I love it when a warm country chills out about social nudity!

Peace Blue Naiharn Resort opened their doors last weekend, rolling out the red carpet on their beautiful new naturist resort/hotel near Rawai on Phuket Island in Thailand. This is the biggest and boldest endeavor yet that represents a serious presence in Southeast Asia to provide a year-round escape for those of us who simply can’t manage to keep our clothes on for the six months we call winter in the northern hemisphere. IT’S ABOUT TIME!

Despite repeated visits to various regions of Asia, I still have a very limited understanding of why nudity is such a taboo matter in this part of the world, where clothing seems unnecessary during even the coolest of days. Throw in the copious presence of palm trees and innumerable sandy beaches with water as warm as my hot tub, and I find myself crying aloud – Really? Nudity is illegal here? What a waste of so many naked opportunities.

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Oriental Village – Chiang Mai

But alas, it seems a few entrepreneurial folks in Thailand are seeking to put their country on the map as the naturist capital of the Far East, and apparently it’s starting to take hold. In addition to Chan Resort Pattaya and Oriental Village Chiang Mai, several new enterprises have entered the market with ever-improving amenities and locations that provide the opportunity for a bit of sight-seeing should you have the urge to put your clothes on.

I have yet to visit Chan Resort in Pattaya, but hoping I might manage a day visit during an upcoming trip to Pattaya, (a city that seems to have the reputation of being the Jersey Shore of Southeast Asia) located on a side street just two kilometers from the (non-naturist) beach. Perhaps it is my aversion to over-crowded tourist meccas that inspired me to book at the new Phuan Naturist Village, instead, which is located in a relatively rural area outside of Pattaya. This is the most recent entry into the Asian naturist hospitality game, notably run by three sisters who, somewhat uncommonly, have fully embraced the naturist lifestyle even when they’re “at work.” I’ve booked a bungalow for my stay which looks like it may well be a bit rustic, but it reportedly has a private bath and AC. That seems more than adequate amenities for a nakation to me.

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Phuan Naturist Village – near Pattaya

The little naturist hotel called Barefoot Resort in the northern part of Bangkok seems to be getting good reviews, aside from the fact that it’s difficult to get to, and thus, not terribly convenient for taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of Thailand’s megopolis. It’s on my bucket list, if only as a gesture of support for their pioneering efforts of providing a clothing-optional stay in Bangkok, but given its proximity to airports and train stations, I’ve yet to find a way to work that into a viable itinerary.

A couple years ago, we did pay a springtime visit to the quirky, but lovely, Oriental Village resort about 45 minutes outside of Chiang Mai. The middle-aged French guy who runs the place is… well… a middle-aged French guy, giving the place a decidedly French-Asian edge on the market. He was kind enough to pick us up at the airport (for a fee, of course) and was happy to share his perspectives on naturism in Thailand, which might be summarized with “You should come to my place.” What hadn’t occurred to me is that Chiang Mai (A great city, by the way) is far enough north to have a distinctively cooler climate that I had associated with Southeast Asia. It’s worth paying attention to that and the timing of the burning of nearby rice-fields when planning your stay, as either factor could cast a shadow on the perfect nakation.

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Peace Blue Resort – Phuket

Which brings us back to Peace Blue Resort, the new edition of Lemon Tree Resort, a place I’ve come to refer to as “my branch office in Asia.” Patty and Golf opened Lemon Tree as a naturist destination by converting an existing property on a quiet street near the southern tip of Phuket, within (a significant) walking distance of Naiharn and Rawai beaches. At this writing, the owners are moving their base of operations from the smallish Lemon Tree property (where the lease has expired without the opportunity to renew) to the brand new Peace Blue Resort featuring condo like luxury units with private pools as well as beautifully appointed hotel rooms overlooking a sizable pool complex. I will be in a better position to offer a candid review after my much-anticipated  visit in the coming weeks, but if the photos of the soft-opening are any indication, this will quickly become a premiere naturist destination outside of Europe.

