The Great Escape: Month 70 + 71 Roundup
Diving into roundups! Since I’m working my way through my black hole of content from September of 2016 to April of 2017, that means we’ve got roundups to catch up on as well. This post covers into May of 2017. Apologies for the delay, but I suppose better is late than never… right? And to answer the inevitable questions, I pull these together from detailed notes, old blog posts and photos, my calendar, and my daily spending tracking software.
What a happy time this was! I spent the entirety of it in Thailand, enjoying my island home and making the most of my remaining two months there before heading back to the USA for the summer. I’d also finally mentally accepted that I was going to move away from Koh Tao in the next year or so, which ironically made me fall in love with it all over again.
Days slipped through my fingers as I enjoyed the carefree island vibes that brought me to Thailand in the first place.
Where I’ve Been
Basically, I spent the entire two months on Koh Tao, with little trips to Bangkok and Ayutthaya. If you want the full breakdown, here it is!
• One night in overnight transit
• Nineteen nights on Koh Tao
• Three nights in Bangkok
• One night on Koh Samui
• Twenty-four nights on Koh Tao
• One night in overnight transit
• Two nights in Bangkok
• One night on a cruise along the Chao Phraya
• Two nights in Ayutthaya
• Two nights in Bangkok
• One night in overnight transit
• Going green on St Patrick’s Day. I literally returned from Bali just in time for this. When your best friend is Irish and you practically live at your local bar, you just have to! It was a great, festive homecoming after a long trip away and set the tone for the upbeat vibe I craved for the rest of my time in Thailand.
• Being wowed by Tao Festival. Honestly, I didn’t believe a festival of this scale was possible on Koh Tao. The organizers really impressed me with the eco-friendliness, the structures, and the design. In terms of the music, I loved seeing Srirajah Rockers again, and the Arrested Development set, the pinnacle of it all, was literally maximum fun levels.
• Crying at Coldplay. Speaking of music, I am almost at a loss for words to describe how much I loved this concerts. I go to festivals often, but somehow I hadn’t seen a stadium show like this in years and years. I didn’t realize how emotional it would be! Maybe I was picking up on Paivi’s pregnancy hormones, but I was just overwhelmed by memories and nostalgia as we listened to what I realized in that moment was really the soundtrack of my life in Thailand. And then I started thinking how Paivi’s little baby was going to have this incredible life growing up in Thailand! Okay, now I’m crying again.
Bangkok and Koh Samui with the girls
• Soaking up Bangkok. Paivi and I’s spa day at a Japanese onsen in Thonglor was quite literally one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in the city. The design had me drooling, the treatments had me melting and the public nudity had me giggling. Despite the modern design this onsen is very traditional and we were the only non-Japanese customers there the entire four hours we spent there. We sprung for massages and facials and got our nails done before we arrived, making it the ultimate day of pampering. I love crazy spa experiences and this one was a winner!
• Seeing Beauty and the Beast on the big screen. Okay this one probably seems silly but one of the little things we don’t have access to on Koh Tao is a real movie theater. Long time readers know this is one of my LOVES in life, and so when the timing works out for me to see a movie I’m really excited about on the big screen during a trip, I’m just giddy. Paivi was a super good sport about me singing along to every single song at top volume, too.
• Kat’s arrival! It worked out so perfectly that Paivi and I’s trip coincided with our beloved Kat’s arrival in Bangkok, meaning we all were able to fly together down to Koh Samui. Once we arrived, we were so giddy we decided to spend a spontaneous girls’ night there before ferrying back to Koh Tao the next morning. We had such a fun day catching up by the pool and having dinner at Wine Connection (ah, how exotic chain restaurants seem when you live on an island without them.) I just love my girls so much!
• Being under the sea. I went diving just twice twice in these two months, but they were two awesome dive days! The first, a fabulous trip to Sail Rock with Alex in Wanderland regular Amy and her sister. Next, a pretty mediocre day diving with my girl Kat in terms of what we saw underwater — but I was on a boat with another bestie, who could complain? However, my favorite underwater adventure of them all was seeking out a new snorkel spot with Kat — a shallow shipwreck in Mae Haad. I love discovering new things on this teeny island I’ve spent so many years on! We celebrated with a sunset paddle session — best day ever.
• Songkran! A costumed, country-wide waterfight? Literally, what could be more fun. We really made the most of our last year of all of our favorite holidays at Banyan, knowing the closing was coming so soon.
• Easter brunch. Speaking of holidays, I loved that we were able to wrangle a crew (and find somewhere to celebrate) for a lovely Easter brunch at Viewpoint Resort. I’ve tried to make it a little tradition to do something similar every year, and this was a really sweet one, especially as it was Kat’s last day — we stuffed ourselves then stuffed her on the ferry, all of us in tears!
• Earth Day adventures. I kicked off my day with an underwater clean up snorkel in Shark Bay with Paivi and Amy, two of my favorite ladies. (We skipped the clean up dives since Paivi was pregnant at the time.) That night, at a local fundraiser raising money for recycling bins all over the island, I won a huge prize pack! I was so excited! I actually ended up selling most of the prizes (like a dive bag that wasn’t really right for me, and a Sail Rock trip with a company I didn’t particularly want to dive with) but I did use the voucher for a free coral propagation course — and it was incredible! Stay tuned for the write up.
• Nights out on the town. We had some big ones! Two that stand out were our friend Simon’s Loop the World tour sendoff concert, which was just SO fun — anytime Banyan had live music was such a blast! And we had some truly epic girl’s nights in there, too, including a hilarious, confessional dinner up in the mountains and a lively sunset cocktail hour at Darawan, which kicked off a big night down by the beach.
