Life at the Beach

I have landed at simply the best place I could imagine being right now. Some very wise energy guided me here and I had the good sense to listen to it. Tiger Hut on Khlong Prao Beach on Koh Chang Island in Thailand is very likely my last stop before returning to Bangkok for my flight to Tokyo and then onto San Francisco. But it wasn’t meant to be this way. And it surely wasn’t a linear decision-making process. It never is.

I had actually meant to visit Koh Chang earlier, when I was in Cambodia. But after touring around the country, I got way-laid on Otres Beach, then kaptivated with Kampot and Kep, all of which were fine decisions. So I blew off Koh Chang and chalked it up to one more place I wouldn’t get to visit. The list was long and getting longer all the time and I was fine with it.

Once I arrived in Thailand, I planned to spend some time in Nong Khai, which I did. From there, one option was to go back to Bangkok and arrange all the necessary doings to get to Myanmar. Once I realized I didn’t have it in me to make all that happen, I decided instead that I’d head into Northern Thailand – spend a good chunk of time hanging out in Chiang Mai, doing a meditation retreat & some great shopping at its famous market; and then take in yet more beauty and antiquity at the sites of Sukothai and Ayuthaya before heading back to Bangkok to catch my flight.

But all that changed once I got to Luang Prabang. I was tired. I was worn out from the heat and there was no hope that the temperatures would soften; in fact, it promised to get hotter. Once I took that much-needed time to rest and relax, I realized that my major touring time was done. While my thirst for exploration had not necessarily been completely satiated, I simply couldn’t do it.

The beach sounded like the best alternative; if it was going to be this hot (and it was), then being somewhere I was sure to love (as only the beach can deliver) and also where I could get relief from the heat was the only answer. But in searching the internet, the southern Thai islands were not so appealing for a variety of reasons: they were too far away – 2+ days of travel (one way); they were expensive and these days, over-developed and heavily touristed; and the monsoon season was well underway. What to do? Where to go? Further cruising around the internet and my travel notes brought me ‘back’ to Koh Chang. While it too would take some getting to (but only a day of travel), it looked like the best option.

And so it is!

I take the time to write all these figuring-out details to illustrate, in however small a way, some of what it takes to figure out being out here. And I’m bloody well done figuring things out! All I’ve got to do now is get my ass back to Bangkok for my late night flight on Tuesday, June 21st. I’m fairly sure I can manage that! Until then, you’ll find me here on the beach!

I love this freedom to move as I like, to change course and direction at my whim and to keep on listening to that inner voice that guides me all the while. It’s the freedom I felt, for one small example, at Cinderella’s on Otres Beach in Cambodia – a place I loved – when suddenly, in the middle of the night, I realized that it was time to leave the next morning. So there I was in my sweet little hut at one o’clock in the morning, unexpectedly packing up my things for my departure the next morning that I hadn’t known was coming five minutes prior. It doesn’t always make sense; but that’s part of the freedom – it doesn’t have to. There’s no explaining it to anyone, not even to myself. I just keep on paying attention to that voice within that knows and always steers my course in the ‘right’ direction.

I’ve been here for the better part of a week; and it seems my touring time has indeed come to a close. While there’s plenty of integration time to come when I’m back in the States, the time has arrived for digesting all of what I’ve experienced over the past four months and having play time at the beach. I’m very pleased with this decision. Ohsure, it’s possible that I may get a bee in my bonnet (!) that has me hankering for some exploration. If that happens, it’s a mighty big island (the 2nd largest in Thailand after Phuket); so I’ll rent myself a motorbike and cruise around this densely rain-forested, mountainous island paradise. Yep, I’ll likely even go to the tourist enclave and check that scene out for an afternoon. But looking for the next new place or wanting to find ‘the’ most fabulous beach – nope – I’m already here. There’s no place else to look for. I’ve arrived. And I am deeply and satisfyingly content.

Now that I’ve got nowhere to go, nothing to do and plenty of time to do it in, there’s a lovely languid energy that’s taken over. Not that I’ve felt myself rushing around on this journey – not at all – but it feels different being here knowing that I don’t have to figure out any more travel details. There’s nothing else to plan or arrange. Now I get to just be in a way that’s different and not nearly as apparent when I’m in travel mode. A few times since being here I’ve found myself thinking, “oh, I’ve got to get in the water right now or I’ve got to go check that place out at the end of the beach or … only to realize that I don’t have to do a damn thing – besides, even if I do want to do those things, I’ve got two more full weeks to do them in, more than plenty of time! Then, realizing that, I relax a little deeper, take that swim when I feel like it and spend a whole lot of time just be-ing. What a fine, true sense of luxury this is.

A natural flow of my days has begun to take shape and it’s generally arranged around a few simple activities:

Beach walks

Writing

Swimming

Reading

Eating

Napping and Sleeping

Beach walks

Ohhhh, the mornings here are exquisite and the time I mostly choose for walking before the heat of the sun and the day sets in. The sea is calm and the beach is quiet. The waves are gentle, soft and small in the mornings; sometimes they stay that way throughout the day; sometimes they build in intensity as the days wear on (but never anywhere near too rough to easily walk into the water); and sometimes they’re large enough to enjoy some easy body-surfing. The early morning tide carries the sea way, way out so that the water that’s literally lapping just centimeters from my door in the late afternoons and evenings is, upon waking, at least a 3-minute walk away.

