Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"Seriously. Somebody PUH-LEESE shave my armpits"

This was Tiffany's cry for help. Loudly, and in an internet cafe. And if you know Tiff, for her to acknowledge an overgrowth of body hair it has got to be pretty bad. The reason for the immense desire for a razor was because we went to a place called the Sanctuary with the intention on staying one night. Seven days later we finally left. Tiff had to make a stop at home to get us clean clothes and a razor after about day five. We had been washing our two pair of underwear in the shower and pretty much wearing the same thing everyday (because we only packed for one night). We kept thinking "ok, one more day." I guess that's how it is when you travel, you fall in love with a place and don't want to leave.

So let me back up a bit and tell you how we wound up in the Sanctuary in the first place. I arrived in Koh Phagnan on the 23rd. We were supposed to leave for India on the 30th, but Tiffany had visa issues so we aren't leaving until June 8th. When Tiff was in Thailand for the first time 5 years ago she lived and taught yoga at the Sanctuary and always told me what a magical place it is (I use that word a lot to describe Koh Phagnan, but it's really one of the few that truly fits) so we decided to go there for a night.

Tiffany's house is in the Northwest part of the island in a quiet somewhat secluded area near where she is studying yoga--a place called Seetanu, and her beach area is Haad Joa Phoa ("Haad" means beach, "Koh" means island). The Sanctuary is on the Southeast side of the island close to the crazy beach where the Full Moon Party is each month (more on that in a bit--this might be a lengthy blog...) To get to Haad Tien where the Sanctuary is you must take a water taxi from Hadd Rin (the party section of town). The boat ride is breathtaking...

The Sanctuary is a "resort" of sorts. It has beautiful bungalows on cliffs over looking the beach and ocean. It also has the economy rooms--in our case, a dorm, which we shared with 8 other people. We slept on 1" thick mattresses on the floor, under mosquito nets (which I LOVE) in a hot, un-airconditioned, no fans, room right above a noisy restaurant. Sounds like resort living, eh? But, we paid about 3 dollars a night. The first night I went to get in the shower (community shower) and found a frog hopping around. The frog got into the shower because part of the ceiling opens into the jungle so whatever wildlife creatures are hanging around are free to be little voyeurs and watch you bathe. There is also a large boulder jutting into the bathroom, so it was a perfect place to hang a towel or clothes. There is no hot water, but this is never a problem because it's usually so hot that there is no desire to take a hot shower.

If the thought of a frog in the shower is enough to make you squirm, then Koh Phagnan might not be the place for you. In Tiffany's house there is a spider that occupies the bathroom that we fondly refer to as "Mamacita." She is about an inch in diameter (her body, not her legs) and is brown and furry. These are all over, and they kinda just chill--like big, friendly mosquito traps. But, the spider that hangs outside of her house over the hammock is a different story. It's legs are longer than my fingers, it's a vibrant black and yellow, and from what we understand it's best to steer clear of them--they look like a giant caution sign so I think they are telling you to stay away. Spiders are just the tip of the iceberg--apparently there is a giant (literally) snake living close to Tiffany's house. A Thai friend of ours saw it a few nights ago--they've been referring to it as an "anaconda" but we don't think actual anacondas live in Thailand. Anyway, the thing is like 15 feet long about a foot in diameter and when Pi Pat saw it she said it looked like it had just swallowed a chicken whole by the bulge in it's belly. We haven't seen it yet--which I guess is a good thing, but I'd love to get a picture...(we think it's a constrictor, so as long as we don't allow it to wrap around us and squeeze we should be golden.)

Ha! What a fantastic marketing representative I am for this place...I've made it sound scary as hell, but really, it's one of my favorite places in the world. You do not have to "rough it" and can stay in real resort areas that Westerners are used to. Some of the bugs will still be around but luxury can be found--and at such reasonable prices! There are very few hotels on the island. Instead, there are tons of bungalows usually ranging from 150-2500 baht, so $5-$75 dollars. For 150 baht you get a room with a bed and a mosquito net and you'll have a community bathroom/shower. For $2500 you will have a totally luxurious room with air conditioning, hot water, TV/DVD, a pool, front porch, gorgeous view (which also come with the cheap ones)--reallly nice. And then there is an obvious range in between. Getting to Thailand is the expensive part--once you are here you can vacation relatively cheaply.

