View from unglazed window of beach hut when I threw open the shutter each morning – Mac Bay Resort 1989
(Doo dun doo dun doo dee) I left Bangkok
(Doo dun doo dun doo dee doo) I thought I could rot
(Doo dun doo dun doo dee) & no-one would know
(Doo dun doo dun doo dee doo) But Mac said not
I was once invited to tell a story about someone’s kindness, and this is the story I told:
My father died of cancer a long time ago now.
Not long afterwards, at a dinner where my siblings and I were of silent and flat mood, so it was difficult to know what to say to us, my cousin’s wife suddenly had an idea: “I know! You could go to Thailand!”
So I went to Thailand. Though I thought: “I could rot there, and no-one would know.” This is how my father’s death left me feeling.
On the plane to Bangkok, again, I thought: “I could rot, and no-one would know.” But I was distracted from thinking that for long. The woman next to me on the plane was travelling there for her nephew’s ordainment as a monk in Bangkok, and invited me.
I spent a week in Bangkok. Then I took the sleeper train down south – through the day, through the night, and in the morning I took the boat to Koh (Island) Samui, and from there, another boat to Koh Phanang. (This was in the days before the Full Moon Parties, when travellers wore local clothes and ate local food! When there was just one tiny shop where you could buy toilet paper, water and mosquito coils.)
On the boat, resort owners from Koh Phanang were wooing travellers – showing pictures of their resorts. Mac wooed me and won my custom. I got behind him on his motorbike holding my guitar in one hand, holding onto Mac with my other arm, my excruciatingly uncomfortable rucksack on my back. Over rough & bumpy terrain – no road that I can remember – we arrived at Mac Bay Resort. Just a handful of huts on the beach which he’d built himself. He was never going to have more than 10 huts, he told me. (This was in the days before there was hot water there, and when we had to flush the toilets by pouring down bowlsful of water scooped from a bucket. We did however have showers, while the locals would walk to the local pump in the privacy of dusk, and soap and sluice themselves with bowlsful of water in their sarongs.)
And I thought: “I could rot, and no-one would know.”
Since the journey to Koh Phanang with the overnight train-ride had been exhausting, I went straight to bed and slept for a long time. When I finally got up and went to the restaurant of Mac’s resort to get something to eat, Mac commented: “You slept for a long time! I was worried! I thought that you were sick.”
I went for a swim. The sea was very shallow on that beach, so I had to go out far to reach water deep enough to swim in. There were sharks, I was told, but they were “friendly sharks”! I wasn’t very reassured, but I needed my swim! When I got out of the sea, Mac observed: “You were swimming for a long time, and you went very far out!”
It seemed that Mac was looking out for me, and I stopped thinking that I could rot and no-one would know!
Mac brought out some photos of his brother’s funeral. Mac had been studying Tourism at a university in Australia (where his wife was at the moment, introducing their baby – “a very beautiful baby” – to her family), when his brother was killed in a car accident in Bangkok. His parents didn’t let Mac know while he was in Australia, because they didn’t want him to abandon his studies. If he’d come to Thailand for the funeral, he wouldn’t have been able to afford to return to Australia. So for a year, Mac wondered why his brother never answered his letters. “He was a very good person…a very good person”, Mac told me, as we looked through the photos.
At this point, I started to cry. I then told Mac that my father had died just 4 months previously. Mac took me on his motorbike to a monastery on the island, and said it might help me to stay there for a while. But I said I couldn’t meditate in front of a statue of Buddha! (Little did I know that I would spend many years meditating in front of statues of Buddha in the future!)
* * *
When I told this story about Mac’s kindness, some people came up to me and said they’d done that journey from Bangkok to Koh Phanang! The overnight train…the boats…
14 years later, I returned to Koh Phanang. By this time, there was an airport on Koh Samui so I could just fly straight there, and then take a boat the next day to Koh Phanang. Mac Bay Resort was still there, but the original 10 wooden huts had been pulled down, and there was instead a multitude of stone huts with hot water and flushing toilets!
His brother remembered me even though I had only stayed there for a week 14 years previously. He showed me his guitar, which he said he had bought because of the guitar I had brought with me 14 years before, and because of my singing and playing on the verandah of my hut! This time, I didn’t have a guitar with me, but there was a music shop where I was able to hire one for my stay.
There was now a parade of shops in the neighbourhood – competing CD/DVD shops, supermarkets, gift shops… Travellers were wearing special travellers’ clothes and eating burgers and chips, and would go to Full Moon Parties on a beach which fortunately was on the other side of the island! But which was surreal – like a city for 21-year-olds – like something out of a science fiction movie!
14 years previously everyone on the island smiled at you as normal etiquette. The locals smiled at you, so then the travellers smiled back and at each other, and then you struck up a conversation, and spent the day or a few days together, until it was time to move on to the next place. Now the locals didn’t smile at us, and I was told that in fact they weren’t local. The original resort owners had moved out and on, and unsmiling outsiders had moved in to take over their prospering businesses. But Mac stayed!
I actually think this is Mac’s brother. If Mac’s brother sees this, maybe he’ll confirm?
* * *
Hill tribe children (above) probably in Chang Mai
Well, I felt like writing a blog article. The next one I was planning still requires research. It’s a serious blog! So I wondered what else to write about just now, and this is it! As for the little verse at the top – that was part of another song I wrote but never got round to singing in public!