Hi Deb,

Sorry to hear you are all sick.  Keep on the Gan Mao Ling for a few days, $2.20 is a good price!  I’ve been a bit sick myself,  ever since Bangkok my digestion no good.  On my herbs now and improving.  Just adjusting to the unhygeinic stuff  I think.  Also don’t think my body likes all the pollution in the air,  my eyes are constantly red and inflamed.

So far India appears very dry, dusty and people and rubbish everywhere.  I’m on the outskirts of Delhi but have been through the main bit on my way from the airport and it was an eyeopener.  Driving past India Gate was the highlight.  Many families spend their Saturday night gathering in the parks surrounding the monument and it appeared to be a carnival-like atmosphere.

The traffic really is chaotic though and I saw a couple of bingles and even a punch-up in the middle of the road!

The Tibetan commune where I’m staying is fascinating. The money changer looks like a triads gangster, none of the guesthouses or restaurants have signs (just pick a door and whaltz on in to see whats behind it),  everyone goes quiet and stares at me when I do enter a restaurant (like a cowboy in a wild west saloon!) and I only have to deal with one really persistant begger (and damn she’s persistant!)

I have an old tv in my room and its really interesting to channel surf.  Mostly musical Hindi films which are fun for all of about 5 min but then there are some gems to watch as well. I couldn’t stop laughing when I watched Indian Idol, must be worldwide phenomenon.

I leave this evening on the overnight bus to Dharamsala, at the base of the Himalaya’s.  Should be much cleaner and accomodating to travellers there.  Lots of courses to take also, I’m looking forward
to some structure and learning.  May even get to see the Dalai Lama teaching before he leaves to tour Australia.

I’ll contact you when I get there.

Paul

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Hi Deb,

I have arrived safely in Delhi.  Flew in late last night to the craziness of Delhi airport, Thai airways use much nicer planes flying on route to Aussie land than to India, but it was only 4 hours and apart from nervous anticipation I did it comfortably. Walking out of customs was just a sea of faces, it was hard to know where to look, but I was looking for a young Indian named Jindu and I found him in no time, holding up his name with a big smile on his face.

Jindu is a close friend of my old work collegue, and he has been a big help to me. 
Driving a beaten up old transit van,  Jindu works as a sort of taxi service for the guesthouses in the
Tibetan refugee commune just outside of Delhi.  He is an old hand at negotiating the crazy traffic here, there appears to be no road laws, cars are all over the road and everybody honking and dipping their lights to say “get outta my way!”

The weather is surprisingly ok.  Bangkok was far more uncomfortable with the stillness and heaviness of the humidity, while last night was warm with a fresh breeze and today like a Melbourne summer day
(only really polluted).

The Tibetan commune is quite small with many cheap and comfortable guesthouses.  I think it may be a well kept secret because its really not far from the city and Delhi is supposed to have shocking budget accomodation. Very few westerners here though and would be a lot tougher without Jindu’s help.

I will stay another night and leave for the Himalayas tommorow,  apparently they have lie down beds on the bus and you roll around when the get to the winding mountain roads. This I’ve got to see.

I’m not sure if Mum and Dad are still staying with you but will send message to them too.
Hope the show was good.

Love to you all,  Paul

Hello to everyone once again,  Hoping that life is treating you kindly and you are all very well.Last week, after growing tired of island hopping, I decided on a whim to search for a different landscape to explore. This decision has led me to my most rewarding experience in Thailand so far.

Following a short reference in my bible (Lonely Planet guidebook!), I headed inland to the Khao Sok National Park, a stunning region of thick, native rainforest and rugged mountain vistas.

It is here, by chance, I found accomodation with the most warm and hospitable Thai family you could ever come across. In a small resort of 6 very ambient and comfortable jungle bungalows, myself and a handful of other friendly guests were treated like family, sharing a campfire, deliciious home cooking and many tales of adventure with our hosts.  The owner, being a former jungle guide in the national park, was a wealth of information on the area.

Khao Sok,  established in the early 80’s,  is a huge nature preserve featuring a vast 165km long lake winding its way through the mountain lanscape.  The limestone outcrops protruding from the water were countless, some up to 100m high. 
My days here were busy – hiking through the rainforest to various viewpoints and majestic waterfalls,  swimming,  canoeing,  caving,  night safaris,  feeding the monkeys,  and my favourite – tubing down the jungle river (with the fish biting my feet).  One night was spent sleeping on an isolated bamboo raft house.  Waking each misty morning to the eerie calls of the wild gibbons was another highlight.

