Someone tried to kill themselves during my second stint at Deejai Backpackers. I’d returned there after a great few days in Pai. My plan was to whittle down the remaining days of my two-month Thai tourist visa. I paid thirty five clams for it and I’ll be damned if I’m about to waste some days. Plus I fucking love Chiang Mai. Rob, Deejai’s avuncular manager/minder/concierge (he’s always a bit vague on what his actual role is – my inkling is that he knows he’s got a lot of a good thing going on so doesn’t want anyone muscling in on his turf) recognised me immediately from my previous (OK, it was only six days ago but think of the footfall!) stellar stay and got me a sweet deal for my remaining week.
I lapsed lazily back into my familiar routine. While playing pool one evening, me and Simon (a wannabe dotcom millionaire who thinks he’s still nineteen and thinks TRUElad is an instruction manual) heard glass smash. Someone must have dropped some crockery in the kitchen. A few seconds later some girls come streaming down the stairs, screaming that help was needed urgently. Seeing Rob’s panic-stricken face as he strode past me up the stairs (I guess I hadn’t quite yet grasped the gravity of the situation) made me – and everyone else – realise that this was some serious shit.
The glass we’d heard smash was a young Mancunian punching through a frosted glass window pane, picking up one of the shards, barricading himself in the toilet – back against the wall, legs against the door, knees locked. As Danny Dyer would doubtless say in one of his familiar straight-to-DVD debacles: claret everywhere. Rob and a couple of others begin frantically pounding the door but the would-be victim’s resolve is steadfast. Eventually, the door is smashed off its hinges (I think a dresser got hurled at it at one point) and there’s luckily a Basque nurse on hand who knows how to staunch the worst of the bleeding until the ambulance arrives.
As is often the case, details of the preceding events are slow to emerge but it turns out three guys were travelling during their gap year before uni. One was on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and had decided to take his dosage into his own hands against doctor’s orders. I don’t have any personal experience with such drugs so I’ll certainly be passing no judgement but I know people who’ve been on similar meds and their stories of their side-effects are far from pleasant so I hope one can at least empathise with the poor guy’s desire to want to clear the all-encompassing fog and emotional stasis that such medication can render.
The guy survived and the ambulance crew were great. I spoke to his friends the next day and they were sending him straight back to the UK once he was discharged from the psychiatric hospital in Chiang Mai. What a fucking phone call to have to have to make to his oblivious parents that must have been.
Not much shatters this whole backpacking idyll like an attempted suicide. A lot of discussion and hand-wringing inevitably followed and similar stories were elicited from other backpackers, which surprised me. I thought it would have been an isolated incident. What it really drove home for me was that not everyone who’s staying in £4 a night hostels drinking 50p a bottle beers, with an almost limitless access to any vice of their choosing is going to be your stereotypical laugh-a-minute Jack the Lad. Maybe when you strip back Alex Garland’s utopian phantasm, we’re left with the other side of the coin: sporadic bouts of loneliness, irritation and alienation. And all this thousands of miles from your family and/or support network(s) and all that’s familiar to you.
I’d wanted to tie this all up in a neat little bow, commenting on how people are from all walks of life and everyone’s experience is different etcetera etcetera but I’ll spare you my hokey cod philosophies (for now). There isn’t a whole lot more to say.
Had to get my poker fix somehow, so we fashioned a game out of straws. Bakes is about to hero call my all-in (with top two) and be bitterly disappointed. He just never believes me. This is in the backyard/’chill-out area’ at Deejai Backpackers. Notice the tree-house in the background. Rad, man.
One more from Koh Lanta that slipped through a glitch in the matrix during last week’s trawl. It’s of me, checking out some wares no doubt. But it also shows what to expect when looking for accommodation. There’ll be beach bungalows scattered everywhere (sometimes finding which reception/office corresponds to which dwelling is pretty difficult).