Spring is a really difficult time in my line of work. No question that blogging is one of my favorite things to do in my free time, but that makes the bold assumption that I actually have free time.
Things are looking a bit more hopeful for that in the coming weeks, and I have several prompts in the queue, so I’m eager to get back out there on the web. In the meantime, I started posting to our naturist Instagram again @naturistdan, so I thought I’d lift a few photos from that feed to get back into the Meandering Naturist game.
Thanks for following our blog! Hope to be posting again soon about our most recent naturist travels, along with a few random musings about social nudity and life!
I’m writing this post from 38,000 feet on a flight home from
Berlin. My wife and I spent the weekend in this Renaissance city with the
intent of doing a bit of sight-seeing, enjoying a couple nice meals, but most specifically,
checking out a few German spas (“Saunas” or “Thermes”) that are particularly renowned
for their traditions in nude bathing – on in the case of the saunas – nude
I’ve already written this post from a somewhat different perspective in a piece called The Demographics of Nakedness, where I sought out to dispel the myth that nudity is the great equalizer. “We are all the same when we’re naked,” have said so many people in advocacy for nude recreation. “You can’t tell a doctor, from a business tycoon, from a pipe-fitter when everyone is nude, as clothing provides the social cues that allow us to form our preconceived notions about other humans.”
I love the genuine sentiment and conviction of such statements, but
the longer we’ve participated in social nudity, the less I have been able to
lend any personal credibility to such a mantra. And never has that been so
evident as during this brief qualitative study we just completed while visiting
the most nudity-friendly spas in Berlin. What did the study prove? Well… naked
humans are simply human, but naked! Profound…
I know! 😐
SETTING: Just a couple
blocks from the Berlin Aquarium and Zoo, each of which border the expansive
Tiergarten, this is most definitely a center-city location that would probably
be best described as “my neighborhood sauna.” The striking element of this
particular venue is how it is situated amidst the commercial and residential
high-rises of downtown Berlin, with a rooftop view of several historical
landmarks. Of course, that means a reciprocal exposure of the sundecks to the
inhabitants of those high-rises, which must be a source of amusement in the
middle of summer when I suspect the rooftop nude sunbathers are plentiful and
in clear view of the apartment dwellers across the street.
We arrived late on a Thursday morning and stayed into the
early evening hours. Even on this near-freezing day, the “seasoned locals”
showed little reticence about meandering out onto the veranda in the
all-together. It immediately made me think of the insultingly redundant
comments on sites like Trip Advisor where first time nude beach goers comment
on “the perils of encountering the people you never want to see naked.”
But if I’m going to be completely truthful, there is a discomfort in visiting a naked place where the clientele is mainly in the “over-80-years-old” bracket, not unlike that of visiting my 93-year-old mother in a “sunset-living community” where everyone starts lining up with their walkers and wheelchairs at 4:00 pm for the first seating at dinner. This is always a reflective dance with one’s own mortality that has little to do with nakedness, but everything to do with how each of us grapple with the aging process. In that spirit, part of me wants to jump up and say “GOOD FOR YOU NAKED OLD PEOPLE!! I celebrate your confidence for putting so many decades of wrinkles and scars on display.” But in that very same breath, you find yourself catching a glimpse of yourself reflecting in the glass walls in an attempt to quickly assess where you are in that process. Sobering, at least.
As the day progressed at Europa-Therme, the crowd grew a bit
more diverse, with a couple dads and their kids (Yup – naked children at the
spa! That’s a thing in Berlin.), and some middle-agers that looked more or less
like us. You could tell this was a place that was once on the cutting edge, but
now on the backside of reality. Who knows, maybe the local hipsters show up on
Saturday night to soak in the rooftop pool and gaze at the Berlin skyline,
(Which sounds like fun!) but I sort of doubt it, because now they have other
between a city park and a soccer field, you could easily walk past the front
door of Vabali Spa Berlin amidst the local service industries and apartment
blocks in the sprawling development at the foot of the track where the Berlin
Wall once stood. But once inside the door, you are guided down the path of
Asian influenced self-realization into a labyrinth of saunas, hot tubs, tepid
swimming pools, and rest areas with luxurious waterbeds that invite napping
even when you thought you were wide awake. Children are allowed, but we only
saw one mom with her young daughter in tow. This is a mecca for young adults.
Interestingly enough, friends visited the Vabali Spa in Düsseldorf a few months ago, where their defining moment was a reprimand for being “too naked” – a result of walking from one attraction to the next without bothering to wrap themselves in a towel or a robe. That most certainly resonated with us as we observed this to be a place that is really well managed, or perhaps more appropriately – micro-managed!
