Paul had implored Andrew not to touch the oyster curry. It sounded to him both unappealing and dangerous.
It turned out to be both!
On the long train journey down from Prachuap Khiri Khan, heading for the jungle of Khao Sok, Andrew suddenly became violently ill in carriage 8, on seat 29.
The passenger in seat 30 was not amused.
Andrew suddenly developed the pallor of a stale Brussel sprout, and had already started to emit the putrid wind that is associated with that most unpopular of vegetables. After another of the countless food hawkers passed through the aisle offering fried something on a stick, Andrew decided to fill a plastic carrier bag with what was left of the crustacean curry. Paul had a rapid word in his partner’s shell-like and advised his husband very firmly to make for the nearest public convenience. Which happened to be inconveniently located at the other end of the railway car.
There was trouble brewing in seat 29.
As Andrew made for the lavatory with his ‘Seven Eleven’ bag still attached to his gob, Paul could only pray that he wouldn’t trip on the Buddhist monk who was lolling quite unmindfully near to the exit. He knew that oyster and saffron were considered quite appealing in the culinary world, but doubted the monk would agree were Andrew to shellfishly saturate his religious robes!
Thankfully his partner made no such contribution and managed to get to the ‘little boys room’ just in time to make a noise little boys generally didn’t usually make! The roar reverberated through the train like a Chinese dragon on steroids. The Thais, never a race to engage in unnecessary confrontation, acted as though nothing had occurred. Probably putting it down to the churlish nature of carriage number eight, which was nothing if not rickety.
There were a group of Europeans,however, who made it quite clear they did not approve of Andrew’s fishy Brexit, as they glanced disdainfully towards the temporary oyster shack Andrew had made his home. Paul returned their approbation with one of his very hard stares, a talent he’d learnt from reading Paddington Bear in his early youth.
After all, it wasn’t Andrew’s fault his seafood was resurfacing. Plus, had these Teutonic bullies stuffed themselves with something other than Snitzel and Sausage whilst in the charming Thai seaside town of Prachuap, they too may have suffered a little sea sickness!
Paul didn’t voice this opinion of course. He was more than aware that the British were very capable of the same blinkered choices when it came to eating and drinking abroad.
He knew people who had lived on the Costa Del Sol for twenty years, and only frequented English bars, ate bangers and mash, and couldn’t count to three in Spanish! But he wasn’t going to name and shame. What was the point?
Most of those types couldn’t read anyway!
After what seemed like a night’s fishing expedition Andrew returned to his seat. Quite exhausted and terribly clammy. Paul knew there was no way they were going to make it to their intended destination of the prehistoric forest of Khao Sok. If they persevered with their itinerary there could be an altogether different rumble in the jungle. So when they hit the very ordinary city of Surat Thani in southern Thailand, they alighted the train and made for the nearest hotel.
The establishment in which they found themselves was situated on a dark backstreet on the wrong side of the rail tracks. The over made up woman who welcomed them rather severely, wanted to see no passport, just payment up front.
She assured them it was a nice room. A fact, which after they climbed the multitude of concrete steps to the third floor, they concurred with. It was a pleasant room, were it on a wing at wormwood Scrubs!
Still it had beds, and strip lighting, so they could at least see as they stripped and fell onto the oyster grey bedsheets of what was quite obviously a knocking shop!
On waking from his sick-bed Andrew felt much better and had begun to come out of his shell once more. Paul persuaded him that to hang around in the gritty Surat Thani was not a good idea, perhaps they should head further south, to the Trang Islands.
There was a train leaving at awful ‘O’Clock, and they should be on it.
Andrew agreed, still appearing a trifle pistachio.
Paul was aware that his partner really didn’t have the muscle to argue. And he knew it was him who had warned against the mollusc Massaman. So now his partner was literally jellyfish in his hands.
The enigmatic Trang Islands, deep down in the Andaman Sea, had enthralled Paul since he’d first read about them years ago. They lay, like a strand of wild pearls, in the Indian Ocean, close to the border of Malaysia. They were home to the equally mystifying Chao Lair, The nomadic sea gypsies of Malay descent, who moved effortlessly with the tide. Making their home wherever the weather was set fairest – much like The Lola Boys!
Following another interminable journey on a local train, which just happened to follow the track of the famous ‘Orient Express’, minus the luxury and the murder, the boys arrived in Trang. A mainly Muslim town in the deep south of Thailand, but one that was not prey to the Islamic terrorism that Paul knew stalked the west.
The Lola Boys were not even that adventurous!
There had been some recent bombings around Yala, and the train that had chugged innocently along that line had been blown up a couple of times in the recent past killing many.
The Boys avoided this region and took a minibus due west from Trang, along with a surly French couple and a smiling Thai teenager. Soon they reached the pier, more than an hour away hidden amid the mangroves.
The young driver, who was high on natural energy and quaffing copious unnatural potions which had the same effect, crashed twice on route. Once into a petrol pump, and then again into a scooter that was obviously not so obvious to him. Paul caught his face in the rear view mirror. They both laughed. The tight-arsed couple in the front seats did not share their amusement.
They quite obviously feared for their lives!
Paul wondered how they would cope with the erratic Thai ferry network once they began travelling the islands. De-ipodded and deep in despair. Some of these so-called ‘gappers’ really shouldn’t travel, he thought. At least not until they’ve had their gaps filled.
In every way!
Then perhaps they’d pack a little experience to bring along with them.
But he knew he was probably being bitter, having put a little too much of that into his own ruck sack for the journey.
Wasn’t it Oscar Wilde who said youth is wasted on the young? Paul knew, as he climbed clumsily aboard the boat to join the miserable duo, that the Irish genius was correct. The greenness which came with the inexperienced so often kept them clammed up within their shells. Paul was fairly certain he had never been like that, but he couldn’t be quite sure.
When they arrived on the tiny island of Koh Muk, the nomenclature of which Paul had deemed most appropriate, he and Andrew were both knackered. The latter even more so as he had been vomiting Oyster for over twenty-four hours.
They hit the only resort which had a vacant bed in their price range and collapsed into the reception.
They were shown to their hut, which was just about big enough for a hobbit, and both realised independently, it was to be for one night only.
Or divorce could swiftly follow!
The expansive space outside, however, was more than enchanting. The rugged coast of Trang province, with it’s magical limestone karst scenery, cast it’s spell magnificently.
The boys had arrived in paradise.
Koh Muk wasn’t mucky at all. Not at first sight. What a gem!
Paul was aware that in Thai ‘Muk’ was translated as pearl.
Therefore, The Lola Boys had arrived on Pearl Island. An incredible place, home to Thailand’s famous Emerald Cave.
But as his partner still posessed a tinge of something very green he thought he’d better not mention it.
Andrew, after all, had quite clearly had enough oyster to last a lifetime.