In the early hours of a Saturday morning, the rising sunshine painted the fields yellow as we drove through winding roads in search of an authentic experience. The wind blew quickly over our bare skin -- creating a feeling of absolute freedom. Two days prior, we graduated from our TEFL class after a couple of weeks of intense studying. With that accomplishment under our belt, we ventured out on a two week road trip through rural Thailand.
Our first night was spent in a small tent overlooking the majestic rocks of Phang Nga Bay. Daniel and I spent countless hours watching tourists take hundreds of photos in order to get the "perfect" shot. We woke before the sun, hoping for a pink sunrise, but the clouds had other plans. From there, we continued on to the Krabi region where we were housed in a quaint bamboo bungalow in the middle of a mangrove forest. The owner of the bungalows is an elderly, eccentric, 100% vegan (and proud of it), English man named Olli. As a result of his love for animals, there were thirteen puppies, ten or so bunnies, hundreds upon hundreds of birds, and some large lizards running around the property. The animals were the stars of the show and kept all guests entertained! After one night, Daniel and I agreed that we'd forever shower in freezing cold water and douse ourselves in bug spray to continue eating homemade Thai meals, sharing stories with travelers from all over the world, and swimming with fluorescent plankton. The good vibes were flowing.
It was tempting to linger around Krabi for another week, but our search for a quiet island life was leading us to Koh Lanta. Our time in the small island was nice with reggae, beaches, and happy hours, but the journey there sticks out more in our minds. We'd heard about the controversial palm oil industry in SE Asia, but it wasn't until this day, that we witnessed this first hand. During our quick journey, we saw over fifty huge trucks filled to the rim with harvested palms. While the industry does provide jobs to thousands of locals and produce biodeisel and cooking oil, it's been heavily criticized by the media recently. Tourists, in some places, have been banned from visiting the palm oil plantations altogether. Palm oil cultivation has been hurting the natural environment through deforestation and loss of natural habitats -- which has threatened endangered species like the Sumatran tiger and the orangutan. In addition, there are concerns that the need for fuel is being placed ahead of the need for food and workers are not being paid fairly or provided safe working conditions. Living in the states, it is easy to overlook what might be behind the products/in the products that we use in our day to day lives. Gaining perspective outside this consumerism bubble has been an eye-opening experience during our travels and will most likely change who we are, and what we consume, forever.
Also on the journey to Koh Lanta, we were stopped by the police at a traffic checkpoint. As we approached the policemen blocking the road, we agreed to act cool, calm, and collected. You see, we thought about obtaining an international drivers license before leaving for our trip. However, after some research, we learned that this international license doesn't even apply to motorbikes. We'd have to get a separate motorbike license before applying for the international license. We read multiple blogs and realized that drivers licenses (or any driving rules for that matter) are a complete joke in Asia. It wasn't worth the hassle. Whenever renting a motorbike, there is no conversation about insurance or a drivers license. As we got closer to the checkpoint, we noticed the policemen were only pulling over white people. All of the Thais were flying past without rolling their windows down or blinking an eye. Along with about five other motorbikes of tourists, we had to pay 500 baht ($15 USD) and were on our way.
Daniel got a nasty virus day two on Koh Lanta. We had to cut our time short and head back to Phuket Town. If we've learned anything, it's to always go with the flow and don't get set on plans! Something is always bound to change or not go as planned.