Wednesday, March 5, 2014
What a great time we've had living on the beach. It started out with anxiety about our bungalow. We complained about the hordes of Russians who took up valuable space on the beach, smoked endless cigarettes, and let their kids run wild and ruin the atmosphere. Then there was the wind that for a couple of weeks wore you out with it's constant power. Later it was the glass on the beach that we collected but never seemed to be troubled by when we walked bare footed every night to the restaurants. Slowly, a pleasurable change took place. We mellowed out. We started to enjoy the morning view with our coffee that was never hot enough. We stopped caring about the Russians, and they started to go home. We learned to be patient when ordering food because it took forever to get but it didn't matter because we were sitting on the beach and the air was sweet. We just stopped complaining. We started appreciating. That was the gift.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
I have taken a hiatus from writing. Where do the days go? I am hard pressed to know which day of the week it is. Some might find this boring or tedious, but truthfully, it is a gift to have this time to fully become sensitive to all the natural elements we are living with. How often can you just let go completely? I do not miss driving, shopping, cooking, cleaning, working, and all the tedious routines of life. I do enjoy having someone else clean my room, make my bed with fresh sheets, cook delicious Thai food, wash my clothes and drive me around. We wander out to the sand and lay in our chaise, watching the clouds overhead, the color of the water changing dramatically beneath the clouds shadow. With some effort we wander up the beach to meet friends for cold beers and sit in the sand listening to the proverbial Bob Marley or Buddha Bar songs that seem to be playing everywhere in the world. Mornings are so lovely. Since we have moved to the front row bungalow, we enjoy early sunrise and a swim before the water gets choppy and the winds increase. Breakfast is peaceful, especially now that most of the families have left and fewer children are around. The waitresses know that we like our "fresh coffee and hot milk" first. Later we have our sliced fruit and yogurt. With no agenda we sit for an hour or two just enjoying the morning breeze and the view. Then it seems like the day vanishes between laying in the chaise, the hammock, and the afternoon siestas. My favorite time is just after 6pm when everyone has left the beach, the light is golden, and the winds have died down to a soft breeze. The evening air is like velvet on your skin, the sky dark and bright with stars, and the cresant beach sparkling with colored lights from the various bars and restaurants that circle it. There is a Thai tradition that we love where they make paper lanterns which are several feet tall and a couple of feet in diameter. There is a large wick that you light and as the heat increases the paper lantern fills with hot air. Then you let it go and it sails up into the dark night. Often you can see many of these taking off, up up into the sky forming a little constellation of yellow glowing lights, before they just disappear into the night. Simple pleasures.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Thursday, February 13, 2014
A week has gently slipped away as we have become more relaxed here by the sea. We left Laos and enjoyed an easy flight back to Chiang Mai on a brand new jet which replaced the old turbo prop. Fourty-five minutes later we were back in the hustle and bustle of the city at our new hotel, the BB Mantra. Small and new, we had a very comfortable room and a pool. Set in the most interesting area of Moon Muang, on Soi 7, there were endless small restaurants and very hip coffee shops, street stalls and food markets. We ate plates of homemade rice noodles cooked in woks on flaming carts, sipped delicious fresh cappachino, and sat in a lovely garden next door to our hotel that was so Japanese in nature I thought the owners were Japanese. Each cup and saucer were individually made and unique, the coffee beans ground by order, the berry jam exquisite. We went there every morning for breakfast. Service was so slow it allowed us to watch a bird stealing moss for his nest, and the dog of the house named Lukan always made an appearance for a pet or two. It was difficult to leave after only two nights, and I discovered I was missing by one day the annual Chiang Mai flower festival. Flowers are a way of life here and normally the markets are full of masses of brilliant colored orchids, orange marigolds, tiny white jasmine blossoms, and so many other varieties ...To think I wouldn't be here for the huge festival was a small disappointment, but next time I will plan better. Our flight was scheduled for the early afternoon, which meant checking out at 11 am, taking a taxi for the airport and waiting around for a couple of hours. Flight time was under two hours and we landed at the small Samui airport under bright blue skies with fantastic views of the island below. As we disembarked and got on the minibus