Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 23-27

December 23-27
We traveled back to Phuket by bus on the 23rd and settled in with a massive meal of fried chicken. Christmas eve was spent lounging and going out for a Thai Feast with Chris's parents Sue and Steve. Then it was off for a few drinks by the sea with a live band. On Christmas morning Chris cooked a big fried breakfast and we all went to the beach for a morning swim. The afternoon was spent lounging by the pool and eatting a delicious Turkey lunch. Boxing day was spent beach side with another feast and lounging around the rocky coast. I am so grateful to be adopted by families like the Smiths over and over again. I'm often thousands of miles away from my own family, but hospitality, celebration, and love always find me. The day made me miss and feel so grateful for all my family and adopted families. Love to the Peirce family, the Sadaris women, Cinda and Bill Richman, and everyone who has given me a bed and a meal along the way.

Koh Rok pictures

Koh Rok boat trip

December 14-23

I met Lucy and Chris on Koh Lanta on December 14. It is an island near Koh Jum and Krabi town where I spent time earlier in my trip. We checked into a big bungalow at a laid back resort called Where Else. Traditional round that huts with open air bathrooms sit in a palm grove and the property continues towards the beach. An excellent beach bat filled with hammocks, and different hight bathrooms Amex it easy to spend the days reading and lounging in different ways. The food was excellent, I gorged on giant king prawns.

The next morning our outfitter from Freedom Adventures took us to the pier to board their converted fishing boat for an overnight camping and snorkeling trip. The three of us were the only ones booked in the tour so essentially it was a private charter with a crew of three very friendly Thai guys. Two hours later we arrived in Koh Rok, a national marine park with loads of shallow protected reef to explore. After our first dive the boat anchored near a beach and we ate a tasty lunch of stir fried squid, greens, rice, fried barracuda,and jungle curry. Afterwards we combed the beach and built a sculpture of bamboo and worm eaten driftwood beauties. The rain started to drizzle so we decided to pitch the tents and clean up before Ned, our English speaking guide cooked us dinner on the beach over a small fire. We drank beer on a beach mat and feasted on more curried barracuda, barbecued squid, and delicious marinated chicken. Ned, our English speaking guide, played his guitar and sang Thai songs to us by the fire. It was a beautiful night and I slept so well in the tent with the pattering of rain dripping from the trees.

The next morning was met with a rainy tent breakdown, and a breakfast feast on the boat. I took another long snorkel around the reef. It felt so good to be free diving after so many months away from the warmth and clarity of tropical water. So many fish! We spent the rest of the laughing in the shallow water along the beach, and ate another beautiful lunch before we hunkering down for a bumpy ride back to Koh Lanta. We spent that night back at Where Else and enjoyed more delicious food and the rowdy enthusiasm of a group of Spaniards.

The next morning Chris took the ferry back to Phuket, but Lucy and I spent another day around Where Else reading and lounging by the sea. The next morning we caught a minibus to Trang, a provincial inland capital city three hours away. We decided to make the jump to trang to explore the food, markets, and to book a trip to the large waterfall in the northeast corner of the province. We also wanted to escape the building crowds and price hikes leading up to the Western Holidays. After wondering around town and through the smelly wet market we bought some fried chicken by the train station and retreated to our air conditioned hotel room for a nap and a regroup. That night we wondered around the night markets eating all sorts of food on sticks, bags, and bowls. Food glorious food.

The next morning we went to bustling Dim Sum restaurant and selected all kinds of unrecognizable plates to be steamed and gobbled up. We waddled out of there after a giant plate of crispy pork, fried chicken, six steamed Dim Sum plates, teeth rattling sweet Thai coffee, and hot tea to settle our stomachs. We bought a picnic lunch for the day and hired a driver to take us to Ting Toe waterfall about an hour outside the city. A short hike up a dilapidating trail and we made it to the base of the falls and swam in a raging pool of water. The falls go down several levels and fall a total of 320 meters. I couldn't resist climbing the rocks up to the first level and sat in a shallow pool of rushing water. I carefully descended, but lost my footing at one point and got a pretty good scape on my upper thigh. But the view from the waterfall and the incredible sensation of the water rushing around me was well worth the sore bum. I think Lucy and our guide's jaws dropped a little when I feel, but I recovered pretty quickly and kept swimming and hobbling around for the rest of the afternoon. It was a gorgeous natural wonder off the beaten tourist path. After another nap and a trip to the pharmacy for a bandage we headed out to another local restaurant for curried fish and fried morning glory in bean sauce. Trang was a refreshingly authentic switch from the basic menus on the beaches. We did a little more wondering and found a shaved ice stand for dessert.

The next morning we caught a minibus and a long tail to Koh Mook, an island in the Trang Island chain. After checking into our room and having lunch at a restaurant built into the cliffs on the far end of the beach I spent the afternoon lounging in my hammock. Lucy and I shared a delicious curry at our resort and called it a day. Early the next morning we hired a longtail to take us along the coast of the island to Emerald Cove. The cove is a natural wonder encircled by high limestone rock faces only accessible by swimming 60 meters through a dark cave. We experienced 15 minuets of meditative silence in this beautiful place before the first tour group arrived in kayaks. I was blow away by the beauty and sacred feeling of this place. Supposedly pirates once used it as a temporary hiding place for their loot.

