Saturday 24 December
It starts off well enough. Chilling by the beach, playing board games, going out for meals. Sexy time. Then things start to take a turn for the worse – most notably with the lack of wifi. No, I’m kidding. Maybe. No, honestly I am – I don’t need to check facebook 20 times a day for goodness sake! Who do you think I am? Some 17-year-old princess? I just sit on it for 24 hours at a time, silly!
Koh Phayam is a lesser-known Thai island off the west coast of the mainland, nestled in the Andaman Sea with a few other neighbouring landforms. It’s a far cry from the Thai Gulf shit-shows of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan and is most notable for the fact that there are still no cars on the island. Koh Phayam is what Thailand’s islands used to be 10 years ago – but in spite of the imminent threat of a heavier influx of tourism (places like this don’t stay secret for very long), the locals are adamant that it won’t turn into the mess that the rest of the country has become. I’ll believe it when I see it – they’re already expanding roads and ploughing new ones through the jungle – building new resorts and bars – ready to cater for the inevitable onslaught of Germans. (There are loads of them here). The relative quiet island paradise will be no more. It’s only a matter of time.
Regardless – I still don’t like it. I don’t like it now – and I won’t like it then.
I’ve been here before. Not specifically to this island, but to similar, and in this kind of environment. It isn’t long before my clear dislike for island life and its people begins to take a toll on my relationship with Alex, as more often than not we’re niggling each other and I’m pissing her off. We spend a lot of time apart, and the only time I feel truly content is when I’m drinking. The story of my life.
I just don’t like the people I meet here or have met before in beach areas, islands, and such like. Dreadlocked, hippy dippy, multi-tattooed, damn-the-man, living off the grid, henna-ed up, ankle-braceleted, tree hugging, weed smoking, fake/pseudo-spiritual types. And the reggae. Don’t get me started on reggae. FUCK REGGAE. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t mean to tarnish everyone with the same brush – there are plenty of people that fall into that sweeping generalisation that I know and love – but just as an overarching, all-encompassing term – I feel a deep sense of loathing towards them. Blah, blah, blah each to their own, live and let live etc, etc etc. Yes I get it. I really do. But some people just don’t wash with me. And some people don’t wash at all. Remember I’m a misanthrope.
Compounded by this, is my ongoing battle with Mother Nature. I’m something of a scaredy-cat when it comes to jungle life. The ominous, dark, leafy chaparral puts the fear of god into me. This is especially true at night when it really comes alive with alien sounds and hidden, unknown dangers. We’re glamping as well. Living in a large, posh tent thing, but we still have to constantly be on our guard for things getting in, always stooping low to zip up securely. Of course with the bathroom outside, this makes things difficult for me as it means a run to the crapper in the dark if you need a wee in the middle of the night. This must explain why, after one particularly heavy session, I decide to piss in the corner of the tent.
Understandably, Alex wasn’t happy.
Round about the same time, we receive a visitor in the toilet/shower cubicle. A large, hairy spider. This can just fuck right off. Can you honestly blame me for wanting to do my business inside?! Surely you would do the same?! And it doesn’t leave! I’m hiding under the bed sheets, screaming at Alex to take the bastard broom to the thing, which – bless her – she’s trying to do without killing it. I could never kill it – it’s not the right thing to do. But for the love of all things holy get it tae fuck! Try as she might, it won’t budge, simply shifting from one position to another, sometimes hiding behind a wooden slat. Then Alex drops a bombshell.
“I think it’s living under the stones in the shower.”
Well, that’s just it. I’m done. I don’t shower for days – and when I do – I’m half standing out the door, washing my bits and pits and that’s the lot. I don’t care who sees. In, out, shake it all about. Job done. And I certainly don’t shit in there. Not on your life. I’ve seen Arachnophobia. I head down to larger, better-lit toilet by the beach. Luckily living in there is only a very large gecko, motionless, high on the wall, watching you poo. He can stay. I like him.
Around day three I begin to feel a strange itch all over my back. I reach round and feel a couple of bumps. A short time later, there are more of them. They seem to be spreading. I peel off my shirt in terror to discover this:
Sand flies. At first, I thought mosquitos – and while annoying they’ve never really bother me that much. But these little bastards went to town and it’s agonising. For the rest of the trip Alex plays Florence Nightingale, liberally bathing me in tiger balm and coconut oil to take the itch away – but I’m miserable. I’m not having the “holiday” I desired. Woe is me. Boo hoo fucking hoo.
To cheer ourselves up, we try surfing for the first time. Neither of us has ever done it before, and since there is only a gentle swell of waves, it’s the perfect opportunity for two total beginners to give it a go. When I manage to stand (extremely briefly) for the first time, I fall off and slip a disk. You couldn’t make this shit up.
Jesus, I’m getting old. After about a day I can barely move, and with the constant bending down to open and shut our tent – I’m over it. Totally over it. To cap it all, there’s the sheer terror I experience while riding on the back of a scooter. Regular readers will know how much I loathe those things, but we hire one on the last day to do a little more exploring and as a cheaper option to taxi our own bags back to the pier. Alex is more than competent – being a motorcycle enthusiast back home – but I’m a terrible passenger, and it’s one of the most unnerving experiences of my life. I’m wearing flip-flops, and being low to the ground, half expecting a stone to rip my toes off. Consequently, I’m squeezed up on the back of this thing using every muscle in my body not to fall off and to keep hands and feet inside at all times. I can barely move when I dismount, with all the grace of a pissed-up gazelle.
The sand flies, the mosquitos, the spider in the toilet, the slipped disk, the constant bending to open and shut the tent, the hippy island people, the lack of wifi, the terrifying scooter rides, the sand flies, the mosquitos, the spider in the toilet, the slipped disk, the consta…
It’s just not for me dearest readers. It’s just not for me.
Of course, there are exceptions – as there always are – and we do meet some lovely people. There’s some really wonderful food and drink, some good live music (apart from reggae) and Christmas and New Year pass pleasantly. But all in all, you can keep island life. At least tropical island life; I could do this easily in say – Croatia – but not in this climate. It’s been an interesting experience, but I honestly think I will never return to a tropical beach as long as I live. I’ve had enough practice by now to know that I fucking hate it – and it fucking hates me. The definition of madness is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. I have spent my last ever night on a tropical island “paradise.”
Oh – and if you’re reading this Mr shower spider – you’re a fucking cunt.