For years Kyra and I have talked about traveling internationally together. And as this blog has become more about our “unlisted buckets” than the actual items on our bucket list, it seems only appropriate to reflect on the fruition of our longtime plan and adventure to Thailand.
Exactly three weeks ago today, Kyra and I met up in the Dubai airport; Kyra coming from Houston, me from Johannesburg (more on that later). After another flight, we arrived in Bangkok where we stayed for three days, touring temples, buying ridiculously inexpensive clothes and jewelry, visiting Thai spas and meeting/becoming celebrities.
Having become somewhat, though never entirely, acclimated to the Thai culture, we made our way to Koh Samui to meet up with our lovely Contiki Tour group. Aside: We highly recommend Contiki if you are looking for a fun, easy way to travel and meet like-minded-20-something-year-olds from all over the world. Keep reading for more details.
With our group we then spent the next nine days “island hopping” via
death wish ferry between Koh Tao, Koh Phanang and our starting place, Koh Samui.
Here are some of our highlights in no particular order:
1. Snorkeling off of Koh Tao. We spent the entire afternoon on a boat, so naturally it was a pretty good day. The excursion started and ended on fairly scary notes– i.e. the discovery of the complete lack of ambulances on Thai islands and experiencing a monsoon whilst at sea. But we quickly learned that any type of death related fear while in Thailaind can be calmed by a few Orange Breezers, marine life and the belting of Titanic/Celine’s “Near Far Wherever You Are.”
2. Touring of the Grand Palace and Temples in Bangkok. On our last full day in Bangkok we decided to take a less shopping-oriented day trip and visit the historic Buddhist temples in Bangkok. We took a canal tour through the city (another boat, we should have known it was going to be a good day) and also were driven by a very kind cabbie named Tanapon to the Grand Palace and several of the popular temples. The design and structure of these buildings was astonishingly ornate. I described it like Versailles x 10 in Asia. We couldn’t believe that the buildings were made by hand so many years ago. This was also the day that we discovered that Kyra was a celebrity in Thailand. At the temples no less that 20 people tried to take their picture with my tall, blonde and beautiful best friend.
3. Off Roading Trip in Koh Samui. On our first day with the Contiki Tour, the majority of the group went on a day trip to hold monkeys, RIDE ELEPHANTS, swim in waterfalls and see a few lookout points on the island. Pretty great day all in all, but probably our favorite part was the fact that we took off-road jeeps everywhere, driven by some crazy (and I can hostly say that they were crazy) Thai men. One had an afro bigger than mine and laughed like an evil monkey. He was so fun, though. From that first afternoon on the islands, it became clear that there were very few, if any, laws. On this day the lawlessness worked in our advantage because we were allowed to ride atop our jeeps while we traveled up and down the mountains. There was a whole lot of screaming going on, but it was a blast.
4. Farwell Paint Party. I mean who doesn’t love a good blacklight party? Be honest.
5. The Contiki Experience/ Our Sappy Story. Our trip truly would not have been the same without the people we met along the way. Our awesome Australian guide Jeenah, the crazy Irish gang, our new Scottish besties Rachel and Jenny and the 21 other international friends made the trip worthwhile. We now feel confident in saying that we have close friends from all over the world that are willing to “share a bucket” or “ring the bell” at a moments notice. It was so great to get to learn about different cultures, people, upbringings, view points and of course, accents. By the end of the nine days we were like a family and it was hard to say goodbye!
In Thailand, vendors in the market have popularized the saying “same same, but different.” The phrase is basically used to defend knock-off or cheap brands by convincing shoppers that their products are the same as the real thing… but different. This saying is now used on all kinds of neon tank tops and t-shirts sported by island party-goers and we learned can be easily woven into conversation when on the islands.
Having had a week to reflect upon the trip, I realize that our experience in Thailand and with our Contiki family exemplified this saying quite nicely. Each one of us was different in many ways, each bringing a different life experience to the trip. But we were also the same in the sense that we were all young adults, wanting to explore the world a little. Like I said this is sappy and I am definitely not a traveling expert, but the thing I learned most from my trips was that, yes, there are so many different types of people out there, with different lives, beliefs, passions, etc. But in the end we aren’t all that different, we are kind of the same. Most of us just want to live our lives in the fullest and happiest way we can.
This trip added to the full and happy summer that Kyra and I are leading. Thanks for reading! Check back for a post about my Africa trip and visit to the Abita Brewery next week!