Picture the scene. The coconut grove reaches down to the coral white sand. Stilted bamboo and palm frond huts are scattered around the Tomtub Restaurant which caters to the needs of travellers who have managed the three hour bus ride from Bangkok and to the 45 minute boat ride to reach this beach on the ‘tropical paradise’ of Ko Samet.
Sun, Sand, Sea and Sex would be how the News of the World would describe it, and maybe aptly. It’s a place to relax, yet the water is clearly seductive/ I floated, practiced my breast stroke, doggy paddle and literally, but never metaphorically, got out of my depth.
Others tried wind surfing. Sometimes a frisbee flew, or a plastic ball was bounced among the ripples. When the salt water got too much, one could retire to one’s beach towel, take a coffee or while away a book on one’s verandah.
The days pass away with little excitement. People come, people go. Conversational liaisons occasionally transmogrify; the chief of police came calling on his private sea-going launch. A little interest, but no paranoia. A generally indolent ambience to gently tan in.
We first noticed her, less because of the three strategically placed handkerchiefs than the fact that apart from those three small areas she was pink, very very pink. Too much sun, we thought. Silly girl.
An hour later, I’m sitting on the verandah of Hamish’s ‘bungalow’. We’re feeling mellow as we talk travellers’ tales, swap music cassettes and take in the view. Horizontal lines of sky blue, sea blues – the coral reef darker than the shallows, and the near white sand. The coconut palms provide the side framing.
We noticed that all eyes were focussed on the central frame, directly in front of us. The same pink flesh, only this time wearing just one piece of cotton, was performing. A crab walk, the splits, leg behind the head, left toe touching right ear. The lady was a contortionist.
It was with absolute incredulity that we watched. No-one, but no-one, had cared to exhibit themselves before. There was no need. Even I went topless. It didn’t matter as no-one was seeking prurient interest. So the shock-horror was less about the overt eroticism of the show than surmising her problems.
She must be lonely, but who now wants to be seen speaking to her in public? And, good god, she could make a fortune doing that in Bangkok and similar sin cities.
Notwithstanding the sheer exhibitionism of her show, she was incredibly supple. Her body control was exquisite. What she was doing – perhaps only, after all, for her own pleasure – was a complicated series of yoga asanas (exercises). Some, I’d tried in my London evening class – and failed. There is no way, even given years of constant practice, that I could aspire to such symmetry. She was a poetess in motion. Truly balletic and a consummate artiste. And a show off.
Hamish and I applauded and fumed. Other than a nubile body, what does it take, we asked ourselves, to get noticed .
As joint founders of the Floaters Club we got our round of applause. Although nigh on impossible – both arms should be extended, the lungs inflated – we managed to lay on the water smoking our cigarettes.
And like Olympian synchronised swimmers, we came up smiling.
Ko Samet was where I discovered the delights of being a beach bum.
In 2013 there was a changed view: an oil spill stopped all sybaritic activities.