As best I can tell, they opened in sometime in 2014 (with
the Düsseldorf establishment opening in 2017, and a third location scheduled
for Hamburg in 2021). As part of a consortium with Claudius Therme and
Neptunbad in Cologne, they have similarly strict policies that forbid you to
leave a towel or a robe on a lounger, at which point, said item will be
confiscated and sold on Ebay before you can utter the word Aufguss! Along with that comes a sense that you are being watched
all the time-in the pools, in the quiet rooms, walking around naked – whatever.
The rules are in place for a reason, and they must be adhered to.
I get it. There’s a strong tradition of sex clubs in Berlin
that have hijacked the “FKK” nomenclature that once belonged exclusively to
hard-core naturists, but now denotes a nightlife where, truly, anything goes.
Vabali is clearly seeking to set an industry standard, which could quickly be
tarnished by people getting frisky in the hot tub.
But alas, I’ve drifted off topic. And that is, who goes to
Vabali? Well, pretty much anyone that might identify themselves as a young
professional hipster, along with a few strays like ourselves. We were in a
smallish minority of those without tattoos ranging from subtle line-art to body
sleeves. Lots of young couples apparently took Friday off, while several “girls’
day out” groups seemed completely at ease with the co-ed naked part, but
uniformly uncomfortable with the “Crap! It’s cold out here” part. (Many of the
most alluring parts of the property are outdoors, decidedly uncomfortable when
making your way from the outdoor pool to the deep-heated resting areas.)
But again, to the point… The crowd at Verbali looked very
much like what I would expect to encounter in the mainline nightclubs of
Berlin. Successful, educated young people out to have a relaxing and sensual
day at the spa. Naked was not the attraction for coming here – Chillaxing is
what’s on tap, and what’s the big deal about naked? “We all get naked… every
day… right? Why not spend the days that way with my friends?
SETTING: Kristalltherme is a chain of sauna and pool complexes scattered throughout Germany, though the venue at Ludwigsfelda, a 25-minute train ride outside of Berlin, is known to be “the most naked of the entire chain.” On Wednesdays and Sundays, bathing suits are allowed, but during the rest of the week, the expectation is total nudity in the saunas and in the pools. Covering with a robe or towel is the supposed expectation when walking about, but many – male and female – don’t bother to cover up at all unless making their way to the food concession, and even then, nobody seems to care. (A marked difference from Vabali where the immediate action upon exiting the pool was to wrap in a towel.) And on a Saturday? This is most definitely a family water park. Those under 18 are allowed to wear swimsuits, and I would say roughly half of those in that age bracket did so – but the rest were naked.
This was my third visit to this naked water wonderland, the most relaxing in some ways, and somewhat disorienting in others. If Europa-Therme has assumed the role of a senior day center, and Vabali has found its niche as an enclave for open-minded hipsters, then Kristalltherme falls in that middle ground of “a place for the rest of us.” To that end, it was interesting – given the lack of textile cues other than bathrobes and towels – to imagine the lives of these patrons fully clothed on a workday, and in that light, I would surmise this to be the most socio-economic diverse crowd I’ve encountered at any place where social nudity is practiced. Keep in mind that our ability to converse with the locals was essentially non-existent, leaving one to draw such conclusions on the basis of people-watching alone, the same way one does in an airport, a restaurant, or a grocery store. Sure enough, clothed or not, people send off innumerable non-verbal cues that define who they are and where they fit in.
We arrived early, having read that finding two loungers together after the opening bell on a weekend could be a challenge, and for a good while, we felt a good twenty-five years younger than the prevailing median age. But as the day progressed, families arrived in droves until our departure at dusk when the young couples surrounded the bar, creating an ever-evolving ambiance in the warm pool.
It occurred to me while I was sitting in one particularly
unique sauna at the Kristalltherme – called Brutal
Aufguss! that had this been my first experience at such a sauna, it might
have also been my last. Whereas the typical demeanor for the sauna infusion
ceremonies is one of meditation and mind-expansion, this particular theatrical presentation
– all in German, of course – involved an aggressive dialogue between to two
sauna-masters which apparently played a bit over the top even with the locals. (It
was called the “Brutal Sauna”
experience, after all.) But in that moment, it was something of an epiphany to
me. Just like anyone in the hospitality industry, the most important element in
a business plan is to know who your
target audience is, and why wouldn’t that be true for businesses that cater to
naked people as well, since as I stated earlier, naked people are just as
different from one another as clothed people, except without the clothes!
In Germany, I believe there are nearly 300 saunas, some similar to one another,
but none exactly the same as the next. In France, there are nearly as many
naturist centers, some of which cater to people looking for “lots of friends
with lots of benefits;” others which seek to create a family friendly
environment something akin to Disney World. But at the end of the day, except
for the very most adventurous, people want to hang out with people they feel
inherently comfortable with, which is why there are so many different restaurant
and hotel chains, boutique malls, and discount super-shopping centers. It’s
difficult enough to find one’s niche when fully clothed, let alone putting
yourself out there wearing nothing but your own skin. Perhaps the awkward truth
is that even if you have no intention of actually socializing with other people
at a particular place, most of us are hard-wired in our efforts not to stand out from the crowd.