• Finding a subletter. I was so in love with my apartment by the time I left Koh Tao, I was thrilled that my landlords allowed me to attempt to find a subletter and that I found one fairly easily. It was just incredible knowing I was coming back to my lovely little home. Finding apartments was getting harder and harder on Koh Tao and it was a weight off my shoulders knowing I wouldn’t have to do so when I returned in the fall. Plus I loved my sweet landlords!
• My goodbye party (and frankly, my goodbye CAKE!). In some respects, it had been a tough season on Koh Tao. I’d had growing pains in some of my friendships, and spent a lot of time wrestling with the question of what the next, post-Koh Tao chapter in my life was going to be and when it was going to start. But these two months ended things on such a high note, and this low key little party thrown together by my nearest and dearest, at a gorgeous villa in the mountains, really summed that up:
“Of course, most of my Koh Tao posts are a highlight reel — the big moments worth taking note of and taking a camera out for. Though now that I’m half a world and nearly half a year away from my big true goodbye to Koh Tao, it’s not really these big events I think back on most often.
What I most often find myself reminiscing about is the simple stuff. Beach walks with Prada. Waking up in my apartment, my special treasures carefully places around the room. Long days working alone, just me and my laptop and my balcony and maybe a well deserved cider at the end of it. Getting foot massages and catching up with friends after what felt like weeks but was probably all of two days apart. Feeling the sun beating down on my scalp and my hair whipping around in the wind while I drove around the island doing errands. Spending lazy days laughing in bed after staying out way too late the night before.
These are the little moments that make up a life.”
• Exploring Silom. I really loved our weekend here. Eating hand-crafted ice cream while strolling through Lumpini Park, discovering the Bangkok Screening Room, knocking it out of the park with the local bars and restaurants, and the convenience of being right by the river to hop on our cruise — it was perfect!
• Friend dates. I was so thrilled that our time in Silom coincided with that of my friend Chris, who I grew up with in Albany, and Shanna, who I met in Bali. It was SO great to have reunions with both of them in Bangkok!
• Being on river time. I just melted into the pace of life along the Chao Phraya during our overnight river cruise from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. We loved going on a little adventure together and unplugging for a bit — plus getting to do something new in Thailand for both of us is always a treat. It was a highlight of the highlights, which only continued in Ayutthaya…
• Those temple views. I just really could not wrap my head around the beauty of the views from our hotel in Ayutthaya. It was mind-bogglingly beautiful. Our whole trip to Ayutthaya was dreamy, from our temple bike rides to our romantic riverside dinner. It was the perfect couple’s trip before being long-distance for a bit.
• Thonglor vibes. We used to have a fantasy about living in Bangkok someday (okay, I mean I still do) and in that dream we basically always live in Thonglor. So spending a few days renting an Airbnb and pretending we were residents was the perfect low-key sendoff to a great week together. When we were on Koh Tao, Ian and I both worked a lot and very opposite hours so time together was precious — trips like these we just soaked up being in the same space!
Lowlights and Lessons
I have to be honest, this is probably the shortest this section has ever been. This was just a great two months! (Or I can’t remember the bad stuff, ha.)
• Trip planning stress. There was a bit of drama planning Ian and I’s week away before we left — I know it looks like the perks of being a travel blogger are a dream and they absolutely can be and I don’t mean to complain, but the amount of coordination behind the scenes is actually mind-blowing and can get extremely stressful. This was one of those times where in the midst, I wondered if we should have just paid our way rather than arranged media comps.
• The terrible patrons at Shugaa who were living life like a photoshoot. I feel like a huge hypocrite on this one, but guys, they were insane. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t even any of their jobs! (But I guess they could hypothetically all been social influencers, ha.)
• Leaving. After such a great two months, it was not easy to say goodbye.
Cruising down the Chao Phraya
Best and Worst Beds of the Month
Best: There’s never been an easier category to award — our dreamy stay at the iuDia Hotel in Ayuttaya, hands down. The room, the pool, the romance of actually staying somewhere I fantasized about staying someday, when I first visited the town five years prior on a shoestring. It was incredible!
Worst: This is an easy one too — I’m going to go with all those nights in transit, zoink!
Best and Worst Meals of the Month
Best: There were a lot of great ones! Brunch at Viewpoint Resort, right on Koh Tao; dinner at Namsah Bottling Trust and brunch at Luka in Bangkok; and dinner at Sala in Ayutthaya, for the view alone.
Being mostly still for two months (I really only was traveling for a week and a half total, which must be a record for me) meant I really ramped up my blogging game. I published a ton of blog content I was really excited about. I worked on projects with PADI, Avis, and Universal Orlando, and got a ton of work done behind the scenes. Who knew how great not traveling could be for a travel blog?
Health and Fitness Update
Being in one place is always good for the body as well as the soul! I also was able to eat healthy thanks to Koh Tao’s plethora of options in that department and stay active with both my regular yoga practice, and my first attempt at hitting the CrossFit gym’s modified Body Fit classes, which I really fell in love with.
What Was Next
More travel memories coming up soon!
Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here.
- ^ was possible on Koh Tao (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ overwhelmed by memories (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ best day ever (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ what could be more fun (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ the closing was coming (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ really summed that up: (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ it was perfect (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ overnight river cruise (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ perfect couple’s trip (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ pretending we were residents (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ like a photoshoot (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ “don’t panic” moment (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ our dreamy stay (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ so offended me (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ those roundups here (www.alexinwanderland.com)
- ^ Roundup Posts (www.alexinwanderland.com)