Tuesday, 28 July 2015

It's this strange love



Last year, in October, I went on a senior class trip to Istanbul, turkey.


I fell in love with the city. Deeply in love.

The city felt like home, it still does. At night, when we would be returning from our day’s sightseeing and dinner stop at the mall, I would look out from our shuttle bus’s window, and I would take in the whirring spectacle of a city, taking intense, sharp breaths because I was, and still am till today, stunned by how much love I have for the place. Walking on the streets of Istanbul, inhaling the cold, foreign air, I felt exhilarated and at peace at the same time. The memories, the stories I brought back from there, they leave me with happy tears and a sorrowful heart when I think of them. I felt like my intense, plethora of emotions linked to the trip must be ONLY because I had found the city I want to live in.

I was wrong.

Almost a month ago I returned home from a trip to Thailand. I spent five days on the island of Phuket, and two days in Bangkok. While the trip didn’t conjure up the same feelings and emotions as Istanbul did, it brought up a different sense of feeling with almost the exact same amount of intensity. Here, I didn’t feel like I was at home, but I felt freedom. I felt this strange happiness welling up in my heart, it’s sort of difficult to describe. I felt like I was definitely not ready to leave that island. It gave me a fresh perspective on life, it gave me a different approach to it. I learnt to live a life where nature appealed so much to me, I forgot to shop. Where local food was so delicious I forgot to enjoy the occasional fast food lunches. Where the exploring, and the swimming, and breathing in a salty, coastal air, made me forget about how I always describe myself as a city girl. There is a poem by Elizabeth Brewster, called ‘Where I come from’,  I studied it in literature class. In it she says that ‘People are made from places’, and it’s true. Wherever you go, whether you go there for a long or short term stay, whether you go for vacation, or business, or move into that place, it adds something to your personality and to your identity. You always learn something from wherever you travel to, many times you learn something about yourself that you weren’t aware of. While Istanbul gave me something to love with all heart, Thailand taught me about myself. 



Here I am, crazy excited on the first day in Phuket. Our resort was absolutely fantastic, and I feel like the residence you’re staying at plays a huge part in your experience. The Ban Thai beach resort was a big, beautiful resort that was completely open planned, and so, was very spacey. I love spacey, I always have. 


 The location of our resort was such that literally right outside laid the beach, and on both sides of the resort was a long stretch, spotted with restaurants and lanes that led you into small markets selling a variety of products, from souvenirs to these really famous, printed fisherman pants. Patong beach was just beautiful. It certainly isn’t the most beautiful beach there, but for me it was, because it felt like a part of home! It felt familiar, as if I grew up near this particular coast. I loved it’s soft, caramel coloured sand, and the pristine blue water; the many many tourists sunbathing, swimming or doing water sports; the fresh, chilled coconut water that we bought from there-everything was just amazing. I felt like all my stress and worries had melted away as I looked on ahead at the waves crashing down onto each other, and felt the cool, sea breeze against my skin.

 There was just something about ‘living’ opposite the coast. It changed me. My skin got tanned, my hair was always set in perfect beach waves that cascaded down  to my chest, without me even having to do anything to it! I could go days without washing my hair, my skin seemed to glow and there was this newfound energy in me. I was never tired. I couldn’t sleep at night, I would stay out in the hotel room balcony that looked out to one of the pools for long periods of time, and I felt energetic and lively. We spent many hours of our trip at the beach. We experienced heavy rain there, I made a Portugese friend there, and I did jet skiing and parasailing there, which are things I thought I would never do. Turns out I like adrelanine rushes and the water, a lot.




 Like I said, the resort was amazing.

 



Just before the trip I became very conscious about the way my body looked because of the weight I have put on. I was going to be wearing shorts and tank tops! I had to look good! And so began an unhealthy obsession with losing weight and getting fit, by obsessively exercising for more hours a day than needed, skipping a few meals and letting go of things like bread and rice completely. I got there and realised-none of it matters. What am I trying to prove? And to whom? There were all kinds of girls there, with all kinds of bodies, and nobody was letting their bodies get in the way of having fun. You get there, and you just stop caring. I still had those slightly wobbly thighs when I got to Thailand, but I still wore shorts and I still owned them. I felt pretty, and I felt carefree, mostly because that’s what island life does to you. I didn’t diet over there, thankfully, because I would have missed out on a lot! The food there was amazing. Many times we ordered an exotic fruit platter from room service. Once I, ahem, ate a whole fruit platter by myself, while sitting outside in the balcony, and that is a generous amount of fruit, I tell you. Once we went to a fancy Italian restaurant for dinner. I got to try ravioli for the first time(it was delicious), and for desert we had ‘warm apple cake’ which was more of a pudding, served with ice cream and fruits and strawberry jam. Then of course, there was the Thai food. Let me tell you if you don’t already know- all kinds of Thai curries are delicious. All kinds.