I have written before that I think millennials may have a
golden opportunity to sway attitudes regarding social nudity in America in a
very positive way, but in the end, and in the same breath, one’s first
experience with public nakedness will quite likely be their last if it doesn’t
turn out to be at least a marginally positive experience. Especially in
America, given so few opportunities to even “give it a try,” it seems a bit of
a long shot for getting it right on
the first try. That can only lead to
the riveting cocktail party story that goes, “I got naked this one time, and
you wouldn’t believe how it turned out. OMG… SO awkward!”
Thanks to the ever-growing database of reviews such as those on Google, Yelp, and Trip Advisor, and a few tireless bloggers who are adding more substantive information about experiencing social nudity, there’s more information out there than ever to help you find the right place. That said, I suspect if you go to a subpar restaurant and don’t like the food, you may never go back to that place, but I doubt you’ll give up eating. But if you’re contemplating your first experience of getting naked with others, you may want to do a bit of research. I suppose it’s like any number of experiences that stretch your horizons – Once you find your way there and have a mountain top experience, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to try it in the first place. The tricky part? You have to get it right the first time!
Think about it. Europe is great in the summer. You might even get a few chances at naked autumn or spring in the South of France, Spain, or Italy. And if you’re really adventurous, you can find your way to the Canary Islands, which are essentially due west of the Sahara Desert.
But Africa!? A continent that straddles the equator. And until all the westerners showed up, they thought naked was the way to go. (“Thank you kind and thoughtful missionaries who taught us to pray and wear clothes – except for the wearing clothes part!“) Until then… temperate climates much of the year. No bizarre religious convictions to make one ashamed of her breasts. From what I can gather, a loin cloth seemed like the perfect attire for any formal occasion back in the day.
Truth be told, once Western Europe finished cutting Africa into neatly packaged countries, it seems a bit ironic that about the only place one might consider going for social nudity is at the southern tip of the continent – South Africa. Ironic because this is a huge expanse of land where the Dutch (We LOVE public nudity!) and the Brits (Ahem… please don’t offend the Queen.) decided to fight it out with the indigenous people to lay claim to the natural resources that rest just beneath the soil there. Most know what came of all that, the legacy of Nelson Mandela, and perhaps even a bit about the chaos in the wake of what one friend refers to as “centuries of Social Engineering gone awry.” In layman’s terms, read any post about visiting Johannesburg on Trip Advisor, and it will likely lead out with the words “Be careful!” Good advice.
As it turns out, there are several naturist places dotted about the country of South Africa – seemingly the only country on the continent that recognizes social nudity in any organized sort of way. I/we have visited two. My wife and I spent a week at Harmony Nature Farm back in 2013 (Literally, the week that Nelson Mandela died), then I recently made a quick trip that accommodated a weekend visit to Sun Eden Resort just east of Pretoria, then a return visit to Harmony Nature Farm to visit some of the friends we had made there years ago.
In the middle of summer – January on this part of the planet – the weather was literally postcard perfect for a naturist outing. Days were warm and sunny with low humidity, and evenings remained naked friendly without being oppressively hot! I rented a car at the Johannesburg airport, plugged Sun Eden Family Naturist Resort into Google Maps on my phone (couldn’t find it on Apple Maps), then sped off on the well maintained motorway to the north, past Pretoria and off to the designated exit. So far, so good!
What I didn’t expect, however, was once having left the motorway, I took a hard right into the African bush, only 18 kilometers to go according to Mr. Google, which created the illusion I would be at my destination in a matter of minutes. That idea vaporized just a few hundred meters later where the asphalt ended, and the well maintained, but bumpy, dirt road started chopping away at the suspension system of my little rented car. Signage? None. Other humans? Occasionally a Toyota Forerunner would speed by. Civilization? A few remnants of something that might have once been a market or restaurant, and a gate now and again that seemed to lead to someone’s cattle ranch tucked just over that rise in the distance.
But sure enough, after about fifteen kilometers of trying to avoid the potholes that would blow out my tires, there was a right turn, then a short distance later, a sign appeared on a small road named “First Street,” (Indeed it was!) which took me to the gate of Sun Eden Resort.