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Naturist boat trip from Peace Blue/Lemon Tree Resort

From my humble perspective, what sets Peace Blue apart from other naturist endeavors is the owner’s business plan, or more aptly, the fact that she has one! Patty left her managerial job in the mainstream hospitality sector to open the original Lemon Tree with her husband Golf, bringing an unusual background of expertise to the table, with the explicit purpose of meeting the demand of naturists – like me – who are looking for a place to get naked and warm when it’s snowing at home. Patty and Golf are not naturists themselves, but have embraced the naturist community, not only as a friendly and fervent clientele, but as friends who they “welcome home” at the beginning of each visit. (I’ve been to Lemon Tree three times now, and will visit the new Peace Blue in December.) In doing so, Patty reports that they are maintaining a relatively high occupancy rate even in rainy season when nearby properties are sitting essentially empty. With a steady stream of European customers, and a few random Americans such as myself, it seems they are at the tip of the naturist travel iceberg, and I suspect mid-winter bookings will soon become a precious commodity. If you time it right, the resort will have organized a boat-trip from nearby Rawai beach to a secluded beach where, sure enough, naturism is possible. And for the price of a single massage at any American establishment, you could enjoy a daily massage right in your room in Thailand. (I might mention, by the way, that while neither inappropriate nor intentionally sexual, every Thai massage I’ve had to date is a bit more intimate than anything I’ve experienced in Europe or the US. To be specific, while they don’t touch the genitalia, they come awfully close. Helps to know that going in, I think!)

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Barefoot Resort – Bangkok

For those who have not traveled much in Asia, the drive from the airport to just about anyplace can be quite a culture-shock. In the case of Peace Blue, the airport is located on the northern end of Phuket and the resort is near the very southern tip of the island, which requires a 90-minute drive down the clogged arteries of this tropical island crowded with resorts, scooters, and so many people living amidst a labyrinth of road construction draped in seemingly thousands of power lines. With all the fuss in the West about low emissions and electric cars, I always find myself a bit overwhelmed at sheer number of fossil fuel burning contraptions that over-populate the roadways of Asia. But not to worry, for about $30, Patty will have a driver waiting for you at the airport to get you to the front door of their naturist haven – well worth the investment unless you have a particular fondness for sitting in traffic that would make rush hour on Long Island seem like a peaceful drive in the country.

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Oriental Village – Chiang Mai

Finally, I should give a shout-out to the Thailand Naturist Association, leading the pack amidst Asian countries for promoting naturism as a wholesome and holistic, family-oriented activity. (See my previous blog posts called “Naked in Thailand? Why Yes!” or “Thailand Launches a Naturist Publication!” I’d like to think that the pioneers of naturist travel in Thailand will help others realize that even if nudity is not an inherent part of the indigenous culture, a few targeted properties catering to naturists could be a real boon to the economy. It’s most certainly a trend I’m willing to support with my naked tourist dollars.

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Naturist friendly beach – near Peace Blue Resort

 

Nakation Chronicles VII: SXM, and Croatia

This gallery contains 20 photos.

Been awhile since I made an installment into our Nakation Chronicles, this one documenting our two big expeditions for 2009; our last annual trek to St. Marten, and our second visit to Croatia. We had been going to SXM every year at about the same time, and we decided to mix things up a bit […]

The Naked Truth about Naturist Brazil

So, it’s September. Our summer travels are over and it’s back to the grind; a time that is always a period of reflection for me as I comb through photos of our travels while I start dreaming about the next adventure for the drawing board.

This time, I came across the photos from our trip to Brazil a couple years ago, realizing that I never actually blogged on our experiences there. Well, that is, at least not in the present or past tense. I did write a post about our perils of trying to to get there in the first place called “Getting Naked in Brazil = Complicated!” At the time, we were living in France, and we simply couldn’t find a way to maneuver the complicated task of getting an American tourist visa to Brazil while residing in France.

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Praia do Pinho

What I had NOT expected in response to that post was an admonishing email from a reader who warned me about the covert operations of the naturist movement in Brazil, and offered disquieting news about a particular place in Brazil where he cited a sort of pyramid scheme gone awry that ended in huge monetary losses and even allegations of murder!

Murder!? What the hell??? We already knew you had to be careful about pick-pockets in Rio, but is one really in danger of getting murdered while naked in Brazil?

