Monthly Archives: October 2013

FULL MOON AND JUNGLE VOO DOO

P1060128The week leading up to the Full Moon Party began with a jungle trek the day after my scooter accident. Heading out with Yingying she suggested we climb Khao Ra, the highest peak on Koh Phangan.

We rode up to the parking area and from where we left the bike we hiked up through dense jungle. Ever on the lookout for cobra snakes, the largest and most aggressive of the venomous snakes on the planet, we clambered up the small, muddy trail. I looked twice before placing my hand on tree trunks and branches. Last thing I need to add to my injuries is a well-placed bite from a jungle inhabitant.

With the dense trees shading from the intense heat the sun beat down on us, there was no hiding from the humidity. Two hours later, reaching the top, I had to peel off my drenched T-shirt and lay it on a rock to dry as we sat and took in the view of dense jungles, coconut plantations and the sandy beaches that tickled the lapping turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand.P1060116

I left a note in the jar in the tree that was full of notes from previous hikers and took in the dizzying height of 627 meters above sea level. Although slightly limited by my injuries I managed to make it up and back down, losing only sweat.

I was still astounded that there was no pain.

Yet.

That night Yingying went to work at the Jungle Experience, an outdoor festive scene of electronic music. She put my name on the guest list and I headed over with Jim, an American staying at the Morning Star resort. The girl in charge of the list happened to be the administrative nurse from the hospital.

She waved me in and after Jim paid his entry fee, we headed over to the bar. I got a pineapple juice as I didn’t wanna fuck around with alcohol whilst on anti-biotics. Jim got himself a bucket and we hit the dance floor.

I stuck around until about 02:30, the music becoming a little too repetitive for my eardrums. Making sure Jim was doing alright on his second bucket I headed back to the resort on Ying’s bike.

We chilled out the next day. Issac, a mate from home had arrived and we met up in the afternoon for a late lunch (or early dinner). That night we headed out to the Voo Doo party, another outdoor festive scene of electronic music.

It was here that Issac flicked something off his leg. Yingying, seeing what it was, jumped between us, pushing us back. Someone next to us stepped on it and Issac finished it off. Just before burying it in the sand I took a closer look at the 6-inch centipede.

Slightly shaken but not stirred, we grabbed a bite to eat. Issac sneezed next to a dog, making it jump in fright which in turn had me rolling with uncontrollable laughter until tears were streaming down my face.

The next night we chilled out at the Am-Star-dam Bar in Wok Tum. It was the place to smoke some high-end herb (200 baht) and have the finest, purist, cleanest and strongest mushroom shake (700 Baht) on the island. Although that night it was only Issac, Yingying and myself, we decided we’d just stick to the smoking and save the ‘shroom shake for the Full Moon Party.

IMG_3095The sunset was an endless colour of orange and pink over the waters, the distant islands of Koh Tao and other small rock formations protruding from the water were thrown into a shadowy darkness as the sunset took over the show.

Staring at the darkening sky, Venus came out to play.

“Oh, hello,” I said.

 

 

It had been quite a while since I’d seen her. There had been too much light pollution on Samui and mainland Thailand to see stars in the evening but here at Am-Star-dam Bar I was contempt and happy to just exist on a cushion, leaning back and enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of nature.

On Saturday we prepared for the Full Moon Party. Nina, my couchsurfer host from Bangkok made a surprise trip down to Koh Phangan. I found her at the Delight Resort with six other couchsurfers. We hit the beach where I watched the Full Moon Party Beach Soccer tournament.

The teams were made up from backpackers staying in the hostels. A majorly Israeli team (there was one French guy) won an intense final that had the ref pull out a yellow card as tensions mounted. The final score: 1-0.

Later that evening I suggested we start the night off at Am-Star-dam Bar with a few joints and a mushroom shake. There were 11 of us, all couchsurfers (besides Issac). We split one shake between the five people that were keen to try it.

As the sun set and the full moon rose up high, so did we. We floated over to the balcony and stared up at the moon with its four rings of aura and a large cloud ring surrounding it – a phenomenon I have yet to find the name and cause of.

At about 22:30 we headed down to the beach in two taxies and two motorbikes. Yingying took us through a way where we didn’t have to pay the hundred Baht entry fee. We hit the Drop In bar at the far south side of the beach where the tunes were mashups of rock songs mixed in with some beats. It was a delightful change to the electronic dullness I find droning and repetitive.