As I write I am now in Bangkok in preparation for my journey to Delhi, India.  I have even shaved my head for the occassion.

I figure a couple of nights in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok’s Koah San Rd backpackers district may prove wise for my future journey. Here at Koah San Rd there are beggars,  touts,  taxidrivers and shopkeepers everywhere you turn,  all vying to take as many tourist dollars from you as they possibly can. 
My favourite was an old fortune teller who approached me on the street and began reading from my eyes and the lines on my face.  Following him into a dark, back alleyway we sat crosslegged while he continued with reading my palm and using other ingenious sleight of hand tricks to prove his powerful psychic abilities.  And my future you may ask… well,  he believes I will follow a mysterious work opportunity to England where I will make my home.

In 2009 I will be married, in fact the next time I return to Bangkok will be with my wife. And I will live to surpass the grand, old age of 79! We’ll just have to see about all that…

Anyway, after stubbornly bartering down the exhoiberant fee he demanded I believe he may well have cursed me as well!

Love and light to all and stay tuned for my next adventures – in India.

Paul

Wildlife in the tropical Thai forest

Hello Sis,  Happy Birthday for the other day.

I was thinking about you but have had no internet access or phone reception where I’ve been staying. 

Hoping you all weren’t to worried about me!  Last Friday, on a whim I decided to leave the beach behind me and head inland to the Khao Sok National park. This place is amazing, all mountainous jungle, a huge lake (Hydroelectric like Dartmouth only bigger), rivers, waterfalls and wildlife.
From the time I arrived my itinerary has been so busy, heaps of trekking, campfires, night safaris, canoing and tubing down the river.  I have been staying in a small bungalow resort run by the most hospitable Thai family you could ever meet.
They treat myself and other guests like family, they’ve lived and worked as guides in the area for their whole lives and love to show you around and share their knowledge.
I’ve had my best time in Thailand here , have made good friend with the other guests and just had a quality stay.I am about to leave the area now, on my way to Bangkok where it will be much easier to get in touch with everyone.I’ll write more soon.

Hoping you are all happy,  healthy and well.  Thailand has been treating me very kindly and I continue to have many entertaining and educational expeiences when I’m not laying around on the beach all day.

Recently, I have travelled to the island of Koh Tao as well as the Ang Thong Marine National Park.
Koh Tao is renowned within the international scuba diving community as one of the best locations in the world to dive. And that is the main industry on this beautiful island- dive centres, dive schools, dive charter boats- they are everywhere in the scattered seaside villages. 

Although my budget at this point does not include dive lessons (perhaps toward the end of my trip), I have thoroughly enjoyed snorkelling for hours amongst the reefs. It’s kind of like swmming in an immense tropical aquarium, with brilliantly coloured fish surrounding you and amazing coral and cave formations to explore along the shore.

The Ang Thong Marine National Park is a breathtaking ancient achipelago of around 40 islands, weathered at their base by the ocean until they formed countless alcoves and caves from the limestone.  Here I toured by speedboat amongst the isles, all limestone based with sheer cliffs covered by jungle, hidden lagoons and small remote beaches tucked away from civilization. It is here that Alex Garland based his famous book ‘The Beach’, about a well hidden,perfect beach inhabited by only the most fortuitous travellers who have discovered the secret location.
My tour included several hours of sea-kayaking amongst the sea caves and jungle hiking to some amazing lookouts. When I finally work out how to use my camera I will send pics.

