Koh Phangang

Vomiting to Jean Michel Jarre, magic cake and bad yogi.com

There now follows an intensive month long period of 150 hours of yoga! Everyone has forewarned me about how intense it will be, hell the course is even called the First Level Intensive. You'd think that would be a clue! I get up at 7 to 7.30am most days, if I don't i'm awoken by the “sneezing woman.” I run to Agama (this had always been the plan when I booked in September) It only takes 20 mins but seeing all the yoga bunnies arriving cool and showered in their floaty white trousers with me all red and hot and sweaty in my adidas is not the most positive start to every day. Then the schedule is 830 – 1030 yoga. I then walk back or buy brekkie on the way which normally gets me back by 11.30 then I leave again at 3.30 for more yoga from 4pm - 6pm followed by a lecture from from 6pm to 8pm which focuses on a yogic related topic then home (another half an hour walk or if i'm lucky and wearing my very short shorts – someone offers me a lift.) Then it starts all again the next day. Its exhausting! 

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Agama yoga is certainly the most comprehensive course i've come across. Many classes taught in the West that I've attended have foresaken the spirituality in favour of a good workout. My aim – coming here – was to get into a regular yoga practice and I think if this doesn't do it nothing will! 

The course covers every aspect of yoga – not just the physical postures (Asanas) but purification techniques, meditation and ayurveda – the Indian diet/ nutrition for health that the yogis devised some 2000 years ago. The postures that are taught here are Hatha yoga, but whereas other schools and teach that the postures are simply to improve flexibilty so that meditation can be held for long periods of time, at this school they believe that the postures are meant to be the meditation themselves. Each asana works on a physical level but also at an emotional and mental level by clearing/cleansing one of the seven chakras (energy centres) and bringing telluric (from the ground) or cosmic (from the sky) energy into the body. In order for this process to happen the posture must be held to get the benefit – upwards of 4 minutes but gradually 7 minutes and longer; and ones attention to focus and eventually meditate on the relevant chakras. 



I've been taught meditation, done energy work through being attuned to Reiki levels 1 and 11 and also found myself diagnosing my dosha and trying to eat an ayurvedic diet after a particularly stressful time at work but I've never done a course where its all introduced holistically and tied together at the same time. Its great for me although I can imagine it would be a bit of a headfuck for a complete beginner who had never encountered any of these topics before. 

They do push the boundaries of good taste and plausability even with me though, hippy that I am. When I ask one of the teachers what I could do to cure my sensitive stomach that is prone to getting upset without resorting to harsh antibiotics, she fixes me with a steely eye and exclaims zealously: 

“Urine Therapy! Drink your own pee!” 

Er no thanks love, I think i'll carry on looking. 

After the lecture on “Vamata Dhauti” or should that be "vomitty dhauti" an ancient purification technique endorsed by the yogis that basically consists of making yourself throw up a litre of water every morning; I am awoken not just by “sneezing woman” but a full symphony of regurgitation noises coming from all directions, and rather bizarrely accompanied by the sound of Jean Michel Jarre. I discover later that this is my neighbour Nick's attempt to disguise the sounds. It doesn't work... however as a conversation on the subject reveals that he also heard me making noises of a different kind (whilst with Talon) I sheepishly bow my head and decide not to give him too much stick. It might also explain why the little italian “sneezing woman” has refused to look me in the eye all month. *cringe* 



The first of the evening lectures is given by Swami himself. He's a large, white , middle aged (to nearing sixties) man with twinkling grey eyes and a beard streaked with white and an enormous stomach that pushes at his bright orange robes. He's actually Romanian so every word has a slight vamipiric edge to it. He doesn't look like the picture of health for a yogi but maybe he's transcended all that. 

Yoga is all about a path of spiritual development to question “why we are here” and then follow our true path in life. 

Outside reception there is a sign: You are not here to change Agama, Agama is here to change you. 

And then their strapline – Choose Evolution. 

And in the toilet a sign that asks the reader to question: “Who am I?” Its a better place than some to question the important issues of the day I guess! 

I've cut out red meat, coffee and alcohol while I do the yoga so that it provides a bit of a full body detox at the same time and i'm eating loads of fresh fruit and vegetables so for a while at least i'm a picture of health. 

On friday night there is a heart chakra meditation led by one of the teachers – Andrea, a very nice Italian man who all of the girl students seem to be in love with for some reason. 

