In the morning we weave our way through the stretch of discarded beer cans and vomit, and take a three hour boat trip to the island of Koh Rong. On the lower deck we meet a couple – both drug counsellors from Brighton. They’re both loud and up for a laugh. Tracey, a thickset woman in her thirties, with a strong jaw-line, could equally be described as being the salt of the earth or a bit of a geezer-bird. Dollar’s not impressed by the banter and disappears to sun herself on the upper deck. As the boat speeds along on the high seas of The Gulf of Thailand, the conversation turns to the drug, methamphetamine. Tracey, whose lobster-pink skin is beginning to peel, takes a swig of her beer.
‘A lot of the work we do is with meth addicts,’ she says.
A wave crashes into the side of the boat, sending a spray of water high into the air.
‘It’s tragic. We recently had to deal with a case where the parents, both meth addicts, were abusing their own children.’
I’m taken aback by the turn the conversation is taking and look across to the horizon. I can’t quite believe that, even here, on the other side of the world, in a small fishing boat heading for a deserted island, the spectre of crystal meth should rear its ugly head. That it should cast its shadow in such an exotic, faraway location.
‘Psychosis, mental breakdown, family breakdown, kids put into care. We’ve seen it all. Addicts who’ve fucked the veins in their arms and groins so bad, they’re left with no alternative but to shoot the shit into their necks.’ She puts her beer down and begins to liberally apply suntan lotion to her already sunburnt legs. ‘Now me. I like a bit of coke now and then.’ She chuckles. ‘We both do, don’t we?’ She puts an arm around Scot, her bloke, a bald-headed man with a world-weary expression who could easily pass for her dad. ‘A bit of a treat at the end of the working week, if you catch me drift.’ She pauses. Her expression is suddenly serious. ‘But crystal meth. Nah. That’s like opening the gates of Hell.’