Drifting to Palm Beach

What do you get when you take ten Drifters, two days, too many drinks and sweet digs in Palm Beach?

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Thanks to Josh for everything, Olly for the dance moves, Clem for the chaos, and everyone else for totally bringing it.

Merry Christmas, kids.

E x

I’m a Traveller

To be able to write for the Traveller…yeah, that’s pretty up there on my list. So when a competition was released with the chance of winning a Gecko Tour Adventure around either Central America, Africa or South East Asia, as well as the opportunity to write for Traveller, I got writing.

Here goes nothing:

On the first day we didn’t make it. Some friendly, (and much more experienced) climbers found us lost halfway up a mountain, covered in sweat and scars. We didn’t know we were lost though. “Lagoon? No, there is no lagoon here” they told us. 

The best part of this holiday was that the water was never more than 50metres away, and when we made it down the mountain, we were quite literally dropped straight into the waves. Floating inches above the soft sand in crystal clear water, it was evident that any disappointment from not finding our lagoon that day had simply washed away. How could you be upset in Paradise?

Railay Beach, an island accessible only by long-tail boat, is located not far from the infamous Phi Phi Islands of Southern Thailand. The pristine beaches that line each side of the island are wrapped with overhanging limestone cliffs, that are often dotted with experienced climbers. You can kayak through caves, hike through forests, and borrow long-tail boats to go island hopping for the day. There is also, as we were informed by a local, a beautiful lagoon known as The Princess Lagoon, hidden somewhere on the island. 

With ten days there we were determined to find it, and it wasn’t until our second last day that we happened to stumble upon a track. At least I think it was a track. Around a bend, down a path, take a left and then a right, we arrived at the side of a mountain. There was a small clearing in the trees and the ground was slightly worn. After pausing to look at it for a few seconds we started to realise that the exposed roots lined up the bank resembled somewhat of a staircase. Not quite structurally sound, the fraying ropes that dangled down from the occasional root, however, made us slightly more convinced that this was indeed the way to our lagoon. 

Slow and steady we made it up the bank, and if the humidity wasn’t enough, the concentration it took made it impossible not to break a sweat from every inch of your body. Did you know it was possible to sweat from your elbows? This was the furthest we’d been from the water this entire holiday, and we could feel it. 

Reaching the top we were faced with a choice – left or right. We took left and were taken to a lookout. Not the sort of lookout you’d find at home, though. This lookout had no railing, no fence, no ‘Unstable Cliff Edge” or “Risk of Falling” warning signs. This lookout was as if someone had simply taken a machete to a tree, revealing a coast-to-coast 180° view out across Railay Beach. I reiterate, Paradise. 

Pulling ourselves away, the sweat dripping down our bodies reminded us of our lagoon. Walking back passed our previous climb, the thought flicked through my head of how we would get down, but any concern was completely stifled by what we found next. Getting to the lagoon required climbing down three almost vertical cliff faces, using nothing but a fraying rope to lower ourselves down against the slippery clay. From Paradise I’d found myself in the middle of an assault course through the jungle. 

By the time we reached the bottom we were covered in streaks of mud that not even our sweat could budge. The tread of my shoes was so caked in clay that I all but slid to the edge of the lagoon. What we found, however, was stunning. A large body of water, completely enclosed by overarching limestone cliffs, entangled with shrubs and vines that trickled down into the lagoon. The subdued light that flowed through them danced on the top of the sparkling water. The mud underfoot was no deterrent and rather only acted as an incentive to remain there floating for hours. 

If you go to Railay Beach, find the lagoon.

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Hey from Railay Bay

Railay, Railei, Raylay, Rayliy – the beach with a million different spellings, and even more cases of severe sunburn. But not me, I’ve been living it up with massages under the trees, a massive sunhat and so much aloe vera from Santa. It’s my little slice of paradise. Whoever said you can’t have the cake and eat it too clearly hasn’t been here.*

But it hasn’t just been a process of relocating from the sand to the water and then back again. We’ve been quite adventurous to say how relaxed we all are. After spending too much time floating on top of it, we decided to check out what it was like under the water, so headed to the Phi Phi Islands to scuba dive. Being my first time I must admit I was a little nervous. But with a severe case of #FOMO and a promise that I would find Nemo, how could I say no. Not only did I get to live the plot of both Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, but also saw the shorts for the third part of the franchise, Finding Crush – the story of a turtle that falls out of the EAC and ends up in Phi Phi. Call me for info, Disney.

