Being Like James Bond For a Weekend?

May 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

Thai people make easy friends and conversation partners. Not because their mastery of the English language is better than their other Indochina counterparts, but because you feel that most of them genuinely wish you well, and ask for nothing more beyond that.

Even more reason to to learn their language and not expect them to be good at English: we’re guests in their country.

This is my second time to Thailand (first came when I was twelve, a holiday to nearby Phuket).

Ian Fleming had his Goldeneye, I’ll be happy if I can have and settle for Railay beach yearly.

For once, my doubts were confirmed. We don’t really want to be millionaires and billionaires, but we want the experience of being one. With a little spare cash and some spare time, anyone can live the life of a millionaire without being one. Railay Beach, Nopparat Thara (next to touristy Ao Nang) proves this point. All we need to do is to be smarter about our spending and lifestyle choices back home.

What’s there on Railay? I saw schools of live jellyfish attempting to navigate out of Railay’s luminous emerald waters. Getting feet cut on shallow corals attempting to swim from one bay to another. Watching cliffhangers, (or wanna-bes) test their upper-body limits against sheer vertical limestone karsts make a good afternoon beachside activity.

Gorgeous women of various nationalities were taking in what Railay had to offer: South American women with carioca coloured skin tanning with their girlfriends, well rounded British girls with their boyfriends. A seemingly lonely Slavic girl having lunch by a side table in a Thai coffee shack, but her attention was on her worn out copy of Dashiel Hammett’s  The Maltese Falcon instead of her food.

In my invitation message to a friend that had joined me for the weekend, I had texted him

“Beautiful beaches, islands, waterfalls, good food. Be like James Bond for a weekend.”

I was half joking, just to entice him. I didn’t know it would be that close to having the 007 experience.

There dosen’t seem to be many Asian tourists on Railay though. I was turned off by Ao Nang, because every corner I turned, were a group of fellow Singaporeans (English mixed with Mandarin in their words).

Made me feel like I was in Sentosa.

But here on Railay, I think it would be too cumbersome for Singaporeans to want to get here. Or maybe we can’t get beyond our constant need to consume and purchase, easily satisfied on Ao Nang. That need to shop, party, and eat is an embodiment of Singapore brought wherever we go.

And while I am sometimes guilty of this (sans shopping -the world’s most boring pasttime methinks) I just want to get away from all the “mini-Singapores” around me when I travel. That sense of curiosity of things around me is destryoed when there are many “Singapores” around me.

The key to enjoying travel is nothing more than having a sense of curiosity. If you do not have curiosity, you might as well give up travelling.

I’ve learnt to despise the weekend getaway, and sometimes the 2 week (too-weak) leave-clearing holiday. They might satisfy the deepest cravings for hedonistic pleasures (shopping, eating, partying) but always leaves people hollow in reflection of their “real life” from Monday to Friday. The 9-to-9 grind of some big corporation or bank so that I can fuel my shiny car and condo lifestyle is merely a holding pattern.

A holding pattern that Haruki Murakami loves writing about in his novels – of lost twentysomething life and middle age crisis in this postmodern world we live in.

It should then be full of irony that I am indulging myself in a weekend getaway, inviting friends along (which don’t always necessarily have the same reasons for travel as I do). Wasn’t I asking for a hell weekend?

Well yes and no.

I see these weekend trips as a warmup, keeping my travel mind fresh… in anticipation of something bigger, richer down the road. Also, past experiences caution me about travelling in groups. The need for shared experiences tug me in another direction.

And so I came up with a travel disclaimer with my mates:

“We’re not some six legged, six armed and three nosed monster. We’re three individuals that are interested in heading to the South of Thailand. But this doesn’t mean we have to stick together in everything we do. We might have our own preferences for food, lodging and adventure. This should instead reflect the fact that we’re three grown ups that don’t need our hands held by each other, and all the better to avoid fucking groupthink.”

It all turned out pretty well I think. We got the best of having company, while free to do as each individual wished. I spent time connecting with mother nature in the ocean, they chose to sleep in after breakfast. Fine with that.

I can certainly identify with Mr Murakami’s easiness and preference to be alone: to write alone, to run alone. Man sure isn’t an island, we all need love and intimacy and company. But there are many experiences in this world that never feel the same richness when you do not go through it solo.

Travel is just one of those experiences.

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