The island of adventure

“He who sees little observes much Grasshopper”

I am in ‘the land of smiles’ as proudly proclaimed by Trailfinders Thailand. There is something about the set shape of the mouth and the predominantly ‘aaaah’ vowel sound which makes Thai people sound at the same time delighted to be helping you but slightly sinister, in a Blofeld or the little dude in Fantasy Island kind of way.

“Sawasdee Ka-a-a-a-a-a-a-a” ”

“Very clever, Mr Bond, but you made one fatal mistake”

We are a stones throw from ‘James Bond Island’, whatever that is. Why is it that with every Oceanside destination there is, inevitably, an island offshore with a compulsory day trip. On these islands, something happened of alleged interest and which spawned at least one best seller. A man shut away for decades in a mask for being the wrong person’s son and not telling anyone, a prison where escape involved losing three limbs and being poisoned by trees, andts, spiders and savages, a place where lepers were sent to inbreed and die, a hill on which monks survived on home made Benedictine, a sanctuary for horrid screeching sex mad birds who have flocked there by the million, migrating from thousands of miles each year [that’s Ibiza or Puffin Island, take your pick].

We’ve resisted James Bond Island and have booked supper with toes in the white sands of the Indian Ocean, watching the sunset with a glass of chilled exotic fruits and whiskey – or, according to the BBC weather forecast this morning, huddling under a plastic awning on a deserted rain battered beach waiting anxiously for a break in the pea soup fog so that our waiter can find us and lead us back to safety … oh and there’s a yellow flag on the beach today ‘no bathing due to risk of sharks [ok, I get that], jellyfish [yikes, thanks for the heads up on that] or algae … er sorry, algae? I accept that when you travel thousands of miles to a rain forest area only 7 degrees from the equator, there are many natural risks, predators and hazards – algae?

I’ve had a few phobias in my time, each one a hurdle I’ve decided to conquer ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’

I’m over the deep water thing more or less though I still hate cold water, I’m sometimes better at the bee thing, although I allow myself the defence of being anaphalactic so bee stings are potentially fatal. I’m physically intrepid – in the last ten days I’ve done long tail boats, cable cars, tuk tuks, Bangkok street markets, in a perfectly relaxed style.

After years of torment for me and great inconvenience for those around me, I even got over the sudden paroxysmal fear of flying which came upon me suddenly the year my eyesight went back to black. Understandable when you can no longer tell if the plane is upright or upside down perhaps, but nonetheless limiting. So thanks to the British Airwars – sorry, Airways – “flying with confidence [should be continence]” day, that is behind me now.

A close friend has just been through the same course. I hope with the same positive result. He’s planning to ditch the booze and vallium strategy for the FWC mantras ‘turbulence is uncomfortable but not dangerous’ etc.

Here is an extract from his note to me:

“….My ironic moment came when I went into the toilet in the hotel lobby (where the presentation was) to hear the relaxing music they were pumping out to the quivering dogs saying their prayers on their last day on earth, was Diamond Life, start to finish. So those people will forever associate that album with unbridled terror or sheer elation.”

It’s always nice to feel one has made a contribution to the world. This strikes me as more resonant and durable than the usual “oh you produced ‘Diamond Life’! – the number of shags I had to that album back in the day”

With the objectivity of distance I’m now planning my next business venture.

Forget renting Ferraris to oil riggers, forget bit part acting in bad porn, forget publishing art criticism magazines you had to read the wrong way up, forget seductive smooth British soul classics,this one’s a sure fire winner!

“Facing algae with impunity.”