I took bother trip to the cove by kayak when Chris arrived the next day. We had an excellent time lounging and hanging out on Koh Mook.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tiger cave Temple

I spent the morning researching and banging out some details for the next leg of my trip. I'm headed to Koh Lanta tomorrow to meet my friend Chris and go on an over night boat/camping trip. After running a few errands and eating a delicious $1 vegetarian lunch I took a Suranghat to Wat Tham Seua (Tiger Cave Temple). The Wat itself was under construction, but path off to one side offered a look into the unique huts built into a rock face where monks sleep and live. Plus a little green after a day on a bus is always welcome. Monkeys sit everywhere waiting for people to feed them, or to raid well covered garbage cans. The Wat is built on a historical sight where tigers once lived among the caves. A large Budah statue and several shrines sit at the top of a very tall set of cliffs. I dared to take the 1,200 steps to the top, stopping several times and finishing with the encouraging smiles of a middle age Thai man as my companion. I'm not sure if the hight and the physical strain is suppose to help you prepare for your prayers at the top, or is just a consequence of geography. Either way my calf muscles were tight and raging after the stair-o-than. I did make it to the top and the statue and views were rewarding.

A group of very young novist monks laughed and took pictures at the top. Virtually all Buddust men in Thailand spend some small amount of time as monks. These were laughing teenagers spending more time documenting each other at the top then saying prayers. They hid cellphones in the pockets amongst their robes and kept checking in to the outside world. These young men were probably not in it for the long hall, but I could be wrong. I saw a old motorbike taxi driver fall to his knees and bow to them in the parking lot. I guess their journey, like all the travelers and locals I observe, is unknown to me.

Amanda Mar
Krabi Town, Thailand

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bus ride recovery

I left Koh Payam on the 9am speedboat filled with Thais, a few tourists, and two very small fluffy dogs. One was a western, well groomed, but collarless maltese. The pet of two Midwestern retires. He wore brown leather Velcro New Balances and above his red face and gray hair a ball cap embroidered with the Oldsmobile logo. She wore circulation pantyhose, Dr. Shoals slipons and black, embroidered, TJ-max capri pants. The man I assumed to be their son was slightly alternative, bearded, black cap, thick rimmed glasses, and heavy leather sandals. His Thai wife linked arms with him and petted the dog in his lap, she wore rubber sandals with Bambi Characters on them. The other scrawny puppy sat shivering in a half toothless Thai mans lap next to me. His curly hair and small frame reminded me of a new born cow. This is just an example of my people watching, an act that consumes most of my travel days. A hundred bits of fiction could start from the truth you seek in people sitting across from you on public transportation. My writing mind is training me to take notice of little details. I could describe the characters on the bus ride and the high pitched pop music that made my ears feel like bleeding through my ear plugs on my 6 hour bus ride to Krabi. But maybe you had to there..... But I would like to express my public gratitude for Steve Jobs and his grand devices that pump music into earbuds at extraordinary volumes.

I arrived in the rain, but in this country there is always an English speaker making small commissions with a cellphone. A door to door taxi appears for $1.50 in less then ten minuets. After checking into my familiar guest house I wondered to a massage parlor to try to recoup from the days travel. I choose the competition of the one I went to last time, and quickly found out this massage would be a completely different animal then my, "it's my first time" massage I got a month ago. The first half hour was a pleasant foot massage with nice stretches and lotions, but as she worked her way up my body pulling, stretching, and twisting I was far from relaxed. My mind wondered to all kinds of life tasks....bills paid, dollars converted, presents to buy....as a distraction from kneading fingers and stretching muscles. Little alerts of pain and feet and hands placed in pockets of bent limbs and pelvic bones kept my mind alert during the 90 minuets. I felt great afterwards. A lot of water, some street food at the night market, and an early night helped me recover from my recovery.

Smiles,
Amanda Mar
Krabi Town, Thailand

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Coffee Observations

Good Morning

Blog December 7, 2011

The varnish on the weathered teak table is soft and worn away completely around big knots in the boards. The simple thick table legs sink a few inches into the sand, but keep their shin. An equally weathered aluminum expresso pot holds rich Italian coffee, a novelty reserved for tourist in this tea drinking culture. I pour this rich dark gift into a small pyrex cup with a clear handle and mix in steamed milk and big brown sugar crystals. My morning begins by the sea with my heart beating under the power of the caffeine injection.

A tire-swing hangs from a fraying nylon rope attached to a low hanging cashew tree whose roots cling to the sandy earth as its trunk and branches reach towards the sea at an unnatural angle. Orchids make their home in the branch joints. The table sits a few feet above the tide thanks to a sea wall built from limestone boulders set in concrete. A half moon bay of sandy beach transitions from mangroves to a thin strip of rocky shoreline that slopes up to rainforest where sea eagles hover like watchful guardians. Miles away beyond the bay and the thin maritime boarder mountainous Berma sits like a ghost in the low hanging morning haze.

The resort restaurant sits beneath stunted caesarian pines. A neatly thatched roof is suspended from concrete pillars molded and painted to mimic the trunks of trees and driftwood branches spring out from the columns to add to the facade. A simple mosaic of pebbles and flat slate stones is set into the uneven concrete floor. Well fashioned teak tables with high backed chairs bring order and hints of class to the beach side eatery. Lightbulbs disguised in bamboo lanterns come on with the generator between 6-10pm.

A pack of short legged dogs with gray bandanas tided around their scruffy necks patrol the beach and grounds. An aging British couple laugh and fall into the water for a blissful morning swim. German murmuring quickly turns into jovial breakfast laughter at the next table. A middle aged women from the resort next-door rolls around in the shallow water like a sensual child. I wonder if she is she hoping, like so many beach goers, to be cured by the sea, sun, salt, and sand? A tan, fit, european man wearing kaki cargo shorts, a neo green sleeveless shirt, and a fanny pack marches up and down the beach with music blaring in his ears and red wraparound sunglasses shielding his eyes. He marches and dances unselfconsciously up and down the beach several times a day. A bald speedo clad German carries a kayak to the water and vigorously sets out for his ritual aerobic morning paddle. The rest of the resort characters willfully retreat to the row of beach chairs shaded by juvenile palms and give into easy fiction.

