Much to my surprise, I got a lot of reading done on my Thailand holiday. Most of it during the 40+ hours of flying I did, but some on the beach and on the boat trip, it was so lovely. If I did nothing except read for two weeks on a boat on a future trip, I’d be okay with that.

As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it
  • (★★★★): Really liked it
  • (★★★): Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it
  • (★★): Barely finished it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews.

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

415UGa1hIkLRating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, feminism, race, politics

GoodReads rating:  4.40 / 5 (19,200 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 1/6 – 7/6

Summary: The author starts by explaining their frustrations with discourse around race from non-people of color and delves into a brief history of how we got here.

Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Short, comprehensible and eye-opening, especially as a former expat of the United Kingdom to learn about their slavery history and civil rights movement.

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jonny Sun

x510Rating: ★★★

Genre: Graphic novel

GoodReads rating: 4.06 / 5 (25,300 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 7/6 – 11/6

Summary: “The illustrated story of a lonely alien sent to observe Earth, where he meets all sorts of creatures with all sorts of perspectives on life, love, and happiness, while learning to feel a little better about himself—based on the enormously popular Twitter account.”

Thoughts: It had a few cute bits, but not “wow”. The spelling also really annoyed me. I still love Jonny’s Twitter, though!

Educated by Tara Westover

81WojUxbbFLRating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir

GoodReads rating:  4.49 / 5 (325,800 ratings)

Medium used: E- book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 11/6 – 19/6

Summary: Growing up, the Westovers valued God and preparing for his impeding rapture above all else. Tara had never step foot in a school or hospital or even had a birth certificate until physical and emotional abuse forced her to change her quality of life by fighting her way into university.

Thoughts: This book is so interesting. I was very intrigued with her life and how going to university helped her look inwards and make amends with her family. There were some parts that were hard to read, but I really appreciate the author’s bravery and candor sharing her traumas. However, there were some parts that seemed really hard to believe, such as somebody with no formal education getting into a university with a 50% acceptance rate and graduating with honors. Obviously, it’s true, but I wish she detailed a bit more of her academic struggles once she got to school.

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

51EobVielcLRating: ★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, essays, humor

GoodReads rating:  3.75 / 5 (4,500 ratings)

Medium used: Paperback purchased from Antigone Books (Tucson, Arizona)

Date started/ finished: 21/6 – 24/6

Summary: “[C]ollection of essays filled with her trademark hilarity, wit, and charm.”

Thoughts: This was readable and short, but no essays were particularly memorable to me. I’m glad I tried this new genre though and am still open to trying more essays, even by this author.

Factfulness by Hans Rosling

818qWkHcICLRating: ★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, science, politics

GoodReads rating:  4.37 / 5 (46,500 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (bought via Amazon Kindle app)

Date started/ finished: 24/6 – 25/6

Summary: The late Hans Rosling explains why we think the world is wore off than it really is, explains how global trends are changing and how to examine our own understanding of the world for fact.

Thoughts: I had a few issues with this book. First of all, a lot of this book seems like a massive pat on the back to himself and sometimes comes off as arrogant, saying all the TED Talks he’s given, all the awards he’s been granted and how much more he knows than everybody else. As a professor, he also took his students on what I can best describe as “field trips” to gawk at the way people in lower-income countries live, like animals at the zoo. I understand that the author was trying to convey that the world is getting better in terms of healthcare, poverty, quality of life, education, etc., but sometimes it seemed like the author was trying to say that everything is fine and we shouldn’t worry and these problems will sort themselves. Despite these few paragraphs that made me uneasy, my favorite parts about this book wasn’t regurgitating data, but the parts that taught me how to think and read statistics rather than what to think. A very interesting resource created by the author and his family is the Gap Minder.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

the-woman-in-cabin-10-9781501132957_hrRating: ★★★½

Genre: Fiction, mystery, thriller

GoodReads rating:  3.68 / 5 (266,000 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 2/7-3/7

Summary: When travel journalist Lo Blacklock sees something dodgy on the maiden voyage of the lush and exclusive Aurora, she tries to find out what happened and who could have done it?

Thoughts: Sorry, I know the summary is really vague, but I don’t want to give anything away. The cons about this book was that it was slightly predictable at a point, but only because I feel like a few things about the plot have been done before. I also feel like the author held your hand through the book, reminding you what happened every step of the way. However, that didn’t make it any less exciting, I even audibly gasped at a few points. The isolated setting gave it a slightly And Then There Were None feel. Finally, the audiobook narrator (Imogen Church) was amazing. I went into this book knowing I probably wasn’t going to love it (as far as domestic thrillers go, Gone Girl cannot be beat), but I enjoyed it enough.

Other adaptations: Rumor has it there’s a film in pre-production.

Photo by Radu Marcusu.

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During the first week of June, I finished my horrible movie theater job (good riddance), spent time with my family, including making the annual trip to the Pasadena craft market with my grandma, and preparing for my new job in Alaska that starts next week (read more about it here).

As you might have seen, I spent a wonderful two weeks in Thailand this month with my youngest brother, Ryan. I don’t want to make myself redundant, so here are the posts:

Bangkok

Ko Pha Ngan

LiveAboard: Phi Phi Islands

Phuket

The day I got back from Thailand, my boyfriend Diego also arrived for a two-week visit. We have been playing tourist around L.A., visiting Zuma Beach, Universal Studios (I loved Harry Potter World), Hollywood (including Amoeba Records, Museum of Death and Griffith), Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and downtown L.A. For his birthday (which was on the 28th), we went go-kart racing (he won by 0.06 seconds) and saw a rooftop movie in Hollywood (The Big Lebowski, always laughs). We are leaving for my hometown today and look forward to enjoying a chance of pace.

June In Review 2016 || June In Review 2017 || June In Review 2018

What I’m listening to: The Goat by Puppy, Chon by Chon, Social Hazard by Lotus Eater, The Aquabats vs the Floating Eye of Death! by The Aquabats, Why Do They Rock So Hard? by Reel Big Fish, Cuz I Love You by Lizzo, The Skeptic by Tilian

What I’m watching: Hot Girls Wanted, Black Mirror (season 5), Period. End of Sentence, Zombieland, About Time, Catch Me If You Can, Our Planet

What I’m reading: The only Reading Wrap-Up post published this month was #09. I’m about 5 books/ 1 post behind schedule for my reviews!

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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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