Naked at the ends of the Earth – Part I

At this writing, I’m sitting on the veranda of my apartment in a lovely little naturist resort on Phuket – Lemon Tree Resort – one of but a few places where it’s legal to get naked in Thailand. Well worth the trouble to get here, but it is, indeed a bit of trouble to get here, which inspired the name of this post. As it happens, I love to explore and find places that I wouldn’t stumble into without some sort of incentive. For a naturist, that incentive is finding a new naked destination; good enough reason to spend a bit of time on internet finding a way to get naked at the ends of the earth. The main criteria for making this list is: 1) I doubt I would have come here had it not been for the opportunity to discover a new naturist destination, and 2) it has to be someplace I would consider visiting again.


#1 – Lemon Tree Naturist Resort near Nai Harn Beach, Phuket, Thailand

IMG_2484This is my second visit to this fabulous little place, and if you look it up on Trip Advisor, you will see that the young couple that runs the place, Patty and Golf, have developed quite a following in their first 18 months of business. (If you keep reading the reviews, you’ll also see there are some interesting challenges in running a naturist business in Thailand!) But as reported, they are gracious hosts, and have found a niche market in naturism, despite the fact that they are not naturist themselves.

IMG_2437It’s a smallish resort, but the rooms are among the nicest we’ve seen at any naturist venue, anyplace. Well appointed, clean and complete with kitchenettes. The pools are also relatively small, but the water temperature is perfect for floating and lodging yourself – mostly submersed – in a corner with a good book. Getting naked outside the resort is tricky, though they do run boat excursions during high season to smaller nearby islands, secluded enough to make a naked picnic on the beach. My timing was right during my last visit to take advantage of that, and it was truly a perfect naturist day.

Patty tells me she is encouraged that they are already seeing a pattern of repeat guests, which is a good omen for the long-term prospects of this business venture, and good news for people who are looking for a naturist destination when it’s icy cold in Europe and the US.


#2 – BB at Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

IMG_7919I was pretty consistent about blogging about our naturist trek that took us down the east coast of Australia over New Years 2017, but I lost footing about the time we got to Byron Bay, where we stayed in what I guess you would call a naturist B&B there, named simply, BB at Byron Bay. Debra and Michael are an intriguing couple who purchased this gorgeous home on a hilltop surrounded by green rolling hills just inland from the hippie haven that is Byron Bay. Our room was simply lovely, with a veranda looking out toward the sea, and we found an interesting mix of guests there that, like us, seemed to think “If I’m going to pay for a place to stay, all the better if it’s a place I can be naked.”

IMG_1437While adhering to European naturist values, (Deb had a few interesting stories to tell about various booking inquiries) this is hardly your typical naturist place, and it took us a couple days to figure out the routine of simply coming and going. (I think we actually set off the burglar alarm one evening!) Our hosts were truly gracious in sharing their home, but as is often the case when staying at a B&B, it took a while to figure out what was ours and what was theirs, especially during the morning breakfast routine.

But all that aside, the location was fantastic for exploring the beach towns near Byron Bay, while affording us a visit to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to bulk up our photo collection of Koalas. I hear there’s some controversy regarding the continued naturist status of Byron Beach. Would be a shame should that become non-naturist as it was truly one of the finest naturist beaches we’ve visited with miles of walking to be had au naturel. Don’t know when or if we’ll get back to that part of the world, but if we do, I hope BB at Byron Bay, and the nearby naturist beach, are still alive and well.


#3 – Harmony Nature Farm near Rustenberg, South Africa

IMG_7336It’s been a few years since our visit to Harmony Nature Farm, and I think a lot has happened for Piet and his crew since that time, so I was delighted to see the recent update to their website, suggesting that naturism is booming in this unique hillside retreat about two hours north of Johannesburg. We stayed for a week in December of 2013 and were literally welcomed like family.

A stay in the local Hilton this is not! Accommodations are in little stone cabins that Piet and his father built one by one over years of developing their little naturist nirvana. As indicated on their new website, most of their naturist business is on the weekend, and we had to remain attuned to the sensitivities of the staff during the week, as social nudity IMG_9505is far from the norm in this part of the world. Piet took us along on his grocery run one day so we were able to lay in provisions to cook for ourselves during most of our stay.

