A New Naturist Haven in Thailand

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

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.

Me and the beach. That’s about it.

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!

Now what? … says the meandering naturist.

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.
Air conditioned transportation!
  • 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.
Not your boat, man!
  • 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.

Lingering reflections…

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.

Trying my best to be Zen

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.

Typhoon hour at the naturist resort

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?

NAKED RESEARCH 2019: Awaiting Departure

I’m not only a naturist, I’m also a mileage runner. That means that sometimes I fly places simply for the miles or, more importantly, the status with the airline. Sometimes, I’m able to pair that with my work as a musician and university professor, sometimes it simply syncs up with the need to check in on family located out and about the US of A, and sometimes, I can figure out a way to coalesce my love of flying and travel with my fixation on getting naked. This would be one of those times. (You can also follow my blog about mileage running here.)

Signage for Cobbler’s Beach near Sydney

My January schedule is such that I have to be in certain places at certain times, but beyond that, I can do most of what I need to do from my cyber-office, which in this case, happens to be a MacBook and a iPhone with an international data plan. For me, this particular itinerary will be something of the ULTIMATE MILEAGE RUN, consisting of several segments that will take me to Munich, Bangkok, back to NYC, on to France (where I have business to do) then to South Africa (which ironically enough, greatly reduced the airfare to France!) then on to Buenos Aires and Uruguay, where my wife will meet me for a few days of naturist beach combing in a new (to us) naturist hotel just a few blocks from a famous nude beach. There’s a strong possibility that I’ll tag on a fourth leg of this sojourn with a quick turnaround to Sydney on a ticket that was ridiculously cheap, which would put me on the ground just long enough for a trip to the nude beach near the zoo, thus making a six continent naked mileage run. We’ll see how I hold up.

Chan Resort, Pattaya, Thailand

But this is a naturist blog! I can’t post my own photos yet as I haven’t yet been to all these places, but I’m borrowing a few pics from the web to outline the naturist elements of this round-the-world endeavor.

My first stop is at the expansive Therme Erding, a place that loves to advertise as the world’s largest spa. Some think it’s a bit overdone, but for me, a day of soaking, sweating, and sleeping in this Disneyland for grown-ups is about as good as it gets.

Sun Eden Resort, South Africa

From there, I intend to check out two naturist places in Thailand; namely the Phuan Naturist Village, then the Chan Naturist Hotel, both in Pattaya. I’m particularly excited about the former, as it is one of the newest naturist ventures in Thailand, and they claim to have the biggest nude swimming pool in Southeast Asia.

France is typically a great place to get naked, but in January, not so much. But I’m going to stretch out a layover in Frankfurt where I can easily hop a train up to Cologne to check out the spa scene there. I’m particularly excited to visit the Neptune Therme downtown, and the sister spa to Erding just a short distance away in Euskirchen. I think I can hit them both in the same day, then back in time to catch my early morning flight to Marseille the next day.

Phuan Naturist Village, Pattaya, Thailand

A deviation to South Africa was literally a cost saving measure! By adding in a round-trip hop to Johannesburg, the ticket to Europe dropped by over 40%, including the trip to Africa. Go figure. This will be my second naturist outing in South Africa, but my first visit to Sun Eden Resort, which features a number of small houses to be rented. Most definitely new territory to add to my travelogue.

Cobbler’s Beach near Sydney

Finally, I’ll make my way from South Africa, bouncing through Zurich, to Buenos Aires, where I will meet my wife before we find our way to the domestic airport where we can catch a flight to the Hotel Refugio Naturista in Uruguay. It looks like a fairly simple and quiet place, but we like both of those things, and look forward to spending a good bit of time on Uruguay’s most famous naturist beach.

Neptune Bad, Cologne, Germany

As for Australia, we’ve already done our naturist exploration of Australia’s east coast, (You can find those blog posts beginning with this one) so at best, I can hope to find a nude beach there – most likely Cobbler’s Beach, which we found to be quite agreeable the day we were there a couple years ago. Thus, my first and last stops consist of places I’ve been naked before, but I should pick up a half-dozen new nakation spots along the way. More good fodder for blogging, to be sure.

