At the writing, we are in the midst of the COVID-19 Social Distancing Crisis. Somehow, it’s seemed a bit glib to continue the typical trajectory of my blog, which is usually focused on nakation destinations around the globe – here at a time when going to the grocery store is considered an adventure. To that end, I thought it might be a good time to add to my Nakation Chronicle installments, intended to sequentially document our naturist journey over a period of thirty years of meandering about six continents. At very least, this feels cathartic to me, a devoted naturist consumed with wanderlust, as I sit here wondering when the world will, again, be open for naked meandering.
2010 was a particularly busy year between family events, business travel, and keeping tabs on our son who had an internship in China. So much time going places where we had to wear clothes.
That said, from the perspective of documenting our naturist journey, we have interesting tales to tell from that year, beginning with our one and only visit to Eden Bay Resort in the Dominican Republic. We were among the last (and only) visitors to this beautiful resort before it became Caliente Caribe – a subsidiary of Caliente Resort in Florida, another beautiful resort that threw their naturist mission under the bus to cater to the “adult playground scene.” My impression was that Caribe followed suit, only opening for selected periods to facilitate “parties of like-minded folks.” Last I knew, even that had ceased, as the place had fallen into disrepair. Bummer! It was a gorgeous venue.
We also traveled to France that summer with our young adult daughters, revisiting their childhood naturist fav, Domaine Naturiste La Jenny, located west of Bordeaux on the Cote d’Argent. From there, we made our way to Provence and took the ferry to Ile du Levant, staying in a modest hotel that shared that special Caliente vibe! (Guffaw!) Shame on us for not scouring the TripAdvisor reviews before we booked. Suffice it to say, that trip ended abruptly and early.
So there you are. Nakation Chronicles VIII. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page if you want to trace our story back to its humble, naked beginnings.
Eden Bay, DR
Eden Bay, DR
Eden Bay, DR
Eden Bay, DR
La Jenny, France
La Jenny, France
La Jenny, France
Ile du Levant, France
Ile du Levant, France
Ile du Levant, France
Eden Bay, DR
Eden Bay, DR
Eden Bay, DR
Ile du Levant, France
La Jenny, France
Ile du Levant, France
Ile du Levant, France
La Jenny, France
You may want to check out the previous Nakation Chronicles installments:
Some things in life are intended to evoke pleasure and relaxation. Vacation for example! Or maybe a day trip to the spa. Or as naturists love to preach, “What’s more amazing than shedding your clothes and all the stress that goes with them by taking a nakation?”
Right with you there, naked friends, but I gotta say… even for a seasoned naturist, baring it all for the first time in a new environment can be anything but relaxing. What if I walk into the wrong changing room? Am I allowed to be naked here… or there? And what do all those red signs in a foreign language say?… Take off your flip flops? Put on your flip flops? Flip flops will get you expelled from the premises?
Amidst random, but persuasive, bouts of total relaxation, this would pretty much summarize my first (but certainly not my last) visit to Thermen Bussloo on the outskirts of Amsterdam. I first learned about the place from our naturist friend Addie (See: Dating for Naturists or Naked in a Rainstorm) who put this on my “you gotta see this place” bucket list after her stay in Amsterdam last summer. Knowing that Addie has a deep affinity for the Therme Erding chain in Germany, I assumed that if she said this place was spectacular, it must be spectacular. And naked! It was both!
I should note, at least for the sake of those unfamiliar with the European spa culture, that there is quite a wide variance in the opinion as what defines a proper and refined spa experience. Some reviewers are appalled by the “mega-spa” places like Therme Erding (You can read my opinions about Erding and a few other places here.) and much prefer the historic edifices where architecture and calmness override amenities and entertainment. To that end, it seems Thermen Bussloo lies somewhere on the middle of the spectrum, as there is no swim-up bar or evening entertainment (that I know of), but the amenities are plentiful and interesting. And is it just me, or are spa-goers in Holland simply more comfortable with naked? But more about that later.
A QUICK GUIDE TO ENCOURAGE A NEWBIE TO GET NAKED AT THERMEN BUSSLOO
First of all, I speak a little German, a bit more French, a few words of Spanish, but absolutely NO Dutch whatsoever! I can’t figure out the vowels or the consonants, whether reading it in a menu or listening to people speak it. Which is generally OK as most everyone from the Netherlands speaks nearly perfect English, including most of the employees at Bussloo Therme. So riddle me this? They only have maps, facility guides, and dining menus printed in Dutch. (There is a German version of the map, which saved the day for me!) All signage is in Dutch. All schedules are in Dutch. Thankfully, the Dutch words for “burger” and “club sandwich” happen to be burger and club sandwich. And of course, I’ve grown accustomed to using that cool app on my iPhone where you hover over text you can’t understand and it translates it into English right there on your phone. That would work here, if you were allowed to use your phone anyplace outside of reception. That makes sense. Lots of naked people around. Put your phones away! From what I could tell, there was 100% compliance with the no device rule, quite unlike some other places we’ve visited, so I would say “don’t even think about it.”
All that said, my friend Addie remarked, “I liked Bussloo since there didn’t seem to be so many implicit rules, especially about where or where you could or could not be naked.” Totally agree on that point, which we have observed at other Dutch spas like Elysium near Rotterdam and Sauna von Egmond in Haarlem. As opposed to Vabali in Düsseldorf or Berlin where there is a (somewhat) clear (but implicit) expectation that once you step out of the water, you’re going to immediately wrap yourself in a towel or bathrobe, this seems not to be the case in Holland. Even in the dead of winter when the weather was near freezing outside, the locals at Bussloo seemed quite happy to wander about the grounds completely naked. Addie tells me that in the summer, the sweet spot is one of the numerous wooden lounge-chairs out in the gardens, where the wait staff will serve food and beverages right to your seat, and as many as not are completely naked. (Clients, not servers, that is.) That makes sense to me.
I might mention that it’s something of a complicated task to blog about Europe’s naked spa culture, as for obvious reasons, I can’t provide my own images from the experience, (And we all know – Images make the blog post!) but everything you can find on line is delightfully crafted to avoid censorship. On that point, I saw exactly ZERO humans wrapping themselves in towels while sweating in the saunas, and as mentioned above, not much concern about covering up while moving about the facility, except in the lounge and the restaurant where there was a clear expectation that you will wear a robe.