Ok, back to what I've been doing...we stayed a Tiffs for a few nights before we took off to the Sanctuary. The yoga season is ending so there was a farewell party at one of her friends houses. This party did not include any alcohol...instead there were raw chocolate aphrodisiac bliss balls being passed out. Wow. Not only did they taste fantastic, the effect they had was like a total natural, euphoric high. Everyone that was there is studying tantric yoga--and if you are anything like me, the only thing I'd ever heard about Tantra before was about how Sting is tantric and he can have sex for days on end. (I know, all my guy friends are like "sign me up!") There is definitely a sexual aspect to Tantra, but from what I've learned, it is really focused on the chakras, or energy centers in the body. It teaches how to use/maximize this energy through yoga--with the ultimate outcome being spiritual enlightenment. It's interesting stuff. A little much for me to digest, but I'm always open to learning more.

So after all the yogis said goodbye, we hopped on Tiff's motorbike (which I've also discovered I love--such a great feeling to be zipping down a deserted island road with the sea to your right and a jungle to your left, only passing a car or other motorbikes every couple of minutes--there is something really freeing about it) and went to Thong Sala, a nearby town where we hopped in a taxi (which is really a pick-up truck with benches in the back) and headed to Haad Rin, the very developed part of the island. We can't take Tiff's bike all the way there because the roads are pretty treacherous and she drives like a grandma. From Hadd Rin we caught the water taxi to Haad Tien and that brings me back to the Sanctuary.

The first 3 days we spent catching up, having lots of "Tiff and Maggie" conversations, kinda living in our own world. We'd get up, eat a great breakfast, swim for a while, lay in some hammocks, nap, eat lunch, maybe swim some more, lay around some more, do yoga, talk, eat dinner and go to bed. It was rough. But, after a few days of this, we got tired of hearing our own voices and decided to start meeting the people staying there. Many of them were doing fasts (3-7 days of no food and lots of colonics...). Others were there for relaxing vacations that include a bunch of yoga and good (vegetarian) food. I am not a vegetarian, but the food there was fantastic. We met two young guys from London who were studying Thai boxing--there was a Thai boxing ring in the jungle right by the Sanctuary so they were staying in our dorm. Jonathan and Ben, great guys who we'll probably see again when we are in London. It wasn't long before we could go down to the restaurant and sit at any table because we had made friends with everyone--that's sort of how it works, you stay there long enough and you build a little community. And the people you meet are all so interesting. I thought my trip was big--4 months. In comparison, I am a complete novice. Some of these people have been traveling for 12-18 months. They often plant themselves someplace for six months at a time and work, sink into the culture, and then move on and do it again. So many cool stories...

And like I said, we thought we were only going for a night. So we were absolutely disgusting when it came to hygiene. We seriously had bathing suits, 2 pair of underwear each, yoga clothes and the clothes we arrived in. Tiff kept telling me that I need to learn how to be dirty cause in India we'll likely be much dirtier, but 5 days in the same clothes, when it's 90 degrees outside gets pretty gross. And when Tiffany is complaining about needing to shave you know the situation has come to drastic measures.

Her revelation came in the middle of us checking our email at the internet cafe. It was like her own body odor overwhelmed her so much that she blurted it out without even thinking about it--and we weren't the only people in there!! I almost fell out of my chair laughing because she said it so loudly and with such disgust, yet the woman at the computer next to her refused to even look up. (She was probably trying to finish whatever she was typing and get out of there ASAP because she was getting ill sitting next to us).

