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Hello and welcome to my blog formerly called Gypsy-K. Please note that I am only updating this blog while I am walking from Rome to Jerusalem from September 2015. My online home and permanent blog is at You can also sign up for pilgrim postcards and newsletters here. Thank you for being here and supporting my journey. With love and courage, Kym xx

Monday, 25 October 2010

Soi Dog

I lie flat on my back. Relaxed beneath the blue, light cotton blanket providing a layer of protection between my exposed skin and the cool air in my bedroom. I listen to the silence beyond the hum of the air conditioner. The night is still, as if the whole world is asleep or at least lying in stillness like me. From where I lie, I can detect no movement, not even the buzz of a passing motorbike or car.

Lulled by the peace surrounding me, I begin to slip into slumber and a world of fuzzy dreams only to be jerked awake by the painful yelps of a dog in the soi behind my home. I focus on the commotion, as I try to make sense of what is happening. More dogs are barking. How many?  1, 2, 3….I cannot tell. The dog that woke me up continues to cry it’s painful yelps as if it is begging for its life. I don’t know exactly what is happening but my mind produces images of a pack of dogs surrounding and attacking one weaker pup. This may be just another night in the life of a street dog but the sound always makes me feel sick. I roll onto my side and try to let the hum of the air conditioner fill my ears until the fight ends and the night becomes peaceful once again. I think of Dopey, my soi’s stray, and hope that he has found a safe place to sleep tonight, away from the aggressiveness of this pack.

Dopey is just one of many thousands of homeless dogs that live on the streets and beaches of Phuket. Dogs that have been abandoned when they are no longer cute puppies or are the off-spring of already homeless un-neutered dogs and have nowhere else to go, make a life for themselves here. They scavenge for food from discarded rubbish and the occasional kind person, take shelter from the scorching heat of the mid-day sun, roam and play with other strays and sleep. They risk, and often lose their lives, attempting to cross roads congested with speeding motorbikes, tuk tuks and cars. And at night, they rule the streets with their own law.

Despite his shabby appearance, I fell in love with Dopey straight away. I discovered him sleeping under a neighbour’s car, hiding his scabby, oozy back from the glaring sun. I took him a small container of water and he came out of hiding for a drink and a pat. Dopey is always grateful for any love and attention he receives. He looks at me with his soft brown eyes and pushes his moist nose lovingly towards my face. I pat him tenderly around his face and on his snout, careful not to touch the sores on his back and cause him any pain.

Dopey has spent many years of his life on the streets and is old for a street dog. Most of his teeth are worn down to his gum line and must cause him pain to eat anything solid and tough. Most of the time he would have no choice. With a hungry rumbling stomach to fill, he eats whatever he can find and must bear the pain if he wants to fill his stomach and survive another day. He is also afflicted with a skin condition most likely caused by parasites that cause intense itching and result in loss of fur, infection and crusting of the skin. Dopey has many sections along his back and on his legs that lack fur. The exposed skin is dry with a crust of sometimes oozy sores.

I long to help Dopey. Feed him, treat his skin condition, give him shelter and protection and all the love a dog needs. And as simple as this is to do, it is more complicated than it seems. Unlike Dopey, I don’t live here permanently. I could take him in and look after him while I am here but what happens to him when I leave? Once again he would have to return to the street which could be too much for an old dog to bear. If I was returning directly to Australia I could make arrangements to take him with me once he was better but I am not planning to return in the short-term. And even if I just gave him leftover food, he would come to my home, waiting to be fed long after I have gone but there will be no-one to feed him and this is not a responsibility my neighbours want to assume.

Although he is clearly unwell, Dopey is not sufficiently at risk for the over-burdened street dog charities to help him at the moment. Charities such as Soi Dog  ( are inundated with dogs that are sick and unable to fend for themselves, at risk of poisoning or have been badly mistreated and need emergency treatment. They do fantastic work helping the stray dogs of Phuket and finding them new homes but there are dogs far worse off than Dopey that need their help first. Sadly, with the number of dogs on the streets here, there will always be more and more dogs that need help. Dopey is resourceful and still able to fend for himself on the streets. With his friendly personality and untroublesome ways, he is accepted as part of the furniture in our soi and lives here safely and quietly, except in the dead of night when packs of stray dogs rule the streets.

