Could traveling half way around the world fix a broken soul?

There are often times when we wish we could hit that reset button which magically makes everything better again, the one where we see clearly and everything is brighter. After the passing of my father I decided that Thailand had all of the answers to making my life brighter and refresh my soul, at least for a brief moment. I chose Thailand because it seemed as if the farther that I could get away from everything I knew, the better.

From Canton / Akron, Ohio to Detroit, Michigan, jetting off to Seoul, South Korea and to my final destination of Phuket, Thailand I was then away from all of my problems and worries, but did I remember my bathing suit and camera memory cards?

A Blessing To Remember

The taxi ride to the hotel was a rude awakening and at first site I actually wondered what I signed up for and was quite nervous. Although this taxi ride was late at night, I could see stray dogs roaming about, open air restaurants which did not appear to be clean and streets that did not look safe for a solo traveler. I later discovered that I felt very safe in Phuket and had an amazing time. I shuttled off prior to the group adventures to the Big Buddha which rests high above the city of Phuket, offering a 350 degree view of the southern part of Thailand. The concrete and Burmese jade marble statue which stands at approximately one-hundred and forty-forty-eight feet is home to monks who live inside, attracts Buddhists from around the globe and those simply open to learn more about the culture. Upon walking along the side of the statue my soul began to fill with soothing chanting and I got goosebumps. In fact, tears began to form as the I was overcome with such emotion and a feeling that I have never felt before. Inside of the statue were monks chanting and I was called out by one of the monks chanting and was blessed. The monk kept motioning for me to step forward and it took me a few minutes but then felt as if this was the right thing to do. Taking my shoes off, I crouched down and kneeled in front of him. Continuing to chat, he placed in my palm a coin of sorts which I think may be made of sandstone and has two Hindu images on it of which I am still reaching the meaning.

monkes copy
Monks chanting in front of travelers from around the globe, surrounded by colorful statues.

The Moken Sea Gypsies

On our first full day, we headed off to visit the Moken Sea Gypies whom speak their own language even though nestled in southern Thailand. Although that their way of life seemed to be quite deplorable, their smiles and welcoming demeanor overshadowed the conditions they were living in. Nothing seemed organized nor clean but the smiles spoke volumes. Our guide would ask them questions in which he would translate their answers and the more I learned about the Moken people, the more I wanted to stay to photograph their way of life and to learn from them. Moken people were devastated by the tsunami in 2004 but continue to live the only life they have known by the sea.

molken2 copy
Shucking oysters was one of the tasks many of the women were doing upon our arrival. The sacrifices which the Moken men give for providing for their families could mean death at sea while fishing and they start this at a very young age.
mokenhome copy
A typical home of a Moken Sea Gypsy where women would gather under the porch to work and socialize with family and friends.
Moken
Inside the home of a family of Moken Sea Gypsies.

The Heart of Fishing

Fishing is a big part of the people in Thailand. In contrast to the fishing which I have seen here in the USA, there were no use of expensive fishing poles, sparkly fake bait or even shiny tackle boxes. There is nothing flashing about Thailand, or well at least the areas in which we visited. They did not even wear those vests which hold tackle. Fishermen were barefoot and there was nothing fancy about the long tailed boats or platforms from where they did some of their fishing or where they kept fresh caught fish. They caught such big and beautiful fish and sea creatures that I had seen in my entire life and they do it in the most primitive of ways.

fishingplat1 copy
Fishing platforms where local fisherman not only catch fish but keep them fresh there in the water until the fish are sold.

fihs3

Lobster and blowfish are two of the sea creatures and fish which are caught by local fishermen in Thailand. blowfish

The Heart of Thailand

Upon entering the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary a few days later, I was pleasently surprised to not see gates, bars, nor fences. I did not even see any elephants so I was curious where this beautiful giants were enjoying themselves. After a light breakfast as we sat in our cabana awaiting , I heard gasps from those around me and I knew right there there had to be an Asian elephant appearing. Sure enough, I was right.

There she was simply taking her time picking up greens along the way to the water. Enjoying life, ears flapping back and forth and her mahout ducking down in the trees not to far behind her but giving her space to be happy.

Most everyone who worked at the sanctuary stayed quiet, knew little English and worked hard. Just watching visitors walk by, taking photos and emerging themselves into the information about the elephants which the mahouts and employees are dedicated to protecting. employee

There are three elephants at the sanctuary which they refer to as the “Mafia”. This includes Madee who is known to be the most vocal of this group and in her 60’s, Kannika who is in her mid-30’s and Dok Gaew who is in her mid-60s and knows as the “grandma” of the group. I often see the world in black and white, however in Thailand everything is so rich in color that I did not see but only one moment in black and white, which is below.

ele2
The “Mafia” at The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary.
ele4
The girls enjoying the rain which cools them off in the jungle of Phuket, Thailand.

In the End

After the sanctuary visit, we took a high-speed boat over to Koh Phi Phi Island where we ended our activities with some R&R at a nice resort on the beach. goodbyeIt was difficult saying goodbye to such a colorful, friendly country but I was ready to come home. During my trip, I posted my adventures to an older blog and the number one question I was asked was, “Would you ever go back to Thailand?”. My answer is very simple. Not on a vacation again. The world is such a big place with so many things to do, see, explore and learn about that I would not want to limit those opportunities  for myself. Were there kinks along the way? Sure, it was not the end of the world. The food was wonderful, the people were friendly and there was lots to see and do but for now, I must move onto other adventures.