The last days in Thailand were marvelous. Though visiting the beaches of Thailand is a jump into the western holiday world locations still exist that closely resemble paradise. For the last week we were on the Gulf of Thailand. We found one beach paradise on Ko Phangan called Hat Tien, which is a 15 minute boat ride from the not so great beach of Hat Rin (although it is laden with parties and naked women and is home to the infamous Full Moon parties). On Hat Tien there is a hippy wellness center that offers amazing food, yoga, and expensive bungalows. We stayed next door for a few bucks and then ate at the Sanctuary; my body loved me for eating whole foods instead of fried foods. Time spent there also included relaxing on the beach, swimming, and even a bit of snorkeling. I think I may have seen a barracuda, I am not sure since I immediately put in some big kicks, but basically I saw a big fish scare a school of smaller fish and just assumed it was a barracuda. Had I a spear I would have taken it home for dinner. One day on Ko Phangan we dedicated to a snorkeling trip but it turned out to be a sort of foul weather day so more tea was drunk than ocean water. Luckily in the morning the sun was shining at the tropical fish and corrals could be seen. The Gulf is in a sunny hot season so most days were very enjoyable.
Prior to hanging out on the Gulf we visited the Andaman sea side of Thailand and it happened to be in the monsoon season, thus we experienced some foul weather. Luckily the landscape and water color on the Andaman side is so beautiful that it is amazing all the time. We visited Railay, where folks climb the surrounding limestone cliffs and Ko Phi Phi, a small island where I could have and just about did stay forever. Phi Phi was one of my favorite spots of the entire trip and one of the first spots that I feel I would like to return to. The water surrounding Phi Phi is a glowing bright green/blue. The beaches are light white sand. The landscape on the island is limestone cliffs with tropical forests in between. We snorkeled a few days here and had some beach time between the rain.
Getting around Ko Phi Phi and back to the mainland was definitely an adventure because of the season. The last day there we decided to visit a neighboring island called Ko Phi Phi Ley (there is a beach on this island where the movie "The Beach" was filmed). The straight between the two islands is very exposed and the swells can be quite large. Some folks in the boat seemed quite frightened (I thought it was fun) and became even more frightened later in the day when we took the ferry back to the mainland. The larger swells must have been 25 feet. The boat sure was rocking and wasn't that big. Maybe 60 feet long but the beam couldn't have been more than 12 feet. Once we got to land Justin asked if it was appropriate to kiss the ground. Ha!
The three months in Asia were well spent. Good days and not so fun days are inevitable when backpacking through developing countries but of course the good out-weighed the bad and the good memories topple over the bad. I even have good things to say about China. As far as a favorite country I don't have one. I have places I feel are wonderful in each country, stronger memories of peoples in certain regions, and a stronger affinity to a couple places where we spent more time but there is not one specific area. The only favorite is the food of Thailand; it was definitely my favorite of all the Asian cuisines.
There were many other great adventures and stories from Thailand (and other places), I probably could write forever. Instead of doing that however, I am going to save a few items and hope to see everyone soon. I am currently in Bozeman struggling with culture shock but this should wear off in a few days (hopefully). I am finalizing plans for a August trip back to Minnesota and may also stop there in September (no concrete plans yet). So, hope everyone is well and I look forward to talking in person sometime soon!