-This took place late April 2018-
Bali’s yoga retreat offered mental and physical releases. The positive exerpience gave him the desire to attend another. A couple cars and buses, a lunch stop at a bus depot, and most of a day later, he reached Marang in the Terengganu area of Malaysia. The property was set beachside and the sound of waves breaking became the nonstop soundtrack of the next three days.
Practicing yoga 15 meters from the water on wooden boards and yoga mats felt excellent. But his body felt less strong than a month ago. The emphasis on travel and viewing sites had minimized his routine of physical self care. He was not as flexible and felt more weak. The twice daily practices, even when modified for his back pain, felt particularly trying. The fact that there were modifications from the instructor gave him a sense of security that he rarely felt regarding back pain. The sunrise over Kapas island each morning set the tone of beauty and tranquility that brought strength and clarity to his yoga.
Between writing, Netflix (Money Heist), walking on the beach, and napping, his days melted by. The great beauty of the beach also brought a new sorrow to the Californian. The amount of debris, detritus, trash, and garbage along the Malaysian coast is significantly high than America. He filled two large garbage bags of recyclable goods in a 50 meter area, and there was still enough trash to fill a half dozen more bags.
When asking the yoga retreat employees about the state of garbage, they said a possible reason is a lack of emphasis on sustainability and pollution. These countries have developed rapidly and the impact of consumerism has in a way corrupted their culture. And some cultural trends, such as recycling, have not yet transferred in the same way. It simply is not currently a priority.
The vegetarian meals were cooked by a scuba diving Irish woman with a good sense of humor. The smoothie bowls, rice, pastas, salads, and other items he can’t name or remember were some of the best consistent meals he had ever eaten. If vegetarian options in America tasted like this food there would be a lot fewer meat eaters around.
The leader of the yoga retreat also studied and practices Thai massage. Part of the retreat included learning how to give/receive a massage and a natural facial using mostly food items. Because there were only three of us at the retreat, and the other two being a couple from Kuala Lumpur, the Californian received a double massage and a single facial. He was lulled in and out of sleep by the breeze and warm climate.
The next day we piled into a small car and drove eight minutes to town. We walked through the port and cut the 100+ person line to the next available boat.
“Is that common that we could just cut everyone?,” the Californian inquired.
“Everyone sort of knows me here. I am the only white person living in Marang. They know that I bring business to them, they know I am consistent, so they take care of me pretty well. It took a while for them to understand my intentions and what I was doing, but they see now and appreciate it.”
The quiet island had no roads or vehicles and three stores and three hotels. We took a 15 minute boat ride to Kapas for its beaches, snorkeling, cliff jumping, and tranquility.
We hopped off the boat into the shallow water and began our trek. We crossed three separate beaches before entering the hills and jungles of the mountain. For forty minutes we trekked through the jungle, passing large bugs, ascending and descending ridges, and finally lowering ourselves using a rope down a hill to a private cove.
One of the top three places he had ever snorkeled, due in part of the vacant location which took effort to reach. The sheltered bay and temperate, shallow water hosted different colors of corral and brightly colored fish.
“You wanna go jump?”
“Yes,” without a hint of doubt but an air of worry. They were a hike away from a boat ride to reach the closest town. Any significant injury would entail elaborate consequences.
“How do you know about these? The locals?”
“Well, there aren’t really locals because you couldn’t live here full time till recently because there is no food or water. I was just hiking out here one time and a traveler I was with tried it. No one has ever got hurt so I think it is probably safe.” That wasn’t exactly the comfort he wanted, but it helped.
They swam 150 meters along the cliff side to an access point. He climbed the rock face and stood on the outcropping. He was worried, frightened and scared. The rolling waves looked far below. Instead of stepping back to refocus and leave those emotions, he leaned into them. He knew he would be okay – he’d done jumps like this before. Embracing those negative emotions, he hoped to take ownership over them. And he did, and then crashed into the water below.
Up till this point, he was experiencing FOMO of not visiting the most popular tropical tourist destination in Malaysia, the Perhentian Islands. That day he realized this island, this experience, his experience, was greater than whatever the party offered 200 miles north could be.
After speaking with those at the yoga retreat, many of whom had traveled in this region of the world, he determined the next location would be Cambodia. The wonders of ancient temples enticed him. That night he used his phone to arrange his journey. He booked a flight, applied for a visa, and began the mental preparation.