After a handful of relaxing days in beautiful Chiang Mai, we woke up in the wee hours of the morning and headed to the airport. We caught a plane to Phuket, and once in Phuket, caught a ferry off the coast to take us to our actual destination: Phi Phi Island.
I don’t remember much of the ferry ride (as I am prone to seasickness and had taken a dose of Dramamine, so I was absolutely dead to the world) but when we arrived, I woke up and took in the view. It was a literal paradise. White sand, bright sunshine, lush greenery, bright tropical flowers, clear, aquamarine water… I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes. We disembarked, grabbed our luggage, and were shuttled quickly to a smaller longboat which carried us through the blue water to the resort.
Then, it was beach time. And for the next week, I spent more time on the beach than I probably ever have in my life. Dani and I would wake up, eat breakfast, grab a cocktail, then go lay out, sleep, and relax under the bright Thai sun. I’ve never had a vacation quite like that, to that level of relaxation. I didn’t fight it, though – it was nice to have time to do absolutely nothing on the agenda except to play catch up on some good podcasts and Netflix, all while working on my tan. I felt re-energized by the sun and the time I was given to spend with myself and my thoughts.
I thought a lot about the year ahead – 2019. I thought a lot about practical things – jobs, applications, income, visas, etc. I also reflected about personal practices and growth that I wanted to continue to work on in the next year – resolutions, goals (physical, emotional, spiritual, and social), crazy ideas, self-care routines, etc. In essence, I had the time to brainstorm about almost everything under the sun that I had been unable to before due to the hustle of life. I am grateful for the time I had to be able to map out and think through upcoming decisions. (Currently, I am working on transferring these ideas to the tangible world – putting them on paper, into a semi-orderly list. I would encourage you to do this – it really makes your ideas and visions real and accessible).
During the late afternoons, the sun would begin to set and we would go get ready for dinner. I remember one night, the tide had receded so far back, and there was this whole other beach that was exposed – rocks, barnacles, and all. We went down to the shore and walked so far out, where the sand had formed deep grooves by the ocean’s current and where the little crabs scuttled around our bare feet into their barnacle hideouts. The sunsets are incredible on Phi Phi. The sun falls right over a mountain peak on the far side of the island, and the orange, pink, and golden colors bathe the entire archipelago, creating a final, glorious crescendo of light as the island nightlife begins.
One of the restaurants in town featured a live music show, which consisted of two guys – one on the guitar and one singing. They were absolutely incredible! The singer had the voice of an angel, and I would compare him to Bruno Mars (maybe even better…)? They would take requests and absolutely astonished us because they knew, like, every single song ever written. Dani and I would often return by ourselves after dinner (otherwise known as my nightly tom kha session) with the rest of the family to get a drink and listen. It got to the point where the duet recognized and acknowledged us when we walked in – we were pretty much their biggest, most unapologetic supporters.
When Christmas Eve came, it seemed unreal. Maybe it was because I was on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, wearing a bikini, dress, and no shoes every day. Maybe it was because I was out of my normal Christmas routine of being with my family back home, and missing them. I kept forgetting that it was December – whenever I would see a reminder of Christmas, it was like I was remembering it for the first time.
The resort hosted a Christmas banquet on the beach that night, complete with food, drinks, and raffles. There were performances of traditional Thai dance, modern Thai dance, and fire spinning/juggling. It was the most unique Christmas Eve experience I have ever had, and one I won’t forget for the rest of my life. The whole night, the emcees had been saying that Santa was on his way to the island and would show up at the end of the banquet. We didn’t know what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t a Thai man sailing through the darkness on a longboat, dressed as Santa and bearing gifts.
We left as the island the day after Christmas as we had arrived – long boat to ferry, ferry to Phuket, and then to the airport to catch our flight to Bangkok.
In wrapping up my island experience, I think I am most thankful for these two things: 1) like I said already, being able to completely relax my mind and body in an idyllic setting such as Phi Phi Island and 2) being able to be with a family for Christmas. I am grateful to have been able to share laughter, adventure, and delicious food surrounded by Dani and her family. Although I missed my family and our holiday traditions, I was able to partake in their family’s traditions and not just feel like a part of it, but be a part of it for real. I would have survived in Madrid, sure, having Christmas Day to myself and maybe a couple of friends, but spending the holiday week with a welcoming group of new friends really made my Christmas unforgettable.