Phra Nang Beach – Railay, Thailand

There are two major beaches that can be found on the little peninsula of Railay. One of them is the West Beach which is where the boats serving food come up to, and there are bars and restaurants lining up for your business at the edge of the sand. If you are looking for something a little more quiet, I would suggest going to the Phra Nang Beach, or Princess Beach, on the tip of the peninsula. There are a couple of resorts here, but they tried to hide themselves among the jungle so it makes you feel like you are in a more isolated place.

If you are not staying at one of these resorts, you can get there by finding the path on the southern tip of the town. It is an interesting path in itself and worth searching for. It follows along a cliff face and there are many places where you can stop and take pictures of the rock formations that are being created. It is like spelunking without have to travel into the darkness of the caves. It even has many formations that are highlighted for everybody to see. I won’t ruin what they are, but they allow for some fun conversations along the way.

When I went, I was surprised at the crowds I first encountered along the way, and was even more surprised at the tiny beach that could be found at the end of the trail. The map I was looking at showed that the beach extended a lot further down the coast. I found out later that it was because of the tide and the beach was hiding beneath the waves. The crowds came from tour boats and only came once in the morning and then disappeared. They basically stuck to that small sliver of beach and would not venture out to the other side of the beach.

But it only takes a little bit of wading through warm water if you get here during high tide to make it to the other part of the beach, and you leave the crowds behind if you do this. If you come during low tide, you do not have to worry about the crowds or the wading and you can just walk along the beach. It is really worth the trip because there a lot of great formations to explore, and when you get tired of that you can always cool off in the refreshing waters of the ocean. It is one of the hidden gems in this part of the world, and really worth the trouble of getting there.

Sunset Improvement – Railay, Thailand

I think I have become obsessed with sunsets. I have been collecting my things and rushing to the closest beach around 6 o’clock every night to try and witness the best one before the end of the year. For some reason, it makes me believe that when I see it, it will give me a sense of closure to a tough year, and it will let everyone out there know that there is still beauty in this world.

My new beach has given me the best sunsets so far. I had to do a little traveling to get there, and I arrived just in time to witness a pretty good one, but I still believe that it could have been better so I will keep on searching until I get that perfect one.

This sunset came of Railay’s west beach. Railay is a tourist destination on the tip of Thailand that is a small strip of rocky mountains and sand that juts out from the country’s mainland. You can not get there by car or airplane. You can only arrive by getting in a tiny boat and having them shuttle you around the tall jutting mountains that surround the beach.

But the promise of sunsets from the spot is huge, and it looks like the perfect playground to stay at for the next couple of days. I will let you know more about the place during the next couple of days, but for now I hope you enjoy the moment that my camera was able to capture.

Chasing the Sunset – Phuket, Thailand

One of the things that everybody visits if they come to the island of Phuket is the beach. It is impossible to miss one of them. They are all over the place. There are small beaches with an almost private feeling to them, big public beaches, sandy beaches, and even ones that are a little rocky. There are ones that look to the east in anticipation of the sunrise and there are one that look to the west and collect people on its shores to watch the sunset every night.

I have visited a lot of the beaches on my stay out here, and it has been a treat this time around. Phuket is still waiting for the tourists to return to the island, and the beaches are practically empty, but the city is ready for their return so they have been cleaning up the beaches which makes them really nice to walk on and enjoy.

The city life is a little different though. Many of the business owners have not returned and there are many for sale signs on buildings and restaurants that have not opened up in a long time. There are still enough of them out there to make it feel enough like a vacation and there are corners that are opening up again.

For the most part, I can feel a more positive vibe coming from the people of Phuket then I felt when I was out here during the summer. They know that there is hope around the corner and they can get back to the thriving economy that this place once was. It will be a slow process and there will be a struggle to get back there, but they are up for the challenge.

You can see it on the west facing beaches of Phuket. The people who live here have come down to watch the sunsets. They know it is the one feature of the island that can never be taken away even though they have not been as great as they are during the summer months. During my whole trip out here, there has been a collection of storm clouds gathering on the horizon, and I have never been able to see the sun set completely. I have had some nice views of it as it has reached the storm clouds, giving a hint at how glorious it can be, but it has never reached that level of spectacular. But just like the people of Phuket, I know that those clouds will eventually disappear and I will once again get to see its beauty. I just have to keep on chasing it until I get to see it for what it can be.

Until next time, stay safe and be kind to each other.

The Importance of Play – Nai Harn Beach

There are many reasons that many people go on vacation: to relax and recharge their batteries, to see and experience different places in the world, and to go visit loved ones. No matter the reason for travel, it is really important to understand and participate in one of the biggest aspects of it, play.

Play is one of the things I believe the most in. I know that there is a time to take things seriously, and we always need those moments to unwind, but play is the time in our life where we truly find our passion and make the most out of the moments that we are given. It is the time when we find real joy and experience a variety of emotions that allow us to say that we have really experienced life. It is the one thing that I try to incorporate into my lessons, because when my students are actually having fun with their learning, it is when they are really processing the information and internalizing it. The lesson that they are supposed to be learning suddenly becomes their passion because it is now a part of their playtime.

There are times on vacation where I just lounge by a pool or stroll on a beach and do not find time for play. It makes the trips relaxing, but it does not make them memorable. It is those times when I go out a play that I start to have a good time with my vacation. The Nai Harn Beach Resort understands this and gives their guests many opportunities for play on the beach that the resort overlooks. They supply the guests with boogie boards, paddle boards, snorkels, and kayaks. The waves are not big enough right now to make the boogie boards of much use, but the rest of the stuff there has made for some memorable moments.

I have gone out on the paddle board a couple of times to place myself in complete isolation from the rest of the society hanging out on the beach, and today Christine and I took one of the kayaks out to check out the other beaches nearby and the island right across the bay from us. It was a little bit of exercise to get out there, but it was completely worth it. We ran into local fishermen, and in the rocks near the shore we were able to observe schools of tropical fish float underneath our boat. It made for a memorable day.

Which makes the nights even more worth it. It is almost as if I earned the moments of relaxation after the moments of play. It has created the perfect balance on this trip to make every moment the most that it possibly can.

The Healing Properties of Water – Nai Harn Beach

The Celtic culture uses many aspects of nature as symbols to express certain ideas within their stories, and many of these symbols have found their way into the literature of the world. The strange thing about these symbols is that they have a duality to them that can express things that are the complete opposite of each other. One of the best examples of this is water. It can be a destructive force that can wipe out a civilization, but it can also be a healing entity that can restore a person and show them a new life that they had been missing all along. Both of them work hand in hand to form this world. We cannot build something better unless we first destroy the mess that we have left behind. We cannot find something new within ourselves if we don’t wash away the thing that is holding us back.

This has to be the reason that beaches are such a big draw. They are the place where we can find this property in such great quantities that we cannot help to feel the healing qualities that it has to offer. Many people are not big fans of these tourist destinations and I get the reasons why. You spend a lot of time wiping away the sand off of your body and somehow you seem to grab suitcases full of the stuff to bring back with you. Most of the time it is almost impossible to find a nice spot where you are not disturbed by other people. So why would people want to come here?

Well, there is the plethora of water sports that they can participate in and if the world is tilting the right way, there are huge waves that will crash on the beach bringing the surfers to their shores. But I think it is something more. I felt it yesterday as I wandered into the warm waters of Nai Harn Beach. All of the work and stress from a semester as a high school English teacher was washed away. I no longer had to worry about lesson plans or grading essays. I didn’t have to reread books I have read numerous times and guide students who may not have read them through their intricacies. I didn’t need to worry about yearly evaluations or the problems that were happening behind the scenes of my school. I could find myself in the moment, laying on back in a huge body of salt water and let it wipe away all of these worries and just enjoy where I ended up.

This is the reason that people search out destinations where the land ends and the ocean begins. They need to wash away the pains and stress of everyday life in the healing waters of the ocean and be rejuvenated into something new that allows them to look at the world in a more positive and joyful light. After a year like we all have had, I hope you can find that place of calm so the next year is something that you are not only willing to conquer but you are looking forward to the possibilities that it will offer.

Afternoon Arrival – Nai Harn Beach

It is amazing the difference that one night can make. The previous night I had slept at a roadside hotel made out of repurposed material to a hotel that is a destination in itself looking out over one of my favorite beaches in all of Thailand, Nai Harn. It is not that I would ever have been able to afford to stay at this place normally, but considering that the usual tourists that come to Thailand are absent this year, a lot of the higher end hotels are having great deals, and I am taking advantage of them while I still can. In a year, I will have to go back to spending nights in private rooms in hostels, and hotels made out of shipping crates, but right now, it is five star locations overlooking some spectacular scenery.

We arrived later in the afternoon after another good day of driving. It is a nice feeling to be able to get out of the car for a little while and enjoy the place where we have stopped. It is also nice to know that we have left Bangkok just in time. This morning news of a Covid outbreak in the region to the south of Bangkok has put that area under lockdown, and it has not meant that it has crept into the big city yet, but it has put the people living there a little more on edge. Hopefully it does not mean a lockdown of all Thailand in the future, but only time can tell. It just means that this might be our last hurrah for a little while as we go back to a culture of being safer with what we do and how we interact with other people.