In the soft darkness of the hall candles have been lit and shaped in a spiral leading to a velvet cushion surrounded by green fairy lights in its centre. We all sit in a circle around the throne and for the next half an hour will meditate on our heart chakra. Each person takes it in turns to sit in the centre, while sitting on the outside we focus on giving love to the person in the centre, when it is our turn to sit in the centre we focus on receiving love from everyone else. Music meditation is a big part of the teachings at Agama, vibrationally different music (i'm sensing not Marilyn Manson) can heal and vibrate /cleanse with a certain chakra. Heart chakra music seems to be piano music and soft choral music such as Ave Maria. I find myself crying but Ave Maria always makes me well up. 



On the final day we have a ceremony where we get a certificate from Swami saying that we've completed our first level along with a piece of magic string (white and wrapped around the left wrist to protect us) and some magic cake as well as a flower garland around the neck. The cake is my favourite bit! Afterwards I head for a celebration meal with Nick -a forty something ex army lieutenant turned actor from Britain and Mark – an ex army Californian.


Nick has decided to start “Bad Yogi” . Com. He's gone cold turkey as well, starting the yoga course with a 7 day detox at ananada (Which involves vomiting, colonics and starvation for a week) followed by no meat, coffee or alcohol and fags. As a result I think we've all gone off the rails a bit. 

I had thought after a month of clean living it would be difficult to get back into bad habits. How wrong I am. We eat pizza and drink red wine (this is my health concession instead of white!) Nick gets back on the fags and beer. 

Mark is a softly spoken Californina with wild corkscrew curls, goatee and tats. He doesn't smile much, I wonder if he has a severe attitude or its just shyness. He spent a long time in the U.S Military – and starts to say: 

“you know the first time you do it....they try and prepare you...but after. Nothing is the same again.” He won't say what “it” is but we know it means he's killed a man. 

Tomorrow Nick, myself and Fleur, a maypole thin, supermodel tall blonde girl from Holland with shiny blue eyes and gentle smile who i've become friendly with, are all starting Level 2. 

As Swami says cheerfully to us with a twinkle in his eye: 

“Well! You must have got something out of it then!”

When guys go weird and girls go after, mountain climbing and turkish telepathy in Koh Pangan, Thailand

I wake up on January 2nd still feeling sick. The White Russians on NYE probably didn't help but hey... Talon's been trying to get us to climb the big wooded mountain in the middle of the island for a while now (Canadians!) and today is the very last day I feel like doing it. But maybe sweating and a bit of aerobic exercise will help. He thinks its about a 6 hour round trip. Great. 

We drive to the base of the hill and start walking. I tell him I need to take it at my own pace and he says: 

“Oh anytime you want to we can start heading down just let me know” and then he disappears off up the mountain taking long strides. 

I'm beginning to regret my loose tee shirt dress outfit – and i've just conveniently remembered my vow that I would do no more treks or hikes in jungle tundra. I am sweet meat for mosquitos – I just prefer the calm , cool still beauty of the mountains. 

After about an hour i'm knackered and stopping for a quick breather more often. The legs are not enjoying their first proper work out since the running routine stopped sometime mid Laos. Plus, having been fighting a stomach bug all of December I don't think I have any natural reserves of energy either. 

“We can head down if you want to …? But hey I think we are nearly at the top” Talon says. 

I can tell the last thing he wants to do is head down and to be honest its not really my idea of a motivating day out either, giving up now, so I say: 

“No we'll keep going I just need to take my time is all.” 

He disappears off again and then I hear whooping, after only an hour and a half we get there. Thank god whoever said it was three hours either way got their facts wrong or walks slower than my dear departed grandmother. 

And its worth the wait. The air is calm and cool and you can see over the dense dark green wooded jungle down to the golden strips of coast and the dreamy blue sea beyond. Its so peaceful up here, I'm glad I made the effort. 

He gives me a perfunctory kiss and a squeeze. And then we head down . I watch has he disappears off into the undergrowth again. Every now and then he stops to wait for me, except one time where he goes: 

“Oh hahaha I forgot you were with me.” 

Quite. 
 


I don't feel very happy today, Talon is doing that thing “that guys do.” That weird, going all distant thing, that even at the age of 37 I haven't quite worked out. And in response i'm doing that weird thing that girls do... some kind of default mechanism I immediately whir into (I like to call Girl Crazy) that makes me start thinking - “What did I do?” “what did I say?” “Should I have done this better?”. And then trying extra hard. 

I think back to Martin, the lovely Argentinian boy I met in Vietnam. He would never have just left me to stumble down a mountain and disappeared off without reaching out his arm to help me down the tricky bits. Is it old fashioned to want a guy to do that? 

