. So here I was in this incredible, and totally unexpected, paradise with my backpack, wearing a tank top and fisherman's pants that had not been washed in four days. I felt like an ugly stain on a perfectly white silk dress. But before I could say that this was all a crazy mistake and make my way back to the land of bamboo huts with lizard poop on the mosquito netting, the receptionist smiled at me and said, "Miss Lacey? This buggy will take you to Mr. Thadani's villa. Enjoy your stay at the Amanpuri." So I hopped onto this little golf cart buggy thing, a mode of transportation that I have now become quite familiar with, and was zipped up to villa 26. And when I think of a villa I think of a little cottage near a beach, cute and quaint. Anil and Coni's "villa" brings a whole new meaning to the word. If it is at all possible, my jaw dropped even further than it had before. Here was another collection of zen buildings and swimming pool, but here there were also terraces, statues, anf flowers. Built on the point at the very end of the bay, water wraps around the whole area protected by wind and noise by palm trees. When I was shown to my room, I almost wept with joy at the huge, plush bed, bayview, flush toilet (toilet paper!), and gorgeous shower with hot water. And then I met the people with whom I would spend the weekend. There were our hosts, Anil and Coni, full of fun and kindness, and so excited to make this the time of our lives. David and Lisa were from New York and just radiated Manhatten sophistication, telling stories about their connections with all the most famous and powerful people in the city
. Kip, also an old friend of my mom's as it turned out, was from an old San Fransisco family but now lives in Hawaii renting out villas (I can only imagine what those must look like!). Pierre, a Swiss Italian, seems to have made is fortune developing and selling the most fashionable and technologically advanced watches. He spent his time either talking in three different languages into his phone or telling the rest of us what to eat, when, and in what combination in order to lose weight. And then there was John, one of the kindest and most interesting people I have ever met. As a photojournalist working for the UN, he told us of the horrors he witnessed in Rwanda, the beauty of the Kashmir people, the excitement of getting the perfect picture of cranes dancing on water, and joy of working with the lovely Audrey Hepburn. I felt like a character in a modern day Edith Wharton book, spending the weekend at a beautiful villa with the rich and talented sipping wine and engaging in fascinating conversation at exquistly set tables. The first four days staying in the villa went by in a blur of exhileration and relaxation wrapped in the comfortable cloak of luxury. The day after we all arrived, Anil took us out in one of the Aman boats to see Phagnan Bay. Cruising between the lush green islands that dot the bay, we were informed by Bill, Anil's friend and Amancruises manager, that the tide was at the perfect level to go inside these caves. And this only happens about two time a month, having to do with the full moon, so we were very lucky
. We all piled into this dinghy and motored over to this limestone cave with stalagtites hanging down, almost blocking the entrance. In a single file line we cautiously made our way through this tunnel and found ourselves in this hidden lagoon completely enclosed by a wall of limestone. Though I'm sure many other people had been there before me, it felt as if we were the first people to ever happen upon this little oasis from the tourist-infested world outside. Maybe it's just something that caves do to me, but it just felt like such a spiritual place, so peaceful. It was hard to leave. We also visited another cave that afternoon, full of bats and stone made as sparkly as crystal by the calcium deposits coating the surfaces. That whole first real day in Phuket was just so special; I will always be grateful for that experience. The rest of the first few days here were spent relaxing on the private beach of Amanpuri being pampered by the "beach boys", eating amazingly delicious meals, listening to Elvis and Bobby Darren (every time I hear that man sing from now on, I will think of my trip through Asia!), and having great conversation. On the last night that Anil, Pierre, and John were here (the others left a day earlier), we took out the jetskis for a sunset cruise around the surrounding bays. And when I say cruise, I mean clutching to the back of Anil's jetski as we zoomed at 95 mph across the water, basically just skimming the surface. It was great! I'm beginning to think I have a lust for things that go fast
. The next day everyone left and I found myself the sole guest of the villa paradise. Sao, the woman who makes everything run smoothly in the villa, and Porn, the amazing cook, have kept me company and made sure that I haven't been uncomfortable for a moment. I have also made friends with the hero of the Amanpuri, Richie, and Ozzie who works on the beach. He was the one that knew what the receeding waters meant before the tsunami hit and managed to clear the beach. He was the one who sent the alarm to Bill and Anil out with their families on a boat trip. They, in turn, called other hotels along the beach trying to warn people. Also a fellow traveller, his experiences have made for some more interesting dinner conversation, so I've never been lonely or wanting in anything. And I am now a certified diver as well!!! With Klaus, my private instructor, I have done the whole thing in three days. I am totally a natural and could very easily get addicted to the rush of breathing underwater and becoming part of this totally new world. My first dive out I saw a moray eel, barracudas, and FIVE sharks!!! And, I am proud to say, that I have found not only Nemo, but Coral and Marlin too. I never realized how small clown fish are, and they actually do live in sea anenome. The coral, too, is incredible, so many different colors and textures. Looking around there is just so much to see, so much to take in, that you just want to stay down for forever. Each dive leaves you wanting more, yearning for the next plunge into the deep. But it looks like I'll just have to keep yearning now, as I'm leaving for Bangkok tomorrow on the night bus. It's hard to think of leaving this paradise, but all things must come to an end, and it's time to hit the road again. Cambodia is calling and I have a feeling that once again I'll be thinking to myself, "Wow! How the hell did I end up here?!"
Every new place I end up I always look around and just think, "Wow! How the hell did I end up here?!" But when Anil, a friend of my mom's from Berkley, invited me to stay in his villa at this hotel which he partly owns, and told me that he would arrange for my scuba diving certification, I had no idea what I was in for. When I arrived at the Amanpuri Resort my jaw dropped. Here was a collection of buildings that were so zen, so beautiful, so clean that it looked like someone's interpretation of what heaven would be like. Through the middle was a black bottomed pool whose edges were flush with the surrounding walkways making it look like the ground just opened up to creat a magical pond. And all of this man-made, but perfectly harmonious,beauty overlooked the natural beauty of the white sand beach and clear blue waters of the bay below. And the most amazing thing was that though there were a few people around, the only real sounds were of the breeze sweeping through the palm trees and birds softly singing to each other