In a moment the restaurant is on its feet pointing as a family of sea otters dips and surface as they hunt for breakfast. I count six of the slick creatures methodically fishing and moving as a unite towards the north end of Buffalo Bay. I retreat back to my Bungalow in the trees to spend a few hours writing. On the path I encounter three different types of butterfly. I've set up a nice little writing studio for myself with a low table, pillows, shade, and a view of the bay. My restless spell is passing and I've put off making any big leaps and booked four more days at this bungalow. My friend Chris has expressed interest in coming with me to Cambodia around the first of the year, and the offer of a big, manly, well traveled companion on this more difficult leg of travel is hard to resist. So for now I'm spending four focused days of writing before I decide.

Smiles,
Amanda Mar
Koh Payam, Ranong Province, Thailand

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lazy day

November 5, 2011

Day five on Koh Payam. This half gray lazy day has made me feel a little lonely. I woke up early and shared breakfast with two women I met the night before and our easy conversation over espresso on the beach was a good start to the day. I moved down the beach to a nicer bungalow with a sociable restaurant where I've been taking most of my meals. The bungalow is spacious with a massive bed and a huge balcony with a lounging area and private views of the sea. A stone indoor/outdoor shower lets you see the bay as you cringe under the relief off a cold shower. White sheets and bolster pillows add to the love nest in the trees vibe. Why am I here alone in this place of peace and beauty? Of corse all my reasons for paradise solitude are warranted, but walking into the bungalow today and napping to the sounds of the waves I had to question why the other side of my room-sized bed is vacant.

So what will cure my romantic blues? A trip to the killing fields in Panam Pen, Cambodia and sweaty days of temple touring at Angkor Wat of corse. As early as Wendesday I plan to take a ferry and a bus to the North\south transition town of Champon to book transportation through Bangkok and on to Cambodia. For now it's time for me to shake up my beach side meditation and follow the well beaten backpacker path. I'm feeling compelled to seek out a more cultural experience and meet the crowd of fellow travelers away from the beachside holiday destinations in the south of Thailand. I could be retreating back here indefinitely in ten days or my itchy feet could carry me to Chang Mai for New Years and on to Loas. As always I'm playing my hand as it comes.

For now I'm at a beautiful resort on a white sand beach with a very large beer in front of me as the sun sets into a strip of rainforest.

Amanda Mar
Koh Payam, Ranong Province, Thailand

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Build and they will come

Koh payam is waiting in dread and anticipation for a big mainstream tourist boom to happen. A short gangly bar tender behind a wooden bamboo and drift wood bar brought it up in the first five minuets of conversation today. Locals fear the power grid will open the gates. His tangled hair is knotted on top of his head, he wears a red, yellow and green zip up hoodie and tattered cut off jeans. His eyes are slightly bloodshot from last nights drink and the mornings smoke remedy. The roofs is thatched and tribute paintings and prints of Bob Marley hang in every direction. I've encountered bars like this across southern Thailand, this one is called Rasta Baby. I'm not sure how I feel about them. For the most part there is a tired sound track and while the drift wood is authentic the rasta colors ring like a false gimmick. I'm sure there are moments of music and celebration which make these lost reggae bars come to life, but in the light of day the bar just makes me pine for islanders instead of Thais and friends instead of fat Germans in speedos.

Before my conversation with the Thai want-to-be rasta I already felt and saw the vibrations of development everywhere. There are several concrete midrange resorts under construction on the beach where I'm staying. For this island the age of the bamboo hut for 6 dollars a night is being threatened. Though its not here yet the residuals from boom time interest gives this place a build and they will come attitude. For now the resorts are half full at best and I chose a clean, well constructed wooden bungalow with a tiled bathroom and soft bed for $13 over the molding bamboo options. Maybe I'm one of those flash packers they have been waiting for, because yesterdays I stopped into one of the new midrange places and enjoyed some wifi, a clean delicious meal, and beer was still just $1.50. I sat down at a similar place weeks ago in Railey and got up and left after a glance at the prices. For now Koh Payam is a bargain and on the cusp of the main stream.

Today I kayaked a beautiful stretch of relatively untouched rock coast where rainforest meets the sea. I watched sea eagles soar over head and swoop down to catch their lunch. I could see small schools of reef fish along the rocks. The rain came down and the waves and current were at my back and life felt very right. I fear more development on my own island of Abaco I fear for Koh Payam. How far will she be stretched? It seems the Thais are aware of the value of theae natural resources and they have wide expanses of national parka. But on islands like Koh Payam with wide white beaches and little regulation it is possible to be gobbled whole by the beast of burden, the tourist dollar.

Amanda Mar
Koh Payam, Ranong Province, Thailand


Friday, December 2, 2011

Payam day 2

December 3, 2011
Day two on Koh Payam. I hiked to the other side of the island for a coffee at the Eco lodge on the island. After reading abut it I thought about staying the, but today I found it with negative vibrations, but I found a little cove with no buildings on it to spend a few hours listening to music and writing. Then I wondered along the coast towards the village. I passed a small temple built on a pier and several large scale statues of Buddah. There were two shirtless monks shoveling sand and listening to scratchy pop music on an old school radio. I wondered through a past town to what appeared to be an upscale resort. But this is Thailand, so beer and lunch still coast 10 dollars even in breezy cushioned comfort. I'm still trying to work out the snorkeling trip, I think we are six people and they are waiting for ten, so maybe in the next days. I think I'll rent a kayak for the day tomorrow and get a different prospective on the island.

Ive been looking at the colander a lot today thinking about the next two months and feeling my feet itch to see, do, and go. I'm thinking about taking a trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia before Christmas. This probably means a bus to bangkok and then a flight. It's something I'm feeling more compelled to see and I'm worried if I out it off to January I won't find a week to do it. I'm still planning on beaching it up here for the next four or five days, but I might make a bigger hop after that.

