Turkish winters can be harsh affairs. It is easy to forget that the beaches we all enjoy during the summer months can be hit by frosts down to -4 or less any time from the middle of December onward. With the chilling wind it can feel colder especially when you wake up and find the mountains topped with a frost so hard it reaps havoc with your delicate sub-tropical plants. Therefore, it will come as no surprise to learn that I fly south to warmer climes most years.
After a jungle adventure* in Sumatra, where I was fortunate enough to see one of only 400 wild Sumatran tigers left on the planet, I am recovering in a small coastal village in Thailand. It is my third visit here and I remembered why I come back within moments of my arrival. My little white bungalow is only 10 metres from the gently lapping waters of the Gulf of Thailand where I can just make out a couple of little Islands almost hidden in the heat haze. Looking north and then south I see nothing but a long strip of perfect white sandy beach, fringed by palm and tamarisk trees for at least 3 miles in both directions. Occasionally you may see a solitary figure in the distance, maybe even a couple of people but for most of the day it is empty and all mine.
Photo by Michael McCullough
The beach is so inviting it is hard to resist an impulse to embark on long thoughtful walks. I particularly enjoy the early mornings, when the sun is all but above the horizon. I wander and wonder, while occasionally collecting some of the abundant green lipped mussels that the sea has generously deposited on the sand overnight, which with a twist of lime makes a very pleasant lunch, perhaps with a cold bottle of beer.
By now I expect some of you may be quite curious about my exact location, maybe even one or two of you are now stood by ready to put the place on your short list for this years holiday? I don’t mean to tease but for you this blog post is going to end in disappointment because I have no intention of divulging the name of this place beyond saying that it begins with a B and is a long way from Bangkok. There are other foreigners here, in their own bungalows hidden back from the tree line. We may pass the time of day or simply smile on passing, or during the evening we may have a chat as we share a beer in the handful of bar-come-eateries. This is not a place to DO very much in particular beyond chilling out and taking frequent dips in the warm sea; it is simply a place that allows you to just BE for a change. This not only helps you rejuvenate after the difficulties and trials of the previous year but allows you to reach a stage where you can also replenish you creative juices. So for me this is my come to place when I need inspiration as I do now as I figure out what my next book will be about.
There is something that feels almost illicit about holidaying in a ‘secret’ and one of the first things you are asked, although rhetorically, when you first arrive is: ‘You won’t tell anyone will you?’ I have heard it so many times I now find myself saying it, as if the victim of some strange virus, perhaps to someone gushing loudly in one of the bars – something along the lines of: ‘How on earth has this place not been discovered (and subsequently been destroyed) by mass tourism?’ So who am I to break that code. It will undoubtedly be broken at some point and I will arrive one year to find a load of beer swilling Europeans/ Americans/ Chinese crowding my beach and singing dreadful Karaoke. But until that happens this place will hopefully remain my secret hideaway for a little while longer.
*I must write about this in a later post because unfortunately there are currently a few hundred miles between me and the photo’s in my camera.