Monday, March 26, 2018

Beach Bums On Koh Chang

Seventeen days on Koh Chang has been the perfect antidote for our exhilarating yet exhausting month in India.

It was everything we needed it to be.  Quiet.  Unassuming.  Peaceful.

I wore only 3 things: my swimsuit, a sarong, and my nightie.  FOR SEVENTEEN DAYS!  No underwear necessary.  Pure bliss.

We spent the first ten days on the west coast of the island on Kai Bae Beach.  I think we slept straight through the first seventy-two hours.

I was the laziest bum known to man.  Our conversations went something like this:

Joe:  "Wanna rent some kayaks this morning?"  Me:  "Nope."

Joe:  "Wanna hire a boat to take us to that little island for the day?"  Me:  "Uh-uh."

Joe:  "How about a walk along the beach?  Go to a waterfall?"    Me:  "Nah.  Maybe another day."

I have never been so tired and unmotivated in my life!  All I wanted to do was bob in the ocean, lounge on the sand, read my novel, eat Western food, nap in my deck chair, drink Thai beer and sleep in a comfy bed.  And that is all I did.

The view from our room.

These have been our positions for the past seventeen days.

Sadly, there is an elephant farm nearby.  Every day four babies are trotted down to the beach to give rides to the tourists.  I inwardly cheer when I see the baby elephants suddenly dip their shoulder or abruptly sit down in the water and dump their riders into the ocean.

I cannot get enough of the sea and the sky.  The colours are always changing.

Joe waits for this monk to walk by every morning at 6:30am to offer him fruit and rice.

'Downtown' Kai Bae Beach.  It is dotted with mom 'n pop restaurants, motorbikes rentals, fruit stands and variety stores selling everything from water wings to gasoline.  To hail a taxi, you just stand on the side of the road, wave down a white truck, negotiate a price with the driver, then hop in the back and hang on for dear life until you get to your destination!

And speaking of gasoline, it is sold in old whiskey bottles at the side of the road in the blistering heat.

Again, I cannot get enough of the colours of sea and the sky.

On the bus headed to the Koh Chang ferry, we met our new Italian friend Licia.  We saw each other twice during our time on the island.  Once for lunch at our resort, the other for dinner at an Italian restaurant.  We are hoping to see each other again, either in Vancouver or Milan!

One more sea and sky photo looking out onto the Gulf of Thailand.  The warmest ocean water I have ever swum in.

The second half of our time on Koh Chang was spent on the east coast of the island.  It was very remote and quiet.  Most of the time we were saying, "Where is everybody?"

Our routine didn't change much from before.  Nap, eat, drink, read and swim were our marching orders.

 Joe rented us a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house.  It came with a spiffy rooftop terrace!

 We had our own paddling pool up on the roof.  We spent our mornings up there with coffee.

The pool was situated on the ocean.  Every day, we lazed in those chairs and looked out to the Gulf of Trat and the hills of Cambodia beyond.  Most days we had the place to ourselves.

Toward the end of our stay, thunderstorms rolled in every afternoon.  Joe got caught in one while bringing me my beloved mango smoothie.

 Sunrise over the resort.

 Nobody here but us chickens!

 Again, Joe would ask me if I wanted to go paddle-boarding or kayaking.  The answer always remained the same.  A big, emphatic NO!

The colours of the sea and sky before a thunderstorm were beautiful.

I finally did something that required sitting up!  I sat on the swing for a quick photo.

We're tanned.  We're rested.  Time to leave.

And now it is time to think about heading home.  We have two more nights on Koh Chang, a couple more nights in Bangkok before we fly to Vancouver at the end of March.  

I cannot believe we've been travelling for 16 weeks.  The time has zoomed by.  It is going to take me a while to fully process all that I've seen and done since the beginning of December.  This trip certainly has been one for the books!

The next time you hear from me I'll be back in North America, back in Canada, back in my sweet little town of Squamish, B.C.

