So there we were relaxing on the beach a few mornings ago when we were approached by a lady who wanted to know if we were ‘Peter & Margaret’. Suddenly my brain, which had been in switched-off mode was wide awake! We didn’t know anyone in Thailand, so how could this stranger know our names? Had our past somehow caught up with us? Were there wanted posters all around Koh Samui with our pictures and names on them? Had we unknowingly done something illegal? Could we make a run for it? Probably not, we were in our beach wear with nowhere to go.
Yip, that’s us we answered rather cautiously. Diane introduced herself and her husband James and explained that they were friends of Terry and Faye. Faye had mentioned that we would be staying at Choeng Mon Beach Hotel and they looked us up to see if they could help in any way. James and Diane have been staying at various places in Choeng Mon for 10 years and know the place like the back of their hands.
We are grateful that they took the time to find us and introduce themselves. They are a wonderful couple. We have spent many lovely evenings together and they have introduced us to two of our favourite restaurants in Choeng Mon. The first restaurant was Garland which is just around the corner from the hotel. The food is really good as are the prices.
The second is a really interesting restaurant that caters to mainly the locals. It is quite a long walk from the hotel along the busy main road with practically no sidewalk so getting there is an adventure on its own. I’m not even sure this restaurant has a name, we know it as the ‘Post Office’ restaurant – walk down the main road until you get to the Post Office and it is across the road. For Margaret a lot of this journey is about the food and so we make the long adventurous walk to the Post Office restaurant.
We thought we might order a take away and then go back to the hotel but by the time we walk back the food will be cold. So we sit on a concrete type bench and order – fortunately the menus have pictures and we can order by simply pointing at the pictures. The food arrives and it is really, really good! The prices are just as good – 2 orders of fried pork, an order of mixed vegetables and an order of rice (more food than we could eat) all for only 180 Baht (US$5.24). This is our new favourite restaurant! The fried pork is simply out of this world. We will no doubt be making this walk on a regular basis.
Every so often I see something that gives me a bit of a reality check and makes me grateful for everything that I have and the lifestyle we live. This picture did that for me.
I hadn’t consciously taken the picture, I was simply walking around the hotel gardens taking pictures and it was only when I was looking at them later that I noticed the wheelchair. Who owned this wheelchair and what was the story behind it?
I mentioned the wheelchair picture to James and Diane – “that’s Matt, he’s from the Gold Coast in Australia” was Diane’s reply, “he’s been coming here for years”.
I happened to bump into Matt a few days later and introduced myself and we chatted for a while. He clearly doesn’t like to talk about the incident that put him in the wheelchair but because of the wheelchair, now has a great deal of pain in his sciatic nerve. Floating in water takes the pressure off his sciatic nerve and provides some relief from the pain. Choeng Mon bay at this time of year is ideal as the water is calm and there is no swell. We often see Matt floating in the bay.
Despite his condition, he certainly gets around – he has spent time floating in the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands and Thailand. He is certainly well traveled – in addition to the ‘floating’ holidays he has been to Africa – and well read, his knowledge of most subjects in extensive.
There is no self pity, no why me? Just a determination to make the most of his life. What a remarkable man! Despite his condition, he gets around and is determined to make the most of his life and live it to the fullest. Good on you Matt! Most of us can learn a great deal from you.
And finally, an observation. The picture is almost always the same, an elderly white ‘Farang’ male with a young Thai girl. It is a common picture in Thailand. The age difference is usually close to that of a grandfather/granddaughter relationship – we have two such couples on our floor in the hotel. I understand why they are together and what each is getting out of the relationship. I wondered however what the Thai’s thought of this arrangement, did they look down on these couples as most in western societies would? I discussed this with James and Diane who tell me that the Thai’s in general have no problem and are very accepting of these relationships. In fact, they are a very accepting nation, there is very little, if anything, that they frown upon and they are happy to accept people just the way they are. Perhaps they can teach us something about tolerance and acceptance.