Posts Tagged With: Thailand

Ten Things I Learned While Travelling in SE Asia – Part One

Now that I’m back from my trip and planning to take the leap again and do a big solo trip this year again, I wanted to reflect on how my trip changed my life and what the benefits are of throwing caution to the wind, letting your hair grow long and experiencing the world.

10. We are all the same

I met so many fantastic people when I was on the road: my Thai friends, my new Canadian friends, and all the other international travellers I had the pleasure of getting to know on the road.  They all had some things in common, though.  All of us just want a few simple things: to have the love of others, to find a place that feels like home, to be in the midst of community and camaraderie, and to care for our families in peace and safety.  As I conversed with all these new people, I was struck by how similar our wants and needs are, and that made me think about how often our surface differences get in the way of really understanding each other.

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9. Real Confidence is Earned

When I stepped off the plane in Bangkok at the beginning of my journey, I was – scared. It was fun and refreshing and exciting, but also I was totally nervous about being on my own in a new country without anyone else to rely on.  As the trip went on and I learned the ropes of backpacking in a foreign country, I learned to love that scared feeling every time I went somewhere new. It became exciting to come to a new place and find my bearings, find a place to stay and a few friends to share stories with.  Every crazy new adventure made me even more brave, and as I scuba dove, jumped off cliffs, killed cockroaches and spun fire, all the apprehension I had in my normal life slipped away.  I came back with something truly priceless – a deep and lasting confidence in myself that I am capable of a lot more than I think I am.

Me spinning fire in Railay

8. Culture is an Experience

When I was taking Cultural Studies at school, it was all theories and book learning, discussing this or that dead white guy and what he thought about culture.  This is total crap compared to what you can learn about culture by immersing yourself in a completely new reality.  I had huge culture shock in Thailand, and again in Cambodia, then an EVEN BIGGER culture shock when I came back to Canada with a new perspective of how people live their lives in other places.  I loved the blending of old and new, of ancient traditions that we are missing in Canada and the hurdles I would sometimes have to cross when learning about a new country’s rules and customs.  I remember losing it on a ferryboat ticket guy because the boat had left early one day, and all the Thai  people recoiled in shock as I yelled (give me a break I’d been travelling for about twelve hours at that point!).  In Thailand, outward displays of anger are almost unheard of, and if you lose your temper you “lose face” and respect.  I learned that lesson the hard way.

My advice – if you want to get cultured, go eat a cricket off a bug cart in Khao San road then wash it down with a big mac at the Mcdonalds on the same street.  Culture in our globalized world is a crazy mind bending mashup, and experiencing it firsthand is truly priceless.

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7. Pack LIGHT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

Pack light. I mean it!  I was constantly re-evaluating my load of stuff, looking for ways to cut down on what I was carrying to make room for more interesting things I picked up along the way.  Most of the clothes I brought  were useless in the tropical climate and the clothes are so dirt cheap in Asia, you are better off just bringing more money and buying some sweet Thai fisherman pants to live in.  Also, if it’s a vacation then most of your time will be spent in a bikini/swim shorts and a sarong, so don’t worry too much about what else to bring.  You will look like a dirty hippie tourist no matter what you bring, cause in a few days it will all be dusty and dirty from travelling anyhoo.

Anything you put in your pack you will have to haul around on your back for the next few months so be very wise and very ruthless while packing.  Dont take any stuff that is your absolute favorite item of clothing, because it could very easily get lost/stolen/left on a train

Some things I couldn’t live without: my silk sleep sheet (a cocoon of safety from questionable sheets), my jean shorts (buy them in Canada cause Asians have teeny hips), my travel towel (saved me from grody towels all over Asia) and my sexy hiking sandals made trekking a dream.  Spend money on these items and don’t bring your damn hairdryer!

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6. Bring Money. More than you think you need.

Back half the stuff, bring twice the money. This is a good rule of thumb I will use while travelling from this point on.  Often activities and extra outings cost an additional amount, beyond what you are expecting to spend for the day.  Theses types of trips will MAKE your journey, so save $$ to take a long tail down the River Kwai, to spend three days exploring Angkor Wat, or to go on a major end-of-trip shopping spree.  There were days when I would have to budget wisely to be able to make these things happen, so make sure to keep in mind that although Asia is cheap, there are things that wont be.  Food and accommodations can often be very cheap, so don’t be afraid to hunt around for a bit for the best deal or to eat lunch from a street cart.

