Northern Thailand had me under its spell. I found it so hard to leave. But I’ve been longing for the islands. So I parted ways with my Pai family and took three buses heading down south. I knew I had to rest before I hop on that ferry ride to Koh Tao. My head ached for a bed. I got off the bus in Chumphon, a kind Thai lady from the bus told me to hop on the back of a motorbike to the hotel. I found a hotel/bar, tossed all my things on the floor, had salty french fries with loads of ketchup for an unhealthy dinner. The first time I slept on a real bed with my own room. No bunks. No backpackers. I’m pretty sure that aside from a young French couple with their adorable curly-haired daughter I was the only one there. I showered, talked to friends online, wrote my memories on paper, then fell asleep.
I woke up before the sun rose. Packed all my things, and hopped onto the taxi (that’s actually one of those huge open-air trucks that kind of looks like it came straight out of a war film). I look around at the faces of backpackers around me and they were all in a sleepy haze. The wind was wild and it set my hair free. I put my head against the metal rail and closed my eyes. I felt the cool morning air on my skin, and my goosebumps raising. I slowly opened my eyes up to a pink orange sky with the sun peaking over the ocean. A grand sunrise that everyone instantly woke up to. Everyone kept quiet and watched. Everyone stayed still.
We all got off the ferry, dug out our backpacks from the massive mountain of luggages and headed off to our own different paths. I always like people watching. Sometimes instead of introducing myself to these people, I would just rather keep quiet and wonder about they’re lives. What makes their heart skip beats, how they love, how they cry, how they laugh, what makes them raw, what makes them feel the most alive. After all of that, I just give them a smile, and they smile back. I’ll never see them again. Or maybe they’ll just be an arm I brush up against in a crowded city. In a different country. Who knows. But in that moment, a smile was enough.
The scent of the ocean, along with the rays of sunshine kissing my skin, and the gorgeous view of the sea foam green and turquoise waters instantly put me at ease. It felt good to be by the ocean again. The tides always seem to pull me with it, no matter where I am.
From Koh Tao I took the night ferry to Krabi with Nic, a girl I met in Chiang Mai. It was an old wooden ferry with thin “floor beds” right next to each other. We slept on the floor beneath with low ceiling. We giggled to ourselves and at our little sketchy boat adventure. The air was thick and musty so we opened the windows. The cold wind of the ocean filled the boat. I laid my head down and let the lullabies of the sea drift me away into a dreamless sleep.
We got off the ferry and connected to a bus ride that took us through the lush green terrain and karst landscapes of Krabi. Then we took a boat to Railay Beach, beach cave lovers and rock climber’s paradise. And I found perfection.
We stayed at Railay Cabanas and slept in a bungalow in bottom of a bowl of limestone mountains.
Our morning views were breathtaking.
We were close to a Rock Climbing Gym/Cafe/Bar where they used a thick piece of wood as menus, dreamcatchers hung from the ceiling, and the instructors all had dreads.
I’ve been itching to rock climb in Railay Beach ever since I saw a picture of it in the Lonely Planet. It was my second time climbing, and first time climbing real rocks. I’m afraid of heights but I always face it anyway. I love the thrill and the adrenaline rushing through my veins. My instructor who was a small Thai version of Bob Marley kept yelling broken English at me that I don’t understand, followed by laughter echoing through the canyon. He’s clearly laughing at my lack of experience. He climbs like a spider monkey. So I grin at myself and pause to rest. I look behind me and below me. I’m so high. I’m hanging from this karst rock just in time to witness the sun setting. The view was astounding. I reveled in the beauty of that fleeting moment.
We walked to Phra Nang Beach, I heard this hypnotic music echoing through the caves and saw a man tapping his fingers on a steel shell. It instantly put me under its musical spell, and I instantly fell into a blissful trance.
According to legend, Phra Nang was an Indian princess who was killed in a shipwreck. In another tale, Phra Nang was the wife of a fisherman who was lost at sea. She lived out the rest of her days in the cave, awaiting her husband’s return.
Today, local fisherman and boatmen leave offerings in Phra Nang cave for they believe it will secure safe travel on the sea. These offerings are in the form of male genitalia, phallic-shaped statues representing the Hindu god Shiva.
We woke up to swim in the beach early morning. From the distance we saw these group of guys jumping off a cliff. Michael, a German guy we ended up traveling with, immediately swim towards the deep end. I followed him after, and swam into the cave. We climbed on a cliff hovering over the sea. I looked down and my fears arose like giant serpents, making me feel paper thin. I stood there for a while. Looking down as I felt the knots in my stomach form. Finally, I stopped thinking. And just jumped. I felt the needles of the impact all over my body as I plunged deep into the sea. I reached the surface and took a deep breathe and smiled.
I was on a high. So I jumped again.
You achieve a certain kind of liberation unlike anything else once you let yourself become bigger than your fear.
As if you were reborn and pure again.
Three nights were all I had left in Thailand. So we continued on to Koh Phi Phi. The island of the obnoxiously drunk 24/7 partygoers but more importantly one of the best viewpoints I have ever set my eyes on, and The Beach.
After a sleepless night full of drunk people throwing large leaves in our dorm room, cellphones ringing inside lockers, broken padlocks, and slurred profanity. Nic and I got up and decided to watch the sunrise at the viewpoint. We sat on the rocks and meditated on the tainted beauty that is Koh Phi Phi island. But we found in peace in this place. Then gray clouds hovered above us, and seconds later bullets of rain started shattering on our skins. We ran to the cafe, got some coffee, and as I emptied my packet of sugar I read “Trust your intuition, and the universe will guide you.”
Then, I smiled to myself.
Ferry rides to the islands were some of my most treasured memories of Thailand. I would hop to the side of the boat then sat with my feet dangling with the wind. I watched a flock of birds synchronize their movement with our boat, Into & Outro by M83 vibrating through my ears, sending me shivers down my spine, and bliss chills all over my body as I looked at the perfect space between the ocean and the sky laid out in front of me.
Just like my sugar packet said, “Trust your intuition and the universe will guide you”. And I did. I did just that.
For the first time, I backpacked throughout a new country by myself. I met incredible people, saw the most beautiful places I have ever laid eyes on, and had the most blissful experiences. I’ve slept in dorm huts built on rice fields, sketchy bar hotels, overnight trains, countless of buses, a bungalow in a bowl of karst mountains, creepy night boats, and kept awake in a crazy party hostel where most people were sober 1% of the time. Yet I continue to find beauty in all of it. Each day I woke up to a brand new adventure that took me to temples, mountains, canyons, caves, islands, lagoons, cities & towns that each took a piece of my heart, everything my wanderlust had been aching for.
A beautiful soul told me that meeting amazing people and then going separate ways is a part of traveling. And also that maybe part of the beauty of those relationships lie on their briefness. I held its truth.
Wandering does that to you, hell, life does that to you. You’ll feel things you never want to stop feeling. You’ll love people who will leave. You’ll want to stay in places you wish you could keep in your pocket forever.
But moments are fleeting. And everything is impermanent. But only one thing should stay constant… living in the moment.
Drink every bit of the present and let it seep through you that even when your soul parts from your body, it lingers in your bones.