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, how to, yoga

Fighting with Yoga

One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga is that it’s all about peace. Since it’s all about peace, yoga practitioners never fight and they never confront. Right? Right? Ahh, not exactly.

Sure, for the most part we are easy going. We have chosen a spiritual path and usually that goes hand in hand of not being affected about what society may think of us = free spirited = easy going. I actually think of us more like elves in LOTR, we do our own thing but we are pretty skilled archers. Speaking of archers…

Here’s the shocker for those of you who don’t know. One of the most cherished texts in yoga, the Bhagavad Gita, or known simply as the Gita, is a story about war. And the main character is Arjuna, an archer. An archer with a moustache. Here’s a picture of him and Krishna (the avatar reincarnate of Vishnu).

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So back to the Gita, the story of the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna on the brink of war. It’s a very long story, so forgive me if I miss a few points. In a nutshell, Arjuna seeks the advice of Krishna as he is about to go into battle against the evil cousin, Duryodhana. Arjuna and Duryodhana grew up in the same kingdom, being cousins and all, are related by blood. Since they grew up together, they knew the same people.

As Arjuna is about to charge into battle, he sees these faces on the other side – the faces of his teachers, friends and family. Naturally, he feels a sense of sadness and doesn’t want to kill them. He questions the entire war, the needless suffering of loved ones and what the outcome of war will bring.

Krishna begins to counsel him and the major themes of the Gita play out – Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga. Time seems to stand still while Krishna explains how the celestial universe works to Arjuna. Arjuna then comes to a higher realization of self and the universe.

In the end, he goes into battle and wins.

I have thought a hundred or more times about this text during many stages of my life. And each and every time, I find more and more meaning to it. Even the meaning changes every time I read a line or two from the Gita. It’s really something special.

It represents my most favourite thing about yogic philosophy. It teaches me about strength, not the muscle kind we get from chaturangas (which is great too), but the true individual strength. To be more precise, it teaches me about when to be strong and brave, when to surrender, when to hold on and when to let go.

It extends to people in your life. Being strong, knowing when to say, “No, enough is enough.” and also when to be soft-hearted and say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake.” It extends to experiences in your life. Keeping your values and being honest with yourself and others, yet, knowing when to let go of experiences and events that we had or have no control of. It teaches you to move forward. Be more balanced.

The point of this post is to say, yoga is not just about non-violence (ahimsa) and peace. It’s much more than that, it’s both and it’s more. While I do practice ahimsa, I have also used yoga to fight my (metaphorical) battles. And equally as many times, I’ve used yoga to forgive. I’ve used it detach from negative influences in my life and to cherish great ones. I can be a cobra or a rabbit. I can be a warrior in battle or a humble warrior.

At the end of the day, my goal is to stay balanced, to choose my battles, to stay completely present and experience the world with a calm confidence. These teachings I have learnt in yoga teach me to continue to grow with grace. And that, to me, is true strength.