There are a couple of places in this world that are known for their tuk tuks, and India is one of them. Basically a tuk tuk is a motorcycle that has a backseat attached to it, so some driver can speed tourists around a busy city. They are called tuk tuks because of the noise they make as they putter around. They are fun to take, but depending on where you are, you need to make a deal with the driver before you leave about how much you are going to pay, and where they will be taking you. There are many scams surrounding these vehicles, but if you stick to your guns, you can get a reasonable price, and have a driver waiting around for you as you go from place to place. The trips are usually short, but the feeling of being rushed around in an open air vehicle is one that is too much fun to pass over if you find yourself in one of the countries that relies on these as a form of transportation.
I recently took a trip to Chennai which, in retrospect, was a lot like a tuk tuk ride. I guess you could call the trip a business trip. I was taking a group of kids from my school to a track meet at a school in this city. For those of you who have been on a business trip before, you know that they rarely give you the opportunity to do anything more than the business that you were sent out there to do. You could find yourself in one of the most amazing tourist destinations in the world, but all you could see of that place is the inside of a board room. At least, I got to experience the beautiful campus of the school that I went to, and a track meet is always going to be a lot more fun than sitting in meeting after meeting. But I was still busy, and like take a quick ride on a tuk tuk, it was nothing more than a whirlwind that I am still trying to wrap my head around.
During the short moments that I was able to get and explore the city, they were never to go some place that would have enriched me culturally. My first responsibility was to make sure that the students I had with me enjoyed their experience first. This meant that I went to a beach where they were able to spend some time figuring out how to boogie board, and dig around in the sand. We also went to a mall to waste a little time before we headed to the airport to fly home. The mall was a little too western for my tastes and was like any other mall that I have been to in the world, but my students enjoyed it. All of this did was give me a little bit of a teaser that made me want to eventually return to India so I could explore it more on my terms rather than the short spurts of energy that was required of me by coming out here on this school trip.
Still I was able to sneak in a tuk tuk ride on my tuk tuk ride of Chennai. It was probably the most cultural significant thing that I was able to do. It was a quick run to a store so I could find a gift to bring back to my wife, and we had to pay the tuk tuk driver a little extra money to have him stick around for us. Still, it was nice to get away for a thirty minutes and have this small moment in this new country for me. I enjoyed the tuk tuk ride, but I am looking forward to something a little slower next time. This way I will be able to experience the moments a little better than being whisked away through the landscape. But it still better to have a tuk tuk ride rather than no ride at all.
Here is to all of those tuk tuk rides out there, and I hope that the next one that you find yourself on, though it may be quick, will still be memorable.
It is about the sand under your feet As the in coming waves wash it away. It is about the ultimate retreat You wish to find on a vacation stay. It is about time I spent with my love Without having to worry about work. It is about no new rules from above Coming from an administrative jerk. It is about time off that I deserve Because the amount of your workload. It is about the resting of the nerve Due to the fact of the stress that is sowed. It is about a moment within reach Where we can spend the day walking the beach.
I know that it is Christmas time in a Muslim country, and there are still parts of the world that are recovering from the Covid hangover, but the one thing that had really shocked me about my trip to Oman is the fact that it feels like we are the only people out here. When I was in Muscat, I thought that it was because this city is not necessarily the tourist destination, and people come to Oman to explore its other beaches and the mountains. But when I travel the roads and make it to other places where there should be tourists gathering between spots, I am amaze at how empty it is.
It doesn’t mean that they are all gone. We did see a tour group hanging out at the viewpoint for the lighthouse in Sur. They were there enjoying their box lunches, but in another country, this place would be packed with people and it would be almost impossible to get a picture of the bay. Even the beach was completely empty. I did see a couple of locals there, hanging out under the shady spots created along the corniche, but the only people I saw walking along the sand were another local couple and a guy out doing his morning run. Even the town of Sur seems to be completely devoid of people.
Now would seem the time to bring the family out to this country. It is a beautiful place to explore, and the weather is not unbearable at this time. In fact it is the weather I look for on a sunny day, barely hitting 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 27 degrees Celsius. It gets a little warm during the day, but cools off at night to a comfortable temperature to enjoy the patio with. Why wouldn’t the tease of that not bring more people, especially considering the cold European countries are not that far away?
