Sanctuary Co-Founder Gill Beddows on the “Spirits in the Rocks” From Brian Gruber’s Just-Published Full Moon over Koh Phangan

9 Mar 2022

This Thursday evening, the Sanctuary will host a special edition of its Thursday night Open Mic with a community reading of the just-published Full Moon over Koh Phangan: What Adventurers, Dancers, and Freaks Seek and Find on Thailand's Magic Island.
 
Author Brian Gruber read selections from the 25 interviews in the oral history, including Sanctuary cofounder Gill Beddows and longtime manager Michael Doyle.  
 
The book is available for 150 baht ($4.95) at https://amzn.to/3B75ssb or directly from the author for PDF or ePUB versions. An expanded version with chapters on each island region and favorite local attractions will be released later this year.
 
Here is an excerpt from the Sanctuary chapter featuring Gill.
 
 
Sanctuary owner Gill Beddows personifies essential elements of the early expat experience on Koh Phangan. A young woman leaves everything behind to travel the hippie trail across Asia to Kathmandu. She spends time with Osho initiates in Pune, India. Wanders Khao San Road. Becomes part of the fledgling Haad Rin cluster of alternative communities and creative projects. Co-creates a near-utopian community and experience on a gorgeous, unspoiled beach, likely inspiring the backpacker classic The Beach. And touches the lives of tens of thousands who come to her “sanctuary” for wellness, serenity, and transformation.
 
 
Brian Gruber
I recently saw a Paris Match photo essay from 1972 about the hippie trail. Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, India, Nepal. It was a bit condescending, a stereotypical look at hippies at the time. In a recent visit back home in San Francisco, I visited City Lights Bookstore where Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg and others popularized the Beat movement, the precursor to hippie counterculture. Both movements sought different models for living.
 
Gill Beddows 
It was utopia when we first found Haad Rin. There was nothing. I drove up from England to Nepal. Yeah, so I was part of that trail. Me and my partner, early '80s. I did exactly what you're talking about. We ended up in Kathmandu. There was obviously no Internet.
 
We split up, just basically being in a van that long doing that trail, and then he came on to Thailand. I had the vision for this then, because I'd spent a long time with Rajneesh (Osho) in Pune. He arrived to the island before me and we met in Bangkok out of the blue because remember there was only snail mail or Post Restante (mail held by a post office until it is retrieved). I remember, in Khao San Road, he said, "I've found the most wonderful place in the world, Gill, it's a little island.”
 
I came down and jumped on a fishing boat that took me across to Haad Rin - can you imagine - and it was just amazing.
 
Brian Gruber
What motivated you to take that trip to Kathmandu? What inspired you to make that journey?
 
Gill Beddows 
All of it. The Beatles and the idea of just following your dreams, that there must be something different in life than just the Western existence. And, basically, Asia, and the Indian vibe and meditation and drugs. Let's be honest, this place is built on detox/ retox. It was that balance of Ibiza meets ashram; and a lot of the ideas of The Sanctuary vision came from Pune, from that original trip.
 
That's where I got the concept to start something like this. I spent some time in Pune, just finding myself, really. And then, next thing I know, I'm on a paradise island, with all the drugs you could ever imagine in Haad Rin; I think there was about 50 of us.
 
Brian Gruber
It seems many of the early expat explorers on the island were Osho sanyassins.
 
Gill Beddows 
It was sanyassins. We arrived and there were monks. To find somewhere so beautiful, with the lighthouse and the sunrise, the sunset. Everyone's chilled. There were no police.
 
We had a Tai Chi school open from the most amazing guy called Jay who came from Pune. We had this balance.
 
Brian Gruber
The approximate year of when you first arrived?
 
Gill Beddows 
It was probably about ’88 I'm guessing.
 
Brian Gruber
There was no formal Full Moon Party.
 
Gill Beddows 
No, no, no, we used to beg Paradise to let us do the party. They didn't want to do it. We used to pay for them to do it (because) there was no one drinking beer.
 
Brian Gruber
It's like the Hacienda in Manchester, one of the most popular clubs in the world. Everyone being high on ecstasy and nobody buying drinks was one of the reasons they went out of business.
 
Gill Beddows 
Different people would come in and pay. I remember the first couple of parties and I don't know, 50, 100 maybe max. And it just grew from that. I mean, it was just mad how it grew, it was like an avalanche.
 
Brian Gruber
Do you remember moments that were transcendent, special for you from that time?
 
Gill Beddows 
Oh my God, there are so many. It was the people, that original group of people. Nathan (Parker) arrived probably five years later. Ritumba was working in the temple building things, she was probably an instigator of the Full Moon Party. She was a sanyassin; there were a lot around then.
 
I was too young to get to the Rajneeshpuram (in Oregon), but I hit Pune when he came back from America (late 1985/ 86). I met him in the flesh a few times. I wasn't a complete devotee. His teachings were a very modern way of introducing meditation, which I still use here. Most of my sessions are Osho-based because of it. He was clever. He saw the new generation of westerners coming in, finding it hard to sit here and go aum; he created dance meditation, surfing meditation, movement meditation.
 
Brian Gruber
I remember perhaps my best meditation experience ever was when I was here for the first time in 2010. There was a Russian woman, leading meditation after a yoga class, and in that hour and a half, she did four or five different segments. One was, think of someone who you want to forgive, or send love. It was really very different.
 
