So as a lot of you probably know I went to Thailand last week and it's safe to say it was one of the best experiences of my life. And it's just so incredible that something as awesome as the trip I had last week, has things to compete with to be the best experience of my life!
That sounds odd because who wants to come home from luxury resorts and constant 30 degree days?
But I have so much to come back to. So much love and adventures to still be had.
You can never be appreciative enough of the things you have and something else I learnt is to not feel guilty but to appreciate and share. I want to share all the good things in my life, and I'm also grateful that I have been taught generosity in my life. I don't think there is anything more important in another person than generosity and I'm grateful to have parents who taught me generosity through example.
So lets get down to it. Thailand, you are beautiful, your people are beautiful, the weather is, sometimes overcast and it's hard to stay dry but nonetheless, beautiful.
I travelled to Thailand with Elle who you will have seen and heard about on here before (beautiful long blonde hair in my St Kilda Pier photography) and we met up with Viv, Danni, Lis and Gwen. You will probably have heard about Viv a lot as well, (I could link you to every post involving her but we could be here a while) but one of the best parts about this last week was getting to know Gwen, Lis and Danni better as well as time with two of my best friends. I am so lucky to have gotten to travel with such considerate and mature, not to mention very fun, young women.
The first full day that I was there we went into Karon and did a bit of shopping and this was my first experience of haggling. I am not very good at it. I can't take the conflict, so I get Viv or Lis to help haha. It was cool to explore though and get a taste of what it's like outside the resort. We went and got our nails done for 150 baht, which is a whole $4.50 Australian. It was really fun and Lis made friends with the lady who worked there and we got to hear about her life, and how her family is in Bangkok. We ended up having a photo with her before we left because we are that cool.
The whole hour trip there, the four of us, Lis, Gwen, Viv and I got to sit up on the front of the boat in the fresh air. And it was the first day since we had been there that is wasn't overcast, so we really choose the perfect day :) At the first Island we had our own private beach with crystal clear water beautiful trees for shade (when you have skin as pale as mine you notice the shade haha). It was pretty surreal. I found Phuket confronting in many ways because there is no sugar coating that Thailand is a third world country and that in comparison to the wealth of those who visit there, the people do not have a lot. I think in that way, there is a difference between those who holiday and those who travel.
I wanted to know the people I was buying things from, I wanted to know the stories behind the washed out buildings along the coastline. In the same way there is so much that is culturally beautiful about Thailand that I really didn't want to miss because of how beautiful the tourist destinations are. I don't know, I guess what I'm trying to say is that in the resort, and on this private beach in Phi Phi Island, I was on holidays, it was paradise. There was nothing at all confronting about it, even if I think we do need to be confronted with reality.
Viv's video, (above) which you should all go and give some love because it means a lot to me how much effort she put into the trip and into everything our friendship group does :)
The other people on our tour were really nice too and from all around, and Phi Phi really is just one of the most beautiful places you can go.
Another highlight for me was Scuba Diving. Oh boy, this was going to easily be the most challenging part of the trip. A chance to get out of my comfort zone. Just Viv and I decided to go. We went on this really surprisingly fancy boat, it had wifi! It had a few different groups of divers on it, all with their own instructors. So Viv and I had our instructor Lexi who was lovely and showed us the ropes. I was pretty nervous and had some sea sickness on the way there but it was soon replaced with excitement to get in the water.
To get into the water, you have to put on your wetsuit, fins and weight belt, sit down in front of your tank, strap it onto you, put your goggles on. Then the lovely boat crew help you to stand up straight and your tank comes out of it's little hole and you bear its weight. The really nice guys on the boat and other instructor helped us beginners out by holding some of the weight for you while you waddle over to the dive deck trying not to trip forward or fall back onto the weight of your tank. It sounds harder than it is! I found it weirder to adjust after you get out again and pull yourself up onto the deck and all of a sudden have this weight on your back.
Then you jump. You look to the sky, hold one hand on your belt, air thingy in your mouth, other hand on your goggles. You take on big step out into the water.
