A Wet Noodle in Koh Chang

A word of caution right up front. I’m writing under the influence. I’ve just had the best massage of my life and it might affect my writing. It was also the first time that I’ve paddled a kayak to get to a massage but it took a couple of very soggy tries to get there. See, I’m already writing out of order. Let me go back a few days.

Early Wednesday morning I was talking with a friend on Skype in the lobby of my guesthouse in Bangkok when a man approached me to say that my bus was here. The bus was to take me to Koh Chang, an island in the Gulf of Thailand about 4-5 hours away. It was a good sign that he had arrived 15 minutes early, or so I thought at the time. I had chosen this particular island because two Bangkok locals that I had met on the trek in Nepal recommended it when I mentioned I was looking for an island that was quiet, not full of tourists and fairly easy to get to. My guest house had a little travel agency so they sold me a cheap ticket for the bus and ferry and made all the arrangements.

The bus turned out to be a huge, comfortable double decker model. I settled in with my new headphones from the mall and my ipod for the ride. We didn’t get far. Just down the street we stopped to pick up more passengers and an hour later we were finally on the highway. Since the scenery appeared to be just miles and miles of the suburbs, I finally watched a movie I had downloaded on my ipad back in Hawaii, Finding Forrester. It was an interesting story (watch it if you haven’t) and I could check off a couple more hours. We stopped a couple of times – once for food and once for gas. The oppressive heat had followed us out of the city and we gratefully returned to air conditioned seats. As the hours inched along, we finally started to see signs of the coast, a fish packing plant and signs for beaches.

We stopped at a huge open pavilion where women asked us for our ferry tickets. After the paperwork was done, we waited over an hour for the open sided pickup truck to take us to the ferry. Once on the boat, it was at least another 45 minutes before we started to move. By the time we landed on Koh Chang, it was almost 10 hours since I got on the bus. So much for an easy to get to island.

Due to a communication error, the owner of the guest house was not at the landing as I had hoped. I struck up a conversation with a young German man who was going to the same part of the island as I was. Once again we piled into the back of a truck for a ride up and over the twisty mountain road, dropping passengers off at the aptly named, White Sand Beach, before our stop to a less touristy destination further south. The driver pointed down a dirt road and we both started walking not really sure where we were headed. It pays to travel with little luggage. About a mile down the road, a car came along side and I flagged it down. Saying the name of the guest house, they showed me the back seat and I piled in saying goodbye to my German friend and wishing him luck. They smiled and left me at the gate of a resort. It wasn’t where I was staying but at least I didn’t have to walk so far. The resort owner pointed further down the road. I put my pack on my back and resumed my trek.

I recognized the boardwalk through the mangrove swamp from the pictures on the website. Home, sweet home for most of a week has been a small rebuilt fisherman’s cottage on stilts over a small river that runs to the sea. There are 3 small rooms and a two room family suite with its own deck. I scored the suite because the air conditioning wasn’t working in the room I had reserved. Things were looking up.

The next day they got even better. Barefoot, I walked a mile down the beach to Baan Zen yoga where I had enrolled for a 3 day yoga/zen intensive retreat that I found online. When I arrived, I discovered that the other participant hadn’t shown up. Joy, a delightful French woman about my age, said she would be willing to teach just me but I would have to work very hard. She wasn’t kidding. For 3 days I walked the mile down the beach first thing in the morning, worked for close to 2 hours, walked back to my cottage and repeated the process again at 5 p.m. Joy’s home is a beautiful wooden structure surrounded by tropical gardens and includes a hexagonal deck that sits out over a canal. Out of six sessions I only got to be outside one night and that’s because is has been raining. It has been raining a lot.

Normally, the rainy season here begins in June but due to global warming or just bad luck, I have experienced storm after storm. The first morning I woke to huge claps of thunder and tropical down pours. Out on the river in a kayak one afternoon, I got caught in a drenching rain. Walking up and down the beach, suddenly a storm would come up. I’ve traveled everywhere, except the kayak, with a huge umbrella and waterproof ziplock bags.