The national sport of Thailand is the brutal but amazing martial art of Muay Thai Boxing.  On Kho Phangan there are regular evening tournaments held at small stadiums which are really just open air grandstands surrounding a boxing ring in the jungle. 
To find out when and where the next fight night is you need to try and decipher what one of the roaming pick-up trucks with really tinny speakers is blaring into the streets. 
A Thai boxing match is worth attending for the pure spectacle.  The fighters are very respectful of ancient tradition, in the lead up to their fight they perfom a kind of ceremonial dance to the accompaniment of wild, snakecharmers type music.
They weave, they stretch, they rythmically bow to all four corners of the ring, the crowd and each other in an expression of deep respect for their guru and the guardian spirit of Thai boxing.When the fight begins they just keep dancing and weaving around the ring before unleashing fast and powerful strikes on their opponents.  All surfaces of the body are considered fair targets and, apart from headbutting, any part of the body may be used to strike the opponent.  Punching is considered the weakest of all blows, and kicking merely a way of softening up an opponent- knee and elbow strikes are decisive in most bouts.Although these were only provincial matches, the quality of martial arts I saw was very high and I loved it. So much so that i have tried some classes at the local Thai boxing school.
My own Taekwondo training held me in good stead and I found I could quickly adapt to the Muay Thai techniques. Apart from losing a lot of fluid in the humidity and taking a few bruises I was able to hold my own.
I feel this has been a great cultural experience and hope to learn more during my travels in Thailand.
I continue to enjoy and learn from my Thai massage experiences.

Some therapists try very hard and will give you a serviceable treatment, you will leave with a good feeling, yet the effects are unmemorable and dissipate soon after.
And then sometimes you will find someone who when they place their hands on you and begin a treatment you understand that they are a truly gifted healer.
I have found perhaps the islands most gifted therapist, she gives more than just a brilliant massage- she twists, pulls and manipulates each joint until it adjusts with an exquisite crunch. 
As I leave her shop I feel as if I am floating out of there and stay that way for many hours thereafter.  The perfect remedy for my sore, kickboxing/kayaking/swimming muscles, I have been the past 3 days in a row and am hoping to take some of her technique with me to practice.

Finally, most of my homesickness has now dissipated. I now feel like a free-spirit and enjoy living such a simple existence with few responsibilities and belongings. It’s refreshing to say the least.

Lots of love and light going out to you all,

Paul

 The magic of Thailand

A big, warm hello to everyone back home.  I hope you are all well. My apologies for not writing sooner, but I do believe I have been thoroughly charmed and seduced by this tropical island lifestyle. Firstly, I must say that Thailand is a beautiful, friendly country. That being said, I must admit I have only seen a small fraction of what it has to offer.

My decision to fly directly from Bangkok airport to the southern islands appears to be the perfect choice. I am currently on the island paradise of Koh Phangan, staying on a remote stretch of beach only accessible by a muddy 4WD jungle track or boat. Surrounded by lush, hilly jungle this stretch of sand is sparsely scattered with quirky, small bungalow resort style accomodation, easygoing beach bars and outdoor restaurants.  Modern highrise development and the upmarket resorts have been kind enough to leave much of Koh Phangan alone for the moment.The mood here remains laidback and hippy-like and after only a few days here life begins to exude a dreamlike quality, where watching the sun on the water and the local fisherman casting their nets induces a meditative state where the hours just seem to slip away.  It’s excellent.Thats not to say that the beginning of my journey has been all smooth sailing.  On my day of arrival I endured the ultimate travellers nightmare of having my luggage lost in transit. 
I have placed my trust in the Universal good for this journey, so rather than let it concern me too deeply I trusted the process (and Bangkok Airlines!) and sure enough my luggage was reunited with me within 24 hours.

And apart from being lost in the jungle for several hours in just my thongs and boardshorts (No more shortcuts!), I am safe, happy and well.

My days are spent lying on the beach, hiking through the jungle and along the rocky shoreline, swimming for hours,  eating,  reading,  meditating,  and being massaged.

The cuisine here is the most superb fresh Thai food, think seafood and tropical fruits.

And then there are the open-air healing pavilions, where the Thai women offer excellent massages on soft floor mats for only $7 Aus for an hour.

They will guide you into stretching postures and use knees, elbows, heels and hands to loosen your muscles and joints. I once heard Thai massage described as Yoga for lazy people, and I think that sums it up appropriately.

I have a bungalow in a small, friendly resort set back from the beach into the jungle.  It is simply a wooden hut with a hammock out front to swing in and seashell windchimes to accompany the sound of the surf.  The only luxuries are a huge, comfy bed with mosquito net and fan. 

The surrounding jungle gardens are lit by gentle, multicoloured lamps and there are these little, carved wooden alcoves with scattered cushions to chill out while indulging in a cocktail or cold beer. A very ambient, easy place to accomodate. I will stay for a short while longer before going in search of more adventure.

As hard as it may be to believe, I do get really homesick at times and my thoughts go out to all of you.

Love and light,

Paul

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