Koh Mak, Thailand
I don’t know how this trip will end. It’s day one and there’s nine more to go. And it had a rough start. The road to Laem Ngop pier from Bangkok was long and hard. Not because the roads were bad but because I am prone to travel sickness. Winding roads nail me. I travel with a vomit bag. When we arrived at the pier, I pushed my way out, took in a lungful of sea air and the world righted itself.
I am a traveler. But I am not a good traveler. It’s a paradox of sorts that someone who cannot travel without feeling ill craves the road. The boat I was meant to catch was canceled because the seas were rough. I needed to wait for the one arriving in three hours. I tried to read but when you’re feeling like shit words blur and the narrative is tedious. The boat arrived and it was an hour until I arrived on Koh Mak where the manager of the house met me in a 1980s pick-up truck and rambled on in broken English and Thai something about the island being busy around Christmas.
The house I rented is a rickety old thing by the beach. I expected this. The website said the house was positioned on a quiet, isolated spot on a long beach. But I arrived to discover it was caught between two resorts, one posh, the other a cluster of small huts with single beds and mosquito nets. I was knackered, bad-tempered and feeling like I had been ripped off. I managed a polite thank you, yes, see you tomorrow, yes, I will let you know if I need anything. I did notice that the manager stopped outside the door and did not give me a tour of the place; that was a sign I should have picked up on.
I was so exhausted I had a quick shower and collapsed on the bed. Out of curiousity I opened the bedside table drawer, expecting to find a bible or a Buddhist book; I’m curious what people shove in there. I found a knife, rusty, but still sharp. Was there a rat afoot, a security problem, or was this a message from the universe that it can all end here today and that it was going to be alright? I wasn’t going to hell because there’s no such place, my Catholic grandmother lied to me but since hell didn’t exist her soul’s not burning for having misled a five year old who needed reassurance that the world wasn’t a fundamentally fucked up place.
I had arrived to a dirty, run-down house that reeked of stale bedsheets and there’s scurrying on the roof. It wasn’t the Pablo Nerudaesque writing hole I had envisioned. I closed my eyes and practiced mindful breathing. As I let the day go, it occurred to me that the knife was the why behind this trip. I was looking to gut my life like a fish. Scrape the scales off from tail to gill, cut it lengthwise, spread the abdominal cavity open and gently carve out the insides. Clean and rinse. I will investigate the house tomorrow, but for tonight the knife was perfect.