Tip: if you are going to eat street food, look for the busiest cart as the ingredients are more likely to be fresh and the locals know best!!

Best Street Food EVER

5. Haggle, Haggle, Haggle

I love bartering.  I am damn good at it.  Often my friends would want to take me shopping because my training as an actor allows me to give the shopkeepers the performance they want.  The locals are used to bartering with their neighbors, it’s just the way of the world over there, and they are also used to fleecing tourists for goods at three times the price of the actual cost.  The trick to bartering is not losing your cool, and not caring that much about the item (unless you reeeeeeeallllly want it, in that case act like you care even less).  Ask how much an item is, offer them half the quoted price, then meet them somewhere in the middle. It’s a game!  Make it fun, joke with them and make them feel comfortable with you.  Offer to buy other items, or to do a combo deal with your friends who are buying items.  If you don’t get the price you want, just walk away.  They will call u back and say “ok” or you can walk down to the next shop and probably find the same item and try your luck again.  See?  It’s much more fun to haggle than to buy things in Canada at full price!!

How Much? Too much!!

Last Minute Shopping

Tomorrow, the top 5 things I learned while travelling solo in SE Asia!

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Goodbye, Bangkok, Goodbye!!

Ah, Khao san road. My temporary home away from home – and I would be leaving back to Canada so shortly!! I decided to “splurge” on a sexy hotel called D+D right on the strip, the free breakfasts and rooftop pool made for a great oasis amidst the noisy city.  I loved waking up and knowing I had a short time to enjoy this amazing city before heading home, and after a swim and visit with Phil, I made my way around doing some last-minute shopping and exploring before I went home.  I had time to visit a seven eleven (or two, lol) for strange asian candies and treats to amuse my friends back home with.  I also got my last Thai massage and met up with Mr Carter for a beer and a good chat.  My last night, sad to say, I slept and didn’t party, I had a few drinks and took in the sights but to be honest I was anxious to be home again.

My sweet rooftop pool at D + D

My sweet rooftop pool at D + D

The next day I boarded the minibus to get taken to the airport and realized I had forgotten my Dad’s iPod charging in an internet cafe a few blocks down! DOH!! I went the whole trip without losing the damn thing and then I tripped at the finish line. Gah!

I honestly don’t remember much about my flight(s) home except I was totally miserable because of my stuffy sinuses.  There was trouble with ear pressure equalization as a result of this, and some wicked headaches and sniffles for me. The guy beside me might have legit thought I was dying. Well, at least we had the leg room emergency seats.

After a quick and uninspiring stop at the Mumbai Airport, we boarded a new plane bound for Heathrow, where I bought as many cold meds as my credit card could handle and blacked out for the final nine-hour leg of the journey home!! I looked like a straight up hippie after spending two months in SE Asia. I had a perma-tan, my hair was long and unbrushed, i had a about a thousand bracelets on my arm and I was carrying my fire stick, too!  People were looking at me funny, but I was all like “namaste” and they left me alone 😛

It was so nice to see my mom waiting for me at the airport!! She cried, the big baby, and maybe I did too – a little.  Two months had passed so fast, I felt like a whole new person but also like nothing had changed since I left.  Canada seemed so dry and orderly after the chaos of Asia. But still – it’s home and I was glad to be back.

Besides…….I was already scheming and dreaming about my next trip….Muahahahahahah!

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Bus from Hell to BKK

Customs

The last bus ride of my journey was also one of the most memorable!  As in – it was a fresh hell.

Agh!  The first part of the ride was nothing new – uneven roads and potholes that took up half

the bumpy highway.  I was used to the roads, and luckily I met up with some Sihanoukville

friends on the bus, who made the trip much more bearable.

As we neared the border, the trip got worse.  The usual scam artists were hanging out by the

customs office, ready to accept bribes in the form of “fees” to skip the line, but it was silly since

everyone eventually got through the line and to the other side.

BorderCrossing

Once we walked across the bridge and were back in Thailand, it seemed as though our bus operators had abandoned us in this border town.  We waited several hours in the sweltering heat for anther bus to show up, and when it did there was only room for about half of the people, and I wasn’t part of the lucky group that got to cram into the minibus.  We waited for what felt like another hour or so, half the remaining people chartered their own bus back to Bangkok, as it seemed like we weren’t ever going to leave the border town.