While requiring clothing, the highlight of the week was most definitely Piet’s personal safari for us and one other couple who frequent the resort. It was a full-day affair as Piet forged the innumerable dirt roads of the Pilansburg Game Reserve outsmarting giraffes and elephants en route to the best watering holes. This is our only genuine safari experience to date, so we don’t have much to compare it too, but it’s difficult to believe it gets better that Piet’s version.

As a naturist destination, it’s a long ways to go to get naked, and even in the early South African summer (the week before Christmas) it was a bit chilly much of the time for total nudity, but a stay at Harmony most definitely provided a unique spin for our African adventure.


#4 – Panorama Naturist Hotel on Zakynthos, Greece

There are a few excellent opportunities for naturism in Greece, including nearly any secluded beach on a Greek island if the timing is right, but our visit to the Panorama Naturist Hotel on Zakynthos was particularly memorable, largely due to the people who run it. Natasha, her parents, and their little white dog Poochi won our hearts immediately upon arrival – once again, a case where a non-naturist family opened a naturist operation in hopes of finding a niche clientele. With so many repeat guests during our stay, it seems that was an excellent business decision.

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While not quite so far off the beaten track as Thailand or South Africa, what most surprised us about Panorama was how subtly it blended into the neighborhood, marked only by a simple sign that indicated Panorama Café and Swimming Pool. We would have never found it had we not know exactly what we were looking for.

As you will find in online reviews, the rooms and the food are basic, but Natasha’s cheerful personality made it pleasant and enticing for guests to hang out near the bar. And even though this is the quiet end of Zakynthos, we found several tavernas within walking distance with great food and lovely ambiance – worth getting dressed for.

IMG_7045As opposed to the vast possibilities on Crete, we found naturist beach combing on Zakynthos a bit disappointing, particularly by late September, though hanging by the pool proved a worthy endeavor, which is where we spent most of our naked time chatting up a few regulars from The Netherlands. For that alone, Panorama is most definitely on our “get back to one day” list.


#5 – Colina do Sol near Porto Alegre, Brazil

Many of our naturist quests have been spawned by the desire to find someplace dependably warm in the month of January, particularly challenging with the loss of some of the tried and true Caribbean locations. Since January is the height of summer in South America, naturism in Brazil seemed like the perfect answer.

IMG_0189As it happens, there are several naturist enclaves scattered throughout Brazil, though perhaps none as renowned as Colina do Sol in the rolling hills above Porto Alegre. The last time I mentioned this place in my blog was during our initial inquiries about the naturist scene in Brazil, which kept leading me back to this once vibrant naturist community. The whole place was the dream-child of one Celso Rossi; an entrepreneur of sorts who laid out the original plans for a community of cabins, shops with the basic amenities, and finally, a lakeside restaurant and hotel.

That post elicited a fiery response from an angry American who was part of a cohort of folks that sought to make Colina do Sol an American nudist destination. Despite hearing the stories from the Celso himself, it’s still difficult to figure out just what happened, but today, Colina do Sol remains a picturesque naturist community nestled in a lush valley of Brazil. The hotel and restaurant are now under new management and a new name – Hotel do Lago – and you can actually rent a couple of the cabins on Booking.com.

IMG_0223Our stay there was nothing short of pleasant and nostalgic, if not a bit moist with a good bit of rain and humidity. At the time, the hotel was still unfinished, but our simple room on the ground floor was adequate, and the makeshift restaurant-nightclub on the top floor afforded gorgeous sunset views over the lake. Were we to return, I think I would try one of the rental cabins, as many of them seemed well appointed with covered terraces and screened-in porches. It seems that in it’s heyday, naturism was a booming business in this little valley, and while most of the houses and cabins – perhaps 100-200 of them – seemed inhabited, it was very quiet during our stay. Not quite the mid-summer French naturist resort vibe we had been hoping for.

I’ll be eager to see what becomes of the new Hotel do Lago, and it appears there’s a new effort to make subletting the cabins a bit easier than it has been in the past. The place was an incredible dream, and alas, most definitely does offer a place to get naked in the dead of North American winter!