A few more tips for your first visit to Bussloo? Here you go…
They issued me a bracelet at check-in, along with a towel and bathrobe (upon my request) but didn’t even bother to swipe a credit card or take a deposit. “You pay on your way out!” Like most of these establishments, I was able to use the wristband to unlock my locker and pay for anything I needed during my stay. I wondered what would prevent me from just getting dressed and walking out the door at the end of my stay, until they handed me a very specific coin at check-out that would open the gate to the parking lot so I could get out with my car. Clever! Not sure what they do to keep public transportation people honest, but it must not be a problem.
On that topic, I was only in Amsterdam for a day on a long airport layover. When I worked out the navigation on buses and trains, it was going to be more than two hours from the airport to Bussloo in each direction, so I gave up on that and rented a car. Well worth it as I had little margin to deal with a missed connection. If you’re actually staying a few days in Amsterdam, you can purchase a system-wide transportation ticket for about twenty euros that will get you there and back on trains and buses.
Once you check in, the changing area is coed (with gender specific toilets). I arrived early, and it was essentially me and a few (partially naked) women. That made me a bit wary as I wasn’t sure if I was in the proper changing room, but it turned out I was in the right place. Later in the day, the changing room was quite crowded with an expected gender mix, all completely oblivious to the various stages of nudity around them.
Again… all signage is in Dutch, including those warning signs I mentioned that I think were trying to tell me not to slip on the ice or the slippery floor. It’s one of the few places I’ve ever been, including Japan, where at least the most critical signage was not multi-lingual. Not complaining – just thought you should know.
Unlike most German spas, you are NOT allowed to bring in your day-pack or any other small bag with your day’s provisions. In fact, they give you a smallish semi-transparent plastic bag at check-in for the things you want to keep with you. This always make me nervous when I have a rented towel, a rented bathrobe, and a plastic bag that looks exactly like everybody else’s stuff. You simply have to pay close attention as to where you leave your stuff as you wander about the facility or you’ll never find it again. (I once had to purchase a robe that I misplaced/was taken by mistake at a German spa. Not a good end to the evening.) Bring an empty water bottle with you, as there are plenty of places to fill it during the day, but that’s not so helpful if you didn’t actually bring one.
On the less pragmatic side, you want to make sure you have allotted enough time to really enjoy the place. The crown attractions seem to be the Hammam pool, the Geyser Sauna, and the salt-water cenote, where you float on your back with ears submerged while Zen music resonates through the water. Absolutely magical! I was also fond of the rest area in the Kelohouse with warmed tiled loungers. Perfect for an early afternoon nap. (Tested and approved!)
It’s worth noting that there is a hotel connected to the spa. It looks lovely, but I was only there for a day visit. It’s a solid hour by car from central Amsterdam, so it’s not a place to stay if you’re up for sight-seeing, but it looked like they have a clear flight-path set up that would allow you to enjoy the spa without ever putting on real clothing for the duration of your stay. I’m eager to test that theory out.
Final verdict? Addie was right! If you’re looking for a naked escape that is essentially weather-proof from the variable climate of northern Europe, Thermen Bussloo should be on your short list. In fact, I’ve added it to my port of entry destination list – as I think the best way to start any European vacation is with a day of snoozing, soaking, and sweating at the spa. Berlin and Munich have always been good options given their proximity to Vabali and Therme Erding, respectively. I’m most certainly adding Amsterdam and Bussloo to the list.
Images for this post were found by Google search and are believed to be in the public domain. If you find an image that requires attribution, or should be removed, please advise accordingly and I will do so at once.
Ever since discovering the intoxicating summer climate of the South of France, which precipitated the insatiable desire to enjoy so many naturist opportunities there, I’ve had an obsession with finding alternate locations in the southern hemisphere where summer occupies the months when Europe and North America are frosty at best, if not outright freezing. How is it that with so much landmass crowded around the equator, where it’s perpetually 85 degrees Fahrenheit 365 days a year, that most of those continents are occupied by countries and cultures subject to some flavor of religious and philosophical doctrine that essentially makes public nudity all but impossible, if not a severely punishable offense? What’s a devout naturist to do? Even if you live in a region where saunas are common, you can’t stay in there sweating it out for six months!
To that end, I’m happy to report that after years of diligent and exhaustive research, we may well have identified a place where a laid back nakation in January is actually a viable thing, though it does require a bit of work to get there.
Sun Eden Naturist Resort near Pretoria is one of three places we’ve visited in South Africa where naked is the norm. I actually made a brief reconnaissance visit to this place in the midst of other travel about a year ago, (You can read about that here.) simply to see if this would be a suitable place for a more substantial naturist stay. (Translate: Will my wife be keen on this place?) For a sense of context, the first impression is not completely unlike visiting some of the “legacy nudist camps” in the US – those like Rock Lodge Club in New Jersey, Lupin in California, or even Lake Como in Florida. In fact, if you show up on a Wednesday afternoon (as we did) you will quickly discover this is largely a weekend retreat for locals from Pretoria and Johannesburg who have discovered the additive and addictive qualities of the naturist life, making a hasty retreat from city life each Friday evening for weekends with their naturist companions.
However, a couple things set this place apart from some of its US counterparts, beginning with the pool of rental accommodations that have been made available to local and international travelers like ourselves. Last year, I rented a tiny “chalet” – a very basic little house similar to the modest accommodations one might find at most American naturist places. That was fine for a brief stay, but fell a bit short in the amenities division. While walking the property a year ago, I had the good fortune of meeting Lofty and Amanda, two long-time owners who rent out their “Summer Place” for quite a reasonable price. Turns out that Lofty has held many important roles in South African naturist circles, runs a local naturist tourism business called Joxilox Tours, and to our good fortune, their rental has been folded in as one branch of that operation.
This year, we booked the Summer Place for several nights, coinciding with what appears to be a regularly recurring event – the Friday Evening Naturist Game Drive. Knowing that there is actually a substantial game reserve just a few kilometers away from Sun Eden, we weren’t quite sure what this game drive might entail, so we pulled on our shorts and shirts and found our way to the beloved, well-worn safari jeep where we would meet our driver and tour guide, Bert.
