Sanctuary!

In my mind I’ve started to talk to myself in a British accent. This is particularly disturbing to me: it always sounds like a plantation owner who’s simultaneously beating me and condescending to me about football.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. I just spent 7 days fasting and eating raw at this place in Koh Phangan called The Sanctuary. I think I got a groove back I haven’t had since prowling the clothing-optional dorms of WestCo in ’93. I can no longer berate hippies because at The Sanctuary I became what I beheld.  That crunchy beatnik I tried to kill off in the Web 1.0 era is alive & well, and functions best on a raw vegan diet!  This is the turn of events that brought her back out to the surface:

On the way from Krabi to The Sanctuary, I am filled with trepidation. Ever since growing out my shaved head and picking back up with meat eating, I’ve been distancing myself from hippies hard core. I’m sure I hate them in fact. Who could be that soft and naïve about the world? It’s also so easy to be righteous when you don’t have to earn a living. Hippies for me were like hick relatives I had outgrown in my move to the Big City. Now, embarrassed by their Patchouli-loving ways, I was being forced to go back home and check on the family farm.

So here I am on the way to Koh Phangan, going to check up on some long lost relations. The path to all these beautiful beaches go through garbage strewn towns and filthy ports. On the bus ride to the ferry you pass monocrop palm tree platations. I wonder what the original forest looked like.  The whole thing to me feels like prostitution of young girls – not much different – trotting out your natural beauty and letting foreigners pay to soil it. Westerners ruin everything.  If everyone here is so groovy-hippie, why don’t we all stay home and save the Earth instead?

The trip from Surat Thani to Koh Phangan is like central casting for teenaged backpackers down and out on their Round The World trips. I feel old and smug about it. Row after row of backpacks are stacked together on the ferry. The ticket takers are jaded as hell and when I say hello in Thai they look at me like I’m crazy, and speak perfect English back. So much for the Land of Smiles. We are hustled from ferry to bus to train to bus like high class colonialist cattle. Everyone here is Western White – I have to wonder do Thais go to their own beaches? Suddenly I feel less bad about having to pay extra Farang prices at the major attractions.

Out on the open sea my mood starts to pick up. The ferry ride itself is terrifying but not entirely in a bad way.  I sit out with the youths on the forward bow of the ship, which has the narrowest of steel railings protecting us from a plunge into the deep green sea.  The ticket takers say nothing as we all take makeshift seats on the open deck. Then the ride starts and the wind and rain threaten to rip people off the boat.

I cling to the railing t my right with legs, arms, feet and hands; and the teenage boys behind me with no shirts on slip around and laugh hysterically. Main difference between youth and middle age – I now believe I am going to die, so can’t enjoy moments like that as much. Still, when the waters calm down it is a beautiful vantage point.

So I get to Koh Phangan and I think the high seas adventures are over. Wrong. Next up: the Taxi Boat ride. These long tail boats are like overgrown canoes and you are right on the water. They look like the little boats Somali pirates ride up to tankers in. Ghetto ass boats. One guy, the “captain”, fights the waves with a rudder while you bob up and down. To help navigate the boat, in real time you are asked with hard shouts to move to one side of the boat or the other. “Left, Left, Left! Right, Right, Right!”. Jesus.

But I have a blast on it. Did something happen to me on the first ferry? Did I grow a set?

Enter The Sanctuary. It’s little rocky beach approaches. I feel myself intrigued and I am beginning to be seduced already. The place is a mix of gorgeous and garbage strewn, as are the people. I’ve never seen so many badly/barely/bodaciously dressed gorgeous people in my life. Yoga arms and yoga abs are everywhere. Everyone’s got that healthy Hi-Pro glow. Pasty white people are outlawed – everyone’s got a healthy tan. Messy beach hair is so perfectly unkempt and highlit that you might have paid a stylist for it. I can’t stop looking around.

The place seems to be a peacefully coexisting mix of drugged out ravers and sensitive new age health freaks; often embodied by the same people.

I get there and meet my new buddies – the fellow Fasters. We are all ages, shapes and sizes united in our quest to pay the most money we have ever paid in our lives to not get to eat anything for a week. We meet Moon, our spiritual guide and camp counselor. He does my PH test and tells me I need to eat raw for two days before I am ready to begin. I head to the restaurant to get some raw “spaghetti” that actually tastes fantastic. The conversion is staaaaaaarting.

Us Fasters are on a strict schedule that leaves us all carrying around our little paper schedules and rushing to squeeze things in and tick things off. Herbs at 10:30. Shake at 12. Do I have time to get a massage or an energy healing session in before my colonic at 4PM? Might have to skip that walk to the other beach with you. Should I skip meditation tonight in favor of the herbal steam room? Decisions, decisions. It’s all very stressful. I spend a lot of time decompressing from it in my hammock.

We sit around chatting and bonding over the psyllium shakes we have four times a day as if it we were at a regular bar throwing back rounds of pints. Every night we eat “dinner” together (a hot vegetable broth with nothing chewable in it) and discuss the contents of our poo. We are all from various English speaking parts of the world (London, Ireland, New Zealand, The States, Canada, Australia) and for the first time in my life I can hear my own accent and how nasal it is. It’s hilarious. This is the most fun I’ve had in so long.

Colonics are an eye opening experience. Enough said there.

The highlight of the fasting is the Saturday morning rave. Right behind our resort is a dance floor in the jungle and people are drugged out of their minds partying from Friday night until well past the break of dawn. Apparently they didn’t get the memo that MDMA went out in the late 90s. They party all night and we try to sleep through it. But if you can’t beat them, you join them. So me and my fasting buddies arrive at 7AM in the morning and party too until 10AM or so. There are a lot of animal prints, feathers, beads, crocheted tops, sequins and bare chests. I sort of love it. Okay, I really love it.

Me and the Fasters are all several days into not eating and stone cold sober, yet funnily we are not that different in outlook, spaciness and grooviness than any of the others. The party proves conclusively to me that you do not need mind altering substances to have a good time. But you may need food and sleep deprivation.

Finally time to break the fast. I am thinking we all might be a little eating-disorderly at this point. The feast to break the fast is – wait for it! – a plate of fruit. One single fruit because it’s important not to mix. And the next day you get to add steamed vegetables. Yeah.

But it is the best fruit I have ever had in my life! It tastes so damn good. Later that night under a situation of unbearable temptation I also have chocolate ice cream. So much for my beneficial bacterial balance.

A lifetime of shit happens to me there: abdominal massage with a woman named Miranda who has the most unnerving, lovely, long-ass eye contact I have ever experienced; tantric meditation class where everyone huffs and puffs like a bad porno movie; being eaten alive by mosquito to the point that my arm is a mysterious, mangled new shape; gorgeous beach sunrises in the rain; open mike night where a guy from Sweden plays an eight-sided personal-sized steel drum called the Hung, and two straight guys sing a hilarious yet sincere duet of Endless Love to each other; and lots of really good yoga.

By the end I’m super sad to leave. I’m getting hugs from people that feel like old friends although I just met them a few days ago. The vibe is good, and I definitely feel in touch with my positive energy. My chakras are aligned. I’ve had so much massage and yoga that I never want to be touched like that or bend in those shapes again. I’m thinking about going vegetarian permanently, or at least picking up some of that psyllium husk stuff.

Total conversion achieved! I love hippies again! The early 90s live on!

I’ll definitely be back to The Sanctuary.

2 comments

  1. i’m obsessed with the first line of this post. we should break it off and pitch it to FOX as a new “fish out of water” comedy.

    great story and glad you’re in good spirits. looking forward to the inevitable shitshacalypse when you hit your next city.

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