Thai, Thai! Maaaan!!! Thailand was EXCEPTIONAL. Or rather, my trip to Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands was exceptional! I generally don’t like to say I’ve been to X country if I have only visited one region or city. Even within a city, as a tourist, your time in a place is limited and you only get to see/get a feel of/experience a small locale thereof. So, even with Phuket, which is an island to the south of the mainland of Thailand, I can say I only experienced a small portion of its south-west coast.
Southern Thailand consists of the narrow Kra Isthmus that widens into the Malay Peninsula. Several of its islands, including Phuket, lie on the west coast of this stretch of land in the Andaman Sea. Its east facing coast, known as the Gulf of Thailand, also has a spattering of some of the country’s most beautiful islands.
So how did I get here?
I literally woke up one March morning, feeling rather despondent and down; I had just been feeling as though I was living a lacklustre existence and just wading through my days with no real oomph or joie de vivre. I hated that feeling. I have always disliked that feeling and yet it has always harassed me. Now, I can’t quite remember where the feeling stemmed from. Work upheavals, general life dissatisfaction or just plain old travel blues. Or a combination of all of these. Whatever, the case, I felt the need to do something big in order to wake myself up and feel alive. And so, quite serendipitously, a few days before, I had briefly browsed a promotional email from my preferred travel logistics service provider, wherein they were advertising cheap flights to Phuket AND seen almost copious amounts of posts on Thailand in the Facebook travel groups I belong to in the preceding weeks. Together, these coalesced to bring my mind to the firm decision that we were going to Phuket.
Of course, as a travel enthusiast, I have seen much about Phuket, and to me, it was synonymous with those pictures of the long tail boats ashore on beige sand with clear cyan waters behind them. Yes, this was Phuket to me. But, ah, after waking up with my mind made that morning and jumping online to to do some quick research, I quickly realised that the images I had in my mind were actually synonymous with the Phi Phi Islands and not Phuket. So, OK. We were going to Phuket AND the Phi Phi Islands. I had seen beautiful pictures posted on the FB travel groups and of course, just a brief look on the Internet and you’ll agree that the Phi Phi islands are exquisite. They are breathtaking and pictures could NEVER do their beauty and splendour justice.
And so, literally within a matter of 5 days, I had booked my flight AND my Phuket and Phi Phi Don accommodation. All that was outstanding was transfers and excursions. That for me, is record timing. If I compare how quickly I finalised this trip with my trip before that, which was New York City, then you’ll understand why I say this. It took me two months to finalise the NYC trip! Granted we are talking big city vs beach vibes and thus comparing apples (see what I did there, wink, wink) with uhh, coconuts (LOL I kill myself), but I generally am very methodical and thorough and so even if I am going on a beach holiday, I still need a schedule and itinerary. Also, because I could, it was nice to plan other non-beach activities. I say could because not all beach holidays are created equally. I found Paje (south-east of Zanzibar) to be basically all beach and nothing else. I am not into wind sports and besides going out by boat with the fishermen for a snorkelling excursion, there really wasn’t much else to do but sit pun de beach and drank cocktails, catch a tan, have conversations with fellow human beings and basically get my How Stella Got Her Groove Back on (my friends will know about how eventful my Zanzibar trip was in THAT regard, wink, wink). But, Phuket presented the opportunity to do more. The wildlife and nature vibes (I believe there are one or two national parks on the island), Patong Beach, the many other stunning beaches along its west coast, the temples, the architecture, the food (OK, the culture in general) and the many specifically ‘for tourists’ excursions. Listen, generally, the Thai are serious about tourism. The way that their country is set up is such that it is conducive to tourism. Kudos to the government! They have found a way to maximise on their country’s natural beauty and magnificence and they are making the pots! You will find limitless transfer and excursion options online and even once you’re in loco, you are able to find with great ease many other options of things to do, either by yourself or organised by one of hundreds of professional tour operators. So, because Phuket had much to offer, I ended up with a decent smallanyana 4 day itinerary, which also (Of course. Mandatory) included at least two beach outings. But boy was I in for a surprise…(more on this later)
I remember saying to Lungile, “Let’s go to Thailand” and she gave me some non-committal answer (which I totally understood because people can’t just up and go) and some other story about Bali and I was like, “OK. Me, I’m going. Don’t say I didn’t invite you.” At this point, I’d already decided I was going. I guess I was just putting out feelers for a taker. I knew she also didn’t think I was THAT serious. As in let’s go NOW. You know we do this thing of, “Let’s go to X” or “Let’s do Y” and we’re just talking loosely, daydreaming, indulging our fantasies (especially us travel enthusiasts) and NOT REALLY talking about it seriously or with much commitment. Yeah. Only that this time, I was for real and dead serious.
And so, it was in this way that I went from saying the following to Lungile via WhatsApp on 15 March:
But I also feel like those are selfish (wanting to travel 24/7 and live “freely”) desires. Like some people are such social justice warriors and they live their lives poured out for others and I just wanna lie on a beach all day and sip cocktails
…to having booked accommodation (in both Phuket and Phi Phi) and flights by 18 March (hides face)!!! Yay me for spontaneity!
And little did I know that this trip would be some kind of life-affirming event for me. For there was a work that God had begun to do in my life that He sealed and affirmed as DONE on this trip! Phuket and particularly Phi Phi, was a love letter to me from my Dad. Of all the trips I have undertaken, this one remains the most effortless, simplest, most enjoyable and fulfilling of them all. It was my dad saying “I love you. Always. You matter. I’m here. Always. Your concerns matter to me. I hear you. I got you. Enjoy the life I have blessed you with. I got everything. Chill. Be happy.” I can’t express just how important those particular sentiments were to me. They speak to some of my former insecurities and worries. And this trip was a way in which God confirmed their erasure from my psyche by doing the most. Having come from that turmoil or restlessness as a result of work stresses, feeling unfulfilled career-wise and just general meh, It was truly affirming for God to answer me so quickly and so directly. He knows I love travel; I LOOOOOVE alone time, and I love islands. I mean??? He wrapped up His response to me in a thoughtful and “I truly see and know you” manner that I couldn’t but be floored and overcome with gratitude at His love for me. I generally plan things in advance, and save up for such big excursions, but this time, nervous and apprehensive and yet still sure as I was, I poured out significant funds into a spur of the moment trip and I didn’t live to regret it. God blessed it. He is so kind and so loving and He is this way to each of us in His own “you and Him” way. He truly is!
And so this is the scene setter for what would be my favourite, most affirming (Every single trip I take is affirming. All my travels have had a major spiritual aspect to them) yet.
I’d love to know what some of the ways that God has confirmed something or spoken to you are. How have you dealt with feeling unmoored? Why have you felt this way in your life do you think? Given the prevalence of this feeling and that many people (not just women I believe) are finding themselves in such predicaments, do you think that perhaps contemporary life has become “too much”? Or are we just the generations that have gotten the opportunity to voice out our hollowness and uncertainty about how to ‘successfully’ navigate life? Or are we just spoiled? What’s your take?
Click HERE for the actual Phuket instalment 🙂