FINALLY the bus showed up after what seemed like an eternity and we all squished in with our luggage to this tiny van, and I thought we would make short work of the trip to BKK.

No.

After about three hours we had to transfer yet AGAIN to a new minibus, with an even surlier driver with a death wish.  I saw the name of the City and looked it up on my map – we still had three or four more hours to go until we reached our destination!  It was nearing dark and we had been on the road since 7am, so you can imagine how anxious I was to get there.

We all piled in again and I was lucky enough to sit beside my cute friend Phil who produced a splitter for his iPod with two sets of headphones, and the final leg of the trip sharing music and giggling while crammed together in the cargo hold with my new friend.

We arrived in BKK where we were unceremoniously dropped onto a street, which thankfully I recognized as nearby to Khao San Road.  I navigated our group to the road where we said some teary goodbyes and took off into the night.  There were still two more nights in Bangkok to enjoy!!

 khao-San-Road

And that is how I ended my journey to Cambodia and started to say goodbye after nearly two months travelling in SE Asia.

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Flooded Forests and Floating Towns

Our next big adventure in Siem Reap happened two days later.  We booked a tour through a local company so we could see some of the countryside and another one of the cool attractions in Siem Reap – the flooded forest.  FINALLY, there is an upside to visiting this part of the world in rainy season: you can’t see the flooded forest in the dry season!  We took a trusty tuk tuk to our riverboat stop, a trip that was bumpy but fun cause we drove through some small towns and saw what Cambodia was like for the people who lived there.  It seemed like a simple but happy place – the people were just as curious about us as we were about them.  I even caught a monk snapping pictures of me on his cellphone in a temple we visited as I was snapping pictures of his beautiful temple!  I laughed when I saw him doing this, and obliged in a few photos 😛

Temple InteriorOur little tuk tuk ride came to an end at the mouth of a very dirty river where we boarded a noisy little boat and took off to see the “floating” town that was built on stilts to accommodate for the rising of the Tonle Sap river and lake that annually floods the surrounding area, turning their neighbourhood into a floodplain.  It was so surreal to see these rickety looking houses and community buildings towering high above us as we boated through the water below – it reminded me of some kind of surreal post apocalyptic place where the homes were rebuilt from leftoverscraps and whatever was floating by.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe water levelled off closer to the lake, and we caught a glimpse of the flooded forest around us.  It was magical – all the twisted trees poking out of the water.  We boarded a small long tail boat and glided soundlessly though the forest.  One of the ladies I was travelling with was deathly afraid of the water spiders climbing everywhere in the trees and on our boat, we thought at one point for sure we were going to tip and fall in the water!  Steph eventually just cowered at the front of the boat as we turned a corner and made our way back, making sure to tip our Cambodian boat lady for the trouble!

Woman drivers :P

Our tour ended in one of the floating villages, where we were shown a school and encouraged to purchase pencils and school books for the children.  From the well-rehearsed way this operation was run (children lining up to grab at the books and pencils, handing them back to their mothers for repackaging, the open and sharpened panicles in the packages i “bought”)  I could tell that the money was not going directly to the school or where we thought it was, but I had to give kudos to these enterprising Cambodians who had found a way to tug on our heartstrings and open our wallets to them.  I enjoyed spending time with the lil Cambodian kids anyhow, and had my encounter with the monk at the beautiful temple in the town, built high on the hank of the flooding river.

Me "giving supplies"

Me “giving supplies”

Siem Reap was a really worthwhile place to check out.  It wasn’t as cheap as I thought (except for accommodation which was $5 in our very clean dorm room) but the food and attractions were excellent so I didn’t mind paying.  The little town was easy to navigate by foot and there was lots of shopping and cute little massage places to keep us occupied in our downtime.  The overly enthusiastic hawkers and beggars littering the street were more persistent than the ones I encountered in Thailand, but the county has no social safety net and these people have to do whatever they can to survive.  I tried not to give into the children who were begin.asking for money or meals on the streets, as it’s a well-documented fact that parents keep their children out of school to work on the streets.  Don’t support child labor!  Give your money to a local NGO instead, which is what we did.

