Last evening was rain splotched. Big fat raindrops frosted the street lights and threw dappled shadows on dim roads. It had rained a lot the whole day, with roaring thunder and lightning. Leaves glistened outside my window, milky white jasmine and furry kadamb flowers were drenched and the loud babblers sat silent, wet and haggard.
Eastern India celebrated Rath Yatra yesterday and my neighbouring state spilled over with tourists and pilgrims witnessing the holy chariot journey of the limbless deities of Jagannath, Balram and their sister Subhadra.
Some of the joyousness poured into Calcutta too and my neighbourhood’s tiny residential lanes were crowded with children pulling decorated flower decked wooden chariots complete with small idols of the sibling trio. It reminded me of my own childhood days when this used to be one of the yearly highlights, coupled with going to the fair and collecting pennies against distribution of rock candies.
I had come a long way from that sheltered little girl with bows and pouts to a self sufficient, happily independent solo woman globe trotter. Many elderly ladies and some of my friends in my country (not without twinges of jealousy) claim that I have “man”ed myself in the process (read become too powerfully independent to be a lady in a polite way), toughened up like a street fighter and become too unladylike “aware” (read headstrong Miss been there, done that).
This is all undeniably true and at times I do wonder if me or my daughter are missing out on normal Indian life, but now there’s no going back. I cannot undo my experiences and neither can she grow up less faster mentally or not be tough and self reliant like her mother. She is a budding little gypsy and a smart cookie in her own right. While solo traveling, single motherhood and both had made me extremely tough and self reliant they have also got me more in touch with my femininity.
Being born a woman and artful by nature, like most solo women travelers, I have learned to make pretty eyes, throw dainty smiles and ask simple questions whenever those were required to ease my situation. At the drop of a hat, whenever toughness was needed, having to turn only to myself I could also easily square my shoulders, take a look of injured pride and reason coldly enough to put Godfather to shame. However my genuinely sweet mother had taught me that politeness could do no harm and although not born that way, I had mastered it enough to reap tons of benefit from it during my solo travels. I have often been asked on possible travel romances as a solo traveler and even at the expense of sounding like a pious prig, my romantic travel highlight had been opting for James Bond over Leonardo di Caprio.
All this came back to me as I lay on my bed, smelled the scent of wet earth and dreamed of sun kissed Krabi days. Phra Nang beach had been as beautiful as paradise-calm, serene and peaceful, it was the most beautiful beach I had ever seen. Limestone outcrops jutted out of the blue green Andaman Sea and fancy vacation yachts bobbed in the distance. Sun rose high and melted the breeze, and balmy coastal heat settled like sleep. I rested in the shade of a rocky cave on the beach, sampled some papaya salad from vendors, indulged in a massage and swam in the toasty water to my heart’s content. I can be quite a water baby and on any given day would chose ocean over mountains.
A few kayaks bobbed over the glassy water and I turned down offers to paddle around the surrounding limestone sea caves, explore the undeveloped Poda Island and play beach volleyball. I was happy with my dog eared beloved book, the sun and the sea. A few fellow beach bummers suggested hiking up to the Lagoon and the Penis Cave which contained the shrine of the drowned princess Phra Nang. Located at the northern end of the Phra Nang beach, this tiny cave housed along with the shrine, a bizarre collection of penis sculptures in all shapes, sizes and colours.
While these were offerings left by fishermen to seek blessings of the drowned princess, most tourists go there to gaze at the strange exhibits. I had no intention of leaving my white sandy spot and drool over sculptures of phalluses for no particular value adding reason. Neither did I wish to sweat for more than an hour over a dodgy tricky path to jump into a turquoise blue hidden lagoon only to pant my way down and miss out all the beachy relaxing.
So I swam, relaxed, napped and hiked my way back to West Railay, to catch a long tail boat for Ao Nang. On reaching my hotel, I again watched the movie “The Beach”, drooled over Leonardo and wished I could have star gazed like him, on the silvery soft sands of Railay. I indulged in my wishful thoughts till the sun went low, then showered, dressed and caught a lovely sunset on a tranquil sea.
Ao Nang became festive after sun down and the bars and restaurants came alive with music and people. I explored the tour companies, bargained hard for a day trip to James Bond Island and walked along Ao Nang till street lamps shimmered on the froth of the high tide waves. Dinner was a deliciously unhealthy Malaysian Indian Roti (butter fried Indian style flat bread stuffed with condensed milk, bananas or any fruit, sugar and heavy cream) from a push cart and I ate without any guilt or consciousness. Post dinner I walked some more, all the way to the Night Market with a hope to look toned in my swimsuit the next day and excitedly pored over the itinerary.
Cruising around spectacular limestone bays, visiting floating village, kayaking in hidden mangrove coves and swimming in waterfalls, the trip was packed with action. I rubbed my hands gleefully, prayed that I looked thin in my bikini (after all that hogging) and nearly hugged myself in joy. A great beach day, an amazing dinner and an even better sightseeing bargain, I was on a roll. From Leonardo di Caprio to James Bond, my Krabi days were getting sexier and I had never felt more glamorous. Hot men (if only movie star crushes), phallus cave and stunning beaches, Krabi is every solo woman traveler’s dream.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE