Today I witnessed my first motorcycle collision in Kata. I have used the word “witnessed” advisedly because last night I heard a collision whilst sitting with the Kannika outside the massage parlour that I visit each evening. After some investigation Kannika reported that a local had collided with a truck that had been parked illegally. Totally the fault of the truck driver so there was no question of an insurance claim against the scooter driver.
Anyway, back to today’s collision. In what can only be described as a feat of incredible stupidity, a tourist waiting behind a lorry had become impatient to make a right turn. As I watched, he darted down the left hand side of the lorry and then accelerated into the T-Junction, apparently oblivious to the fact that he could not see whether there were any vehicles coming from either the left or the right. As a result he smashed headlong into a Thai who was riding a rather nice motorcycle. In the way that only tourists can, he grinned, took a quick look at the other bike and then rode off into the distance.
I have other thoughts with respect to tourists on motorbikes. Every morning I sit at an Italian café that is located opposite said T-Junction. It really only took me a few minutes to fathom that the basic road rule is to give way to traffic on one’s right. So if one is approaching a T-junction with traffic exiting the junction from one’s right, then one gives way to that traffic before either going straight on or before turning right. If approaching from the opposite direction then one can turn left or continue across the junction because the exiting traffic has to give way.
Traffic exiting the junction into the main thoroughfare can simply proceed if there is traffic only on their left, said traffic being the traffic that is giving way to the right. If, however, traffic is approaching from the other direction with the intention of proceeding straight across the junction then the traffic merging into the main thoroughfare must give way because said traffic is on their right. There simple. But apparently not so for the hundreds of tourist scooter riders who cause all sorts of confusion by failing to understand these simple rules. In this respect the Thais are infinitely patient.
I have three nights and three full days of my holiday remaining as I fly out on a 9 PM flight that will see me getting into Melbourne around 1 PM in the afternoon the following day. As I will still be on Thai time, this will be 9 AM in the morning. If I manage to sleep on the flight – not often an easy affair – then I should arrive feeling reasonably refreshed. Keeping to my usual bedtime of 12 AM will see me having an early Thai time 8 PM night but the fact should not matter that much as I take sleeping pills, being unable to sleep without them. The next day I shall have to return to work and I will, no doubt, become caught up in the mundanities that define my days in Australia.
Here, in Thailand, I am completely free. I go to bed at around 1.00 AM and clambered out of bed some time between 7 AM and 8 AM. I have, therefore, had a minimum of 16 hours a day to concentrate on the thing that I came here to do. Write. Every day has been organized around this endeavour. Having time has meant that I have been able to wait for the germ of an idea to emerge. Hence the ways in which I have arranged my days. Mornings and afternoons I partake of extremely expensive Italian coffee, even more expensive than coffee at an Italian café in Australia. But the point is that the surroundings are conducive to dwelling upon words.
My daily swim of 3 kilometres is always a meditative affair, again a time when words might simply emerge. The same is true of meal times as I eat early, around 5.30 PM, before the masses start to throng the restaurants. Thus, once again, I have the necessary sort of space for reflection and thought. I suspect that my next purported truth is one that rings true for many a person on holiday. This is my ideal life, the one that I would like to live. In concrete terms, my ideal would be continuing with the life that I am living in Kata, a life in which every part of my day is structured around my writing time.
Having lived the expat lifestyle in Hong Kong for three years, I know that a significant amount of freedom and ease can come from making the choice to live and to work in an Asian country. In Hong Kong, I really only worked for around 4 hours a day. I also had a Philippine helper which meant no shopping, no cooking, no washing, no ironing and no cleaning. In theory I might have lived a life not dissimilar to this holiday life. However, that was not the reality of the life that I chose to lead in Hong Kong. I actually led an incredibly inebriated existence that saw me spending my nights drinking myself into unconsciousness and my days recovering from my nights.
My time in Hong Kong is meant to serve as an example of the responsibility that we have for the choices that we make in our lives. Thus I would say that the problem with our non-holiday lives is not that we are unable to live the kinds of lives that we would ideally like to live. The real question, the heart of the matter, is quite simply the choices that we make in our daily lives. These choices are open to us no matter where we live and no matter what we are doing. To state matters in a different way, if we are not living the sorts of lives that we want to live then the reason is that we have chosen not to do so.
My days have always been defined by questions of our freedom and the responsibility that we have for our lives but these questions may have come to the fore again because of the Covid-19 virus. In other words, the threat of a pandemic that may lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths has caused me to focus on just what it is that I am doing with my life. I believe that I have posted in this vein on a previous occasion. Living a life that one does not want to lead is always an absurdity. It is just that the Covid-19 pandemic makes this absurdity more manifest because the finite nature of our lives is much more apparent.
First Published March 7th, 2020