Smiles,
Amanda Mar
Koh Payam, Ranong Province, Thailand

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Koh Payam


December 1, 2011
I made the hop from Koh Chang to Koh Payam this morning. It is a similar island, but it has a few more people and I'm hoping it will be a little more social. I'm getting a little bored with beach life (did you ever think I would say that) after almost a month in Southern Thailand. I'm asking myself what else I want to get out of this first leg of my trip. There is a snorkeling trip I'm trying to book from here that goes over night to a national park and takes you to several protective reefs. I'm not a diver, but I don't think I should leave the islands without seeing some reef. So I'm here on another quiet beach with my thoughts, books and notebooks. Meeting people, thinking, writing, and beginning to feel a little lonely. I can't help imagining my family, friends, or Sean here with me. Wondering how the experience would be different with a partner, but mostly enjoying my solitude and contemplation. The beach in Koh Payam is white and the water is crystal and the jungle is ringing with birds and monkeys. It is a bit of paradise unattainable in North America but found so cheaply and easily here in Thailand.

Know that I am safe and happy and sleeping in a bright and clean bungalow by the sea. Living each day as it comes and approaching the half way point in my sabbatical and remembering the friends, spaces, and places I've already loved and enjoyed so much.

Smiles,
Amanda Mar

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Koh Chang

November 29, 2011

I spent another day on Koh Chang. I switched bungalows this morning to a place called Sawadee (hello). It the same price and a much better bungalow that can be locked and has electricity from 6pm - 10pm. I gave up the views and a rustic thatched roof for a few more comforts. Plus it is beach side and has a very beautiful restaurant under a giant tree and so far the food is exceptional. Last night I came here for dinner and devoured a whole steamed red snapper in a sweet and savory tarragon sauce. It was one of the most beautifully prepared fish I've ever eaten. Sadly I didn't have my camera and will live with the memory or order it again tomorrow night and relive the bliss. I spent the day on a thatched platform by the sea on a comfy mat with my notebook and kindle. This resort is spilling with good vibrations and I'm feeling much more upbeat after the relocation. I went for a sunset walk and drank sweet lechey juice as toucans squawked over head. I'm planning to spend another night here and then take a water taxi to a neighboring island called Koh Phayam. It's a little more populated then Koh Chang and also has a national park with rain forests and a good two day snorkeling trip I'm thinking about taking. I think it's one of those places on the brink of exploding into a full force tourist island. There is also a very cool ecolodge I might splurge a little and stay in for a night or two.

Amanda Mar
Koh Chang, Ranong Province, Thailand

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The beach at Ao Sane

Phuket island

Monday November 23 - Sunday November 27
I met an American couple from seattle the night before I left koh Jum and enjoyed my last dinner at Woodland Lodge. The hospitality and sunset views at woodland captured me, but I'm not ready to stay put just yet. I decided to head to Phuket to visit a yachtie friend who has a house on the island and is also taking some time off boats. I cought the ferry back to Karabi and then took a four hour minivan ride to Phuket town where Chris picked me up on his motor bike and took me back to his house. Chris grew up as a cruiser kid in Spain and Asia. His family discovered Phuket and eventually bought a house on the island. They keep their boat in Chalong Bay. Chris has recently bought a duplex in a mostly Thai neighborhood which he uses as a base and place to take holiday away from big white boats. It was so good to have a companion and tour guide for a few days. I don't think I would have gone to Phuket as a solo backpacker because it is spread out and expensive. I was able to avoid the crowds, costs, and confusion while seeing the best parts of the island with Chris.

After regrouping at his house we headed to a water side restaurant on Ao Sane beach. The beach is one of Chris's favorite spots so we returned the next day for some swimming, longing and more delicious food. A group of friends Chris knows from Spain met us there and we drove to Big Buddah for sunset. A five story tribute statue sits on one of the highest hills on the island and offers three sixty views of the island. It was two over cast for a decent sunset, but the viewpoint gave me a good prospective of the size of the island and the surrounding islands. We headed to a night market for lots of fried snacks before going back to wash away a long day of sun and sea. We ate dinner at a local roadside restaurant. I ate my first fried soft shell crabs of the trip (yummmmm).

On Wednesday we headed into Phuket Town. The town center is not as touristed and is filled with all types of storefronts and restaurants. There is no shortage of cheap clothing bazars anywhere in Thailand... Indoor, outdoor, air con, markets, and moving carts. An endless sea of similar t-shirts, sandals, dresses, handbags, and hats. We stopped for rottie dipped in green curry. Pancakes with egg and a thick spicy curry sauce. I had some urban burnout after a few hours In town. We stopped at a shopping mall where I got a Thai cellphone and sim card so I can be even more connected while I'm here. Then it was straight to the beach for a sunset swim and a good grassy viewpoint to watch the sun go down. Then we headed to Rawi beach in search of a carnival where a Thai reggae band was suppose to play. We ate dinner at a waterside restaurant with concrete picnic tables, strings of fluorescent lights hung from trees and a busy street he server had to cross to get to the kitchen. We were happy for the sea breeze and delicious food. The concert that night was canceled due to wind and rain, but we met a British and German pair of characters and headed to an Indian restaurant to smoke hookah, chat, and eat samosas. They were both in Thailand for Martial arts training. It was interesting to hear them talk about their world and life in Phuket. I played the part of the American and listened to the familiar cracks about puppet Obama and the tumbling partisan government and crashing economy. For the most part we kept it light and I enjoyed a few hours of conversation.

The next morning we headed back to Rawi to check out the fresh water perl shops. Thousands of strung perl necklaces hung from bamboo stalls in all different colors. A sign read lots of lady or ornaments. I could help but think about fem theory, ornamentation, and the symbolism of pearls. We had lunch at the same restaurant before driving all over the place in search of viewpoints and sights. Then we headed to Chris's parents house for a chill out by the pool and dinner. We met up with the spaniards and Chris's sister and visiting cousin and had a few beers at a beach side reggae bar. I celebrated Thanksgiving by gorging on a late night bag of fried chicken from a roadside stand.

