Floating on the boundless blue sea, the blazing sun sits perched above me, illuminating the water's surface. She sends shimmers of light in all directions with her golden beams. Her fire burns bright to bring warmth; she gently kisses me whilst my eyes are closed. Beneath, the vast sea so mysterious, the gentle sound of the breaking waves and soft whistling wind against my cheek soothe me. Tranquil and free, I merge myself as part of the sea and drift.
During school holidays, my family and I sought refuge from the chaos in Bangkok by travelling south to an island called ‘Koh Samet’ (‘Cajeput Island’ - เกาะเสม็ต), formally known as ‘The Infinite Glass Island’ (เกาะแก้วพิสดาร) due to its endless stretches of pearly white sand. The place had a magical quality about it. The journey to the island was never short of thrilling. Three hours all bundled into our car, a ride on a speedboat as the waves thumped and thrashed on all sides, and finally a drive in an old truck through a treacherous sea of mud and rock through the island until finally we arrived at our destination known as Bamboo Bay (‘Ao Pai’- อ่าวไผ่).
Tall trees shrouded a few wooden bungalows dotted along the coast, sitting mere metres from the water’s edge of the gulf of Thailand. The island enjoying its own microclimate brought tropical rainstorms on rare and welcoming occasions. Electricity on the island was limited; often when heavy rain fell the island would dim into darkness in the dead of night. Mother nature would make the Samet trees tremble, the air thick with the smell of petrichor.
The island was alive with sound. It was as though nature orchestrated its own symphony; the raindrop pearls drumming on the leaves, the pattering sound of water landing on the rooftops, the gentle howling of the night breeze. The ambient harmonies intensified as the rain got heavier and nature’s white noise calmed the atmosphere. Each drop, a gift from the sky, bestowed itself unto the warm tropical air, bringing peace to my heart, steadiness to my mind and comfort to my body.
Mother didn’t like swimming, but as a great cook and a foodie, she enjoyed an array of cuisine from the hawkers passing by: spicy papaya salad, sizzling barbeque chicken, exotic fruits and fresh coconut water. She’d sit for hours studying the various people passing by and delighted herself in a relaxing massage on a towel in the sand every so often. Our dog, afraid of water would play burrowing in the sand. Occasionally she would dash into the sea with newfound bravery, joining my father and I as we swam amongst the waves.
Every day on the island brought a new adventure. Most days my father and I snorkelled around the bay and explored the wonders of the sea bed together. Occasionally we took the kayak out and paddled to neighbouring bays. I would jump off the boat and swim amongst the various fish and corals and marvel at their astonishing array of features.
The island flourished with life. Underwater, the seabed held an exhibition of colours and obscure structures, home to many sea creatures. There were beautiful corals with fascinating architecture, puzzling patterns and peculiar textures. Amongst rainbows of fish, a Moorish Idol stood out with its bold, contrasting colours of black, white and yellow stripes across its flat, disk-like body. Cuttlefish, inquisitive and playful creature swam to us for inspection, pupils wide with curiosity. He roamed the waters with squid like tentacles and ever-changing colours. Most striking of all, a Lionfish, with a long venomous spine and dramatic patterns, beautiful but deadly.
The water clear as glass on cloudless days. I recall reflections from the sunlight dancing underwater to the rhythm of the waves. There was an abundance of ambient sounds beneath the sea; swooshing noises from a plethora of fish gliding by, continuous clicking sounds and occasionally the beating noise from boats’ engines in the near distance.
On the surface of the island a sea of green dominated my vision. The Samet trees displayed the most pleasant colour to my eye, an Eden-green beauty. Golden sunlight filtered through the leaves and graced the surroundings with emerald green hues. The branches of the towering trees swayed subtly in unison, choreographed by the wind. I breathed in the salty humid air and it tasted like home.
I recall the sensation of prickling heat tickling the soles of my feet as I walked on the sun bleached sand. It was as if sunshine itself had become entangled within the tiny alabaster grains. Overcome by the panorama of glorious natural sights, the orange flaring tones rendered the blue sky and the ocean, a splendid scene that reminded me of a sunset painting by Turner.
The vast beauty of the island soaked into my mind, a gift from nature that cannot be repaid. I carried fragments of it home as memory.
Let’s go on a treasure hunt!
What is the name of the tree which is indigenous to the island?
Hint: the answer is in the name….
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