Yesterday was my first proper day off. I went “downtown” to White Sands, one of the better of the tourist ghettos in Koh Chang. I left the place I stay around 11.30 am and caught a taxi to drop me off in the middle of White Sands so I could have a ramble around and get the feel of the pace and Thai culture.
I say “taxi” but they are far from what we would call a taxi in London. They are small pickup trucks with an awning over the cargo area and 2 benches along each side. You clamber aboard over the tailgate, which is sometimes lowered and sometimes not. This can present a bit of a challenge for gentlefolk of a certain age with dodgy knees to maintain their dignity while boarding. However, not wishing to look like Victor Meldrew with haemorrhoids is a great incentive to jump up briskly as is a desire to go where one wants.
When the taxi came, there were a few western people on board; they hold a maximum of 8 to 10 people. I noticed how nobody made eye contact or responded to my saying hello except for a sort of grunt. How different to the Thai people. The journey was exciting as we were exposed to the elements as the taxi raced up and down hairpin bends in the mountain road. There were no seat belts, of course, and it would be easy to bounce out of your seat and out of the taxi. I could visualise my white Irish arms and legs, attached to the rest of me, rolling down the side of the mountain to be gobbled up by the rainforest and never to be seen again. Anyway, that didnt happen and we finally arrived in White Sands around noon.
Jesus, the heat. It was like being next to a blast furnace. The air almost felt solid, like wading through hot jelly. But I was determined to enjoy it so with bush hat on my head and layers of sunscreen on, I rambled up and down the village for about 30 mins until I could take no more and was on the edge of whimpering. I escaped into an air-conditioned coffeeshop for a latte. 70 baht, daylight robbery but I would have paid double. The place was full of hot and bothered looking Europeans of various shades of pink and red. The blast of cold air was delicious and a glass of cold water was served with the coffee. It tasted like nectar and I wondered how easy it would be to break long held vows, like not drinking alcohol, when exposed to such extremes of temperature.
When I had cooled down a bit, I sprayed on some more sunscreen and got ready to venture out into the heat again. I thought about how I am conditioned to expect sunshine to be a rare and random force of nature to be enjoyed and even endured whenever it shows its infrequent face. At least, this in in Ireland and most certainly is not the case in Thailand where it always shines. And shine, it does. The word tropical is a bit of a give away.
Anyway, when I got back out, it was even hotter and I noticed as I walked around that there was nobody else to be seen. There were a few people around before I went into the coffeeshop but now they were all gone. That’s when the line from the song “Mad dogs and Englishmen walk out in the noonday sun” popped into my head and I understood exactly why. I was the only mad eejit in the sun. I decided to head back home and as I was waiting for a taxi, I decided for some reason to have a squint at the sun and see what it looked like. I couldnt see it at first and then noticed that it was directly overhead. I’d never seen that before and it was strange but also very foreign and exciting. I love that slight disorientated frisson of shock when I come across something new and challenging to my accepted order of how things are. I get a lot of that here in Thailand!
While pacing up and down to keep cool as I waited for the taxi, I suddenly noticed that I had no shadow. How weird is that. For several decades I have dragged a long dark Irish shadow around with me wherever I went. For a few of those decades, it dragged me around. Now it was gone! Just a tiny tadpole thing where once Darth Vader reigned. How could I ever work as a psychotherapist again if I had no shadow. Maybe I would have to emigrate to Belgium or California or somewhere terribly bland.
But then the taxi came and rescued me and we bounced back home where I had a long cold shower and lay on my bed for an afternood nap, delightful stolen sleep, looking for all the world like a very white baby whale with arms and legs all pink with little brown bits on.