This makes for fine beach-combing and creates a wide, flat beach ideal for walking. I’m reminded as I stroll how much I love to walk along a beach in quiet meditation – there’s no goal of getting anywhere, necessarily –the journey here truly is the destination. I am enchanted simply with the walking. Today was a day much like that – hours spent reading (another post addresses that!); walking the beach with my gaze intermittently wide and long, taking in the vast kaleidoscope of beach, ocean, sky, horizon and softly-rounded mountains; and other times focused with precise focus on the infinitesimally small seashells that line the entire shoreline.

As I was walking today, thinking about how it is that I could so easily and blissfully fill an entire day simply with reading and beachcombing and feeling so richly content as a result; words from Mary Oliver came to me. “Tell me, what else should I have done?”

I had to come back to the computer and read the entire poem, apropos as it is as we come around to the Summer Solstice. Most of us are familiar with the last lines of this poem, perhaps some of the most potent of any poem. I’m no Mary Oliver, but I, too, know how to pay attention; and I know how to bow in reverence and awe of the natural world and how to feel the appreciation that comes from feeling so very, very blessed. Today was one of those kinds of days.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean –
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down –
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

~ Mary Oliver

So, yes I take beach walks every day. Tiger Hut is perfectly positioned just about smack dab in the middle of the beach. Sometimes I walk in one direction and then sometimes in the other. In one direction a river meets the sea, so walking in that area means forging the river, which in the morning, is not very deep. But it also means I have to keep track of the tide, lest the water gets too deep to cross for my return. The beach is about 4 kilometers long (annoying as it may be with my measuring distance in kilometers instead of miles, just think of it as my contribution to helping the U.S. join the rest of the world in the use of the metric system – really, it’s simple – a km is about 60% of a mile – do the math, it’s good for your brain!), with beachside restaurants, hotels and upscale resorts, but none of them overbearing to the natural fauna within which they’re hidden. I find a place for breakfast if I’m feeling hungry; but mostly I just wander, daydream, wade through the sea, take a swim, and gaze out on the teal-colored sea to the horizon and the green-covered islands offshore. I feel the sea breeze as it caresses my skin, the soft sand tickling my toes and the warm, warm sea soothing my body. And I smile. I smile a lot! Ohyeah, and I look for seashells! Which makes me smile even more!

Writing

YES! I’m also in the perfect place for writing. There are few people around; and as the days go by, it seems there are fewer and fewer. Sometimes there are only a dozen or so that I see across the long expanse of the beach. The views are simply stunning. Like right now, as I’m lounging on the covered, wooden deck, where I spend a good part of most days, the sea breeze keeping me cool and the sea just steps away. I’m all set – I’m plugged into electricity so I don’t have to be concerned about battery power; I’m surrounded with beauty everywhere I look and especially now, as the sun sinks into the sea and shades of pink, golden yellow, soft cerulean and purplish gray fill the wispy clouds and sky. And now, oh now, the moon is here, reflecting its crystallized moonbeams across the small rippling waves as they meet the powdery sand.

So yes, the setting couldn’t be more sublime to keep nurturing and allowing for this beloved expression of myself through the words that flow with ease and pleasure.

Swimming

The water couldn’t be warmer nor gentler. It’s got a soft, sandy bottom and I can walk into the sea for what feels like forever and still touch the ground. I love that, I love being far out in the water but still have a feeling of safety and ease in returning to shore. I spend hours every day in the sea – early morning, afternoon, evening and although not yet in the dark of night, that’s coming soon, I’m sure. There’s not much else to say about it except that few things in life give me the sensual pleasure I feel when I’m submerged in salt water.

Reading

Even though I’ve been writing (and planning onward travel arrangements) much more than I’ve been reading thus far on the trip, I’ve read about 15 books (yep, there’s a list <not an app!> for that, too – LOL). But now that my days are so wide open, reading has garnered more of my attention. And what better place to read than the beach!

So I’ve got my Kindle loaded up in a way that should keep me going for the duration of the trip and I am all set! Yes indeed, I love my Kindle! (See my other post, “I’m Smitten” for more about how reading has taken center stage lately!)

Eating

Wow – the food here at Tiger Hut is amazing! Seeing how simple the place is, I didn’t expect such delicacies to emerge out of the kitchen, but the women are making magic in there and I’ve told them so! While I’ve had some meals on my walks, the food here is preferable with authentic Thai flavors, reasonable prices and so very close to home! I’m determined to make my way through most of their extensive menu, many items of which, although I’m more than familiar with Thai food, are new to me!

I had probably the best Pad Thai of my life the other night – a bit spendy at $2.33, but hey, I’m worth it!

The fruit shakes are outstanding (mango, pineapple, banana, lemon – all lusciously refreshing), the mixed veggies with all sorts of sauces and spices are perfectly cooked and so tasty – yes, I feel very well taken care of in the food department!