And shortly after your fancy life jacket thing pops you back up to the top. But the first time it is a bit scary okay! The jackets are cool, you let air in and out of them with buttons to adjust the depth you want to swim to.
After that it's all about equalising your ears (like when you pop them on aeroplanes) and making sure you breathe so your lungs don't explode haha. We did skills underwater. One of them was taking your mouthpiece out and then clearing it of water. This was pretty daunting, I forced myself to do it because I was like "adventure! you can't do this at home!"
So we had sign language with out instructor and Lexi would demonstrate what she had already explained to us on land. We were a fair way underwater (for me anyway!) and I took my mouth piece out, let out gentle bubbles out and then put it back in, cleared it of water and started to breath again. Life achievement right there! and I only panicked a little.
Then we moved to doing the same thing but in-between taking your mouthpiece out and putting it back in you have to tap your tank, hip and bum, and then when you bring your arm back around you put your air back in. I am proud to say I tried this but freaked out and let out too much air instead of little bubbles so before tapping my tank I quickly reached for my air supply haha. But I tried! Then it was time to see the fishies and they were beautiful! There were lots of awesome animals down under the sea, I'll chuck in some snaps that our instructor took for us. I was pretty jelly of her underwater camera :)
For me, I really like to see a new place on the move, so while I loved shopping and walking through the markets and meeting people, getting our hair or nails done. I also really enjoyed the transport parts. Taking a taxi to Patong, and having motorbikes galore passing you. Seeing whole families on a motorbike. When we took a bus to get on the boat for Phi Phi is was early in the morning and all the kids were on the back of motorbikes being driven to school in their uniforms.
On the last day that Elle and I were there, we left the resort at 5am and as we drove across the Island to the airport, the people started to wake up and come alive, and while Elle slept next to me, I couldn't take my eyes off the very few people driving around, the shops that are usually busy with people and tourists empty, the sun just coming up. As the hour drive went by, the roads started to get busier and I said goodbye to a place that is loud and dirty and beautiful, but most of all charmingly unapologetic.
There was one part of the week that I felt really conflicted about. With the exception of the instagram I posted at the time I haven't done anything with the photos from our Elephant Trek yet because I don't want to advertise it. If I'm honest, this made me feel really sad. I contributed to an industry that profits from the mistreatment and torture of some of the world's most beautiful and endangered animals.
I debated on writing about this because I think that every one feels different about it, and there is a lot about Elephants and Thailand's culture that I don't understand and that I can't understand because I am not Thai and I'm not a zoologist. I also didn't want to put a downer on the whole week or make others who have tried Elephant Trekking feel bad because like many others, I was kind of swept up in the 'everyone does it' thing. And seeing Elephants in person is pretty amazing.
I'm just going to level with you on this one, because if I can stop others from supporting the industry, I think it's worth it. Because Viv was so good organising everything, she picked the most reputable elephant trekking company (with the best treatment of animals in comparison) but there were still things that made me curious about animal treatment. The chains around the Elephant's legs, I understand they need to keep them somehow and there isn't a great deal of infrastructure, but it bothered me a bit. And then there was the manner in which the men who rode them and steered them yelled at, kicked and hit them. I mean, I don't know about Elephants or how much they feel or what hurts to them but I'm not going to pretend it didn't make me uncomfortable. Also, Elephants are such responsive and intelligent creatures and this might sound borderline neurotic but I really feel that the nature of the people who own them, impacts their quality of life too.
So I did a bit of research, and I found this article that explains the methods used to train Elephants and how it harms them to be ridden, which made me feel a whole lot worse and I wish I'd thought to research it all before hand. So hopefully this helps someone else make a better decision. I think I'm going to try and find a group of people like this to support in the future to try and make amends. And next time I'm in Asia, I look forward to swimming with and washing well treated Elephants instead :)
Anyway, I just want to say how thankful I am to have the chance to do things like this, and meet people from all around the world, and have friendships that can withstand international travel haha.
I hope this wasn't too long and boring! I've missed this space and I'm super excited to post another One Story tomorrow by someone that I sort of found on the internet by chance and I don't think too many of you know, so it will be really great :)
Lots of love,