Hi everyone,My apologies but the following journal is a little out of date (almost 2 weeks) as I have been at the mercy of the local internet connection which has been non-functional for many days followed by my decision to hike into the mountains for a while – far, far away from any guesthouse or internet cafe.

I have much writing to catch up on and many more adventures to share but lets just begin where we last left off.

After leaving the Tushita Meditation Centre, filled with peace and love for all sentient beings and feeling rather detached from my perceived reality (or perhaps just weighed down by a philosophy overload), I have landed on my feet in the neighbouring valley and the little mountain village of Bhagsu.

Sprawling up the side of a very steep hill, Bhagsu and the nearby Dharamkot (the boundary between the two is difficult for even a local to define) were not so long ago a scattering of simple stone houses and patches of farmland winding their way through a cedar and pine forest. Over the past 10 years or so it has been a scene of constant change and development as it has been invaded by the most frequently encountered tourist throughout India – the Israeli Hippy!

I swear this place can be declared a minor state of Israel, as many guesthouses and restaurants continue to be constructed to accomodate the growing prescence of young jews who having recently completed their compulsory army service are now in India to just hang out and rebel against the system.

Bhagsu is like a picturesque taste of Indian village life combined with techno hippy mecca. The locals go about their daily business of tending vege gardens, goats and dairy cows to the drifting accompaniment of trance techno and muffled bass from one of the many Israeli hangouts. Most of the area is inaccesible to vehicles and everthing is connected by forest trails and steep, stone pathways leading up the hillside. But many of the old ‘authentic’ houses here share the landscape with recently built guesthouses catering for the increasing number of visitors. In fact, the local Indian families seem to make a tidy living from converting part of their homes and gardens into accomodation with homestyle hospitality for lone travellers such as myself, and a reluctant tolerance for the noisy tribes of young Israelis getting their first taste of freedom.

I was drawn to the energy of the place from the time that I wandered down from the sheltered quiet of Tushita and approached the steady trance beats and colourful cafe scene. The Israelis come here for the lush scenery, cheap living and easy drugs. The cafe scene is all floor cushions, tie-dye wall hangings and coloured lamps, tinged with the sweet aroma of hashish joints and inscense (much like the share house where I spent a large part of my 20’s). The young jews lounge around in groups dressed in every colour of the rainbow, smoking, eating, playing music together and just chilling out. They describe their scene as Shanti, a Hindi word for peace, and their shanti is very warm and welcoming. It is easy to start friendships here, the Israeli youth love to talk about their experiences and perspective of world issues, politics, life, love and healing. Passionate, intense and deeply personal conversations are frequent and many are genuinely interested in learning about Australian life and particularly my background in natural medicine.

As well as being a psuedo-hippy hangout, Bagsu is a place of learning, with a myriad of courses in the field of alternative medicines, self-development and healing. It is encouraging to see youth who are balancing their rebellious partying with the positve and life-affirming energies of Reiki, Ayurvedic Medicine, Chakra healings, massage, Tai Chi and many different styles of Yoga and meditation. During the day I was kept very busy pursuing my own studies in Iyengar Yoga and Tibetan massage. In the evening I would happily share my knowledge and experience as we sit and indulge in the excellent fusion of Indian and Hebrew cuisine on offer.

Alas, the weather has changed quite rapidly with the fast approaching monsoon and most days are now constantly wet. After having to cancel a couple of treks I had planned with friends, I have made a decision to leave what is notoriously known as one as one of the wettest regions in India and head further into the mountans ahead of the monsoon. I’m hoping to get some better weather for some overnight treks in the green alpine region of the Kullu and Parvati Valleys, but I’ll be racing the monsoon!

Having spoken to many fellow travellers about their experiences (and having endured a couple of overlong bus trips myself), I have come to the realisation that being on the road here is exhausting and a true test of patience and nerves. Most seasoned travellers choose to find a region of India and settle in for the experience – just take some time out to simply be. I have underestimated the effect on the country of the oncoming monsoon.

Already the south has become extremely wet and prone to flooding and this has led me to change my initial travel plans. Northern India and the Himalayan ranges have cast their spell on me and I feel that I can spend the rest of my time in India exploring this region and its cultures and trekking into it’s wild and beautiful landscapes.

Details of my Himalayan trekking adventures in my next journal.

Love and light going out to all,

Paul

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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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