Tag Archives: bucket list

Bucket Lists and Drinking Games

For some reason my last post, “Island Adventures and Hidden Lagoons” struggled when it went live. I’m not quite sure what happened, but if you didn’t get a chance to read about our adventure to Ang Thong National Marine Park head over and take a look.

Now on to your regularly scheduled Bucket List update:

When I added “travel to a remote island” to my bucket list early last year, I thought about what makes a “remote island” remote. The world is flat (according to Friedman) and is shrinking with each passing day, and realistically, depending on your location in the world, that remote island may not be so remote after all.

So, after considering different aspects of the word “remote,” I decided that a remote island this time around was somewhere far away from “home” to us; and in order to make it feel even more remote, I added an additional challenge in that the remote island could not have an airport. Flying into a location is easy, and I wanted something a little more challenging.

Who wants to play a drinking game with the word “remote.” ;-) That’s ten so far… Bottoms Up!

Remote Island

Koh Tao first peaked my interest when I began reading about all of the incredible diving around its shores–it’s a mecca for divers thanks to the calm waters and great visibility, and it just so happens to be one of the cheapest places in the world to learn how to scuba dive (if any of you are interested). :) I soon found out that the island is only eight square miles–Eight–think about how SMALL that is; I don’t know about you, but there’s something about tiny tropical islands surrounded by the sea that draw me in and make me feel like I Must.Visit.Now.

There is no airport on this tiny rock in the sea, so if you want to visit you’ve got to catch a ferry. Our journey to Koh Tao only took one taxi ride, a two-hour flight, followed by a 13-hour flight, another three-hour flight, one quick 45 minute flight, a 20 minute bus ride, and finally, a two-hour boat ride…

As we stepped off the Lomprayah Pier and looked North towards Sairee Beach, we knew that we were ready for our next adventure…

Island Adventures and Hidden Lagoons

After spending our first couple of days relaxing at our new favorite resort, we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from our poolside loungers to do some exploring. I mean we can’t go all the way to Thailand just to hang out at the pool all day, right…?

Located in the Gulf of Thailand, just west of Koh Samui, is a collection of 42 jagged, jungle-covered, uninhabited islands known as: Ang Thong National Marine Park. And thanks to Alex Garland’s famous backpacking novel, The Beach, this Marine Park is one of the most popular locations in all of Thailand. Sound familiar?

Angthong National Park

We decided to book our tour with Tours Koh Samui because of the favorable Trip Advisor reviews, the cost (1,800 baht–or about $53USD–per person), and we liked that they used a speedboat–which meant getting there faster and spending more time in the park.

Boating, island hopping, snorkeling, swimming, AND the chance to see one of the most famous Lagoons in all of Southeast Asia… sign me up!

Angthong National Park

Angthong National Park Angthong National Park

Not long after we began our journey across the sea, I could see the vertical limestone cliffs rising up from the cerulean colored sea, and within 45 minutes we stopped at our first snorkeling location: Koh Wao. Unfortunately the marine life was scarce and the visibility was limited, so I was delighted when it was time to head towards our next destination–which also happened to be the highlight of the day: Koh Mae Koh and Talay Nai.

Angthong National Park

Angthong National Park

Koh Mae Koh is most famously known for its “Emerald Lagoon;” a gem-colored, salt-water lake surrounded on all sides by tall, limestone cliffs and dense rain forest. A quick hike up to the lookout revealed the famous hidden Lagoon, as well as a lovely panoramic view of the Marine Park.

And by a “quick hike” I should clarify that I’m referring to a near-vertical, 500 meter hike, often times basically climbing a ladder to another platform almost out of reach. Did I mention the temperature was well over 100 degrees that day? This hike is definitely not for the faint of heart, or for small children, but the views were worth every bead of sweat that poured from our foreheads. (Let it be known that it’s not always glamorous here at Pictures and Plane Tickets). ;-)

Angthong National Park

The Emerald Lagoon

Stopping to catch our breath at the top, we salivated over the emerald-hued water. I think Cody would have given his first-born child for access to the Lagoon to cool off, however, sadly for visitors, entry into this lake is strictly prohibited–there may or may not have been a serious discussion of breaking the rules and jumping in anyways. ;-)

I could have spent a lot of time getting lost in the viewfinder of my camera, but there was that pesky threat called heat exhaustion basically smothering us. So after some quick photos we made a bee-line for the water to cool down and you know, not die.