On Friday we had another low key beach day at Ao Sane with Chris's cousin Justin. It rained off and on and I enjoyed sitting under a beach umbrella and watching it all come down. Chris's parents threw a barbecue and I met some other foreigners living in Phuket. That night we met up with a group of foreigners teaching in Phuket and went to two Thai clubs. The first wasa cool bar blaring top 40s which was fun to dance to, but when the night turned to live band karaoke we left quickly. The second club had a live Thai band with crazy enthusiasm and choreographed dance move. The loud energy was overwhelming, but we stayed for a worthy hour of people watching. The silent stoic Thailand boys and very fashionable girls stand around table tops with bottles of ice and whiskey. By the end of the night I was very ready to head home. I can't say clubbing in Phuket Town was a great time, but the experience felt authentic and worth seeing.

By Saturday I was ready to hit the road and make my way back to a quiet island. I took a six hour bus ride to Ranang and got a guesthouse for the night and caught a boat to Koh Chang. I met the owner of a guest house at the pier and have booked a wooden bungalow without electricity form him for the night. I'm about to walk the beach and check out the other options. The place is beautiful but the ringing from some sort of bug could drive me into a permanent migraine or insanity. For the most part I'm happy to be by the sea and back into a life of simplicity.

Amanda Mar
Koh Chang, Ranong Province, Thailand

P.s. the bug noise just subsided (thank you universe)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Phuket

November 23, 2011
I made the jump from Koh Jum to Phuket on Monday. A longtails transferred to a ferry and the a minivan to Phuket Town where a friend who I met when Magic was in the boat yard last November picked me up. I've spent the last three nights at his house in Chalong. He has taken me all over the island to coves and veiw points away from the throngs of beach goers. I don't think I would have come to Phuket on my own, but having a guide and a friend for a few days after my week of solitude on Koh Jum is a nice change.

After a day on the beach we took a trip to see The Big Buddah yesterday at sunset. It is a five story tribute statue to Buddah that looks out on three sixty views of the island, the sea, and surrounding islands. Then we went to a night market for snacks of all kinds of fried things on sticks. After a shower and a chill out we went out to a good local roadside restaurant and I fell in love with fried soft shell crabs with cracked pepper. An excellent day.

Today we wondered around Phuket Town, the older city center. We ate Roti dipped in a thick chicken curry sauce. Lots of wondering left us a little burt out so we went for an afternoon swim and another delicious meal of fried prawns and papaya salad. Food glorious food. After regrouping we planned to go to a Thai Reggae concert, but it was canceled due to rain. We ended up smoking hookah and eating samosas with two other foreigners who showed up despite the rain and had a nice time lounging and talking. Hopefully the concert will happen tonight.

I'm feeling good from full days and lots of beautiful food. I'm planning to depart Phuket tomorrow or the ext day for another week on a secluded island called Koh Chang.

Amanda Mar
Phuket Island, Thailand

Friday, November 18, 2011

Leaving Koh Jum

November 18, 2011

Another quiet day in Koh Jum. I went into the villege for a lunch of spicy green mango salad and fish in lemongrass and chillies washed down with an icy mango shake. The sun is going down and giving into another dazzling sunset. I've started another book and spent some time connecting to the world. The beach here is one of those places you could easily fall out of touch and give in to a life of disconnected bliss, but I am happy to share my experience in real time and plan my next meetings with friends and island hops. I plan to stay in Koh Jum until Monday morning and take the ferry and then the bus on to Phuket to meet up with a yachtie friend. It will be good to have a tour guide in this tourist Mecca.

Amanda Mar
Koh Jum, Thailand

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Koh Phi Phi


November 16, 2011

I went with a group of three Germans and a couple from San Fransico to Koh Phi Phi for the day. I am so thankful to be on the quiet beach in Koh Jum instead of fighting the tourist beat on Koh Phi Phi. The tour in the longtails around the islands was beautiful. Tall outcrops of limestone cliffs fall straight into the sea. A few coves empty in the first hours of morning tours were jaw dropping. Clean cool water revealing coral headed and the movements of fish bellow. But beauty is a burden. Speed boats and long tails bringing groups of day tours to fester among the crowded pressure cooker of the tourist village. Row after row of the same trinkets and bumbling sweaty red faced bodies. I ate a meal in a guest house and watched a laxidasical army seeking their crowded beach chair paradise. I was relieved to get back on the long tails and let the crowd induced migraine disparate as we put kilometers between me and the mess. It makes me realize how many different experiences you can seek in one country. How travel and relaxation can be defined differently by each traveler. Im starting to understand what I'm seeking and how to look for it. I returned to Koh Jum and booked four more nights in my bungalow and made plans to meet a yachtie friend in Phuket on Monday. So I am enjoying my hammock next to the sea and the freedom to write, read, and let music and freedom fill my head.

One of the Germans staying at Woodland Bungalow helped me cut a prepaid sim card and instal it in my iPad. This means I am connected to the world on this little beach. 40 hours of data for about 10 dollars. So I am safe, connected, and content Intended to let another day pass to the rhythm of the waves.

Amanda Mar
Koh Jum, Thailand

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The beach at Koh Jum


Koh Jum

November 10, 2011

I'm laying in my Bungalow in Koh Jum about to finish my 6th day in Thailand. I'm staying on a quiet little beach a little off the tourist beat in a thatched and polished bamboo bungalow. I started today with a bowl full of mystery soup. I really wanted to go back to the big public market to eat breakfast so I dared to point to a pot and eat as the Thais were. A thick breath with mushrooms, bamboo shoots a few whole boiled quail egg, a chicken wing, some jelled cupes of blood, and a very strange cartilage of some sort. I ate most of it but couldn't stomach the last of the cartilage. I think she gave me an extra large portion to see if I would eat it. But by Thai women standards I am an extra large women so maybe she just thought I was hungry. I towered over most of the people in the market, but again it was a good experience before catching the ferry to Koh Jum.

