Southern Thailand March 2006
Summary by Laurel Woods
Priscilla Macy, who is not only a member, but also the president of Global Sojourns, organized a Sea Kayaking trip for clients and friends to Southern Thailand. What follows are events that may or may not have taken place during our six days and five nights together. And now I’d like to take a moment to introduce our key players:
Peter Macy, if only I had A word for this mortal, I’ll have to get back to that, maybe petulantly brilliant, sneakily competitive? He definitely missed his calling sea kayaking in the Olympics, he was literally doing circles around the islands while the rest of us were trying to figure out our foot peddles.
Jim T. Young, T for TROUBLE no doubt, previous hippy turned militant farm boy from Ohio, quiet with that sheepish grin of his, hot body and mind 20 years younger than his age, I think he’ll never been the same after this trip
Kendra Howe, don’t let that sharp-witted tongue of hers get near you, she’ll lure you in and spit you out, just like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, I find Kendra fascinating and am constantly trying to position myself as close to her as possible.
Jane Shapiro, fun-loving extreme sportess from Colorado, if you have something funny to say make sure Jane is near you, she’s your best audience, and will roll over with laughter, she specially loves anything to do with massage and farting.
Heidi Bixby, endlessly intriguing and multi-faceted, her devilish smile says a thousand words, mostly about you, she became our staff photographer and captured beautiful moments on our daily explorations.
Laurel Woods, heyna-esque laughing, beer drinking, foul-mouthed California girl, she’ll steal your heart, she’s definitely the life of the party, any party, and enjoys laughing at other people’s expenses, last seen showering with Anne Hurley.
Anne Hurley, this flight attendant will not only warm you up but is the undefeated Sudoku champion, previously nationally and now internationally known. She was strangely drawn to the “Monks only” seating areas we encountered and I can only think that perhaps she found her spiritual calling.
Mike and Maureen Bowman, OK these two totally blew me away – awesome, adventurous, and soooo in love, one night I could swear I heard them getting smoochie in their bungalows, although when confronted they coyly blamed it on the damn apes mating, WHATEVER!! And Mike is the hearts CHAMPION; he distracts us all by playing shirtless, that sneaky one…
And now onto our trip…
We all met up in Bangkok airport and flew down to Phuket. Our guides Dave and Moo met us at the airport and we picked up Lady Kendra along the way. We then enjoyed our first meal together as a group. Kendra shared with us her mystery package that arrived, which included a fan that clipped onto her safari hat. Isn’t it interesting how in the beginning everyone was so nice and polite, yet in the end we were all at each other’s throats during our hearts and scrabble tournaments??!!
We embarked on our three-hour boat ride in Phang Nga Bay, where everyone got a chance to get to know each other. Of course, Laurel immediately brought the conversation to the topic of farting during massages where Jane laughed so hard, she nearly fell of the bench. We beached our boat and had our first paddle together. Kendra made it instantly clear that she was out for blood and kept ramming her kayak into Anne and Laurel’s double-pleasure boat. After a lovely paddle of exploring the islands, we then checked in to Ta Khao Bungalows, our accommodations for the first 2 nights. We were all very excited to settle in and begin the happy hour celebration chez Heidi, Kendra and Jane. After a lovely dinner and scintillating conversation, we all hit the sack.
Day 2 began with a beautiful sunrise that Heidi surely captured on film. For breakfast they served this delicious soup, so yummy. Sadly, the poor restaurant ran out of coffee and was reusing the grinds to make more. It wasn’t too long before we clued in and succumbed to the instant coffee a la Nescafe. After a nice and serene paddle it was time to eat yet again. We beached our boat for lunch, and sat down on the beach for some Thai food. We all watched as Mike and Maureen wandered off to use the “facilities”, something intoxicating about those two. After our meal, Dave showed us how to eat the various local fruits, including tamarind and some other round lychee-type fruit; kindly refer to Heidi’s pix for more fruit details. We then paddled into the mangroves and Dave yelled at some of us who were laughing quite loudly. Thankfully, the banditos were always on hand to help out and keep us in line. Jane had to go #1 so Dave told her how to get out of the kayak and back in. We all watched her shamelessly and she was such a trooper for it. The mangrove canals got pretty narrow and Jim barely made it out alive. Dave finally had to go in and perform an extraction. After another lovely day of paddling and eating, we came back to our bungalows to eat and drink beer. Heidi was eager to play Scrabble and Jim surrendered to a game with the ladies.