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Cabins at Colina do Sol

Finally, at the end of 2015 (and into the beginning of 2016) we made it to Brazil, book-ending our trip with requisite visits to Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu Falls, with stops along the way at the naturist beach (resort?) Praia do Pinho, and finally, the infamous Colina do Sol – yes indeed, the very place the dude had warned me not to visit. “And for God’s sake, don’t try to buy a house there unless you wanna get dead!”

Spoiler alert. We stayed a week at the place. We didn’t buy a house. And nobody got murdered!

While we were there, we stayed in the “Hotel” Ocara – something of a foreshadowing of our entire experience at Colina do Sol, which might best be described as an amazing idea that never quite came to fruition. It seems that one naturist entrepreneur named Celso Rossi had acquired a large plot of land in the beautiful green hills above Porto Allegre, then proceeded to lay out the plans for an expansive naturist village with summer homes sheltered in a tropical forest, a man-made lake, a full service restaurant and even a hotel. We spent quite a lot of time with Celso during our visit, who we found to be warm and resoundingly enthusiastic about all things naturism, but spoke candidly about the evolution of this naked utopia in Brazil.

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The lake at Colina do Sol

The story is long and tangly, but resonated deeply with me as I have a brother who got buried in the complexities of running his own business until he ended up in a negative cash flow situation, using tomorrow’s projected revenue to pay yesterday’s bills – always a landslide in the making. Add to that mix the Socratic (I use the word with trepidation) negotiations of the home owner’s association as various people bought into the dream of their own personal naturist vacation hamlets, and a particularly fervent group of Americans who were going to make Colina do Sol their go to place when it’s cold up here and the middle of summer down there. Even by Celso’s account, the sand started slipping from beneath his toes on his own beach, and the untimely death of one of the homeowners led to speculation and allegations about fiduciary scheming and criminal wrong-doing!

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Celso, our host

At the time of our visit, (2016) we stayed in the three story hotel where the top two floors remained unfinished. The lakeside restaurant that had once been the center of social activity had recently closed, and hours on the beach near the lake were decidedly quiet for a summer weekend day, though there were obviously people living in the cabins on the sprawling roads that provided a terrific circuit for morning naturist walks. We were the only guests at the hotel during our stay, and perhaps the first Americans to visit since the whole property management debacle of some years before, so Celso spent many evenings with us, guitar in hand, retelling the dream of his naturist nirvana and his unrelenting passion to see the project move forward, despite the hurdles of the past. At this writing, I think he still lives on the property with his wife, but is no longer involved in the naturist center (restaurant and hotel) that is rumored to be under new management and poised for a renaissance.

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The pool – heated by the warm air of Brazil

Would we go back? Despite the unpredictable weather, (It rains a LOT in that part of Brazil!) I liked the place quite a lot (more so than my wife) and could imagine a very pleasant stay in one of the little cabins when there’s nine inches of snow on the ground at home. Seeing video footage of the place when it was at its zenith – ten years ago, perhaps – I found myself longing for the vitality of the naturist centers in Europe, thinking this might be a viable winter alternative on this side of the Atlantic. That was not the case during our visit, but as is the case with most naturist places, timing is everything. It’s most definitely worth keeping an eye on the place, though indeed, I’m not likely to buy a home there!

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On patrol at Praia do Pinho

Our other naturist stay in Brazil, with its unremarkably modest accommodations, was at Praia do Pinho, about a 90 minute flight south of Rio. Here again, weather had a significant influence on our impressions of the place where rainy periods significantly outnumbered the sunny ones, and our small room became claustrophobic when sun-worship on the beach simply wasn’t viable. The beach itself turns up on many “most beautiful nude beaches in the world” lists, and I think that designation is well deserved. It simply hadn’t occurred to me that summer in the south of Brazil does not come with the arid climate of summer in the South of France. Interestingly, there were a lot of nice places to stay near Praia do Pinho that would have greatly influenced our overall read on the place, though it’s always difficult to weigh the value of the luxury walking naked from your room to the beach. I suppose it just depends on what you think a nakation actually is.