Having not been to a naturist camp or resort in Great Britain, I can only speculate this would be quite similar. A nice pool complex with a bar and a little store, several trailers (caravans) and small houses scattered about, many of which could be rented, and a few large attractive homes that would dwarf some of the McMansions I’m accustomed to in the eastern United States. Spread out over a couple hundred acres, nothing seemed crowded, and even walking the fenced perimeter road seemed completely viable given the few signs of life outside of the resort – other than impalas and other wandering creatures of the landscape. (I was warned to watch out for the snakes, which I did, but I never ended up meeting one.)
While one could certainly rent a cottage or home here for the entire “summer,” this is most definitely a weekend destination. I didn’t arrive until Saturday around noon, by which time there was plenty of conviviality around the pool and the bar. For those who frequent some of the more traditional nudist places in the US, the entry process felt very familiar, the long-timers running the front desk who provided a thorough introduction to the honor system in the camp store while making sure I knew the rules about sitting on a towel. “Got it!”
The weekend crowd was quite mixed though, with one or two families with small children, a good number of 30/40-somethings, and a few more folks in my current demographic of 50 and above. I earnestly enjoyed the music and banter in the bar on Saturday night where the bartender was pouring some purply shots that tasted a little like medicine I had to take as a child. “NO! One is enough! Really! Thank you.”
The store had a nice selection of meats (but essentially nothing green, I might mention) and all the supplies one needs like charcoal and fire-starters, which made for two very pleasant “braai meals” outside my little cottage. Turns out my meal plan was particularly fortuitous as come 3:00 pm on Sunday afternoon, the party vaporized into their cars and disappeared down that long dirt road back into their clothed existence. Walking around that evening, I found a few “residents” who would remain in the silent serenity of the expansive grounds, but of those who remained, many had a tendency to get dressed. I used the opportunity to wander around for a while to snap a few photos, with a stop-off to chat with the owner of one of those nicer homes. He also runs a naturist travel agency based out of South Africa. He rents his place, and it was lovely. I suspect that will turn up in a future blog post, as I would be delighted to stay there.
On Monday morning, I packed up, settled my bill in the market, and headed off to see Piet and Piet (father and son) at Harmony Nature Farm. You can read a little more about our previous visit here in an earlier post, though I suspect I could write a whole book about this incredibly gorgeous stretch of land pressed against the African bluffs, once again scattered with caravans and – shall we say – less luxurious rental homes. We stayed a week in one of these little rustic cottages on our previous visit where the highlight included zebras begging at our door for food each morning, and being awoken early one morning when a baboon jumped from a tree onto the tin roof of our house. Startling, to say the least.
Once again, this is a weekend destination, and it seemed that I was the only guest on the grounds during this Monday lunchtime, though there were a few other residents meandering about, some clothed, some not.
It was good to see Piet and Piet again, the father/son duo who are “somehow making ends meet.” Piet senior had told me the story during my last visit of his European naturist experiences when he was young, and how he was eager to recreate such a place in South Africa. Compared to Sun Eden, the place is looking a bit tired, but when sitting at the Sunset Bar perched on a steep hill overlooking the rest of the continent, or when walking the grounds under a bright blue sky in and out of the shadows of the towering bluffs, it reminded me how amazingly beautiful this part of the world really is, and how amazingly special it is to be able to enjoy that in a clothes-free environment.
It is worth noting that both of the naturist places are located within a short distance of nature reserves where one can make a day-long safari with a remarkably high chance of seeing at least four of the Big Five. Didn’t bother with that this time, but it occurs to me that when we return to South Africa, which we undoubtedly will, I think I would spend a long weekend at Harmony Nature Farm, perhaps venture out during the week (Maybe even to neighboring Zambia to see Victoria Falls) then return for another long weekend at Sun Eden. Neither location is able to provide the amenities of one of the super resorts in France or Croatia, but then again, the list of “nakation in January” spots is pretty limited. I can deal with a dose of rustic and a dash of quirky, knowing my driveway at home is coated in snow and ice, while here I have to wonder if I should bring along a t-shirt in case it gets chilly after the sun goes down.
Ever since discovering naturist Europe – especially France – I’ve been hell-bent on finding something of an equivalent in the Southern Hemisphere. You know, when our cold, northeast winters are offset by their sun-drenched summers. We have now amassed a few options that meet that criteria, including Brazil, Uruguay, and South Africa, but it seems Thailand is quickly pulling into the lead as the single country in Asia that is at the ready to give the discerning naturist a few excellent choices.
I have written quite a bit about my previous visits to naturist venues near Chiang Mai and Phuket, with a particular fondness for the new PeaceBlue Resort near Rawai Beach. But this time I thought I’d head the other direction, flying into Bangkok’s international airport then driving about 90 minutes to the sprawling seaside metropolis, Pattaya. If there is an Asian equivalent to the Jersey Shore, this would most certainly be it, with towering apartment buildings and beaches packed with umbrellas and loungers, all for the privilege of splashing around in the murky waters where snorkeling would seem futile – if not a little disgusting – at best.
