Happy Endings

All it took was one bite of the egg.

I heaved up the banana milkshake quicker than I’d drunk it. Then whatever else was left of the Tonsai devil burger I had at the start of my journey.

That’s what I get for eating a burger at the beach.

IMG_3259

I should have known…

I was climbed out. Tired. And I had been eating pretty healthy for about a week. One burger couldn’t hurt. Plus I thought it would see me well on my epic  boat, bus, plane and train journey to Ayutthaya.

But now it had me hunched over the toilet bowl of a tiny restaurant at 7 am.

My first instinct was to head back to bed. Or even better: Bangkok. But when would I get to come this close to Rama’s city of Ayodhya? That’s what Ayutthaya was meant to be, the city of temples, old capital of Siam. A slice of history, mythology and my childhood.

IMG_3731

Ayutthaya

The Ramayana was one of my favourite stories as a child, stories of princesses, demons, flying monkeys and a city all lit up to welcome home an exiled prince.

I couldn’t just leave.

So I pushed myself to do a five hour walking tour of the temples. A tour which ended with me hailing a tuktuk to help me round the last leg.
IMG_3409

I even went on a riverboat tour of the waterside temples. Each one filled with ornate Buddhas and crumbling buildings. There was a calm beauty to it all. But I was feeling out of sorts.

It could have been too much in a short span. I had temple overload and zero perspective to appreciate what I’d seen. More likely the food poisoning had muted the experience.

It wasn’t how I’d wanted my trip to end, but it was how I returned to Bangkok.

Funnily enough though, Bangkok was the real surprise. I didn’t expect to enjoy the tail boats and temples as much as I did. Nor that I would feel as peaceful and calm in the city as I had at The Sanctuary wandering around the temples and palaces that Ayutthaya had inspired.

Maybe I’m just a city girl at heart. Maybe I’d found some inner peace.

Or the parasites had changed me irrevocably.

The temple at Wat Pho fast became my favourite place for peaceful meditation and a massage. I’m addicted to Thai massage now. There is something strangely relaxing about being forced into yoga positions and cradled by a stranger who will then crack your entire spine.

It put a smile on my face.

Though I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t have.

 

IMG_3506

I visited the reclining Buddha one more time before I left.

The immensity of it, filling a whole temple had me in awe when I first saw it. Looking upon it again I felt content and at peace before I left and ready for whatever might happen next in life.

Leaving countries is always so bittersweet for me. It’s like cutting a conversation short when you’re really getting to know someone.

I’ll be back Thailand.

If for nothing more than another massage.

Year of the Monkey

 

It’s the year of the monkey. Naturally, I was born in the year of the monkey. Witty, sociable, easily bored, stubborn.

Sums me up perfectly I think.

No better time to get harnessed up and back on the face of a mountain.

IMG_3307.jpg

Coconut thief

It’s been a few years since I went boulder climbing. It used to be  a regular thing, but after my hand injury I didn’t trust my wrist to support my weight.

I didn’t know what to expect on the half day climb with The Rock Shop. I’d signed up for a beginners course because I was worried.

Climbing had been my way of dealing with my fear of heights. I don’t like to be scared, or limited. My way of handling fears is to throw myself into them. More than often the return is something beautiful. The views from the top. The reward of an isolated spot. It’s a risk, but one worth taking.

When I floundered on the first climb our guide grinned at me

“You can be good or bad, but you must have fun!”

He was right. Once the pressure was off, it was more fun.

After the day’s climb, the rest of the group wanted to grab food and see some of Railay. We were all keen to find the lagoon for a relaxing swim to end the day. We deserved a break.

Little did we know.

IMG_3319

Only 10 more metres…

We had assumed that it would be a calm walk, a couple of dips and then back to Tonsai.

The warning signpost and the exhausted faces of people scaling down from a point up into the mountain, should have been our first indicator this wasn’t going to be easy.

The route had ropes set up along the way. All you had to do was find your feet and hoist yourself up. Easy enough. I decided to pop my flip flops into my bag and go barefoot.

My feet still haven’t forgiven me.

When we finally reached the clearing at the top it dawned on us that we’d have to climb deeper down into the mountain to reach the lagoon. Unless there was an off chance this was a magical lagoon at the top of a mountain that defied gravity.

The downward descent to the lagoon was a little more than “strenuous” as the warning at the start of the ‘hike’ suggested.

We were lowering ourselves through slippery sharp rocks, climbing through narrow holes with back packs on and at times reaching around for a foothold, or handhold when we couldn’t see behind us. After my first slip and near fall onto craggy rocks, my faith in my wrist was completely restored.

It was a precarious climb to the bottom. But it was completely worth it. Photos don’t do it justice.

IMG_3322.jpg

Take the risk, reap the rewards

It’s the things we really work to get that bring us the greatest satisfaction.

I’m quite impulsive in the risks that I take. God knows how far this ‘All or nothing’ attitude will get me in Vegas in a few weeks.

Maybe it will get me out of student debt.

