Brian Gruber Book Launch and Cover Art Unveiling

27 Feb 2022

“Full Moon over Koh Phangan: What Adventurers, Dancers, and Freaks Seek and Find on Thailand’s Magic Island” Launches with Book Readings at Orion Healing Center

This month saw the launch of Koh Phangan’s first full-length nonfiction book on what people seek and find on our magic island. The event was hosted by Daliah and Ari Barkan at Orion Healing Center’s Beach Shala.

It was a full house as the community gathered to talk about the unique history that has been drawing people here from around the world.

Author Brian Gruber talked about the process of compiling the oral history of 25 interviews and the conclusions and insights drawn from the process. The event featured the "unveiling" of the original abstract painting by Thai artist Panyavee Adler that illuminates the book's cover.  

You can purchase the ebook for only 150 baht at https://amzn.to/3B75ssb, priced for easy access and enjoyment. Phanganist will publish excerpts from the interviews in the coming weeks.

Here is one with Orion’s Daliah Barkan about her first experiences with the island. And how she longed for it while watching it from a distance on Koh Samui.

From the Chapter “Follow the Stars”

Daliah Barkan: Twenty years ago, before they paved over the roads in Haad Rin, Ari and I, young, beautiful people, used to dig for crystals. We still have some amethyst in our house that we dug from the Backyard afterparty. I was in my very early 20s. With big pickaxes and shovels, we would dig out crystals and give them to our Reiki students as presents after we initiated them. We've still got three or four pieces left. So, it is very much a crystal island. There are tourmaline mines here. There is a vibration, that's something that every geologist can tell you.

I love the idea that Phangan is this patchwork of the hippie vibe that was brought over from Goa in the ‘90s to the freedom that they found here. There is no airport. But there are many islands in Thailand that have no airport.

For me, there is something special. When I landed here, I felt my muse, I saw this place and came back, and came back, until it was clear to me that I had to live here. For me, it's a real love affair with Phangan. I look over from Samui, from the beach where I live, and I feel my heart melting like a lover, looking over to a lover that's far away.

Brian Gruber: Can you expand on what you experienced the first time you came?

Daliah Barkan: Arriving on the beach to Haad Rin, looking at the beach.  We had been on a big journey, I was 18; we had been to Mexico, been to Africa, Australia, I would have been to India.

I arrived on the beach. We had spent a few days on Samui, and this bay was so beautiful - crystal white sand - but there was nothing, apart from these beautiful people with long hair, juggling.

There was a sense of freedom I cannot explain, something that's beyond words. All the people that were on that beach, there was a sense of community, where there was none at home (in London), really beautiful people, shining eyes, free. The nights were just beautiful. Everyone in the same place listening to the same music and dancing, and celebrating life. And celebrating unity. There was a real feeling of purpose in the way we spoke to each other. We didn't ask about backgrounds. It was the first time that I experienced the togetherness of nations. And that was from that heart connection. And that was beautiful.

Brian Gruber: Tell me about the path to the idea for Orion.

Daliah Barkan: I came on holiday. I was working at BSkyB (News Corp’s large satellite television operation in the UK). I saw the Twin Towers falling (9/11/2001) running between the newsroom and the PR room. I had this big epiphany, somewhere in Belsize Park, amid all the beautiful trees in London. “I don't want to do this anymore.” Give up my apartment, give up my job, give up my future in PR, just give it up and come to Asia. And I met Ari.

Brian Gruber: At that moment, what was your vision for the life you would want to live here?

Daliah Barkan: I knew I wanted to make a change in people. I knew that I wanted to take them through a journey. And I knew that the way to do that was to take them away from their comfort zone. And from all the systems that they believed were correct. And to show them that something else was possible. I came here with a vision. I knew there was something else that I wanted. Ari came here with a very concrete vision of holding retreats. The detox and the Reiki are Ari's beautiful vision; he brought that from New York. And I joined that vision.

Brian Gruber: Is there ever a voice that you hear, cynical, with a London accent, saying, "What are you doing?"

Daliah Barkan: Never. It's always, it's always peace. But I've always known deep in my heart, like, this is exactly why I'm going to do this.

Brian Gruber: Is there a conflict between a spiritual lifestyle and hedonism or pleasure-seeking?

Daliah Barkan: According to Osho, there's not (laughter). I think there's no contradiction. In England, people don't dance and celebrate, there are no big weddings anymore. It's not like you're living in a tribe where you dance every day, you celebrate. You reach the age where you stop clubbing, you stop dancing. That is not anthropologically correct. Our bodies can't stop dancing. If you go to Africa, all the women, all the men of all ages, especially the grandparents, they're all stamping on the ground, they're charging the ground with energy. This hedonism, this kind of party aspect of Phangan, the reason why there is so much dancing here as well, be it at Eden or Guy's Bar or conscious dance at Pyramid Yoga, it's adults that have the opportunity to dance and celebrate without any judgment, without any alcohol, just good old community dance, which we've lost, at least in Western Europe. That is a really big key to why people are here. People love to move their bodies.

Buy the book at https://amzn.to/3B75ssb.

Photos thanks to event attendees Ross Silcocks and Richard Green.