My four nights in Siem Reap flew past and before i knew it I was on a night bus from hell to Phnom Penh – the capital of Cambodia.  Epic trip, indeed.

In the mangrove forest

In the mangrove forest

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Epic Travel to BKK and Goodbye Chelsea!

The 5 am ferry seemed like a dream – none of us had slept and we were all feeling sad to be leaving Ko Pha-ngan and Bottle Beach.  All four of us missed the epic sunrise and woke up with the Pier in sight and the sun blazing overhead.  One of the hardest goodbyes was next – Chelsea and I said goodbye to our friend Park who lives in Railay and our friend Carter who is a tour guide and country manager for Beach Travellers and also one of the coolest people I met on my travels and someone who helped to make our trip as amazing as it possibly could have been.  Chels and I just looked at each other, waiting together in the train station so early in the morning, and burst into tears.  I’m not sure whether it was a combination of sadness, being so tired, and sleep deprived, but we were super emotional that whole day.  Our last full day together as platonic wives and we would be spending it on a fifteen hour train journey to Bangkok together.  Euchh.

The train journey was something new – we had both done this journey before, but overnight both times.  It was a completely different experience during the day.  The country rolled by our window – verdant, lush and never-changing green.  We reminisced over our experiences together, laughing, crying and comparing stories.  That ride was one of the longest I took while travelling – all I can say is thank Buddha for air-conditioning!

We finally noticed the scenery start to change about two hours outside of Bangkok and veryyyy slowllyyy made our way into the heart of the city for one last tuk-tuk ride to Khao San Road, our home away from home.  I found a very cheap and clean room for the night at the 7-Holder Guest House and we shopped for  bit until I felt like I was going to pass out from exhaustion.

We had our tearful goodbye that night when Chelsea went to the airport. When I started my journey alone a month and a half before, I had never dreamed I would meet so many fantastic and interesting people on my journey, and I couldn’t have asked for a better travel buddy than the one Chels ended up being to me.  It seemed at every turn we were on the same page with what we waned to do, see and experience on our trip.  She was incredibly easy-going and fun, easy to get along with and full of life.  Our adventurous spirits we definitely matched – and now I not only have all of these incredible memories but a new friend for life!  Needless to say, our goodbyes were pretty emotional – silly girls! We are already making plans for our next adventure – we shouldn’t have been so sad!

I spent a strange night in BKK that evening alone. But I wouldn’t have to worry, I would be meeting new friends soon on my trip from BKK to Siem Reap in Cambodia!

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Welcome Home to Bottle Beach

Our arrival at Bottle Beach was full of mixed emotions – we were so happy to be going back to one of our favourite places in the world, but sad to be doing it without our group of friends that we had made during our Beach Travellers trip.  Our ferry ride over from Ko Tao had been uneventful – the extra ta-wenty Baht we had paid for air-con in our little ferry had been a sweet luxury item.

In Thong Sala (the main town on Koh Phangan) we loaded up on supplies to take with us to Bottle Beach, where everything is a bit more expensive due to the fact it’s on a very remote beach that you can only get to by boat.  We were loaded up with all kinds of goodies when we caught our ride across the island to Chalok-lum, the town on the North side of the island, and boarded a little long tail boat which would finally take us home!  The staff greeted us as if we were long lost friends – “welcome home!” they said as we checked in and got settled.  We had been dreaming of Bottle Beach for so long – it seemed surreal to finally be back there again in paradise.

We spent the afternoon with our friends who worked at the resort, practicing fire spinning with Cheeky my favourite bartender, trading stories and making plans for the full moon and our next few days.  We met up with some German friends of ours who had taken our advice and decided to stay at the resort, and had a fun reunion night!  The next day we waited for some more friends to arrive, and got ready for what would be the highlight of our time on Bottle – Full Moon!

The morning of full moon we climbed to the viewpoint to check out the amazing view from the top of one of the surrounding hills.  Everywhere you looked from the top was unspoiled green beauty – there was very little in terms of developed resort land on that side of the island – it was so beautiful, pristine and untouched – took my breath away.

I had a completely different experience of full moon this time around – Chelsea and I got ready together and helped the other Beach Travellers group with their paint and party preparations.  I felt like a pro – the nervous excitement I had from the first time was gone – I felt like I knew what was in store for us, but still was excited to watch the night unfold again!

