Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Define paradise. A lost island in Thailand, a hut on a white, fine sand beach, azure, shallow waters with a ripple like a wave, a couple of long boats, painted in their bright, hot colors and palm trees sharing their shadow in the gentle breeze. Rocks on the side with some reefs and colorful fish. The hills and the jungle behind, cutting off any sight, sound or thought of an outside world. Warm just enough to be naked all the time. Great tasting food, tropical fruits and cold drinks. A quiet night with buckets of stars, squeezed in a long chair along your loved one. Silence, just the sea sounds or maybe some subdued great music. A stunning sunrise and a breathtaking sunset. If it has to be just one, who decides, do you get options or just take what comes? And when some of these ingredients are missing, where does someone draw the line and counts it as a good enough paradise?
Up at the viewpoint
Late sunrise

This is why it's called Bottle Beach

We want a deserted, secluded beach, but not quite like that, there can be a few people, here and there. Ko Phangan (pronounced phanyan), a crazy place where crazy people come from all over the world to the crazy full moon parties, is a good size island, with mountains, waterfalls, Chinese and Thai temples, a few beaches and all the tourists that you don't want. Not as developed as the bigger sister, Koh Samui, this island might still be our last chance. It is catching up fast and it seems that our options are more and more limited. Ryan, from "RoundWeGo", told me where they stayed, but those people moved their huts and we don't want to be close to five star resorts and all the amenities of modern life. On the east side, there might still be a couple of small gulfs, little unpretentious resorts for every budget and on the North side there is a "Bottle Beach". Reachable only by boat, it is famous for being secluded. How can that be? We decided to see what means famous and isolated. There are three resorts, 1, 2 and 3, owned by different members of the same family. I call the day before and make a reservation, I think I do, because with all the noise behind me, there is no way of understanding the sounds at the other end of the line. We get on a ferry from Ko Tao, 90 minutes later we land in Thong Sala and at the end of the pier we get a taxi. It will stop for a minute at 7-11, I get one sliced bread and jump in again. Twenty minutes later we are on another pier, on the North side of the island in Chaloklum and a minute later on a taxi boat to Bottle Beach. The cost is outrageous, but I have no time to look for alternatives. Thirty minutes later, the beach comes into view, we land and a lady starts waving. Not the right place, we made reservation at Bottle Beach 1, this is Bottle Beach 2. A few meters to the right we are now in the right place, get a couple of cabins for a couple of nights, the row behind, but later we would move in the front row. A few days pass, Maria didn't yet get in the water, Ileana did once, when would these girls realize that this is a once in a lifetime chance?

Freshly shaved for Valentine's day

Our second residence, a "luxury" bungalow

We get visitors!

One night I wake up at 3.30am, this sounds like rain, more like a deluge. I cannot go back to sleep, it's like somebody is pouring buckets of water over my head, I get out on the porch and start reading about our next stop. Penang, Malaysia, amazing, interesting location, another island, but no beach. An industrial, developed city, we are not ready for that yet. I go back to sleep a little sad, what was on my mind when I made those plans? What would we do a whole week there, we could probably visit everything in two days. But I already bought the plane tickets, another $300 to be lost, plus we will have to buy train tickets there, another $150. By the end of the day it wouldn't matter, we decide to stay another five nights here. Next day I go by myself in the village and buy as much food as I can carry.
$100 worth of food in one succsessful trip

With the only train being sold out we will later find out that we have to stay one more day, we would take our last chance and end up with only one night in Penang. Fourteen days on Bottle Beach. I could have never planned that, I would have never imagined "wasting" so much time in paradise. Layers and layers of fatigue came down off us, the girls slowly started to get out, get in the water, have fun. We read, watched movies, played cards, talked under the stars, got happy or depressed, bored and hungry. The food was too expensive, passable, but not exciting. The time for food was exciting, the evening we all ate together, the rest of the time we would go to the restaurant when we felt like it. No Internet was good, just minimal contact with the world out there. The only variation was the arrival or departure of the visiting boats, sometimes 3-4 per day, sometimes 20. It sounds like a lot, but even 20, spread out on a couple hundred meters of shore and over an eight hour interval. No other action, sometimes watching funny young children on the beach or gorgeous young bodies frying in the sun (they can seem gorgeous if you stay far enough). Sometimes playing badminton or jumping in the pool. Occasionally writing some to catch up on our blogs, rating some older pictures from India or China and reading long boring overdue books.