A truly affable guy with many interesting stories to tell, his first directive was to explain the dress code for our imminent explorations – NAKED! Our route would remain within the confines of Sun Eden, which turns out to be a significant expanse of land that stretches out over the South African Bushveld, perhaps over 200 acres or so. As it turns out, Bert used this opportunity to give that typically awkward “nudist camp orientation” that is so painfully uncomfortable at most American naturist places. In this case, we learned a bit about Kathy and Wally – the founders of Sun Eden – the twenty-five year evolution of the place, a bit about the ecology of building a self-sustaining naturist resort in the remote African bush, and of greatest intrigue, an introduction to the wildlife that resides there, including a significant herd of impalas and similar cousins from the antelope family, referred to by the locals under the umbrella term of bokkies, that were a constant source of entertainment during out stay.
There had been significant social events planned for the weekend before and the weekend after our visit, so even at the height of our time there, the crowd was small, and decidedly middle-agey, though during both my stays there have been families with young children on the grounds. Bert tells me that recent years have seen significant trends with more international visitors, especially from northern Europe, along with the ever-increasing presence of young urban professionals who seek to escape city life to explore this “new idea” of clothes free recreation. That seems hopeful.
Revisiting the lead-in to this post, I would reiterate that my passion for finding that perfect nakation destination when the days in North America are chilly and short, it seems that Sun Eden is a major contender for the adventurous naturist. Especially now that Club Orient in St. Maarten is out of the game, a visit to Hidden Beach in Mexico has a price-point similar to buying a car, and options in South America are scarce, lacking amenities, and frequently requiring a tolerance for unpredictable weather.
Days at Sun Eden were typically warm and dry, with relatively low humidity and pleasantly cool evenings. We did encounter a brief rainy spell during our stay with torrential downpours, but a few hours later the skies cleared and the vast African horizon fell back into place, infinite and alluring.
Perhaps it was the pleasantries of meeting and socializing with a few of the regulars this time, or simply finding our sea-legs a bit more confidently with South African travel during this, our third visit to the region. I’ve finally grown accustomed to driving on the left side of the road, (even with a stick shift!) and with a bit of advice from the locals, it seemed easy and safe to make our way from the Johannesburg airport out to this naturist respite in the bushveld. What’s more, we had the opportunity to survey a few more of the options for lodging on the grounds, ranging from simple studio apartments to expansive homes where the bokkies are likely to provide live entertainment as you sit next to the braii (BBQ) with a glass of South African wine on your naturist terrace embracing the sunset. From a more pragmatic perspective, there’s no question – it takes some doing to get there, but the dollar and euro are both quite strong against the South African Rand these days, so once you’re on the ground, you will enjoy good value for your money, whether renting a place to stay or venturing into Pretoria for a nice meal. Perhaps half of what you might expect to pay in Europe or the US.
Will this become our South of France surrogate as we scramble to avoid northeast winters yet unforeseen? We’ll see. There are other contenders that we are quite smitten with including a charming little inn in Uruguay and some of the spiffy new places in Thailand, (Check out my previous musings about Oriental Beach and Peace Blue). But I’m pretty sure we’ll be back to Sun Eden. After all, somebody’s gotta be there during the week to look after the bokkies.
Authors Note: This may be my longest travel report I’ve written to date. You may just want to read the first half, which is typical of my rants and raves about naturist travel. The second half gets a bit more pragmatic, in the spirit of “the best vacations are the ones where you don’t use up all your energy worrying about logistics.” Hopefully, this guide to reaching this lovely resort will bring future travelers a bit of piece of mind along the journey.
Ten years ago, who could have imagined it? A naturist resort in Thailand located right on the beach. Actually, a guy named Paulo imagined it, as he had already established himself as a pioneer of Asian naturism when he opened the original Oriental Village resort amidst the rice fields outside of Chiang Mai. We sat chatting with him several years ago when he told us he was looking for the “perfect seaside location” for the ultimate experience in Thai naturism.
The good news is that he found it! Located on the sleepy island of Ko Koa Khoa, you would be hard pressed to find a location more remote than this one, which as one might imagine, is both a positive attribute, and something of a challenge, not the least of which is getting there! A mere 90 kilometers north of the Phuket International Airport, it would be a quick and easy drive where it not for one minor deterrent… It’s on an island… without bridge access… and quirky ferry service that seems a bit disorganized and confusing, even to the locals.
I’ll wrap back around to all that in a bit after offering up a few more accolades for this remarkable new naturist resort, as in the last place, I’m very eager for them to enjoy outrageous success, as there are few comparable options for nakedness in December, and the rapid expansion of naturist options in Thailand has been has been long awaited by those who mourn the short summers of Europe.
The first thing that strikes you is the shear size of the place, most immediately as you walk in the door of your villa – expansive spaces with large glass doors, marble floors, a luxurious living/dining area, and a bedroom larger than most New York City apartments. I had hoped I might learn a bit about the history of the place, as it was clearly built as a village of luxury villas, which seems to be the main commodity on this sleepy little island. As things turned out, lingering conversations in English were not readily on tap during my stay; at least not with the staff – but more about that later.
The villas are lined up along a wide cement road, something like you might expect in a Midwest or Long Island suburban neighborhood, leading to the heart of the resort centered around a gorgeous pool, an open air restaurant, and several other facilities including a smallish spa, a workout room and a communal library. From there, you can walk directly out to the beach where there are several loungers and palapas, and even a couple massage tables should you choose to take your spa treatment out on the beach within earshot of the sea. I chose to take breakfast each morning in one of the small poolside cabanas, taking note of the fact that they actually had a real coffee machine as opposed to the Nescafé option that seems to be the preferred and only option throughout most of Asia. The minimal orientation provided upon arrival made it clear that nudity is permitted on the beach directly in front of the resort… only! Though as it turns out, long naked walks on the beach are most definitely possible with a bit of thoughtfulness and discretion.
