Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Holistic School Opens in Haad Yao

The west coast of Koh Phangan has over the last few years become a centre for yoga, holistic practices and spiritual endeavours. The healing arts of yoga, reiki, tai chi, Pilates and meditation are much in evidence. Agama Yoga has created a New Age university to attract acolytes wanting to teach yoga. And now we have Serenity Residence creating a school in very much a New Age mould. Woolly thinking and commercial interest find another way of joining forces.

The Serenity Residence mission statement reads:

"Each person finds identity, meaning and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace."

Like with Steiner Schools in the UK, the emphasis is on personal development. There is nothing wrong with that. The opposite, a Gradgrind philosophy of memorising information to deploy in a dehumansing world of profit and machines, is far from desirable. However, a balance must be struck. Children need to learn to read and write, do sums, name capital cities, understand the science of climate change, be able to read the fine print on interest rates as well as discover they like finger painting and playing the guitar.

The world outside of Koh Phangan is interested in academic qualifications, syllabuses, systems for child security, eye checks and the whole panoply of concerns of a parent that has to take responsibility for a child until it can take care of itself.

That is why the spelling mistakes on the school website are very worrying. Even more worrying is the sentence construction that lumps together big ideas of 'self-actualisation' and 'collective responsibility'. Where was the responsibility to put an apostrophe in 'everyones'? Big assertions without details of implementation or the need to spell check should be a red flag for parents. These nebulous ideas might make sense when you are cross-eyed and bristling with pranic power but fail to fly in an educational context where performance can be measured by exams.

The good news is that the fees are reasonable - just 4,000 Thai Baht a month. There is also facilities for school lunches, and there is a school bus. The average class size is just 10.

The name 'Serenity Residence' demonstrates the commercial core to this enterprise. The residences are a group of apartments for short and long term rental. They can probably be bought by anyone with the cash. It is a business geared to those looking for yoga holidays. It is a small step to move into the ex-pat market: those who fell in love with Koh Phangan and higher consciousness and want to subject their children to sunshine, sea and limited educational resources. I wish they had done more to disguise the off-shoot nature of the school. It could have been called 'Serenity School'. Or maybe not - that still sounds like a yoga school.

Friday, 23 June 2017

How to get from Koh Phangan to Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phangan is ridiculously laid back and the beaches are ridiculously beautiful. The same is even more true for the two Phi Phi islands. One island is so laid back it is deserted (Phi Phi Leh). The other island is jungle that gives way to a perfect sandy beach. There are the cliffs at Phi Phi and of course the scenery used in the movies. Phi Phi just off Phuket doesn't have the Full Moon Party, or even the Half Moon Party, but it does have perfect beaches. Thus, those beach junkies visiting Thailand will certainly want to check out Koh Phi Phi as well as Koh Phangan.

There are 2 companies that currently offer travel packages to get tourists from Koh Phangan to Koh Phi Phi. They are Seatran Discovery and Phantip Travel. Of the two Seatran is slightly more expensive for online booking (1,100 THB) compared with the Phantip price of 900 Thai Baht.

The Seatrain service departs from Thongsala pier at 8am. It is a combined ferry- bus-ferry ticket. The bus gets to Chaokoh ferry pier at 3pm and gets you to Koh Phi Phi at 4.30pm.

Phantip Travel uses a different route. Passengers take the car ferry from Thongsala to Donsak, and from there transfer to a bus. The journey starts at 7am and you get to Koh Phi Phi at 4pm. Thus for the 200 Thai Baht saving you get a journey time that is 30 minutes longer.

In terms of comfort, reliability, safety and level of service there is very little between the 2 companies. The Seatran Discovery boat is a bit faster than the Raja car ferry. However, the Raja is a much bigger boat and can deal with worse nautical conditions.

You can book tickets from Koh Phangan to Koh Phi Phi online here. It is a straight forward process. You receive an instant email confirmation. The prices are the same as if you bought them at the pier in Thongsala. Best to book early if you are planning to leave Koh Phangan after a Full Moon Party.