#TheBeachTrail2017-Part 1-Settling in Koh Phangan

This episode talks about settling into our comfort zone at Koh Phangan on Day 1 of our trip. The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’. This is the first post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-2Part-3 and Part-4

Once you are on sea, there is a sense of calm in your body. Your blood doesn’t run haywire, as it does back in the city. The kind of calm, that you have not felt or seen. The mountains and the sea seem constant, they dont move. There’s nothing that’s vying for your attention. Your mind is not having to be at many places and act like its at one place. Your mind is still, your body is still, you are still (despite the fact that you are moving on a constantly moving sea) and that takes some getting used to, and if you are like me, most of that emotion ends in being transported to you to a world where you dream, despite being amidst paradise in reality.

Siesta on the Gulf of Thailand
Siesta on the Gulf of Thailand

A journey on a little ferry/ship in the afternoon sun, was about testing 2 contrasting feelings on our skin. We wanted the soft warmth of the afternoon sun on an alternating overcast and sunny day, and the winds on our face. We got both, while we were perched in our seat. The only bummer really was, you could not quite move on the top deck of the ferry, once it picked speed. You would shake and lose balance while trying to move, and if you did find balance the strong wind would knock you down. The whole afternoon was spent either sitting on one of the seats, or sitting on the floor. We did have some inventive travellers who started to create a party of their own, by drinking against the direction of the wind, protecting their plastic cups with their hats. It was fun trying to see if they would spill the ‘Songserm’ whisky on themselves. They fought with the wind, and with every plastic cup downed, they would be inebriated to repeat the act more. One of my friends on the trip, joined in and did this until his hat flew right into the sea.

 

Colorful People on the Lomprayah Ferry to Koh Phangan
Colorful People on the Lomprayah Ferry to Koh Phangan

The wind hitting everyone’s faces and hair brought a beautiful sense of everyone being disheveled by the time we reached our first island stop. Wind is again like rain, it looks beautiful when seen for a fleeting second, but it can get irritating when the wind/rain bring their kin/kith along for a prolonged session. I was grateful to providence to be feeling such sensations, and to know that the a full week lay ahead before my flight descends into Chennai’s sweaty air.

 

Windy Day from Chumphon to Koh Phangan
Windy Day from Chumphon to Koh Phangan

We reached Koh Phangan, and were forewarned about the expensive taxis. We attempted to bargain with the ‘Songthaew’ [Shared Taxi Vans with an open back] and decided that with our luggage, we were better off to just pick a proper shared taxi that allowed us to reach our hostel. We decided that we will anyway be spending our time on the road, exploring places. It was better we stayed at some place closer to the vibe and energy of the island in the evenings, while we spend the day exploring. We were to get to Haad-Rin area to our hostel, which shared a small lane, across a small lake and had a grassy outback path to the sun-rise beach (Haad Rin Noi).

 

Jaya Hostel Road at Haad-Rin-Koh Phangan
Jaya Hostel Road at Haad-Rin-Koh Phangan

One of the things with landing in a place, is to walk around and observe what the place has. We also had some research planned on what would be the things we would explore on the island, since we had booked our return flights and booked accommodation for about 4 of the 8 nights, thinking we will figure the rest based on what we discover. We calmed our excited nerves by walking down the road that led to the beach, reminding ourselves that we were on a budget, and we stick to our fruit diet for the trip to minimise costs and stay hydrated in Tropical Koh Phangan.

Fruits at Haad-Rin
Fruits at Haad-Rin

We walked over to the beach, ambling about the Westernization of what used to be a quiet little Thai Town. Haad-Rin is pretty much like Calangute today, which we knew, but we were able to get cheaper hostels only in this part of the town, after a search on Hostel booking sites. As we made our way to the beach, we noticed people playing there trying to get under a rope of fire. Some of them sane, and some of them inebriated with a Chang beer in hand. As people get through below, the level gets tougher and from them only the fittest survive it. What was interesting was the camaraderie that was building up between strangers at the fire place, and that was very heart warming. I ended up knowing some of my to-be-hostel mates from the evening. We had just warmed up to the vibes of Koh Phangan

Fire Dancing in Koh Phangan
Fire Dancing in Koh Phangan

We have made a documentary on our adventures till we reached Koh Phangan. Watch Part-1 of our documentary below.