Having visited naturist places in Pattaya and near Rawai on Phuket, I was eager to see just how remote Oriental Beach Village really is. Verdict: It’s really remote! Walking the beach to sleuth out the best waterfront bar, or running around to corner to the Family Mart or 7-Eleven is most certainly not part of the experience here. I did make the 25-minute trek to a local mini-mart I found on Google maps, only to find a friendly woman who runs the place whose vocabulary was pretty much limited to “We no have.” What they did have was a few staples for Asian cooking, a modest selection of soda, bottled water, and Chang beer.
My next door neighbors were staying for the better part of a month. Despite the fact that Oriental Beach prepares a mean Pad Thai, several other Thai dishes, and a decent selection of western menu items, my new friends were already growing weary of the limited menu, which led to culinary exploration of other resorts accessible by foot down the beach. They seemed pleased with what they found there, which puts that activity on my list for a subsequent and longer stay. One could conceivably “cook in,” given the kitchens in each villa, though the lack of dishes, utensils, or even a single wine glass makes that pretty much a non-starter, and you’re not likely to find the provisions you would need at that little mini-mart. Which brings us to the most challenging part of opening a full-service naturist resort in Southeast Asia – In all likelihood, most of the clientele will be westerners from the northern hemisphere looking for a winter nakation, the majority of whom will likely expect to communicate in English. But… finding employees to run a place of this size and complexity who speak more than a few words of English is most apparently a huge challenge. (But I can’t really confirm that, because… you guessed it… the language barrier precluded that conversation.)
Even communication during the online booking process was surprisingly confusing and vague, beginning with the first hurdle of trying to make a deposit through their webpage. Keep in mind that I’m a blogger and maintain several websites and blog pages while dealing with international currency exchange on a regular basis, but somehow I couldn’t seem to navigate the “make a payment” option on their official website. I would eventually submit a deposit through PayPal, which elicited a somewhat cryptic confirmation message that left me wondering if I had booked the right days, or year, or place. All a little concerning when it comes to coordinating international flights into and out of Phuket – exactly 24 hours in an airplane from my home!
A Guide to Getting to Oriental Beach
As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about, though from the moment I walked out of the airport, I was never quite sure what was going on. And thus, for the benefit of future travelers, I offer this bulleted account of my transfer and arrival so you might have some idea of what to expect, which for a travel control freak like me would have facilitated a significantly more relaxing arrival:
Having written to Peter, the mysterious booking contact during the reservation process, I had asked for confirmation that a driver would be waiting for me at the airport. He responded with concision. “Confirmed.” OK, then!
There are many exit doors from the International Arrivals terminal in Phuket, and once you go out, you can’t go back in. (Guards are posted near metal detectors to keep non-ticketed humans out of the arrivals concourse.) On previous visits arranged by other resorts, I had always been instructed to exit through a specific door to meet my driver. Lacking such exactitude in this booking, I simply continued out through the first door beyond customs – Door 3, I believe – where a huge throng of people crowded around the barricades with all forms of signage indicating specific resorts and people’s names. To my relief, about halfway down the runway was a sign with my name and the words Oriental Village on it. Woo-hoo, we’re in business!
The young woman behind the sign was apparently working several arrivals for a local car service. With limited English, she indicated that since my flight was early (which it was) my driver wouldn’t be here for another fifteen minutes and to go “sit over there” in an outdoor seating area. It was closer to 25 minutes, but they did come fetch me in time, grabbing my small rollie suitcase and walking away as a non-verbal sign for “We’re leaving now.” That would become a valuable, if not singular, mode of communication over the next few hours.
They say that professional drivers who tailgate and drive aggressively are among the most skilled, and arguably, the safest given the intensity with which they drive. I’m still alive to say that this proved accurate, though I found it more comforting to look out the side window as we whizzed up behind buses and semi trucks with just centimeters to spare as we zipped to the right or the left. All the more reason to stare at my iPhone with the route on Google maps, while my brain remained fixated on that ferry crossing. Was he racing to make a particular ferry departure? How much farther was the resort once we had made it to the island? How does the driver figure the crossing time into his fare? Will I be asked to pony up money for the boat? I mentioned I’m a travel control freak, yes?
As the kilometers ticked down on my map app, we came to a little village near the memorial to the 2004 Tsunami, made our way down a labyrinth of side streets, and rolled to a stop on a concrete pier where a car ferry sat, loading ramp down, half loaded for departure. “This is it for me,” said the driver, “Someone meets you on the other side.” With that, he got out, removed my bag from the trunk, and left it sitting on the steps where several locals seemed to just be hanging out. “Back in five minutes,” he said to me as I stood with my bag on the pier, just before he jumped in his taxi and disappeared into the village – forever.
Lacking a better plan, I sat on the concrete step, watching for some sense that the car ferry was about to leave. Should I grab my bag and walk on board? Do I need to buy a ticket? Could I identify anything that even looked like a ticket office? Then magically, after five or ten minutes, a guy in a blue shirt walked up, grabbed my bag and started walking toward a weathered longboat. There’s that cue! I followed, boarding the 10 passenger (and three motorbike) vessel while the car ferry sat listlessly nearby. That answers that question.
Once on the longboat, it was a ten-minute crossing to the other side, where the guy in the blue shirt grabbed my bag again, this time leaving it on another pier in the blazing sun. Before I could express my concern about the future of my chocolate stash, another guy in an orange shirt bearing the words Oriental Beach Resort grabbed my bag and tossed it in the back of a nearby pick-up truck; a luxurious variety of such with a canopy and bench seats in the back. The truck bore the same logo as the dude’s shirt. We must be getting close.
The fifteen minute ride in the open air truck bed was actually refreshing as we drove through farmland and jungle until ultimately working our way down a series of ever-narrowing roads, the last of which was simply a dirt track. Then voila! We had arrived! A big metal gate slid open and the orange shirt guy grabbed my bag, which I would follow, again, to my villa – B1, the second house on the right.
I think the girl who checked me in was named Julie. She offered warm salutations in English, but to my weary ears, was quite difficult to understand. After the typical formalities with my passport and credit card, she gave minimal directives about where I could be naked on the beach, (“Just there!”) and a reminder to leave my shoes inside the door, supposedly to keep them safe from the local shoe-stealing dogs. Orientation ended there. I would later find (but never use) the door key perched in the activation portal for the electricity and AC. If there were additional printed materials about amenities, services, and regulations for the place, I never found them. Turns out my next door neighbors were The Hotel Guys, who make something of a livelihood of traveling the world and reviewing hotels. They were most helpful in helping me get the lay of the land, for which I was most grateful.
