed the concern and reverence they had for it and how carefully they protected it.

I couldn’t help but contrast this with some of the farang tourists on the ferry. There was one man who particularly caught my attention. He was in his 50s or 60s and had a huge belly. He wore an open shirt and a pair of very short shorts. He strutted around with his belly hanging out and peering belligerently around. He had what I interpreted as a look of arrogant conceit for anything different to what was familiar with. It looked unspeakably crude.

I found a table and we had a coffee to while he journey away and enjoy the excitement of seeing the island get closer and the thought that I was about to set foot on a tropical island. The island looked magical and mystical from a distance and as we got closer, I could make out the hills and mountains and later on, individual clumps of trees or, more likely, the canopy of the rainforest. I could feel the anticipation of the other passengers as we were about to dock. Eventually, in what seemed a very short time, the ferry docked and the cars began to roll off and we set foot, or rather wheel, on Koh Chang.

But more about that later…

in Transit

Posted: Monday, 1st Apr 2013 in Uncategorized

Well, I made it. I have finally arrived in Thailand. Who would have guessed this a few months ago. I began writing this while waiting in the transit lounge at Schiphol Airport for my plane to Bangkok. I enjoy being in this no-mans land or limbo while awaiting my flight. I seem to be able to relinquish control and responsibility and just be. In the moment, as it were. Not an easy thing for a control freak like me!

Thinking about it, there are three separate processes happening. There’s the departure or leaving, the journey or transit and finally, the arrival. I’m separating from one way of life and soon will be incorporated into a new way of life but at the moment, I’m in this liminal stage; neither left nor arrived, neither here nor there. I’m old enough now to ponder and to know death and, of course, to reflect on my own imminent death. I wonder if the death journey is something like this; this bardo. It’s pleasantly alienating not having to make any decisions except making sure I’m fed and watered and in time for my flight. It allows me time to ponder and reflect on how my life has suddenly taken a shift and how open I am to whatever happens happening. 

Leaving London was enjoyable. Not in a negative sense or in the sense that I’m glad to be away or that I hate the place. Rather in the sense that it brought me into sharp contact with many the people in my life and brought to my notice how many people I love and who love me. I suppose I knew this on a rational and mostly unconscious level but when I said I was leaving a lot of people bid me farewell and expressed feelings of great warmth and kindness. In the “old days” when somebody left home it was possible that they would never be seen again and letters were the only way of communication. I remember reading about the American wakes in Ireland, mourning a persons departure even before they had left home because their loved ones knew that if they were going to Australia or America, like so many millions of Irish before them, that they were almost dead to their loved ones. What a difference Facebook, Skype, Twitter and SMS makes.

I’m now arriving and tat too is a process and not an event. As I write this, I’m listening to a loud dawn chorus of birds that I never heard before. I hope they look as beautiful as they sound. How exciting is that. One of the things I love about being in a new place is experiencing things I never experienced before, like birdsong etc. I went out last night with my new boss, Martin, and his partner for some food. We ended up in a sort of food hall with lots of small kiosks each selling one type of food. While I was eating I was also soaking in all the new startling things never before seen by these eyes such as Thai writing everywhere, food I didn’t recognise, 3 people on a moped without helmets, car licence plates, types of architecture, advertising signs, electrical sockets and light switches, Thai policemen and women as well as all the different smells and sounds and the sensation of warm air against my skin and a tropical sun casting dark shadows. All these delight me and confirm that I am in a foreign land. Of course, my mind clicks in, as it does, and notices that these are the responses of a child and not a man but I’m glad that I can access these inner-child aspects of my personalities. I need to be very much an adult and a man in my work but I also need the unpredictable creativity of these unconscious forces within me.

I had my first nights sleep under an Asian sky for many a long year. I went to bed at 9pm, mid afternoon for me, and slept deeply but fitfully until around 4am and was then wide awake. I guess my body clock is still catching up. Mine is analogue, not digital with creaking weights and a nice patina of gracious ageing. It often runs a bit late as I sometimes forget to wind it up. Sometimes it even chimes in the middle of the night.

I shortly leaving where I am and going to Koh Chang where I will be based. It shouldn’t take more that a few hours and I’ll be driven there by martin in his air-conditioned car! I’ll be starting work on Monday but will be introduced to the clients tomorrow by going with them on a excursion. Nice work if you can get it.

That’s it for the time being. I’ll write more in a day or so.

Stay well.

Brian