“Is it me or did we already hear this song about 7 times?” I asked Jeff, an American teaching English up in the north of Thailand.

“Yeah,” he grinned.

“Let’s go check out the rest of the beach,” I suggested.

Yingying stayed with Dan and Lucy while Issac, Jeff, Nina, Charlotte and myself walked around the beach, stepping between drunken bodies, the thud of stampeding feet to the music of some hardcore psy-trance assisted revelers in digging a trench to the beat.

We paused at Tommy Resort where the music was lighter and had us dancing for a bit before we decided to chill at the Reggae Bar. I hadn’t seen anyone I knew and was hoping to find Baz and Jim. As we began to move on, I saw that our group had stopped. I looked to where everyone was looking and saw that a couple were having sex on the beach, right in front of everyone without a care in the world.

“Strange huh,” I said to Jeff. “We’re animals yet when it comes to sex the majority of us prefer privacy whereas in the animal kingdom, which we are a part of, they have no qualms about shtooping in front of everyone.”

Jeff nodded as we stood hypnotised, like deer in headlights, by the natural human act happening in the sand. Although it wasn’t the most erotic of sex acts I have come across it was hard to tear away.

“Alright, let’s go,” I managed to hustle the group and we continued on.

We climbed up to the Dragon Fly Bar to see if we could purchase some herb. As we climbed down the stairs to leave the place, I heard a familiar wolf whistle. I turned around and saw, “Baz!”

I clambered back up and hugged his fluoro painted mass. After a quick catch up I had to move on. I found Jeff and the gang on the beach and we headed back to smoke at the Reggae Bar.

Nothing like a joint made mostly of tobacco to burn your throat. After choking on it, we threw most of it away.

We headed back to Drop In to find Yingying but she was gone. A decision was made to move further up the beach and there I found Yingying and Dan the Pirate dressed as Jesus playing with a crystal ball.

And no, it wasn’t the mushrooms.

The goal was to stay up until sunrise which was still about 4 hours away. So we danced about. I politely declined offers of bucket drinks form passers by.

Who looked at a bucket and thought, Now that’s a cup I can drink from!

The effects of the bucket were all around us. Besides the environmental impact it was the people who were asleep in drunk yoga poses, swaying and walking diagonally that had me see why it would be better to not drink the stuff.

The Full Moon Party has been around for almost 30 years, started by a group of backpackers to celebrate the rising of the full moon. It took off from there and since has become one of the biggest parties on the planet with a stack of pre and after parties to coincide with it.

And 30 years on, it still isn’t owned by anyone or any organisation. Each beach bar supplies its own DJ and sound systems. Some have stages, decorations. Almost all line the beach with bucket stands with the vendor trying to entice you to buy a bucket. There are fluoro painting corners where you can choose a design and the painters paint it on you.

“500 Baht,” said the girl after I showed her a design I had come up with.

I smiled. “How about I pay for the paint and do it myself?”

“500 Baht.”

“Khap-un-khap,” I grinned and passed.

Issac had retired and Nina had disappeared so we headed back down to chill out at the Reggae Bar where we watched the sunrise.

At about 7 am we retired from the party that was set to go until noon. It had me wondering if the marine life was affected by the sound of the party disrupting their nightly patterns. Party-goers used the sea as a very large depository for bodily fluids of all kinds from the standard one’s and two’s to the projectile vomiting and sexually induced liquids.

I had 3 hours to sleep before my audition at The Outlaw Saloon where I could get paid to play and help cover the damages for the bike.

I reached the saloon blurry eyed but ready as I jammed for Soren, the Danish owner.

“Can you play Sunday?” he asked.

“Whenever you need,” I answered.

“OK, we call you.”

Doing the rounds on the island I’m now booked in at The Outlaw Saloon and possibly The Harp, an Irish bar opposite the pier in Thong Sala.

“Can you play Irish music?” asked Carl, the manager in a thick Irish accent.

“I can do a couple of U2 songs,” I grinned as he laughed.

“I’ll come see ya at the Saloon and let you know. I’ve just lost a musician today so you may just be heaven sent.”

I just wish my voice was.

That night I was summoned at the last minute to play at The Outlaw Saloon. Dan the Pirate came round to support my 2-hour set. It was my first ever paid gig. It felt strange to call myself a musician as I have never regarded myself one. Just the average Joe who plays average guitar and claims to sing while everyone begs me to shut up.