Surviving a gnarly storm on the ride home, we were greeted by the most incredible sunset I have ever laid eyes on that night. Such is the way in paradise.

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Next on the to-do list was venturing to a cave we had spotted on the side of one of the encroaching cliffs of the bay, in which we had decided there was a lagoon. “An easy walk” we reminded ourselves as we trekked through bushes and vines and up steep rocky tracks. At points I felt like we were trekking Everest, but I was quickly put straight. Dripping with sweat out of places I never knew sweat could come, and informed by climbers that we were definitely lost, we descended the cliff to the beckoning beach below. No lagoon but plenty of opportunities to practice our power poses, so all was not lost.

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Dolled up with a fresh $8 manicure that resembled a time when I used to paint my nails with whiteout in primary school, we headed to somewhere nice on the other side of Railay – a bamboo bar overlooking, and at some points overhanging the water. Intoxicated by reggae music, we ate, drank and reached a new level of relaxation as the afternoon disappeared beneath us.

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Keen to catch another sunset, we jumped on some kayaks and explored the cliffs from another angle. No cave was left undiscovered, no matter how small it may have looked from the outside…and unsurprisingly turned out to be on the inside. Pulling up on shore for a quickie to check out the Penis Caves, and watching some real-life David Attenborough shit as a water lizard caught and devoured a crab, it was fair to say we’d reached our peak enlightenment for one day.

A chef-cooked meal for us at home, plus some fresh juices from down the beach that we’d spiked with tequila. Does life get any better?

E x

 

*pre-quantum physics.**

**Don’t worry if you don’t understand – this is an in-joke.

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You’ll phind me in Phuket

Well I’ve been to Thailand before, but now I can say I’ve been to paradise. The last few days have been such a whirlwind but in the best possible way – like the  kind of whirlwind you create when you mix the bubbles into your bath. Speaking of which, I’m currently sitting in my ensuite, filling up my enormous stone bath with petals and bath salts. As I said, I’m in paradise.

It all started with the reunions of all reunions, a moment that will no doubt stay with me for a lifetime. Having the same butterflies in your stomach as you did meeting him for the first coffee a year ago is pretty special. Even if he surprised me with some unsightly facial hair, his smile was still visible so I was set.

Next the reunions kept flowing until the (lit af) fam was a solid unit again. Something I felt pretty honored to be part of. And what a place to do it – The Sarojin  in Khao Lak, Phuket, aka paradise. Private suites with beds the size of my room, an adjoining bathroom with open waterfall shower and enormous stone bath, spas on the deck, and even a resident cat if you’re lucky. The gardens are sprawling and the pool is stunning. Days are spent lounging by the pool, playing croquet in the garden, walking the length of the beach and chasing hermit crabs, getting massages to the sound of the waves, and enjoying all day breakfast all day long.

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Thankful for the sleeping pill I popped on the flight over here, I made it to the most incredible, bucket-list-ticking birthday dinners. Picture this: candle lit dinner on the beach, 12 courses cooked right in front of you, the sounds of the waves, the best company and all to celebrate the birthday of a pretty special person. Finished with lighting our own laterns and setting them off into the sky. Something that has actually always been on my bucket list. Tick. Nothing could ruin a night like that, even rain.

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Don’t know how much more of this paradise I can handle, but I’m pretty sure it’s much more. Would love to share more, but drinks are calling!

E x

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Barcelona Baby

After a long, bumpy and uncomfortable journey home, I am finally attempting to break my habit of always forgetting to write the last blog post of my holidays. I think it is a psychological thing of not wanting to accept the holiday is over. Or just me being lazy. Probably that, actually. But Barcelona was too wonderful to not write about. So here goes.

We spent the most time in Barcelona than anywhere else on the trip, which turned out to be a lucky thing as we ended up wasting essentially an entire day. That’s bound to happen by the end of a holiday though. So instead of writing what I did each day, I am going to simplify it and just talk about the highlights and must-dos of Barcelona.

