The beauty of reading is to lose yourself in the author’s mind, to be able to imagine every colour, every detail and live in a world where your fate is already decided.
When I recently read ‘The Beach’ by Alex Garland, I realised I had already lived part of that fate.
In 2004 I travelled through Thailand with the same friend who saved me from breaking my nose in the hospital car park of Brisbane, Australia.
With this friend I sat on the same set of police station steps in Bangkok as the character ‘Richard’ did in the book. We walked afraid and astonished at the sights on Khao San Road, set in the heart of Bangkok’s traveller hangout, and we too travelled to the island of Ko Phi Phi off Thailand’s western coast.
Our reasoning for the police station visit was to report a ‘theft,’ well a kind of ‘I left my passport in the Tuk Tuk’ theft. Reporting it missing was easy, the fact that everywhere was closed for three days due to it being the Kings birthday weekend meant we couldn’t get on with our plan of going straight to the beaches.
Instead we took a very slow 4 hour train journey north to the site of the famous ‘Bridge over the River Kwai.’ We walked the bridge and saw the sights before continuing our journey along the route of ‘Richard.’
We took the bus back to Bangkok which took a mere 30 minutes! Here we were able to collect our new passport and headed to the colourful beaches of Thailand’s numerous islands. The beach mentioned in the book was back then, only accessible for a day trip from the island of Ko Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two Phi Phi islands. We didn’t get this far as it turned out that I met an old college friend who I hadn’t seen for five years working on the larger island. He showed us around and we celebrated adventures, cliff jumping, rock climbing and boozing.