Given the sheer expanse of the place, the staffing needs are considerable, ranging from gardeners, to house-keeping, to restaurant and bar personnel. Where did they find that many locals on this small, remote island with adequate English skills? Well… they didn’t. Which seemed uniformly upsetting to several other guests including the Asians and Europeans. I’ve always felt a bit sheepish (read: embarrassed) about my dependency on English when I travel, as like most Americans, that’s the only language where I am truly facile. It had never quite occurred to me the extent to which world travelers of other tongues have come to rely on English as the common denominator as well.
Were I to return, I think I would translate a few key phrases on the computer and print them out. Particularly those like, “I’d like to confirm the precise time of my shuttle back to the airport,” or “Could someone check out the toilet in my room?” In time, Nui, the local resort manager made an appearance and her English is quite excellent, and Paulo of Chiang Mai fame made a showing shortly before my departure, though as was the case up north, I didn’t find him particularly forthcoming in making small-talk and such. Not sure that’s a language thing – that’s just Paolo.
Menus could be navigated by pointing and charades, but ordering a glass of red wine turned out to be somewhat daunting, not to mention inordinately expensive. (Perhaps $5 for a 3 oz pour?!) In fact, on that point, I should mention that there is a 7-Eleven store near the outdoor arrivals area at the Phuket airport with a limited selection of wine, beer, and spirits. I suspect it would be significantly cheaper, and certainly more efficient, to stock up there before meeting your ride than trying to communicate the particularities of ordering from the wine list of exactly one varietal of red, and one varietal of white. I know… first world problems.
Would I go back? Yep! In a heartbeat. It’s beautiful place with unmatched amenities on the naturist market, particularly if your intention is to unplug, read, and relax! And the 60-minute massage under the palm trees near the beach was absolute nirvana at the mere cost of $25! (The moral: Drink less wine and have more massages.)
Would I come back for a two day visit? I don’t think so. It’s simply too difficult to get there, and quite isolated once you are there. Seems there are several options for getting out and around the island if you’re there for a longer stay, but those things simply happen when they happen, which may not correspond with when you would most like them to happen. The Malaysian couple that complained about the language barrier actually arrived with their own car, with their own story of navigating that car ferry I left sitting at the port, which apparently only sails every couple of hours and only when the tide is in! I could imagine that being a bit panic inducing if you’re trying to catch a departing flight the same day.
Should you have special dietary restrictions, or you’ve grown accustomed to consuming large amounts of water, it would be worth coordinating a stop at a real grocery store with your driver en route from the airport. And I’m certain there were places on the island with more provisions than could be found at the nearby mini-mart, but getting back to the mainland for heavy-duty shopping could easily turn out to be an all day affair.
So there it is… probably way too much information for the casual blog reader, but at the same time, maybe not quite enough for someone who plans to visit this little naked oasis on the Andaman Sea. For me, there are two kinds of travel. Exploration expeditions where you mainly expend energy trying to figure out where you are and what’s going on, and chill-out naked and relax vacations, when the main objective is to de-stress. Oriental Beach Village Naturist Resort is an excellent place to imbibe in the latter, if you can sort out the exploration-expedition part of the equation sooner than later.
Like I said up front, I really want this place to be outrageously successful. Hopefully my meandering travelogue will help potential guests know what to expect so they can assimilate their own nakation decompression process and more quickly than I did.
And oh, did I mention I’m a control freak when I travel?
For those of us who bother to worry about such things, there are wildly mixed reports about the future of naturism in Europe. One day, you read that young French people are lining up in droves to get naked, but the very next page lays out the demise of naturist tourism in Croatia as all the “old leathery Germans” are dying off. Never mind the thriving spa industry in The Netherlands and Germany where thousands of 20 and 30-somethings are having naked date nights every weekend. But that scarcely ameliorates the rampant complaints on Trip Advisor that hardly anybody was naked at the big naturist center in France last week.
Really, it’s all very confusing!
So confusing, in fact, that I finally had to go see one such place for myself in preparation for that awkward moment at a cocktail party when somebody asks, “So aren’t you one of those nudie types? And didn’t you say you’ve been to Montenegro? Is there a good place to get naked there?”
“Well, I thinkAda Bojana is still open. You might wanna check that out.” I say with tentative trepidation, “Though I can’t really say for sure, since, well… I’ve never been there.”
Which was true, until a few weeks ago when I purposely diverted my flight itinerary to avail myself for a bit of nakation research in an area that has become known as the French Riviera of the Adriatic. Ada Bojana is actually a triangular island that splits the mouth of the river that separates Montenegro from Albania, or if you know your post WWII history, the southern reaches of former Yugoslavia.
As best I understand it, Yugoslavia garnered much of its naturist fame during the Tito dictatorship that, bizarrely enough, provided a framework for stability until the dictator’s death in 1980. (Tito’s death was the beginning of the end for Yugoslavia as tensions grew between various factions that eventually led to genocide and the many atrocities of the Balkan War in the early 1990s. It’s worth reading up on all that if you decide to visit the region, as the topic is still very much relevant to the people who live there.) But ironically enough, it seems the communist regime of former Yugoslavia was amazingly good for naturism. With the northern beaches of Croatia a mere six-hour drive from rainy Bavaria, and decades of a depressed economy under a communist regime that kept the cost of tourism ridiculously low. So many naked Germans flocked to the Adriatic coast that, even today, German remains an unofficial second language of the region.
Endless rocky shorelines on the deep blue Adriatic created the perfect formula for the rapid growth of the mega-naturist centers Koversada and Valalta near Rovinj, numerous others scattered down the Dalmatian Islands, and finally, the naturist Queen of the south – Ada Bojana; a perfect sandy beach landlocked between historic Ulcinj and the mysterious borders of Albania. I can only surmise what the place was like in its heyday, but even what remains today – a complex of several hundred apartments, an adjacent camping area, and three kilometers of sandy beach – represents one of the most expansive naturist properties in Europe.
