Of migratory men and bird cages.

Posted: November 2, 2011 in Travel and Adventure writing

After two days of lazing around on the beach, feasting on juicy tropical island fruit, burping lemon grass, swimming, sleeping and swimming and sleeping and swimming and drinking beer I got bored. Bored with myself – again. And a bit bored with the people around me, but I know it is not them it’s me.

I never knew I could be so dull. Or is it just because I don’t quite know what it is to relax and be still and have no stress?  Am I a work-a-holic trapped in the clutches of the money-making tumble machine back home? Where did the free in freelance go or have I forgotten – like a parrot blankly starring at his open cage? Ag shame.

The travelers here are either kissing couples or clusters of young English, German and French men and women looking for cheap cocktails and a quick Island romance – and inbetween – the odd lone traveler, pretending, to my jaded eye anyway, to be content with their  alone-ness. And I am not sure where I fit in. My Thai has not progressed to beyond hello, how are you, more toilet paper please, I am hungry, and another beer please – and still the locals snigger at me. I had to go and buy a kettle so I can wake up with my Rooibos and ginger tea in the morning. I ponder this for a few hours. Am I excluding myself from the local experience or is it good to have your ‘thing’ that grounds you, even if it is only a cup of Rooibos?

I have a million questions. To me everything is a potential mystery or has an exotic story attached to it waiting to be spoken.  I ask the locals questions. Like the beautiful wooden bird cages that dangle in front of the bar and each person’s house and my bungalow. Each cage has only one bird in it. A bird with cross black eyes peering out from a Gaultier inspired hair-do and a feathery suit in bold slanted designs.  I ask what kind of bird it is and why there is always only one in a cage. The bicycle rental Thai guy says they are fucking birds, or did he say fighting birds? I don’t understand him and he tries to rent me a bike instead.  For a day I am pondering the fucking fighting birds. Is it a kind of Thai kickboxing bird and how do I get invited to one of the championships. If it is a fucking bird I just feel sorry for it being alone in the cage and all.

I have met a few mildly interesting semi-expats who live here and have kind of lost themselves in the slow simmer of island life. They go to local parties and smoke pot and hustle and shift mysterious goods and services about and have no plan beyond right here and now. I look at them in horror and deep inside I am jealous of their stillness. Then there is Mong’s bar. A bit of a chilled out shack and lounge bar-restaurant type place with Batic paintings of palaces in Cambodia and scatter cushions and Thai reggae music. Mong is building another bigger bar during the day and after he works until the early hours of the morning. But now the police will not let him carry on until he pays a bribe. His mom who shares the tiny back room with him, cooks up mean curries, and speaks to herself staring at us. On Halloween night I go with Mong and some of the semi-pats to Ayri bar up the road.  I ask one of the semi’s about the birds.

He says they are singing birds. I ask him to explain but he can’t.  I sit still for a while. And then it occurs to me that maybe nobody knows what the birds are for. Or they are for nothing really apart from sitting in a cage looking pretty and angry and sexually frustrated.  I tell him why many of the cats on the resort have stump tails. ‘It is when the mommy cat is making it with her bloder and seestar,’ the barman explained to me. The semi looked at me as if he could not believe I actually shared this piece of trivial information with him. Then Mong gets up and starts throwing bottles of burning paraffin attached to strings in fiery circles around our heads. We are sweating and the smell of smoke burns my throat. The owner of the bar has a vicious stab wound on the side of his head and blood stains down his shirt. A German girl mummie staggers with exaggerated motions into the bar to join a witch and what looks like an exploded carrot or something. The manager grabs my hand and throws me into the arms of the mummie, “you dance!”

The next morning I booked myself in for an open water scuba diving course. Armed with a fat book to memorise in three days, and an 11-hour day of skills learning and exams coming up, I finally go to sleep peacefully.


  1. meganshead says:

    Very telling. Now dive.


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