It´s long. It´s colorful. It´s kinda exotic. It´s just lying there, big, bold, and beautiful, lazing around in the light summery rain.
Is it a giant tree trunk gone bonkers? Is it a vehicle coming straight out of a South-East-Asian fairytale? It might be the latter, but then again, how would I know – this is my very first time in incredible, majestic Thailand after all!! I do know one thing, though: I have been here all of five minutes, and I am already in love. Maybe even head over heels in love!
Moonson musings and first impressions
It´s the middle of October and the rains, as I will learn during the next weeks, are a reliable force to be reckoned with throughout these monsoon months… Sometimes they appear as a welcome friend that ever so lightly taps on your shoulder and caresses your sun-kissed cheeks, sometimes they like to make a dramatic entrance and throw a thunder-clothed tantrum as if they, and only they, own the place. Which they kinda do, when they turn into torrential downpours that sweep away almost anything that dares to defy them, which is not a rare occurrence during the rainy season, that typically lasts from July to October.
Besides rains, there are dazzling beaches here on Thailand´s largest and most developed island jewel Phuket. Glorious, long, sandy, dreamy, inviting beaches like Kata Beach, Freedom Beach, Katai Noi Beach, or Karon Beach, some of them with the typical longboats (yes, the tree trunks aka fairytale thingies!!) dotted around, and smiling Thai fishermen working around them.
Running into the Andaman sea while the rain is in its friendly light appearance-mode is a particular pleasure: The sea waters are warm and all-encompassing, while the light rain pattering onto your head and face feels refreshing and invigorating at the same time. Add the visual deliciousness of the pure green-blue waters and an incomparable view to the experience, and you might begin to feel in your deepest core what makes Thailand´s islands so irresistibly alluring.
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Burmese Beach encounters and Buddhist notions of peace
My two weeks in Phuket are an excursion into a wonder-full world of kind, gentle people, fantastic, albeit at times hair-raisingly spicy meals like Tom Yum Kung (a soup dish with a fried chili and chili base, ay ay ay!), to-die-for-massages (try a Thai massage at Sweet Lemongrass Massage in Patong – ay ay ay!) , and raunchy nightlife (head to Soi Bangla Road for the authentic, loud, obnoxious to outragingly fun version of Thai nightlife pleasures). There are also humbling temple visits, seasoned with an abundance of exquisite nature settings- lush tropical vegetation and picture-perfect beaches.
Our hotel is located a five-minute walk from Patong beach, and so I often meander along massage-parlors with petite and very pretty Thai ladies offering their services, flashy souvenir-shops, and restaurants, till I reach the shores of the Andaman sea.
I love chatting with the young guy whose name I have forgotten, a refugee from Myanmar who, like the around 130.000 others who share his fate, fled eastern Myanmar due to persecution by the Myanmar army since the beginning of 1988 and found a new home in Thailand. Many of them still reside in nine refugee camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border. The young man working as a watersport-instructor at Patong beach, probably the liveliest and most activity-packed beach in all of Phuket (think Jetskiing, banana boat rides and the like) has been lucky in that regard, even though his friendly, charming demeanor might belie the pains he must have experienced.
“Smile to it” must be the motto of the Thai people in general anyways – a motto which is inextricably linked to their Theravada Buddhist faith, which is practiced by 95% of the population. Buddhism is not just an abstract concept here like it is for so many people in the West. It´s strongly anchored in daily life, which is clearly made visible through the many shrines and temples all around. Meditation is a key aspect of Buddhist practice – and guided meditations are often a great starting point in learning to meditate!
Would you like to learn to meditate, which has a myriad of scientifically proven health benefits, such as significant stress reduction, for many? Then quickly register your interest in the relaxation package I am currently creating here, which includes a guided meditation and a Yoga-and-mindful-movement-class:)
For me, the distinct mentality of the Thai people, their gentleness, kindness, and caring ways are definitely a distinct feature of this culture. Buddhism and beaches – two undeniable highlights of the Southern Thailand island experience!
