I have a burning addiction and it goes by the name Big Buddha. I’ve begun weekly hikes up this little mountain, basking in the uphill climb that Florida has denied me for the past 23 years. I park my moto at the first elephant trek place at the bottom of the hill and begin my journey. Today, after I parked and chatted up the fellas for a bit, one asks:
You go alone? No friends?
Yes, all alone, I don’t have any friends.
Haha, no friends. Well I think alone is best. Time for think.
Ladies and gentleman, this Thai elephant wrangler gets it. I often feel guilty because I tell people of the relaxation wonders this hike does for my soul and yet I rarely invite people into my sanctuary for fear of tarnishing its luster. I'm even a little hesitant to put the amazingness down for all to experience but I also don't want to discountnthis large portion of my sanity while living in a foreign place.
So after a dollop of wisdom from my friend in the child-sized jorts, I head up the first and steepest hill. The hill winds me and prepares me for the rest of the mountain, which really isn’t so bad. And so is life, once you climb that first hill you can just traipse along and enjoy the scenery for the rest of the trip. And oh what scenery Buddha’s trek has to offer. The road, bustling with tourist vans and moto traffic headed up to the popular travel sight, cuts through thick jungle, brimming with life far beyond the comforts of cement.
On the way up, I receive encouragements from all angles. I pass the old man peddling bananas and he flashes me an all-gum smile; to my left a group of Burmese construction workers shoot me the thumbs-up signal; countless tourists on motorbikes shout borderline inappropriate words of support. And I continue my uphill climb, smiling like an idiot and waving to everyone that passes, no matter if they’re smiling back or attempting to eat my soul with a hateful gaze. I used to make fun of people that smiled for seemingly no reason. Then I moved to Thailand. Now I feel like that middle-aged accountant who saved up his entire life for a speedboat and now spends weekends wearing a captain’s hat and frantically waving at any and all passerby while his wife and kids groan at the embarrassing sight of drunk euphoria. Sure, I may look like a raving lunatic: smiling, thizz-facing and two stepping up a mountain to some jams but I suspect there’s no better place to unleash the cooped up crazy than the middle of the jungle.
I channel my inner Katniss, donning a single braid and a fearless sense of oneness with nature and, against my better western judgment, I climb over a fence onto the side of a cliff that overlooks a deep valley of lush, untouched greenery. I carefully step along the small dirt path that hangs perilously above a free fall that Tom Petty would want no part in. Eventually I come across a rock situated perfectly between a break in the trees that overlooks all of Phuket Town and Chalong Bay. The type of view that blurs the line between sea and sky and the type of multipurpose rock that can be utilized for thoughts, trots or Asian squats.
I refuse to divulge any sort of guidelines to reaching this spot, as my inner balance hinges upon its isolation. As I sat down upon my rock today, raindrops begin to fall and I thank someone somewhere for turning on that faucet that will smear the distinction between sweat stains and rain spots. After a few minutes of enjoying nature’s bath (okay, I promise I did actually shower after this hike, for those of you doubting my cleanliness over here), I began the trek down refusing goodwilled attempts to hitch rides in favor of a downward spiral in the storm. Maybe one day I’ll start my own Big Buddha Trek company: Faubel’s Super Sweaty Hikes, Antiperspirant Optional, Singalongs Enforced.