Until then I find out more about that, I will just have to enjoy the beach lifestyle I find myself at. Where the hotel is at, I have only a two minute walk from the top story down to the beach and then I can relax on the sandy beach, jump into the warm Thai waters, or even borrow one of the paddle boards or kayaks to explore more of the bay. Basically, my goal to make the most out of the freedom while it lasts because in this time, we do not know when for the sake of the health of others that it will be restricted for a time.

The fun that can be had in the waters will be a little different this time around as well. Last time I was here, over the summer, the waves were huge and the bay was filled with surfers looking to catch one of the waves. This time the surf is not as crazy. I am really surprised by how calm the waters are. I can see through the clear blue water down to the bottom this time around where as last time there was so much sand and sediment swirling through the water that I could never see an inch into the water even though I was standing right over it. I guess that is the difference in season and part of the reason that tourists make their way out to this part of Thailand during this time of the year as opposed during the summer months. The beach is still not very crowded though. I guess that is another bonus for finding myself here at this time in history. Those crowds are not allowed in the country just as it makes it really hard for me to leave the country.

I am happy to have finally arrived and I look forward to the next couple of weeks off from work. I hope things stay safe and I won’t have to cut things short, but in the meantime, I will make the most out of each opportunity that comes my way when I can grab it. I guess that is one of the better things to come out of this situation. We all have started to appreciate those moments that we used to take for granted, and I know that I am able to have more than most people, but I have really learned to make the most out of them. I hope that you can do the same wherever you find yourself, and that you can make it the greatest that it possibly can be.

Until next time, stay healthy and be kind to each other.

Siam Summer

The beach at Koh Samet, Thailand

The soft sand squishes in between my toes
As the crashing waves taunt me to jump in.
The salty breeze on the seas gently blows
Massaging my heart to slow its pumpin’.
Right now, no place begs for my attention
And I have taken care of all my work.
The whispered name that this beach chair mentions,
Talks of taking advantage of its perk.
The waiter brings me a fruit filled smoothie
As I lean back to face the shining sun.
The scene has been taken from a movie
As I know my vacation has begun.
It took awhile for summer to start,
And now that it has my stress will depart.

Beach Living – Siam Summer

Somebody had the time to set up some rock castles during the time when no tourists were allowed on the island

Not that things have been really stressful or frantic ever since school wrapped up for the year, and we have been forced to go on summer vacation, but the short voyage over to Koh Samet, things have slowed down considerably and I have been forced to slow down to meet the demand as well. It has been basically nothing more than beach living. It is the perfect way to enjoy summer, sit under an umbrella, order smoothies, read a good book, and when things get a little too warm, go cool off in the clear water.

The beach next door, a little more rustic but still as inviting as all of the other beaches I have seen on the island

In fact, I have not ventured very much further from my resort room than down to the beach by the reception area. I did take a fifteen minute stroll to the other side of the island for dinner one evening, and I did rent a kayak to paddle out to other beaches nearby, but I have constantly be coming back to the idea of relaxation.

The sun setting through the clouds, a short fifteen minute hike from the resort I am staying at

I think it is important that this happens in everybody’s life. Too often we are told that we need to be constantly at work, and with the creation of emails, text messaging and the internet, it is even harder to get away from this responsibility. Our jobs now believe that because these leashes have been created for us that they can tug on them any time that they want to, but they need to know for the sake of sanity of humankind, it is important that they let us run out and be free.

a quiet restaurant waiting for the crowds that will soon arrive this coming long holiday weekend

Some times that means running for adventure and capturing what is out there to offer, but at other times, it is just as important to unwind from the stress and do nothing for a couple of days. Koh Samet is the perfect place to do the unwinding, and considering it has not amped up yet with its recent reopening, it is even more calm than it probably usually is. There are not crowds of tourists jostling for a spot on the beach. There are no large lines waiting for a table at the best restaurants. And there is nobody competing to outdo other people on their vacation. It is just a moment of pure relaxation, and I am glad to have been able to experience it for a time this summer.

The Opening of the National Parks – Siam Summer

The statue of a gigantic mermaid that greets you when you first arrive to Koh Samet

It is another sign that Thailand is returning back to a normal kind of life. Today was the one day we had been waiting for all summer long, the day when they reopened the national parks. Yes, there are a lot of cool towns and fun places to go in the big cities, but the magic of Thailand really comes to life when visiting the national parks. We have had a couple on our list to visit this summer, and the first one was the island of of Koh Samet. It is an island resort with pristine beaches and beautiful hikes through rain forests that is only a three hour drive from Bangkok, and a quick twenty minute speedboat ride from the dock in Rayong.

Squeezing into a song tol

But we did not find ourselves in Bangkok this morning. We had been staying in Rayong for the past few days, waiting for this island to open up. The beach resort we were staying at was nice, but it was tucked in a corner of town that not many people visit, and there were only a couple of restaurants to enjoy in the area. The sun rarely popped out from amongst the clouds, and the time there was spent waiting for the next part of our trip. We were told that we would be able to catch a shuttle from the resort to the pier and from there we could take a ferry over to the island.  We were so excited about the opening of this island that we had our bags out in front of the resort awaiting our shuttle.