The next morning, after eating, we said goodbye to our peeps at Ta Khao. I won’t name names but tallying up the bar tabs appeared to be a bit of a struggle for several of the global sojourners, packed up the longtail motorboat and traveled to Laem Sak. We picked up another sojourner, Lauren Jefferies, a doctor who was traveling alone. The poor thing had been exposed to this wife beater couple with matching tee shirts and needed an escape. After 2 days, we had become a pretty tight bunch, but luckily Lauren fit in seamlessly to our group. We caravanned up to Khao Sok National Park, stopping at a local market along the way. Some of us bonded further by eating jackfruit – sometimes it’s fun to try different things.
We arrived at Khao Sok National Park, which initially looked like a well-groomed golf course. We wondered if we were in the right place. Mike made reference to it being Danville, California, and having been there, I’d have to agree. However, once we were boating to our bungalows on the reservoir, the scenery became quite different – beautiful, calm and untouched, much like Peter. We arrived at our floating bungalows location and knew we were truly in the tropical jungle. It was quite rustic and quaint – one lone bungalow was submerged and reminded me eerily of a scene out of The Deer Hunter movie. The group tidied up and got ready for dinner, post-dinner activities included Scrabble, hearts and drinking beer. Luckily, Anne had packed away some red wine, which tickled Priscilla’s fancy immensely since she is adverse to beer.
Dave came a knockin’ on our huts at the crack of dawn and dragged us out for a sunrise paddle. It’s so cute to see people’s demeanors first thing in the morning. Some are bright and cheery, (Jane, Laurel, Maureen) while others clearly don’t want you to go near them (Jim, Anne and HEIDI!!). The rest fell somewhere in between. And then there is Kendra…
It was beautiful paddling on the reservoir, watching the sunrise – the water was like glass, and the wildlife was waking up. We had to be quiet, AGAIN, and went looking for such wildlife as apes, birds and beer drinkers. So we came back, ate, napped, played games, went on a hike, etc. I need to wrap this up, I’m writing this at work and I think my boss is onto me…Basically the rest of the day was filled w/food, beer and games. Laurel and Anne did shower together, Jim was sad he wasn’t invited as he felt they had an alliance.
Friday morning, the roosters did an encore performance of their classic cockadoodle doo and got the group up before SIX AM!!! After coffee and breakfast we piled into the long tail boat and motored our way to a couple of deep coves that were a bit further away from the bungalows than the previous morning’s paddles. Between the mist on the water, and the wild sounds from the apes, it truly was a setting from Gorillas in the Mist. We all had binoculars for sightseeing and could hear so many different animals, it was awesome! Priscilla enjoyed closing her eyes and simply taking it all in.
We paddled around for nearly 4 hours, enjoying the scenery, the wildlife sounds (ie: ape mating calls) and each other’s company. Towards the end of our paddle the crowd was in need of a restroom break and everyone got creative. Anne unfortunately fell out of her kayak as she attempted to launch a trunk sticking out of the water. On the way back to our boat, Peter and Dave engaged in a friendly yet competitive race..The rest of the day was spent eating, drinking, and lounging…shocker. A few of us did take a really nice hike up to the top of a summit with incredible views.
Our final dinner was quite celebratory. They served us a Thai specialty of 100 year old egg; egg that has been buried for 6 weeks. The eggs are black but taste pretty much the same, perhaps a tad bit more potent, especially with the chilis on top. After dinner, we played Priscilla’s favorite game of putting the coin in the buttcheeks and dropping it in a cup. It was hilarious to see everyone’s buttcheek strategy, sometimes tragedy. Almost everyone took part in the festivities, even Moo had a go at it. Peter did this wacky thing with his hands, as his buttcheeks waddled over to the cup. The locals thought we were clearly nuts. Afterwards, we all played a mad game of Hearts. Kendra kept score, Michael blew us all away, that silent bastard, how does he do it???
