Thailand is known as the land of smiles to so many travelers around the world, however to Joel and I Thailand is so much more then just a generous welcoming smile. Together with a team of other conscious travelers, Joel and I journeyed though the South west coast of Thailand with filmmakers Stefan Hunt and Campbell Brown. Visiting remote outer islands, surfing deserted sand bars, connecting with the locals and volunteering at theBann Santisuk Orphanage.
Please take a moment to enjoy the episode one & three of three in this beautiful series 'The Land of', to see all episodes please visit filmmaker Stefan Hunt's page. My full story as I blogged it, follows below with photos I took along the way :)
THE ADVENTURE RETOLD
*story as I originally blogged it
Arriving in Style: the Opulent fortress
Upon arrival in Phuket Thailand, we were met with the expected rush of transport operators, looking to take their ‘new friend’ anywhere they wanted to go. To our surprise, the Thai taxi drivers accepted ‘no’ as an answer. We easily negotiated a driver with a van for our boards and within a few short minutes were on our way. Gamon, our driver was quiet an polite, offering peace an respect in return for ours.
Most of the ride was in silence. I thought about how we got here, despite some of the challenges we had faced. God making it possible for us to break though these barriers an help others, and ourselves follow our dreams. I thought about our purpose here, whilst we traveled more.
An hour and a bit later we arrived at the fortress, a far cry from the youth hostel we had thought we would be staying at. The JW Marriott in Khao Lak. What I would call a medium sized town, Khao Lak looked to be a combination of little shops an restaurants catering to tourists on a healthy budget. I wondered if the restaurants had already stopped serving food. After passing through the statues and iron gatesthe gracious hosts in the golden lobby greeted us with hot towels, an a cool drink.
The hand carved walls looked to be gold leafed an beautiful chandeliers hung from the foyer. I was in disbelief an waited for the concierges to dismiss us as vagabonds. Donned in our comfortable well loved clothes with our caravan of colorful luggage sprawling upon the opulence, Joel an I waited as reception looked for our booking.
We enjoyed the ambiance, an fruity drink. ‘Stefan an the others were out in town, an would meet us in the morning’ the beautiful concierges relayed. Our bags were loaded onto a trolly an we were led down the open air corridors to 1116.
Elegance an extravagance, the room was fit for royalty. Joel an I had a quick walk in the warm night air, to the hotel restaurant, an found it closed. As a result we ordered room service, an went to bed, eager to meet the day, an find out what the GoodCheer crew had been up too.
Fresh plumerias’s, warm off shore breezes and sounds of surf, the things dreams are made of. An the signals of a new day here in Thailand. Joel and I awoke refreshed and excited to the rhythm of waves breaking!
Winter had dug her heels in to Sydney so I had been looking forward to the warmth of the tropics. I slipped into my Bali sundress, ‘locals’ slippers and in a flash the two of us were off. We navigated the Marriott’s marble paths, and man made waterways before the Andaman sea came into sight.
“There’s Waves” both Joel and I declared with absolute Joy an relief. Part of us really believed that there would be no surf at all….
Breakfast was sensational, an much talked about, among our team with fondness throughout our trip. A plethora of delectable choices was laid out in such abundance I thought there must be hundreds of guest, compared to the few that were already seated. The generous smiles of the Thai people prepared a banquet for eyes as well as our stomachs. It was here at the seaside restaurant, that Joel and I met up with Stefan an the team. They were a little dusty from having a big night out with our hotel benefactor. We caught up briefly with everyone, an shared our excitement about the waves. A surf was in order. The dilemma was that we were due at the ferry dock in Ranong by 2pm. Since it was five hours away, we would have to be efficient. Slugging down coffees, fresh juice and hot tea we washed down our plates of food an said good bye to the JW fortress.
The surf was not much to talk about but the water was warm an the company good. We caught a few closeouts an headed up the coast with our faithful driver Wassan. En-route Stefan shared how we came to stay at the Marriott free of charge. He and the boys had met an ex-pat from America named Ty surfing. Ty and the team connected an he generously invited them to JWM, where he works as the hotel manager. Thoughts of synchronicity, good vibes an endless possibilities kept me smiling as we traveled along.
The road to Ranaong was winding, but in decidedly good condition. With sun up, I could appreciate the foliage, animals, and street vendors. Wassan delivered us in time for the ferry to the island of Koh Payam.