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A walk to the beach

As a footnote to our Brazilian experience, with all the fuss about that scantily clad girl from Ipanema, we saw exactly zero naked people or topless women on the mainstream beaches in Brazil. To be sure, the bikini bottoms looked (uncomfortably!) skimpy, though you see that just about anywhere these days. But suffice it to say, there was nothing on the beaches of Ipanema or Copacabana that would not meet the stringent Facebook rules for public decency – which the seasoned naturist knows to be ridiculously conservative. Like most South American countries, Brazil has its own fair share of prudery that belies the implicit notion that social nudity is really a thing there.

A beautiful county worth exploration? Absolutely.

A naturist destination for the sake of nakation? Sadly… not quite.

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Contemplating the story of Colina do Sol

 

 

GALLERY: Nakations on Mallorca

We’re currently enjoying our third “nakation” on Mallorca, each time finding a new little cove or a quiet trail for a naturist walk. We never tire of the turquoise sea and the brilliant blue skies, nor the amazing service and conviviality at Skinny Dippers Naturist Retreat. Thought it was time to post a gallery of some of our greatest hits from the past three years.

You may wish to see our other three posts about “nakationing” on Mallorca:

Nude Beach Combing in Mallorca

Mallorca Hospitality – Grant and Jordi Style

The North Side of Naked Mallorca

Vritomartis: The flagship for the naturist marketing conundrum!

We’re just back from Greece, or more specifically, Crete – where we made our fourth visit over the span of about ten years to the beautiful naturist hotel/resort Vritomartis, located due south of Chania. Directions: Leave the airport, drive through the industrial wasteland near the airport, climb over the daunting mountains ever-attuned to dodging stray goats on the winding roads perched on precipitous cliffs, until you reach the sea. Turn right, then left, then take off your clothes.

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An oasis on the edge of Crete

I keep looking for a word other than quirky to describe this remote naturist destination, particularly since I’ve used the quirky word in the titles of several other blog posts, at least one of which was about Greece. But quite frankly, I simply can’t conjure up another word that does that trick.

I’ll lead out with the ranting part first, which on the flip side turns out to be something of a statement of affirmation. Granted, going anyplace in Europe during the month of June, before schools have let out, puts an immediate and noticeable skew on the holiday destination demographics, but Simpsons fans will immediately relate if I suggest that the clientele of this Greek resort quite closely resembled the residential population at the Springfield Retirement Home. I realize that’s hardly fair, as we, ourselves, are hurdling through middle age at lightening speed, and my typical dismay of seeing Homer in the mirror each morning is slowly turning over to recognizing traces of the emerging Abe Simpson. Now in our late fifties, we are becoming part of that skewed demographic, but golly! There were a lot of folks in the 80+ crowd at Vritomarits this time around. GOD BLESS THEM EVERY ONE! But again… wow!

Bear in mind, getting to the southern shores of Crete is a bit more complicated than finding your way to La Jolla or the Jersey Shore. Even if you can find a direct flight from London, you’re still in for a 90-minute car ride over the goat infested mountains (Actually, we adore the goats!), which involves either a hefty taxi fare, or a demanding drive that requires a good sense of acuity and quick response time. (Again… lovin’ those goats!)

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Resort promo photo

This year, we met Anka, the new animateur from France, who not only led us on the naturist walk down the gorge above Anapoli, but was also charged with doing the morning water aerobics; yet another Simpsonesque scene with an attractive young (naked) woman leading high precision dance-like routines for a wildly un-synchronized group of folks that, even if unimpeded by the viscosity of water, were nowhere close to keeping up with this high intensity workout. Not especially different than when I encounter the water aerobics classes at our local YMCA, conveniently located across the street from a sprawling retirement community, but even there – a bit sobering when the place becomes overwhelmed with the 9:00 am fitness classes donning names like, “You can stay alive another year!” Those folks at the Y are all in swimsuits, but simply put, it’s always something of a mortality check. Like seeing the recent Paul McCartney bit on James Corden the other day – “Damn Paul, you still got it, but dude! You’re getting old!”

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Workout time at the pool

I’ve been working on a blog draft of the “Top Ten Places we’d go with our Clothes on,” in an effort to identify places that have amenities beyond what one might expect at the typically more rustic naturist/nudist establishment. We’ve found several places that would make the list, most notably those in Palm Springs, Mexico, France, Spain, Mallorca, and a couple places in Greece. But not surprisingly, at each of these places, we continue to encounter the recurring story of the people who decided to “live life dangerously after that last kid was out of the nest.” We got into naturism in our late twenties, and pulled our kids into the mix through most of their adolescent years, so we’re never quite sure how to weigh into that conversation that leads out with “Do your kids know where you are right now?”

