Each time I travel, I aim to look for one big takeaway that the people, place or experiences have taught me. My recent trip to Thailand was one of releasing expectations and staying present. I’ve mentioned the concept of releasing expectations before, and while I thought it was something I’d embraced, apparently I needed to be reminded of it again. That’s the way some life lessons are, though. The more difficult ones to learn keep appearing to us. This is one such lesson for me.
Southeast Asia has a rainy season that begins in June and lasts through a good portion of the summer. However, I did not let this deter me and convinced myself that it wouldn’t be that bad. With vacation days to burn and a busy schedule on the horizon, I was determined to take a holiday and do some more exploring.
My adventure began in the north where I flew into Chiang Mai, and an adventure it was! I had heard about a treehouse resort from a friend of mine and knew immediately that I had to go there. Located in a small village surrounded by a teakwood forest is the Rabeang Pasak Treehouse Resort, a small family-owned operation. The owner is a retired architect who designed each of the unique houses himself. They range from houses perched high in the trees, to lower lying multi-room cottages perfect for a family.
Upon arrival, I was warmly greeted and given my choice of several different houses. I chose the Jackfruit house which, you guessed it, is nestled in a jackfruit tree next to a flowing stream. The grounds of the resort were so scenic and peaceful that I could have been content just staying there, but after hours of waiting in airports and ferry terminals, I was eager to get out and explore. I took one of the complimentary bikes they provided, a map, a flashlight and headed out. It had rained all morning, so the dirt trails were more like giant mud puddles which made navigating them quite difficult. Also, all the standing water meant an abundance of mosquitos, and I was quite the tasty snack for them.
However, even as I was covered in mud and mosquito bites, I experienced a sense of childlike wonder and pure joy. The feeling that can only come when you are living completely in the moment and accepting things as they are. It was a truly magical afternoon, one that is born out of appreciating the beauty in simplicity. As I took my dirty self back to my treehouse, I cleaned off and relaxed in for the evening, falling asleep to the hypnotizing sound of rain falling on the roof.
After heading to Krabi, a city in the south, I decided to go directly to the island. I boarded the ferry and an hour and a half later had arrived in Koh Phi Phi. As soon as I checked into my guesthouse and went out to get lunch, the rain began to fall, and it fell hard! Apparently, this was a sign of what lay ahead. The rain came and went throughout the next two days which consisted of taking cover at various bars and restaurants. This might not have been my choice, but while seeking shelter, I met a lot of friendly, interesting people who I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. This was another reminder for me to let go and enjoy the moment.
For several different reasons, I decided that Koh Phi Phi just wasn’t the vibe I was looking for, so I left a day earlier than planned and went to another island in search of a more authentic experience. I literally just looked on Google Maps to see which island was close to Phuket, where my flight would be leaving out of and decided on Koh Yao Noi. As soon as I arrived, I knew that this was what I had been searching for. Aside from some beach bungalows and cafes, the island was pretty much untouched by mass tourism. I checked in to my cozy bungalow and headed out to find some food. Along the way, it began to rain…hard! So, I stopped at the only place that looked open and asked if she could make me something to eat. She happily welcomed me in, found a dry spot for me to sit and fixed me some vegan fried rice.
The next day, as I was walking along the road, a friendly local began talking to me. He was just closing up his shop for the day and offered to show me around the island. He took me to several different villages, through the rice paddies and even took me to meet his family at their home. I was humbled by the friendliness and generosity that I experienced from the Thai people. That is a large part of what traveling is all about. It is not just to see beautiful and exotic places, but to connect with the people there and better understand them. I believe it is this understanding that will open our eyes to our similarities as opposed to our differences and allow us to show greater empathy and compassion.
I had seen so many photos of Thailand online and on social media of pristine beaches and turquoise waters. Having this image in my mind created an expectation of what I thought my trip would be. When mother nature threw me a curveball, I was slightly disappointed that it wouldn’t be the tropical vacation I had imagined. As I sat in my beach bungalow, so badly wanting to be sunning myself on the beach, I had a moment of clarity. There are no set rules for what a trip, or life for that matter, should be. If there was, how boring would that be? One person’s experience of Thailand might have been a sunny paradise, but just because mine was a rainy adventure doesn’t make it any less wonderful.
See more of Kathryn’s adventures: Waterfalls, Enchanting Markets & Wild Monkeys: Adventures On Malaysian Islands
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Photos: Kathryn Farrugia