It’s been three and a half weeks since we left the big cities and arrived back on beaches. Kevin and I definitely function better in the smaller, more homey island setting. When we arrived in Koh Chang, you could almost see our bodies relax and our smiles brighten. It’s not that we hate the cities, but we were going pretty steady for a while there and it was starting to wear on us. Instead of making decisions on flights, bus tickets and hotel rooms as we hopped from one place to the next we were now making decisions on how many beers to drink and when to roll over to tan the other side of our bodies… Beach life! I believe this is the yin and yang of life, we crave adventure, change and action but after a while we slow down and are pulled to a slower, more comfortable normalcy. It’s been great that Kevin and I seem to be on the same pace for when we need the yin and when we need the yang.
Koh Chang now resides in a very special corner of my heart. It was the closest thing to "perfect" I have found. We stayed in the smaller backpacker area of Lonely Beach where cute hippie restaurants and bars, tattoo parlours and smiling faces lined the small side streets. We stayed in an amazing room for $12 a night, which was a stones throw from the ocean, had a rooftop patio for my yoga practice and was only a few steps away from the nearest store that sold large Chang beers for $2. The first few days we took it super easy. We were so happy to see the sun again after being smoked out for over a week. We spent most of these first few days on the beach and playing in the ocean. And I really mean playing… We were like little kids, literally rolling around in the sand, doing acrobatics in the water and playing silly games we made up. It was totally liberating.
One fine evening with a belly full of strong buckets, we were stopped by our friend Khiao, who was hanging out in his bamboo tattoo studio. We were pleasantly drunk and he invited us in for a beer. We showed him a sketch I did as a cover up tattoo for Kevin’s team Canada basketball logo tattoo, which he got when he was 18. Khiao, with almost manic passion to create art, got to work sketching an image with marker on Kevins skin. The rough sketch he did was NOTHING like the sketch I showed him, but it was really cool… from what we remembered anyways. Despite the significant change to tattoo designs, we made an appointment for the next day and paid a deposit. Although we woke up the next morning grumbling, “what were we thinking?” There was a stronger urge to follow through… something about Koh Chang made us feel indestructible and free and maybe a tad stupid. We showed up at Khiao’s studio and he got to work stencilling the tattoo again as the one from the previous night washed off… Once again the image changed drastically! This may have been a good sign to walk away and find another tattoo artist… but for some reason, Khiao’s quirky attitude, his passion for designing something totally unique for Kevin and his inability to design something he could duplicate if his life depended on him, sucked us in! He persuaded Kevin to trust him by saying, “I tattoo your skin as if it were my own”. Kevin gave in completely and gave him full reign to tattoo his masterpiece. He estimated the tattoo would be 7 hours and Kevin could do it in two sittings. He priced this at 8000 baht, so $300. Great deal! 2 gruelling days later, a total of 18 hours of tattooing, approximately 10 beady eyed tourists looking in to see the progress each day, 4 snicker bars, 7 beers, 20 pained glances my way signalling “what did I get myself into” and 1 bored, yet supportive fiancé… And the tattoo was finished! It worked out to about $17 an hour compared to the $150 an hour most studios charge back home (mind you it was a bamboo tattoo which takes longer). The tattoo turned out really cool, with incredible detail and about 7 images in one making an amazing illusionary effect. That was not our only tattoo experience in Koh Chang… But I’ll get to that later.
While in Koh Chang, we formed a group of friends, a little community, each person came from a different corner of the world. We had our favourite restaurants and bars where we knew we could find at least a handful of our friends just hanging out or enjoying a cold beer. There was a “ring leader” if you will, that rounded everyone up for activities and good times. Kevin and I both had recently read The Beach and we noted the similarities to the small community formed on a secret islan
d in the book to our real lives on Koh Chang. The ring leader was our Sal, if anyone has read the book but his real name was Joshua. He was one of the most friendly dudes we have ever met and he tried to unite the group as much as possible. He planned a boat trip where we had a private boat, loads of beer, and gear for snorkelling and fishing. It was such an unreal, and unforgettable day, hopping to empty beaches and jumping off the boat into pristine, turquoise water. It was so magical because there were about 20 of us, most of whom were travelling solo and there was this unspoken feeling like we all had to have been in the right place at the right time for all of us to be together in that moment.
It was this group of friends and this enchanted feeling we had with Koh Chang that brings us to our second tattoo story… Sun was setting, beers were had, reminiscing ensued and a simple tattoo design was presented. Each of us got the tattoo placed on our ankle, connecting us to each other, to the amazing island that brought so many memories and to that intoxicating feeling of absolute certainty that you are exactly where you need to be.
It was with great sadness that we left the island after almost three weeks. Our next destination, Koh Lanta. The journey here was gruelling and I’ll try to paint a picture for you… A shuttle bus picked us up at 9am, drove to the ferry pier and transported us to the mainland where we were transferred to a large bus. This bus took about 6 hours and dropped us off in Bangkok where we transferred to another large bus. This bus was a sleeper bus but was extremely uncomfortable making it near impossible to actually get some rest. It also got a flat tire at 2am so we waited as the poor bus driver changed the tire for an hour. This bus dropped us off at 6am and we took yet another shuttle bus to Krabi with 9 other sleep deprived and sweaty backpackers. One last shuttle bus took us to the ferry and after 29 hours of nonstop travel we arrived in Koh Lanta.
We picked a place called sanctuary which houses you in very basic huts and has two yoga classes a day which you can attend. Instead of us paying a ton of money for a yoga retreat package, we decided to create our own retreat… Marvin’s retreat! Marvin’s retreat starts with tea at 8:15, meditation from 9:00-9:30, yoga class from 9:30-11:00. Walking along the beach, journaling, studying yoga philosophy, healthy fruit juices and reading occupied our time from, 11:00-4:00 before meditation at 4:00 and another yoga class at 4:30-6:00. The sunset is at its most brilliant following the yoga class so we watch from the beach or swim in the ocean, pinching ourselves as we glow with gratitude. In the evening, we give each other massages and dream up plans for our future together.
Our sanctuary here has provided a lot of time to think and to digest things that have been suppressed or even forced out of thought… My dad is never too far from my thoughts, I hear him coaching me and encouraging me everyday. My yoga practice begins and ends with thoughts of love being sent to our friend who is battling cancer. I’ve uncovered a lot of guilt for abandoning our boy at the group home that I am working through and trying to make up for. I often have many random bursts of love for my amazing girlfriends back home who totally get me and are like sisters to me. Most of all, the importance of family has been magnified. Being close to family has been guiding our thoughts for what our future holds.
In a few days, we meet up with Kevin’s brother, Alex and his boyfriend, Colby, to travel for three weeks together in Thailand. I am so excited!
Over and out my friends…