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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Tying up Thailand

Trying to think back on the last few days is actually a struggle. Not because I didn’t enjoy them, because I did a lot. Time just feels slower in paradise. It’s as if I’ve been here for months. Plus I feel like when you move slower, time moves slower. But please correct me on my relative time theory, because if there is one thing I know, it’s that I don’t know anything about that.

On popular advice, we headed out to Hong Island – an undiscovered paradise, only to find that unfortunately at least a few hundred other travelers had done the same. Call it a discovered undiscovered paradise, but paradise nonetheless. Snorkeling at the first stop, swimming and playing with rabies-free (*fingers crossed*) kittens at the second. A visit to a lagoon, and hours of floating in clear blue water to end it all. While we all agreed we’ve been spoiled at Railay Beach, if there is still clear blue water and shiny white sand, there is still a smile on my face.

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Ever determined to find the lagoon we’d set out after on one of the first days, we decided to put more planning into it, and actually work out where it was – by the way, it’s called the Princess Lagoon. No amount of planning could have prepared us for what we found though. An almost vertical climb up a rocky cliff entangled with convenient tree roots and fraying ropes, and then down again on the other side. Pushing through any hesitations we reached a viewpoint over the entire beach, with no railing of course, and found yet another moment to sit back, smile and say to ourselves “only in Asia”. Dripping with sweat and covered in mud, once we got down to the lagoon no sharp rocks, sinking into mud, or slick floating on top of the water could stop me from having a swim. At this point I was sure I was invincible. Plus floating in his arms once again in such natural beauty is an opportunity I will never pass up.

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Now we come to one of my favourite parts of this trip – and an example of one of the many perks of traveling with a luxury travel journalist. Before I set out on this adventure, I had wanted to organise a special dinner for the wonderful people that had invited me on their adventure. After finding the perfect place, I was devastated to hear back that it was only open to Resort guests due to popularity. Queue luxury travel journalist. Pulling a few strings, we managed to secure ourselves a booking for drinks, and after swindling through security and surviving a ride in a golf buggie, we arrived in my dreams – fairy lights and all. The Grotto is a bar nestled under the limestone cliffs of Phranang Beach, and is the epitome of natural beauty. Each table was set with stone plates, linen serviettes, a succulent each, and complimentary insect spray. After looking at the menu, realising one drink was more expensive than dinner for all six of us the previous night, we decided to keep it classy. Probably the first people ever to be so dorky as to ask for their photo to be taken from all angles of the cave, we indulged on the complimentary breads, admired the well-behaved monkeys, soaked up the live music, and exchanged new year goals. The next stop naturally was to abort before dinner and head to the local Thai joint for an awesome and cheap dinner. It was the perfect way to end an awesome holiday.

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Words cannot capture how grateful I am to have been on this adventure, and that’s saying something coming from the girl with endless things to say. Each journey I go on teaches me new things about myself and those I love, and this has been no exception. People can make or break a trip away, just as they can at home. Holidays abroad are a reminder of the importance in surrounding yourself with people that support you, love you and challenge you. 2016 has been a big year of growing, and this trip was the perfect way to both kick-back from the year that has been, and get a kick-start for the new year ahead.

Love to you all, you know who you are.

E x

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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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Kristmas in Krabi

Twas’ the night before Christmas and all through the resort,
the team was searching for a fun activity of sorts.
The Kris Kringle presents were bought and wrapped in all kinds,
each excited about the next day and the presents we’d find.

Sad to leave the Sarojin but keen for adventure,
to another part of Phuket our plans had us venture.
A car ride to the unknown and a longtail boat to follow,
the beauty of our destination was not hard to swallow.

Swims in the sunset and beds in the trees,
incredible cliffs overhanging and thieving monkeys.
A never-ending buffet and a daring fire show,
meeting new friends, and tequila as BYO.

A Christmas tree made from palm ferns and all sorts of flowers,
fans on full blast and nothing but cold showers.
Santa nailing the gifts even though we’re not home,
calling family far and wide over the phone.

Swimming in the sea as warm as a bath,
trying to find cool and undiscovered paths.
With plans to kayak, dive, and swing from a rope,
island hop, in-house chef and puzzles – not sure how I’ll cope.

A Christmas spent away can seem like no Christmas at all,
not sure about you, but whatever this is, I’m having a ball.
Got to go explore caves before we lose the light!
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

E x

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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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How to relive your holiday

I don’t know why I never thought of doing this, but I love editing movies and often film my holidays and this is what I produced from my trip to South East Asia. I visited Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

’twas the night before…

‘Tas the night before the flight, and all was thought to be packed. A t-shirt and some shorts, there was nothing that lacked. My bag, placed neatly by the stairs with care, anxious for the journey that it and I would soon share.

Okay, that is as far as my rhyming skills extend (thankfully). It is the night before the flight, and my bag is packed, though with nothing but the bare essentials. I am about to embark on my first proper adventure. Six weeks exploring the sights, smells and tastes that South-East Asia has to offer. For me, six weeks sounds like a lot (seeing as I have never been away from home for that long before), but I am excited to catch the so-called ‘travel bug’ that so many talk of, which induces symptoms such as doubt regarding the need or necessity to shower, an overwhelming acceptance that medications such as gastro-stop are to be taken on the daily, and a general reluctance to return home. But most importantly, the ability to describe the previous few weeks/months, as the best of your life.

I have spent the year studying and working (albeit, working at the cafe is often so much fun it tends not to feel like work). My Facebook feed has been full of albums and posts from friends boasting and flaunting their overseas travels. One day, in the middle of a very interesting lecture on the nature of policy and governance I decided that enough was enough and that I needed to travel. What better time to do this, I thought, than the Christmas holidays, when everyone else was returning from their trips, so I could repay the favor of spamming their news feeds with ‘from where you’d rather be’ posts.

So here I go. Come get me, travel bug.