Angthong National Park

The "other" James Bond Island

The “other” James Bond Island

After our death-defying hike I needed some food, and luckily for me it was time to head to lunch. Now I like to think of myself as an adventurous, low-key, not-super-high-maintenance, kind of traveler, but when we arrived at the Sea Gypsy village I was a little nervous. Our “restaurant” was surrounded by dilapidated buildings, questionable smells, and dark, murky, muddy water. Thoughts of food poisoning, parasites, staph, and hepatitis flashed through my mind… OKAY, okay, I’m exaggerating, slightly; however, the hesitation subsided when I saw our hosts standing at the dock smiling and waving. I felt instantly welcomed to this village, and secretly hoped that I wouldn’t regret it later.

Well, not only did we survive the meal, but would you believe that it was Cody’s favorite meal of the entire trip? You definitely couldn’t get more authentic food in Thailand.

Angthong National Park

Song Pee Nong Beach was our last stop of the day, and it was absolutely beautiful. A long stretch of soft, white sand was backed by a dense, bright-green jungle. Fellow visitors converged around the beach bar talking over cold cans of Chang Beer, while other sun-loving explorers competed in a lively game of beach volleyball. Kayaks were available to rent for an extra 300 baht, and although it sounded fun, Cody and I were completely content people watching and swimming around in the water.

Angthong National Park

We explored four different islands in eight short hours, however, at times I couldn’t help but feel like we were being rushed around. Next time, I would consider visiting fewer islands and spending more time at each location, yet for our first visit, this tour was exactly what we were looking: an introduction to the marine park and its beautiful photo-worthy islands.

Angthong National Park

Angthong National Park

Would you visit Ang Thong National Marine Park? Are you up for a hike to the Emerald Lagoon?

Luxury on the Beach

After 30 hours of continuous travel–including four flights, three layovers, and two car rides–we arrived just after sunset at the Bo Phut Resort on the North shore of Koh Samui. (In Thailand, the letters “Ph” are pronounced with a hard “P” sound, so Phut is pronounced “Poot.” Interesting, right?)

The open air lobby of the Bo Phut Resort is stunning by day, and after the sun goes down the lobby takes on a magical feel thanks to the impressive lighting, dark-wood columns, and vaulted ceilings.

We were greeted with a traditional wai–a bowing of the head with palms placed together in prayer–and the friendly staff served ice-cold welcome drinks alongside cold, lemongrass-scented, hand towels to cool off from the sweltering heat. And after completing the check in process, they offered us two gorgeous orchid leis before whisking us away to our room where our bags were waiting.

BoPhut Resort BoPhut Resort

You guys, it would be an understatement to say that I was giddy when we walked into our room. (And it wasn’t just from a lack of sleep). The decor was a perfect mix of tropical paradise and authentic Thai style and I loved all of the finishing touches in the room like: fresh flowers, slippers next to the bed, a beach bag to borrow for the duration of our stay, the super soft bed linens, and our very own Mr. Bo Phut to take home. Exhausted from traveling half way around the world, I stepped out onto the balcony and looked up at the bright, almost-full, moon and listened to the cricket’s chirp their bedtime song before heading to bed myself.

BoPhut Collage

BoPhut Resort

The view out our front door. Welcome to the Jungle ;)

The view out our front door. Welcome to the Jungle ;)

The view from our balcony

The view off our balcony

The next morning as we walked to breakfast, Cody and I explored the immaculate grounds of the resort. A heavy scent of plumeria filled the air, and the perfectly placed plumeria trees and palm trees provided shade as we walked along the small pathway to the restaurant. A lotus pond filled with beautiful white, pink, and purple lotus flowers completed the courtyard landscaping, and within a couple of minutes we arrived at the highlight of the resort: the incredible pool.

