Being on the sailboat for 5 days was interesting, we learned a lot about how self-sufficient a person would have to be to live as cheap as they do. I’d like to try some day (be able to live comfortably on virtually nothing), but not right now. Unfortunately it ended up being a bit cramped on the boat (7 people) and we didn’t really liking the guy who was the captain. He was arrogant and didn’t listen to a word we said. So after a few days in a harbor we jumped ship and stayed at this little beach called Ko Ma on the island of Koh Pha Ngan.
Ko Ma is an “islet” – a small island connected by a sand bar to the bigger island of Koh Pha Ngan, so it was a very cool environment to be visiting.
We lived in another cheap hut, motor scooted around the island and just hung out in general. Driving was tough on the island because – for some damn reason – they built their roads going straight up hills rather than around them at shallower grades. Some of the roads had “CAUTION!” for a 20% grade and when you went up the hill you were looking straight up at the sky, just holding on. The worst were the hills leading to the southern-most point on the island, Hat Rin.
At Hat Rin they have an immense Full Moon Party that attracts up to 25,000 people on two little connected beaches. We were lucky enough to be on Koh Pha Ngan for the full moon party! which we didn’t go to because it’s just not our scene.
Our scene is more like the following: A monastery in the jungle. We drive through the gates and down a long driveway to a series of small white buildings behind the main temple. It’s humid, warm and the light is beginning to die. There are people sitting on steps in sarongs or shorts, and we walk into a little courtyard where a guy shows us where to change. I got a plaid blue and red sarong. It was awesome.
We use a bucket and dipper to shower quickly, then up the steps and into one of the two doors for the sauna – men on the left, women on the right. Open and close the door quickly or people will complain. Inside, the first thing I notice is there’s almost no light except a little natural light coming through a couple slits on the side. The ceiling is about 5 feet high and the little room is about 4 feet wide and 12 feet deep – about the size and shape of a large coffin. It’s a steam sauna – very humid – and they infuse the steam with herbs like lemon grass and maybe menthol. Taking a deep breath cleans out your lungs, you can feel it go down your throat and into your chest. On each side run tiled seats where there’s – oh – 9 people packed in, sweating, talking, meditating. Because of the hot yoga I’ve been doing at home for the last 9 months, I felt confident enough to sit in the sauna without panicking, which I’m sure I would have done otherwise.
After rinsing dead skin off our bodies outside the sauna, we find the host again. He takes us back to a small open building that has a roof and three walls, the last side being a curtain that separates the room from the main courtyard. A nun takes me, lays me down on a pad and sheet and gives me the best massage I’ve ever had – she uses tons of oil (again, herb-infused) and is very very patient. She knows her shit, you can tell. For an hour I just let her tell me what to do, and I relax and listen to the rain and whatever’s going on in the courtyard outside.
Finally, I return to the sauna and sweat the oil out of my pores and meet Azure, who looks like a new person.
Koh Pha Ngan wasn’t bad. We actually liked it a lot, probably our favorite place so far as long as we weren’t near Hat Rin.
Right now we’re in Bangkok, which is a manic mix of very modern malls, gritty neighborhoods and the most touristy backpacker areas you can imagine. There’s an immense flea market on weekends where we’re going to blow a bunch of money when we get closer to the end of our trip. Diesel Jeans for $10!
As I was writing this, Azure was booking a flight to Chiang Mai in the north. We’re leaving tomorrow evening. There are jewelry making classes, cooking classes and boxing classes. I’m… so excited.
I hope you’re all enjoying your Decembers. Write back with gossip!
Mike and Azure.