The many faces of Thailand

Trip Start Feb 25, 2010
Trip End Jan 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
Some Buddhist Temple / Police Station / I'm not really sure

Flag of Thailand  ,
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In the last 24 hours I have departed from my physical paradise in Tonsai, passed through a cultural paradise in Surat Thani and I am headed towards a spiritual paradise in Chaiya. I haven't posted in quite some time and as a result I have quite a bit to share. I decided that I would not bring an ipod on this trip after following some advice from an acquaintance of mine. At first it seemed like an impossible feat for a musician to leave his source of music at home. But my friend assured me that my guitar would suffice. I am so grateful that I followed her advice. As a result of not bringing my ipod, I have met the most incredible people and found myself in the most amazing situations just because the doors were open. I see so many people walking around with their headphones plugged in, all of their doors are closed to any sort of social interaction and, even worse, they are completely unaware of their surroundings. When I was in America I used to always be plugged into something. Either I was on the phone, texting, playing a game on my phone, or listening to music on my phone. Needless to say, all of my doors were closed to every possible opportunity that might have come my way. Especially in this world of Social Networking, I see if everywhere. Would it really kill your business if you left your phone at home? Or if you let someone leave a message? Did people survive before text messaging? After experiencing both extremes first-hand, I will never again let myself close off the world in fear of one second of boredom or restlessness.

The last few weeks at Tonsai have been incredible, so much has happened because there is so much to do on the island. I will always miss Tonsai, and I will return to it again when I am done traveling the world. I will try to sum it up as succinctly as possible. My job gave me purpose and allowed me to live without burning into my savings, and my boss was so laid back. I was also a part of my first band, consisting of a guitar, ukelele and an incredible singer. We played at a resturaunt in exchange for free food. One night, I went to the most beautiful island with about 15 of my friends, it was a 20 minute boat ride away. The island was unreal, it was a tiny patch of sand surrounded by two little mounds of trees. The water was bright turqoise and the trees served as a perfect place to set up a hammock. We camped there for a night and feasted on delicious leftover food that we mooched off of a snorkeling tour group. I met two amazing people that taught me the power of connection on an emotional level and how to harness the energy between a connection. I watched the most incredible lightning storms and witnessed the power of nature and the stunning colors in the sky that resulted from its energy.I learned how to rock climb, fire dance, slack line, farm coconuts, and so much more. Tonsai was an incredible adventure, but all good things must come to an end, or at least a pause while I travel through-out the rest of the world.