That was just one of the many times I laughed until I cried since I've seen Tiff. I has been SO GOOD to be with her again. We met almost 20 years ago, lived together in college and just know each other inside and out. We travel easily together because we can be completely honest about if we are annoyed, need space, feel weird, scared, etc. And we think we are hilarious, so even when there is no other entertainment around we can easily occupy ourselves. For example, we were sitting on the beach the other night having a typical female over-analyzation type of conversation when Tiffany says "To be completely honest with you, he would have been a perfect boyfriend...if he was just somebody else." I lost it. A quote like this comes out at least once a day. I should start documenting them.

So most nights at the Sanctuary were pretty quiet, but we happened to be there for the Full Moon Party. This is a monthly party, obviously the night of the full moon, on Haad Rin. Thousands and thousands of people come the the beach and party until midmorning the following day. When I was here in January we went and had a blast (It is where I met Marcus, the guy in Japan). So I talked Tiff into going again. Now, you have to prepare yourself because it is like Spring Break Cancun x 10. They serve drinks in buckets called "buckets" (original) that include some bottle of liquor, coke, redbull, and 6 or 7 straws. It's nuts. Tiff and I stuck with beer, because buckets seem a little excessive and scary with the wide open-ness of them...inviting shady people to drop whatever they'd like into them. We were walking through the party and suddenly this Thai guy came up to me and put a baby monkey in my arms. It was so cute, but looked so sad. He then pretty much forced Tiff and I to get our picture taken with it for 200 baht. (like 6 bucks) Tiffany cried. She was sad for the monkey....

There are also these crazy people that twirl fire on ropes/sticks/stilts, whatever. It is so cool, but then you get these dumbass drunk westerners that want to try it but then you see them the next day with bandages on their arms/legs/face from burning themselves. Usually the party ends a few hours after the sun comes up with people passed out all over the beach. Tiff and I took the water taxi back to Haad Tien at about 3:30am. We must be getting old.

Something that I notice about Thai and other SE Asian cultures, is that they place much more focus on resting and relaxing than we do. They recognize the importance of stopping, breathing, being quiet for a while. It is in this time that you remember the important things and regain perspective. We say things like "There aren't enough hours in the day"--because we have that much to do??!? Why??? We never stop to rest. We burn ourselves out. I've felt more alive because I've had this quiet time, this time to think rather than going, going, going and missing out on whats really going on. It's weird, because at first you feel guilty, like "I should be doing something" but, then you realize that always having something to do, always feeling a sense of responsibility isn't really good, it's exhausting. We forget about the things that are really the most important--family, loved ones, laughing, learning, enjoying ourselves and focus so much on money, work, material things. It's cliche, but I think about when I die, what would I more likely say-- "I wish I had spent more time with my family/friends, seen more of the world, had more experiences, been happier" OR "I wish I would have gotten that promotion, had more money, worked harder, etc" and the answer is so simple. We have so much in the US, but in my opinion we have it all backwards--we have so much stuff...but what else? Do we really have our priorities straight?

This has been a haphazard-ish blog. I had so much to write about that it probably came out a little disjointed. Thailand is truly magical. The Sanctuary is fabulous. And doing all of this with one of my best friends in the whole world makes it perfect.

If you are interested in the Sanctuary the website is

Oh, and one more cool thing. I am getting my open water scuba diving certification. I've been in class for the past 3 days. I did my first real dives today and LOVED it. More on that later too!

Till India...


Misti said...

Maggie -

Your blog is not only inspiring, but I've cried a couple of times reading it. It rings true for me too! Especially the one entitled "Alone...". Wow. I'm feeling ya!

I can tell you and Tiff are having a blast. I'm so happy for both of you. And hopefully you've had the chance to shave since you're blog. Although I think I'm responding on the same day you wrote it.

You are a great writer by the way! I enjoy reading your blog - not just because I know ya, but because its very well written.

Tell Tiff I said I love her. Best wishes on a continued amazing adventure and be safe.

Misti :-)

Joe said...

HI, You really enjoyed your blog. Good job.
New life centre