A Priceless Lesson in the Jungles of Thailand

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This post is part of the new series on this blog: travel bloggers share their unforgettable travel experiences. Article by Barbara Weibel

I arrived in Kuraburi, a village on the west coast of Thailand famous for its production of fish sauce, just as the sun was setting. Nursing a bad knee and hip, I cautiously climbed down the crumbling concrete dock into the leaky wooden long-tail boat that would carry me to Ko Phra Thong Island for a week-long Yoga retreat. One hour later the boat puttered into a shallow bay and the non-English speaking crew motioned for me to jump out into the hip high water, handed over my backpack, and pointed to the string of lights on shore.

I had come in hopes that a week of Yoga would help my aching joints but I soon learned that the program was Ashtanga, a particularly physical form of Yoga meant for those in much better shape. Feeling out of place and foolish, I laid my mat at the rear of the Shala each day tried to master the advanced poses. Despite attempts by the other Yogis to include me I sat alone at dinner each night, so it was a tremendous surprise when the group invited me to join them for a second week of Yoga at Klong Long Wildlife Sanctuary, a little-known jungle lake in Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park.

It meant a long boat ride, followed by a 45-minute hike up and over a small hill, which in my condition was intimidating, but everyone was so positive that I finally accepted their invitation. On the appointed day the group presented me with a specially carved bamboo walking stick and bracketed me front and rear as we trekked through slippery mud on the hillside. At the bottom I struggled aboard a rickety wooden raft for the final paddle to Praiwan Raft House, a series of bamboo bungalows strung together like railroad cars that floated on the lake.

click on the image for larger view!

Thailand Khlong Long Wildlife Sanctuary Praiwan Raft House
Thailand Khlong Long Wildlife Sanctuary Praiwan Raft House

Each morning I arose before dawn to watch the surrounding limestone pinnacles emerge from the mists and reflect in the mirror lake. Families of Gibbons hooted as the rising sun dissolved low-lying clouds that wreathed the highest peaks. After Yoga and meditation each morning, I grabbed a kayak and spent dreamy hours paddling around the lake, investigating limestone caves with pools of emerald water, and listening for wild elephants crunching through the dense vegetation. In my kayak, I was alive and limber, able to move on the water in a way I could not on land. My fellow travelers dubbed me “Kayak Girl” when I was able to steer a particularly difficult wooden kayak that had most people going around in circles. I was sad to leave at the end of that week but I had made some friends for life, who taught me that it is OK to ask for and receive help, a priceless lesson that I still carry with me today as I travel the world solo.

You can follow Barbara on her blog – Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel – or on FacebookTwitter or Google+.

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I’m offering public relations, communications and image counseling in everyday life and I have a PR agency – PRwave INTERNATIONAL. I am passionate about reading, blogging (I also have a blog in Romanian) and traveling. Follow me on Twitter - @violetaloredana (Romanian) and @TravelMoments.

2 thoughts on “A Priceless Lesson in the Jungles of Thailand

  • 27 June, 2013 at 17:03
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    That is a beautiful story! Both the writing and the message… I find it harder and harder to get out of my comfort zone the older I get — yet I am more interested in trying new things. It’s like, I’ll “do” it, but my way. I need to learn to let go! Love that you found your element with the kayak!

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  • 30 June, 2013 at 15:32
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    I don’t see myself going to the Jungles of Thailand. But wow, what a great story.

    Reply

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