My base camp this time would be at the relatively new naturist resort – Phuan Naturist Village – located on the edge of a small village about 25 minutes (by car) outside the center of Pattaya. For those who have visited Oriental Village near Chiang Mai, you would find this somewhat similar given its proximity to a couple small stores and some other basic amenities, but you’re not likely to walk into the village for dinner in the evening – unless you’re really accustomed to hardcore “be like a local” travel.
To that end, Phuan has a restaurant on grounds that’s open pretty much all day every day, including the highly coveted luxury (at least to me) of fresh brewed coffee. (What is it with the rest of the world with their incredibly high tolerance for Nescafé. That is not coffee!) Otherwise, their menu is a bit limited, but enough choices to warrant staying in to eat naked.
In combing through their website, I had a difficult time figuring out the lodging configurations, which are most definitely a two tier affair. I stayed in one of the simple bungalows for the equivalent of about $45 USD per night. A small cabin with low ceilings and a shower that simply consisted of a sprayer head anchored to the wall below a small water heater – You know, the one that washes down the entire bathroom, draining to the lowest point in the corner of the room? But otherwise, the AC was excellent and the bed was comfortable enough. Certainly adequate for one person; perhaps a bit cozy for two.
The alternative looked to be a significant upgrade, beginning at about three times the price. The villas are referring to several modern two bedroom houses scattered about the property. You can rent the entire villa, or you can choose to “share” a villa, which means you and your housemates will each have your own bedroom, but share all the common spaces such as the bathroom, kitchen, and living room. I could certainly imagine doing that when traveling with good friends, but I guess it’s not uncommon for total strangers to rent “a shared villa” – at which point, I guess they would become good friends rather quickly. Seemed they were running near capacity during my stay, with an interesting mix of guests of both Asian and Caucasian heritage, including several northern Europeans, and perhaps two Russian couples traveling together as well. Clearly, their international marketing campaign is working.
Since I was only there for a long weekend, and quite enjoying the excellent Wifi connection to get some work done from the poolside open-air cabana, I debated about actually making the trek into the crowded and reportedly over-stimulating mecca of Pattaya, though it seemed a bit absurd to go to one of the world’s famous beach towns, and not go to the beach. And… I really wanted to duck in and see Chan Naturist Resort, somewhat famous in naturist circles for being the first such establishment in Thailand. I had written ahead to inquire about day use, and indeed, they offer a day-use fee of about $15 that gives you access to a locker, restaurant and pool. Having read mixed reviews of the rather confined feel of the place behind 10-foot walls along a city side street, I was pleased to find the place crowded and convivial, with a clientèle a bit older on the average than that of Phuan Village, but also quite international. (Meaning mainly European again, I think.)
I especially enjoyed the restaurant, with a significantly more extensive menu than Phuan, particularly given the ambiance of the small alcove (seen in the photo above) next to the pool. With all the rage for naked dining opportunities trending at the moment, I would actually say this is a naked dining destination, and best of all, if you go the “too spicy” route, you can jump in the pool once your meal is over. I didn’t bother to check out a room, but the property appeared comfortable, clean, and modern. In short – I would stay there in a heartbeat.
I think Bruce, the co-proprietor of Phuan Naturist Village hit the nail on the head. (The place is actually run by his wife and her sisters, but their previous place of residence was New Mexico, so her American English as extraordinary.) Bruce noted that if you’re looking for a place with solitude and the opportunity to read and snooze by the pool all day, it’s hard to beat the peaceful and serene atmosphere of Phuan Naturist Village. Agreed! But if nightlife is a priority to you, and a big part of your travel experience is seeking out the best local eatery with the highest rating on Yelp, then Chan Resort if your place. Should I have an opportunity to return, I would fancy a few days at each resort, as each has a unique ambiance, and if you’re hell-bent on spending your days on the beach – with a swimsuit, I should add – you’ll get there a lot faster from Chan Resort than from Phuan Village. (Though neither is in walking distance.)
As a post-script, it’s worth noting that the Thailand Naturist Association organizes a boat excursion to a secluded island with a make-do naturist beach on the last Sunday of each Month. Unfortunately, my stay didn’t coincide with this event, but it seems it would be worth planning one’s itinerary around that. Few things in life sound better than getting naked on an island in Thailand when it’s icy and below freezing at home.
Another post from my millennial friend Addie who was recently on a family cruise that had a stopover on Roatan. “Roatan?!” says I! “You need to check out Paya Bay at the south end of the island. I’m pretty sure they have a program where they’ll come get you at the boat and take you to their yoga-retreat-turned-naturist-resort for a day visit of naked nirvana.” While she couldn’t convince familial members to come along, she did take the plunge solo, as Michelle from the resort met her at the port to give her a quick guided tour of the island that culminated in a few hours of naked bliss. Her words about her day there are more eloquent than mine ever could be. [Photos are from our most recent trip to Paya Bay in 2017. We’re not millennials, but the pics give you a sense of the place.]