 

#TheBeachTrail2017-India to Koh Phangan in 24 hours-The First Day

This episode talks about travelling from Chennai to Koh Phangan on Day 1 of our trip. The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’.

“When you develop an infatuation for someone you always find a reason to believe that this is exactly the person for you. It doesn’t need to be a good reason.  But in the haze of infatuation, it’s just what you’ve been searching for all these years.”  (The Beach-1997-Alex Garland also made as a motion picture by Danny Boyle starring Leonardo Di Caprio)

6 pm– 7th April 2016
At the Airport
At the Airport

 

Walking in the heated cauldron, between the domestic and international terminal, I knew my infatuation was moments away.  In a few minutes, I would be up in the air flying to the object of my infatuation. It was 9 years, since I was infatuated and 20 years since the ‘infatuation’ came to life. It was a novel called ‘The Beach’ which was my infatuation. I connected with the book and the dialogues so much, that I had to probably relive the novel by traveling on the same trail. That beach trail! My object of infatuation and I had to celebrate 20 years of the book being written by being on the same trail!

 
March 2016
 
The DVD of ‘The Beach’ lay in my shelf, bruised from the number of times, its been called on for moments of inspiration. As the bandwidth became better over the years, I just chose Youtube and Google Play for playing it. But what was probably missing in these 9 years was to maybe do the trail that ‘Richard’ did. There’s a whole lot of a difference between real travel and vicarious travel, and at some point, I had to break the shackles that the ‘mental disorders’ I suffered from. As a traveller, who wanted to teach his little son the beauty of geography by traveling each summer to the lands that he was to study, I suffered from the normal mental disorders that city bred B-School educated people have by choosing the safe life which had 2 house EMI’s choking the explorer in me. My son and I had seen enough videos on youtube of ‘The Beach’ and the trail that lay ahead in Thailand. I mean enough videos that popped in my “Watch Again” list on Youtube.
 
“If I’d learnt one thing from travelling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.”
― Alex Garland- The Beach
 
This quote got my goat. It felt like a bunch of words, slit me through my neck and told me ‘No more excuses’. I called up my friends over a whatsapp group and decided to go ahead and book. I was not quite sure when to go and whether #TheBeachTrail would be possible. We went over to many of the travel planning sites and started entering the destination pair rates one by one, and we found the visual map search on SkyScanner called ‘Inspire’ interesting that it allowed us to see prices of destinations from Chennai in one visual map.
Bangkok seemed a lot cheaper, than some of the other destinations like Colombo, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur. In one long WhatsApp Conversation, the three of us decided on Bangkok to plan our onward and return tickets, and to figure out the rest of things on the go. Tickets booked, we all knew that the that ‘slitting’ quote was behind us. We were going to Alex Garland’s world like Richard did.
 
Now
 
Ok. Who is Alex Garland? Who is Richard? Why are they even important?
Alex Garland was a writer who wrote a book called The Beach’ which was also converted into a Danny Boyle movie which was set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand to find that ideal place for life, where only happiness exists! Paradise basically. Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’.
9:05 pm– 7th April 2016
 
The Air Asia flight was in an hour, and I still had not checked in my luggage. The three of us had met earlier this morning having a look at our luggage for the trip. We had a small equation to solve before we checked in. I had 2 camera bags and a huge suitcase( mostly empty). My friends had single bags. Air Asia allowed us with only 1 bag weighing 7 kg for each of us, and one suitcase of 20 kg (which is the paid luggage we had declared). After 10 minutes of manic scrambling and re-arranging our baggages, we had our weights exactly showing 7 kg for each of the 3 bags, and 20 kg’s for the bag. The Air Asia guy at the terminal was smiling at our level of planning. He removed some heavy paper stickers on suitcase from previous trips, and it brought the weight down to 19.8 Kgs. Our first major port of trouble had been sorted! 
Winning the Luggage War with Air Asia
Winning the Luggage War with Air Asia
 
