We never wanted Blowback to just be about interviewing the latest band or fad. It was about experience. The travel section was introduced to encourage people to tell a good story. There were some truly excellent contributions by Ian Nightingale and Andrew Newsham. This, for quite a while was my most gross out party anecdote. The published article included some typical holiday snaps. And a stunt arse.
For me the message behind Alex Garland’s bestseller The Beach ™ and subsequent film is clear. If you find utopia, you still have to deal with the human aspect within the society which you form. Most importantly you need to consider the effects your indulgence affects outside forces: local customs and the damage you inevitably you do to the environment. Basically, put a load of westerners in a tropical paradise and selfishness will turn it into a toilet.
Koh Phi-Phi (pronounced ‘Pee Pee’) home of The Beach™ is the epitome. Consisting of two islands, smack bang in the centre of the ‘national reserve’ there’s certainly no place which is ‘reserved’. The smaller island, Lai (pronounced ‘lay’) is swarming with Longtail boats which do over-regular reef-destroying visits. This is so tourists can snorkel round the bay, gaping at suffocating, desperate fish whilst avoiding the propellers of other Longtails. When you’ve gawped, you can wash up on the same pure shores that Leo and co went doolally on. You can even walk round and see the stumps of palm trees which had to be cut down to fit in the catering wagon and superstar trailers.
Don is Phi-Phi Lai’s bigger brother. This is the place where everyone goes ‘really wild’ at night – it’s Magaluv with considerably less lavs. Though strictly speaking still national reserve, due to the film star attraction of its sibling, it’s been knocked up quickly and, inevitably shoddily. The smell of open sewers and rotting fish is not uncommon.
Me, my girlfriend and two good friends (Becca and Ollie) arrived there. It was the first island off the mainland in Thailand and… okay, yes we all wanted to see The Beach™. We hadn’t actually realised that The Beach™ wasn’t past a load of Viet Kong ganja guards and over a waterfall but actually on another island. So we booked a boat tour (with snorkelling chucked in) and went to explore Don for the night. After a couple of jars and an amusing Thai ‘lady boy’ Jagger tribute act at the Rolling Stoned bar, we were ready for food.
Before too long we’d been drawn into a restaurant, enticed by today’s catch. My girlfriend and Becca had very sensibly gone through the whole trip as vegetarians, mostly they ordered Pineapple Rice which consisted of a hollowed out pineapple – with rice in. Ollie and I had been bolstered by watching a Swede eat a fried cockroach in Bangkok and I’d become quite partial to squid on a stick. That night I had a flash fried prawn in chilli oil.
At 4am my stomach started churning. At 6am my arse exploded. I was pretty much on the toilet, straining, until 8am. After a terse conversation with my girlfriend, we decided that I should take some Imodium and not cancel the boat tour.
We walked down to the harbour. As soon as I got there I had to peg it to a bar toilet (well bar hole in the ground) which required shorts pulled out at full elasticated stretch and a fair amount of slop. I emerged to my now, sympathetic girlfriend saying she’d bought me something to eat on the boat, if I felt up for it.
Soon enough it was time to board the boat and set off. The sun was shining, the waters were calm but this was soon upstaged by a storm in my stomach. The engine and the sun shining through the windows below deck further increased the temperature but it was nothing compared to the adjacent sweltering cupboard in which I found the toilet. Though I did breath a sigh of relief when I spotted it was a sit down seat.
No time to rejoice, however, as the stomach cramps twinged once more. The relief came seconds later as I emptied my bowels into the bowl. Just as I’d finished we went over a wave.
In one bump, the water had been sucked back and blown back out, right up my arse.
I had to wipe my entire arse area! It was like the toilet bowl had stencilled me with shit. No sooner had I finished, when I had to jump back onto the toilet… then jump off again when I felt a wave. This process was repeated about ten times, all the time sweating profusely from the ridiculous heat and stressful situation.
I emerged from the cubby hole traumatised by the events, only to discover the reason why the blowback was so dramatic. The sea had changed. I staggered up the steps and stumbled into my seat.
My concerned girlfriend gave me some more pills, some water and then offered me my breakfast.
It was Pain Au Chocolate.
I took one look at breakfast and chucked up over the side.
Far too fucking soon it was time to crawl back to the toilet below. The exact same thing (with puking thrown in for variety) happened twice more before we pulled into calmer waters, a cove off Phi Phi Lai. I decided to snorkel, not because I really felt up for it but because I thought I might be able to get clean.
I entered the water and swam away from the group. It was here that I discovered that it’s physiologically impossible to shit and swim.
I then tried to swim back to the rest of the group but I’d swum too far out and couldn’t fight the current. I nearly drowned swimming back, which at least gave me something to chuck up when the boat started moving again.
Much to the relief of the rest of the boat, a lunchtime longtail was able to give me and my girlfriend a lift back to Don. After a day of sleep, we left Phi-Phi for Koh Lanta. The previous day’s storm had deterred most wanting to leave. This meant that we were the only guests on our beach. A resort that had huts which seemed to have a post-colonial air and a hotel proprietor who got us what we wanted, in moderation. We could live out our idyllic dream. No more competition, no excess, no stress.