Right now, I am sheltering under a pleasant, slightly paint-peeling, iron gazebo in a freshly sea-damp bikini with a gentle breeze on my pasty white skin. It is a ravageable 30 degrees. Beside me, yet another bottle of god damned water. Beside that a smaller bottle of white fluid – to be more specific, liquidised garlic, olive oil and a squeeze of lime (to taste, one presumes.)
I am starving. I am also wafting away mosquitoes – the buzzing type – the most lethal. No one will speak to me, my laptop – my poor baby – is getting the most disdainful looks. And there’s been a cleaner in my room for the last two hours. She shut the door around 90 minutes ago, when one of the Thai scooter boys came round with a tool kit to fix the air con which had kept me awake all night. No really, ALL night. I wonder if they’re at it in there. The Thai scooter boy was quite good looking come to think about it, with his floppy head of thick black hair and his thick-lipped smile. If I were the cleaning lady, I probably would.
Or maybe I’m hallucinating again. You see, I’m detoxing. Or supposed to be. The owners of this so-called retreat think that I, like everyone else, have refrained from speaking to anyone, am drinking garlic juice and a powdered clay formula and voluntarily going along for two colonics per day. And then joining the group at sunset to chant a yogic mantra.
Little do they know however that I am in my bamboo hut with my laptop, a south east Asian plug adapter, and a Vodaphone modem, and I’m tapping away at this column, which is one of three articles I am supposed to complete while I’m out here. I didn’t plan this very well. I paid a small fortune to get my system cleared out by a team of Thai herbalists, and what did I do? Take on three assignments the day I was due to leave the UK. This, I believe, was the precise part of my personality that I was trying to batter down by coming here in the first place! The bit that says yes to everything and thinks it can squeeze one hour into 45 minutes.
You should have seen their faces when I arrived two days ago and asked where I could get some food. “Miss, this is a fasting centre,” said the non-chatty man who picked me up from the airport. He also had very attractive black floppy hair, a cute wide smile and a svelte figure. And I definitely wasn’t hallucinating at that point.
“I wondered if I could start the fast on Wednesday instead of tomorrow.” I said. “I’ll still stay here but I’ll just do my own thing for a couple of days. I have to finish some work off you see. You do have Wi-Fi right?”
I was told rather sternly that there is an internet café a twenty minute walk or a 5 minute bicycle ride down the road. Which means I either do all of my seven telephone interviews via Skype from a café, or I get my pay-very-high-as-you-go modem out. Being a sex journalist, the types of phone calls I need to make aren’t the sort that go down well in cafes, so I opted for my Vodaphone plug-in instead. As I was mulling this over I was told that ‘my last meal’ was in the fridge. I don’t know what was more shocking. Being spoken to like a death row prisoner or their very idea of the word ‘meal’.
It was a bowl of lettuce with three slithers of yellow pepper, some raw onion and around five pumpkin seeds. Not hang over food. And hung over I definitely was, from a three-day stopover in Abu Dhabi en route to this place.
“I’m detoxing next week,” I slurred as I knocked back Mohitos in what seemed like the one and only place that actually served liquor in that very boring city.
On my first day of this supposed fast, I didn’t do much to rectify the disapproval I had roused from the night I arrived. I didn’t emerge from my bamboo hut until 11am. To be fair I didn’t actually get to sleep until 5am. I was kept awake by the noisy air con (did I mention that the man who came to fix it was a rather juicy muscular 25-year-old?). When I emerged, bleary eyed, asking where breakfast is served, I was told even more sternly that I’d missed my first meditation and a mountain walk. Oops.
But it is two days into my fast now, and I am beginning to conform. I’ve at least tried to hide my laptop anyway, and I’ve stopped smuggling in bunches of bananas. One of the first things I noticed disappear was my sex drive. My energy is still there – just. My coherent thinking is still there – though as a reader you may disagree. Did I say you may disagree? But all thoughts, urges, fantasies and most worryingly – my inclination to flirt with any of the other fasters has gone. On my second insomniac night, I didn’t even resort to reaching out into my special pink silk pouch hiding my whisper-quiet travel-size mini-vibe. Usually that’s the first thing I turn to – or, rather, turn on. But instead, I find myself turning to meditation to try to sleep.
I am not sure that I like this. What if my mojo never comes back? This place promises to purge its guests of toxins ‘both physically and spiritually’, What if that means it will wipe out my filthy thoughts forever? I quite like my filthy thoughts. I’m like a smoker who likes his yellow fingers.
Maybe I will wake up every morning and instead of pondering over what I will do to my many lovers, start pondering on the tonal variations of “Ohm – Ma Nee – Pod May – Hum”? Maybe the thick-lipped smiling Thai men will no longer attract my attention and instead I will be drawn to toothless medicine men telling me what they can do to my chakras.
So worried was I that I googled this. Apparently losing one’s sex drive while fasting is quite natural. The sex drive is the weakest of the ‘fleshy drives’ apparently, and so when your energy falls, so does your libido. So that means that it is perfectly normal for my cravings for plate of Pad Thai to be stronger than my craving to get the shirt off the back of the Australian in Bamboo hut number four.
Whoever designed us thought that the carnal drive was less important than the hunger drive. That was a bit of an oversight, if you ask me. Haven’t they heard of the concept of forgetdinner.com – that’s a dating website where people skip the dinner ritual and just get to the important stuff.
It’s got me thinking though: I wonder whether tantric sex would bring it back or whether there’s even a class for that her? There seems to be a class for everything else. Tantric sex has Buddha’s blessing because it is more about a spiritual high than a physical high. I wonder if I asked nicely whether they would add a segment to the end of the evening yoga. I’ll go and ask that nice thick-lipped handyman who fixed my air-con whether he would mind trying it out on me. Not that I feel any urge for him at all but, well, this retreat is all about discipline, and I am merely trying to discipline my mojo to stay put and not wander off like all the other hippy folk around here.
Illustration by Sylvie Jones.