I also wonder if the World Cup has something to do with the lack of tourists. Many people traveled to Qatar and spent a lot of money there who might have come to Oman otherwise. But if you are making your way all the way to the Middle East, wouldn’t you want to spend a little more time there exploring some of the other places that it has to offer. I do know that when the Olympics were in Salt Lake City there were a lot of people who traveled to Colorado to ski the slopes there, so why wouldn’t they do the same thing here?
It does keep me wondering, but then again, it is not a bad problem to have. Oman is a beautiful country with interesting tourist sights, and surprises around every corner. I will enjoy the peace and quiet this desert country has to offer while it is here, and know that I came out at the right time when the weather is perfect. Someday the tourists will come, but until then I will just hang out with the goats, and stroll the beach that is all mine.
The thing that strikes me as being the most strange with my time in the Middle East is visiting these place that are in the Bible. I grew up with these stories from such an early age that I couldn’t think of them in any other capacity other than tales full of fantastical places that couldn’t possibly be real. Now that I see these places for myself, the first thing that pops into my head is, “This place really exists.” I have had this experience with the spot on the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, the top of Mount Nebo where Moses was able to look on the promised land before her died, and now I have travelled down to Aqaba in Jordan, and can sit on the Red Sea looking over its waters to Egypt, and the place where Moses parted the Red Sea so he could bring his people over to freedom.
Aqaba is the only port city in Jordan, and give the citizens of this country 32 kilometers of beach front property to play around in. It is a tiny sliver of land situated in between Saudi Arabia, and Israel with a clear view of the Sinai Peninsula within clear view of its coastline. The Jordanians have made the most out of this little stretch of land. Not only have packed it full of resorts, and places where people can go out to enjoy waterskiing, scuba diving, and lounging out on their boats, but it is the only port city in the country. Anything that comes in or out of Jordan has to pass through Aqaba first.
A certain amount of history can be found in this city as well beyond the stories that are told in the Bible. Aqaba was used by the British during World War I as a base to help the Arabs in their fight against the Turks. T. E. Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia fame would retreat back often to Aqaba to resupply or just collect himself before going back out to gather together forces or blow up train routes. It was the one place that they were able to hold on to and may be the reason that they were able to push the Turks out of the area, and is probably one of the big reasons that the Middle East is shaped the way that it is today.
Despite all of this that is offered, the thing I looked forward to the most was finding a beach chair next to the warm waters with a good book to keep me company. It is a nice weekend getaway place from Amman, and I am glad that I can take a quick four hour car ride down here to unwind a bit. I did get a chance to explore a bit of the town, but for the most part, it was all about relaxation this time around, and Aqaba is the perfect place for that. After I collect myself more, I will go explore more, and even if I don’t get it all in this time around, I can always make my way back here. That is the nice thing about living in a country that offers places like Aqaba, you don’t have to squeeze out every moment you are in the place to make sure you saw everything. Instead, you can take your time and savor what it has to offer. So thank you Aqaba for these days of relaxation, and I hope to dive deeper into what you have to offer soon.
It might have been a long day of travel to make it all the way from Bangkok all the way to Koh Lipe, and my first evening here was more to decompress from the travel rather than soaking up the island life, but after a good night’s sleep, and a change of perspective, I really found the groove of this place really quick.
And that is to move slow. There is no reason to rush anything because everything I really need is right within my reach, and even more than I really do need.
I have landed on the far corner of the beach that stretches along one side of this tiny island at a spot they call the Sunrise side. It is supposed to be the perfect place to rise up early and get some amazing photos of the sun rising over the horizon. I am not at the place in vacation yet where I want to set my alarm so I can see the sunrise, but it will be one of the things that I will do while I am out here. It is also nice because it makes this the quieter part of the beach. Many of the people who choose to stay here do so because they know that people will be going to bed earlier because of the allure of that sunrise option in the morning.