As I stood butt naked in Honduras in the middle of a rainstorm, I tried to remember a time that I felt so very elated and alive. Water droplets rushed down my arms while hummingbirds, iguanas, and lizards all scurried to find shelter on the quaint seaside cliff. Climbing through a tangle of vines, the greens seemed effervescent. The rain’s warmth, egged on by Mother Nature’s humidity, surprised me, as I expected a chill that never came. In the midst of the sensory overload, I worked to figure out WHY I felt so very euphoric. I eventually navigated to one simple truth: novelty. I have never, in 26 years, stood naked in the rain.
Just saying…you should probably try it.
Now, mind you, the conditions need to be right; I’m not proposing that you saunter outside in a January downpour in the middle of Central Pennsylvania. However, naked in the rain should probably get to the top of your bucket list pronto. Why is this not featured on every “30 things to do before 30” bucket list you might ask? I’m not really sure, BUT I can tell you why it was so incredibly magical for me. Maybe someone will add it to some bucket list somewhere. Hey Buzzfeed, listen up!
As I stood in the middle of the jungle, grinning and giddy, I recalled the day before, when I cowered under my dinky black umbrella next to a beach bar in my romper, willing the rain to stop. It’s not that I’m grossed out by rain, or that I haven’t embraced the rain before; I just didn’t feel like sitting around in my sopping wet clothes for the remainder of the day. I’ve gone for runs in the rain, and I can recall a couple of romantic strolls with my boyfriend when we decided to embrace Mother Nature’s downpour. Those moments felt special too, mainly because of the feeling that by walking outside in the middle of a thunderstorm, we actually were giving a giant “fuck you” to all societal norms. There was something special about feeling so very far away from the other humans in the world who all cowered in their houses, hiding from the droplets that tumbed from the sky. But you can’t just walk outside in a thunderstorm in your clothes every time you want to defy social norms. To get your clothes wet, the circumstances must be perfect. There are many questions to consider: What bra are you wearing? Are you trying to go somewhere with air conditioning afterwards? Do you have a change of clothes ready and waiting?
Naked in the rain brought the rush of adrenaline without the considerations that clothed rain-goers must consider. This was completely different. In this moment, I embraced the rain without the impending doom of having to peel off of a sopping wet t-shirt and leggings at the end. THIS was the excitement, the elation, the unbridled joy that you feel as an adult when you experience something new and something sensory. This was simple. This was natural. This was FUN! After the rain subsided, I continued my seaside hike through the Honduran jungle, ending on the beach. By the time I arrived, the skies had parted, it was clear and sunny, and the sea breeze had naturally done its job in drying me off. My towel remained perfectly dry as I sunk on top in a grateful snooze under a Palapa.
I almost hate to reveal the wonder that is this Honduran paradise, but you too should probably check out Paya Bay on the island of Roatan, which Dan has already mentioned in quite a number of posts, one of which you can view here. The food was phenomenal, the staff incredibly accommodating, helpful, and kind, and the amenities beautiful. The sea not only sparkles in the sunlight, but can only be described as a puzzle of aqua, turquoise, and sea foam green, all piecing together until it’s swallowed up by the horizon. The vegetation is natural, with palm trees and vines and plants that you probably can’t name shooting up from every direction. It’s a beautiful, quiet, and peaceful place in which you can say adieu to your tan lines. . . in short, it’s a little slice of heaven. Just remember-when you go, and warm rain cascades down from the sky, toss off your clothes and take in the sensory overload that will constitute your first rainstorm in the nude; you won’t regret it!
I know… First World Problems and all that! But while one might think that naturist photography has become a lot easier in the digital age, in many ways, it’s quite to opposite.
I feel like I can speak with some sense of experience on this topic, if not outright exasperation. The first time I remember bringing a camera to a naturist place was in 1994. We were visiting a modest nudist place in the San Francisco Bay Area and brought along our 35mm camera hoping we might grab a few pics for the archives. (We’d be moving to the east coast soon, and who knew if we’d ever find a place to get naked there!)
It would be difficult for somebody under the age of 30 to remember what it was like to carefully calculate your film consumption, as the most you could hope for was a 36-exposure roll of film. If you were going to set up a shot, you’d better get it right. In fact, they had you coming and going: Not only would you lose the frame on the film roll, but then you’d have to pay to have that random and blurry photo of your foot developed! Seems to me that if we got ten good shots out of a 36 exposure roll of film, we were feeling pretty good. Some of our earliest naturist photos are either blurry beyond recognition, of inadvertently cropped out appendages such as arms and heads. Not suitable for any photo album, I dare say.