The ferry idled a quarter mile off shore and long tails came to pick passengers up and take them to their bungalows. The tide was too low to drop me in front so we went to the dock at the village on the island and I took a cab to my hotel. The cabs are 75 cc mopeds with a carriage attached to one side for holding passengers or cargo. The island is bigger then I anticipated and we took several roads to get to the Woodland Lodge. I have booked just for to nights, I'm going to scout out the other options tomorrow. My bungalow is very nice, but the grounds a little loud with staff laughing and dogs bark.ing. I took a log walk down the beach and then wrote for a few hours before walking down to another guest house for a fried noodle dinner.

Life is good

November, 11 2011

My first full day on Koh Jum spent writing swimming and relaxing. Writing was very productive and I'm finding easy to find a voice in this setting and am excited to spend many more hours in the same spot with pen in hand. To be a writer you must think of nothing else. Let the words become your obsession. It's the first full day of writing I've given myself in far to long. So I think I will stay here until something wills me to leave. Give myself the time and space to put this last year in prospective,give thoughts to the future, and become a little loss infliction read and written.

Amanda Mar
Koh Jum, Thailand

November 12, 2011
A full day in Koh jumand ive decided to stay a few more. it is easy to write here. easy to fall into a routine. easy to type or write away to the rythem of the waves. Easy to find the courage to delve into a new project and complete it. So I am happy for now. Very at peace with myself and feeling as though I am exactly where I want to be. When I was fantisizing about dispearing and putting distance between myself and Magic I was thinking of a beach and solitude and a mental and physical space to write. So far so good. I'm writing and reading and these simple acts are feeling very meaningful.

Amanda Mar,
Koh Jum, Thailand

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Krabi Town wondering

November 9, 2011
A good day in Karabi. I took a long walk around the city this morning. I wondered into the large public market and took in the sights and smells of row after row of seafood, produce, and prepared foods. I took it all in and tried to look like I had a purpose, though being the only franang in the market comes with its fair amount of confidence sucking glances. But I truly enjoyed wondering and watching people buy their daily food. I retreated back to the tourist district and had a tall ice coffee and dove into a book. Then I went to a travel agent and booked a ferry and accommodations on Koh jum for tomorrow. I'm off to a much less developed island to do some reading, writing, and off the grid disappearing. I love yo u all, but I'm ready for a technology lapse.

In the afternoon I went to the beach with a German women who was also traveling alone. We took the public bus, which is a pickup truck converted to carry passengers to Au Nang about 20 min away. After a lunch of spicy tuna salad we spent a few hours in the sun and waves before coming back to regroup. This evening we went the night market by the pier where street venders with translated menus cook Thai meals on the street. I had braised pork over morning glory greens. Healthy and delicious washed down with a cold beer. We did a little more wondering and did one last sweep through the holiday market. A good day of planning and activity. Tomorrow I'm off to a beach and peace. I will update when I find some Internet. All is well and I'm having a fantastic time.

Amanda Mar
Krabi Town, Thailand

Sunset in Karabi Town

Karabi town

Sunset in Karabi Town

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Karabi Town

November 8, 2011
I took the long tail from Railey back to Krabi and checked into a much better guesthouse in Krabi town. Most travelers don't spend much time here, but this clean little town has grown on me. It is a nice introduction to the Thailand beyond the tourist beaches. I've enjoyed urban hiking taking in the street stalls, markets, food, fish, and traffic. Everyone I have encountered have been so helpful and honest I can understand why they call this place the land of smiles. I went back to the vegetarian restaurant and got another giant plate of rice and vegetables for under a dollar. I did a few more errands, bought a hammock, changed some money, and bought some toiletries at the expensive western pharmacy. Then I had my first traditional Thai message. Amazing and cheap and how the body should feel. Then I went back to the Special market and ate spicy BBQ chicken, noodles, and fresh banana bread. I'm resisting the urge to do it all right now, the beauty of solo travel is the pace. I'm enjoying just taking time to wonder, write, people watch, sleep, and let my stuff explode in my gust room. Personal space both physical and emotional is a beautiful thing and the point of this sabbatical.

Smiles,
Amanda Mar
Karabi town, Thailand

Hat Tham Phra Nang

Railey, Thailand

November 6, 2011

I started the day with a delicious coffee and fruit breakfast (the Thais thanks to the French) have perfected the art of coffee. From sweet Thai ice coffees and teas to the perfect cappuccino coffee is everywhere here. I caught a long tail from the pier at Krabi to the peninsula of Railey. Long tails are the local water taxies. The planked wooden short keeled boats rock back and forth with every weight change or boat wake. They are named for their odd outboard engine configuration. A dry exhaust outboard with out a housing is attached to a 6-10 foot shaft with a propellor at the end. The shaft shoots aft and the propellor is only a few inches under water. This allows the driver to menuver in shallow water and to make sharp turned by pulling the shaft out of the water and placing it left or right to move the bow. The 40 minuet ride along the mangroves was beautiful, but constantly disrupted by floating trash and the traces of humans. We arrived at the beach at low tide so I had to wade in shin deep water with my backpack strapped to my back. I am thankful again for choosing such a small bag.

I chose a basic bungalow set on a hillside surrounded by high limestone cliffs. The rooms were nicer at the guesthouse next door, but the character and front porch of the bamboo thatched huts is better. You can hear monkeys in the background and as cocktail hour begins the staff are lighting campfires and playing dub reggae. Thankfully it is still shoulder season and there isn't much of a draw tonight.

After waking up at 3 last night I decided to tire myself out to beat the jet lag. I spent two hours kayaking around cliffs and escaping the hordes of beach goers in a water logged double kayak. 10 dollars well spent for the views, solitude, and promise of sleep. Some pictures of the cliffs and my bungalow for you....