Watch for Part II about our travels to Corsica, the Canary Islands, Mexico, Honduras, and a very different naturist place in Thailand.

 

 

The Demographics of Nakedness

[Photo credit to Spencer Tunick for the featured image]

Hello naturist followers and friends,

Dare I even write this post?

I’ve fallen behind again on my blog. I never got back to finishing my travelogue for our trip through naked Australia, with reviews yet to be completed of the luxurious BB at Byron Bay, or our final stop at the famed little resort near Tambourine known to loyal followers as BoBrene. And since then, I had a brief stay in Thailand that afforded a visit to a new resort in Phuket called Lemon Tree Resort – a very sweet little naturist retreat just a short drive from the waterfront, including a boat trip out to a makeshift naturist beach on a small mostly deserted island.


But alas, I feel a sudden urge to trump – if you’ll pardon the expression – my typical agenda of travel writing with a brief outburst of a philosophical nature, spawned in large part by some lovely people I’ve met in recent days during our first visit to a bucolic little resort in Honduras called Paya Bay. (Yet another review to be written!)

As is usually the case in making new acquaintances with naked people, the first topic of conversation was something of a naturist travel roll call. “Have you been to that little place near the Mexican border? How about one of those Big Nude Boat sailings? You were on the Royal Clipper to Venice when? Hey! I think we were on that boat!”

Then comes that awkward silence. We both prefer naked travel. We’ve been to many of the same places. You have a penis. I have a penis. (No gender neutral confusion there!)  Let’s see… what else?

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My wife and I have been naturists since about 1986 when we made our first visit to a nude beach near Santa Cruz, California. We are among the lucky ones as this was not a late-in-life discovery for us, but instead, a unique attribute of our relationship that has evolved as everything else does in a marriage of 32+ years. And the achievement of getting our kids through college and out of the house has afforded us many more choices for seeing the world – with clothes or without. Which leads to this somewhat meandering post that will attempt to take on a few myths about naturism that have long challenged my curiosities, most frequently leading to a final assessment of… “Huh!”

Alleged Myth #1: People at naturist resorts are much more social and friendly than those at typical (textile) resorts.

I think this is largely true, if for no other reason, you have a non-verbal starter right out of the box. “You’re naked. I’m naked. Let’s talk about how cool that is for a few minutes.” Talk about an ice-breaker! And truth be told, if you go to a Westin resort on Maui and invite yourself to join another couple at their table on the veranda with the opening line, “Hey, is this your first time wearing that ill-fitting bathing suit to a posh, overpriced resort – MINE TOO!,” you’re likely to get something between a stink-eye and a sudden escort from the resort bouncer.

Nudity is most certainly an immediate common denominator, and those who have been at it for a while understand the almost (?) competitive business of amassing destination pins in the naturist world map. “Oh, well if you like that place, you’ve got to try this other place with the naked zip line course.”

In all fairness, this is, all at once, an opportunity to boast about one’s naked accomplishments, while at the same time, conducting all so important naturist reconnaissance. Hours of digging through Trip Advisor Reviews will never compare to the candor and nuance of a travel conversation with a seasoned naturist, much of which involves a certain flavor of non-verbal communication that provides context for said reconnaissance data. But more about that later.

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Alleged Myth #2: The nice thing about being naked is that you are stripped of all the artificial barriers that put people at odds with one another in normal life. “A naked doctor and a naked plumber are on a level playing field while sipping a fruity drink on a nude beach.

It’s later!

I have heard this argument on the beach, in the hot tub, at the restaurant, in the pool, and on the veranda of a cruise ship. “The great thing about nudity is that it makes us all equal! We are all the same once stripped of our uniforms that provide cues about social status, income, education, and personal ideologies regarding motorcycles and the human qualities of cats.”

False.

Well, even if I could completely embrace the initial premise, this all changes pretty quickly once the first person breaks the ice with, “Is this your first time at a naturalist [sic] place? The wife and I never [sic] done this before.”

If you’re still reading and haven’t simply deleted the link to my blog as you dismiss me for being a pompous ass with an intolerance for people from varied walks of life, then you have tapped into the very essence of my point.