It wasn't easy leaving Tonsai yesterday. I could have easily stayed another day but my heart was telling me that I had to go. I went to Krabi town to extend my visa for 30 days and hitched a bus to Surat Thani were I encountered the most incredible cultural experience of my life. Surat Thani is a port city that is used for one thing, a connection to the very well known and tourist islands Ko Samui, Ko Phan Nang and several others. The bus stopped directly at the tourist port so travelers don't even need to wander the streets to find their destination. My tour book didn't really have any information on this town other than where to find the port to travel to the nearby islands, so I put my book away and followed my feet. For the first time since I entered Thailand, everything was in Thai. There were no English translations and no one spoke English. There were no guest houses and hostels at every corner. I was tired, I was dirty, and I really had to use the bathroom. I wasn't sure what to do but I kept on going. I eventually found myself in the middle of what appeared to be the beginning of some sort of Buddhist festival. Before I could even get my bearings I was approached by a Thai man a little older than me who said with a huge smile, "Your welcome in Thailand!" and shook my hand. I was delighted and gave him a warm smile and an even warmer handshake. Before I could even reply I was approached by another Thai man, this one quite older who grabbed me, took me to a seat and started trying to communicate with me. I, of course, had no idea what he was saying and his eyes weren't good enough to read from my translation book. He finally stopped talking and we started communicating with body language. He gave me some water and told me to wait for the show. The show was an incredible display of ancient Chinese tranditions including acrobats, fireworks, dragons, Chinese plays. I had no idea what was going on but I knew it had to do with Buddhism because it was taking place in front of a temple. I asked him where I could find a place to sleep and he told me that I would sleep here. Not really sure where "here" was I was somewhat nervous. I took plenty of pictures of the festival but I couldn't really move around to get good shots, lighting and angles without appearing rude, so I apologize in advance for the photo quality. The show finally came to an end and it was arranged that I would sleep in a room that was adjacent to the temple, it was some sort of a police/rescue building. I put all my stuff in there, which made me a little nervous considering it is a completely unlocked room that people are constantly going in and out of. My stuff is still there, but I figure if it gets stolen... at least I'm wearing my favorite pants. For some reason though I felt that I could trust these people. I hung out for a while after the show and decided to go to bed. I walked up to someone in charge and they showed me where I would sleep. It was a tile floor with a hard pillow and a light blanket right under an air conditioning. For the first time in Thailand I was freezing, but my ultra-absorbant towel turned out to be quite warm. Before I went to sleep I had no choice but to have my first encounter with an authentic Thai bathroom. Unlike a western bathroom, there is no toilet seat, instead there are two foot grips so one doesn't slip when they squat. There is no lever to flush, instead there is a tub of water next to the toilet with a bucket where one is expected to fill the bucket and poor it into the toilet which causes it to flush. Finally, there is no toilet paper. I am still trying to figure this one out, but it seems pretty unsanitary considering there are no sinks! Sort of makes sense why Thai people bow to each other rather than shake hands. I went into the room and found my place on the floor that I was actually sharing with 6 other people. We had a small conversation as one of them sort of spoke English. I explained to them that I was going to Chaiya the next day to go to the meditation center at Wat Suan Mokh. After that I was in, they accepted me as one of their own and even offered to drive me tomorrow. 
        The next day began early, around 5 am. The festival from the night before was merely a prelude to the celebration the next day. I am not sure what the celebration was about, but it had a huge Buddhist parade, and several groups carying large altars that went to different shops. The shops would make an offer to the spirit with food and drink and then the groups would light fireworks and dance on the fire while holding onto the altar. When I woke, I was immediatly garbed in the clothing of the festivities by several Thais. They were all so excited that I was going to be a part of the celebration, one elder took care of me the entire day and while he didn't speak a word of English, I felt as though we had so many conversations by the end of the day. I was constantly being talked about, I stood out quite a bit and everyone was asking questions about me. There were no foreigners in sight. But it was all positive. Everyone was so friendly. I have never been treated so nice in my entire life. The festival is a once a year thing and I was completly accepted into the group as if I grew up here. I was fed and looked after. At one point we all drove to a beautiful river in the jungle, with waterfalls and beautiful landscapes. These are places that foreigners don't know about. I cannot describe everything that happened today because there was so much to it, and it's still going on. Money cannot buy an experience like I had today, and no travel book can lead a person into this situation. I need to goto Chaiya and I have a handful of offers of different locals wanting to take me or wanting me to stay with them. I want to say more but I am out of internet time, and I need to get back to the celebration. Tomorrow I check into the Monastery and I will not be reachable for about 13 days. So don't worry, I will be safely tucked away in meditation searching for enlightenment.
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Ken on

Dear Quest -

I gained so much just by looking into your smiling face this morning. Thank you for being what you share!


journeyh on

Quest you look so happy! What incredible experiences you're having! Your description of the authentic Thai toilet made me laugh so hard! I'm truly so proud of you for your courage and your openness. Can't wait to hear about your next 10 days of silence! Love you always and forever XOXO

David Cummings on

Hey Quest... It's great to hear of your travels. I'm so happy for you and the great experiences that you are having. They are worth more then any university education (although very important in itself) that a person could ever have. On a side note, David Wood has selected Hollee and I to be in the next generation of trainers for the company. We are very excited! I look forward to your next post!!
I see you!

Reggie Henkart on

Okay, a little history on toilets. What you just experienced is what all of France lived with for a long time. In fact, I won't be surprised if they still have this kind of toilets in old villages. However, they do use paper. In Morocco, however -which was colonized by France- same toilets, no paper (in the past of course). But they had water and soap. And their theory is that it is way cleaner to wash the whole bit (including your hands, than to rub paper on it. Something to think about. Your writing and photography are outstanding Consider in fact, that a foot in the picture is not all that bad. Sometimes, you want to see the connection with the photographer. I can't wait to hear from you after your meditation.

Tonin & Jaqueline on

Hi Quest,
What an incredible journey you taking.What great opportunities you are creating for connecting with others.The possibilities that are opening up for you are unlimited. By being open to experiencing other cultures you gain so much more self knowledge and understanding. And now to balance the outer journey with the inner one. Wow! I am so honored to have known and continuing to "see" you. You are truly a gift not just to your family but all who come to know you. We Love You!

gardendeva on

It is good to hear how well that you are fitting into your environment. You are a example to us all! We just returned from a trip to the Hawaiian Islands where we experienced the Whales breaching, the turtles mating and the Rainbows of Maui. Way cool! John and I are restored. Here it is raining and the Spring is in full swing. I will turn to you Quest when I am meditating this week. Namaste, Bonnie

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