FOR those pilgrims of pleasure who steal away to Thailand's isles of peace and paradise, there are ways of getting closer to the sun and the sea. At the many resorts that sparkle along the golden beaches, free agents sell jet ski and para-sail rides. For a few hundred baht, those with a little adventure in their souls can leave behind the sand and the deck chairs for aerial thrills or marine spills. The jet ski looks simple - but the boys who rented us our beast at Bang Tao Bay on Phuket were masters at their craft. It took a few days to coax the precious baht from my wallet. In the end, the islands at the mouth of the bay glistening under the peerless sky and the sheen of the water were too much of a lure. The only identification they required to secure the deal was the colour of our baht - in this case 600 (about HK$200). Climbing aboard, the vessel foundered like a suicidal black fish. But out beyond the breakers, it was calmer. We took five minutes to familiarise ourselves with the machine. Gunning the throttle, the creature roared. It threw back its head. We shot across the bay, skimming over the swell like a skipping pebble. We rounded the point and cautiously approached a beach. Changing places, the beast was mine. I eased back the throttle and held the handlebars steady. We charged ahead. Salt and spray stung my face. We leaned forward, hugging the fuselage, almost merging with the machine to cut down our resistance. The greed for speed pulsed in my temples. I stole a look at the powerboat half a kilometre away, cleaving its way through the waves. Far above it, like a tissue in the sky, a parachute followed at the end of a strand of silk. This was a bigger leap of faith. The para-sail was a double special, we were assured - 1,200 baht for two. The harness threatened to ruin my chances of fatherhood. I felt like the Michelin man with his umbilical cord still attached. With a flashy grin and the last thumbs up I thought I would ever see, the driver punched the air and the boat roared off. Three things happened in quick succession: the rope pulled taut; the para-sail billowed; the harness jerked. Then there was only air between my feet and the sand. From 80 metres up, with nothing between me and the sea but clean, clear, cool air, it felt remarkably refreshing. I hung on tightly to the toggles, not trusting the harness with my full weight. The parachute hovered over me like a huge, silk mouth, open and shimmering. I could see my toes dangling beneath me and beneath them the whole of the bay, the beach and the three hotels along its length. Our hotel looked like something out of Legoland, the trees and hills like the landscapes on a model train display. Weightless, suspended, drifting and every now and then being caught by the wind, this was the closest thing to being in heaven. Slowly, I relaxed. The boat painted a semi-circle in the waves. It headed back up along the beach. Would I land in the water? How were they going to be able to get me back to the spot on the beach from where I had been taken by the wind? It seemed that nothing could bring me down, the movement of the para-sail in the wind was so benign. But down I came, slowly, gently and reluctantly. As the boatman skilfully brought me over the beach, I lifted my feet away from the arms stretched up to anchor me once more to the ground. A final photo while still afloat and last glance up, and then, alas, terra firma.