La Boqueria Food Market
Staying at St Christopher’s Inn near La Ramblas we were super close to one of the largest and undoubtedly most spectacular food markets in Europe. Hands down one of the most GoPro-able experiences of the trip, I could easily spend hours in this place. Delicious fresh fruit juices of all different colours and flavours for just 1, cups of fresh mango for 2, sweet and savoury pasty for 2.5, seafood, meats, cheese, lollies, and everything and anything else your heart could imagine. So cheap, so fresh, so fun, and a definite must-do in Barcelona. I would argue this one experience alone is worthy of a trip to Spain. And if you are a foodie like me, I recommend you bring a paper bag because you will hyperventilate.

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We discovered a street filled with the most adorable and hipster ‘brunch’ cafes that reminded me of home. We settled on one called Brunch & Cake and were not disappointed. In retrospect I’m glad we had to wait for ten minutes to be seated because it took me about that long to decide what I wanted on the very attractive menu. And of course we had to finish up with cake because the name of the place is Brunch & Cake after all. Find it here: http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Restaurant_Review-g187497-d3163747-Reviews-Brunch_Cake-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

11750643_10153574224849497_667266251151645362_nSagrada Família
Hands down one of my favourite cathedrals of the trip and we didn’t even go inside because we are stingy backpackers. This incredible church designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí looks like something out of a Dr Seuss novel. Although it remains to this day unfinished, the exterior is an absolute spectacle and arguably advocates for the use of hallucinogenic substances. There are also a few other Gaudí buildings in Barcelona that are worth checking out. We went to visit Casa Batlló which was awesome, as well as La Pedrera. Park Güell is also one of the most famous of Gaudí’s work in Barcelona and after trekking there one morning we worked out that you need to buy a ticket and they sell out fast so we missed out. Learn from my mistakes and save yourself disappointment and buy a ticket – definitely worth it. If I had just one more day in Barcelona I would have gone back. But at least now I know for sure that I will be returning to Barcelona in my lifetime to see it as well as some of Gaudí’s other work: http://www.globotreks.com/destinations/10-gaudi-buildings-barcelona/
11745821_10153574225094497_6937562951992903035_n11800325_10153574224939497_5781834071195007610_nBarceloneta Beach
Coming from Australia, I have a high standard of beaches and I honestly would not rate Barceloneta Beach high on my list. Regardless of there being absolutely no space on the “sand” even at 8pm at night, and the water being filthy it is still a must-do European experience. Embrace the lack of personal space, the incredibly tanned Europeans that make you feel like a vampire, and the hundreds of people treading on you as they try and sell you something useless. 11754878_10153574227029497_7440106860701977246_oMonjuïc Cable Car
There are two cable cars in Barcelona: one that goes across the port, and the other that goes up the mountain to Montjuïc Castle. We did the Montjuïc one, and pre-booked tickets at our hostel after the previous disappointment at Park Güell. You access it from the Montjuïc funicular (tell me that doesn’t sound fun!) which takes you halfway up the mountain. From there you jump on the cable car and get incredible views of the city on the seven-minute journey to top of the hill. Relaxing, fun, and beautiful.

Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc
Across the road from the cable car station is the Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc, a pool originally constructed for the 1992 summer Olympics diving and waterpolo events but now open to the public. We found out about this from two girls staying in our hostel room and once we got there discovered it was something of a hidden gem, only known about by locals. But may I just say, OH MY GOD. The pool is stunning and has the most magnificent panoramic view out across the city. Screw the beach, here you’ve got plenty of space, crystal clear water, and stunning views out to the city. Plus as it is not a tourist attraction as such, you can feel much more comfortable leaving your bags and going swimming together (something that is an absolute NO NO at the beach). Less than 5 to get in, it closes at 6.30pm but they don’t let anyone in after 5.30pm, so don’t miss out! It’s in my top three experiences of my whole trip. Best afternoon and the perfect compliment to climbing the hill on the cable car. Find it here: http://www.timeout.es/barcelona/es/espacios-deportivos/piscina-municipal-de-montjuic 11224573_10153574224714497_2198913154788289075_n 11698688_10153574224624497_8782864824491427411_n11705530_10153574229134497_1029367634419693921_oOther than that we did another free walking tour, the perfect way to introduce yourself to the history and sights of any city, and as a result I think I will be moving to Barcelona at some point in my life in order to explore all the incredible back alleys, food haunts, and churches (which FYI most of are free after 5pm but cost money during the day).

Jemima joined us for our last few days in Barcelona and finally Sarah got the mad clubbing experience she had been dying for. Can’t thank the girls enough for their awesome company on another fantastic adventure. Time to start planning the next trip!

Until next time, folks!

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