In the evening we go for a meal, I've said i'll treat him as he made all the effort for NYE. We head to Phangan Cove and share pizza to start, and fish amok – a Thai speciality of fish curry steamed in banana leaves. 

We've spent every day together since I've arrived and I think its been a bit much. He needs some space and so do I. I'm not sure all of this has quite filtered up into his conscious mind yet so he's just pulled away without realising it, and like a lot of girls, i'm pretty sensitive and notice and am feeling vulnerable as a result. Three glasses of wine and a more emotionally charged chat than I would have liked we part ways. 

I berate myself for getting involved too soon with someone without having to got to know them better but its tough when you are travelling because there isn't always a lot of time! I knotch it up as a lesson all the same, I need to take more time getting to know people because its oh so easy to to be be seduced in this gorgeous and seductive landscape... 

He comes round to clear the air the next day and return my laundry, and he's back in touch the following day asking if I want to grab a drink at sunset. So he comes over and then we head for the hills to the Yoga Resort. A lovely little place with steam room and yoga lessons. All the yogis here are really friendly and welcoming and there is a great Indian vegetarian all you can eat buffet for 150B but you have to be quick. We bow out when the winds pick up to try and make sure we miss any rain and part company at 8pm. 



Over the weekend Jo comes back and I'm glad i've got a girly friend to talk things through. She's put herself up in a nice place in town and I get to stay the night. We spend a little bit of time by her pool and then while she writes the Introduction notes to her new book about to be published - cue plug!!! Mindfulness for Dummies (available now on Amazon!) I head into to Thongsala for a little bit of retail therapy. A white crochet dress and a white denim mini skirt later and I feel a bit more purged. I've never been a tub of ice cream or half a cheesecake in the middle of the night girl - when guys make me feel crap I always headed straight for the shops. She's lured me over with talk of the great movie channel on her T.V so I'm expecting good things and i'm not disappointed – its Alvin and the Chipmunks. A highly annoying film which becomes slowly addictive, particularly as i'm reminded later – when they do the Single Ladies dance to Beyonce. 

On sunday we head back to Ananada and settle down in the restauarant with our computers. Talon comes over and joins us. 

“Well this is going to be awkward” I mutter to Jo who has been filled in on the whole story. Sure enough, I really don't know what to say. Is he even here to see me? Or just see the sunset? Does he want to just hang out as mates or something more? 

Subsequently I don't say anything to him. Then he leaves. I feel bad after – I didn't mean to freeze him out on purpose but I think i've hurt his feelings and when he posts a very public statement on facebook about what “sensitive creatures, we humans ” are.

That night its open mic night at Ananda again. Sure enough it always ends the same way with an old Japanese guy playing Ravel's Bolero on the guitar. Erol the mad, bald headed but brilliant Turkish guy finishes dancing his mad tribal dance to it and comes over and looks at me intently. 

“You are very sensitive. Very sensitive. With people,you need to make a decision quickly, take action and then don't think about it anymore.” 

And then he goes again. He's like a bloody mindreader ...how did he know EXACTLY what i was thinking about?? 

The next day, Level 1 yoga starts. 85 people are in the hall at Agama and the teacher, Adam, -a Californian with gentle voice, shoulder length black hair and piercing blue eyes, is addressing the group of 85 students or so gathered in front of him. 

Jo is having boy trouble of her own. She has gone out for a meal with Greg the nigh before and now as she poses herself on the mat next to me with our hands in bowed in namaste I think she's trying to tell me she has to leave: 

“What can go wrong in one evening??!” I ask bewildered. 

“I HAVE to leave the island!!” she exclaims. 

“You don't have to leave the whole island beause of some boy!” I retort without any idea of what is going on. 

Afterwards I decide to go round and see Talon and smooth things over. 

My hurt pride would never have let me go and try and patch things up with him before, but i've taken Erol's advice and made a decision to clear the air, I don't like the idea of anyone being unhappy because of me, and so i'm “changing my behaviour” and trying to behave like an adult about things. 

He's not in his hut but eventually I find him on the beach. 

“Yeah” he says “that was a bit weird hey, I just wanted some space...and you, you put up a wall.” 

Well, story of my life. Its hard for me to be vulerable with people and I still don't always get it right. There is a happier way, and i'm determined to find it. 



What becomes clear is that we still both want to spend some time together before he goes so we agree to meet up for lunch before my next yoga session. We go back to “Christmas Day Beach” and buy fresh shrimp and mackerel from the market. On the beach he makes a fire (again...Canadians!) and we grill it and eat it sitting up on a rock in the bright sunshine before he heads back home to the snows of British Colombia.