Wednesday, 19 June: We got a ferry/ bus/ taxi from Ko Pha Ngan to Patong Beach on Phuket island. Needless to say, it was a long day of travel (0830 to 1700). Our hostel was in a unique area almost exclusively locals, but only about a 20 minute walk into town and to the beach. While Ryan relaxed, I took a short walk around town.

Thursday, 20 June: After another morning walk, we visited Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and it was nothing short of magical. These elephants are rescued from a less fortunate life, such as the circus or elephant-riding tourist attractions, and brought to this sanctuary where they can live out the rest of their lives in peace. We had a short briefing about the elephants and how to behave around them before we prepared the food and fed them. We also learned how to preform a routine check-up and make poo poo paper. I’m pretty sure I embarrassed Ryan and ticked off the other guests by volunteering to do everything and knowing all the questions the staff asked the audience about elephants.

Then, we gave them (and ourselves) a mud bath by covering them in mud and splashing it off. We all went for a swim in the pond to wash off, the elephants getting a special scrub. I think they enjoyed it as they all laid down in the water while we were hard at work.

Finally, the humans had a proper shower and Thai lunch before it was time to say good-bye. It was such a great experience spending the day with these endangered animals helping them live their most comfortable lives after years of trauma. I can’t recommend Elephant Jungle Sanctuary enough, with their multiple locations around Thailand! (Their own photographers made the trip that much more memorable).

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That night, we took a walk into town before it started chucking down rain and Ryan didn’t want any part of that. I continued on into the heart of Patong Beach, which is like a mini-Bangkok with all its clubs all assaulting you with different Post Malone songs, hopeful promoters lining the streets and range of cuisine. The best part was the lovely sunset.

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From the 21 to the 23 we were on our scuba LiveAboard trip in the Phi Phi Islands, which you can read about in a post here. After our third dive on the 23, we were transferred to our new hostel in Kata Beach and crashed.

Monday, 24 June: We had a very relaxing last day in Kata Beach, lounging in the shade, watching Netflix and reading.

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We left for Phuket airport at about 2100 for our 0040 flight home via Beijing. It was a long day (even longer for Ryan who had to catch another flight back to Arizona) but I’m glad to be home.

People are sometimes surprised when I say that I probably wouldn’t want to travel for months on end, much less for more than a few weeks. The main reason is that so I can really process all I’ve done and seen and compare it to what I grew up with and understand how it effects my worldview.

Plus, I’d miss my dog too much.

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After I got certified, I took a LiveAboard trip to Egypt in the Red Sea and loved it. I was so spoiled in that my first experience on a dive trip was so magnificent and luxurious.previous.

Scuba diving has opened up a whole new world of travel and absolutely made my dream holiday to Thailand (read posts on Bangkok and Ko Pha Ngan). When Ryan and I started talking about our trip, I told him about my LiveAboard and scuba diving opportunities abroad and he was interested, so he got certified himself for this trip.

Our boat was The Junk, a historic, charismatic vessel, took us around southern Thailand from Phuket for three days, two nights and ten dives. There were 12 passengers (not a full boat, which would be 18 passengers) split in groups among three dive masters. The passengers were mostly American with a few Europeans (unlike my other LiveAboard that was almost exclusively based in Britain) and had an average age of about 30. It’s always interesting to see the demographics of these kinds of trips. I was in a four-bed bunk room with an ensuite with my brother and one other man called Stefan. All in all, it was a bit more basic than my other boat, but this vessel only does these short trips, so living in luxury isn’t a priority.

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We were picked up early morning on the first day and managed three dives, then four dives the next day, and three more dives on the last day for a total of ten dives. The daily schedule was about the same as my Egypt LiveAboard…

  • 6:30: Wake-up call
  • 7:00: Briefing for the early morning dive
  • 8:15: Breakfast and free time
  • 10:30: Briefing for the morning dive
  • 12:30: Lunch and free time
  • 14:30: Briefing for the afternoon dive
  • 18:00: Briefing for the night dive
  • 19:30: Dinner and free time
  • 21:30: Lights out (for me)

Between dives, I enjoyed reading (not PADI material as I did last time as I got certified), logging my dives, studying fish and resting on the sun deck.

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All dive conditions had a water temperature of about 30°C (86°F) with 5-10 meters (16-34 feet) of visibility and mostly calm conditions. The weather this week was a mix of partially cloudy and sunny with a few spells of rain.