In fact, if you really think this myth to be a truth, try visiting the teachers’ lounge at Any School USA to see how those birds of a feather flock together. (Or not!) We are not all the same, even when most of our life choices regarding career, church, and family would indicate that we are, and the lack of clothing actually does very little to hide those differences which really matter.

I truly wish this wasn’t the case. When we first began our naturist explorations, we were much more optimistic about meeting people at naturist venues who would share our interests, values, and ideals. But in reality, I would put the odds someplace in the same ballpark as on-line dating. Once you’ve finished the obligatory conversation about “Isn’t it great to be naked and free?” You’ve got to have something else to talk about.

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Alleged Myth #3: Naturists are more open minded and accepting of alternative lifestyles, political and religious perspectives, and a general sense of live and let live.

In an effort to figure out what the hell is going on in the world right now, I’m reading two interesting books, each of an autobiographical nature, by political comedians who felt it timely to share their stories. Trevor Noah is the late night talk show host who replaced Jon Stewart, and Bassem Youssef was the Egyptian equivalent of Jon Stewart, until he was forced into exile after his rants about the complexities of the Arab Spring, albeit in a humorous manner. (And now you know something about me… I really like Jon Stewart!) Their stories are largely the same, each having found the absurdity of living under intense oppression, Noah growing up as a mixed race child in South Africa during the fall of apartheid, Youssef narrowly escaping his homeland when the government elevated his humor to a threat to Arab civilization. Their writing is all at once poignant and laugh inducing, in each case providing abounding evidence of how people fall short of relating to one another in a thoughtful and compassionate way, even when it would be in their best interest to do so.

Here at Paya Bay, this is the first time I’ve been naked in public since the United States of America decided we are far from united when it comes to what we think are the inalienable rights that bond us together. And perhaps I can evoke a bit more drama in suggesting (recognizing ?!?) that the motivations of one side of the political discourse is deeply intertwined with a particular religious perspective that suggests that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten resources to the US of A, so that he who was not born here shall suffer and perish.” Youssef and Noah drive that point home with stirring anecdotal evidence that compassion, while considered a virtue, is a country-mile stretch for the average human being.

So there it is. My political opinions – neatly packaged for consumption – that would die a sudden and violent death in a typical room full of naked people. From my perspective, it really should go like this. “Hey! Look at all of us! We all have essentially the same body parts, so we can put that part of the conversation to rest! So what say we tussle a bit about the other things that make us uniquely human, like the ability to reason, engage in thoughtful discourse, and simply agree to disagree in the spirit of tolerance and a commonality in the reverence for life, and living it to its fullest. (You are, after all, standing here naked! Isn’t that living life to the margin?)

But like everyplace I have gone since late November 2016, new acquaintances are regulated by a delicate pas-de-deux of feeling out one’s personal convictions before you blunder into a Cold War of philosophical dissension, or maybe even alienation and ridicule. But probably not. Better to play it safe and stay on script, “So this is your first time at a naked place?”

My point? Some naturists are liberal. Some naturists are conservatives. Some are quite tolerant, and others are not. It turns out that one’s desire to walk around without clothing has surprising little to do with any of those other factors. Each human is a complex organism influenced by the social environment in which s/he he lives his or her daily life.

For me, that was a “Huh!”
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Alleged Myth #4: Naturists are simply 21st century hippies who simply can’t let go of the good ol’ days in the Haight-Asbury, with all the accompanying affinities for weed, free love, and communal living.

Don’t I wish! As the youngest of four, my older siblings brought up the rear of that generation. In fact, my brother even went to Janice Joplin concerts at the Filmore, though I’m pretty sure he stopped short of free love in Golden Gate Park.

But it seems to me that a part of America died when the hippies grew up and got jobs in corporate America. Ironically enough, the free love thing sort of morphed into a swinger thing, (which the Millennials seem to have repackaged as friends with benefits. Just wow!) and this has become the very antithesis of what us high-minded naked people like to call naturist values. But the other piece that seemed to go under the bus was tolerance. Though one could make the argument that hippies and non-hippies may have spent a lot more time and energy talking about tolerance than actually being tolerant themselves.

Here again, so much rhetoric in the naturist community is given to body acceptance, though in my estimation, that’s pretty hit and miss as well. It amazes me how much humans obsess over another one’s piercings, tattoos, or distribution of body weight. Isn’t the point, “Here I am! Naked and unafraid! You don’t even have to love me, but is it so much to ask you to simply co-exist?