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The naked walk in the woods

I guess that’s my point. Not that the over-eighty crowd shouldn’t feel at home in their own skin at a place like Vritomartis, and to be sure, that’s a serious part of the affirmation thing. Comfortable in your aging skin is a wonderful testament to the intrinsic value of naturism itself, but naked or not, it presents something of a marketing conundrum for upscale naturist resorts in their attempt to attract a balanced age distribution as most thirty-somethings may not be ready for an exotic holiday in a place where the other prevailing clients are 40+ years their senior. And despite all of the quippy blogs and articles that preach the virtues of naturism as a way of reducing vacation costs, that simply doesn’t hold true if you’re seeking accommodations nicer than a pop-up trailer at a rustic campground. In fact, the expense of getting to a naturist destination, and the implied surcharge of staying at a property with little or no competition in its class, typically means you pay a significant up-charge for the privilege of getting naked, which ironically skews the demographics even more as those same thirty-somethings are likely lacking the discretionary funds requisite for an upscale naturist holiday. Really! A marketing conundrum from most every angle.

As we’ve been to Vritomartis four times already, I suspect we’ll find our way back there within another two or three years. We really do love the place. You can find nearly 800 reviews on TripAdvisor that speak to the various amenities you will find there, and their new website is beautifully designed as they seem to be targeting a more upscale clientele, while making smallish upgrades along the way to create a more international, Club Med environment than what you will find at the parochial little hotels down in the nearby village of Chora Sfakion where you can find a basic room with a sea view for a fraction of the cost. Vritomartis is a must see destination for the discerning naturist traveler.

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Truly an oasis – a room with a view

All that said, perhaps of greatest intrigue is a quick analysis of all the banter about the aging naturist population under the “Doom and Gloom” headers of various naturist forums, as opposed to the proliferation of articles in mainstream media about recent trending patterns for those seeking something different this year – maybe it’s time for a Nakation! Seems to me that, as a whole, there is no immediate danger of the naturist marketing niche dying off anytime soon, (and I mean that as literally as it sounds), but for each eighty-something who simply can’t make it again to some far-flung remote, luxury clothing-optional destination, there will likely be three other fifty-somethings who have just rid themselves of their children, and in doing so, have decided to ditch their inhibitions and clothing as well. Vritomartis, and similar resorts in Mallorca and France, are running at full capacity for most of the season, which provides clear evidence that the naturist population isn’t actually dying off, but rather, it’s just a changing of the guards of clothing-optional recreation. Unfortunately, we’re not getting cadet naturists in the 20 and 30-something bracket one might hope for.

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From the Vritomartis photo contest

A few years ago, we visited a very remote naturist resort in Brazil (another interesting post I never got around to writing) which featured a funky hotel in the middle or a residential community that once again, has become something of a retirement community that opens its gates to a few adventurous travelers, not terribly unlike the atmosphere of Florida’s Cypress Cove, where the more modern facilities are flanked by rows and rows of little houses where people have settled in for their Golden Years. Our next stop in Brazil was a run-of-the-mill textile resort situated near the entrance to Iguazu Falls, crowded with exactly the holiday crowd you might expect; some older than us, and lots of families a good bit younger than us. I remember sitting near the pool, Caipirinha in hand, wondering if the day would come in my lifetime when we would experience this eclectic mix in a clothing-optional setting. Wouldn’t that be something if the swimsuit simply became a matter of preference rather than something ordained in the name of public decency? But in the meantime, we will continue to pay the nudity tax for our luxury clothing-optional travel endeavors, hoping that as time goes by, the mainstream media will help get the word out that naturist travel is not just for the aged and eccentric. It’s simply a choice to leave one’s swimsuit behind as apparel that is hardly useful and usually uncomfortable. The folks at Vritomartis are doing their part to promote that message. Hoping many more will take up their cause until choosing a naturist destination becomes as normal as deciding between the Marriott and the Westin.

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Another promo short from the resort depicting the good life. So who needs a swimsuit?