So, for now, I do the only thing I can do and that is to keep a watchful eye on my stray friend, show him affection when I see him and hope for a way to help him, so he doesn’t die unloved and alone on the street.

Sunday, 17 October 2010


My grandmother used to tell me, “If there’s enough blue sky to make a man’s pair of pants it’s going to be a nice day.”  Remembering her wisdom, I look up at the sky searching desperately for even the smallest patch of blue but there is none to be seen.  The sky is a bright silver-grey, so thick that the usually glorious sun is humbled to a meagre matte orange ball, desperately searching for a way through with no success.  It, too, is a prisoner of the monsoon.

In the distance, dense masses of craggy charcoal drift slowly towards my humble home, threatening in their size and darkness.  I lean against my front gate, gazing at them with wonder from the safety of my small front yard.   The breeze, gently playing with the loose strands of hair around my face, picks up in strength.  I turn my face straight into the wind, neither warm nor cold, and enjoy the sensation of it dancing with my long brown locks.  I know this sign well, the announcement of the impending storm.  “It’s coming, it’s coming, the rain is coming” it whispers into my ear before it rushes off in another strong gust to warn another.

The light disappears as the darkness descends, as does the rain.  At first a gentle patter as a spatter of droplets bounce off the apple green leaves of the trees shading my window.  Within seconds  the rain is intense, as if God has overturned one massive bucket of never-ending water over my home.  After several minutes it eases off before being tipped full-force once again.  It continues like this for most of the day and I find myself once again trapped indoors by the monsoon.

There is no way of escaping the confines of the house.  Riding a motorbike in this weather is not only unsafe but painful as even the lightest of rain feels like tiny razor blades slicing at my skin.  Even if I did escape, where to go?  The monsoon winds whip across the sand unforgivably and force angry waves upon the shore.  The beach is no place to be.  The shopping centre is too far to ride to and I’m loathe to put myself in a position where I am tempted to spend money I don’t really have on my traveller’s budget.   The dive boats remain in the safety of the harbour, it is too unsafe for them to fight their way through almost 3 metre waves to their usual dive sites, so no diving.

Instead I reacquaint myself with the doing of nothing, reading, writing, internet browsing, chatting online to friends far away, watching TV.  I eat Thai and western food and drink too much beer.  I let the tense knots of tiredness from months of hard work unravel with ease around me.  And when the persistent little voice calls forth feelings of guilt for the doing of nothing, I soothe its angry, jealous cry with lullabies of rest.

The monsoon will soon pass.  This time of rest will pass.  For now, I stretch back out on the couch and gratefully listen to the wind playfully toss the trees  outside to the rhythmic patter of the falling rain.

Friday, 15 October 2010

To Dive

How can I explain to you so that you can understand the beauty and the bliss of being submerged in another world?  Peace washes through every last molecule of my physical body, merging my being with the water surrounding me, overcoming my soul.

How can I describe to you the feelings that flow through my body, pumped from the centre of my being, when I am suspended in time and space by liquid sapphire?  The air I breathe from the tank on my back only keeps my physical body alive but it is the beauty that surrounds me that is my life force’s true sustenance, feeding my soul in a way food never can.

I wonder if you can understand that it is during a dive that I am most alive.  To swim alongside creatures, big or small, and to observe them in their world is a precious privilege.  This is the time I treasure most, the time I am most filled with love for Mother Earth.

Only if you have been there can you truly understand what it is like to be an earthbound creature, born of land but whose heart is owned by the sea.  Only if you have been there can you truly understand that to dive is to remember what has been forgotten, that to dive is to return home.

Photo by Ryan Bradley