We boarded the speedboat and the anticipation was the same – rounding the bend, hearing the pulsing music under the bright light of the full moon, and finally seeing the beach lit up and spread out before us as we landed and formed a human chain to get to our meeting spot.  This time I had so many energy drinks at the beginning of the night, all I did was dance for about – oh – four hours until realizing I was starving and set out with a group of friends to find the amazing chicken place I had found last time.  We found it and ate yummy chicken schnitzels whole watching the mayhem unfold around us.  I managed to walk all the way down the beach this time to the very last bar, listening to all the different music on offer as we walked by snapping pictures of the drunk, passed out, and generally outrageous people surrounding us.  Eventually we figured out that the spot our group was hanging out at had the best music, so we made our way back to our rendezvous point and danced the night away, watching the sun come up together.

The day after was a bit of a write-off, on account of us staying up all night to do the full moon thing.  We luckily had a fantastic pool and some great friends to entertain us, so there was no shortage of laughs to keep us going into the evening.  During my second time around at Bottle, I felt like time had stopped – I had everything I needed with me and nothing to do but just simply enjoy and relax. During our last night I bar tended behind the bar with the staff, wearing my staff shirt of course!

Our last night was bittersweet, because we just had so much fun with each other but we knew it had to end, too soon.  We stayed up all night as our ferry was ridiculously early and we had to catch a 3:30(am!) ride to the other side of the island to catch it.  It was a long, bumpy, pitch dark ride on bad roads in the early morning, taking us away from our Thai family and friends and onwards onto separate journeys….my solo adventure was about to get real.

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Sairee Beach Baby!!

Our arrival on Ko Tao was so early – we had barely slept the night before, and had to have some major nap time on our first day there.  The best part about our boat trip was that we had made some new friends and planned on meeting them for dinner at an Italian restaurant nearby.  We slept the day away and had a girls’ dinner, talking about what we planned on doing for the next few nights on the island.  We planned a to join the pub crawl, and take advantage of some nice weather to relax and explore the island, which turned out to be tiny!

The beach we stayed on was called Sairee Beach, and this was where most of the action was located.  Tons of young people were on the island, on account of the full moon being soon on the neighboring island of  Koh Phangan, and this made for awesome nightlife on our island as well.  The beach bars looked right out onto the ocean in most cases, and when the tide was in it seemed that the ocean might just come right into the bar, as well.

We had so many relaxed, beachy days on the island without much to do but enjoy the excellent food and great weather.  We had sushi three times!  At this point i’d been travelling for just over a month and was getting “riced out” on Thai food – it was refreshing to be able to get some of the Western foods we had been craving: pizza and pasta anyone??

One of the main attractions on Ko Tao is the diving culture – many people stay there to get certified as it’s one of the cheapest places in the world to do it.  Did we do it?? Nope!  Neither Chelsea or I were too keen on going diving, I had gone in Phi Phi + loved it but not enough to drop some serious cash on getting certified – yet.

Two of the biggest highlights of our time on the island were going to the ladyboy cabaret and getting our tattoos one very loud and crazy night!  The ladyboy cabaret was situated in a bar (populated entirely, of course, by ladyboys) where there was a free show every night featuring the ladies lip synching and dancing to classic pop diva anthems and show tunes!  It was soo funny and the ladies were ridiculously sexy, we got to chat with a few of them while taking pictures after – some of them had a wicked sense of humour 😛

Getting my tattoo on the night of the pub crawl had to be one of the craziest things I did while travelling.  I got it in the traditional Thai method using a long bamboo stick and a steady hand.  My tattoo artist was female, and she did an excellent job on the script I got on my wrist.  The word I decided on was “hai jai”, a verb that can mean “to breathe, to live” or “to be alive”.  Chelsea got a spur-of the moment tattoo as well, it was pretty hilarious!

Our days on the little island were amongst the most relaxed and quiet that we had on our trip – after so much travelling and crisscrossing the country, it was nice to just land somewhere for five days and enjoy the beach culture of Thailand in all it’s laid-back glory.  We were also eagerly anticipating the next part of our trip – going back to Bottle Beach and Koh Phangan for another Full Moon, Baby!