  • Total number of dives: 10
  • Dive numbers: 38-47
  • Average depth: 20.2 meters
  • Maximum depth: 31 meters
  • Average duration per dive: 47 minutes
  • Total duration: 7 hours 53 minutes
  • Critters seen: Crown of thorns starfish, eels (including babies), blue-spotted rays, lionfish, boxfish, barrel sponges, massive schools of snappers and barracudas, shrimp, hermit crabs, batfish, parrotfish, angelfish, nudibranchs, porcupinefish, scorpionfish, bamboo shark, feather stars, sea horse
  • Favorite dives and why: The Viking Cave; it has so much interesting history and the artificial reef was incredible.
  • Least favorite dive and why: The night dive; I’m still trying to learn to like them.
  • Other highlights: seeing Ryan in the water (he’s amazing for a novice) and continue his diving courses, the warm water, all the time I got to read, seeing the gorgeous islands

Now, for the play-by-play… (note: all underwater photos were taken by my dive guide Phil because my $40 Faux Pro turned out to not take great pictures)

Friday, 21 June: We were picked up from our hostel in Patong Beach and driven to Chalong pier, where we were ferried in a zodiac to the vessel and briefed on safety and tried on rental gear while we waited for the other half of the passengers. Once everyone was on board, we headed for our first dive site.

First dive: Shark Point

  • Maximum depth: 17.4 meters
  • Duration: 36 minutes
  • Comments: It’s on this dive I realized Ryan absolutely guzzles air and is the lowest common denominator for dive times the first few tries. The two of us dove with someone with a similar experience level, Antonia, guided by Phil. Both Ryan and Antonia were taking the advanced open water course on this trip. This dive had pinnicles, crown of thorns starfish, large schools of snappers, eels, lionfish and a blue-spotted ray.

Second dive: Bida Nok

  • Maximum depth: 31 meters
  • Duration: 38 minutes
  • Comments: This was a bit of a current/ drift dive and with the depth, I was running a bit low on air as we panted swimming against the current quickly to get back to our pick-up spot. It was a bit stressful. However, we saw some cool barrel sponges, boxfish and large schools of snappers.

Third dive: Tonsai Bay

  • Maximum depth: 12.9 meters
  • Duration: 41 minutes
  • Comments: This was a night dive, which I’ve never been a huge fan of, but I’m trying to make them happen. We saw some shrimp and hermit crabs that only come out at night as well as larger fish hunting.

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Saturday, 22 June

Fourth dive: HTMS Kled Kaew

  • Maximum depth: 23.4 meters
  • Duration: 44 minutes
  • Comments: This small vessel was purposely sunk in 2014 as a dive site and has been well received by the underwater locals. Although there were no safe points of penetration, there were massive (literally blackened the water) schools of small fish that were most impressive.

Fifth dive: Bida Noi

  • Maximum depth: 19.3 meters
  • Duration: 53 minutes
  • Comments: This was a great wall dive with a wide diversity of fish… even if I missed seeing the blacktip reef shark.

Sixth dive: Pileh Wall

  • Maximum depth: 15.5 meters
  • Duration: 51 minutes
  • Comments: As the name suggests, this was another reef wall dive with so much to see within the crevasses at different depths. I went with another group/ dive master (Sharkie) as Ryan and Antonia were doing training dives. I saw some especially beautiful angelfish and nudibranchs on this dive!

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Seventh dive: Viking Bay

  • Maximum depth: 17.6 meters
  • Duration: 56 minutes
  • Comments: This dive site had the most interesting history: back when the cave was first discovered, the much loved king thought the paintings on the walls looked like viking ships, so he dubbed it Viking Cave. The island is home to a vast network of limestone cave systems and valuable swiftlet nests, which are harvested by one company exclusively and fiercely guarded. Under the surface lies an artificial reef made up of stacks of cube outlines about 2m and are doing well, with scorpionfish, big porcupine fish, eels and rays nearby.

Sunday, 23 June

Eighth dive: King Cruiser

  • Maximum depth: 29.3 meters
  • Duration: 41 minutes
  • Comments: This car transport ferry was accidentally sunk in 1997 from hitting a well-known reef in calm conditions (although there is speculation that it might have been an inside insurance job). Traces of its cargo can still be seen in scattered toilets and nets, but the site has been taken over by massive schools of small barracuda and a wide range of other fish. Here, we also saw our first bamboo shark hiding in the shadows.

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Ninth dive: Koh Doc Mai

  • Maximum depth: 23.2 meters
  • Duration: 58 minutes
  • Comments: Caves and overhangs were the main attraction on this dive, hosting more bamboo sharks and seeing a free-swimming eel (something I’ve never seen before, it was vaguely threatening). There we also really neat airpockets inside the cave that looked like mirrors on the ceiling.