"Gorgeous bodies frying in the sun"
We met an amazing family from Perth, they travel with five younger children for a year, they left in November, they will stay mostly in Asia, but they plan to "hurry up and travel in Europe"  before their children grow up and "start traveling by themselves". I laughed at this, such a different perspective. In America, parents might worry that they have to do something before the children grow up, get a job at McDonalds and/or go to college.

There is one trip than can be made. Ioan and I woke up at 5.30 to go to the viewpoint, hoping to catch the sunrise. It was pitch dark, we should have looked for the trail the day before. It took some time to get going, after a failed attempt to climb through the jungle at the end of the beach. Then we found the trail and after an hour we were on the highest rock, soaking sweat, but amazed. It was worth all the trouble. The sun was up, but our beach was still in the shadow. Some of the peaks of the mountains surrounding us were in the clouds, the sea below had various hues of green and blue and there was another little island on the horizon.

Another option is to take a boat trip somewhere, maybe scuba diving or snorkeling. We considered having Ioan finishing his last dive to get the open water certificate. It would have been $100 or $130 for the dive, plus another $50 for the certificate form. Ioan was equal, OK with it, OK without. We chose the money.

Despite the cost I like PADI. Without their certificate you cannot dive. They should do the same for music, if you don't have a certificate, you cannot record and people are not allowed to play your music. "But this is a matter of taste, some people might like it", protests Ioan. "Some people like to put their heads in the toilet bowl, it doesn't qualify as diving, this shouldn't qualify as music and they shouldn't be allowed to play it." When did I get so mean? Did I just ruin the paradise? Hopefully not. The music at the restaurant wasn't always that horrible. They had a Beatles album one day, that was great, but I never knew that Bob Marley or Pink Floyd can be so bad. And even these, as pitiful as they were, were good compared with some other of the waiters' favorites. The waiters by the way were always drunk, first thing in the morning, during the day or late at night. They were loud, obnoxious, trying too hard to be funny, or just simply inappropriate. One morning, Ileana Ruxandra got in trouble when she ordered American breakfast, specified how she wants the eggs and the main waiter started to yell at her. She apologized profusely and he forgave her. After a while we got used to them, started to like some of them and realized that they are hardly drinking, they were just high on life, pathologically happy, borderline manic. It didn't make the food any better, but we were just amused by almost everything around there. The variation in portions, the salad or no salad, the order of the servings, overcharging or not charging for food. Just not the music.
Valentine's Day, rose made of napkins, under the table, so the boss wouldn't catch him!

A north facing beach has no sunrise or sunset. There is still something magical as the sun rises above the mountain, seven o'clock, most people are asleep and the color of light still has some reddish hues. At 6 the sun falls behind the mountain behind, the shadows of the palm trees grow longer and longer and then is still light but no sun or sunset. Still paradise. There were a few more things that were not great, too little to count in the end, it wasn't all ideal but it was "good enough."

You can have the picture perfect setup for a paradise, you can have the best companions and a gorgeous weather but there is another element to consider. What is the right amount of time to spend in a place like this? Some people come for a few hours, some for a few days. I felt that eight days was more than enough, then we wanted more and more and more. In the end we stayed 14 nights. Asked how many we should have stayed, Ileana Ruxandra said "a lifetime", or maybe 18 or 21, Ileana thought three days, Maria believed it "was just right". Ioan completely lost track of the days, so he couldn't answer my question. I think 40 would have been the right amount. As the time passes there are changes. Outside, the sea can change, sometime it comes closer, sometimes is clear, sometimes is murky or even dirty. The wind, the clouds and the light change. After you see and discover everything in two hours, you realize after two weeks that you haven't seen anything and there is more and more to discover. On a tiny beach, not even going once more than 20 meters inland. There are changes, happening inside, maybe too subtle to describe, but changes nonetheless and they amplify all that is happening outside. It is still me, it is still us, but I feel that we are a little different.

We left on this trip to discover a slice of this world. We got detoured when we saw a little bit of the under(water)-world, and then we got lost in some paradise. Don't worry we are coming back to Earth now.

Rush hour on Bottle Beach

Our third and last residence

Fast pace action

Bye bye Bottle Beach


  1. magnifique. vreau si eu. Rodica

    1. nu-i chiar asa de greu, vreo 24 de ore din Londra cate 2 avioane, autobuze si barci. Dar merita...

  2. Eh! You lucky people! Hsve a good rest of the trip! Can you guess who this is?

    1. Thank you for your wishes! No I cannot guess who is it, there are about five more people who I can think of who consider us lucky. Any more clues?

    2. Give us a hint as to country and gender and I think we'll be well on our way to finding out! Thanks for the well wishes!


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