Koh Tao Tranquility

Koh Tao…the smallest island on the east coast and one of my favourite places in Thailand. Unlike Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, it has yet to adhere to the chaotic drunkenness and overwhelming touristy vibe. With its clear waters, blue skies, and endless activities to pass the time, combined with its chilled out vibe, Koh Tao truly is a paradise. Although the island is renown for its diving opportunities, if diving isn’t your thing, it still has much to offer. Whether your days on the island are passed by snorkelling, cooking classes, yoga or simply nestled in a hammock by the beach watching the sun set, Koh Tao does not disappoint.

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After spending our first week on Mae Haad beach doing some diving with Crystal Dive, we found a cosy bungalow just metres from the beach on Tanote Bay which is situated on the other side of the island. Tanote Bay is a popular destination for a day trip with travellers, boasting awesome snorkelling and cliff jumping opportunities. Here, we found our own little sheltered paradise away from the travellers swarming, like bees to honey, to the bars and restaurants of Sairee beach. After our first night at Tanote Bay, we awoke to our beach hut trembling against the force of a fierce wind and looking out of our window, we saw the crashing waves inch closer and closer to our bungalow. An awesome Thai family invited us in for breakfast and shelter from the storm, assuring us it was perfectly normal and would pass in a few days.

While venturing through the jungle surrounding Tanote Bay, we stumbled across a Reggae Bar. In amongst the jungle and overlooking the ocean below, Jah Bar is donned with hammocks, floor cushions, Bob Marley paintings and quirky handmade decorations. This combined with some chilled reggae music and we had found our own little jungle haven. The woman Gah, who owns the bar with her husband, is an all round awesome human being; having built the reggae bar, she now makes the cocktails, cooks the food and runs a tattoo hut out back where she does bamboo tattoos. We were taken aback by their kindness – constantly offering us fruit and desserts from their family meal. I felt completely at home there as I lay back in the hammock, overlooking the beauty of Koh Tao and being surrounded by such kind hearted and welcoming people. If you venture to Tanote Bay, I urge you to seek out Jah Bar…I promise you will not be disappointed!

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It is with a happy heart that I leave Koh Tao as I know I will definitely be back – every time offers yet more adventures and more fond memories. But for now goodbye Thailand…hello Vietnam!

 

Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

Be weird. Be wonderful.:)

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From Jungle to Ocean

Koh Phi Phi. I am a sucker for the island life…from chilled out beach vibes to trekking into the wilderness of the forests, what’s not to love? Phi phi is definitely no exception to this island life love of mine. Situated on the south west of Thailand, Phi Phi emits a simplistic, yet immense beauty from its shores. With no main roads, the island is navigated by narrow lanes which each interlink with one another creating an intricate maze filled with restaurants, bars and stalls selling souvenirs. These streets are bustling with both tourists and locals – the locals often towing large metal trolleys behind them. As there are no cars on the island, these trolleys aid in the transportation of items between places. I also saw one used as an ambulance – a girl was being towed along with a bandaged wrist and a Thai woman next to her holding a drip!

Although renown as one of the predominant party islands in Thailand, Phi Phi retains a certain charm to it which goes beyond the fire shows and pool parties. We stayed about ten minutes walk from the main hub of the island at Maney Resorts majestic bungalows.

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Nestled among the trees, with a beautiful view over Phi Phi and right the way to the ocean, Maney bungalows are ideal, middle range accommodation if you don’t mind a wander into the centre. From Maney Resort, it is a thirty minute hike up to Phi Phi viewpoint which boasts stunning views of the island below and miles into the distance. I would definitely recommend the hike – it is a tough climb, but the views from the top are more than worth the sweaty-ness!

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Behind the beauty of Phi Phi, it is difficult not to notice the ongoing building which tells tales of a recent tragedy. The island is still rebuilding following the 2004 tsunami which destroyed many buildings, homes and lives. When we did a day trip to Maya Bay (which is a must!), our long tail boat captain had been on the beach at the time of the tsunami and as a result had a full set of fake teeth and a scar protruding from his stomach where the tsunami had injured him. Although we cannot know to what extent the tragedy haunts him, he was a wonderful captain and made our trip to Maya Bay and Monkey Island even more amazing. As there were six of us we decided to hire a boat ourselves rather than go on a tour which was definitely the best option! The long tail boat to ourselves, we enjoyed a blissful day of snorkelling, beer drinking, swimming in the beautiful waters of Maya Bay and playing with the monkeys on Monkey Island.

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If you’re looking for a hangover cure but on a backpackers budget…head to the lane from the central maze which leads to Maney Resort. Here you will find a few bamboo huts with small kitchen restaurants inside – cheap, super yummy Thai food cooked in a family kitchen…and put into takeaway boxes so you can crawl back to your hostel and curl up in bed.