We have made several visits over the years to the infamous Cap d’Agde in the South of France, which might be best described as a place where, if you can imagine it, you will find it – and then a bit more. I find it to be an intriguing show where you can sit for hours at a sidewalk cafe watching the world go by; a man on a studded leash, a woman adorned in sparkly string that accentuates her crotch, or any number of genital piercings that would never make it through a metal detector. (Not to mention the amorous couples at the hotel pool who are less than subtle in their public displays of affection.) For my wife, it’s a good bit over the line. She couldn’t even tell you why, exactly, as we have never been approached by others to “come out and play,” nor have we had any reason to feel threatened by behaviors we would never engage in. But in the end, it’s beyond our daily repertoire of acceptable behavior, as if they’ve crossed that line, you wonder where the next one will be drawn.

I suppose that’s the very essence of society’s suspicious about naked people in general. Allow them to walk naked on the beach, and the next thing you know they’ll be naked in the streets, and the movie theaters, and maybe even at Disneyland. (I could launch off onto an entirely new tangent about yoga pants at this juncture, but maybe that’s for another day.)

If we’ve learned anything about people in recent decades, it’s that despite all of our insurance plans, extended warranties, and declaratory promises from various politicians, we are a fearful people, largely fearing those things which we don’t quite understand. You can see naked people undulating on the big screen entranced in the most intimate of human experiences, and maybe even get a glimpse of full frontal nudity, but catch a naked couple walking hand in hand on the beach, and clearly we’ve gone off the rail. That was the stuff the hippies were made of, and we see what happened to them!
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Alleged Myth #5: Given the assertion that at least 75% of the above assertions are true, any naturist community is a convivial community, where values are largely the same, and potential soulmates are just standing around naked, waiting to bond!

So at this point, this seems a bit redundant. Naked people really only have one thing in common. Nudity. And no doubt, if you’ve arrived at that point of life where you’d rather have a root canal before wearing nylon in a swimming pool, and you find yourself looking for a new soulmate, you are faced with an onerous task indeed.

Many have responded to my blog seeking advice as to how they might coax a naturist unfriendly spouse to give naturism a whirl. Seems bizarre. Most everything in their lives has aligned; they may have “connected” two human bodies to make more human bodies,  and they undoubtedly (but not always!) have seen one another naked, but making that step into the arena of public nudity simply violates too many social norms. Now with the proliferation of random photography and cameras hidden everywhere “for security purposes,” it seems a significant change to those social norms is not on the immediate horizon.

That said, getting yourself a ticket for a ride on a big boat with 1000 other naked people must increase one’s chances of finding others who at least are willing to embrace the naked part of the equation. But beyond that, it seems to me it’s just about like everything else. Each human is wired uniquely. It’s what makes us so interesting. It’s also what makes us so complicated. Turns out that so many of us are apparently just wolves – in no clothing!

Dogs seem pretty comfortable naked. Maybe we could learn a few things from them.

Huh!


Dedicated, with gratitude and affection, to Randy, Greg, Judy and Ann; two lovely couples we met at Paya Bay this past weekend who weren’t afraid to say, “We like to be naked… with people we like to be with!”

Wow. Thought provoking!

Thailand launches a Naturist Publication!

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Thailand’s new Naturist Association publication.

So while we’ll be making Provence our home base for much of next year, we plan to take every opportunity we can to knock a few other travel destinations off our bucket list – naturist or otherwise.  (Hoping we can negotiate one of those round-the-world plane tickets, but we’re still working on that!)  We’ve already made reservations at a naturist resort in Chaing Mai, Thailand called Oriental Village.  Looks like that will be a lovely place to stay. But while seeking out other places to get naked in Thailand, I found a link to this first naturist publication to promote naturism IN Thailand!  WOW!  Since a weblink is worth a thousand words, here’s a link to NAT MAGAZINE.  It’s beautifully written, with loads of information for the freshly minted naturist, and incredibly helpful to people like us, who have wondered for years why so many of the world’s best beaches are wasted on people in swimsuits!

One big step for naked people EVERYwhere!