Several years ago, we made a naturist trek across Europe beginning in Spain and ending in Greece. Ada Bojana had been on that itinerary until I finally got cold feet after reading so many poor reviews on Trip Advisor about this place stuck in the communist era, along with rumors that the entire plot of land was for sale to the first developer with enough cash and a little entrepreneurial imagination. Regrettably, we didn’t even bother to give the place a day visit.
Six years later, it seems the developers never showed up, the existing management made a few modest upgrades, and a few more mildly positive reviews have accumulated on line, including that of Nick and Lins from Naked Wanderings, who (rightfully!) raved about the beach bar and the expansive naturist beach.
I flew into Podgoriça where I rented a car for the 90-minute drive through the mountains down to the sea, well worth the entire trip simply for the scenery alone. But as you make your way south of Ulcinj, the mountains fall away into broad open marshlands, past a few modest hotels, and across the bridge onto the little island Bojana. Walking into the reception area, it felt very much like the hotels of Zagreb and Budapest I had visited as a college kid in 1985, before the fall of the Iron Curtain. It was early June, and the place wasn’t crowded, and thus I think they upgraded my 60€ room to an apartment right on the sea with a small terrace overlooking rows of loungers – ALL intended for naked sunbathers, like ME!
The linens were clean and starched, and clearly the bathroom fixtures had been updated within recent years, but even with the terrace doors wide open, it was impossible to get rid of the pervasive aroma from decades of cigarette smoke. I would later ask about non-smoking rooms as I was checking out of the hotel, when the man in the white shirt and black tie behind the counter looked at me as if I were proposing some bizarre revelatory idea for the first time ever. “Oh no…. we don’t have that kind of room.”
Making my way to the beach bar, there were only three or four other people there on this weekday evening in early June, but the kitchen was open, and the server was pleasant enough to communicate in our best GerFranglish. Calamari and beer seemed like a good bet. It took a couple visits on subsequent days to figure out the laid-back policy of dress or undress as you wish while enjoying a beverage as you’re overlooking the sea, another particularly well-deserved rave from Nick and Lins. No shirt? No shorts? No problem.
One of my main objectives during my short stay was to test out the walkability of the three-kilometer naturist beach. The most immediate realization was that the management of the naturist resort does an excellent job of keeping their sector of the beach clean and groomed, as once outside the resort, the accumulation of plastic bottles and assorted trash was immediate and overwhelming, in some cases, sculpted into art installations of sorts. But indeed, the beach was sandy, and a chance encounter with a herd of cattle while beach-combing was a first for me. Not only was naturism not a problem, but I was practically the only person out walking that day, with the exception of one or two others, also fully nude.
When a cluster of small fishing boats appeared on the horizon I thought I must be approaching the outlet of the river, and thus, the Albanian border, only to realize upon closer inspection that maybe those weren’t fishermen in those boats. In fact, a good swimmer could easily wade out into the mouth of the river and make their way across the stream onto mainland Albania in a matter of minutes, and it seemed evident that the occupants of the yellow boats were quite concerned I might attempt to do just that. The jetty formed a quiet little bay that was similarly littered with refuse, and while the rugged Albanian mountains in the close distance looked inviting, the feeling of being naked and watched – by border-guards in small motor boats – was at least a little spooky.
Making my way back to the resort area, signage demarked an area closed to public access (only by signage, not by barrier) where simple cabins for maybe one or two- hundred more naturists were slowly falling into ruin. It made me wonder about those years during the Balkan Wars when devoted naturists are said to have maneuvered around the areas of intense fighting to make the annual pilgrimage to these hallowed naked stomping grounds, and the parts of the region that never quite recovered from all that.
Today, textile civilization is slowly closing in around Ada Bojana, providing some excellent dining options within an easy walk of the naturist lodging, but a burlap fence has also been placed near the end of the beach with a beach bar for those who insist on wearing swimwear. Will the textiles eventually capture the entire resort? Are there simply not enough naked Germans left to go around? Can’t you find your own private island someplace where you can drink cheap beer in a swimsuit?
I’ll keep an eye on Ada Bojana. If you can handle a couple imaginative flight connections, it’s a stunning place for vacation even with your clothes on! And given the success and proliferation of naturist places in France, it’s hard to believe people wouldn’t pay two or three times as much for naturist accommodations here, simply for the privilege of just a few more amenities and the option of a no-smoking room. Thankfully, it seems change happens slowly in Montenegro, which may be the very reason this magical little corner of Europe hasn’t been swallowed up by holiday business tycoons… wearing beach pants and nylon swim trunks.
Hang in there Ada Bojana! You are a most worthy naturist destination. You just need a little TLC, and a few more naturist tourism dollars that many of us would part with in a heartbeat for a fresh room and a naked beer on the shimmering Adriatic!
Remember Addie? She’s our twenty-something friend who’s not only become a fervent naturist, but quite a prolific blogger as well. She’s particularly keen on what might make naturism more alluring to people in her own demographic, as she’s clearly found it to be most liberating and rejuvenating for herself. Having come to naturism just in recent years, I think she offers timely perspective to encourage others to follow in her (naked) footsteps…
[This post was published previously under the title of “The Joys of Sharing Naturism. “]
“When we establish human connections within the context of shared experience we create community wherever we go” –Gina Greenlee
One of my greatest joys in life stems from moments in which I am lucky enough to introduce others to places and experiences that I have found meaningful; I gain great pleasure from watching someone else experience something for the first time that means a lot to me. Certainly, I would qualify naturism as a defining feature of my life through from which I derive a great amount of joy. Therefore, it naturally follows that I very much enjoy experiencing someone else’s moment of astonishment as they realize, “Wow! I’m not wearing clothes in public and it’s awesome!”
Certainly, I have not had the joy of experiencing this moment many times, as I’m fairly new to naturism, but witnessing someone experience naturism for the first time constitutes something very special for me, and I can’t wait to continue to share my love for naturism with others.
In this blog post, I offer two vignettes about sharing in someone’s first moments with naturism, along with a list of tips for how a naturist can help someone navigate their first experience with non-sexual nudity.
Vignette #1: Naked Breakfast: Northeastern US
As a young, single female in the Northeastern United States, there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities to get naked without establishing an expectation for sex. Therefore, when a situation arises to eat a potato hash with an over-easy egg in the nude with your neighbor, you obviously must take full advantage in the fully monty!
