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Yoga In Thailand (Thailand 2010, part 2)

February 6th, 2010 | No Comments

The monkeys were out this morning. Arching my eyes to match my back-bend during the morning yoga class, I searched the trees for movement. Wild monkeys are like streakers at a football game, they appear out of nowhere and you think you see more than you actually see.

Such is the start of my days here, a consistent schedule of 7am yoga, breakfast overlooking the water, yoga philosophy, swimming (er, studying), another classroom session, and then dinner and bed. I have gotten used to this lifestyle. I am not sure how I am going to manage maintaining the ocean swim aspect back in Vancouver.

7am yoga practice in the jungle

7am yoga practice in the jungle

In the meantime, I live in the Avatar forest. The sticky, sweaty, colourful, lush, what-the-hell-just-moved jungle of Koh Phangan, Thailand. My roommates are 2 giant lizards. Not cute finger-sized geckos – giant bloody lizards (Reptilius Holyfuckicus). I do feel fortunate though, as I have thus far been spared, and hope to god it continues, to see a scorpion, giant spider, or cobra. Cobra you say? Why yes. Over breakfast one morning a friendly fellow told of the one he saw before we moved in… in the bathroom for my dorm! When I asked how he handled the situation, he said he finished peeing and slowly backed out of the stall. Finished peeing?!?!?! I have since informed my classmates that there is a higher chance of me peeing on them as I sprint as best I can with pants undone from any cobra-occupied stall, and leap into their arms like Gilligan into the Skipper’s.

Other creatures big and small seem to be drawn to my room in particular. I now also answer to “Noah”. Just about everything has come to visit me. Innocuous visitors such as moths, ants, termites, geckos, and cockroaches are now a welcome replacement to the big game. One day I noticed a significant amount of lizard droppings in the dorm hallway, and took that as a sign that my roommates were out. Sticking my digital camera into the crevice where they normally hide and snapping a photo (not like I was actually going to put my head up there) I confirmed they were running errands. I used athletic tape and a towel to board up their house and inspire a move. Unfortunately I have had far less success with the rats. Twice we have had the staff tear apart the ceiling from the room underneath, but every night I still hear them beneath the floorboards. In the dark I put on my glasses when there is a noise, as if it helps me to hear better. I think I have had only one or two decent sleeps since I arrived. The moment each night between taking out my contact lenses and crawling under the mosquito net into bed is like a lone cat crossing a street in India, overpopulated by stray dogs. If I make it unscathed, I feel as though I have gotten away with something. I close each day with a ritual of shining my flashlight into the dark corners, shaking out the bedding and lifting the pillow, cleaning up lizard droppings, brushing away any bamboo shrapnel that may have fallen from the ceiling onto the bed/net, and tucking the net underneath the bed.

My roommates

My roommates

The bathroom ritual is much the same, with the addition of checking under the toilet seat for spiders – when it is not a pit toilet, of course. I got used to pit toilets in India, and to disposing of toilet paper in the bins provided in South America, however the combination of the two is yet another experience it seems I needed to have. The showers are low pressure and cold, rendering them ineffective in taking off more than ½ a layer of sun block and bug spray per use. So taking into account my length of stay and number of showers, I am net 9.5 layers of stuff coating my skin.

The mosquito nets are complimentary with each room, but those are as about as much of a deterrent as a “keep off grass” sign is to a dog. Mosquitoes are the locusts and my body is Egypt in the time of Moses. Texans at a Vegas buffet are more discerning than these voracious little fuckers. They are prison mosquitoes, as they do their most fiendish work in the shower. I much preferred showering with the snake, which joined me much of the second week. At least you could see him coming, and for the most part he just hung out on the wall above the nozzle. Still, rubber ducky never prepared me for this.

Speaking of animals, the dogs here have balls. I never thought this would be noteworthy. I knew they seemed different, but couldn’t place it until one of my fellow students pointed it out. I was simply entertained by the oddity of the observation. It took considerably more discernment to confidently say that the creature which circles the kitchen every night is indeed a bat. But I don’t hang out in the kitchen; I simply derive healthy clean food from it. Indeed.
The tardy monsoon rains, which normally bathe southern Thailand in November, made the air buoyant during my first week here. Clothes are wet before you put them on, and the covers of paperback books curl open. Beads of sweat feel like the Winnipeg-sized mosquitoes that move in at dawn and dusk like a squadron of Apache helicopters. There is no fan in my room, so yogic cooling breath is my only reprieve from the hot dense air. The rain coaxes dime-sized frogs out of hiding. They spot the walkways like capers on a lox and cream cheese bagel; easily dismissed sentries that hop away in increments no farther than the length of a pen.

