Sunday, September 20, 2015

hOMe Is Where The Heart Is [part 2]/Samui Dreams and Yogini Queens

As I mentioned in my last post, I was considering a pilgrimage to Mysore, India for approximately three months in late winter 2015 to rev up my yoga practice and obtain some new inspiration in my teaching. But aside from my funny tummy screaming that if I ate another bite of Indian curry it would literally kill me, my plans fully shifted into a new gear when my dear friend Anna emailed me that she would be conducting her very first Vinyasa Yoga teacher training in Koh Samui, the next door neighbor to my former soul-home, Koh Phangan. Anna and I met a couple years ago on a dance floor in the Thai jungle right before she invited me to stay with her in Rishikesh, India. Our kismet meeting and the invitation to fulfill my dream of practicing yoga at sunrise in the Himalayas gave her the esteemed title of "IndiAnna, my Rishikesh Angel." 
(IndiAnna illuminating the Himalayas c. 2013)

Just like her last perfectly-timed invitation, the dates of her teacher training aligned exquisitely with my plans to travel post-Maldives contract. And what could be more enticing than dancing in the wisdom and light of my dear friend in paradise once again? So my gut and I decided it was settled, and I quickly booked her training.

A Welcome Return to the Vast Gulf of Beauty

After a busy two weeks of errand running and contributing to the Thai economy by spending nearly every waking moment in shopping malls in Bangkok with my boyfriend, Sanoon, we looked forward to slowing our internal metronomes back to an island rhythm. One 13 hour night train, 2 hour bus transit and 1.5 hour ferry ride later, we arrived on Koh Samui, our new island home.

It was the Chinese New Year when we landed in Bophut Beach, the Fisherman's Village we'd call home for the next 4.5 weeks. Almost everything about our new hood inspired celebration. From decorative lanterns spiderwebbing the streets,

to the super-fantastic "backyard" views of Koh Phangan from our serviced apartment, life once again confirmed that I was in exactly the right place at the right time.
 (The daily view from our beachfront balcony)

Most days of the week, I was busy with my teacher training at The Yogarden, a charming garden retreat a couple jungly minutes from the beach. During the training, we explored our edge in asana, 


teaching methodology,

and business ethics.
(Makin' it rain)

The training more than satisfied me with nutritious and DELICIOUS vegetarian meals,

supportive new friends,

countless hours of laughter,
(I swear we're good yoga teachers)

And the most bomb-a$$ raw vegan banoffee pies on the planet. #fact.

I was smitten with this lovely group of yoga kittens!

Although most hours of my day were consumed with yoga school, there was still plenty of time for Sanoon and I to explore Samui both on our own and with the company friends.

We rode our motorbike to various beaches around the island,

visited a really Big Buddha,

hung out with a mummified monk,

received some blessings in his presence,

and even got to explore a Secret Garden full of sculptural artwork and natural beauty.
(The Secret Garden doubles as a super awesome backdrop for Insta-Yoga Selfies. #obvi)

But I'd have to say that one of my favorite excursions came when Anna invited Sanoon and me to Nikki Beach Club's Amazing Sunday Brunch.

We met early one Sunday morning and boarded the sweetly luxurious Escape Yacht,

Cruised a couple hours around the Gulf of Thailand dancing to the deep house stylings of the on-board DJ,

Then took a dingy to Nikki Beach,

where people raged, and ate, and then raged some more around the private beach and pool.

After a few hours at Nikki Beach, we got back on The Escape for a lovely sunset cruise back to the other side of the island.
 (The Golden Hour and Anna- international yogi ninja warrior and glamorous gypsy extraordinaire)

If you want a truly representative video of the day [or if you're at all interested in seeing Anna and me shake our groove thangs on the boat], check out this video.

Another top-shelf excursion of the month was a daytime trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park with Sanoon. Ang Thong is fascinating archipelago of 42 golden islands rising up from the sea in the central Gulf of Thailand. 

Sanoon and I started our trip out to the archipelago on a large organized tour boat,

where we quickly discovered we weren't the only tourists out to explore the marine park that day.

Our first stop on the tour was to view a seawater lake encircled by limestone cliffs in the dead center of Ko Mae Ko Island. To reach this natural wonder, we had to climb a series of staircases interwoven betwixt the natural landscape of the island.

After around 40 minutes of the mildly strenuous climb, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the lake.
 (Awkward selfies to document the beauty are a must for Sanoon and me)

 (The color of the water was unreal...unfortunately, I can't say the same for my "duck face.")

After a few more minutes of awkwardly posing for [way too many] birds-eye view selfies at the top of the island, Sanoon and I descended another series of staircases to discover the source of the lagoon bubbling up from an underground tunnel to the ocean.
(I hope you can pardon my shaky camera skillz with mad props for figuring out how to add music to my Youtube video.)

Since we were part of an organized tour that day, Sanoon and I had to stick to the designated schedule, so we said goodbye to the Emerald Lagoon and returned to the boat to travel to our next island destination, Ko Wua Talap, home of the Buaboke Caves. Buaboke is a limestone cave with many exotic and strange features. Filled with stalagmites and stalactites naturally arranged in odd formations, the hollow inside of the cave forms natural stalagmite bells and wide stalactite drapery amidst large columns. 

Sanoon and I were informed that the hike to the cave was moderately intense. With ignorance and improper wardrobes as our guide, we set out to climb through the jungle in flip flops [and in my special case, a sun dress].  

Although ill-prepared for a near-vertical ropes course on sharp boulders, reaching the entrance of the caves was a welcome victory.

The beauty inside of the cave was absolutely worth the trek.

On a side note, I'd never seen Sanoon sweat so much, so I documented it with another awkward selfie.

Speaking from experience, I can now attest that flip flops in a limestone cave are an ill-advised accessory. I basically maneuvered myself through the cavern by crawling up its boulders on my stomach and sliding down its rock walls on my ass. After many minutes of slithering through the grotto like a lizard, a friendly French woman grabbed me by the hand and heroically led me back to the entrance. She asked where my boyfriend was...
 (Good question.)

Satisfied with the adventure, Sanoon and I descended the jungle ropes course back to the beach and took a much deserved swim in the crystal clear water before returning to the boat and cruising back to Samui.

Four weeks flew by quickly, and before I knew it, my yoga course was complete. My new group of friends/fellow teachers ascended a large hill for our yoga school graduation at The Jungle Club. The views were spectacular, the food was great and the company was top notch. 

I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude for all of my new friends and especially my Rishikesh Angel, Anna.

Although the course was over, I thankfully still had another month and a half to play around Thailand before my visa expired. I thoroughly enjoyed my time indulging in daily excursions and nightly outings with my friends.

Sanoon had to head back to the Maldives [some people have jobs, you know], but before doing so, we were able to squeeze in a mini adventure to Koh Tao and Bangkok.  However, I'll save that update for another day.

If you made it to the end of this marathon post, congratulations. Here's a collage of infant bunnies in babydoll dresses as your reward.
(I think we can all agree they are equal parts sad and adorable)

Shanti out, kittens. x