Although Phi Phi is rapidly becoming more heavily populated with tourists and party seekers, I would say at present it still continues to hold a certain charm. With a multitude of options to occupy your time – from boat trips to Maya bay or bamboo island, to hikes, to beach parties – you definitely won’t find yourself bored on Phi Phi.

 

Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

Be weird. Be wonderful.:)

Bangkok; big, brash and beautiful

Bangkok. As big, brash and beautiful as ever. A city full of life, rushing at a million miles an hour. Constantly moving at high speed with Thai salesman chasing you down the street insisting you need a suit in this 30 degree weather. Khan San road – the hub of this enchanting madness – holds a flurry of activity for the eye to witness. Every inch of pavement is consumed by pop up stalls, each bearing harem pants in a variety of colours, a multitude of t-shirts with Thai symbols on the front or the famous ‘same same but different’ logo. These more substantial looking stalls are shouldered by more rickety stalls where thai ladies braid foreigners hair. The scent of street food – some of which entails Scorpions on sticks – floats along Khao San, filling the nostrils of the passers-by.

Given that Bangkok is the first destination in Thailand for many travellers, the city is a flurry of madness with many elements to take in from the get go. Fortunately, having been to Bangkok previously, we knew that the sky train is the cheapest way into central Bangkok from the airport – taxis tend to overcharge as they know you are new to the country! In terms of taxis, it is also wise to request a metre before getting in – that way they can only charge you the distance you have travelled rather than a figure plucked out of thin air.

There are many places to grab some food and get drunk on Khao San road which are easily accessible if you are staying nearby. However I would recommend two places slightly different and off the beaten track. Firstly, there is a vegan restaurant called Ethos, which we frequented during our few days there, which is amazing. Not far from Khao San road, it is tucked behind the main road down a lane where there are various vegetarian restaurants. The menu has a wide variety of options and is a bit of a clean eaters haven. With a chilled out vibe, cushion tables and kind staff, it was an awesome little find for us and I can’t recommend it enough! http://ethosnet.biz


Furthermore if you’re feeling like a bit of a classier night than Khao San road, I would suggest heading to the Sky bar (where the Hangover was filmed) – it’s about a 15 minute taxi ride from Khao San (400 baht if I remember correctly). Just across the road from the Sky Bar is Maggie Choos. Maggie Choos is an upmarket bar and although not frequented by many backpackers..is definitely worth a visit if you fancy dressing up and listening to a bit of jazz music for the night. It is designed as a chic bar with beautiful Thai women on high suspended swings and a famous American jazz singer in a white suit blasting out jazz records. Although tables are reserved for those ordering bottles of spirits and champagnes, the smoking rooms are cosy little hubs off the main bar area with cabin-like doors where you can chill whilst still taking in the magical atmosphere.

In my eyes, Bangkok is a love/hate thing…personally I love the buzz of the city but a few days is more than enough to absorb all that it has to offer. After your few days you’ll be telling the suit salesman to fuck off rather than politely saying no thank you…

 

Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

Be weird. Be wonderful.:)

Hello adventure time…

Gone are the days of 12 hour shifts and hiding my frustration behind a smile. The days of wandering aimlessly and exploring South East Asia with no more than a rucksack are only just beginning. I no longer wake to the sound of an alarm demanding my foggy brain to rise out of it’s too short slumber. In western society we are constantly rushing, constantly creating to do lists in our heads, constantly stuck in a rat race of competition with those surrounding us at work, creating an unhealthy work to life balance. This norm created in western society is followed blindly by the majority of people. We must question these norms which we have been flung in to – why are they in place? What purpose do they serve?

It is difficult to disentangle our own conscious thoughts and ideals from those which are advertised through the media, regarded as said norm. But it is important to do so in order to figure out your own individual agenda, rather than simply obeying a collective one. I refuse to be a part of this rat race – it has little to no appeal for me – I have no wish to sacrifice the chance to explore the world in order to settle into a routine which, once within its grasps, is extremely difficult to disentangle yourself from.

Thus, I choose to wander in flip flops from day to day, to take the opportunity to experience these different cultures and meet people who view the world in a completely different way. I can only hope this blog is able to communicate the beautiful nature of these countries. Although I can never hope to fully understand these cultures, as sadly my position as a westerner, and thus an outsider is cemented through historical means, I can adopt certain aspects of the cultures into my own life. For the next four months I will turn away from the rat race, and say hello to a whole load of hammock hanging, eating dinner on the floor and to exploring the beauty that this awesome world has to offer.

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Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

Be weird. Be wonderful.:)