The island of Koh Phangan is home to the world famous full moon parties, on Sunrise Beach in the town of Haad Rin. The aptly named “The Sanctuary” is located two beaches away from the epicenter of the depravity. Northeast of Haad Rin, the next three beaches act as varying neighbourhoods where we spend our time. Haad Yuan is the largest of the three, with its wide luxurious expanse of talcum powder sand, and fantastic restaurants. Wynam is a bite-sized secluded escape, with one open-air restaurant and a half-dozen bungalows. In between is Had Tien, the oyster for The Sanctuary’s pearl. It is a place where topless women build sandcastles, and you can leave your wallet on a table for 20 minutes while you spontaneously teach partner yoga on the beach, and it is still there when you come back. People are so trusting that I had one woman I didn’t know give me her bank card and PIN number so that I could withdraw money for her when she heard I was going into town.

Haad Yuan beach

Haad Yuan beach

Had Tien

Had Tien

Wynam (why not?)

Wynam (why not?)

The month-long yoga course I am taking is comprised of 14 women, and me. Our teacher immediately began deferring stereotypically masculine roles to me – heavy lifting, hooking up the propane tank to the shower, removing the random dogs that enter the yoga hall… “You’re a man, you should know this” she says. I choose to laugh inside rather than correct her. If one of those baseball glove-sized spiders shows up I plan on screaming like a banshee and blaming it on one of the girls. In the meantime, I will enjoy the folklore status that seems to be permeating the resort. A man stopped me on the path just yesterday with “are you the only guy in the teacher training? Nice work!”  Another aspect of this came into play at the last all-night party, held each Friday at “Guy’s Bar”, down the beach. Dancing with all of the ladies from the course, I was instructed to be ready to play boyfriend should any of the girls need to deflect unwanted attention. The stoned predators didn’t know what to think. Gotta love how easily potheads are distracted.

Guy's Bar - not quite 7am

Guy's Bar - not quite 7am

My fellow students are an entertaining bunch. Ages range from 19-58, and personalities span an even wider gap. Fortunately there are no bad apples in the group – everyone gelled very quickly and make consistent efforts to support each other’s practice. The teacher of the course is phenomenal, and her teachings are in complete alignment with the lineage of yoga that I have been exposed to in India, and in my other studies and immersions elsewhere. I would be very quick to recommend her to anyone interested in a course such as this. I am thrilled with every aspect of the course thus far.

Yoga grad class of 2010, Thailand High

Yoga grad class of 2010, Thailand High

One guy I have connected with is an Italian named Fabio. He makes gelato in a small town outside of Venice 8 months of the year, and then travels abroad to write a novel. He is at The Sanctuary composing his 4th. Clearly, this is a lifestyle I aspire to. He has provided considerable comic relief, and a lightning rod for such philosophical dissections as the dichotomy between the representative personality types of people who eat ice cream from a cone versus from a cup. The first is a connected tactile experience, while the latter is pure separation. Not to mention the significance of licking a food product directly instead of plastic. And the little biscuit in the gelato cup does not count.

The bars and restaurants on the island are known as much for their food as they are for the consistent music selections emanating from them. I could just as easily describe places with Jack Johnson, Michael Frante, or Jamiroquai as the defining feature, as I could provide an address, with complete confidence that someone would find the correct establishment.

Bamboo Restaurant - overlooking Haad Yuan. Try the omelet sandwich.

Bamboo Restaurant - overlooking Haad Yuan. Try the omelet sandwich.

On an unrelated note, I want to clearly establish that jet skis are the most efficient way for the white man to defecate on another culture. The dry land equivalent would be Trans Am, devoid of muffler, fuzzy dice, air-brushed fantasy scene painted on the side, obnoxious sound system, even more obnoxious musical selection, and long greasy hair extending down to the Bruno Gerussi medallion matressed by exposed chest hair. Take a leaf blower to a birthday candle, and you will witness a similar effect to jet skis.

The course is only a few days from completion now, so I must return to consuming as much fresh mango, papaya, and pineapple as possible, washing them down with coconut shakes and cappuccinos (ok the last item isn’t inherently Thai, but it has become part of the experience). I am also in the process of arranging a full day snorkeling trip before I return to Bangkok, and then home. My gift to myself for completing the program, because of course it has been so challenging to do yoga and swim every day. Speaking of which, the waves are calling me.side crow

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