And if the shot had nudity in it… What then? I remember taking a few early rolls to the drug store hoping that would “be OK.” The general word on the street back then was as long as there was no sexual content, you were probably going to be fine. Then there was a big scandal where a mom took a roll of “bathtub pictures” in to be developed, only to find herself facing criminal charges, despite the fact that the pictures were of an innocent nature. As I recall, that led to a wide sweeping ban, led by the likes of Walmart, to immediately sequester any photos featuring nudity – especially child nudity – while the authorities were to be summoned.
Soon there were digital cameras. While I think we purchased our first one around 1999, I remember taking a spiffy new Canon 35mm model with us on one of our first explorations of naked France. It looked, felt and acted much like a traditional 35mm camera. Suddenly, it was “take all the pics you want!” You’re only limited by the size of your flash card and disc space on your computer. And you didn’t have to worry about that moment at the One-Hour photo place when the middle-aged woman watching your naked ass slide out of the developing machine at the CVS store freaked out. Nor did we have to find one of those discreet photo developers listed in the back of a naturist magazine, pay twice as much, and wait for three weeks for a blurry picture of a naked foot. Nakation photography was here to stay!
Who could have predicted the explosion of the internet back then, let alone the advent of the smartphone? As I write this from a smallish resort in Thailand, it took me five tries to position my phone with the timer to create a discreet photo by the pool, early in the morning, before everyone is up and about – ever so diligent about not catching one of the “no photography” signs in the background.
I get it! Once an image is captured in 2019, who knows where it will end up? And I’ve already ranted in other posts about oh so many websites that claim to feature genuine and fully authorized naturist photos, but how does one even begin to go about verifying that? So most small resorts invoke the only logical policy – NO NAKED PHOTOGRAPHY, OF ANYONE, EVER!
That said, generally speaking, I have found most places in Europe and Asia a bit more easy going on this policy than those in the US. (Thinking of what almost came down to a body cavity search at a nude music festival in West Virginia a few years back!) Though yesterday, during my visit to Chan Resort in Pattaya, there were at least two guests reading books on their smart phones, (Would have loved to have gotten a pic of the guy doing that right below the no photography sign!) as was I, as this is my primary reading device when traveling. My wife was doing the same thing in a German spa a few years ago and was told to put her cell phone away – and fair enough! Who’s to say she’s not taking advantage of the occasional photo op every now and again, which by the way, she was not.
Of course, if you’re at a large naturist center like some of those in France and Croatia, where people simply have more private space away from the pool complex, naturist photography is quite a lot easier. Or, if you can find a place where naturist walking is possible – the shores of Mallorca, isolated paths on a Greek island, resorts with significant acreage, or just about any beach in France – a few more opportunities open up even yet.
Interestingly, I got in a bit of a tussle recently with a long-timer on reddit about the proliferation of naturist images on the internet, which of those might be considered to be in the public domain (He would say none!), and which of those were simply a gateway drug to pornography. All valid points, I think, but ironically enough, I think this all cycles back to one of the greatest difficulties of being a naturist in the 21st century. The issue shouldn’t be the proliferation of photos depicting simple non-sexual nudity; the issue should be that there’s really nothing wrong with simple non-sexual nudity. In an era where paranoia is dictating just about everything, from rules in the public schools to foreign policy on immigration, most of us naturists are scared to death that the wrong photo will somehow turn up in the wrong place. In thirty years of naturist activity, this has yet to happen to me, and on this end of the spectrum, it is not only seeming less likely, but I’d like to think I’m less likely to care.
In the meantime, we not only enjoy documenting our naturist travels, but have also taken a great deal of pleasure from a slideshow that runs fairly constantly on my desktop computer. It’s simply a travelogue. We travel naked about half the time, so about half the photos feature nudity. We enjoy reliving each moment of each particular place, as each of those places have a story. But it’s also interesting – if not a bit disquieting at times – to watch out bodies age within the typically human struggle of accepting that is simply what humans do! While body acceptance at 35 was easier than at 55, I’m hoping I’ll have the constitution to appreciate the inherent beauty of my 75-year-old naked self when that time comes.
PeaceBlue Naturist Resort recently opened their doors of their specially designed naturist hotel just a short distance from Naiharn and Rawai beaches on the southern tip of Phuket. A remarkable accomplishment by an enterprising young couple, Patty and Golf, who have found a niche market in catering to discerning naturists.