Tenth dive: Koh Doc Mai

  • Maximum depth: 28.9 meters
  • Duration: 55 minutes
  • Comments: Weather prohibited us from moving to a different dive site, so we just dove the other side of this island. There was a reef will with crevasses but not much to see.

After the last dive, we packed up and returned to shore, riding the zodiac in the rain fully clothed. Not the warmest of goodbyes, but I had a lovely time on the trip, despite the less-than-perfect conditions and short run. I’m really proud of myself for doing all the dives even though I suffer with fatigue on a normal day and diving is exhausting. I’m already thinking about my next LiveAboard, I can’t recommend them enough.

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Sunday, 16 June: We left Bangkok early in the morning to fly to Koh Samui and get a ferry to Koh Pha Ngan for some time on the islands and Full Moon Party. Once all was said and done, we arrived at our quiet hostel on the north west side of the island in the early afternoon and relaxed for the remainder of the day in anticipation for the next few days ahead. We walked to the dive center to try on rental gear for our dive day trip the next day and relaxed at the hostel, getting Thai massages on the beach at sunset. Again, I’m still trying to learn to like them.

Monday, 17 June: Early in the morning, we took a diving day trip to Sail Rock, about an hour at sea from Haad Yao (the part of the island we were staying on). Unfortunately, due to the time of the month, the visibility wasn’t great (about 10 meters). The two dives were good, but not “wow.” They both lasted about 40 minutes at about 18 meters maximum, which was perfect for Ryan who only just got Open Water certified. The best parts of the dives were the warm water, cave chimney and having a close call with an aggressive trigger fish. Some species of trigger fish are known to be fiercely territorial and swim after divers who get too close. I was record a barracuda when I move my camera to a crowd of reef fishes and think, “Hey, that fish looks a little bit like a…” until I realize I have to get away! I turn to swim away and my dive guide was frantically waving me on to get away from it. I’m sure nothing would have happened, but it’s fun to think about. I will post the videos of the encounter when I’m back home!

We then moved hostels closer to Haad Rin, where the Full Moon Party was to take place that night. At our hostel in Thong Sala, we rested until the hour of reckoning came upon us.

We didn’t start festivities until late, constantly reminding ourselves that the Full Moon Party is a marathon, not a sprint, as an all night celebration. At our hostel, a few other party-goers were getting ready with drinks and glow paint (my favorite work was the Thanos infinity gauntlet I drew on Ryan and Ryan wrong “Chang [the local beer] pls” on someone’s shirt) before we shared a taxi to the beach that left at 11PM.

Tuesday, 18 June: When we arrived near the beach, we were bombarded with glow paint stalls, tacky accessories (naturally I got a flower crown) and alcohol served by the bucket.

Not long after we got our bearings, we ran into a very drunk Ben, one of the Americans we went out with in Bangkok. Both stone cold sober, Ryan and I thought it would be only decent to help Ben find his friends again. Even with the Find My Friends saying Noah was only a foot away, it was nearly impossible to tell who was who in the dark and if they were on the ground level or up in a rooftop bar. It was a long half hour of running around in circles trying to keep Ben from wandering and losing him ourselves. With him not being able to see straight, I took over his phone to try to see if I could have better luck finding his friends and open his phone to find a text from Noah that said something along the lines of, “Ditch Rachel, she’s hung [their word for anything good or bad for whatever reason, but I had a feeling he wasn’t paying me a compliment].” Hurt and upset, I wanted to be rid of Ben now more than ever. Luckily, Ben decided to take matters into his own hands, confident his mates were just around the corner, and we let him go.

Ryan and I danced our way through the various clubs and stages down the beach. A few hours later, much to my dismay, we run into the Americans again. I first recognize Bryan and excitedly shout his name, but when I see Noah I give him the finger. He asks me what that was for and I grab him by the collar and say, “I help your drunk mate and you have the bollocks to call me hung?” He denied knowing what I was talking about until I told him I saw the texts when I was helping Ben on his phone. He defended himself by saying, “We didn’t appreciate you following us around all night [the ping pong show and Soi Cowboy],” which I brushed off and told him to go fuck himself. Sure, maybe I might have overstepped by tagging along with the four of them being on the outside, but it was only for a few hours so I didn’t let myself feel bad about it. I’m sharing this because this is what happened and I think running into them was a sign that I should stick up for myself, and I did. I’m often quite a pushover, but no more.

