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Shanty Shanty

Just days before we landed in Bangkok, we were in Myanmar still undecided where our next destination would be. We narrowed it down to 3 choices: Laos, Thailand, Ethiopia. But of course things have a way of working out and sometimes those last minute decisions make for the best adventures. Just by coincidence, we ended up in Bangkok at exactly the same time as friends from Montreal whom we had initially met in Nepal. They too were a family taking some time off to travel with their 3 children. They had just come from Laos, and while there, they had met a family from France who told them of a “hippie” french school on Koh Phangan, an island in the south of Thailand. Our friends, the Rocque-Verrets, planned to put their kids in this school for a month. We decided to join them! Not only were we joining them, but their good friends from Montreal, the Larocque-Leducs, another family with 3 kids, also on an extended trip, were also planning to attend. That is what I call a Canadian invasion!

A month of island life was just what we needed. It was so nice to stay put and have a bit of a routine, at least for a little while. And it was nice to have friends again for both the kids and us. Our 3 families got on splendidly and we come away with great memories. Serenity School was so hippie that we literally showed up and dropped the kids registration forms to fill out, no waivers to sign. It is an international school with a holistic approach to learning and had kids from 11 different nationalities. Instruction was in English, French, and Thai. There were kids of expats living on the island who attended long term, but many were “drop-ins" like us who were there for a few weeks. A great organic breakfast and lunch was served each day. Interestingly, the school shared the site with a tantric yoga studio. The boys loved going to school! They were among school kids again for the first time in over a year. What it may have lacked in hard core academics, the school was great for the kids' socialization. We lucked out and found a great apartment right on the beach in the quaint fishing village of Chaloklum. How nice it was to see the water each day, and even better was to be able to walk right from our deck to the warm beautiful water.

While on Koh Phangan we did something that we told the kids never to do....we rented scooters on a tropical island. It soon became apparent that the only viable way to get around the island was by scooter. Taxis were infrequent and expensive, and while we could rent a car, they too were hard to come by. Many beaches and roads were inaccessible by a big vehicle. So, against our ultra safe Canadian sensibilities, we pulled a "when in Rome", and rented scooters. John actually has a motorbike license and knows how to ride a motorbike properly, but my experience was limited to riding an E-bike in Myanmar. I rented a very small scooter called a Scoopy, which essentially was like the E-bike. The learning curve was steep but within a couple of days I was able to ride quite well! This was essentially how all the locals and tourists got around. Here too lies the problem...tourists on motorbikes, many without helmets and shirtless. Add a bit of speed, unfamiliar roads, and a party and you have the makings of a bad scene. Koh Phangan is known as a party island and home to the biggest party of all, the Full Moon party. We were told that there is usually a few deaths from reckless driving after this party. We were sure to stay off the roads that night.

Thankfully our month riding scooters around the island was accident free. While we enjoyed the freedom of zipping around on them, we were also quite relieved to hand in the keys at the end of our stay. Aside from enjoying the lazy rhythm of life on a tropical island, we did squeeze in a couple of fun activities. John took a course on kiteboarding and even managed to get up on the board. Finn and Nico did a Discover Scuba course and went diving in the ocean down to 12 metres. They did a fantastic job and had no troubles with the skills. Unfortunately Milo was too young to do the course so he went snorkelling instead. John and I also went out diving. Unfortunately, on the day we went the visibility wasn’t great but we still saw tons of fish. Spending a month on Koh Phangan was the perfect way to recharge at this point of our trip and a great way to end our tour of South East Asia. We enjoyed great food, pristine beaches, and made wonderful friendships. Next, we trade in our shanty pants and flip flops for fleece jackets and to France!

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