|Imran Yusuf, now with "400% more brown!"|
I am currently on Phi Phi Island in Thailand, previously having been devastated by the Tsunami many years ago, the island has been rebuilt to continue it's business in attracting pierced, tattooed and heavy drinking foreigners as a popular holiday destination in the sun where you can get off your nut and have drunken sex in cheap hotel rooms where the previous resident's bodily fluids are still visible in the bedsheets. Classy.
Previous to this, I was in Ao Nang and then in Railey, where it was somewhat more respectable, even if some girls will encourage you to take them kayaking to secluded beaches and not reveal that they have boyfriends waiting for them at home. It's day time in Phi Phi right now, so I am able to chill out without the thumping baseline of dance music that makes my skeleton vibrate as I watch another fire show for the umpteenth time, impressed by the dynamism of wielding balls of fire that sometimes come off and straight into the unsuspecting crowds face. The Thai's aren't big on health and safety, nor is there an Trading Standards here, which became clear as I gulped down a 6 month old Gatorade the other day.
This has been my first holiday in a long, long, long time. The last time I went abroad for myself and on my own was on pilgrimage through Israel/Palestine, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2006, and that was not a holiday as in as much a journey of introspection and being ripped off by Arab merchants and having assault rifles stuck into my face by Israeli soldiers on the threshold of every shop or station. Fast-forward to Jan 2011 and I've finally gone on holiday for myself to unwind many years of mental and physical stress that has been built up from pursuing my dream to become a comedian, and it is such a relief. I've met cool people, have done cool things, and enjoyed the power of my UK currency go to work for me in this part of the world. Here in Thailand, the British Pound is strong, and although foreigners are likely to be ripped-off given even a moment of a naivety, I've enjoyed a relaxed lifestyle here that back home would cost me a small fortune.
This experience has encouraged me to feel a lot more grateful for what I have, when I see how hard the locals here, men, women AND children all hustle to make a living, I realise that I live in a relative paradise compared to them, and all of a sudden it seems that I actually have no problems, only an abundance of resource and opportunity on the cold, snow-swept, 20% VAT island I am a citizen of. I know what you're thinking, that I should have ended that last sentence with a preposition. But it's my blog, so too bad, I do as I please.
As a foreigner here, I can't move for all the merchants selling me massages, dinner, drinks and even to stick my feet in a tank of cleaner fish who will eat all my dead skin. Seeing how the locals live and how much harder they have to work for so many of the luxuries that I take for granted has really put life back into perspective amidst all the showing off that I do for a living and the stress the comes in driving around the country doing gigs. It's nice to know that gratitude and humility really can be an antidote to our everyday pressures in the west, but as much good this has done for me, I'm eager to return to my HDTV and Xbox 360 next week :-)