There is a Thai word that I have been using alot these past few days ... a word that describes bliss, happiness and a sense of elevated being. "Khwam Sukh". I love this word ... as I now love this country. I have heard so many wonderful things about Thailand over the years ... about her people rooted in spiritual strength, about her natural beauty, her culture and of course her food. Nothing has dissapointed and these past few days I have been in "Khwam Sukh" .... pure bliss. We are on Koh Phangan, an island on the Gulf Coast ... just north of Koh Samui. This is a large island with villages dotted all over and white sandy beaches that curve into the jungle from a turquoise sea. But this island is about so much more than an island holiday... thai culture is everywhere here. While I loved our time spent in the Dominican a few years back ... I feel that we left knowing nothing of the people or the culture of the place. All inclusives often don`t pretend to be more than a packaged escape from the stress of living a busy North American life. And this is ok. But to be here in Thailand is something so much richer. I am not surprised by all the Australians and the British people we have met that now call this country... and this island, their home. We have meet some wonderful people from all over the world here and have got to know a little of Thai culture. These people are amongst some of the most warm, kind, generous and welcoming people I have met. They are at peace ... happy... in Thai, "Yindi". Their smiles come just before their willingness to help and their open hearts embrace you honestly.
It took us almost two days to travel from Malayasia to here. With some mis-navigation on my behalf we ended up in Penang on the opposite coast, then took a long 12 hour, hot and cramped mini-bus through the bowels of southern Thailand, detouring into tiny rural villages to pick up and drop off. Once again the boys travelled beautifully, despite the conditions, despite the 40 degree humid heat that rarely dips in the evening hours. But the thought of another island paradise the following day fueled us for sure. So for the past 5 days we have once again immersed ourselves into island life, soaking up the energy, the heat, the food and the adventure. Yesterday we took a day long tour around the island that involved Thai Boxing, a visit to an incredible Buddhist temple on the highest peak here, where the boys learnt about the Noble Truths. We went snorkelling on the other side of the island, found ourselves on top of an elephant, tested our archery skills, went zip lining and faced our fear of heights in canopy bridges... (Ben excelled here - no fear whatsoever and zipped around the jungle like the monkeys he still fears so much. Jordan came up against his first real challenge and his fear of heights won the day - this time anyway). We topped the day off with a traditional Thai herbal sauna, actually a steam room, infused with over 20 herbs including lemongrass, mint and ecualyptus. Deliciously relazing and surprisingly doable even in the stiffling heat! Oh - did I mention the $9 one hour Thai massage that I both endured and enjoyed right on the beach the previous day?! Khaum Suak. Bliss
Our home for just one more night, is a traditional Thai beach bungalow - right on the beach. It is not fancy, but more than adequate and in fact I would have no problem settling in for several weeks. And at a cost of $30 per night - it is tempting! And this is not even the cheapest one. We eat Pad Thai and Green Curries for $3 (well the boys do their best to experience the local food - but ask me often if they can order a burger and fries. I endulge them once in a while but do try to insist they find something more traditonal. They have been happy to oblige for the most part - fries aside!! I will post a whole blog dedicated to food down the track as this has been an adventure in itself!)
Ben has stepped into his 12th year and we celebrated it in true Thai style. We lit traditional lanterns on the beach and Ben sent them into the heavens with his birthday wishes. Truly beautiful and forever memorable for us all. Khwam Sukh. Bliss. The following morning we watched as a professional tree climber scampered effortlessly up the tallest of coconut trees to harvest, well... coconuts! And to our delight we were giving one, cut and opened to enjoy! Coconut water from a can or bottle will never taste the same.
So the boys are finding their travel legs and for the most part our days are harmonious - except when they are not and we are all bickering at each other, usually out of tirdness, heat exhaustion or hunger. The boys have learnt so much these past few weeks but I have not yet started a formal school program. I must admit that the thought of this is exhausting for me. My days seem so full already with feeding hungry mouths and trying to avoid foods and water that will make us ill, with navigating our new surroundings and making sure we get the most out of our days, with also making sure we get rest, take vitamins and wear sunscreen. To plan for the next town, city or country. And to look for the best in everything ... However it must be done and we will begin their road-schooling program when the month turns.
So we will soon bid farwell to beautiful Thailand. We have not been here nearly long enough, but our time has been sweet. Next: A one hour taxi, three hour ferry, one hour bus and a twelve hour overnight sleeper train to get us to Bangkok, where we fly to India! Boys posts coming soon (when I can tie them down to pen and paper). And finally, a huge thanks to all of you for your warm, generous words of support. We love hearing from you!