Still, it was fun and a local girl even bought me a beer as she was enjoying the show.

After my ground-breaking performance, Dan and I invited two Russian girls we met at the bar to join us at the Oasis Aqua Bar for a party. You know it’s a good party when the Russians get too drunk to dance and retire early. But you know it’s an even better party when the police come and take the DJ away in handcuffs for not having the right work permit, shutting Oasis down at 1 in the AM.

The police aren’t just the law enforcers on Koh Phangan. They are also the bribe-driven enforcers that, as a club owner, you must pay them for ‘protection’.

Koh Phangan has a weird vibe to it. I can’t place my finger on it but I definitely felt better energy on Samui where I hope to return for some work at Vikasa to help pay off my dues.

The Dos and Don’ts of the Full Moon Party

DOs

Do enjoy yourself

Do go with the flow

Do everything safely with a trusting circle of friends

Do get painted

Do take a pair of sunnies. The morning sun can be very harsh after a night of partying

DON’Ts

Don’t accept drugs from anyone. Either have your own and go somewhere like the Am-star-dam Bar to enjoy the cleanest and strongest mushroom shakes. You never know whose an undercover cop looking for a bribe or what they actually put in the drug.

Don’t go swimming under the influence. The water is as unpredictable as the party itself.

Don’t take any possessions you don’t want to lose. I.e cameras, phones, credit cards, passports. Just take money and nothing else.

Don’t drive after the party. There are enough idiots who do this and you don’t need to be part of any island statistics.

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SLIP SLIDIN’ AWAY

The doc looked me over, lifting my elbow, peering into the blood-red hole just above the bone.

“Need stitches,” he said.

I looked at it. I hadn’t realised it was so deep that you could see China on the other side. I was surprised there was very little blood. Of course, most of my blood was on the road where scooter-met-sand just a few hours earlier.

“How much?” I asked, bracing myself (and not cause of the cleaning alcohol being prepared).

The doc looked me over and seemed to calculate accordingly with the amount of injuries I had sustained.

It had all happened just that morning as I was heading out on the scooter to visit Baz at the Shiralea Backpacker’s Resort on the north side of Koh Phangan. I took a curve at a safe pace and hit the camouflaged beach sand that had gathered on it. Luckily, I wasn’t going fast as the bike slid and I lost control and went asphalt surfing on my right side.

The good news? I’m alive minus a few layers less of skin on my waist, right arm, right and left hand and on my right calf. And a hole just above the right elbow bone where blood had dripped from, leaving a splatter of my DNA on the road.

The bike’s motor was still running as I looked behind at its sprawled form. There was no one about. I slowly checked myself for anything broken and got up. I lifted the bike and saw that the right indicator had broken off.

Shit, I thought. Then I saw the whole right side, scratched like a record at an amateur DJ’s night.

Fuck.

I picked up my sunnies and phone, the back of it cracked.

Shit.

My sunnies didn’t survive either.

Fuck.

Shit and fuck.

I threw them to the side of the road, picked up the bike, hopped on and rode back to the Morning Star Resort where I was staying with Yingying, my couchsurfer host. It was her rented bike that I had introduced to the asphalt.

“Do you have first aid?” I asked at the reception. The lady gave me a bag with Band-Aids, cotton balls, cleaning alcohol and Betadine.

“Thanks,” I said, “I’ll go to my bathroom and clean myself up. I’ll bring it back.”

“Just careful of the Betadine,” she said. “Not wash off bed sheets.”

With set priorities I promised her I wouldn’t stain the bed sheets. Yingying didn’t move in the bed as I crept to the bathroom, grabbing my personal first aid kit which had gauze pads and a tube of anti-bacterial cream.

I washed off the sand and gravel and cleaned my wounds with the alcohol. The slight burn had me wincing lightly. I applied the Betadine to the gauze pads and stuck them on with an adhesive tape that wouldn’t stick.

What’s the point of making an adhesive tape that won’t stick?

I crept back through the room after cleaning up the CSI scene. Yingying stirred to wake in the bed, hungover from last night’s floating party we went too.

“Hey,” she murmured softly.

“Good morning,” I said cheerfully. And then decided it was as good a time as any to let her know that, “I, er, slid with the scooter,” I said, her eyes opening up.

“Are you OK?” she asked worryingly, looking over my wounds.

“I’m fine,” I assured her.

“And the bike?”