As soon as we got into the flight, we got our seats. 11A, 11B and 11C. Those numbers were about to transport us away from the familiar as the humid night of Chennai merged with the pleasant morning of Bangkok. Once the seat belts sign were lit up, our world back home in India switched off, as we were on an epic journey to relive a movie. A movie where we were viewers, to maybe a character in the movie. We trusted the armrests and minimal angle backrests with our dreams of our holiday as travelers, along with scores of tourists. I asked myself-why do we place so much trust in travel and places to transform our world. Was the hidden energies in the world subliminally telling us to listen in and call it intuition? Maybe
We landed in Bangkok, bleary eyed and ready for action, as we had to land at 3:30 am, and board our bus in Khao San Road, which was about 30 odd kilometres from the Don Muang Airport. A rushed card drive on an Uber, meant we were well in time at 5 30 am for our 6 am bus. I noticed a French co-passenger in an interestingly captioned shirt, which admonishes Mondays. We were in a zone that did not require us to know which day of the week it was. We were pleasantly teeing off the Saturday with a nice ride in a Lomprayah Bus+ Ferry ticket across the eastern nerve centre of Thailand’s tail.
Never Say Monday
Never Say Monday

Watching the Thai countryside unfold layer by layer, I noticed that the country had a wonderful roadway infrastructure. I never remember seeing pothole ridden roads on my commute 0n the Lomprayah Bus. It alternated between clean roads, crowded junctions, forests shrouded in green and brown until Hua Hin, and then from then on we started seeing beaches a couple of feet from the bus as we alternated between beaches and green reserves of forests, before making way inside the Chumphon National park to reach the pier.

At the Pier, we were blown away by what we saw. The transition from being spectators to being a character had been complete. We were in Thailand staring at a beach that had waters alternating between Green and Blue. We had enough green cover where the palm trees grew over one another on hills by the beaches. Our dream #TheBeachTrail2017 was about to begin.

Chumphon's magical colours-Thailand
Chumphon’s magical colours-Thailand

If you are itching to know what happened on the Ferry, do watch the below video film of our trip which has more details as part of the Trailer.

To view the rest of the posts, click below for

Part-1-Where we settle in Koh Phangan

Part-2-Where we discover our beach bum traits at Coco-Hut

Part-3-In Search of Chaloklum’s paradise

Part-4-Celebrating ‘The Beach’ in Anthong and Songkaran in Ko Tao

Of Protecting Landscapes in a Forest

Have you ever thought about protecting and conserving nature, while you peer through your train window? Every new route unearthed means more green cover sacrificed and more animals displaced from their natural homes.

While Indian Railways help mankind transcend time and distances, it often comes at the cost of slicing through the heartland of where animals live in sync with nature. Add to it the railway hooter that rings while the train chugs through. How would it feel if your neighbor made a path through your house and made noise every time he used that path. It must be tough on the animals to find new homes constantly and having their environments being tampered with by mankind. Also the beauty of a landscape suffers, with an industrial flavour to the place, with the original landscape and green covers being affected.

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-2
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-2

Or so they that technology is making the world flat. That’s what Friedman and Nandan Nilekani say of Technology. It probably applies to the mountains that are made plateaus through railway line work, cutting through the homes of animals and landscapes. Seeing Industrial infrastructure is good, but we should try our best to preserve the beauty of landscapes and make the focus on increasing green cover for every edit we make to nature. Sounds like a deal?

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-1
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-1

Every time a tunnel is dug in India, it also uproots much of our animals and green cover. I wish we are able to help re create more green cover in a creative way so as to not displace landscapes through industrial infrastructure. This is about preserving existing nature and environment by having trains run only at specific times so that animals/environment is minimally affected, and we impose heavy fines on passengers from a train throwing plastic/waste in the fragile ecosystem that we have built trains and tunnels through

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-3
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-3

It just occurred to me, that as a traveller, I usually wonder why do people throw stuff when they know that this may never get cleaned. Would they do the same to their garden and pretend that plastics don’t exist? Why are trails littered with waste, tissues, plastic and food items. All it takes while hiking in these woods is to carry a huge plastic bag, and place your dump inside it and wait till you reach civilisation to put this in a garbage bin.

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-4
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-4

All of these photos are from a trip done in the monsoons at Goa’s Bhagwan Mahavir National Park, which is home to the beautiful trek in the woods to the Dudhsagar Waterfalls.