Parallel Universe

Going to Thailand and visiting Maya Bay has been my absolute top life list item ever since I was 15 years old and watched Danny Boyle’s ‘The Beach’ for the first time; after which I found a perfect little Penguin addition of Alex Garland’s novel and devoured it.

I have been putting the big adventures above it on my priority list while I’ve had the opportunity to go on them. When Elana moved to Darwin and we decided we would meet in Asia for a catch up Thai was an easy choice. There’s no one else I’d sooner party there with considering we met doing just that in Cambodia two and a half years ago.

The journey began with my first ever Air Asia flight. I’ll be the first to admit I’m an airline snob. I have my very set routine of salted chips, lime water and comedy shows on the in-flight entertainment until I fall asleep down to a fine art. When I got on board the very bare, very packed tin can I was a bit sad. Does this mean I have to read this book I’m not enjoying?

I had absolutely no reason to complain though; the book got better, I snoozed just fine after easing myself in with the smooth croon of Diz Frost (Just going to throw it out there that he totally briefly held my hand through a fence 6 days ago). The flights were cheap. We are talking $450 return with baggage. Maybe low cost carriers aren’t so bad after all!

Upon collecting my case in Phuket I took a seat in the transfer supplier waiting area (and fit right in) and we had our Love Actually moment when Ling appeared through the departure doors. I only briefly left my bag unattended…

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Our first hotel was The Kee Resort and Spa, expertly chosen by my travel agent and companion. I loved it. We were around the corner from Bangla Road (the main party street of Patong) and the pool bar was perfection.

We spent our first day incredibly day drunk on local beers and making friends at said bar, and the next day we got to do something we were both dying to try: a Thai cooking class. Being the curry fiends we are, learning how to make our own was pretty exciting.

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The lady who ran the class was the most gorgeous soul and actually hilarious. She had a young helper who she told us was from Myanmar. We asked if she goes to school, but were told that because she is in Thailand illegally as a refugee she is unable.

I swear I’ve never seen a sweeter face, and she picked us flowers out of the garden. I have never been so close to kidnapping a person. Adoption has seriously started to creep in to my mind now. I’ve thought about it a lot in the past, and having the topic in a few of the family dramas I love I think it’s definitely some I will look in to in future. There’s so many babies all over the world and I think I could give one of them my heart.

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As you can see, we are now master chefs.

That night we headed out for my favourite night of the year.. Halloween!!!

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Little Harleigh Quinn only wet herself a little bit when the headlining DJ came out dressed as Mista J. Safe to say I danced. A lot. The creepy themed mega mix was probably the best set I’ve ever heard. Cheers Aaron you legend!

We spent the next few days enjoying a well earned chill out with massages, food and street wandering, exploring beautiful Patong Beach. It was hard not to compare everything to Bali but I really think they are super similar. At this point I was definitely missing the friendly locals of Legian and Seminyak…

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Then the sun came out and I discovered how ridiculously perfect the Indian food is there. I’m talking death-row-last-meal level epic. Contiki, are you ready for us?

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We met at our hotel, Sawadi, in the afternoon for a group meeting where I was struck by just how many British peeps we had! It was quite nice to hear all the accents again. That night was fueled by cheap tequila and a ping pong show I’d like to never discuss again, thank you very much.

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The next day we did a day tour out to James Bond Island and a few other spectacular spots, and I suddenly saw the Thailand that’s all over my newsfeed on a daily basis; here was paradise.

We visited a floating village and a few of the group played soccer with some of the local school kiddies.

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Amazing to think that they actually live on a man made island. It reminded me of Lake Titicaca, another one on my life list.

We finished that day on a gorgeous beach, reading and chatting in the sun with my beautiful new American friend, Nina.

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I can’t recommend that day tour enough. I don’t even like James bond, but you gotta see those islands!

~

The excitement began to build when we caught the two hour ferry out to Phi Phi Island, where we would be staying for the next three nights. We strolled through the quirkiest little town, filled with markets, bars and diving shops. I hadn’t expected it to be so built up, but it made for some epic nightlife.

Our hotel was in a Tsunami safe zone. That’s all I have to say about that.

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The morning of our day trip to Maya Bay the heavens had well and truly opened. I’m talking backlash of the Vietnam Monsoon kinda rain.

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With heavy hearts we sat around the lobby waiting for the official word and our lovely leader Lisa made the decision to push our trip back to the afternoon. I found myself a comfy lounge in the lobby and read/snoozed until go time. Being that it was then high tide we didn’t have to trek to the other side of the island to get the marina and we got a private beach pick up. The rain cleared, the sun came out and the best day of my life began.

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To say that I felt emotional when we pulled in to the bay would be a massive understatement. I was trying so hard not to be a creep and start crying in front of all these people I didn’t know very well, but Richard and his adventures have helped me through so many hard times. The Beach completely changed my outlook on life. I didn’t really know of any stories of people who search for adventure, who spend their lives travelling place to place having experiences I could never dream of. The idea of paradise, of a community of people filled with that same love of a life free of financial responsibility was absolutely intoxicating to me and still is. Though of course I know, as demonstrated in the film and book, there’s no such thing as paradise, there certainly is such thing as a parallel universe. I think compared to the norm, I live in one too.

As I floated in the bath-warm water with a group of new friends, walked through the jungle-style pathways and relaxed on the sand, I felt completely at peace with the universe. This is the only physical representation of the story I try to live my life by, and I found it. I found my inner peace.

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I’ll carry it with me always.

~

The rest of that day was just as spectacular. We snorkeled for a while and then chilled in a hidden lagoon, wearing our life jacket nappies.

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God absolutely threw in an extra dash of sexy when he made me.

That night.. Oh that night.. I experienced my first beach party.

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I remember a dog that lived at the bar and it taking and hour and a half to get home. I also remember that Nina and I were the last ones standing… Geordie and San Fran represent!

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I loved Phi Phi with all my heart and I will definitely be back. You aren’t allowed to stay on Maya Bay beach but I have heard about a cruise that stays in the bay overnight so you get to be the last people there at night and first in the morning. On the list it goes!

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For our Final destination on the Island Hopper West, we spent two nights in Krabi. Unfortunately and in true Leigh style, at this point I was now very unwell and unable to get out and explore much. Room service and Netflix are a very important part of any holiday though.

The final night we had a ‘dress up your roommate’ theme and Elana and I both just so happened to have bandannas and flannos – who knew!

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Now heading to a more serious topic…

A word of warning to all of my beautiful traveller friends. Do not walk alone at night; especially after a few beverages. Something bad happened to someone we know, and although they are okay, it’s so important that we keep our wits about us. Bad things happen every day all over the world, but please be careful.

There are some beautiful, helpful and completely brilliant people out there, but there are also a lot of really bad people or people in desperate situations.

~

Elana and I spent the last two days of our trip doing what we do best, eating, snoozing and chilling. I got a few new additions…

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Thank you beautiful friend for sharing such an epic experience with me. I’m sure we’ll have many more surf pros and adventures to come. I love you long time Ling Ling.

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Another thank you to our amazing leader Lisa and all of the brilliantly funny people we explored Southern Thailand with. You guys really made it.

~

I’m not in a hurry to head back to Asia any time soon. I don’t know what’s happened to me, but I’m constantly craving fancy brunch, live bands and pretty layered outfits. You hear that Melbs friends? I’ll be back soon.

Brisbane bound tonight! Home, I’ve missed you. Brisfam, are you ready to get loose?

With love from a parallel universe,

Harleigh Q

xo

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