I’ll try to blog along the way. You may also want to follow me on Instagram at @naturistdan or the Mileage Runner version @mileagerundan. Hope to see you there!

Naked Meandering Takes Time…

The last two years have been pretty intense, with a couple big projects that have required a lot of travel, and as a friend put it this morning, many instances where I could say “I worked two days yesterday!” That’s tricky for a blogger, given that the very nature of blogging is organized around a chronological sense of time and space. Challenging when neither is available.

I write this post from Skinny Dippers Naturist Retreat on Mallorca, which has the unusual feature of encouraging a sense of community as many (most?) of the guests gather around the dinner table each evening; where, of course, the lead-out topic of conversation is almost always, “Where have you been, and what did you think?” If that conversation takes hold, perhaps I will disclose that I am a naturist blogger, and the most enthusiastic among them will run off to grab his or her iPad to put – shall we say – a face to the name.

“So, you’ve written about this place in Hawaii? Or Greece? Or Brazil?”

“Well…” I say sheepishly, “I intended to get that done, but you know how those things go.”

But as of this writing, we are looking ahead to three more weeks of nakation, and there are few things sweeter in life than sitting naked on the veranda with a glass of wine and sharing your musings about past travel experiences. So whether you are a loyal fan of my blog, or you just stumbled in from the frustration of a web search where the term “nudist” pulled up all the images you weren’t looking for, here’s what lies ahead on the blogging agenda for the Meandering Naturist.

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On the edge of the big island, Hawaii

I wrote a couple posts about our visit two summers ago to Hawaii, but never quite got around to writing about the sweet little resort called Hangin’ Loose where we lived for a week in a yurt during monsoon season – or at least, so it seemed.

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The serenity of Playa Sonrisa, Mexico

And it seems that I’ve never shared much about our two visits to Playa Sonrisa, a quiet little resort so far down the Yucatan peninsula that you can (and we recommend that you do) take a daytrip by boat to Belize.

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Celso. The guy from Brazil with a naturist dream

And for that matter, I was surprised to find out that I’ve left virtually no trace of our visit to naturist Brazil whatsoever, despite the drama of the story of Colina do Sol, where we met the guitar playin’ naturist Celso to learn of the perils of the naturism business in 21st-century South America. So many stories to tell about that!

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Oriental Village, Thailand

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Near Lemon Tree Resort, Thailand

When asked if I’ve blogged about our visits to two naturist resorts in Thailand, (Oriental Village and Lemon Tree Resort) I had to search my own archives to realize that, “Nope! Those trips are pretty much missing from our travelogue.” Which is a shame, as I’m particularly eager to promote naturism in this part of the world most suitable for naturism 365 days a year. Thailand is most definitely that place!

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Walking to Tahiti Beach on Corsica

I knocked out a few posts about some of our travels last summer, but never really mused much about free-hiking on Corsica or our stay at the naturist resort Bagheera, let alone the subsequent visit to Vritomartis and a stunningly naked day on the tiny island of Gavdos – the most southerly point in Europe.

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At the end of the world, on Gavdos, Greece

I did, however, do a pretty good job in keeping up with the blog during our time last winter (summer, there!) in Australia. At least, that is, until we got to the last two stops near Brisbane at BB at Byron Bay and a local legend known as BoBrene. But that often happens at the end of a long trip, when you start gearing up for reality at home, and the diary business goes out the window.

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The view from the top! A naturist villa near Byron Bay, Australia

And finally, it seems I only gave a cursory glance to our long weekend at Paya Bay in Honduras, which I’ve taken to calling my new Caribbean Branch Office. Another case where we’re eager to simply get the word out about this little gem that has been flying below the radar of much of the international naturist community.