My neighbor, Joe, and I had known each other for about sixth months when I traversed to Germany. After my return, he asked me about the happenings of the trip over happy hour oysters and wine. I described that relaxing without a swimsuit in the German spas bumped my trip from the “great” category into that of the “unbelievable.” Having never frequented a co-ed spa in the nude, he was initially surprised, but intrigued; he continued to casually follow up in subsequent conversations, asking questions like, “Have you been to naked beaches?” and “Why do you like it so much?” Through his line of questioning, he discovered that I not only have “skinny-dipped,” but I enjoy almost everything more without clothes, including sharing meals. He expressed an interest in trying it out, and eventually one morning, he proposed breakfast- not just a breakfast, but a naturist breakfast.
I was already wearing a bathrobe when he arrived at my apartment; I had set out two towels across the kitchen chairs so as to indicate, “this is where we will sit.” While puttering around cooking, my bathrobe came undone-no problem. He followed my lead, getting undressed in the living room, as I continued to cook in the kitchen, affording him a bit of privacy. For several moments, he talked quickly, trying to “cover up” his physical features I had not previously seen before. However, after a few minutes of cooking, all “first time” awkwardness seemed to have washed away, as he laughed about the new sensation of the oven fan blowing air against a body part that was rarely afforded the light of day! Slowly but surely, he became more outspoken for the cause, exclaiming about the serendipity and carefree nature of the moment more than once.
“You know, I’m a fan of over-easy eggs and potato hash in any context, but sharing it in the nude with a friend? It’s a no-brainer; it’s simply the best.” Seriously, what a good morning, filled with ample conversation of body positivity and lots of laughter.
Vignette #2: Naked Island: South of France
As someone who frequents the south of France, I’ve visited Ile du Levant, an all-naked island, several times; I might even describe it as one of my top 10 favorite places in the world! This time, I took three newbies along for the ride!
This July, four friends and I had planned to visit Iles du Porquerolles, a group of three islands off of the southern coast of France. However, I quickly realized that they had an interest in the naturist island, Ile du Levant, when they started asking questions like, “Have you ever been?” and “Can you be naked everywhere?” Each of them wanted to know something different. One asked, “Do you have to be naked?” while another asked, “How beautiful and crowded are the beaches?” The third questioned, “How good is the food?” I answered each to the best of my ability, emphasizing that because it is not a resort, there are truly no Naked Police present on the island; I suspect that this provided an “out” to my friends who had decided to sign on for not just a few hours naked, but a whole day on an all-naked island.
Upon arriving, I immediately shed my shirt, taking in the glory of the sun on my skin, and setting a precedent for my friends who followed behind. We hiked to a lovely cliff surrounded by crystal clear water, and the water gave each person the courage and the impetus to “dive right in,” both literally and figuratively. As soon as they hit the water, each person seemed to relax. One particularly funny moment consisted of a friend slipping and sliding while exiting the water, her bare butt bobbing up and down in the shallow water amidst her shrieks of desperation and laughter. After that moment, everything seemed to flow naturally; sometimes one person would slip on shorts or a cover-up, but as we passed several people on our walk and at lunch, some in the nude and some in various stages of dress, each person in the group seemed to understand that truly anything goes.
Over lunch and on the walk back to the port, I had a particularly poignant conversation with one of the girls, Kelly, who said that never in her life had she felt so comfortable with her body image at a beach/pool setting. We shared an excellent conversation about naturism, dating for naturists, and seeking out vacation spots specifically on account of their potential for naturism. She seemed almost immediately sold on the concept, citing this day as “one of the best in her life.” Though I enjoy naturism because of its typical features of peace and quiet, this comment struck me as incredibly poignant; one of the only things that I enjoy more than naturism itself is sharing naturist experiences with others. Once again, there’s a parallel: I enjoy sharing clothed vacation spots with others, and I love teaching others my hobbies so that they can experience joy through those hobbies also, so why would I not absolutely love sharing naturist experiences with a newbie naturist? SUCH sweet moments in the south of France; I think each of us felt bummed to board the all-clothed boat to return to the mainland.
How to Prepare to Share Naturist Experiences with Others
Unless your friends have been carefully following a naturist blog (doubtful), it seems wise to broach the subject with care, as they might have loads of questions and may feel self-conscious talking about the subject. Here are a few helpful tips about how you can prepare a newbie for their first naturist experience.
Discussion. Make sure that you have fully described why you enjoy naturism. Explain what non-sexual nudity means to you.
Give them Options. Don’t ever force someone into trying naturism. Instead, express your excitement and openness to share various experiences with others naked. Offer a variety of potential situations in which you enjoy naturism so that people can choose one that seems right for them. For some, swimming seems like a natural entry point, as people tend to wear less clothes at the beach/in a pool/hot tub anyways. Naked breakfast could seem like a larger leap to some, because the thought of sitting at a table without clothes or even in underwear seems like a bit of a stretch. Some might prefer a beer to ease them into the experience. Whatever the options, one must admit to the idea that options provide someone with the ability to choose a situation with which they might feel most comfortable. However, keep in mind that talking about naturism could also make someone feel shy. Read the signals and do your best to help.
Don’t make them guess the Norms. As a newbie naturist, it can be embarrassing to ask questions. However, the more answers that you give without them asking, the less mysterious and/or scary the experience will be. Depending on their nonverbal cues, explain to them about what to expect in various naturist situations that may apply to them: Is it expected that you wear clothes? Could you wear just bathing suit bottoms but not a top? Do you need to sit on a towel (yes!)? Is there a norm for shaving (no)? Can/should you eat at that restaurant naked/topless? Where can they get undressed/where can they leave their clothes?
Take off your clothes first. It’s always better to have the newbie naturist follow “in your footsteps.” Otherwise, they will wonder where to take off their clothes (in public or privately), when to take off their clothes, etc. Better for you to set the precedent and to show that you’re comfortable than to leave them wondering.
