How to celebrate your birthday on an island

I suppose if I’m doing a solo trip, I should celebrate my birthday by myself as well. I decided to make the day special and find a place I thought would be memorable. Having heard good things about Koh Lanta, I decided to book my own bungalow on the beach and relax for a couple of days.

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At the end of the walkway was the beach. Ahhhhhh!

Koh Lanta was headed into low season, so many of the shops were closing but the town still provided a nice afternoon for a birthday shopping spree. I had snacks at a super nice Thai family’s roadside restaurant and did a lot of smiling and head bobbing with the owner’s 90 year-old mother. I still have no idea what we were trying to talk about but she seemed like a dear.

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My actual birthday was spent in an open air hut on the beach taking a 2-hour yoga class taught by an intense Scottish yogi. It was rather surreal and something I wanted to do while in Asia. After yoga, I wobbled over to an adjoining café for muesli, yogurt, and an Americano followed by a Thai massage. Beach life in Thailand is so great. Everything you want is usually within a 5 minute walk of where you are staying. Life literally consists of a swimsuit, sarong, bare feet, and sunglasses for days at a time.

Feeling the need to do something productive and because I was wildly missing my dog Nellie, I headed over to Lanta Animal Welfare, a rescue and care facility for the island’s pets. They head a huge sterilization program for the island, as well as offer treatment, adoption, and education about animals and their care. After taking a tour of the facility, I walked Carrot, one of the dogs available for adoption, and chatted with a volunteer, also a solo female traveler who was taking a month to work at the shelter.

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Here are some of the other cuties. Seeing them just made me want my dog more 😦

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I spent several dinners and happy hours at Time for Lime, a cooking school and restaurant that sponsors the shelter. The food was amazing, drinks delicious, and view, well that was priceless. I guess if you were to have a birthday by yourself, this was the place to celebrate.

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And then it hits me….

Oh wow, I’m in Thailand. Leading up to the trip, the day of the trip, and mid-flight of my trip, people kept asking me if it hit me that I was flying around the world for a solo adventure. Well, no, not really. I kept thinking it would. Every time I went shopping for travel gear, I waited for that feeling. When I said goodbye to my family and boyfriend, I waited. When I said goodbye to my brother in Cali before boarding my international flight, I waited. When I landed in Krabi, I thought “this is it!” But still, no feelings were different other than exhaustion and “what the hell am I doing?” And then this happened, Koh Phi Phi.

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Mostly known for its epic parties, blue waters, and Leonardo Decaprio’s “The Beach,” Koh Phi Phi is visited by swarms of people and scoffed by serious backpackers for being “too touristy.” Not sure what I would think, I decided to book a 4 Island tour that would include all of the highlight of the area. In the end, after booking through 2 tour companies, both ended up being cancelled as they were overbooked. I literally was 20 minutes out from being picked up when a lady rushed into my hostel to refund my money (I was wildly impressed she took the time to find me). I was slightly bummed but decided to take it as a sign that maybe a speedboat tour wasn’t a good idea. I walked across the street, booked a ferry ticket, and in 15 minutes I was on a ferry to the island. Two hours later, we pulled up to the island and are immediately dumped into a rat maze of stalls, bars, and cheap rooms for rent. There was no beach in site. After 20 minutes of wandering, I find “The Beach” (actually the party beach) which was mostly a pool of trash and super hot water with several people passed out. “Um, this can’t be where I’ve seen so many epic pictures” I thought. Wandering back through the rat maze, I find a map and directions to another secluded beach about 30 minutes in the opposite direction. I literally hiked through a jungle and just when I thought I wouldn’t see any fabled Phi Phi beaches, this popped out before me….

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Yes!!! I literally threw my stuff down on a rock and jumped into the waters. All around me, schools of yellow fish swam. The water was so clear, no snorkel mask was needed. I had never seen anything like this before. Dorothy was definitely not in Kansas anymore. As I lay in the water, watching the blues turn to green and the long boats whizz by, I suddenly realized, “I’m in Thailand! This is what I’ve worked so hard for these last 3 years! OMG, I’m really here!” Best. Feeling. Ever.

Take Flight and Live!

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