Well, it turned out not to be like a shuttle like you would find in most parts of the world. It is what is called a song tol, which literally translates to two bench. They are very common in all of Thailand. Basically, somebody took a pickup truck, bolted two benches in the back of it, put a cover over those benches, and then started taxiing people around in it. Some are safer than others, but all of them are a treat to ride in. The one we took to the pier could not close its tail gate, so we packed in tight to make it to our next leg of the journey, hoping that we would not lose any luggage on the way.

The speed boat that took us from Rayong to Koh Samet

This involved taking some type of boat over the short distance of ocean to the island. There are two different types of boats you can book to get over there. The first is the ferry. It runs about once an hour, takes an hour to make the short distance, packs people in tightly, but is significantly cheaper than the other option. This is a speed boat. It is a lot quicker, but will jostle you around a little bit more as it takes you over the choppy seas. It did cost four hundred baht per person for a round trip, but that breaks down to about $12 American money. It was worth the price, and all we have to do is call ahead two hours in advance to let them know when we are ready to return.

The view from the back of our speed boat

The views weren’t great on the speed boat, and I was with a couple of people that get seasick easily, but we were able to make it over with everybody’s stomach intact. It was pretty comfortable, and the excitement of making it to this national treasure that had been untouched for the last four months had the anticipation building up within us. It would only be a short time until we found ourselves doing some beach living.

The view of the beach from the hotel we are staying at

When we arrived, there was one more quick song tol ride to our hotel, and then it was time to relax with soft sand, clear water and gorgeous skies. It was a little bit of an adventure to get to the resort, but it was well worth it. It is even nicer knowing that we are going to get to enjoy this island before the tourists start pouring into all of the hotel rooms here. It is Wednesday, and most people won’t be able to get out of their busy jobs from Bangkok until Friday. It is also a long holiday weekend coming up, and it will just add to the crowds. And even though there are a few people on the island right now, it is not enough to make it feel crowded. It will be a great stop for our longer road trip through this part of Thailand.

The Moments Between Storms – Siam Summer

I now know why they call it the rainy season. There had been the occasional storm that came through our neighborhood that would cool things off and water the trees, but it would only last a couple of hours at most, and we could go back to our lives afterwards. Ever since I have made it to the coast, the rain has come a little more consistently and has stuck around a little bit longer. One nice things about it is I am no longer complaining about the heat, but I am also stuck inside waiting for things to change so I can go back to enjoying life. I had spent too much of the last couple of months doing that, and I did not want to continue this routine into my vacation.

But that is essentially what life is about. We continue with our routine while sitting at the edge of what could happen, waiting for that moment when things calm down and we can grab a little something from our existence.It might be a world wide pandemic that causes us to hide in our houses, but if we are honest with ourselves, there are a lot of those storms that keep us in our homes. It might be that work has kept us too busy, or the maintenance of our possessions prevents us from venturing out into the world. Sometimes it is something so simple as being so accustomed to the little world that we have made for ourselves that we do not want to see what else there is out there for us. But eventually we tire of those things are have to go out for a change or scenery and create a new memory.

Luckily for us, the rain did stop in the afternoon, and we were able to get some pool time before joining our friends for dinner. Now Rayong is not known for its big restaurants and fancy beaches. In fact, it has been barely surviving as a resort town only booming when it gets the overflow from Koh Samet. Add on to the fact that the island has been closed since March and Covid has kept people in their homes, it has not been kind to the establishments out here. A walk down the beach will highlight the many resorts and restaurants that have gone under during the crisis and the rainy season is allowing the jungle to take back what originally was its possession.

There are a few places that were able to weather the storm. One of these was Ken’s. This open aired seaside bar is owned by no other than Ken. He is a friendly guy that hangs out by the shore and points out his establishment to people who happen to walk by. I know that this is a technique that is every large city in the world as restaurants try to compete with each other, but with Ken it feels natural and he makes you want to come back and enjoy a meal there.

And this is what we did. The food was good, but nothing to write home about. It was the atmosphere that kept us there and will have us coming back for more. Ken and his staff coming set up a couple of tables on the beach right next to the surf so we could let its gentle cadence entertain us during our meal. Because it was that sweet spot in between the closing of Thailand, and the opening of it back up to tourists, we were able to have the beach virtually to ourselves. It was the perfect way to enjoy an evening meal.

And it was right when we were packing up to go home for the evening that the rains started to return. It was only a drizzle until we found the shelter of our patio and that was when the rains really started to come down. We had found that perfect time to enjoy the moment, and took full advantage of it while we could.