Local’s and a few adventurous tourists, loaded an boarded the two story open railed boat with food, animals, and babies. Beds, bags of rice and boxes of supplies were packed onto the boat, an looking around at the other smaller ferries we realized that our vessel of choice was the cheapest for a reason, it was also the slowest. The smaller boats would make it there in half the time, but with twice the bumps.
Ranong is an old industrial town, an its main source of income looks to be fishing. Motoring through the canal to the open sea we passed countless canaries an fish markets. Dilapidated boats, abandoned buildings and trash composed the inhabited side of the canal, empty mangroves the other. On the way up the locals sat in front of the boat, playing cards an gambling. We tried to get a few photos but they must have thought we were looking at their hands….
Once we were out in the open open again, small islands decorated the sea scape. We must have passed about 20 of them, varying in size from 5-10 kilometers in diameter, most looked uninhabited. We talked, slept an took in the newness of it all. Koh Payam shores came up a few kilometers before we docked in the islands main town. A gunned boat an a few excitable men stood on the dock, amongst them were two characters whom arose my curiosity. I took a rushed photograph of them before discovering that they were to be our hosts for this part of our adventure!
sea gypsies fish for cola
My enchanted memory lent me this snipit, we left Koh Payam and sailed the open Andaman sea, where pirates are often seen, we the lucky 13, traveled by way of Sea Gypsiesand traded buckets of fish for coca cola…. swirling through the monsoon rains, some where stung by giant jelly fish, whilst others surfed a sandbar setup for kings, explosions taunted the quiet still with tales of city nights, and bellies full we slept in sand on the unspoiled land of Koh Ra….
Koh Payam and the Rastamans
Everybody loves a Rastaman! We walked the plank from our ferry onto Koh Payam with curiosity and vigor. Tim Morch our fearless leader and Tui our rhythmic rastaman host, helped us get our bags off. Tim gave us a quickbrief on the dock about the most pertinent topic on our agenda, waves. Tui had surfed a few hours ago an gave us the report, cool-as-a-cat he said “yeah, it was fun”. Which Tim translated to 2-4 foot glassy peelers. If we wanted to get a surf in before dark we had to hustle. Bags an boards were loaded on to a tractor, an Tim quickly wrangled each of us a ride.
Tim is an adventure junkie, the kind of man Bear Grylls goes to with questions, an the kind of man who makes things happen. From the moment we met him things really did happen, an it seemed almost super natural.
Holding on tight to the men at the handle bars we were whizzed away on a magic moped ride through the center of the island to an Eden. Tui’s brand new bungalows aka the South Star Bar. The following few days were spent riding waves, eating fresh fruit pancakes, playing sweet music, hanging out with the Rastas of the South Star Bar and giving the most awesome Burmese children surfing lessons. It was off the hook F U N. For now I think the best way to describe the place is to show it. Selecting photos was tricky so I choose plenty
Bann Santisuk Orphanage, Phang Nga
We left the Sea Gypsies, Tui, the Rastamen, and Tim Morch on Koh Payam, then again said goodbyes as half of our team parted ways at the Bann Santisuk Orphanage in Phang Nga. Joel and I along with the GoodCheer crew were greeted with love and aloha. Wemet the wonderful founders and staff, ayoung couple from Hawai’i’ who came out to help with the orphanage, and the thirteen amazing children of Bann Santisuk. Our goal whilst living there for 8 days was to help finish a building. This building would be used as an office and provide a space for more volunteers to come and stay an help with its needs and community goals.
We completed our goal. Surfed with the children of Bann Santisuk and lost our hearts to them. They became the soul reason for our existence through this part our journey, and we found it very difficult to leave….Children change everything. Joel and I do not have our own children, so for me this was a huge eye and heart opener. I feel now that there is nothing more important in my life then helping people, and children. I trust that God will help me to fulfill my purpose and follow my passion.
Thailand was the land of possibility for me, the chance to make a difference and go on adventures to places that opened my heart, mind and soul to what being alive is really about. Mahalo Nui Loa to all who made this trip possible, to God, GoodCheer, Tim Morch, Tui, crew from Swellthanks, the staff and founders of Bann Santisuk, to Patagonia and to all of the people who we met, surfed, and laughed with, to the people whom opened up their homes to us, gave all they had an were honest and brave, and an extra special Mahalo Nui to all of the children we got to meet and share with along the way, you have changed my life forever. May you always find peace, a safe place to live, be loved and follow your dreams.