Ensure them that you are not judging. Body image is a thing! Ironically, after being immersed in naturism, many find that they feel less self-conscious. However, prior to experiencing it for the first time, many feel quite nervous about exposing all. While experienced naturists are used to not judging others for their body shape, shaving preferences, size of their butt, etc., newbies may feel extremely nervous. I tend to share the brief vignette that eased my concerns as someone trying naturism for the first time: When I speak with you, where am I looking when you’re wearing clothes? The only correct answer is “my eyes.” Suddenly, everything falls into place; it’s a good point of reference if someone expresses concern.
Be willing to answer questions. If someone is nervous, they may have many questions. Be ready to answer questions in a non-judgmental way.
Give someone an out. Again, read your audience. Assure them that it’s okay to wear clothes at the table, or offer to do another activity (with clothes). It’s easy to tell when someone is squeamish or absolutely squealing with delight (and I’ve been in situations with both). If someone is uncomfortable, help to remove them from the situation or change the circumstances to make them more comfortable.
Do you have any other tips for helping ease newbie naturists into the practice? Do you prefer naturism alone or with others? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
For me, life is better experienced with others; naturally, naturism is better experienced with others. Go share the joy!
You might want to check out Addie’s previous posts on The Meandering Naturist:
So… this is a continuation of a series of posts I started last winter, or… if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, last summer! Quite amazingly, I had the opportunity to make my way to six continents in five weeks, hitting every naturist place I could manage along the way. (You can find my previous posts here about Naked Africa and Naked Thailand.)
For you travel geeks out there, I should explain that I often use the month of January to bulk up my mileage account in an effort the keep my airline status, which makes everything quite a lot more comfortable for more perfunctory travel over the rest the year. In this case, I was able to extend a couple business trips into pleasure excursions as well, which afforded me the opportunity to check out a few new naturist places.
To that end, it was only recently that I became aware of Refugio Naturista near Playa Chihuahua, about 90 kilometers north of Montevideo in Uruguay. Uruguay? Who goes to Uruguay? To get naked? REALLY?
Turns out that this may be the most promising naturist destination in South America. There are certainly some nice naturist beaches in Brazil, and I’m told there are one or two in Argentina and Chile as well, but for years I’ve been looking for something that would rival the best naturist beaches in Europe. A family vibe with long sunny days in a place where naturism is not restricted to a two-hundred meter section of seclusion.
And imagine if there was a nice place to stay nearby where nudity was permitted. We found the rather spartan accommodations at Praia do Pinho in Brazil a few years ago, but up until now, that was about the best we could do. How is it that the family-run Refugio Naturista had escaped our consciousness when they’ve been in business for nearly twenty years? So much time lost!
Marcela and Ricardo run the place with their young daughter (at least until she goes off to university) and welcome you as if you were visiting their home. In fact, they live just a few houses down the road, next to a small string of apartment units that they have apparently acquired quite recently in an effort to increase their capacity for naturist lodging. That’s where we stayed, which required wrapping in a pareo for the three minute walk to the main lodge where meals are served and a rather large iguana comes looking for table scraps the same way your dog might do so at home. Don’t be alarmed! He seemed way more interested in my bread crumbs than my toes!
I speak almost no Spanish. Marcela has enough English to help you deal with the necessities of living, (even enough to handle the nuances of a gluten free diet!) while Ricardo needs very few words to demonstrate his genuine kindness. This is clearly a labor of love as they have created a laid-back atmosphere where clothing is optional and stress is forbidden. We happened to be there for BBQ night, when Ricardo cooked up a huge pile of meat on the open fire pit while we played the game of “How many words do we have in common with the other guests from Bolivia, Argentina, and Europe.” As is typical, the game got a bit better around the second glass of wine.
It’s really difficult to know when you’re pissing off the locals, or in this case, just how much clothing you need to wear on the way to the naturist beach just a few couple hundred meters away. Here’s again, an immodest attempt with a pareo seemed to do the trick. A gust of wind comes up to reveal a buttock or a breast? Meh – No problemo!
At the end of the road, a huge sign announces you’ve arrived at Playa Chihuahua (Again! How is it I had never ever heard of this place until about a year ago!?) where a small boardwalk takes you over the dunes and onto an expansive beach where a significant majority of the people are naked. Nudity is not required, but obviously, most preferred, making it an excellent option for a newbie naturist or reluctant spouse who simply isn’t sure yet. Lifeguards are perched in their little house on stilts, a massage tent awaits for those seeking self-indulgence, and the little Explora Beach Bar proved to have a policy of “No shirt? No pants? What would you like for lunch?”
As one who loves a long naked walk on the beach, it turns out this requires a bit of careful planning, as a significant estuary denotes the western border of the naturist beach, unless the tide is out and you can simply wade across to the other side where an isolated beach awaits. We attempted this twice, the first time realizing we didn’t have enough time to walk as far as we wanted, the next time unsure if the tide was going in or going out. A lapse of judgement on that front could send you walking for miles – naked – up and around through the neighboring beach town. Research matters! I regret that we had not planned a bit more carefully, as the long, sandy white beach was truly idyllic for nude trekking, and most people we encountered there during our brief exploration were naked as well. Next time.
Other things I did not know about Uruguay? Apparently it claims one of the most stable economies in South America, which was well evidenced in some of the newer establishments, such as beautiful wineries that are springing up in the coastal hills. We did make the drive into Montevideo one evening, seemingly close, but not so much during rush hour, only to find that it lacked the panache of places like Rio and Buenos Aires. Once we realized that even the parking garages in the theater/restaurant district closed at 6:00 pm, we got spooked, bought a sandwich at a gas station, and high-tailed it back to our naked refuge near the sea. Perhaps we inadvertently missed the charm of Uruguay’s principal city, but come to think of it, I’ve never seen a travel brochure that says, “Have the time of your life in Montevideo!” Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses and stay naked at the beach bar.
Would we go back? The actual question is simply – When? From where we live near NYC, it requires a bit of doing (including an airport change in Buenos Aires) to fly into Punto del Este (just a few minutes drive from Refugio Naturista and Playa Chihuahua,) but I think that’s the way to go! Sometimes convenience overrides saving money, and in fact, we could have done well without a car had it not been for our impromptu winery exploration.
In any event, you want this place on your bucket list. We only ask that you don’t book the last room at the same time we’re hoping to go! 😃