Friday, October 28, 2016

The Beach

I clung to the back of the motorbike driver as we sped through the jungled hills of Koh Phangan from Thong Sala Pier to the infamous village of Haad Rin. There I would catch a taxi boat over to Haad Tien--a small, secluded area of beach etched into a craggy cove.

October being the low point of the low season as well as all moon parties cancelled due to the King's recent death it felt like I had landed in a deserted, unreal paradise much like when I arrived in Otres back in July.

I've spent most of my life being mysteriously drawn to certain places in the world--some of them strange and obscure, some not so much. I'm drawn to these places for no particular reason other than maybe a mention in a book, an overheard conversation, an unlikely chance meeting. I hear the name of a place and without knowing too much about it I cling to it with a desperation that I must get there. Since I've left Ohio, this is how I've ended up in every place I've lived and traveled to. This how I've chosen all the places I've landed on this journey.

I knew I wanted to get to a beach before the school term started, but I had no idea where to start. There are an overwhelming number of Thai islands and beaches to choose from. All of them each with a plethora of reasons to choose one over another with just as many reasons to stay as far from them all as possible. This made the decision process a nightmare. Something I'm incredibly bad at anyway.

I tend to go by way of mystical signs, a faulty intuition system, and taking the advice of fictional characters. What would Malcolm Reynolds do? What would Yoda do? This isn't the best method when, say, trying to manage a business or making responsible life decisions (though it has worked for me so far), but can be a lot of fun when trying to decide which Thai island to choose. Where would Richard from the Beach go? If you know anything about the story of the Beach, you'll know what a silly, impractical question that is. Not to mention dangerous.

My answer came from a You Tube suggestion. I had been attempting to look up interviews with Alex Garland (there are none that have anything to do with his books, by the way). I suppose that's how it came up. A group of folks decided to retrace Richard's steps from the book to find the island where the Beach is located, and they made a documentary of their journey.

Did they find it? Yes and no. They concluded that the beach isn't specific place, but a mashup of many places. Part of their trip led them to Haad Tien on Koh Phangan, and I immediately knew that was my island, that was my beach.

The community of people they found living on Haad Tien was the closest thing they found to the community of people in the book. The National Park and forbidden islands where the book actually takes place was the closest thing they found to it geographically--the walled in lagoon on one island, completely deserted beaches and jungles on others.

Haad Tien and it's even lesser known and more secluded neighbor Why Nam are full of healers and mystics, yogis and artists, travelers and expats. Some on a mission to heal and some on a mission to vanish, and some, like me, on a mission to find magic.

You can only reach Haad Tien by finding someone to take you by taxi boat or a crazy 2 hour trek through the jungle. And getting back to Haad just got to wait on someone with a boat who happens to be heading that way. I missed what I thought was the only boat leaving for Haad Rin the day I left, and of course, I began to think it was a sign.

I sat on the beach all packed and ready to head back to my life in Chiang Mai when I was struck with a urge to just not. I could simply melt into life on Koh Phangan and vanish. About that time another boat appeared. Sign. I spent the night in Thong Sala near the pier where I would be catching a ferry back to the mainland the next morning when I decided that maybe I would eventually make it back down here and stay. I immediately started researching schools around the island. Life twists and turns in the most magical ways. Stay tuned folks. Let's see where life in 2017 leads.

Have you ever been so mysteriously and mystically drawn to a place you had to get there without really understanding why? Tell me about your experiences. Did it become clear why you were led to a specific place once you were there? What did you learn? How did it change you?  


Wandering Chocobo said...

Your photos are lovely! It looks like quite a different place from when I went there, during peak season with the Full Moon parties. I find your experience a more insightful and reflective than mine! I do tend to get drawn to places for unknown reasons, but this is why we travel isn't it.

Sarah said...

Loved this Sarah! I always wondered if The Beach was a real place, but then I remember this quote: “And me? I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for. Because it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something. And if you find that moment… It lasts forever.” - The Beach, Alex Garland

I've been mysteriously drawn to several places in the last few years. Sometimes it's like there's no order to any of it. But when I think back I see how it isn't random at all. I was led to Vietnam at first because I needed to (literally) be on the other side of the world. I learnt that if you're not happy inside, it doesn't matter where you are. I trudged back home after 6 months. Then shortly after a break-up I was drawn to Italy. Talk about the best way to get over someone! Italy felt like home. The trip certainly changed me- I'd never backpacked before or stayed in hostels. It was uplifting to see that I could travel solo and most of all, be the happiest I'd ever been. Up to this point I thought I needed a man to make me complete. I won't go on further, but I was then drawn to 4 more countries, each time learning something about myself and the world around me.

Do you still think you'll move to this island?

Sarah Seymour said...

Thank you! And thank you for reading! :D

And yes, I definitely agree! I'm always being pulled somewhere :)

Sarah Seymour said...

That's a great quote! I'd completely forgotten about that one :)

"I learnt that if you're not happy inside, it doesn't matter where you are." This is so true! I've always struggled with differentiating between leaving unhealthy environments and "running away." When you're in an unhealthy environment and not treated well or respected by most people around you, it's incredibly difficult to be happy no matter how many yoga classes you take, how often you meditate, how many therapists you see, etc. Sometimes the only answer is to listen deeply to that inner calling and tug of distant places :) I've definitely learned the difference now that I know what a healthy environment and life looks like. And when I feel drawn to a place I know there is something there for me to learn.

Thank you for sharing!

And yes, we'll see! When it gets closer to the end of this school term, I'll see how I feel about it. It will depend on job opportunities there as well. And who knows, I may change my mind and not want to leave Chiang Mai :)

Jennifer Walters said...

It would be an interesting experiment that the next time you are posed to make a decision, you ask yourself, "what would my Higher Self do?" and see what comes. I'll try this too!

Sarah Seymour said...

That's a good one! Yes, I'll definitely try it even though I'm pretty sure that's who answers no matter who I ask :)