Riley is too crowded and too tourist centric for me. There are plenty of young people ready to party, but the result is a slightly dirty and disheveled bit of paradise. So many sunburt white bodies everywhere. Unless it charms me this evening I think I'll spend one more night here and head back to Karabi to book a boat to a much less developed island. I'm planning a sunrise hike to Pra Nang cove to beat the hordes.

Smiles,
Amanda Mar
Railay Beach East, Thailand

November 7, 2011
I woke up to roasters crowing around 5:30. After falling asleep quickly and early after dinner my body was wide awake and ready to explore before most of the beach awoke from their holiday commas. I walked to Pra Nang cove where I kayaked yesterday. I shared the beach with one other tourist and a man hauling away yesterdays loads of plastic water bottles. In the quiet of early morning before the first long tail engines broke the silence this spit of calm gave herself to me. The towering and intricate limestone cliffs shoot out of the sea towards the sky. The water is clear and becalmed at day break like so many bodies of water I have witnessed before. I took a nice swim along the rock cliffs which reveal lots of caves and coves to explore. In the distance islands with similar jetting rock cliffs appear as ghosts on the horizon. There is reason to worry about the sustainability of this place and it's easy to fantasize about what it was like before eroding concrete pathways, speed boats, and the high end resort which attempts to dominate the beach. A story told over and over again of warm places along the sea. People, plastic, development make me feel a great sense of loss. In a few short days in Thailand I'm beginning to consider what kind of traveler I am and how that will alter my path during these next days. I will keep reminding myself of my bias and to stop judging. Even in simple holiday beach paradise I am thinking constantly. The good news is two nights in a thatched aluminum roofed bungalow and my pace and priorities are slowing down to an appropriate chill.

This afternoon I hiked to Ton Si, the much more laid back backpacker rock climbing side of the island. The hike was short and steep. There were monkeys in the tres and bobby trapped communication
wires across the trail. Ton Si is thick with bungalows, low laying lounges, and hippie beach side bars. I had a late lunch of shrimp curry and a tall beer beach side and people watchers. Rock climbers lead climb on the beach, blinding hippie toddlers play in the sand and a old man with a guitar plays to the see. Long tail engines give the place a rhythm and young people create a slow pace of life. But still I'm choosing not to linger here. Tomorrow I'm going to take another early morning swim and catch a long tail back to Karabi for a day to regroup and book a boat to Ko Jam. Ko jam is a quiet and underdeveloped fishing island with a handful of bungalows. I think for now I want to disappear ago write, hike, swim and enjoy some solitude.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

In Karabi

november 5, 2011
Day two in Thailand. Im feeling at ease and settled after two days in Karabi sleeping and wondering. The act of traveling is much easier then I anticipated. In the tourist center so many people speak english and the goods and services to help you move from one place to another are endless. I walked around town today with a women I met on my flight from Bangkok who has been to Karabi many times. She took me to a delicious vegetarian lunch for under a dollar. We walked along the estuary and though a pathway in some mangroves. The water is brown and muddy from the rainy season. We spotted monkeys fishing for crab under the mangroves. This afternoon I sat in a cafe and sipped sweet Thai ice coffee and thought about my next steps and wrote in my journal. This evening we went to a night market in town for a week on account of a holiday I didn't catch the name of. With its mixed religious background and social lifestyle Holidays spot the calendar. Families, couples, and groups of friends flood the street stalls selling all varieties of food, trinkets, and clothing. I ate a grilled squid on a stick whose center offered a surprising yet tasty texture. Then I got a egg battered pancake filled with mussels and dipped in sweet chili sauce, delicious and filling. Socializing and shopping appear to be a huge part of the everyday Thai experience. The streets of the special market were full, but just around the corner was the regular weekend market with more people shopping, eating, drinking, and listening to a sequined dancing singer belt out pop songs over an electronic beat. The weekend market collided with the nightly fruit market where we bought a pampino (oversized sweet grapefruit).

My two days in Karabi town were an easy introduction filled with sleep and small excursions. Tomorrow morning I am taking a longtail boat to Railay beach. It is a tourist peninsula only accessible by water known for its stellar limestone rock climbing cliffs. I'm excited to be in a hill side bungalow with a beach within walking distance. Over all its been a good first two days in Thailand and I'm ready for lots more.

Amanda Mar
Krabi Town, Thailand

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flood Thoughts

october 26, 2011
Day 26 of freedom, sabbatical, and voluntary unemployment. I'm currently in New Albany, IN after 3 weeks on the midcoast of Maine and a long weekend in Cincinnati, OH. Bangkok is flooding and on my mind as my trip approaches rapidly I'm trying to weigh my options. Do I fly into the city and try to stay for a few days and take ground transportation north like I planned. This is the denial option and is not viable. My airline may extend a waiver so I could postpone and reschedule my trip for free, but currently my travel dates are not included and the change would cost $250. The most promising option will put me through the most brutal travel day of my life. Fly to Bangkok including a 19 hour non-stop flight to Bangkok, a 6 hour layover in the Bangkok airport and a commuter flight to Karbi in the south to fall into a bed and decide which island will be the first on my hop.

I've been scheming this adventure for 2 years and planning it for 6 months. I am so ready to be there, but as with so many situations these days mother nature is saying no. My slight incontinent wakeup call could in another country could be death of a loved one from flooding, hurricane, or earthquake. I recently went to a lecture by the founder of 350.org who explained the direct connection between carbon impact and these widespread global flooding and warming. It's so obvious this is a result of human choices. For now I'm waiting to make a choice and start the next big step in my sabbatical.