BoPhut Resort

BoPhut Resort

BoPhut Resort

BoPhut Resort

BoPhut Resort

Not only does the resort have an amazing pool, two delicious restaurants, pristine grounds, and a beachfront location, but the staff and their service is out of this world. No matter what we needed–from transportation arrangements to room service–they took care of it all, always with a smile and the traditional wai.

And just when I thought that this resort was absolutely perfect, they told us about the free complimentary jet lag massages. I’m pretty sure that my jaw hit the floor and I almost reached out and gave the receptionist a great big hug; but to my surprise I did what any other normal person would do, and played it cool, like I was used to that sort of upscale treatment. ;-) That was the icing on the cake, the cherry on the sundae, the umbrella in my Mai Tai. When it comes to service and relaxation, they’ve really thought of everything.

BoPhut Resort

BoPhut Resort8

Our stay included free breakfast from a delicious buffet, daily maid service, fresh fruit every afternoon, bottled water, nightly turn-down service, transportation to and from the airport, and they even offered to pack our bags on our day of departure. (I have finally experienced how the other half lives) ;)

If you’ve been a long time reader of Pictures and Plane Tickets, then you know that I usually pack a lot of activities into our trips–we go-go-go from sun up until sun down, however, on this vacation we slowed down and really got a chance to unwind. With such a relaxed and romantic atmosphere how could we not?

Daily massages, a palm tree-lined pool, lunch and drinks poolside, romantic sunset walks along the beach, and nightly cocktail parties, this resort was the epitome of luxury, and we indulged in every opportunity.

BoPhut Resort

BoPhut Resort

Would you stay at the Bo Phut Resort? Where is your favorite resort/hotel?

An Escape to Thailand

Sawadee Ka (hello) friends!

We returned from Thailand last weekend, however I’m still trying to get back into the groove of things–both at the office and at home. Our experiences in Thailand were unlike any other, and I’m grateful that we had the opportunity to explore such an interesting (and beautiful) place in the world.

Thailand was full of striking contrasts: at times it was completely chaotic and other times it was entirely serene. The southern islands were draped in lush tropical forests with hundreds thousands of palm trees, whereas the capital city gave way to a sprawling concrete jungle. Thailand had a little bit of everything and simply put, it was an incredible experience.

While I always love going on trips and exploring the world, coming home to our sweet pups, our loving family, our beautiful home, and our daily routine feels pretty good too. I guess life is all about a delicate balance.

So where have we been?

In total, we spent fifteen days on the lam ;), including:

  • Seven nights in Koh Samui
  • Four nights in Koh Tao
  • Two nights in Bangkok
  • and One final night in San Francisco

Thailand Adventure

As our 14th country and third continent, we couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary trip. Cody and I went scuba diving, hiking, boating, snorkeling, swimming, and more, and I can’t wait to share our adventures with you.

For now, here’s a little sneak peek of our time spent on those gorgeous southern Thai islands:

Koh Samui, Thailand

My absolute favorite resort. Stay tuned for all the details about this magical place.

Koh Samui sunrise

“It is almost impossible to watch a sunrise and not dream.”

Fourth Anniversary Adventures

June 4 

Four years ago today I married my best friend, and I can easily say that it was one of the happiest days of my life. We’ve been through a lot in four short years–some things we excitedly expected and hoped for, and others threw us for a loop–but each and every day together has brought us closer and deepened our bond to one another.

To celebrate today, we are hanging out on the tiny island of Ko Nang Yuan just off the northern coast of Koh Tao. We’ll be enjoying the beautiful beach, the incredible scenery, the clear turquoise water, and we might even throw in a little adrenaline-filled adventure this afternoon. Stay Tuned…

Ko Nang Yuan

Photo Credit

Cody, thank you for loving me always. You are my very best friend in life and I’m so lucky to be by your side. Here’s to many more years of Friday night Xbox marathons, fantasy football championship battles, inside jokes and laughing until our stomachs ache, Sunday night dance parties, and of course, many more adventures around the world.

image1

13 Hours

If I told you that I was excited for our 13 hour flight over to Southeast Asia I would be flat-out lying… I’m actually a little bit anxious as the longest flight we’ve taken was from Toronto to Copenhagen, and if I remember correctly that was around eight hours.