This is the most recent of several naturist friendly developments in Thailand, (See my recent blog post about that here) though this is the first time I’m aware of a brand new property built specifically with naturists in mind – most certainly the first in Asia! Open for only a few weeks by the time of my visit, construction crews were still wrapping up the finishing touches, while new loungers arrived for a secluded sundeck on the roof of the snack bar. Located on a crowded side-street near Rawai beach, they found a way to position the hotel rooms, restaurant, and pool complex in a layout that allows for total nudity anywhere on the property except the front lobby. Clever and comfortable.
I had made several visits to PeaceBlue’s predecessor, LemonTree Naturist Resort, which had a lovely vibe as well, but felt a bit crowded, especially when the villa section was rented to a private party and was not available to the general clientele. PeaceBlue, on the other hand, enjoys a location a bit closer to the middle of town which means there are a plethora of bar and restaurant options within a ten minute walk. You can also reach Rawai or Naiharn Beach on foot in less than 30 minutes each, though if you attempt that much later than 10 in the morning, it’ll be an intense trek in the heat of the day. Taxis are cheap, and the hotel staff coordinates several beach runs each day, so options are plentiful.
It remains a mystery as to why nudity is such a taboo throughout most of Asia (with the notable exception of single gender nudity at innumerable hot springs of Japan). As a default, I hold the missionary based empirical conquests of the West largely responsible for this. While Christianity seems insignificant compared to the influence of the Buddhist influence in Thailand, I think we (Westerners) can take the credit for laying out the infrastructure of roads and railways, and delivering other 21st century amenities like outlet malls and European ideals related to fashion and body-image. I’ve always thought it interesting that the French taught everyone exactly how one should dress, then turned the corner and led the world in a renewed mission of getting naked at some nearly 300 naturist resorts in France! What’s it gonna be French people? Haut couture or Heureux nu?
But I digress. Patty and Golf not only want you to feel totally at home while on their property, but they are eager to create opportunities for nude recreation off the property as well. To that end, they have continued to refine their naturist boat trip into an all day exploration of several of the nearby islands, along with a few carefully timed stops for naked snorkeling – all of which conveniently serves as a stopover for the boat captain to check his fishing nets along the way. (I swear, I saw that dude catch a fish with his bare hands and bring it back on board. Whoa!) The first year it was a long boat (the sea vessel counterpart of a tuk-tuk) that sputtered out to the closest island with a private beach. This time, there was a snorkeling stop, a beer and nap break on on a secluded beach, another snorkeling stop, a brief stop the the crowded and commercial (textile) Banana Beach to use restroom facilities and buy an ice-cream, yet another snorkeling stop, then lunch (Provided by Golf along with all the Chang Beer you can drink!) on a different secluded beach, then back to the mainland. We were naked all day except for the brief visit to Banana Beach. I would take that trip every day of the week were it offered. It will be interesting to see how that develops as they forecast being booked to capacity in the coming months.
Is there’s anything I miss about the previous establishment at LemonTree? Well – a little bit…. yes. I was always charmed by the open air kitchen on the veranda next to the pool where you could see your lunch being prepared in real time. And while only a 20 minute walk from the new property, the French/Thai restaurant Le Celtique was perfectly situated (with the most excellent atmosphere) just a few doors down the street. But the trade off is so many great eateries in close proximity to the new place that you can always find a new foodie adventure (the French Bistro called Zen Eat is a good place to start), yet you’re just far enough from the heavy traffic areas that you never hear the noise of the city; just an occasional prayer from the loudspeakers of one of the local temples – a bit eerie at first until you grow acclimated and it becomes a part of your daily ritual.
The pool is beautiful. Exactly the right size for sitting and socializing at one end or swimming laps at the other. While I stayed in a two story suite with the bedroom upstairs and the bathroom downstairs, it occurs to me that the more basic rooms would eliminate the need to navigate a stairway in the middle of the night should you need to use the facilities, which seems a certainty after an afternoon of Chang Beer – especially at my age!
I should throw out a caveat for future guests who are looking for a nakation on Phuket. Patty said it was unclear exactly what would happen with their previous enterpriese called LemonTree Resort. For whatever reason in Southeast Asia, the name stays with the property, regardless of the management, and apparently there is a rumor that new management will try to re-open as a naturist establishment as well. That seems crazy confusing to me, as LemonTree Resort was not simply a place to get naked in Thailand, but was the dedicated effort on the part of Patty and Golf to create a naturist destination aligned with top shelf hospitality industry standards. When it comes to naturist hotels, WORLD-WIDE, I can count the options for excellent naturist hotels on less than two hands. It seems apparent to me that PeaceBlue is going to raise the bar not only for Asia, but for the entire planet.
“I’d like to go on nakation with all of the amenities of my lycra/nylon wearing friends. Do you know such a place where that might happen?”
“Why YES! I do! PeaceBlue Naturist Resort in Thailand. It’s about as good as it gets!”
Better book now while you can still get a reservation.