Gill Beddows 
And that's what he was very good at. Kundalini sourcing, one hour split into four sections. ‘Cause our minds are so busy coming from the West. To put a really crazy spanner in the works, Jay was the security at the (Oregon Rajneesh) ranch. I met Sheela (Jay’s partner and Osho’s key lieutenant). She visited Jay here in Haad Rin.
 
Brian Gruber
In my first years on the island, there seemed to be an undercurrent of philosophical material or language. Do you think Osho’s teachings have influenced the teaching and application of yoga, meditation, and eastern philosophy on Koh Phangan?
 
Gill Beddows 
It had a profound effect on me, on a lot of us that were attending Pune. And it happened that a lot of us ended up here. There were all these visa problems with India. When I started The Sanctuary, I wanted to get some healers in; I flew over to the ashram and I got my first ten healers. “Oh, hold on a minute, you've got your visa run? I've got a place now I can give you accommodation, come do a bit of work for me.”
 
Brian Gruber
The mythology that I remember from years ago was that the Sanctuary started with one bungalow.
 
Gill Beddows 
Just me and my lover (Steve), because he's an architect/ builder and I'm a cook. Yeah, basically. I worked in the Pune kitchens. I've always believed food is sharing. It was then just one big meal every night. I couldn't do a menu. I would cook lunch and dinner. I found ‘breaking bread’ was a great way to meet people and just share stories and experiences.
 
We had one bungalow and Steve and I started it. I remember the first day we actually hired someone, it was mad, we got our first employee, we're like, my god, we've got somebody else.
 
Brian Gruber
Where did Michael come in?
 
Gill Beddows 
Five, maybe seven years after.
 
He was a guest. By then I knew that it was just too much. We could have 30 people, but it was just me, I'm cleaning bungalows. I'm a people person. So, admin, I realized I was getting in a right old mess. That's not my forte. I'm a food… I like talking to people.
 
That's why he got nickname “Sanctuary Michael” ‘cause he came in and took over my affairs.
 
The parties were the juice for this place, because we realized as the parties got bigger and bigger, the core of Haad Rin, which Nathan was involved in as well, we're like, do we want to be part of what's happening here? Because actually, there's no balance anymore. You know, it's just going too druggy, and the wrong drugs, and the wrong vibe.
 
And Steve rung me up and said, look what I found, an empty beach, what you think, about your vision?
 
I didn't like it. When I first saw it, I wanted to get the next beach, because it was empty. But we knew the guy who owned it and I came back and looked at it again. There was a big monitor (lizard) about three meters long. He's still there. And I followed him, I got on my hands and knees. And when I got to his rock, where he lives, I decided that's where I'd build my house. Steve picked that place, Ocean View. It took years to get the houses together. But that was the start of The Sanctuary really.
 
Brian Gruber
Why did people come here?
 
Gill Beddows 
I mean now there's word of mouth, but there's definitely a feeling there, going back to the soul of the island. We used to have this (Thai Buddhist) spirit house at the big tree.
 
We had a lot of snakes when we first came. I like snakes. I've been bitten three times. Thais say it's very lucky. But we had this big boa, we nicknamed him Monty, and he lived a lot at my house and then he got too much, because the builders were here and I knew he was going to get killed. So, we decided to put him on the boat to take him down the island. We had an Israeli snake catcher and he caught him at Why Nam. He always turns up there at Full Moon, it took three people to catch him. We put him on the boat at Full Moon, me and my four hippies.
 
Tor, the old guy who owns the land, was the only one who would allow me to put this big snake on this boat. We got on the boat and there's people on the beach singing. It's like something out of The Beach, we went round the point, and one of the biggest branches of the spirit tree fell off. And the Thais told me that was because I was taking the spirit away from the land.
 
Anyway, he was back in two days. A huge boa. Four meters long.
 
So, that happened. And another (memory) that for me was very important. We had lots of little accidents here, silly little things. And then this hippie girl turned up one day on the long tail coming in, the main boat, we would sit here and wait for the boat. It was like a lifeline. Bad weather, no boat. And a girl came off and she was quite… I wish I could remember her name. I can still see her face now. This very hippie look about her, really nice, just looked kind. There were only 10, 20 of us here. She said, “I'm a geomantress.” And I said, “What?” “I just feel places, I feel spirits.” So, I said okay…
 
Brian Gruber
 A geomantress?
 
Gill Beddows 
Basically, she feels people, well, she feels spirits. I think the word's geomancer, but she called herself geomantress.
 
Brian Gruber
And what did she have to say about Haad Tien?
 
Gill Beddows 
I said to her, there's some things happening and we've had a few mishaps, and she said, that's because you're not talking to the land. I asked, “How do I do that then?”
 
Brian Gruber
A reasonable question.
 
Gill Beddows 
So, she walked around for a day. And then she took me and said, “Right, I'm going to show you where they all live. And then all you've got to do is say to them, ‘Hi there, everything's okay.’ And just, you know, thank you for looking after us.” And so that's what we did. And they live on... Look! My hairs have gone up now because I still remember her saying it. So, it goes from the spirit tree all the way to the house, and it ends at my rock. And they live on that vein of the land, which is a vein of the boundary between The Sanctuary and the next beach. I have to go on the rock when I come back, and just say, “I’m here. Thanks, guys.” And I still do it to this day.
 
 
The book is available for 150 baht ($4.95) at https://amzn.to/3B75ssb or directly from the author for PDF or ePUB versions.