Today, without the schedule of my classes, I got up early and finally took a walk down to the other end of the beach about 2 miles without getting wet except from the warm ocean waves. It could have been anywhere tropical. There were the palm trees waving in the breeze, waves rolling into shore, coconuts lying around here and there but the writing in the sand was in Thai script, the shells were different, the families were all Thai and the fish caught in the tidal pool were brightly colored. This is a holiday weekend here and families were out in force doing the usual beach things. I was one of only two westerners I saw. When I offered to take a group photo of some teenage girls, they all thanked me the same way with hands in prayer position by their hearts and a nod of their heads.

Once I got back and had a little breakfast at a beach side restaurant, it started raining, but at least I had finished my walk. It doesn’t rain all the time but I have managed to read a whole paperback thriller I found on the swap shelf here. I’ve also experienced some incredible yoga classes. Joy has twisted and shaped me into all kinds of impossible positions and had me doing long and complicated breathing and meditation exercises. The result was that I felt energy moving through my body in a way I’ve never experienced before. At one point I thought she was tapping on my back until I realized she was sitting across the room. Apparently, I’ve been unblocking and rearranging my energy centers and it’s all good. At least, I feel great!

And that was all before the massage. A quick paddle across the river brought me to a massage school that I had heard about. On my second try, I arrived fairly dry, tied up the boat and settled into a small room. Thai massage is done clothed but they handed me a pair of shorts and a little top to wear. I’d had a massage done like this several weeks ago but this time there was a lot more pressure and I was once again twisted into some unusual positions. I thought I was all stretched out from 3 days of yoga but this therapist managed to find new ways to stretch my body. Later, she started in with an oil massage of my back, shoulders and neck. When she left the room, I thought it was over but in short order she was back with a heated bag of sand which she managed to use to great, relaxing affect all over my back. After a cup of tea and about $12 for an hour and a half, I managed to paddle the boat back to my little home here. I finished my book and got out my ipad and here I am. It’s been raining as I write but the sun is coming out as the drips lessen their pace. There’s supposed to be a good restaurant right across the river for a nice final dinner here before I leave in the morning. Think I should chance it?

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9 Comments

  1. Connie G.

     /  May 6, 2012

    Dear Ellen,
    Beautiful tales! I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s jealous of the $12 massage! I love the way you’re plunging into your experiences wholeheartedly. Your travels would make a good book . . . . We’re done with the SATs for now, and I was amazed at how fast the boys adjusted to the time change after their African trip. See you soon!

    Reply
  2. Sue Janos

     /  May 6, 2012

    Ellen you look marvelous, and I am enjoying your posts so much. Thank you for sharing your adventures!

    Reply
  3. margery

     /  May 6, 2012

    A smiling dancing wave of a woman. You look resplendant, like a Balinese dancing girl! Transcendant.
    Dance on.

    Reply
  4. Marty Mueller

     /  May 6, 2012

    Great stuff, Ellen, great stuff!
    Hobbes and I just got back from our own small adventure hiking the hills over Cougar Bay on a sparkling Idaho morning, but you are the QUEEN of adventure!
    Thanks for sharing it with us all.

    Reply
  5. Pam Perkins

     /  May 6, 2012

    I’m going to miss reading your blogs when you return home. Having a great time so far
    On the Mississippi.

    Reply
  6. Barbara

     /  May 7, 2012

    Okay, did you end up going across the river for dinner??? I’m jealous of not only your trip but your adventurous spirit. It all sounds so wonderful.

    Reply
  7. Dawn Fogarty

     /  May 7, 2012

    Simply marvelous : )

    Reply
  8. Jane Rosser

     /  May 8, 2012

    What a GREAT trip and the we can feel the humidity and glorious heat!

    Reply
  9. Hi there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I
    came to check it out. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
    Excellent blog and wonderful design and style.

    Reply

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