Well, here’s the thing… I relayed the damage report promising to pay for it. “I’m going to visit Bazza at the backpacker’s resort. They might have a better first aid kit.”

“OK, drive carefully,” she said as she returned to the pillow.

Oh, I will.

P1060092I headed out through the jungle-filled hills overlooking the turquoise crystal-clear waters surrounding the island. A little rattled from my spill, I was flying at 40 K’s an hour and looking out for sand on every corner. I reached the backpacker’s only to learn that Baz was out.

“Motorbike accident?” asked Brendan at the bar, indicating to my battlefield wound dressings.

“Yeah,” I said, relaying my brave tales of the morning.

 

“There’s a hospital down the road, in Thong Sala,” he suggested. “You don’t want that getting infected or you’ll end up worse off than a couple of scratches.”

He was right. So I rode down to the hospital, passing Baz on the way.

“I’ll come see ya after I get cleaned up,” I said.

The hospital was a small clinic. So small that the entire staff came to see the ‘falang’ that had become a part of the motorbike accident statistics of Koh Phangan, obtaining what is locally known as the ‘Koh Phangan Tattoo’. Three nurses and two doctors came to have a look. Even the administrative nurse had a peek.

So the doc looked me over and off the top of his head said, “5,000 Baht.” Or $168 AUD.

I burst into laughter. “You’re kidding right?”

“No. You not have insurance?”

“No.”

“OK, so we can clean for you and then you go to government hospital. Much cheaper.”

That works. I thanked them and headed off after a swab of alcohol.

“Go information window,” instructed the administrative nurse at the Koh Phangan Hospital.

I filled out the card with my details and handed it back.

“Your father name and mother name,” she pointed to the space I had left empty, right after ‘Religion’ and ‘Race’.

“Really?” It didn’t make sense. “You need my parents’ name?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said and waited patiently while I filled out the requirements.

“OK, go to emergency room next door,” she pointed to her left.

I went in and said a cheerful, “Sa-wa-dee-khap,” to the attending nurses.

A local kid was balling his eyes out as the nurses attended to some scratches on him. I was directed to lie on a bed with a plastic cover on the sheets. I removed my shirt and pulled my pants half way down to expose the strategically placed grinding of skin that had been removed from my waist.

The nurse set up a small silver platter, like the kind you get when dining in an Indian restaurant. Cotton swabs were piled; a clear liquid poured into one holding and Betadine into the other. She began to wipe away at the gravel and sand, cutting away the torn skin on my hands. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt (except when the metal of the scissors touched raw skin).

Fuckin’ lucky, was all I could think of as it could have been a lot worse.

The nurse dabbed Betadine on my leg wounds. The burn was sensational. Like taking a bite of the hottest chilli in the market place. It would be worse on my right hand, the first two layers of skin on the lower part of my palm having being ripped away. I was distracting myself by looking away as Nurse Ratchet wrestled with a pair of tweezers to get a stubborn piece of gravel out of my hand.

Again, no pain.

I was caught off-guard when it came to introducing the Betadine to my raw skin. I didn’t see her dab the cotton swab into the Betadine. I didn’t see her swipe it into my open wound. I didn’t see her step back and wait as it hit me like a Mike Tyson knockout punch in the third round.

I sucked in all the air in the room and had to bite the back of my left hand as the burn slowly subsided.

“Wooh!” I grinned as though I had just jumped out of a plane. “What a rush.”

The nurse did her magic on my elbow, administrating a local anesthetic and then sewing up the hole with two stitches after cleaning it out.

“OK,” she said. “Finish.”

“Sweet,” I said with a positive demeanour. “How much?”

“You go to information room,” she said as she packed up and invited the next patient in.

I went to the information window and was presented with a bill of 935 Baht. Or $32 AUD. That included the full treatment I had just undergone and the medicine.

“No discount?”

The nurse laughed. “You go pay at window number 2, take medicine at window number 3.”

Medicine? I thought. I hate medicine.

“Anti-biotic,” said the pharmacist.

“Why do I need anti-biotic?” I asked.

“You have open wound. It help to fight any infection.”

Sold.

I declined the offer of painkillers and headed back out to Bazza’s backpackers where I caught up with him and Jill and realised that my first full moon party would be sober as I wouldn’t be drinking. Maybe it’s for the better. It must be a sign that if I got stupid drunk at the full moon party it would not end well.

