Ton Sai Kalligynaikos
Thai kindness and the end of the world.
Ao Nang, Thailand and Dublin, Ireland
31st March, 2002
We come to the end of the world again. A thirty hour journey, then the
Airport bus passing through Dublin. The old city hasn't changed much. The air is cold, crisp yet damp in a way I haven't felt for a year.
Memory is a seperate place. Casting my gaze backwards I see the different parts of this
journey like islands glowing in time: this one is Cuba, this is Mexico, this New Zealand.
Each is a bubble, self-contained: friends, adventures, thoughts and excitement that were
vital, alive at that time . And yet each does not connect with the others, but exists,
seperate and perfect within itself. I am aware that I exist in each as well, but
I find it hard to believe now that I was ever in all of them. There is too much memory
for one man to contain.
I moved slowly though the last of Thailand. From Phuket to Ko Phi Phi to the
beaches of Krabi where frothing limestone cliffs towered above soft beaches.
I met a friend and we spent our days bathing in limpid waters and walking down the
What more perfect place to end a round the world trip? Everything was easy and relaxed.
Thai people are relaxed and modest and always cheerful. Even Stargate SG-1 makes more sense dubbed into Thai.
You aren't distracted from the running around and the blowing things up by a load of foolish dialogue.
The only possible problem comes in the restaurants. The waiters will avoid
giving offence by not staring at you. And you should not give offence by staring
at them. How you ever manage to order food or ask for a second beer under these
circumstances is a mystery. It's best not to be in a hurry.
Who were all those people that fortune put in my path? I don't regret meeting one of them.
Many brought me new ideas when I most needed to
hear them. The great tragedy of extended travel is to meet so many wonderful people,
to live for a while in such interesting places and times, and then to have to leave them,
not knowing if you will ever find them, again. My class in Havana, the funky tour in
Central America, my English girls in Canada, Vancouver, the BC tour, Rocky Mountains...
Who was it that lived through so much? Who jumped down the waterfall in Mindos?
Who came face to face with a dolphin? Who put all his travel documents into Julien's
washing machine? It must have been somebody else.
The Sea Urchin
In all my travels, I had hardly received a scratch or even caught a cold.
Two weeks in Thailand, and I'm a wreck. I have almost broken a toe, lacerated my hand,
and caught a sinus infection. My anti-malarials made me unable to tolerate the sun in this, the
hostest of all my destinations. I developed heart-burn just for laughs. On Wednesday I went
for a relaxing stroll in my bare feet along Ao Nang beach, and I stepped on a sea urchin.
These aren't poisonous, but their spines break off under the skin and become infected
in this tropical climate.
I had a look. There were at least ten spines in my foot. I would have to make it all
the way back to my room - on one foot - and try to hack them out with my knife. I was
still kneeling on the beach, cursing my fortune, when I felt a polite tap on my shoulder.
It was one of
the Thai beach masseuses, ordinary local women who offer Thai massages in the shade of the
palm trees. She indicated I should follow to her mat, where she examined my foot,
along with three of her competitors. They shook their heads, murmured encouragement to me
in Thai, and set to work. It took them over an hour, working with a safety pin, a pair of
tweezers and an ordinary lime for disinfectant, to extract all the tiny spines.
I would have given up long before. I was astonished at their diligence, and their kindness
to a smelly foreigner.
I offered them money for the time they should have used earning money for their families.
No, they would not have it. A gift then? I will get you something. No, please,
they would take nothing. What else should they do when someone needs help?
So much for Thailand.
Zur Burg führt die Brücke
So much to remember. What should I want from memory? For this year I wanted to open
the gates, let water rush out and rage where it would, carrying my body along just once
before twilight. Sacrifice my few hours and raise them up to the gods, so that what was,
is, and will not be forgotten. Defy inevitability and say, before sinking to the undergloom,
that I lived well.
And have a few laughs.
I find, to my chagrin, that I have made promises that I did not fulfill. I said that
I would find a mysterious telephone number scrawled on the back on of book of matches,
and allow it to lead myself on an adventure filled with exotic locations, sultry nymphettes,
high-stakes roulette and exciting car chases.
I said that I
should be captured by a strange tribe, and win my freedom (and the headman's
daughter, Iwantcha) by predicting an eclipse / saving them from cholera / faking
my own re-incarnation.
None of this has happened.
But I have seen the light change, between the breaking mountains and the
turmoiled sea, from the brilliant desert to the life-bound cities. I have laughed and
spat and cursed, climbed and fallen, chatted-up and been shot down. I have beaten men
in fair contests. I have sunk my own canoe. Beautiful women have loved me.
Beautiful women have laughed in my face. I have been challenged, on my courage,
to speak the truth, and I have sometimes succeeded. Even a crow can dare the wind,
sometimes, and glory. There is nothing to regret.
Light changes everything.
Les sables et les étoiles
Et les lignes doux dans les sables laissé par nous, vivront pour nous,
Entre les mers foncées et la lune,
Toi, oubliant le ciel, et moi, la terre:
Cassé, pas cassé, jamais étrangers,
Nous pourrions être beaux là.
Ainsi, bonne nuit, belle amie,
Ton Sai Beach