Published: June 30th 2009February 14th 2009 "We are not trying to selling the tour. We are only give information on how to enjoying our country. Many people will trying to offer better price, but we can giving happy good time and looking after important tourist. We looking after you like family so have to paying higher price, we respecting the tourist so please taking the tour with us..."
It had been almost a week of a whirlwind of travel. Intermixing between dusty polluted over crowded cities like Lima, Peru. Then heading westward and north visiting my cousin in cold and chilly San Francisco before finally touching down on a completely different world and reality known in this modern world as Thailand.
Thailand is a country that is mentioned at least once on most travelers’ itinerary, and everyone has a different opinion. Some love the relaxation of the sprawling beautiful lagoons and white pearly beaches scattered on so many islands that surround Bangkok’s mainland. Others prefer to go party in Bangkok’s crazy club scene riddled with many ways to get into any kind of hedonistic activity one so desires. And some others prefer to mix them both together and go to a full
Chiang Mai Temple
moon party on Kao Pha-Ngan and enjoy the best of both worlds.
After the week or so travelling from the mouth of the Ucayali River in remote Peru, by the time I had arrived to Bangkok I was ready for neither! I had felt like I had arrived to a new world. A musty aroma filled the airport arrivals lounge I finally met with my girlfriend Paulina who was arriving from Poland, literally the other side of the world.
Rest was a firm priority however I was already booked into an 8 Day intensive Anusara Yoga Retreat in Chiang Mai to the north of Thailand which meant that my must needed rest would have to be postponed.
Once arriving in the early twilight hours of the morning after a pleasant bus ride from Bangkok, I feel as though I am not even on earth let alone in a foreign exotic culture such as the one that greeted me here. We left soon after arriving in the town leaving our bags at the "nice place" guest house and wandered around the city centre which felt like an old castle as it has a giant mote
surrounding the main city centre. After walking solidly in the pounding sun we realised we could not find our way back and resorted to a taxi whom took us to the wrong "nice place" hotel (Apparently there are more than one!) After another taxi and a few exhausting hours later we eventually arrived back at the original "nice place" by which time didn’t feel just quite as nice!
The Kao Mai Lana resort where the yoga retreat was being held was in the outskirts of the city. The surroundings were gorgeous in a setting with secluded palm trees throughout and the rooms made from old renovated tobacco huts, a perfect location for some quiet reflection and also a great way to spent time sitting back and relaxing after our heavy duty 3 hour sessions.
Anusara yoga was quiet a new concept to me and what brought me here was mainly due to visiting my old friend and former yoga teacher John from way back in Guatemala. It was really great to catch up on things and remember on times that had past and what plans we have for the future. I think many travelers can vouch
on how strange it is to visit someone you know in such a far and distant location from when you first met.
Anusara Yoga is based upon Hatha yoga and created by John Friend, who has spent many years being taught by the best teachers on the planet. It relies heavily on 5 principles of alignment that can be applied to every posture to ensure correct body alignment, position and power. It is a very interesting philosophy and one can definitely feel the differences after merely one session.
One of the main problems with this method is that it requires some level of mental understanding as well as being able to physically apply the principles to your yoga practice. For me it was very difficult and initially I had great trouble understanding the way that the teacher Jonas was explaining the methods and practices. After a little help it became easier and I do believe that the Anusara method has some great advantages especially physically but should be taught with more of a hands on approach rather than using way too much dialogue and making it become diluted with intellectual mumbo jumbo.
yoga that has really started to bug me of late is how it has been completely commercialised. Yoga retreats now occur over the entire world and are becoming increasingly popular for many people and becoming like "health tourism" This has allowed many so called yogis and teachers to cash in on tourists with big wallets. This is fair enough on a business perspective but how can any teacher be a credible teacher of the ancient teachings of yoga when they are milking in tens of thousands of dollars and living a highly materialistic existence. It almost makes me feel as though everything that has once been sacred in this world has lost its sanctity and if it has not yet soon enough someone will find a way to market it and make a few dollars as it is the self that seems of utmost importance in today’s society and the source of all its problems.
After a week of back bending, hand standing and many a sun salutation, it was time to leave the resort of Kao Mai Lana. It was quite an exhaustive week and our bodies felt like after being put into a medieval torture device.
We said our farewell and left Chiang Mai in the overnight bus to Bangkok.
Bangkok is one of the major hubs of south East Asia and even though it’s recent turbulent history it still remains an important entry point for its many visitors. Bangkok is a vast city and walking around can be a sweaty and tiring experience. We decided to only stay for a couple of days as it more geared towards stag parties and big alcohol crazed benders as opposed to a recently reunited couple. One of the main tourist’s hot spots is Khao san road where more of the cheaper accommodations can be found. It was difficult to get around cheap as the tuk tuk drivers offered high fees to take you around unless you visited some tailor and jewelry shops that gave incentives to the drivers. This ends up taking half of your day, and we were wary of the many "once a year" sales that actually occurred every day! After a few palaces and many a Pad Thai we decided to escape the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. We headed south to one of the main islands of Kao Pha-Ngan. I was starting
Near Chiang Mai
to get weary of the Thai people as it was difficult to find any normal bus stations and always ended up hustled towards a high charging tourist agency. Most of the time I felt like I was being treated like cattle, begin guided to the buses and with little respect being a 'farang' the Thai world for Gringo, I felt more of an outsider in this country than I had in all my years traveling. But it was hard to stay annoyed as I was still enjoying the amazing food such as the classic Thai red curry and sweet and sour dishes that are almost as internationalised as the American hamburger only much better!
We arrived on Kao Pha-Ngan almost straight after the full moon which saw a great exodus of revelers of the famous full moon party known widely for it’s over excessive debauchery. We headed to the North West to Haad Salat and quickly relocated a little south to Haad Yao which was much bigger with a greater selection of bungalows and restaurants. The beach itself has a number of fancy eateries and crystal clear teal blue water which has to be seen to be believed.
The was very calm with no waves and with just a little paddle out you can snorkel and encounter a plethora of tropical fish of all colours of the rainbow. Time spent here flew by with little change day by day, which included laborious activities such as swimming, lying in hammocks and getting the many massages offered by the local people. However, If I wasn’t interested in buying the product I wasn’t worth talking to was the main feeling I received from the place.
Our flight to Australia was leaving from Singapore and the flights were way above budget so we decided to get the boat and bus which at first we were told were all sold out and had to buy flights! After walking out the door suddenly there were some seats available and we would arrive the following night on a direct bus. Upon getting to the main land we were taken to a depot were we waited for an hour before getting three separate buses and dumped somewhere in the north of Malaysia. There we had to wait 7 hours for the connection to Singapore which now would arrive at 8 the following morning and
had to pay an additional $20 "Service charge" for the privilege. Thank you Thailand for treating me kindly and with so much respect! The phrase "no money, no honey" suits the character of the people perfectly and although the scenery is fantastic and food superb the attitude of the local people made me hope never to set foot in the country again...
There are more photos below