The Island of Koh Chang (Koh means island and Chang means elephant in Thai, so it's kind of redundant that I say "Island of Koh...") is no doubt a beautiful island with much to offer travelers. We found a great place further down the island than most of the tourists go, and it has the feel of a few of our favorite places that we've stayed in so far. Our bungalow is quite spacious, and the bathroom is really nice: a stone floor with an overhead shower...the toilet is still in the close proximity to the shower but it's not like our "room" in Bangkok--I use that term loosely, there wasn't much room in the room.
The owner, Ying, told us about a great place we could go called TreeTop Adventures, and we went for the afternoon. It was a ropes course type of place and we were all hooked up with harnesses and caribiners and what not. We were given a short safety course where we learned everything we'd have to know. The time was exhilirating to say the least. There were two courses: Blue and Red. The Blue was more physically demanding but lower to the ground and the Red was more fun and about 30 meters high at most times. The Blue was more difficult because it had fewer zip-line type obstacles and more balancing/climbing ones. The hardest obstacles were the ones that required the use of all the muslces together and where the footholds were moving due to be connected by fluid ropes. There were a couple of times toward the end of the Blue course where I thought I might fall because of my tired arms and the sweat covering my arms and dripping into my eyes. The zip-line activities were the resting points as well being just plain fun and giving a great breeze. I'm happy to say I never slipped, neither did Laurie, though it would've been easy to and a few times I had to push a bit of anxiety out of my mind. It tried to creep in, especially when I was getting tired, but I told myself to focus on the task at hand, and the anxiety dissipated quickly. There was never any real reason to be afraid because we were harnessed in completely securely, but still, i think it's just natural for the thoughts to crawl into mind when you're about 100 feet up and looking down through a wire at the ground below you and I'm glad I could dispel it easily.
It was also a great workout and we used all kinds of muscles, especially the stomach and back muscles to maintain the balance and breathing when we weren't on the zip-lines. it was a great challenge and the pictures seem to have come out wonderfully -- many thanks to the Frenchman who was running the enterprise. It's definitely been one of the most fun times we've had on the trip so far. When we finished the course, with a nice long zip-line ride, it felt like we had just climbed a Mountain. It was that kind of Satisfaction. I think my feelings of near-defeat at times only added to my feeling of achievement. In other words, if it was easy, it wouldn't have felt so good to have accomplished. I don't think we'll hesitate to do something similar if we get the chance again.
On another note, since we're staying at the Mangrove and it's more secluded than the Lonely Beach options and away from the throngs of young travellers who have made Lonely Beach not-so-Lonely anymore. So we decided to stay on the beach in a quieter, prettier place where we can wake up to the waves. It's a place I can really think. And since it's my Mom's Birthday and christmas is coming up along with New Years, I'm thinking about Home quite a bit.
We've been gone about 7 weeks and seen beautiful things and places, but none of it can, will, or should replace what we love about being Home.
I think about the travellers we encounter. Some are only here for a couple of weeks: a nice vacation from work or school. Some are going around for months like us. And some have just up and left and moved here indefinitely. I see the last case as a form of escapism. (Some might say they just want to leave and see something new and fun or even as an adventure, but that just seems like two sides of the same coin to me. And I'm not making any judgments about good/bad, right/wrong here. In fact, I keep editing this and thinking about it because it's not so simple as I'm making it. Some people feel they don't fit in at home, so they leave. Some feel they'd prefer something new, so they leave. Some people we've met split their time between some place new and home.) I don't know what their former situations were like; if they didn't have an environment, friends, or family with whom they were comfortable, I can understand the desire to leave, but that's not my situation back home, not even close. And it's times like these right now that help to affirm and re-affirm that notion in my mind.
I also think about why I took this trip and left our family and friends for so long. I wanted to learn, learn about new places, people and their history and cultures, but that's been a bit harder than I expected actually. Either we stay in a place that's more comfortable wihch means more like Home and thus we learn less, or we stay in a place that just isn't prepared for foreigners/travellers, which means we don't speak the language and will have trouble getting anything done, even just a taxi to go see something. It's been -- and will be -- a constant struggle to reach that balance. I made this trip to see what they have over here, to learn about what's native to these lands. Not to see what they've built to satisfy our common desires. Yes, it's more comfortable, but I didn't have to leave NYC or the States for the semi-comforts being offered in a lot of these places.
The Mangrove is a pretty good mix, but it's our hotel. In other words, it's not a whole culture, or even a large enough piece of it. And it would be ridiculous to expect or ask that of Ying or any establishment owner; that's obvious. So while we are having a great time on the trip (TreeTop Adventures was such a great time!), I've been reflecting on what I'm doing over here and what I'm seeing and what it all means to me. Part of being away is finding out what Home means, and I've been taking some time to think about all that, especially at this time of year.
I don't mean to be a downer, I'm not sure if that's how this is coming off, and don't get me wrong, we are having a great time. Just look at those pictures again to see. But this has been something I've been thinking about, so I figured I'd write about it too. Tomorrow we head out to Cambodia and the trip takes a little while. I think we've realized that we need to find that kind of balance that I just wrote about and now that's it a bit more explicit in our minds, I think we'll be able to find what we're looking for, or at least I hope so.
Ok, all, we'll see what adventures we face upon crossing the boarder and checking out what Cambodia has to offer. I hear the food is especially appetizing. I'll let you all know.