Young Blood

4-legged Zen master


The sight of a 20-inch bluish-green body with protruding red spots greeted us.

I saw him glued to the wall in perfect stillness, like an exquisite adornment. His physical demeanor told me to stay away. Yet the more time we spent together, the more I got to know him.

It was early in February, when the dry season was at its peak. The temperature had risen over the last three days. Bangkok was 90 degrees and it was a whopping 96 in Phuket. The steamy tropical weather had spread across the entire peninsula, and our stopover on the third largest island in Thailand—Koh Samui—was not spared.

This 247-square-kilometer island, where 90 percent of the population of 40,000 are Buddhist, is home to a Tokay gecko community. In the villa that we rented, we were sharing space with one of its kind. There were other geckos in the area but our house mate seemed to know how to get the best location. From the terrace, the view was of towering palm trees punctuated by the ocean, which was constantly changing colors from many shades of playful blue to dazzling emerald.

I saw our gecko again on the second day, above the toilet seat; it was becoming his favorite spot. I began to get curious about his actions. His nightly rituals would start as soon as he crawled out of the dark corner of the gutter. He’d prowl around and, after the cicadas finished their chorus, he’d perform his tok-ko solo like an opera singer in an aria. Then he’d stay motionless for many hours as though waiting for something, and just before the crack of dawn he’d disappear.

I had a list of things to do, for it was my first time in Koh Samui. I had planned to visit the big Buddha, the Ang Thong National Marine Park where Alex Garland’s novel “The Beach” was filmed, the Namuang waterfall, the monk mummy at Wat Khunaram, and the legendary Hin Ta (male) and Hin Yai (female) at Lamai beach resembling human genitals. I wanted to go on an elephant ride, and to see the “lady boys.”

But instead of going through the list, my house mate’s Zen-like ways so influenced me that I decided to spend more of my time getting close to nature. I spent time watching the clouds go by, and I felt at ease. There was peace and it was blissful. And for hours I’d lie motionless, just like my house mate. I’d listen very carefully to what’s happening around me. I’d wait until everything became acute and lucid. Finally, with every detail so clear, I’d hear the soft gust of wind blowing in from the west; I’d feel the trees swaying in motion and the waves slowly washing the sand.

It occurred to me that I was beginning to think like the gecko in our villa. In adopting his philosophy, my senses were awakened and I began to understand the concept of patience. I’m still antsy about some things but I can say that I’m a work in progress. Needless to say, the art of meditating has worked wonders, thanks to my four-legged Zen master. One afternoon I went out again to soak in the beauty of nature. The cold water soothed my stiff muscles. I lost my balance when I came out of the pool, but I was quick to grasp the side of a rock, demonstrating what my friend had taught me—an adhesive-like reaction.

(If I were to visit Koh Samui again, it would be between April and September, avoiding the driest season that is from January to March. The heat seems to bring out the geckos from their hibernation.)

I did not see our gecko in his favorite spot on the evening of our last day in Koh Samui.

Outside, the guests from all the villas gathered on the shore for the floating-lantern activity. One by one, each lit a lantern and released it. The evening breeze propelled the lanterns up into the sky until each looked like a tiny spark produced by a firefly. (And if it turned out to be a bug, the poor creature would be eaten by our gecko, soon be part of the food chain.)

When it was time for me to light my lantern, I remembered our house mate’s loud staccato croak that always woke me during my nightly slumber. “Tok-ko! Tok-ko!” For that brief close encounter, I was grateful for his wisdom. In the back of my mind I saw his 20-inch bluish-green body adorned with protruding red spots. I closed my eyes, let go of my lantern, and wished everyone and him a good night.

Jan Sevilla, 26, describes herself as “a quixotic nomadic chick” from the Philippines who works as a research assistant in Kuala Lumpur.

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Tags: bangkok , Gecko , Jan Sevilla , Koh Samui , opinion , Phuket , travel , Young Blood

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