 The greatest experience I had there was that of a James Bond island tour. We spent the whole day at sea, and stopped at four points in total. I loved, James Bond island. Sadly, we only had half an hour there, and I didn’t get to explore the caves. The water was so breathtakingly beautiful. Everything about the island was beautiful. Wading into the water was when I realized that I’m not that loyal of a city girl as I claim to be. I LOVE this island. I love being in water. I love the sand, the breeze, the caves, the exploring, I love it all. If I could have, I would have spent the entire day at that tiny island. I would have explored the caves. I would have taken many more pictures. I would have donned some flimsy, lace halter neck and waded even deeper into the sea. I would have lived that day as if I were a mermaid, or some ocean spirit, or even a female Tarzan who lived in the wild. Who lived amongst nature. Who never got tired of the rippling surface of the jade sea. Who found solace, lounging on the tide rocks with the waves splashing against them, just underneath my feet. Oh, and the water. The water seemed to change colour at different points of the sea, I’m not kidding you. there would be points where it would be a shimmering jade, there would be points where it would be a deep, definite aqua, and then there would be moments during the rain storm(we were heading back, and were on a sheltered boat) when the sea was a raging, violent grey. Each shade of the sea was mind blowing and so utterly beautiful.

 
There were two points of the tour where we would make stops to go kayaking in the ocean.  Another realization during this trip-I love kayaking! I didn’t exactly do it..but still. I do wish I had taken control of the oars when the man offered them to me. The sea was so rough, and at first I was terrified of falling off the boat, I mean, it’s just an inflatable boat against the strong current of the sea! I relaxed soon enough, and I wish I could do it many more times! I regret not having taken my phone with me, because we went into the most breath taking caves. They were gorgeous-the sunlight streaming in from a canopy of trees and leaves on top, being surrounded by these beautiful rock formations with plants growing all over them. I didn’t go kayaking at the second stop because my energy levels had started dropping-way too much time was spent at sea, and I’m not used to it-otherwise I would have gone into a dark cave with bats in it, according to my brother, who went both times. I regret that too. 




 We spent hours and hours in one of the resort’s pools. I mean, HOURS, around four to five hours at a time. It seemed like we were almost always there. The pool area was gorgeous. It followed a tropical theme, and was surrounded with all kinds of exotic plants and trees, including frangipani trees, which would drop lots of it’s yellow and white flowers into the water. It also had a pool bar, with bar stools which were built underwater. We had a very friendly bartender, who played jenga with us the first time we sat at his bar, and then all the other times he saw at us at the pool, he would send over free popcorn and pineapple, and would wave whenever we met eyes. The people were very friendly, and I loved that.

 



 Sometimes at night my mother and I would leave to go get drinks and listen to live music. It was incredible. The music even wafts all the way to the hotel room, and it goes on till after midnight. The energy in Phuket is what makes the island so attractive, in my opinion. Friendly jet ski and parasailing instructors, friendly bartenders, artists making art everywhere, live music.  There was so much I would love to do if I got to go there again. I didn’t go to Hard Rock cafĂ© over there, or this place called ‘Rock City’ which from the outside, looked amazing, and totally my scene. There were botanical gardens, waterfalls and hikes we missed out on because we didn’t have enough days. We didn’t go snorkeling because of the weather(it rained a lot), neither did we trek up to the Big Buddha statue. Maybe next time?




 Here is a single, resort public washroom selfie, in my favourite outfit, and those famous fisherman pants(only mine are from Colombo, not Thailand).




 Although I didn’t enjoy Bangkok that much after five days on an island and being convinced that I belong near the sea, here are some aquarium pictures for you, in which I look like a little kid fascinated by the sharks, and as if I haven’t been to many aquariums already. To be fair, they follow that standard beach kid vibe I brought back from Phuket-I mean, fascination with sea life doesn’t stray far from love for ISLANDS and the SEA. Maybe I should actually just become a mermaid.




There is still so much that I haven’t been able to tell you in this post, or show you, through the many pictures I took there. I documented this trip so well but unfortunately, the laptop with all the carefully organized files has a virus at the moment, and the pictures cannot be accessed. I rode an elephant, guys. I touched an elephant’s trunk, and you would think it’s soft but it’s actually very rough, and weird and hairy, just so you know. I bought a shark tooth necklace. I smiled at nice strangers. I went for this grand, awe inspiring show that is compared to Broadway shows and that people like Rihanna have seen. I spent hours to and from the resort in a shuttle, on which I slept instead of doing that whole looking-out-of-a-window-pretending-I’m-in-a-dramatic-movie thing that I did in Istanbul. We met a nice Australian couple.  We ate seafood on the big boat, and it was really, really good. I got my legs tanned to the perfect shade. I bought what I have dubbed the ‘adventure bag’ which currently just holds my DSLR.


As I was saying previously, Thailand taught me about myself. I learnt that I really, really like traveling. This is why I feel something so different inside of me whenever and wherever I go. It’s going to be like this everywhere-I’ll fall in love with a place, and it will feel like home, a part of my soul and my being. This wanderlust-it’s real. It’s not just the name of my blog anymore, it is very much a part of me, and I actually do want to quench this undeniable wanderlust, only now I know it can’t be quenched. I will always want to explore more, see more, experience more. I love nature. I want to hike up to a waterfall, see the Northern lights, explore caves and go on a safari. At the same time I’m sure the city girl side to me isn’t dead either. I know this because of my strange, intense feelings for Istanbul.

I am a born traveler, with a strange sort of love for every place I experience.









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