Sensual serenity at the beach and tantalizing time-travel at the temple
It´s a marvelous and rejuvenating gift to your own soul to explore some of Phuket´s divine beaches such as Laem Singh beach, a tropical, hidden paradise with thick, green bush, and large rock boulders, where you can rent a bodyboard or snorkeling kit from the nearby restaurants, and enjoy Phuket´s colorful underwater world of wonders. Just out of this world!! Well, really, in it! So, lucky us!!
To amp up your inner tranquility and peace, there´s nothing better than heading to one of Phuket´s 29 temples, such as Wat Phra Thong or Wat Chalong. My own visit to Wat Chalong was simply awe-inspiring. The atmosphere of peace and serenity as well as equanimity that the temple itself, as well as the present monks irradiated, was palpable, the many golden Buddha statues, opulent flowers and intricate temple architecture a feast for the eyes and soul.
Walls and ceilings were beautifully decorated with vivid paintings illustrating the life of Buddha. I vividly remember being somehow completely mesmerized by a painting depicting a monk, clad in bright orange robes. I must have stood there for twenty minutes or so, just taking in all the details of the picture and feeling completely at ease and peace…
Wat Chalong is generally frequented by a myriad of locals and tourists alike who come to pray and pay respects to several revered monks. These were the founders of the temple, Luang Pho Cham and Luang Pho Chuang, who led the citizens of Chalong Sub-district in a fight against the Chinese rebellion in 1876 and assisted the injured with their knowledge of herbal medicine. If you do visit (entrance is free, yay), just be mindful of the required dress code and behavior to be observed in any Thai temple.
To enjoy a guided meditation, a Yoga class, as well as an e-book with my best kept relaxation secrets, drawing from my background as a trained Yoga teacher, Wellness trainer and Healing-Arts-student with 20 years of experience, just join the waiting list here. You might very well get to sleep better and lengthen your attention span by starting on your meditation journey!
Where is Leonardo hiding? Searching via Speed-boat from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi
To finish off our Phuket-adventure, let me give you a quick description of an outrageous excursion to dreamy Ko Phi Phi island on a leaky speedboat, guided by a flamboyant ladyboy. Imagine this: You are stepping aboard a speedboat that, clearly, has seen better days, but of course, that´s just an uninformed guess. You are too caught up in checking out your fellow passengers, a bunch of cool cat-Russians, three cheeky Australians, and about a dozen more voyagers from different cultural backgrounds, to observe the boat more in detail.
Also, there´s a charming Thai ladyboy explaining all kinds of things in a nonchalant and relaxed manner, so how could there be anything to worry about? A few minutes in, and you start to understand why: While the rains have started to pour down from above, the ocean water seems to leak through the bottom of the speedboat. You are completely soaked in a matter of seconds, while determinedly holding on to your speedboat-seats. Halleluja, what a ride! Is it from heaven, is it from hell? Who knows, really.
Fortunately, there are some beautiful stops to be had before anchoring off the coast of Ko Phi Phi for the day. First off, it´s time to get the snorkeling gear out and jump into the deliciously warm waters – a date with colorful fish is on the cards. Who doesn´t love the heavenly quit under the water´s surface and a sneak peek at the world under the sea? I surely loved every minute of it! Next off, our group gets to hang out just off the beach of an island inhabited by crazy monkeys.
We get to feed them, always mindful of them not getting too cheeky and stealing our valuables. Last, but not least, it´s time to explore the island that the famous movie The Beach made so famous: Ko Phi Phi. Truth be told, the beach and view were stunning AND also – freaking overcrowded with tourists! But – it might be a different experience if you choose to stay there longer and get to explore the island more in-depth… On a different note, Leonardo was nowhere to be found. Ah well, nothing beats swimming with colorful fish anyways! Sorry, Leo 😛
Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever been to Southern Thailand? If so, what were your impressions, and what did you like best? Also, what is your dream island to visit in the future? As always, I would love to hear from you! Thank you, and stay well, wild, and curious:)
Images: This time, all images (minus one haha) are from Pixabay and Pexels, as my Southern Thailand photos went missing. They probably preferred to stay on the island, is my guess… can´t blame them!