It'll be nice to be home.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

"Anything Is Possible In India, Ma'am."

Whenever I asked Subhash a question during our travels he always answered, "Anything is possible in India, ma'am."  

And of course he was right.  

Anything and everything is possible in India.

India is a country of contrasts.

It is at once beautiful and chaotic, spiritual and noisy, friendly and polluted, joyful and corrupt and deeply profound.

India exceeded all of my expectations.

Time after time, India broke my heart and sewed it back up again.  She is a master surgeon.

For every picture I had the good fortune to capture, there were thousands of photo opportunities I missed.

Those elusive shots, the ones that got away, will be forever burned into my memory.

There was always something compelling to see in India, both heart-warming and heart-wrenching.

I met the friendliest people of my life in India.

They were hospitable beyond measure.

Whatever they had, they willingly shared.

Try as I might, I cannot adequately describe India.

Words fail.

Photos do not do it justice.

It is a country one must experience for oneself.

I have yet to process all that I have seen, heard and felt.

My month in this country was life-changing.

I cannot wait to return.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

On The Road To Rishikesh

Our final Indian road trip was to Rishikesh, a holy place of ashrams, yoga and meditation.  On the banks of the River Ganges in the foothills of the Himalayas.

But before we got to Rishikesh, we had a couple of stops to make on the way.  Subhash had arranged two visits with his wife's family.

Our first stop was with Subhash's wife's aunt and her family.  This little guy would not look at us for love nor money.  He cried when he peeked through his fingers.  "He's never seen a white person," they told us.  He probably thought we were ghosts.

 We posed for many, many photographs.  The little boy standing in front of me (green sweater and tan pants) was so cute.  It is a Hindu custom to touch the feet of an elder when greeting them.  He came into the room where we were sitting and immediately approached us to touch our feet.  
He made me swoon.

No visit is complete without food.  After these snacks came samosas and sweets.  And pots and pots of masala chai, of course.

Indian rooftops.

Word travelled fast that foreigners were in the neighbourhood.  These guys came down the lane to check us out. 

Our next stop was to visit Subhash's mother- and sister-in-law.  Again there was lots of food, lots of photos, lots of laughter and lots of trying to communicate in our respective languages.

Joe and I with Subhash's mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

The whole family, plus a few extras thrown in for good measure.

Through an open door, I saw the neighbourhood children creeping closer and closer to take a peek at us.  I left the house and posed for a photo with them.

All doggies love to go for rides.

When our visit ended, our entourage personally escorted us out to the street and to our awaiting car.

We arrived in Tapovan, on the outskirts of Rishikesh later that afternoon.

Early one morning we went for a peaceful walk through the town, over the bridges and along the banks of the Ganges.

It was a tad windy on the bridge deck that morning!

Many people come to Rishikesh for outdoor adventures.

We took a drive into the mountains one afternoon to visit the Neelkanth temple.

Garlands of marigolds hung from electrical wires.

Joe and Subhash lit some incense outside the temple.

A busy bridge over the Ganges!

 I met this fun-loving group of Indians while crossing the bridge one afternoon.  
Handshakes all around!

It is not a dog's life in India.

 Photo op.

One night we went to a popular restaurant in 'downtown' Rishikesh.  The streets were very congested with all manner of animals and vehicles.  Subhash squeezed his car next to the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.  The parking attendant called out, "No parking!  No parking!  I will call the police!"  Joe slipped the man 50 rupees and all of a sudden his demeanor changed.  "Please sir, park here!"  Joe was pretty proud of his first bribe!

 Subhash and Joe bathed in the holy waters of the sacred Ganges River.

Joe doing his best Tin-Tin impersonation.

And now we head back to Delhi for our final two nights in India.  We plan to do some last minute shopping and spend more time with Subhash's family before we fly to Thailand.  We are looking forward to some rest and relaxation on the beaches of Koh Chang.