Amanda mar
Indiana,USA

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pitcher Pond





My body is laid out on an old bath towel that has begun to fray at the edges. The planks of the dock make small imprints on my arms. It is October in Maine and the sun is giving me another weekend on another lake. I plunge into the water which pushes needle like spines into my exposed legs. I last for about ten seconds. Gasping for air I climb the ladder and seek refuge laughing on the same towel. It is fall and the lake will make a fool of my bikini, and baking here feels like I’m steeling something. I close my eyes to the beating sun and give my silent thanks. Thankful that I keep finding myself among friendly people in beautiful places. Thankful that I am young and mobile and able to absorb each day with fresh eye and held judgment. Thankful for companionship, books, and words flowing through my brain asking me to describe this place and share it with all those who aren’t experiencing this moment with me.

For those of you reading know that this Sunday I spent a day in the sun by a quiet little pond reading, writing, and thinking. Exercising the grand power of space, simplicity, and the power of an idol mind. I am 10 days off board and the transformations of my attitude and thoughts are enormous. Freedom found tastes so sweet. I will be in Maine between Portland and the Midcoast until October 21st then I’m off to Cincinnati and the midwest until the 29th. Then to St. Petersburg Florida before making my leap to Asia on November 2nd. I’ll try to share more of the little details that are making freedom so excellent here.


Smiles,
Amanda Mar
Camden, ME

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thialand

It’s done! I’ve booked my ticket to Thailand for November 2, 2011. I’ve been daydreaming and scheming a sabbatical for about a year and now it’s really in motion! I’m headed to Asia with a loose plan. I’m hoping to rent a house for a two months once I find the right community. Who has some Thailand contacts? Please send them my way. I’m thinking about heading to the Northeast golf coast, but am very open for suggestions, stories, and warnings.

After two years on Magic I’m ready to own my time and travel on my own terms. But I am also looking for a space to stretch my leg. I’m ready to nest in to a rustic bungalow. Enjoy my privacy, write, spend days in silence, make new friends, dance the night away, be changed, and challenge myself. I’m looking at the trip as an extension of my education and a sabbatical for mind and body.

For now it’s a sunny day in Southwest Harbor, ME and I’m ready to jump into echo lake and let the gifts of summer give all they can. I have a mini adventure planned over Labor Day. I’m headed to San Francisco to drive with my Uncle Dennis, Brother, and cousin Madelyn to Yosemite National Park for three days of Bluegrass and nature in Yosemite National Park. Insanely fun! There will be laughing dancing, and cruising down the highway in a VW. Beautiful things ahead of me and all is good right now.

Amanda
Southwest Harbor, ME

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Looking and learning

What am I looking for? I try not to ask myself this question too often. It is weighty right, and the real answer is as cliche as it comes. You don’t know until you find it. So maybe I should make a list of all the things I’ve found and loved in the last few years and use it as a guide for the next set of searching.

I found community in St. Louis in a tinny stained carpet apartment with 9 beautiful people I found and loved community, friendship, space, freedom, and solitude in Abaco. I found companionship at the right moment and let it fade when the moment passed. I found work on the water and a way to travel up the Eastern Seaboard and get payed for it. I found community, friendship, peace, and solitude in Maine. I found lobster, sailing, and the beauty of lakes. I discovered food. I found Chief Raffie (twice). I found comfort in my family. I found connection to my brother as he grows. I found time alone with my dad in Abaco. I found a sweet spot with my mom in the mangroves. I found Mexico and my grandfather and another beautiful community to grow in companionship and solitude. I found I am completely lucky and discovered mobility is wealth.

So what am I seeking? I am seeking myself and growth in a community of people unknown to me in a world not my own. I guess that is travel for me. Not just the surface and the sand between your toes. I am seeking recognition that humans are inevitably connected to place, but at the same time connected to each other in our need to learn and support each other. This connection is what allows us to slide into other worlds and find solidarity. Beyond the looking glass I am ready to walk, eat, and learn with you. I am here waiting with you.

I’m in my rack on magic in the middle of a trip. In the middle of a week of 16 hour days. But I am scheming, thinking, and looking for my next big adventure.

Amanda
Southwest Harbor, ME

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hello again, Maine and you.

Hello long lost blogsphere. I’ve been traveling, thinking, learning, but sadly mostly working the last year. But I’m back with force! Full of thoughts and beginning to plan my next big adventure. It is a sunny Sunday in Southwest Harbor, Maine. I’ve found a bright coffee shop a bike ride away from the boat to take some time to collect myself before a 10 day trip of guest onboard Magic. I’ve got two guide books to Thailand, a copy of Writing Down the Bones, and my journal in front of me. Once again I find myself searching for reinvention and change. Luckily i’ve put myself in a beautiful place to ease into transition and travel. Three months in Maine is enough to but any restless mind at peace.

Let me describe my present before I reveal my schemes for the future. Southwest Harbor is a tiny community on the quiet side of Mount Dessert Island. Acadia National Park consumes most of the island. It is vacation land! Hiking, biking, sailing, kayaking, rock climbing, lobster, clams, mussels, produce, tennis, writing, sleeping, and socializing with a rotating cast of beautifully salty and eclectic characters. It is my second summer on the island, I instantly felt at ease and at home when we returned a few weeks ago.
So life is good, the weather is treating us once again and charming me into love with this place.

Magic sits at the end of the center walkway of Great Harbor Marina like a wealthy out of place giant among the immaculately maintain picnic boats, day sailors, and trawling retirees. Shinning blue hauled Hinckleys line the far side of the marina. Beyond Magic is a rock whose day marker houses a family of osprey. Then a mooring field and maze of bay and islands. Days on the water never feel the same, where every tack brings another angle and view of the mountains, homes, and inlets. Nights are spent on graying picnic tables marinated with lobster DNA and spilt beer. Gossip, bullshit, and the laughable camaraderie among people who know each other far too well. We wait for motivation to jump in a skiff, call a cab, swim, or skip rocks under the moon. This is simplicity and entertainment from environment alone. A life with fewer distractions to realize whats important and what comes next.