Forest way island
My first visit to the floating kingdom did not start out as a happy one, I had come to a funeral. You may say the world best play space would be a peculiar place to go to a funeral, but that is what Uncle Johns Will said he wanted. I am glad to say the coffin had gone ahead of us and we came in by scheduled flight. On arrival we were transferred to a special hotel that to my amazement catered exclusively for funeral parties. There was a water taxi service from the island to the resort area and quite a few of the guests in our party went out the first night, I didn't feel I should be celebrating quite yet, so we stayed in, however the hotel had nice grounds and its own cinema, with several screens. I was amazed how quickly I forgot we were on a floating island in the middle of the ocean.
The following morning we met up after breakfast, some obviously had only recently got back and others were recovering from the night before.
We went over a walk way, over a boat lane to another island, some of the older people were taken in a small electric vehicle a bit like a large low milk float with seats, they seemed to be enjoying the trip as much as the younger ones.
The island we reached was the last thing I had expected, it was absolutely huge, and covered with trees. There were many walk ways, and it was laid out so that you were walking on the flat but the ground went up and down, at various points sometimes over us and sometimes under we passed other pathways with different colored paths that were for cycling, roller blading, running and horse riding, each group having their own network of paths.
As the land rose towards the edges of the island, it was very quiet, except for a bubbling stream and waterfall, and the slight noise of small movements in the trees.
After a while we came to a stone building that would be at home in the Cotswold's in the UK, labeled Holly chapel, and under chapel 23. The service was nice, and the coffin left directly down into the floor. After we had a walk around, and after a while went down a ramp that went underground to a café, and looked around a collection of small craft and similar shops.
Having seen burials at sea in old movies and Star Trek where bodies are jettisoned into space I assumed the coffin had gone to the bottom of the ocean, but I was wrong. While looking around the shops we came across a shop dealing with funerals and I went in, originally just being nosey and wanting to know how much the event had cost.
Inside the shop dealing with burials they had a series of small rooms where you could watch a video all about the services, it started with how the island was built out of chicken wire and concrete, and had many water tanks built in so it could be lowered initially and as trees grew tanks pumped out to maintain the same level, that bit was a bit complicated, but I think I got the idea. Next the recreational areas, walks etc were laid out and trees planted. Apparently they cheated a bit and some of the trees were already quite big when brought here. Going back a bit, to while they were building the island, a series of things that looked on the video like sheds were lowered in as the structure took shape around the outside, and later these were fitted out to be underground houses with windows looking out over the water around the island and entry into the shopping area we were in. Apparently its quite popular because you have the full use of the forest area. The land shape also hides an area in the forest where there is a pool and barbeque etc, that is only able to be used by residents.
The video went on to show how the large center of the island had recycling plants handling a large percentage of the country's waste and then went on to the funeral side explaining about chapels for different religions and cultures, before going on to explain that the bodies ended up in a crypt level near the bottom of the island, I suppose you could best explain it as like storage containers just large enough to hold a coffin, there were a number high, and rows and rows of them. It didn't say how many there were but apparently it covered the whole island three floors deep, only a small part of the bottom floor was currently being used, and areas ahead and above were still like large undivided rooms.
Another floor above had a similar arrangement but very small cupboards and apparently these were for the ashes of people who had been cremated. A row of racks is built and filled and then they move on to using the next room, coming back to put another row in front. It explained that these people were buried, sealed in these crypts permanently. Similarly once a section was full of coffin's extra compartments would be constructed to fill up the corridors. The exception was on one end of one level where you could book a room as a family crypt and reserve all the spaces for the rest of your family, individual spaces were still sealed, but at least you could all be together. The video showed some of these had pictures on the front of used areas, and it looked really nice. On a cost comparison basis it is cheaper than a cemetery plot on land as they are in effect working a number of people deep, and the island has a number of other uses.
Some of it was for me a bit too technical, they said bodies where about the same specific gravity as wood and water, so being down low was beneficial, and they had some gas detection equipment and the like that I didn't follow.
I was not sure I would want to live on top of or so near to so many dead bodies, but then again I suppose a lot of people live around cemeteries, and the areas we were in was completely separated from the vaults. Apparently the burial floors had doors like bank vaults and security systems because some people are buried with jewelry on or other valuables and the gold teeth alone would be worth a fortune.
For people who fear being buried alive they have a special service where for a period coffins are put into special areas with censors on, that detect the smallest noise, and then after a period when no one could be possibly alive they move on to the other section. We asked the person in the shop about this. She said there had been a lot of false alarms and caskets opened by paramedics but she did not know of anyone being found alive so far.
I didn't book a space for myself , but I am considering the family crypt and bought a copy of the video so I can show it to other family members when I get back home.
We went back to the forest and looked around further, we had been told that each walk way and tree had a number and that if we were to look for a particular tree a small plaque the equivalent of a miniature gravestones had been added for Uncle John. We had not noticed these before but on finding the tree we could see why, they were all on the sides of the tree away from the path. Apparently it was roughly over where he had been laid to rest, so was, I suppose the same as a gravestone but did not require anyone to maintain it. We also spotted that some of the rose bushes had large stakes next to them, that we had seen had labels on saying what sort of rose they were, and when they flowered etc, but some of these on the back also had memorial plates.
Feeling quite fit I climbed up to a viewing platform, from which I could see more of the island, and to my surprise I could see an area some way away that had a wedding party taking photos outside one of the chapels. One of the men I met at the viewpoint told me that all the chapels could be used for a verity of uses and that at any time one part was being used for funerals and another for weddings, but that some families had their favorite ones and could by prior arrangement choose the one they wanted to use. This at first seemed peculiar to me but thinking about it later I suppose it is no different to having a parish church undertaking a variety of services. He also told me that far down the other end in a concealed valley there was a stone circle that was used by people who had earth religions, and witchcraft followers, he said with a twinkle in his eye, that part of some of their services were done sky clad, later I found out that meant without any clothes on.
Back at the hotel at dinner that evening I joked that I was thinking of being buried here and laying down that they all had to go to a sky clad ceremony, this caused great laughter amongst the younger ones present and terror in the faces of some of my age, once they had it explained to them.
That evening we all decided to go out, but we broke into a number of groups, I really enjoyed it, and have decided that I am going to have a couple of weeks holiday here next year. Many of the younger ones are thinking of moving out here but all my friends and relatives are back home so I don't think its for me, and after all if we all moved here we wouldn't be able to look on it as such a dream holiday location.
The following day, we had the reading of Uncle Johns Will, he didn't have any children of his own and his wife had run off with someone else years ago. We didn't think he had much, but apparently by the time you took his house and a holiday home he had out here that had quadrupled in price since he got it a few years back, as well as a few shares and other bits, it added up to a lot more than we expected. To my surprise he had decided that after a few donations to charities, the rest be equally spread between all those who followed his wishes and attended his funeral.
As there was not that many of us who had made it out here, the sum was quite large, and particularly the younger couples with a double helping, had more than they were used to. A number of them used it as deposits for holiday homes out here and I must admit that I was very tempted to do the same. One of my cousins who was out here with her husband and had brought 3 children did best, and worked out that with their 5 shares, plus selling their existing home they could clear their existing mortgage and buy a really nice home out here, so the next day went and put down a deposit on a really nice home on a small estate, sitting on the top of an island that has a shopping center inside. They also both got jobs within the shopping center as buyers, the same jobs that they had at home and with no tax here, and now no mortgage to pay are going to feel as rich as royalty.
If I got a home here I think I would go for one on forest way island, I cant think of a nicer retirement home that I would in fact then never permanently leave again.
Copyright New Atlantis.