IMG_8065Few things can make or break a friendship like travel. Like realizing we’re all getting charged 400HKD we hadn’t planned on to check one bag, or the suitcase zipper breaking open in the trunk of an unmarked “taxi,” or the after effects of street food when there is only one bathroom between the three of you, or finding out how many times you can ask each other “I thought you had the key” during a one week trip. (I’m just spitballing here, none of this happened . . . tee hee.) But the nice thing about doing it with people you’ve already done so much life with, and traveling through a country as beautiful as Thailand, and being teachers on total vacation mode, is that nothing can really bother you. Beer helps with that.

That 4:45am wakeup call came quickly, though. And we began our day of travel – down the stairs, through the streets, find a cab to the train station, take the train to the airport, fly to Phuket in front of unusually tall Asians with very loud sinus issues, taxi to the harbor on the ride of death (can’t wait until texting and driving is illegal worldwide), sleepwalk onto ferry to Phi Phi, avoid the vomit, drag suitcases across half a mile of sand until you’re there – Paradise. Capital P Paradise.

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that there at the end is our hotel!

Our hotel was at the edge of the beach and the chaos, nestled into a cliff, with a perfect infinity pool that overlooked the ocean and sunset. The hotel room was big enough for us to make a pretty nice mess in it, complete with glass doors that we were warned to keep locked shut because of monkey thieves. Sure enough, I watched a panicky family chase two HUGE monkeys out of their rooms – all for a bag of Lays chips. The breakfast buffet was a fun Halal surprise every morning – curry, fried chicken, spaghetti, chicken bacon. We were excited every time.

IMG_8067We wasted no time organizing a private long boat for a tour the next day. It was low season, so prices were cheap, but we were blessed with amazing weather pretty much the entire trip. Our guide picked us up from our hotel beach and we slowly made our way around some beautiful snorkel spots and island hopped to places like where Leo filmed “The Beach.” Sadly, he was not waiting there for us. Also the fish were a bit aggressive and I am scared of fish, so there was some fast swimming out there for me.

But it was incredible to have a boat to ourselves for the day. We stopped on a monkey beach and watched them do dirty things to each other in the back of people’s pictures and that was pretty special. And there was also a baby shark! Doo doo doo doo doo doo.

IMG_8073After some nice beach naps (is there any nap as good as a beach nap? I submit that there is not!) we got dressed up and walked to the other side of the island to try and see the sunset. Instead we got caught in a major storm that shut everything down except the pool party at the Ibiza hostel next to the bar we took refuge in. I can still hear their disco music and wish I could unsee their dance moves . . . but we waited out the rain, drinking Singhas and and swapping stories until it was safe enough to head back through town, where we indulged in the first of many many delightful foot massages that I enjoyed to the point of falling asleep in the chair.

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I’m not filtering these. The water looks like this. Even on cloudy days.

The next day we headed off to climb to the vista that shows the thin stretch of town and beach between the two bays. Of course, we took what may have been the longer way, but it led us through some pretty nature and some local villages, which was fun. UNTIL.

We’re cutting through some jungle, wondering if we’re on the right path, or a path at all, as we have seen no one walking back from the vista and have come across no one at all joining us for this adventure. We started wondering that a bit too late. Right when we got to a huge lake of water that completely covered our path. On the other side of this lake was a small herd of geese. Now I’ve already confessed I’m scared of fish. I am also DEEPLY AFEARED OF GEESE. My aunt sometimes makes this “evil goose” hand and it scares the crap out of me still. So I stopped in my tracks, but Leana, who thinks the only good animal is a dead animal, nonchalantly volunteered to go first.

She walked towards the goose, who then stood up taller and started flapping his wings. “I think that’s a territorial move, Leana!” I cried. “What?” she answered, trying to walk further. Then that beast charged my friend, stretching his neck out to try and chomp on her butt as we sprinted back around the edge of the swamp lake. It was honestly the scariest slash hysterical moment ever. Anysia made it up the hill just in time to see the whole thing, and it probably helped add some humor that we were all in matching shirts and wearing fanny packs.

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everywhere we go!

And so we stood across the swamp from angry papa goose, wondering what in sam hill we were going to do. There was no way around it. Lo and behold, a Brazilian family walked up! They were also trying to find the vista, but were just as lost as we were. Much braver than we were, they just picked up huge rocks and flung them at the geese until they sauntered off. We all crossed the fire swamp and then scrambled up the hill to the entrance. It was a beautiful curated spot, made over since the tsunami (see some incredible before and after shots here . . . I was in college when it happened and really don’t remember how devastating it was. We didn’t have TV or newspapers (or facebook or twitter) back then). I saw a monkey play with a kitten, and then made it up to the views.

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looking over the two bays. pretending to hold each other close, but. so sweaty.

Along with everyone else, we made momentary friends to get some instaworthy shots, but mostly just took it in. Nature is my boyfriend.

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the cafe on top of the vista

We made it back down, and then happy-houred in our beautiful rooftop pool, trying to not mind the screaming children who kept splashing into us with their snorkel gear . . . and throwing tantrums their father did nothing about. It was much nicer once they left. There should be a “child-free because I’m a teacher on summer break” option to check when you’re looking to book a hotel/plane. I’d pay extra. That night we just chilled or were sick. This is island-hopping in your thirties – you realize you’re not missing anything if you just stay in bed and get a good night’s sleep.

Of course, even this we couldn’t get – at about three am the super drunk people next to us got in a bit of an altercation, and at some point went running through the entire hotel banging on all our doors. Earplugs and mouthguard and sleep mask on makes me mostly dead to the world (and also super, but like SUPER attractive) so I was wondering if there was a fire alarm or tsunami warning. Nope. Just some ding-dong named Roberto screaming through the hallways.

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local breakfast scene

The next morning was our last in Phi Phi, and we hit up that breakfast buffet surprise and then wandered through town for last minute souvenirs. At one point I was double-fisting an ice cream cone and a beer, so it was a good day. We had an afternoon ferry to Phuket, so had to wait out some time after checkout. Unfortunately, Anysia got sick. I gave her some Benadryl and we went to pass time in an awesomely cheesy pirate-themed cantina (yaaaas) where Anysia fell asleep for the second time in a bar on that trip.

Our ferry ride to Phuket was blessedly uneventful, except the movie showing was a James Bond film, marking the first time I’ve ever kind of seen one. But no sound. And I fell asleep. So maybe not. Upon landing, we unexpectedly met an angel named Bao, who would escort us to our hotel in Patong. He left us there and I leave you here!

Until next Thaime – loveyoumissyouwishyouwerehere.