that's takes you into the open air terminal, we saw a "Firefly Air" turbo prop land from Penang, and there were our two friends Allan and Isaac whom we met in Bali our last trip and have keep in touch with. We could not have planned our rendezvous better. We laughed at the magic of travel, shared a van to our resorts and our month in southern Thailand began. Our rooms are about a ten minute walk apart on quiet Maenam beach. Ron and I usually stay front row to the ocean but this time we couldn't get front row even when I tried to reserve a year in advance. So many people return year after year usually for two months as the winters in Europe are so brutal. We are the only Americans. At first we were unhappy with our room. It was terribly musty, and the bed placed back in the darker section of the bungalow. We opened every window and that night dragged our mattresses off the frames and up to the front of the room where we could breath fresh air by leaving our doors open and just our screen doors closed. Next morning we walked up the street to the little corner store and bought bleach, gloves, cleaning powder and washcloths. Ronnie, bless him, cleaned the room, removed the stinky mildewed blankets in the closet and washed everything down. Bleach down the shower drain and a good airing and suddenly our room was fresh and clean. Sleeping near the doors on the floor has probably confused our maids, "Sweep, Giggle, and Mop" but they laugh, smile and take things in stride. Very quiet here in the back row. One morning the German women in the next bungalow rolled their bags out before 6 am and left. We went over and pillaged their room. Got a comfortable chair for our porch, a wonderful towel, some sunscreen and lotion from Germany and therefore good stuff, and some candles. We scored! So the days pass quickly. Lounging long hours beneath the palm fronds on our chaise loungers which our friends stored for us since the last trip. Sunset drinks at the reggae bar sitting in bamboo chairs in the sand, and dinner under the moon light with our friends. Ricardo and Plaa came and joined us for the Friday night "walking street" at the next town of Boput. No cars or cycles and many local pop-up stalls with all kinds of wonderful foods and drinks and colorful items for sale. Hundreds of people happily walking along with Mojito's and gin fizzes. I ate so many chicken sate skewers with peanut sauce that I only had room left for my favorite venders homemade coconut ice cream, served in half of a coconut with some peanuts and mango on top. Heavenly! So tonight is once again Friday walking street, a whole week melting away. Friends coming for lunch. We swim, we lounge, we drink good Chang beer and eat delicious Thai food. What could be better?
Monday, February 3, 2014
Every day here has been like a small gift, wrapped in a multitude of textures and colors. We don't want to leave. It is breaking my heart to have to come in and close the wooden shutters for the night, our last. This small precious town has been such a fun experience, shared happily with my sister and brother-in-law. We've enjoyed our long leisurely breakfast, walking around town exploring. Ron and Drew patient with us as Nitza and I are constantly shopping and considering the textiles that are so abundant and beautiful. Bicycles and boats our other form of transport. Sunsets on the Mekong, lunch along the Nam Khan beneath the shade of the tamarind trees. Always the morning ritual of the monks walking before sunrise, lining up in their orange robes, barefoot and silent, to collect their alms for the day. Sometimes I can hear the gongs at 4 a.m. that awaken the monks for morning prayer. The sunsets of reds and golden light reflected on the river and the temples golden roofs. Peaceful serene energy. Dogs sitting in the temples scratching while the monks chant. Tourist snapping photos, children playing outside, shoes left out on the steps. No one seems to mind the intrusions, least of all the monks who go about town quietly and under the protection of umbrellas from the hot sun. Every evening there is the night market, under plastic blue awnings covering street after street with hundreds of people selling textiles in a crowded claustrophobic maze, dangling bare light bulbs casting shadows and unnatural light. Tourist wander slowly in the narrow space shopping and bargaining. Everywhere you go there are new and beautiful guest houses and small elegant hotels. Gardens with lotus ponds and candles, antique wooden statues in amongst green flowering tropical bushes, and the lush sounds of water and insects, birds and geckos. Not a big town, but a very elegant space, protected by Unesco, with no buildings over two stories and no roofline higher than the temple roofs. The French were here and left a legacy of great ambiance, fabulous baguettes and rich coffee, and architecture of soft pastels and curving staircases. The incredible light changes throughout the day illuminating and intensifying all around you. The evenings soft and golden, turning to hues of reds and purple, darkening the sky. Such an enchanting and friendly town. I will miss Luang Prabang.