But if there is a sunrise side of the beach there needs to be a sunset side as well. When the tide rushes out, the beach becomes wide enough where you can make the walk easily to the other side of the beach and watch the sunset from over there. When I first heard of this feature, I though that meant that I would have to curve around the island to get to the other side, but it shaped more like a horseshoe or a bay with each side looking out over the other side of the island. Once again, I have been only here for a day and have not made it to that other side yet, but it is in the plans to make sure I get in one good sunset while I am here. This one should be easier to do because it won’t require me to set an alarm to make it happen.
In between the sunset and the sunrise, there are all the things one would expect to see on an island. There are great snorkeling opportunities, and I have been out a couple of times already. The fish that hide among the coral reefs right off the shore are amazing and I need to figure out a way to take pictures underwater so I can share some of these treasures. There is a Market Street to explore that has a lot of great restaurants and a night life scene that I will have to participate in a couple of times while I am out here. And there is always the surprise around the corner. I have heard wild boar rooting around underneath my cabin at night, and I have run into a couple of monitor lizards enjoying the beach as much as the tourists.
All in all, now that I have slowed down a bit and am able take in things at a more reasonable pace, the vacation mindset has taken over. It is nice to be a part of the slow life every once in awhile, and it looks like Koh Lipe is the perfect place to take in this slower pace.
Why do all paradises have to look The same? Where does it say that palm trees Need to sway next to a babbling brook And the views have to have the bluest seas? Maybe sights a little more dramatic Is where my soul will find the peace it seeks, A wintry landscape that’ majestic With the earth torn asunder by peaks. The gathering clouds threaten a snowfall, And I beg for them to release their might. We are protected from its bitter call In a cabin perched on the mountain’s height. I start to long for a different view When I am in the one thought of by you.
The water rushes from under my legs,
Taking me closer to the rising wall.
I fight against winding up in the dregs,
Hoping the wave doesn’t cause me to fall.
I run to it with reckless abandon,
Building up bravery against the tide.
With my head high to show I’m having fun,
I prepare a bear hug with hands out wide.
After the two stubborn forces collide,
One is beaten down by the other’s might,
Leaving it up for nature to decide
Who will be crowned the victor in this fight.
It may look like I am the one losing,
But I come back due to my own choosing.
I was supposed to be picking up my belongings, packing them into my suitcase, and getting on the speedboat to go across the bay and arrive at Phuket again today. But I am on summer vacation and there is no schedule that I need to attend to except enjoying myself. I have been enjoying myself so far on Koh Yao Yai and there are a lot of open hotel rooms out here for a good price. So why not stick around for one more day and enjoy all that this resort has to offer?
I did venture away from the top of the mountain and ventured to the restaurant that was opened by the beach and the dock which is where they dropped me off when I first arrived. The beach was completely empty due to the low amount of people staying at the resort at this time, and though it was inviting, it was a stark reminder as to what was going on in the world at this time. The building at the bottom of the hill that usually houses many people during their stay here was also abandoned. They were not getting enough business so it did not make sense to open up many different spots throughout the resort. Instead, they have put all of the people in the hotel buildings at the top of the hill nearest the infinity pool. But I do not know how much longer this is going to last until they are going to need to open up more of the resort. It kept getting busier every day that we have been here. Part of that might be because of it now being the weekend and people are able to get away right now, and it might be because people are feeling pretty safe right now and are willing to take that chance and travel.
Many of the places that can do so are taking advantage of this time of lower numbers at their location, and Santhiya Resorts is no exception to this trend. The buildings in the lower part of the resort that are not being used right now are seeing a lot of upgrades. There was a lot of evidence of construction that had been going on, and there were places where they were making unique carvings into the wood to help to add to the unique atmosphere of the place. It will just make it that more of a great getaway the moment the crowds finally do return.
It is still strange to know that all of the amenities that are usually available are not here at this time. We thought we would be getting different menu options at the other restaurant, but they used the same menu, and the food was still cooked at the restaurant up the hill and then carted to the restaurant down below. All we did by going down the hill was change the scenery, but it was still a fun evening though we did not get to experience everything out here to experience. I still should not complain. I have found myself in the middle of paradise for a quarter of the price. I did not have to contend with the crowds that would normally be out here, and it has been so great that I decided to stay an extra day.
It has been a great part of this summer vacation, and I will have fond memories of here, but I am also excited to see what the next step will bring as I force myself out of my pool chair and to more exciting adventures.