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The Night Boat to Ko Tao

Chelsea and I left Railay in the afternoon for Krabi, on what would be another memorable journey across Thailand from West to East coasts.  In Krabi we met up with some friends I had made in Railay, three lovely Brits who we would end up hanging out with quite a bit when we got to our final destination – Ko Tao!

British Sardines in a Can 😛

We wanted to spend another few days beaching it up and relaxing before another round of full moon shenanigans, and Ko Tao seemed like the place to do it.  Our friends suggested we skip Ko Lanta (too quiet) and Ko Samui (too touristy) in favour of a tiny island famous for diving and sunny beaches. So that’s where we set our sights!

A big happy hippie bus took us on the three-hour journey from Krabi to the pier in Surat thani, and we arrived during the early evening ready to board the night boat.  We had been warned against taking the boat, due to its interesting (sketchy) condition, but decided it would be an adventure and did it anyways. I’m glad we did but I’m not sure I would do it again!

We saw the boat that would take us over and seriously doubted it would be able to make the trip..bad sign!  As we killed time on the pier, Chelsea and I hung out and I practiced fire spinning, which brought the curiosity and attention of tourists and locals alike (“whats that?” “what are you doing?” – “Oh, it’s just my fire spinning stick, I’m practicing” – “Ooooh. cool” ) 😀  We met some cute girls from NZ and realized we would be bunking next to them for the night.

On boarding the boat, I soon found that this journey would be unlike any other I had ever taken in my life….the beds were pallets on the floor – about a hundred beds crammed into the deck that was literally a cargo ship underneath.  They were laid out in numbered rows and as we all packed on, populated with tons of young tourists, Thai ladies with their large Caucasian boyfriends, and some locals, too.

I plopped down on my bed, looked around and thought – hey, this isn’t too bad!  Until a disgruntled Thai lady and her (large, old, Caucasian) boyfriend plopped down beside me and informed me I was on her bed.  I looked over – the numbers were spaced out so that every person only gets half a bed!! I apologized and moved down – almost on top of Chelsea!  How was this gonna work?? It was a very long, rocky, uncomfortable night – I spent most of it spooned around my backpack at the end of my ‘bed’, afraid of inciting the Thai lady’s wrath by placing my feet pointing at her (a very rude thing to do in T-land) and also of having my things stolen, something I had been warned about.

Our ship of dreams (nightmares)

The night passed eventually, amongst the hundred or so tourists crammed into the boat.  People would get up and walk over you as there was nowhere to sleep, the fan relentlessly pounded cold air at me and I had to see out a blanket (there was none) and Chelsea woke up to discover she was spooning with Hannah (our new NZ friend) in a very friendly way!

Our boat rolled into Ko Tao around 6am, and we had to figure out where to stay and find a place that was open…A feat that left us standing around, very tired, at our chosen resort, until the reception opened at 8am.  We snapped up a little jungle hut (consisting of a bed, hose for a shower and about a thousand mosquitoes) and started to explore the island – Our Sairee Beach adventure had just begun!!

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Railay Round Two

The Bowl was empty – and it was filled with delicious offerings for our monk-in-residence, Steph

RAILAY has to  be one of my absolute favourite places on earth – so glad we made it back for a second stop to re-visit the memories and meet some awesome new people, including the newest batch of Beach Travellers!

After getting in on a (rainy) longboat, we checked into our pad (sweet porch included!) and unpacked. I tried Crocodile at the buffet at the  Viewpoint resort that night. Tastes like chicken, but chewier…lol. Also ingested large amounts of salad – a rare treat after so much rice and curry!

A local friend of the guides had opened a new bar just down the road (path) and we stopped to check it out. It was perfect! Good chilling areas and tunes, a dance floor, busy bar and even an indoor fire show 😉 crazy! We caught the fire show at Last Bar later on as well, and a free bucket for being the first (craziest) girls on the dance floor!  Oh Railay, how I love thee!

We crashed the BT boat trip the next day, glad we did cause it gave us the chance to get to know the new peeps – they were nice enough to let us in on the party! We floated, snorkelled, cliff jumped, iced each other and got up to all the usual boat trip shenanegans, and ended up on the beach for dinner and an epic sunset.