The rest of the night was brilliant. At about 0200, Ryan wanted a sit down so I continued without him. I was mostly sober, having had one bucket at around 0100 and nursed it for an hour with plenty of water and it was one of the best choices I made all night. Staying sober made me feel so alive but actually in control and confident of taking care of myself. Unfortunately, it just made Ryan a bit drowsy and we separated for a while. I continued to dance, chat and even jumped rope with fire (all the blogs I read suggested against it, but it was exhilarating and I didn’t get burned!).

At around 0430, I came back to a club I visited a few times throughout the night and ran into Marley, the Londoner I met in Bangkok but hadn’t heard if he was coming to the Party or not. He was quite drunk, off the walls and childish. After a few minutes of trying to wrangle him, I suggested we sit on the beach, which he was reluctant to at first but once he got in the sand, he passed out. I summoned Ryan and we watched the sunrise together around 0600. We people watched as party-goers rinsed off in the water (probably no cleaner than their clothes filled with sweat, booze, sand and paint) and said farewell to their special friends. Soon after sunrise, Ryan left and Marley started to stir (thank God, my whole leg numb from the thigh down where he was resting his head).

When we left the beach around 0700, he realized he missed his last boat back to Koh Samui where he was staying. I told him there’s a ferry near my hostel where he can rinse off and rest. He was still a bit drunk so I had to sort everything (taxi back to my hostel for the both of us and his transport back to Samui) for him on top of making sure he doesn’t wander off, I couldn’t help feeling taken advantage of again. Finally at 1030, I was rid of him and free to nap for the rest of the day.

At first, I was on the fence about the Full Moon Party but I’m so glad I went. Yeah, it’s just some trashy fun, but fun nonetheless.

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I have been dreaming of this trip to Thailand for the better part of a decade as my dream trip and it was everything I could have wanted and more. These last two weeks have been spent going out, scuba diving and relaxing between said activities. As this is my last “day” (we leave for the airport in roughly ten hours), I thought I would write and reflect on the trip now while it’s most fresh in my mind and the sticky air is still surrounding me.

That being said, I will omit little to nothing of my trip, from scams, fights, adult shows, tears… the lot. I want to remember this amazing trip for all it was and being honest with my readers is a big step to being honest with myself and face my problems head-on.

One final note: please excuse any formatting issues and lack of photographs especially for the scuba diving portions of these posts. I am working on my iPad and don’t have access to my computer for the media formatting and picture downloading. I will update following posts as the pictures come in and saying so likewise in future posts.

Our first top on this two week trip was Bangkok.

Wednesday, 12 June: We started traveling early on the 11th, my brother Ryan (21) first catching a flight from Tucson and us both meeting at LAX for a series of more flights. We flew from Los Angeles to Seattle to Tokyo before finally arriving in Bangkok late on the 12th (time zones are weird). All flights were smooth and uneventful; I read, watched movies and YouTube videos. It didn’t even take leaving the airport before we met our first “scam.” I downloaded the Southeast Asia version of Uber (Grab) and hailed a ride to our hostel. Of course, being in Thailand, the app is all in Thai so I was having a bit of trouble navigating it. We went out of the airport to the ride share area where a man holding a phone approached me and asked to see my phone. Assuming this would help with the language barrier, I showed him the ride I hailed. It wasn’t until we were in his car that I realized he had cancelled my ride to take us there himself. All in all, not the worst thing to happen to anyone ever (I had my maps open to make sure he was taking us the right way), but just goes to show you have to stay on your toes and be assertive! We arrived at our hostel late at night and crashed.

Thursday, 13 June: We hit the pavement early the next morning, too excited to sleep. We walked to the Grand Palace, where we marveled at temples, royal residences and government buildings… with about a million Asian tourist groups. We made our way across the river to Wat Arun, another impressive temple. The mosaic work and statues on all these temples were especially impressive. After a sweaty morning, we treated ourself to a tuk tuk ride back to the hostel and hung out at the pool.

There, we mingled with other guests, drank and played games. That hostel (Bed Station Khao San Road) was probably my favorite the whole trip for the atmosphere, location and amenities. I certainly got too carried away with the fact that alcohol is literally served by the bucket, which is about four shots and a splash of mixture, and the fact that the winner of a billiards contest I befriended didn’t want his reward bucket certainly didn’t help my state.

