It’s not the first time I’ve sunk my feet into the warm white sand of Haad Tien beach on the Thai island of Koh Phangan. Three years ago, at the tail end of an extended adventure in India, I found my breath as shallow and cramped as Delhi’s traffic and, sucking the last of my air in, I high tailed it for the nearest island on a rumor of the existence of a tropical heath & yoga center where I could feast on organic goods in a bamboo bungalow perched on a cliff over the Gulf of Thailand.
The rumors all proved true; I quickly found my breath again, mostly in the form of heavy hammock-wrapped sighs, sunset gasps of awe and a snorkel mask’s air tube.
As I continued to explore the hills of the jungle surrounding my “island-on-a-island” (after all, the neighbor of THIS beach is none other than Haad Rin, home of the legendary and monthly, Full Moon Party)…
… my curiosity eventually led me to the subject of much of the vegetarian restaurant chatter: the “Wellness Center,” located discretely and quietly across a bridge from the Sanctuary Resort.
Barefoot and relaxed, I crossed the bridge from my “resort world” and let my whim take a lead in wandering me in. Immediately, I felt myself an outsider to the unusually calm and skinny crowd sucking on identical and strange-colored sludge drinks that I suspected came from the posted menu of fasting cocktails.
I picked up a leather bound information book, walked under a sign that read, “Out of respect for our fasters, please do not eat here,” and took a cushioned seat near a place where I could conveniently overhear this strange community in conversation. There I overheard a mix of the standard traveller lingo and questions, yet interspersed with some especially foreign terms, like, “bentonite,” “colonic,” “mucloid plaque,” “healing crisis” and “Bali body wrap.” And as I flipped through the pages of information, I also noted the curious spelling of, “disease” as, “dis-ease.” Yes. These were all interesting clues of an unsolved mystery and, interest piqued, I took my questions to the fasters’ bar manned by a staff of this supposed, “wellness retreat.”
“So you don’t eat anything of substance for 7 entire days? And you say that the colonics are really a necessary part of the fast? And this — this not-eating — it would cost a person how much?”
Far from being persuaded, I walked out with some sort of self-rationale that the human body should be quite capable of cleansing itself; after all, it has done so for millennia, without the aid of organic coffee colonics and clay shakes, no? But my health motivation WAS reinvigorated and I did spend the rest of my week eating only from the special pre- and post-fasting raw food menu of the resort restaurant. I retired to my hammock with a book where I spend most of the rest of my week, going only a little out of my way to respectfully keep myself, as an eater, out of the fasters’ club’s way.
Now. Fast forward three years.
Life being oddly inclined to spin us humans in such circles, I find myself, AGAIN, at the tail end of a year of adventures in India and desperately in need of a similar dose of the good health, fresh perspective and renewed balance that the sea’s infusion has proved its ingredients of consistently delivering.
This time I save myself the clumsy and wet entrance of my 3-year-prior arrival by holding my shoes and rolling my pants up to my thighs before jumping out of the longtail boat.
I don’t know why I did it. All I know is that I didn’t hesitate for a minute. I just looked up the website (http://www.thesanctuarythailand.com/) and sent an email asking to confirm my, 7-day “master cleanse” booking and 11-day stay (including my pre- and post-fasting).
As I heavy-step my way across the hot, white sand, I fondly note my favorite hammock where I read a half dozen books during my last visit.
And then I walk right past it, past the resort, and past the restaurant. I follow the sculpted path, carefully inlaid with seashells, and cross over the bridge.
I enter the bamboo thatched roof hut underneath the hanging painted sign of the, “Wellness Center” and drop my bags;
“Yep. I’m here. Reservation for 1.”