13 hours. Twice the time it takes to get to our beloved islands in the middle of the Pacific.

To prepare myself for this incredibly long flight I’ve read through tip after tip for long haul flights and have talked to a few friends to get their words of advice. And after many hours I’ve compiled a list of my favorite tips, which I’m sharing with you today.

  1. Disinfectant Wipes and Hand Sanitizer
    Because, O.C.D… not to mention I’m a slight germaphobe. ;-) I try hard not to think about it because I might just cancel my flight, but taking a few packages of wipes and slathering on sanitizer helps my anxiety a little.
  2. Compression socks:
    I’ve read positive and negative reviews on compression socks for long flights, so I was a bit torn on if Cody and I really need them. However, as I started to think about our flights to Hawaii, I remembered that toward the end of those flights my feet feel like they begin to swell a little. With that thought in mind I purchased two pairs of socks (one for me and one for Cody) and am hoping that these babies will keep us comfortable.
    Compression Socks
  3. iPad and Macbook:
    We are loading these up with good movies and some of our favorite games–and of course we’ll remember to pack our headphones and the headphone splitter so we can watch our shows together.
  4. Books
    Have you seen that movie called, the Beach, starring Leo DiCaprio? I haven’t either, and I haven’t read the award-winning book; however, when I found out that this book is based on one the locations we are traveling to, I knew that I’d have the perfect book to read to help pass the time.
    The Beach I’m also packing two of my favorite travel guides to read on our flight home: Fiji and Tahiti. Can you guess where we’re headed for our five-year anniversary next year??? :) Let’s not get me started on how excited I am for THAT trip!!
    Book Collage
  5. Snacks:
    I’ll pack some of our favorite snacks before we leave and when we get to the airport I’ll grab a few of our favorite drinks as well. I know it’s overpriced, but I’d rather have it and not drink it then really want a drink and not have it.
  6. Eye Mask, Ear Plugs, Travel Pillow, and Zzquil
    Because let’s face it… time passes quickest when we’re sleeping, and I’m really hoping to get some sleep at some point along the way…

Of course it goes without saying, but we’ll be packing our expensive camera gear, our scuba gear, cell phones, paperwork, passports, money, and all of the other important necessities in our carry on bags as well. I’ve learned that if you don’t want it lost or stolen, you should keep it with you at all times. :)

What did I miss? Share your long haul flight tips below!

A Suitcase Situation

Would you laugh if I told you that I’ve stressed for months about what to pack for Thailand? Go ahead, laugh. It sounds ridiculous–I know–but it’s true… ;-) Let’s be clear, my stress isn’t stemmed from an indecision on which bikini to wear or what sundresses to pack, rather, I’ve been in a daily battle about whether I should embrace my overpacking ways and check a bag, or if we should challenge ourselves to become backpackers for two weeks.

Backpacking is the easy alternative, right?

For Valentines Day, I even bought my husband an awesome travel backpack for our always-on-the-go ways. It is the perfect size to pack for two weeks of travel anywhere around the world, and it also fits within the constraints of all of those airline carry-on rules, which is a huge plus.

Cool backpack, lots of space, and techy-accessories aside, we run into a problem when we add our scuba gear to the equation. Most of our precious (and very expensive) gear will fit into this new backpack but that leaves little room for much else. And while I would be okay living in swimsuits and flip-flops for two weeks, the conservative country of Thailand may not approve in all situations… like at the Grand Palace, for example…

After many nights of discussion and planning, Cody and I have decided to pack our scuba gear in his carry-on, a few days of clothing for both of us in my carry-on, and check one bag with the rest of our clothes for two weeks. Here’s to hoping the airline doesn’t lose that bag.

Kate Spade Suitcase

So, what exactly are we packing? See my entire list here.

Have you been to Thailand/SE Asia? What did I forget?