Now the other issue was finding work to pay off the damage to the bike and the hospital bill. Yingying, being connected around the island was going to help as I offered services of bar tendering, playing acoustic sets in bars and doing whatever it takes to pay off the bike (about 15,000 Baht in damages. Or $600 AUD) before my potential ride to Africa from Phuket in November.

Everything happens for a reason.

Now, to avoid my mother panicking about this I just have to remember not to click the ‘Publish’ button –

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VIKASA YOGA RETREAT

P1060027Now how the hell am I supposed to get my body into that position? I thought. I looked down and watched as, somehow, my arms interlocked between my legs.

Well that’s a first, I thought.

“Now bring your right leg to the side while balancing on your hands and left leg,” instructed the instructor.

Yeah, right, I chuckled on the inside. There’s no way I’m gonna be able –

 

What the..? I stared at my right leg as it followed through with the command.

OK, I thought. Now the hell am I supposed to get out of this position?

“Now we go into vipasana and relax,” Konstantin ‘Kosta’ Miachin, the owner and founder of the Vikasa Yoga Retreat in Koh Samui ended the hour long session.

This was my favourite part of yoga. The part where after you’ve contortioned your body into impossible positions you get to lay down on your back, palms up, relax everything and just breathe, loosing yourself to the sounds of the nearby sea, lapping gently against the rocks on the beach. Because in yoga, it’s all about the journey that you take your body and mind through to reach that pinnacle moment of self-reflection within your own soul.

P1060051Escorted by the chiming sounds of Japanese bowls played by Kosta, your mind, body and soul embark on a journey that’ll have you feeling enlightened.

Kosta isn’t just the owner and founder of this magical place. He is also the creator of the Vikasa yoga method. I would say it is a power-based form of yoga, helping to strengthen your body and mind, stretching your ability of balance and centering one’s self while combining an essential diet of meditation and organically healthy food, which is another highlight to look forward too after an hour long session – morning and night.

I first reached Vikasa on Monday via taxi from the Nathon ferry dock on the western side of Koh Samui, a peaceful island whose name translates to ‘Safe Haven’. The retreat is located on the eastern side of this jungle paradise, in Tambool Maret where it is built on a cliffside above the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

Vikasa Yoga Retreat has a variety of yoga classes from Ashtanga to Hathay and the signature Vikasa yoga – the evolution of yoga.

P1060040But Vikasa isn’t just about the yoga. With the rocky beach at its feet, there’s no better place on the whole island to meditate whether it be from the balcony of your bungalow that’s facing the water to greet the rising sun every morning, or perched on a rock on the beach. Better yet, take part in one of the meditation sessions the place has to offer – for free.

Vikasa Yoga Retreat also combines the most important element to any budding yogi – nutritiously healthy, organic amazing food. With the help of world renowned raw chef master, Boris Lauser from Berlin, and the help of Cider Organic’s restaurant chef from Ubud, Bali, Kosta has helped create a balanced meal for brunch (served daily between 10:30-11:30) and dinner (19:30 – 20:30) including freshly squeezed tropical juice.P1060054

Fish and chicken are served on occasion and eggs are served with brunch but the majority of the food is purely raw vegetables. As a carnivore, I wasn’t sure what to expect but besides the meditation at the end of a good yoga session, my next favourite thing to look forward too was the amazing food being served as a self-serve buffet.

The view from the dining area – with options of bean bags or standard tables and chairs – is of the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

Vikasa Yoga Retreat also offers a 200-hour teaching course. Students of all ages congregate from all over the world to take part in the three-week intensive course, studying and practicing the art of Vikasa yoga.

With its friendly and always smiling accommodating staff, Vikasa Yoga Retreat is the place to relax and kick back – even if there are 109 steps to the yoga salas from the dining area. And although it’s still a young place, only open for a year, its growing reputation on the island and around the world as the yoga place to be has already got itself booked out for the upcoming high season.

P1050989And you don’t have to stay here just for yoga. You’re not forced to partake in any classes (although its all inclusive so why miss out?). There’s great swimming to be done off the rocks below and snorkeling (although there’s not much to see).

And whether you practice yoga daily, or just once every few months. Whether you’re a carnivore or a vegetarian, Vikasa Yoga Retreat has it all and is all inclusive when you book. There’s an inviting infinity pool and spa and for a little extra, you can get a variety of massages from Thai to Swedish, foot to full body.

But the most important thing to remember when at Vikasa is too simply relax and enjoy the serenity.

Om Shanti.

P1060036

 

 

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