The Attack of the Mosquitos on Koh Phi Phi Don

My stomach and I have never really gotten along. In my second year of post secondary studies, its hatred for me amplified when I contracted the bacterium H-pylori, and was a bit to leisure searching for a diagnosis. I didn’t take it seriously when I’d land myself in the hospital with a bad hangover, or when I’d regurgitate my food mid sentence because of a burp. Instead I hoped that marijuana would be the cure -all for my symptoms and turned a shoulder to the issue. I had gotten way to familiar with my bathroom floor before finally getting to the bottom of the issue, almost a year later.

If I’m being honest here, let’s just say the indulgences of my 20 something life style may have had a direct influence on the way my body broke down that year. I binge drank my way through high school, and started experimenting as any University student does. I also, like most young females had my fair share of body issues, and may not have always given my body the proper nutrients its so rightfully deserved. Because of this bacterium I was underweight, my stomach bled from time to time, and I contracted a few ulcers. I did resolve the problem, but I struggled to get to get back to a healthy BMI.

I’m happy to say that my young and notorious lifestyle is now behind me, and I now conduct my life in an extremely healthy manner, eating the right foods, attending regular yoga classes, staying active, and I don’t party like a rock-star as much as I used to (what can I say though I’m still young ;)). But I’ve always known my stomach would get back at me one day, with a vengeance, for the hardship it endured at my hand. I did not however, expect the misfortune that took place on Koh Phi Phi during my adventure.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetFrom the moment we set sail for Koh Phi Phi Don I was in complete wonderment. The boat made its way into the bay over transparent turquoise water, in front of us lay sparkling white curvy beaches nestled in front of luscious jungle vegetation. The dramatic limestone cliffs embraced us as we neared the pier, and even though the shoreline was extremely over crowded, it still appeared a tropical paradise. There are no roads on Koh Phi Phi Don, and subsequently no vehicles either. Everything is accessible by walking, and the entire traverse from the east to west end would take no more than an hour – though your likely to be distracted along the way as the strip resembles a maze framed by hundreds of attractions, shops and restaurants. For such a small space its actually quite overdeveloped, even after the rebuild following the Tsunami that tore through it in 2004. The beaches are absolutely exquisite, and the island itself is a tropical idyll, its hard to ever want to leave.

The view from our balcony

The view from our balcony

But hopefully for you, you never end up in their hospital.

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Full moons, Limestone Cliffs, and Penis Caves

Travel days are always hard. We had been living in beachfront bungalows on Ko Phanang, at a family run resort called Sunsea. We each had our own bed, television and air conditioning, an area to hang and fold our clothes and a patio with table and chairs for the whopping price of $15each. This was our first long -term stay (4nights) in Thailand, and life was so at ease that I could have stayed on the island forever. The family who owned the resort were lovely hosts, feeding us delicious meals, happy to give us a ride into town, and there to answer any questions should we have them. Mornings started off with coffee and a good read on the hammock. A mid morning swim before lunch (my favorite dish of the entire trip was served here; a green coconut curry soup that heightened my taste-buds with aromatic local spices. Even though it was 30+ degrees I couldn’t help but endure the heat for a taste) Followed by some sight seeing along the island riding on rented mopeds that we carefully signed our lives away for (mum would have killed me), and ending with a group dinner fueled with laughs,  a drunken board game or two, and 3 of the best friends a girl could ask for.

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Pink and Purple

We were a bit disorganized heading over to Ko Tao, 15 minutes late for a bus we had to sprint to wearing 50L backpacks in 35+ degree weather, no room booked, let alone any idea of which area of the island we were staying. Nick took the reigns as our tour guide, because he had been doing this backpacking thing for a few months, which was terrifying because he undoubtedly had his sister doing the bulk of their planning so far. Nonetheless, your a bit at ease when you jump on a bus with 50+ fellow travelers, who might have a plan, but probably don’t, but may have a general idea for you. Thats the thrill of backpacking though, you just wing it. You can plan, but you’ll probably meet people with useful insights who will tell you tales of their journeys, and you’ll detour. You meet people everyday with a story, of a place and some helpful advice they share, and you roll with it. You take every day as it comes, and it always works out (uh sort of). This particular time we had put all our trust in Nick to lead us to our new destination.