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My branch office at Paya Bay, Honduras

So that’s quite a lot of catching up to do, and as I reflect, quite a lot of miles we’ve accrued in getting naked on six continents over the past two years. Seems that our pacing may slow down over the course of the next year or two as life reinvents itself, but as any blogger will tell you, the best part of the process is living the trip over through the mind’s eye. If a confirmed or would-be naturist finds the motivation in these pictures and words to book his or her own nakation, all the better for the cause, quietly hoping for the day when clothing-optional vacations are as normal as a trip to Disney World. For this meandering naturist, they are most certainly a lot more fun.

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The idyllic little naturist beach on the Island of Rab, Croatia

Individual trip reports to follow in a quasi-chronological order. In the meantime, I always enjoy conversing with other naturists, so if you can’t find it in the search bar of my blog, don’t hesitate to ask Naturist Dan.

Happy naked wanderings to you!

 

Naked in Thailand? Why YES!

I’ve always thought it a pity that regions of the world with perfect beaches and ideal climates are pretty much out of the running in the category of world class naturist destinations. When we travel, we do all we can to maintain a low profile as American tourists. (e.g., Observing local customs about nudity on the beach.) And thus, when a sanctioned naturist place does appear on the scene, we are eager to support such entrepreneurial efforts while finding an excuse to explore a corner of the planet we might not have found otherwise.

IMG_1887Don’t know that I would have ever found my way to Chiang Mai, Thailand had it not been for the allure of a little resort in a neighboring village called Oriental Village. As you will find on TripAdvisor, it’s located out amidst the rice fields – the spring burning of which contributes quite a lot to the hazy conditions that make it difficult at times to tell if the sun is shining. As that has been our experience throughout much of Asia, we found that neither surprising nor off putting, though I did find myself longing for the deep blue skies that appear in some of the photos.

IMG_7297The place is run by a quirky French fellow who apparently took over the property from the previous management that ran a textile resort there. The chalets are simple and well appointed, and we very much enjoyed the little restaurant on the premises that served simple local cuisine. We even booked a massage one day from a woman they bring in for their guests who was a bit more thorough (though not inappropriate) than I am accustomed to. Maybe the most enjoyable massage, ever…

IMG_1874The pool area is the centerpiece of the property, and while quite small, it was completely adequate for the ritual of sunbathing and soaking. In addition to a few Europeans, we were pleased to meet a couple Malaysian travelers who try to frequent this resort two or three times a year. As this was our midyear break, we found lounging by the pool to be our favorite activity, but we did manage to make it to the elephant reserve (a good distance away) and do a bit of exploring in the old city of Chiang Mai, which I find much more interesting and accessible than Bangkok.

IMG_7319I have been following the Naturist Association of Thailand for some time now, which lists several resorts scattered about this vast country, each of which emphasizes in one way or another that nudity must be confined to the space within the barriers of the resort – once again, not surprising given the very strict laws about nudity on beaches and such. That said, I was delighted to discover a new resort that has recently popped up near Phuket that appears (by their website, and the first round of Trip Advisor reports) to be a lovely facility. Had we known The Lemon Tree had existed during our recent visit last April we would have stopped in for sure. Another reason to go back.

Lemon Tree - New resort in Phuket

Lemon Tree – New resort in Phuket

Would I return to Oriental Village near Chiang Mai? You bet. We find the perfect naturist vacation is one that provides an opportunity to explore and experience another corner of the planet, while affording a place to get naked at the end of the day. I can only hope that these trend setting proprietors of naturist resorts in Thailand will open the gates for other creative naturist solutions in Southeast Asia, where the sun is shining while much of the northern hemisphere lies under a blanket of snow.

IMG_7304One more thing… next time we go, we will rent a car, though that requires driving on what we consider to be the wrong side of the road. I was even more concerned about the prospect of road signs written with indecipherable diacritical markings that would leave me “unnaked and afraid.” But alas, nearly all the important road signs are in English as well, and my phone GPS worked like a charm.

So there it is. Go to Asia and get naked. These little places need our naked support, and we naked people need nice places to stay. This is a trend that I hope to see pick up momentum in the coming months and years.

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