Our final morning together was spent packing, taking group photos and trading toiletry tips. Peter in a drastic move, voted us all off the island so he could spend the rest of his day paddling with Dave. Our long tail boat ride back to land was spent reminiscing about our amazing week together. We flew back to Bangkok and quickly said our goodbyes as people departed to Chang Mai, Cambodia, Ohio, New York and California. We had spent only 6 days together but had a lifetime of memories and THREE lifetimes of photos to boot. This was the end of a truly amazing trip and experience. It was such an eclectic group of people and we all learned from each other and had a lot of laughs along the way. And to Priscilla, we’d all like to say “Khop Khun Kha!”
Highlights from Fellow Sojourners:
My comments of memorable moments would be, “Beware of flying shrimp when kayaking in Thailand. They can be harmful to your health or at least damn scary when they hit you in the face! Another one would be, “When traveling in Bangkok hire Laurel and Anne to be your personal tour and shopping guide. However you will have a new appreciation for the burdens that mules carry because you too will be carrying large loads of purchase by the two. However your reward will be continued exceptional services by the two exceptionally attractive, charming and knowledgeable guides when they turn magically into two wonderful barmaids that will keep you well oiled with the local brew!
The outstanding remembrances: the group and those “crazy, little cabins” ie the floating bungalows which he loved.
For me it was also the group. We had so much in common ie soduko and hearts plus ability to have a good time. I haven’t had the giggles in so long — that was memorable. However, the kayaking quietly to see the animals and birds out in the wilderness was special. The concert by the gibbons was unbelievable and will never be forgotten. I really didn’t care if I only saw one briefly, their noises continue to echo.
As for moi, the best part of the trip was just hanging out with wonderful people and gorging myself on outstanding natural beauty and super fresh Thai’ meals.
- It was relaxing, entertaining, and on the rare occasion intellectually engaging to either just listen in as others conversed, joked or played their hands, or jumping into the conversations myself and letting the chips (repartees) fall where they may. The mix of characters just seemed to gel so well, that is was as if we had all been best buddies from birth.
- Taking in the massive karst limestone formations with their foliage hanging on to gravity defying slopes that rose out of the crystal clear blue (fresh) water, or kayaking along the dense jungle coastline and listening to a cacophony of creatures was oddly enough very peaceful and humbling at the same time. In these moments, conversation wasn’t necessary with humans as I was engaged in a powerful conversation with Mother Nature anyway!
- And lastly, but how could it possibly be least, was the abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and chicken all prepared in succulent, spicy Thai sauces. Like Pavlov’s dog, I’m actually salivating just thinking about those meals. What a blessing to go from our Wonderbread processed food in the US to that abundance of culinary delights brought (seemingly) right out of the river, out of the vegetable garden or pen by our Thai hosts.
- Okay, I’ll add one more. My one and only massage was relaxing and I even fell asleep repeatedly (without farting! Oopsie) which is always a sign of a great massage for me!
Mr. Happy Memory
A memory that stands out about the kayaking portion of the trip was the first part of the trip, in Phang Nga Bay. We had only been on the water for less than 30 minutes, on the first paddle of the trip, and it all of a sudden became obvious that we were being watched by dozens of moneys! They were up on the cliffs above, checking us out, coming down lower to get a better look. Every time you looked, you saw another one camouflaged in the trees. I’ve never seen so many moneys in one place in the wild, and it wasn’t clear who was more fascinated – us in them or them in us!!
One of the highlights for me was the Thai people. I made an attempt to talk (sometimes only with sign language and a few Thai words to those who did not speak English) to local people like those in shops off the beaten path in the cities, or maids in hotels, or in a market. I enjoyed their positive energy.
Highlights for me included:
- the great sense of humor and fantastic attitudes of my fellow sojourners
- all the deep belly laughs heard through the trip
- the crispy pork and garlic dish served at lunch on our way to the Bay
- diving into the warm water of the Khao Sok reservoir
- my “white purse” from A&L (which Peter didn’t arrive home with- oopsie! Anne, when are you in Japan next?!)
- the seclusion, vastness and beauty of Khao Sok