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One Stop Shop: Khao San Road, Bangkok.

The 22 hour flight to Bangkok was long, and as per my frequent misfortune the headphone jack in my seat was jammed on the 16 hour straight to Japan. Not the best luck, but hey, how can you feel pessimistic on a flight to the other side of the World? My buddy Pat whom was also travelling with me to meet Nick shared his headphone jack with me and we crushed the complimentary wine and watched movies the whole way. Some quick advice: be courteous with the liquid when your sitting window seat on a 16 hour flight, especially when those around you are doing the normal thing and sleeping, to better adjust to the future time zone. After waking the Japanese man up 3 times in 2 hours to use the bathroom after I’d broken the seal, I had felt bad and opted to strategically climb over him, which is hard to do under the radar when your buddy is laughing out loud next to you, secretly hoping you trip. Needless to say the rest of the flight would have been very awkward had he opened his eyes and saw me straddling over him trying to climb out. During a short stop in Tokyo to switch flights, the thrill of merely trying a green tea flavoured Kit Kat overwhelmed my curiosity and had me hungry for more. Upon arrival around 8pm, we we’re greeting by Nick and Alexis, two long absent familiar smiling faces, and that calming sense of home came over me – for a little while, until it was abruptly followed by the surging adrenaline that would keep me up for another 10 hours.

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Step one

I made the first step into my soul search last spring when I left the security of a full time salaried position to back pack through Thailand. Against the advice of my mother, I decided to feed my curiosity, and see the moon from the other side of the world. My only regret would have to be that I hadn’t realized my desire sooner, and saved more. My best friend Nick was living my dream, backpacking for a year in over 20 countries. I only got the chance to do 6 weeks, and see 2 of them. He was, and will always be my inspiration. The kid can dream, apart from his love of less than mediocre jokes, he is always coming up with new ideas. The best advice he ever gave me was to take a second to realize what you have beyond equity, and live simply. He laughed at me when I told him how much my rag and bone jeans cost me, and again even harder when I splashed a bit of bleach on them the first time I went to wash them. He then went on to explain the depth in which that 250 dollars would serve me on the road, and the life long memories it could give me in place of a nice outfit. You see, when you live on the road, you don’t need nice jeans, you need pants to keep you warm, and once you learn to bargain, you can purchase some for as little as 10 dollars in South East Asia. You have with you what you can carry, so your forced to live only with what you need. You learn to live simply. Nick was definitely the jumpstart to the life I currently live, and I’m not even sure he knows it.

So I dropped everything in Ajax, it had never been enough for me, even when I was younger I knew it. I found no room for growth, no inspiration, and nothing challenged me. It never pushed my boundaries, never taught me anything new about myself. It just was, and people were happy just being, but I wasn’t. I longed for new adventures, and new ideas, and Ajax was the last place I would find them. Some people call it home, but I’ve learned home is not physical, nor is it necessarily geographical. It is a feeling, and you feel it where your soul is at ease. Its the most comfortable feeling I’ve ever felt; I found home living out of a backpack.

I was lucky to have my close friend Alexis catch my disease and drop her job as well for the adventure. Her and I started our life long friendship over tequila in Cancun a couple years back, and as far as my travelling had gone since then, she had always shared it with me. She is a great travel friend because she plans and researches, and helps add a bit of structure to the my otherwise haphazard life. We packed 6 weeks worth of living into 50L, and being someone who has access to a privileged life, and a ton of clothing that was difficult for me. How liberating though, not knowing if I was ready. I must have gone over my list a million times and still thought I was forgetting everything leading up to it. But there it was as soon as I stepped into the airport, that feeling I longed for, my curiosity consuming my thoughts. I lost all my fears, and though the complimentary alcohol on the 22 hour flight helped a bit, couldn’t dig to the back of my mind to find anything worth stressing over.