Adventures in Thailand, lifestyle, travel, yoga

Koh Chang: A Summary of Experiences

My 7-months is up. I leave for real tomorrow.

Though I’m a big believer in staying in the present moment, I’m not immune to the feelings and emotions that stir up like a dust cloud as you trail behind the footsteps of Father Time.

I  allow my mind to drift into this state of nostalgia. I begin to see things as “this will be the last time.”

This will be my last coffee at Picasjo House.
This will be my last swim in this waterfall.
This will be my last bicycle ride to Salak Phet.
This will be the last time I see my friends.
This will be the last time I ride all the way round the island.

I start to think about all the people I’ve met and all the experiences I had while I was here on a month-to-month basis. I must say, it really was like a dream. Wow, am I a lucky.

May, 2015:

Arrived on the island and a large smile plastered on my face as I approached my new place of work. Had an amazing time teaching and connecting with students. Snorkelled in the powder white sands of the islands south in beautiful turquoise waters. Fell in love. Fell in love with this stunning place.

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Thai Language level: Sawadeeka (Hello/Goodbye)

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 0

June, 2015: 

Getting into a nice rhythm of life here. After a few hiccups from mold and mice, life was good. I made new friends with the lovely ladies at the restaurant and had the first inside glimpse of how the locals live here. My friend Bow had a Thai barbecue at her lovely house on the water. Her little wooden house overlooking tiny islands  with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen was pretty much what my dream house would look like.

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Thai Language level: I start to pick up on Thai much better. Learn to say the phrase “Please teach me some Thai” and everyone jumps on board – they all love the idea of being a teacher.  Everyone becomes a teacher, even the Cambodian staff. I sit back and watch as my “teachers” argue with each other in order to teach me a better way to say a certain phrase and how my English name is spelt in Thai. I love how language is sometimes just a semantic perspective.

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 1

July, 2015:

Explored more of the island and made more friends, did a quick visa run to Malaysia and visited family as well.

Lots of time spent with my new Thai friends. Heading out almost every day and night, they take me to various places to eat, sing karaoke, beaches, waterfalls, you name it. Since I’m Southeast Asian too, I blended in lots and get the real Thai experience. I would pay the local 20 baht fee for the national park entrance while other foreigners paid 200 baht. I felt super ninja chameleon and loved every moment of it.

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I wanted to learn more Thai to communicate with my friends better. I was advised against learning their writing system due to its complexity and they told me that I was better off just learning to speak Thai. But the combination of being a linguistic nerd and an artist that appreciates this exotic writing system, I decided that learning this phonetically-based system would be achievable. It was the best decision I made because each Thai consonant is linked to a specific animal or thing to help them remember their whopping 44 consonants (including 3 different types of K’s), so once I learned to write the consonants, I gained 44 new words in my vocabulary.

Thai Language level:  I learnt to write (most of) the Thai consonants and (hardly any of) the Thai vowels. 44 words added to my vocabulary.

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 10

August, 2015: 

My first set of dives for my Advanced Open Water Course (AOWC) on Koh Chang after going over a year without diving. Beautiful weather and great memories. Met people in this part of the island that became good friends later on.

Second set of dives for my AOWC on Koh Chang at the HTMS Chang shipwreck was a combination of feelings. There was a “Dayum, wreck diving is so f**ckin awesome!” and then there was me throwing up every time we got out of the water – not so good. A combination of what I think is food poisoning and rough waters had me over the edge most of the time we surfaced. At the end of the day, I felt super weak and defeated by Mother Nature, yet I was glad that I was finally certified for deep dives.

Thai Language level: Lots of compliments towards my spoken Thai and the correct use of their classifiers. So instead of simply asking for water, I’d ask for “a bottle of” or “a glass of ” water. As in English, these classifiers really make the difference in smoothening out your speech. Getting better.

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 30

September, 2015:

My fiancé comes to visit!!! We’re back to being like two peas in a pod. That’s what I love about my relationship with JR, it’s so unforced, so natural, as if he is part-me and I am part-him. He resumes to making me a cup of coffee every morning like he used to back home in Canada. Only here, my coffee is of the instant variety which he makes in our hotel room. Adorable.

I show him around paradise, my local hangouts and he feels envious and happy for me. He likes it way better than Phuket. We agree all we need is a small beachside bungalow. We start talking about moving here and living here, but he is still unsure what he would do for work.

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At the end of his stay, I get news that my father had a heart attack and when my fiancé leaves, I fall off-balance. My energy for teaching yoga drops. I had a very kind American couple that genuinely cared about me and provided me consolation and love to which I will remember them forever. I am moved by the human connection and how we can relate to each other having never met previously. I have a quick trip back to Malaysia to see my father and organize a family lunch.

Thai language level: I impressed my fiancé as he watched me chat up the locals everywhere we went on the island. I felt proud I could still impress him. And in return he impressed me by agreeing to ride the scooter everywhere which he perceived as very dangerous and unnecessary.

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 50

October, 2015: 

I finally start to kick my addiction to Pad Ga Prow and have it less and less. After seeing my father, I start to get back into the swing of things and reconnect with myself. The Miss Grand International beauty pageant arrives on the island and I get the honour of teaching them some basic yoga breathing techniques.

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I also go for my third dive and was blessed with amazing weather and great visibility. Great friends and great fun.