The drinks and conversations (I couldn’t comment on how intelligent they were) were flowing before we were led to the famous Khao San Road a block over for a night out, at which point I was three buckets deep. I only somewhat remember dancing a lot (because most people commented on it the next day), eating a few scorpions street vendors offer to the drunkest of the lot and buying a lewd bracelet whose phrase I’m too ashamed to share. I can’t remember what set me off exactly, but I think I felt excluded for whatever reason and got too into my head and excused myself. I sat on a stoop of what I think was a hotel and cried, had a panic attack and chundered. I texted Ryan and a girl I met at the hostel something really unintelligible, probably trying to communicate where I was, before I was found by a group of first year British guys from our hostel who helped me back to my room. It was strange because something like this has never happened to me before. I get a lot of things when I drink (talkative, friendly, dancing queen, karaoke nightmare), but never sad or anxious despite my usual acute but constant state of worry sober. Needless to say, I didn’t drink for the rest of the trip. In the immortal words of Chess, “One night in Bangkok makes the hard man humble.”

Friday, 14 June: We took the day to rest and recover, getting a Thai massage. I’ve never gotten a professional massage before so I don’t have much to compare it to, but the masseuse but her whole body into my massage, which was more of a deep stretch than anything. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it, except the bits in the neck, that I hated.

We continued to rest during the day until two Americans from our room (Noah and Alex) proposed we go out to a ping pong show. Like the good girl I am, I literally thought it was a ping pong game until they explained to me what it is, which made me equally parts intrigued and disturbed. We hung out at the hostel until the Americans’ university friends (Ben and Bryan) showed up for drinks before going to the show. We went to Khao San Road (both Alex and I remained sober) where the others drank and inhaled balloons full of laughing gas (widely available in the area). I tried a small balloon and it just makes you dizzy for a few seconds and then you come down, but for whatever reason Ben and Bryan were big fans. We negotiated our way into a ping pong show and I can best describe it as a vagina circus. The lovely ladies performed different acts starring their between-me-down-there including the title show: shooting ping pongs from their vaginas into a basket on the other side of the stage. After that, Ryan wanted to go back to the hostel but sober and alert, I didn’t want the night to end. I tagged along with the four American guys to Soi Cowboy, an area my friend recommended to me. We walked up and down the road swatting away what I can only assume were ladies of the night. I wanted to go to a ladyboy show, but the others weren’t interested. We went to a strip club for a bit until we had anough and headed back to the hostel, ending the night.

Saturday, 15 June: Our last day was really low key, especially since Ryan slept for most of the day after I slept most of the day yesterday. We did, however, go to the Chatuchak weekend market which was a bit disappointing. All that was being sold was basically crap but that didn’t stop me from buying a coin purse and a dress (I figure even if it didn’t even last me until the end of the trip, I wouldn’t lose sleep over the $10USD I spent total).

We went back to the hostel where we spent the remainder of the day, Ryan relaxing and me mingling with a Londoner called Marley. The night took a turn when Marley thought my towel was his and he unraveled it, dropping my key card in the cracks of the pool deck. Thankfully, the reception understood and issued a new one to me for free. I told Marley to come to the Full Moon Party in a few days as he would be on a neighboring island and said goodnight early so I could rest up for my early flight to Koh Samui the next day.

Both Ryan and I agreed that we stayed the perfect length of time in Bangkok. In fact, if it weren’t for the amazing atmosphere the hostel provided, I don’t think I would have had such a good time. I enjoyed going out and would spend a few days in Bangkok to do enjoy the nightlife, discover new temples and try my luck at other markets, but the other attractions seem over-commercialized and a bit of a tourist trap.

Once we got to the islands, we felt that was the “real” Thailand… stay tuned!

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As you are probably tired of hearing, I’m currently in Thailand until the 25th and undoubtedly having the time of my life. However, I’m happy to introduce Lauren as this month’s featured blogger in this queued post.

12688244_10153917408079458_3638107965784725438_n-2Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Lauren, I am 28 years old and I live in Bournemouth. My blog bournemouthgirl and I have been blogging for 2 years this October.

How did you get into blogging?

I loved blogging and I wanted to blog for 2 years before I actually started. Reading Lily Pebbles blog really inspired me to start.

Tell us about your favorite blog post.

My favourite blog post was the stationery post I wrote when I collaborated with Say Nice Things Stationery.

What are you doing when you’re not blogging?

When I am not blogging I like to spend time with family and friends, be outside, listening to music, reading or watching my favourite programmes.

Where is your favorite place to buy stationary?

My favourite place to buy stationery – this is such a hard question! I love stationery, so there is so many places to choose from, but one shop I love is Paperchase.

What is your least favorite thing about blogging?

My least favourite thing about blogging is when others copy others work and not supporting one another.

Where else can we find you?

Twitter || Facebook || Instagram || Pinterest

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic.

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