Sunday, March 20, 2011

Islands on Fire - Thailand & Happiness

As soon as I crossed over to Thailand, I think it was the first time that I sat, took a look around and thought to myself, "Wow, now I'm really traveling!" I have no idea what's going on. I can't read the language, much less figure out this odd tonal language. I can't understand what this woman is saying to me and by the blank look on her face certainly had no clue what I was trying to explain.

But that confusion was soon replaced by getting myself on an overnight ferry, into Ko Tao - what I consider to be the "pretty people" island. Everyone was smokingly hot! I guess that's what you get for a renowned diving island on the Southern Gulf coast in eastern Thailand. I was excited to see Kat again (who I met in Bolivia) and I'm soooooo happy that I did! We had the BEST time together! She was superb company, the most awesome wing-woman and a fantastically great dive buddy! We did our advanced SSI together and well, let's just say that I freaked her out when I got lost during the night dive! In all fairness, there were about 30 people going down...I followed the yellow flippers (like I was suppose to) and there was a blond chick next to the guy that was suppose to be my instructor (buddy check done and done). I'll paint a clearer picture by saying that it's dark. I mean, it's pitch black ocean dark and we only have tiny little flashlights (dare I say rather ineffective). Anyhow, it took me about 30 seconds to realize that I was following the wrong group!! Basically, the guy turned around and when I saw that he had a beard (no one in my group did)...I thought, oh ya, not a good thing. Suprisingly enough, I didn't panic so I did my one minute check (and actually swam into 2 other groups of divers...I was definitely not alone!!) Anyway, all is good, I'm licensed and can plan and navigate my own dives! LOL. Seriously!!

*** Environmental note: My first dive was actually a clean up dive to help get trash out of the ocean - it was depressing to see how much garbage is out there. Let's try and be good and keep our oceans clean!!! Don't throw garbage out in the ocean, touch the corals or leave anything behind! ***

We met the coolest people to enjoy my first "bucket experience" with. It's an insane drink meant to be shared (specially while watching a fire show). The typical Thai bucket has a mickey of Samsong (local sweet whiskey/rum - terrible for headaches) and 2 red bulls (terrible for the stomach)! I think it tastes rather we moved onto Vodka buckets! Let's just say after a few of those there was an attempt at Fire limbo - I survived unscathed and unscarred...unlike most people! I mean, they create the most insane scenarios for people to hurt themselves. There's the fire limbo, the fire throwing, the fire jump rope, the ring of fire. There are a lot of FIRE!! I've never seen so many bandaged people in my life!

Koh Phangan - the BEST ever!

This magical island was my favorite by far. I can't even begin to explain or describe how I felt while I was here. I've certainly never smiled as much in my life and no, it wasn't "happy shakes". Neither was it the insane and legendary pool parties at Coral or even any of the Moon parties. I mean we even skipped the Black and Shiva moon party while we were there. We were all decked out with glow-in-the-dark body paint (a new fave - everyone should experience this) and we opted not to pay the 500 Bhat and just head to the beach and have our own party. Part of it are the wonderful characters that you meet and get to know. There's the quiet unassuming guy, deep and intelligent, who ends up being the most impressive under the radar party animal. There's crazy American out on a bender, letting lose from life's responsibilities who just wants to be accepted and loved by his family waking up the next day in a boat. The young innocent Brit traveling for the first time trying getting over a break up. The insanely sexy Israeli who reminds you there are great men out there. The cute Canadian girls who smile all the time with they're own box of wine. The crazy older travelers that still haven't grown up or stopped partying and is impressively or ridiculously still hardcore. The perpetually stoned Frenchman that looks like Kramer. The adorably charming Burmese men working in a party resort to support their family. The ditsy hot chick who starts off as dull but is apparently a geneticist with the quirkiest sense of humour. The German "playa" who's actually a really sweet and sensitive guy. There's so much about this island that I love. The tree house will always have a place in my heart with it's laid back atmosphere. When I close my eyes I can still feel the cool ocean breeze and hear the waves. We only got a chance to see a tiny bit of the island when we rented a scooter and went up and down those crazy hills. Thankfully the boys gave us their scooter with the brakes instead! We snacked at the market, had wonderful satay and Thai treats and ate donuts that taste like Hanukkah. There were moments of complete and utter bliss in the pool, on the beach, lazing about when I thought to myself "Life does not get any better than this..."

Then there was heading out west into Krabi and Railey - Rock climber's paradise. Even the trek to the view point and lagoon you needed to climb with ropes. That's the most ridiculously difficult "walk" I've taken to get to a tourist destination. We enjoyed eating Pad Thai from a boat = genius. Watching the sunset. The kayak flipping and losing my camera (and the fishing pole and snorkel that the ocean took) I could have done without because unfortunately all the pictures went with gutted :( At least there are the memories and I'd like to keep it etched in my brain forever.

Next stop was Phi Phi - We stayed in the quiet part of the island on Long Beach in a Hillside resort with stairs that made your legs shake. You had to take a 100B taxi boat to get there so it was peaceful and quiet. The boat tour of the area showed us the picture perfect postcard were the waters are clear, turquoise and the type of blue that seems unreal. The snorkeling in Phi Phi Leh and of course the quintessential movie moment on Maya beach made me wish I still had my camera.

The whole thing was a mind blowing experience. I will forever be thankful for having been given so much. It's those moments when you feel alive and you understand all the stuff that movies and legends are made of. It's the ultimate traveling dream. I'm happy to be reminded that there are beautiful connections, fantastic friendships and so much more that you can go through in life and expand your horizons with. It's pursuing growth and learning to truly give in and enjoy these precious times that make everything worthwhile!

The Treehouse = my new Happy place.

My Koh Phangan smile. Unbridled and in its purest form.

Legendary Coral Pool Party.

Best Dive buddy ever!

Under water photo - one of my many new skills.

Oh ya I'm tanned and dark!!

Railey viewpoint. Hardest walk/climb ever!

Fire and Buckets!! ;)

Body paint and the Beach!!! :)

Yummy Pad Thai.

Oh it's meant to be shared ;)

Phi Phi Leh and the awesome colours of the sea.