Napping and Sleeping

Ahhh, there’s nothing like a good afternoon nap after the exhausting mornings I’ve been having! But for some reason, I do get a little sleepy, so I fall asleep as I did this afternoon, on the covered deck or on my bed with the fan keeping me cool and the window and door open to let in the ever-present sea breeze. It must be that salt air or all the reading and writing; I don’t know, but if I feel like napping, then I do and it feels luxurious and delicious.

My night-time sleep is a bit more interrupted at times – I read late into the night; and if I’ve been writing, it takes a while to quiet my mind from all that’s been flowing out of me. It doesn’t matter of course, I can sleep and wake whenever I want to; but I do so like the early mornings when I’m awake for them.

Maybe it’s the night-time storms – we’re in the rainy season; and while there’s been some rain during the day, most of it seems to come at night (and when I’m out walking and the furthest from TH!). There was a huge thunderstorm my first night here, its rattling claps waking me out of a dead sleep. I wondered for a moment about what kind of roof my little hut had, but was relieved to remember it was the palapa style. But then I wondered whether the clothes I had hanging outside were getting soaked (yes, they were, I found out) and whether I oughta get up and check on them – and then and then and then – lots of thoughts, rolling and tossing, but not much sleep as the storm surged outside. I’m getting more accustomed to them, though, and as I do, a more comfortable rhythm to my sleep has come.

Already I love falling asleep to the sound of the crashing waves at my door and the pitch black of the night that envelopes me here.

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Even though I’m still feeling kinda lonely, the beach seems to make up for it. Although I can’t remember the last substantive conversation I’ve had (besides those on skype!), that doesn’t have the sting to it like it has at other times on the trip. There are some other travelers staying here, but overall it’s pretty quiet with only a few people about during the day. Dinner time brings the most people here (I’m not sure where they’re coming from as one can’t really walk the beach at night with the tide bringing the water up so high), but all of them are couples or foursomes. Unlike at the Mut Mee, at least some of them say hello, but most of them don’t look beyond who they’re with for any further contact. I noticed a single woman in a hut near mine and we exchanged waves across the way, only to discover that she’s Russian and doesn’t speak a word of English, except to say, “No speak English.” Since I haven’t brushed up on my Russian lately, it’s only smiles and waves we can exchange. Ohwell.

It’s been one of the most surprising parts of this trip for me, the lack of a particular kind of intimate contact, let alone just the friendly kind – but it doesn’t feel like a lacking anymore. I’ve gotten used to and accepting of it now. This trip is clearly about something other than that kind of connection.

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The closest internet connection is a good walk away; and while I was initially disappointed not to have it on site, the distance from it feels like another important way for me to take this time as a retreat from what’s most commonly been the ever-present connection to the greater world. Unplugged and grateful for it, although with the number of posts adding up, it will be time soon to find that Internet café and let my world beyond the beach know a bit of what I’ve been up to!

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As I’ve walked the entire length of the beach now and checked out other accommodation options, Tiger Hut is clearly the best choice for me. There are no other such huts anywhere along the beach and the next closest option is more than double the price. So while it’s by no means fancy here; I’ve got everything I need, it satisfies my simple life on the beach and it helps to rein in my living costs which have been much higher, overall, than I had anticipated for the trip.

Next door, there’s the quite posh and opulent Paniman Resort – I checked it, out of course, and even took a short swim in one of their incredible pools (just in time before one of the staff showed up!). The architecture is meant to be Thai temple-esque style and they’ve pulled it off in a good way. In a parallel universe, I’m staying there right now, in one of their $200+ a night rooms, with my hot, sexy, attentive, funny, spiritually and psychologically aware lover who simply adores me. No, really I am!

As for this universe, I’m fine right here. And who knows, that lover may just walk right into Tiger Hut one of these days! Then again, maybe not … but either way, I’m truly grateful to be here and to call Tiger Hut home before I make my way to the Bay and to one of my other beloved homes! But from all reports that I’m receiving from there, it bloody well better warm up before my arrival; or as Mary says, “There’ll be hell to pay!”

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There’s got to be some downside to life here on the beach – it’s the real world, after all. And there is. It’s those nasty sand fleas that hounded me and covered me in welts on Otres Beach. They’re doing the same damn thing to me here. My beautifully-bronzed skin is covered in the itchiest-imaginable, swollen red blotches. Mosquitoes don’t seem to be around much; but these sand fleas, which I’ve never seen (they’re purportedly smaller than mosquitoes and this year, they say, they’re especially prolific and aggressive), are a force to reckon with. I’ve gone through two tins of tiger balm already and soon onto my third, no doubt. While it gives some relief, still, the itchy-ness is driving me crazy. Arghhhh!

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I’ve decided I will take that motorbike ride in the next days and I’ll make it to the local dental clinic for a cleaning. Ohyes and of course I’ll have to go and get a Thai massage soon.

But other than that, my days are simultaneously filled and empty right here on this gorgeous stretch of beach in the Gulf of Thailand. And that’s all there is to say. For now, anyway!

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