Loving up my leo portside

Islands we had dinner on

The next few days were about as perfect as I could have imagined – good friends, fire spinning, crazy party nights (Anything but clothes? why not?) and a healthy dose of sun, fun and sand.  We only got to spend three nights in Railay this time, but they cemented my love for this beautiful, hidden gem of a place.  For the rest of my trip, I couldn’t help but gush about to every fellow traveller I met – and when I had heard they’d been there themselves, it was always the same response: they had loved it as much as I did!

We left Railay for Krabi with sad hearts – I know it will be a while before I make it back there, but I can’t wait to bring some new friends there to experience it themselves!

Me in the water in Railay

A view of the West Beach from the water

Railay Beach West – see that cave up in the Karsts? I rapelled down from there 18 m onto the beach!

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Koh Li Pe and the end of the world

The next morning, a speedboat took us (quickly!) On the two-hour journey through a perfect blue ocean, we stared at the gorgeous scenery and made friends, drinking (messy) beers with them on the boat.

I have never been so amazed by a place upon first arrival as I was when we landed on the bay at Li Pe. The water was turquoise blue, the kind of blue that exists only in postcards. Green mountains rose out of the water on the neighbouring island (a national park) and a pristine white sandy beach laid before us in the water, populated only by many colorful long tails floating serenely.

Our resort was called, appropriately, Castaway, and after a short bumpy ride on a converted moto/taxi, we arrived at what I can only describe as paradise on earth. Our two-story beach hut was cosy, clean and right by the ocean, the eatery overlooked the water as well, and there were wooden cabanas placed along the beachfront with little cushions so you could lounge and relax on the beach away from the fierce sun.

Luckily for us, we had tons of friends visiting the island during that same time – the 36 day BT group, some guides having their much-needed time off, and a group of fun guys who we had gotten to know on our BT trip as well.  There was always someone to hang out with, and this made our deserted resort feel like one big house that you live in with all of your friends 🙂

Our first night on the beach, we partied right on the sand, sitting on mats and low tables watching each other spin fire and listening to music. I got to spin that night and every night after, which of course made me the happiest girl in the world! We adventured off into the night and ended up at OMG bar, run by the ever-smiling Oh and his gracious wife. The bar would end up being our local haunt, and that first night I may or may not have hit the buckets too hard…I’d like to thank Camille for helping me home that first night or I might still be wandering around the island!

The second day in paradise brought clear skies, a scorching sun, and good food at the local bakery. Since it was low season, there were hardly any other tourists there and it felt as if we were the last people on earth, sitting at the end of the world in the Andaman sea.

That night we had a handcuff party (where all the names of our friends were placed in a hat and randomly drawn out in pairs, destined to be tied together with fishing cords by the wrist for the rest of the night) and I drew Ben, a tour guide on the 36 day tour. Lol. I knew I was in for a funny night!  We all got paired off and the drinking olympics began.  There must have been something in our giant “thai-size” buckets, because we all partied like crazy people that night. I even got Ben to spin fire around me somehow while we were still attached!

That night brought an ocean dip, and a bit of bed swapping to accommodate the more aggressively competitive among us (me) who wanted to win the contest and stay tied together. DAMN YOU CHELSEEEEEAA! Her and carter ended up being the lucky winners – but we got second place!

The next day I had what might be the worst hangover of my life, but since there’s not much to do on the beach but nap, shower, tan, repeat, I did just that and felt much better. I didn’t even miss the “yoohoo” lady, who walks down the beach every afternoon calling “yoo hoo! Yoo hoo!” And carrying a tray of amazing baked goods and samosas. It was hilarious to see the tourists flock to the cheery, smiling lady as she hawked her wares, feeding hungry falang in the afternoon sun.

That night was quieter than the last, we shared (smaller) buckets at OMG and wasted the night away joking, laughing and poking fun at each other about the events of the night before. I even had a porch party!!

We were so sad to leave the next day, although since everyone was leaving it was bittersweet – not as much fun on paradise island if you don’t have some people to share it with! Our speedboat brought us back to (uuuaaaghh) Pak Bara, and Nikki, Carter,Chelsea, Alex and I took a minibus to Krabi after a tearful goodbye to Ben and his group, and my beautiful roomie/partner in crime Camille, who would be flying back to Canada (wah!)

I so wished she could have been there to be with me and Chelsea for our next adventures, but next year is another trip and another wild ride, right baby?? 😀

The rainy bus ride brought us to Krabi, and one choppy long tail ride later we were back – in Railay!!

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