Merry Christmas Everyone!
Thailand is more than just a vacation, it is a break from reality. After the most difficult semester I've ever had, I was cheered up by the thoughts of returning to Thailand and forgetting about all of my obligations in New York. It is an amazing country, filled with a rich culture, amazing food and very interesting architecture. The beach lifestyle is built around these principles.
On Haad Yuan there are roughly 100 bungalows and a few restauarants spread out along the beach. Every building in Haad Yuan is oriented to embrace the water and most everyone wakes up early enough to enjoy the sunrise. The rest of the day is spent lounging, eating and hanging out with people from all around the world. There are very few Americans and even fewer Republicans. As a representative of the states, who is also traveling with an Aussie and two Europeans, I often find myself explaining why President Bush is still in power and how more than 50% of the country doesn't support him.
Most of the time on the beach is spent discussing global politics, the suffering in Africa and why Britney Spears doesn't wear underwear. It is always interesting seeing what parts of American culture get exported to the rest of the world. In Thailand everyone listens to Jack Johnson, Gwen Stephani and Black Eyed Peas. Everyone watches pirated movies and the movie The Beach seems to have achieved some sort of religious status.
Anyone who makes it to Haad Yuan is here for a reason. You have to make it more of a pilgrimage trip, especially form the states. My friend Dora will be traveling for three full days to make it from New Orleans, to New York, to LA, to Tokyo, to Bangkok, to Surat Thani, to Koh Pha Ngan and then finally to Haad Yuan just to experience this 1000 meter strip of paradise. That said the beach is not for everyone, the ride out here is rough at best and the hike into town requires some vertical climbing and you have to fight off venemous snakes. I visited Haad Rin today and I saw a lady who was on her way back to Bangkok after spending only two days in Haad Yuan. I asked her why she was heading back and she said she was bored to tears on the beach. It is a stark contrast to some of the hippies who have lived in the same bunglaows for 5 years.
All of the Thai's on the beach have put a lot of effort into decorating for Christmas. It is a strange thing to see considering most of them are Buddist. Still, they do it to make the visitors happy and the like the principles of Christmas. They would never use it as a marketing slogan, in fact you will never read about Haad Yuan in lonely planet, it just isn't that sort of place. Most everyone here wants to enjoy their surroundings and practice yoga in a beautiful setting surrounded by like minded people.
So tonight, to celebrate Christmas Eve a bunch of us will head up to the Bamboo Hut, grab a big bottle of Chang Beer and let the night melt away, and I will be content in the knowledge that there is no place on earth that I would rather be.