 

 

 

Cleanse

The room was small, incense burned, a jazzy tune played, but the roar of the ocean could still be heard in the background. I stared hard at the long wooden plank leading to the toilet in the middle of the room. Above it, a bucket filled with coffee infused water and a system of tubes. I listened carefully as Mun acted out how to carry out your own colonic, occasionally eyeing up the plastic bottle filled with olive oil that I would be using to ‘lubricate my anus’

Maybe the juice fast had me deluded.

This had seemed like a much better idea after a clay shake. I am very suggestible and mildly violent when hungry. I had wanted to purge any residual negaitivity I was storing up mentally. Why not physically? Start afresh: body, mind and soul.

I hadn’t imagined a new start would look like a 6 by 4 propped up on cinder blocks and an open toilet.

I’ve never been one for diets or health fads.  I attempted Beyonce’s Maple Syrup diet 7 years ago. Well I say attempted, I drank herbal tea for 5 days and chased them with  short stacks drowned in, maple syrup.

The Sanctuary is an amazing place to satisfy your curiosity for detox and cleanse programs. It is possibly the cheapest place in the world to have a colonic, or carry out a cleanse. Its staff are friendly, and well informed. There are also ongoing classes in yoga, pilates and meditation, as well as massages, a spa and steam room.

The whole environment encourages you to live and eat well, and fills you with a sense of well being.

I was intoxicated. Which is probably why a Juice fast sounded good.

I love juice. All drinks in fact. The more beverages the better. A day of juice sounded easy. Anyone who has seen me wolf down an order of tacos, or observed me eating my three lunches, knows I won’t fade away after a day fast. What I didn’t know was that all cleanses ended with a colonic.

I had a vague understanding of how they worked thanks to an episode of Jackass where Johnny gets a colonic. It didn’t prepare me at all for what it would feel like. It didn’t feel as hilarious as Johnny’s looked.

As I returned to the wellness centre, I looked visibly traumatised.

I won’t lie, when I decided to come out here I had been hoping to get in touch with myself. Just not via my anus with a tube I inserted myself. But you can’t predict what turns the game around.

I thought the emotional elements I couldn’t shift were with me for a reason. But just like a physical cleanse,  it takes time to flush out the more noxious parts of us.

They can be shifted though.

It won’t be pretty, but as I lie swinging in this hammock with a massive smile on my face and not a care in the world, I’d say it was worth it.

Asian in Asia

It’s 7am and I have a yoga class in an hour. I woke up because of the sea. Living in London, I’ve never had the luxury of waking up to anything other than the sound of urban foxes shagging. Mexico City wasn’t much better. Although sirens were often interspliced with drunken arguments, or thumping music. I didn’t realise how much I love to wake up to the sound of the sea.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was not as tranquil.

The first night in Bangkok was spent wandering around the Khao San road shopping and avoiding teams of men in matching wife beaters, trying to drunkenly chat up anyone in grabbing reach. People like to touch here, not just drunken Brits out on a stag. I got poked in the boob, had my tattoo stroked and was awkwardly patted by a couple of giggly vendors, who may have been at the laughing gas balloons.

The night in Bangkok was a sensory overload. Lights. Vendors. Food. Massages. Rats. One of which I had an unsettling run in with that left me contemplating how much I really needed my right foot.

It was loud and bright and dirty and seedy. I liked it.

At 5am we were abruptly woken by our panicky Thai host who thought we were going to miss our flight. She had taken the liberty of booking us a taxi that was waiting as we spoke. I don’t think I’ve got packed and ready so quickly. I silently cursed her all the way to the airport.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was a two fold nightmare. Unlike Alex Garland’s romanticised journey through jungle, jumping off waterfalls and swimming across the island, ours was more pedestrian and disgusting. The waves were dangerously high, so our speedboat jumped along the ocean for nearly two hours. The nausea it provoked was understandable. I regretted inhaling a pork bun and chilli chicken curry on the dock before we boarded. But the real kicker was the synchronised vomiting that began to take place about 20 minutes into the journey. Smiling faces handed out pink plastic bags and tissues, then the pukefest began. It was like the story Chunk describes in The Goonies: one person barfed and everyone else just joined in. It surrounded us and we sunk into our seats hoping we wouldn’t be hit by the spray.

My body’s natural defense mechanism in situations of high stress is to shut down. Much like a possum. Only more like a narcoleptic. I pass out.

When I awoke and drowsily got off the boat there was still another journey left to make. Kerry, had warned me that transport to The Sanctuary was a mafia. It’s lucky I had her and her amazing litigation skills to get me this far.

You couldn’t get a cheaper price no matter how good you were at haggling. What was worse they had decided to hike the prices up, to make the best of all the business that was anxiously waiting. We held out for as long as we could as the surliest driver in the world bitched at our attempts to bring the price down.

It didn’t feel great having to concede and get in the back of his shitty truck. It felt less great as we were hurled about along bumpy back streets out into the middle of nowhere.

Luckily we were headed towards Sanctuary.