Thai language level: Keng Mahk, which means very skilled – this is what they tell me at least. I’m now able to have entire conversations in Thai. I also understand what’s going on around me and I realize that my friends gossip a lot about me in front of me. They start to realize that they can’t do that too much anymore.

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 60

November, 2015: 

My last month here and the island gave me an amazing farewell. Please read about it in my next post Koh Chang Says Goodbye.

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Adventures in Thailand, lifestyle, travel, yoga

Leaving The Beautiful Island of Koh Chang to Re-enter Society

Time has flown right by and it’s almost time for me to leave this beautiful island.

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I remind myself of the reasons to leave.

  • I have relationship ties – a wonderful dog and a loving fiancé who means the world to me
  • a beautiful home and a great support network waiting for me when I get home
  • I love Canada – although the winters are long, I do enjoy snow-related activities
  • it would be nice to use a washing machine and a dryer again
  • I have an upcoming wedding to prepare for in a couple months

And so with a heavy heart, I must go and get my affairs in order. I must re-enter into the structures of society and the boring old routine of consumerism.

What is that routine you ask? It’s simple. You work to get more stuff, work to pay off that stuff, have kids because everyone else is having them, unable to spend time with those kids because you need to work to pay for kids’ stuff, then work some more so that you can stop working and retire so that you can then spend your feeble days waiting out your death. It all seemed less than appealing to me. Somewhat pointless.

I would rather just spend my days here sipping coconuts in a hammock with my man and my dog, Koya, who would run around playing in the sand chasing crabs or something and having a good time as dogs always so. And not having the stuff that everybody is programmed to want.

I envy my dog’s life. Humans are to me the most blind of all the species. We created a society full of rules and structures and now we screwed ourselves over working in little cubicle cages for 8-10 hours a day with the inability to see much of the sun, let alone run and play in the sand.

Some form of paper money or numbers on a screen control our lives and determines how important a person is, rather than their traits of integrity and honesty. I suppose you do need some structure as dogs do in their dog world, but I think we humans took it a tad too far. It is what it is.

Societies do change, it just takes thousands of years to do it. In ancient Egypt, slaves were worked to death to build pyramids. And this is the same for other ancient civilizations. And what were the slaves thinking? They probably just accepted that that was life and I need to carry this huge chain on my back, attached to this huge stone. Then the Roman Empire came a few more thousand years later, a much more improved, more ethical society. Yet, still with slaves, crucifixion and death games as a norm.

Sure, we realized slavery is bad now (in this century, it took us that long), and we’re a far cry away from being in chains…but I hope you see my point that sometimes the reality you live in, isn’t always a reality that needs to be. Who knows? Maybe in a couple thousand years, our post-decessors will get it right. Maybe they will only work 5 hours a day, spend lots of time with their families and all energy will be green, and people will be happier and healthier.

Hey, you never know, right? There’s always room for betterment and for improvement. But for time being, It is what it is.

And so I take pictures of dozens of real estate ads instead. Dreaming of owning a small resort here, have a lush garden for vegetables and fruits, and teach yoga so I can earn a humble income to pay for simple pleasures such as coconuts and hammocks. Hey, you never know, right?

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yoga

I quit my job and became a yoga instructor.

Last November, I decided to quit my oil and gas job for a second time, jumped on a plane and become a certified yoga teacher. Now I teach yoga on the lovely island of Koh Chang, Thailand, and this is my office.

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Contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t unhappy at my job, I was always lucky to be able to surround myself with inspiring people and I would wake up in the morning, excited to see them. I had lots of fun at my job, learned a lot and had a steady pay check every month. I have a pretty positive outlook and if had I stayed I would probably still see the positive in what I did till I was old and grey.

However, I still left and here are the 2 reasons :
The 1st Reason: The Industry. It just did not jive with me. Oh where do I begin?

  • It was an industry built around money and that’s all people talked about. When they talked about my career advancements, they told me how much I would make if I became this or did that. Office gossip included, “I heard he makes 120 an hour.” Which is about $240,000 a year. Come layoff season, again the industry revolved around money, so valuable employees were laid-off without a second thought. Instead of faces, they saw dollar signs ($).
  • It was an industry where having a extra flesh between your legs was everything. Male-dominated, preferably caucasian. You either had to grow a penis, or become a hard ass (b-word) and act like you had one anyway (which I did for 8 hours a day). Massive egos raged around the office, trampling on anything they thought threatened their stance as Alpha Male or Alpha Female.
  • I felt guilty for being part of an industry that contributed so much to environmental issues. I personally cycled to work during the summer and carpooled during the winters.

So there I was, soft-spoken little Asian girl who loved animals and an had an affinity for the arts, I didn’t stand a chance. Oil and gas being Alberta’s main industry, I went straight into it after university and kept going for 3 years till I decided it was not for me. Looking back, I have no regrets, I needed the money after university and without it, I couldn’t have taken this path anyway. And like I said, there were lots of amazing people I met there that I’ve grown to love and I still keep in touch with.

The 2nd Reason: I was not doing what I love. Maybe Steve Job’s commencement speech was ingrained in my brain after watching it a dozen times, but I knew that although I liked having a secure job and loved having financial security and money to buy anything my heart desired, I wasn’t doing a job that I loved.

Maybe a few years down the road, if and when I have kids, I may need to get back into the office life, but at least I’ll have this wonderful experience imprinted in my head. And when my hypothetical future office boss hands me an assignment, I’ll being seeing this in my mind’s eye.

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