This island is full of yoga, kayaking, and tonnes of mountain climbing. This is an island full of active people. You know, active people? There’s a lot of them that live in Vancouver? The ones that wake up early and participate in physically challenging activities (even on holidays), rather than sleep their mornings away after a night of debauchery that twisted into the wee hours of the morning. Those people.
As of right now, this week at least, I am one of those people.
I’m expending all my energy during the day, on healthy things and challenging things and physical things, and going to bed at a decent hour after a healthy dinner, a bit of intellectual conversation and getting a great rest. I’m rising with the sun.
It’s weird, I know. But it’s kind of great as well. Not that I’m preaching to anyone that we should all go out and live like active people all the time. Hey, if it weren’t for Dennis, we all know I’d have at least a few nights of debauchery in me. Without a doubt. But there is something to this, that’s all I’m saying. It’s pretty rewarding. And the buzz you feel everyday. A little bit of soreness in your muscles. But not the kind of sore that makes you want to slump over and not move for any extended amount of time. The kind of sore you start to feel after you work out day after day. I have never felt so amazing. I get up, throw on my loose fitting Cambodian pants and a sports bra (seriously, I don’t even remember what underwire feels like at this point) and then, I literally sing and dance down the street, within 10 minutes of waking up, walking to my morning meditation. I dance as the sun rises. (Don’t worry, there’s no one else on that quiet little road, so no one can hear me belting out the lyrics to Beast of Burden by Rolling Stones – currently on my morning playlist.) I stopped briefly to take a picture of the beaming orange sunrise that was coming up over the beach. Another beautiful morning. Another beautiful moment. I know, I know. How cheesy can I get right?
I can’t believe I just admitted all that.
But whatever, it’s pretty great.
And, I’m officially half-way through my alcohol-free, Dennis-curing month! It hasn’t even been that hard.
I worked again at my morning mediatation. As thoughts came into my mind, I witnessed them. I acknowledged them. I let them go and then came back to my breath. My focus.
There is a woman named Lily who is traveling through Asia by bicycle with her husband and is a yoga teacher back home in California. She had asked if she could teach a class at our retreat and today was her morning. It was a beautiful class, that reminded me a lot of classes I’ve taken back home actually. We set an intention (which I love doing and we hadn’t done in any classes yet) Mine that day was to appreciate the beauty around me, whether it be in my yoga practice, my surroundings, the people I met or whatever the day might bring (I did know we were planning to go kayaking that day so I thought it might tie in nicely). We did a wheel posture, finally, my all time favorite. (For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, well, if you’re not into yoga you may have even skipped these blogs all together actually, but it’s that pose I’m doing in front of the Angkor temples where I’m bent over backwards?) It’s fantastic for energy and so refreshing. (Like I needed more energy after the Rolling Stones….) Anyway, it was a great class. One of my favorites (second to David of course) and it kicked off our day fantastically.
We sat down for our usual group breakfast at the Nature Lodge where grumpy Mr. Bay (who managed the Nature Lodge, a restaurant/tour company next to our yoga studio) took our orders behind his fake white Oakley sunglasses and came out time and time again to re-confirm how many teas and how many shakes. I finally took a break from eating the delicious cinnamon French toast and opted for museli and fruit and we all sat around a little, discussing the morning’s practice. As soon as the shakes were dry, we all packed up bags of sunscreen and towels and cameras and walked to the pier.
Rest after yoga? Nope! Not for us active people. (Haha, okay, who’s exhausted just listening to me right now? I’m not going to lie… publishing this over a week later after I’ve gone a little ways back to sleeping in and have just spent the last 48 hours in transit, I’m a little exhausted just typing this.)
A 50-something man with dark, tanned, leathery skin, gap teeth and a tight black speedo was our guide for the day. His name was Mark. And three little Thai boys came along to drive the boat while Mark sat on the roof, legs spread and family jewels oh so very on display for us all, pointing them in the right direction. It was myself and five other lovely women I had met at the retreat that day. Most of them snorkeled first, while me and my extreme fear of fish were content to lay up on the top of the boat soaking up sun and finish the book I was reading – First They Killed My Father about the Cambodian girl that survived the Khmer Rouge genocide. (If you haven’t read my “Heartbroken by History” blog and have no idea what I’m talking about, go back and check it out.) I choked back tears as I turned the final pages. Hard book to swallow. Very hard. But I highly recommend it and am happy to lend it to anyone who’s interested.
After the baracuda’s were spotted and the masks were beginning to malfunction, we carried on and parked our boat up on the small stretch of beach of one of the islands. Paradise Island it may have been called? But really, couldn’t we just call them all that? From there, we kayaked.
We kayaked into the oh so blue lagoon and sat, our paddles resting across our laps, gazing up at our surroundings. The towering cliffs were shocking. We got out some cameras in attempt to capture the magnificence, but I’ve seen the photos… it’s just not the same. That was definitely one of those “oh my goodness you had to be there” kind of moments. We all had to just sit and stare. All we could say was: wow.
Paddling out of the lagoon, we decided to ignore the burn in our arms and attempt to paddle around the island entirely. After we got about a quarter way around, the water got choppy and the aching in our arms became slightly more apparent and I hate to admit it, but we gave up on our grandious idea and head back for some lazy beach time. I’m sure one of those really hardcore active people would have crusaded on, but me, I was just trying it on for size for the week and just wasn’t quite feeling the motivation. We layed out our sarongs and towels as Mark sprinted across the beach (picture him now, sprinting… in his speedo… you’re loving me for that mental picture now aren’t you?) offering to lather up our backs for us with sunscreen. And not taking no for an answer. Haha. Oh Mark. Such a pervert.
Just after 4pm, we arrived back at Koh Yao Noi leaving us with just enough time to take a quick shower to rinse off the sand and aloe up our sunburns (obviously Mark didn’t do that good of a job… perhaps his focus was elsewhere?) and meet back for evening yoga.
Lucky for us, Lisa was teaching that night. She taught a style of yoga called Shivananda yoga. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a very traditional style of yoga where you go through a series of poses and after each one, you lay in savasana for a short period of rest. Perfection. After a day like that day, it was exactly what the doctor had ordered. (Oh wait, does anyone not know what savasana is? It’s simple. You lay on your back, arms and legs apart a little ways, close your eyes, and just relax. That’s it. It’s said to be one of the most important postures in yoga practice and is traditionally done at the end of the practice. I am known to fall asleep in it sometimes… as my yogi friends can attest to, haha! And today was no different. I just hope I didn’t snore.)
So there you go, a day in the life of an active person.
I strolled back to my hut feeling like I was floating on a cloud. I was beaming. My body was buzzing with energy and my skin was radiating heat that must have been still trapped inside from my day in the sun.
I couldn’t wait to get to sleep and crash. But even moreso, I couldn’t wait to wake up again the next morning.
My time on this island was oh so very special to me. I made some very good friends (and what is it with me that I tend to always meet English people, so I have a few more to visit now when I go to Europe in a few months), as well as Beth from Vancouver and two hilarous Dutch women who I’m hoping to meet up with when I’m in Amsterdam for Queen’s Day. After our last breakfast we all exchanged hugs and kisses. Even some of the yoga teachers at the lodge came up with open arms as well. I was so moved.
And as I walked out of the Nature Lodge, grumpy Mr. Bay stood up and extended his hand to me to shake and said “I miss you”. I smiled. I knew deep down he really did love us all.
I felt sad walking down my deserted little road back to my hut one last time, but yet I couldn’t stop smiling at the beautiful experiences I had been priveleged to be a part of.
One last time… who am I kidding.
I’m definitely coming back.