A Thousand Words

Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, October 9, 2006

"Do not try to bend the spoon... that is impossible. Instead, only try to realise the truth"

"What truth?"

"There is no spoon"

"There is no spoon?"

"Then you will see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself"

--- The Matrix

When I was preparing for this trip (And I'm going to use the word preparing, although those around me at the time would probably say I was "expecting everything to work out just fine"), I gave a lot of thought to packing. Having traveled before, I was quite confident that I knew what to take and what not to. The memory of Karim and I staggering around Amsterdam with bags on our backs that were bigger than we were, always raises a smile.

So I packed pretty light; 6 t-shirts, a hoodie, a rugby shirt I appropriated from The Bell, one pair of jeans, one pair of shorts, something to swim in (not a swimming pool), one pair of shoes that I stored neatly on my feet and as much clean underwear as I could subdue. Also a wash bag, a travel towel that would last less than a week and a cap that would be used once and then be purposefully misplaced.

Other stuff was a couple of books, chosen specifically for their size rather than possible quality (memories of the hard back edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy don't go away, they fester) and some electrical goodies; mp3 player, iPod, digital camera, torch, batteries, chargers.

Then there was my bag of tricks - a small white bag full of useful items or sentimental ones: spare flints, wick and lighter fluid for my Zippo lighter that I inadvertently left on a train after about a week, my late Grandfather's Rosary beads, because even atheists get sentimental, a penknife that I hadn't cleaned since the Pennine Way (and still haven't), a sea shell from Kho Phi Phi, my wallet (find it hard to get on with wallets to the extent of actually carrying them), the survival kit that Rob Spinks (legend) gave me as a leaving present, complete with waterproof matches (that I'm afraid I used all of trying to light a cigarette one night when my lighter ran out and I was a little pissed), fishing line, miniature playing cards and - genius - a snare for catching rabbits (currently unused). Then there was a few photographs of a personal nature, including one of me and one of my brothers (forget which one, they're both gorgeous) digging a hole in the beach at age 5. My mother, bless her, had written the Irish blessing on the back, and then the ink had smudged, so she did it on another one, and the ink smudged on that one too (but don't tell her).

And then I packed a plastic wallet with my insurance documents, my paper driving license, my patent rubber cheque book, and a bundle of miscellaneous qualifications that I seem to have picked up over the years without really knowing how or why, to aid me in my quest for a job in Australia. And another photograph, and here I come, characteristically slowly and around not only the houses but the neighborhoods and county, to the point of this entry.

It's a photograph of a group of folks on Kho Phi Phi, taken three years ago. There's me, Marie-Louise, Matt, Emma, Tong, Ed, three people whose names I can't remember and the ingeniously named Coconut.

It was good times all round, one of my fondest memories of my trip all those three years ago. Made a little more poignant by the Tsunami twatting the island to years ago. The place we were staying (and everyone else in the photo) was Ranti Bay, around the east side of the island so should have been relatively unaffected by the wave that destroyed the main resort, as there was a big mountain in between them and it. But still.

It had been a given that we would be going back to Koh Phi Phi on this trip, to have a game of football on the beach and catch up with everyone. It was the one place on the way that I insisted that we go to.

So I brought my photo with me, hidden in the depths of my bag with all the bits of paper you never look at. And it's a nice photo, full of smiles, as we bid fond farewell to a place we had spent the last three weeks doing almost nothing.

As we got closer and closer, coming into Thailand again, the feeling of anticipation built at the back of my mind, and I got all excited - not quite giddy you understand, but there was an emotional response there somewhere.

For three years I've wanted to get back to Kho Phi Phi because, as I work my way through the torrent of shit that is day to day life, it has been my spiritual calm, the place I go and hide whenever things are as they usually are. I'm sure it's not even the same for those wonderful people I shared the photo with, who are probably reading this now and wondering what the hell I'm talking about... sure, it was a nice place, but not nice enough to justify this sentimental tirade, ey Hookes?

But here's the thing - everyone's got their own Kho Phi Phi, whether it's a Thai island or an English pub or a street in the rain at four am. And whether you want to admit it or not, you know what I'm talking about.

Now we're within a day's travel, things have changed. I don't want to go back anymore. I'm not sure when it changed or how exactly, but it has and I'm happy for it. The idea of going back to a place is rarely the thought of going back to a place - it's going back to a time. And not only is that impossible, if it wasn't, would you really want to? Would you?

So we're going to sack it off - fortunately Vinny couldn't care less either way.

I'm going to keep the memory as it is, and spend my time finding new Kho Phi Phi's.

I'll keep the photo though.

You can never go back, nor should you if you could.

But there's no harm in visiting every now and then.
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