I have often described the Eastern Seaboard of Thailand as the “Wild East”, so it brought a smile to my lips when I read on page 5 of I of the Sun (ISBN 978-1-78088-175-1, Matador, 2012) author Richard Arthur’s description of his first visit to Thailand “It seemed like a wild crazy lawless place, full of chancers and bandits, like some vision of an Oriental Wild West.” (And it still is!)
He describes feelings and emotions that we all have experienced, including the first journey to the beer bars. “It was like some tantalizing, illicit hallucination.”
At the end of each chapter, Author Arthur waxes philosophical wondering just why we are what we are. His musings take one inevitably back to “Cogito ergo sum”, the dictum coined in 1637 by René Descartes as a first step in demonstrating whether certain knowledge can be attained. It is the only statement to survive the test of his methodic doubt. Richard Arthur, on the other hand, continues with his doubts, dragging his demons wrapped in a dark veil of insecurity. But then again, didn’t we all at age 22 when he begins his voyage of discovery?
By finding the Full Moon parties very early in his time in Thailand, he also managed to look critically at pot smoking. “You start seeing the world in four dimensions – the usual three plus a new dimension of hidden meanings that weren’t there before.” And many of those meanings can invoke temporary paranoia.
He visits most of the southern Thailand tourist spots, where the young backpacker thinks he has discovered Nirvana, only to discover yet another more magical place, which has already been discovered by generations of backpackers before him.
He visited Pattaya and found it “A giant palace of Dionysian debauchery.” Ah, if only that were really true, then we could give up the struggles in just being “normal” and descend, whips in hand, to the debauching delights.
By the time he discovers Chiang Mai, and more sexual gymnastics while attempting to understand Thai women, he also begins to yearn for some quiet space again and heads once more into Laos, the ancestral home of Beerlao taken to excess. (But it is a rather ‘more-ish’ drop.)
Arthur does not hold back describing his time with friends from the UK as, “Under my kind of stewardship the boys were sliding down the greasy pole of moral abandonment with ease. Banter, booze and bollocks!” Another way of describing a kid in a candy shop, I suppose.
His adventures continue as he goes through Cambodia and then on to Saigon. Suddenly he is touched by Vietnam, with Saigon being the oriental city of his dreams. Was this his destiny? However, his impressions of Vietnam soon show the incessant impinging on your consciousness by people who want you to buy from them.
I did enjoy this book, despite being Richard Arthur’s first novel, and I hope that this foray into creative writing will spur him on to greater heights, and help dispel his uncertainties. At B. 450 on Bookazine’s shelves, it is not an expensive read either.