Venturing to the Theme Parks of Awaji Island: Hello Kitty Smile & Naruto x Boruto Shinobi-zato

The great Hokage watch over Awaji Island.

After we had a fantastic stay in Kobe visiting Rokko Island, Chinatown, and Harborland, we decided to take a road trip to Hyogo Prefecture’s Awaji Island—a rural tropical paradise boasting resorts, farmland, and iconic amusement parks. There are also many beaches here that you can use for recreational fishing and swimming. The main reason I wanted to come here was to see the Naruto x Boruto theme park and also go on a whirlpool cruise, which I will detail in my next article. What I liked most about Awaji is that it had a variety of fascinating attractions enjoyable for all ages. I originally debated about solo tripping and taking the local bus around here, but Awaji is best explored by car. Fortunately my friends were on board with my itinerary and we were able to split the highway tolls while having an amazing vacation here!

Getting to Awaji

Awaji is connected to Kobe and Tokushima by bridge so you can reach the island by car or bus. There are no airports or trains on the island making it hard to get around, so I would recommend renting a car. From Kobe we drove about an hour to get to the central part of the island and were able to see quite a lot during our two day stay. I recommend staying 2-3 days so you have enough time to see all of the attractions you want and spend time on the beach.

For more information on the Awaji buses, please see the official Awaji Tourism website.

Naruto x Boruto Shinobi-zato

Naruto x Boruto Shinobi-zato is a permanent theme park that is part of Nijigen no Mori, a forested area of attractions and events on Awaji Island. This theme park originally opened in 2019 but was temporarily closed due to the effects of the pandemic in 2020. It reopened in 2021 and is now fully operational but requires all visitors to wear masks. As an avid fan of the series in middle school, I simply had to go. I really wished I would have brought my Naruto headband I brought from ebay when I was 12 years old, but it is sitting somewhere at my parents’ house in Michigan. When I visit home later this year I might break it out for old time’s sake. Though I’ve moved on to other anime, Naruto will always have a special place in my heart. I really wish I could show my middle school self these pictures so she could see how badass I am in my twenties.

After purchasing your ticket at the door, you will be handed a small sack containing two ninja scrolls. Basically the whole premise is a giant stamp rally where the aim is to find as many of your ninja allies as possible and collect stamps to master ninjutsu. As soon as you enter the park you will be greeted by cardboard cutouts of all the main characters and see the iconic monument of the great Hokage. If this isn’t weeaboo paradise, I don’t know what is! You can line up on either side of the monument to start an obstacle course. We chose the Uzumaki side, but the Uchiha side is also an option. The course was pretty fun and involved light climbing, door puzzles, and had a slide. The hints are written in Japanese, English, and Chinese so we were able to get through them without issue. The weather was really hot so we were sweating at the end, but collecting our first stamp was ever so satisfying.

After the first course we decided to explore the whole entire park. Past the Hokage monument are the Akatsuki, a large statue of Kurama, and a tiny cave area you can walk through. As you walk through these areas, you can hear character voices giving you hints on where to go. If you keep walking you will eventually loop around to the food and souvenir shop near the entrance of the park. You can order ramen, drinks, and sweets that your favorite characters eat from the series. My favorite thing that I saw in the gift shop was the coconut Kakashi chapstick. As a kid I would have absolutely loved this theme park, but as an adult it was fun looking back on all of the memories this series gave me.

Overall I would recommend spending 1-2 hours here. The entrance fee is a bit pricey but honestly the pictures I took here made it worth it. I really liked how they made half of this park an obstacle course so it felt more like real ninja training instead of something with roller coasters because it wouldn’t be as fitting. I would definitely come here for the meme factor if you are an anime fan.

Address: 2425-2 Kusumoto, Awaji, Hyogo 656-2301
Entrance Fee: 3300 yen (basic admission—shows and additional obstacle courses are more money)

Hello Kitty Smile

Originally we tried to enter a pancake restaurant for breakfast this morning, but since it was located near the central resort area it was too crowded for us to enter. Instead we went to get high tea and seafood at Hello Kitty Smile, which turned out to be a super magical experience even better than our original plan!

Hello Kitty Smile consists of a resort with a fancy cafe, seafood restaurant with an ocean view, and museum of underwater themed Hello Kitty characters. We decided to split the high tea set and order caramel lattes which was a great move. I really enjoyed all of the little cakes and Hello Kitty manjuu that they included in the set. For lunch we went downstairs to the main restaurant and all ordered garlic shrimp plates. The portion sizes were absolutely HUGE!! Awaji is famous for its seafood, namely shrimp, and I can definitely see why. I am happy that we were able to have both cute and hearty meals here.

Afterwards we decided to enter the Hello Kitty “Under the Sea” area which contained a lot of projection mapped images similar to teamLab but on a much smaller scale. It was still very fun to experience and there were a ton of photo ops—namely the trippy room filled with Hello Kitty plush dolls. Additionally I loved seeing the vintage car under the neon lights, the sparkly guitar, and meeting Hello Kitty herself! There was also an arts and crafts area for kids with a bunch of carnival games. I could see this as the ideal vacation for young children, but walking around the museum as an adult was fun too. Plus the view of the ocean was simply beautiful. I felt very relaxed here and was happy with what I saw.

Address: 985-1 Nojimahikinoura, Awaji, Hyogo 656-1721
Entrance Fee: 2300 yen

Godzilla Zipline

One of the best things I saw on this trip was people casually zipling into Godzilla’s mouth outside of the Naruto x Boruto Park:

DOOM!

Unfortunately I was wearing a short skirt so I couldn’t partake, but just watching this was absolutely hilarious! You gotta appreciate the strange things you stumble upon on these rural islands. For more information, please see the Godzilla Interception Operation website.

Thank you for reading the first part of my Awaji Island article series! In my next article, I will be talking about the whirlpool cruise, beaches, and my accommodation. Please look forward to it~

Exploring Amami Island: The Rich Paradise of Goats & Pristine Beaches

A warm welcome from Kurasaki Beach!

After raving in the mountains of Gunma for three days, I realized the end of summer would soon be upon us so the first week of September would be the ideal time to knock of a few places on my Kyushu bucket list—mainly Amami Island, Sakurajima, and the first crater of Mt. Aso. Since I already had a phenomenal vacation in Okinawa just before Golden week, I was craving one more long beach trip before it became too cold to swim. Fortunately for me, I found a number of discount one-way airline tickets and was able to string them together to create the ultimate bargain vacation throughout Kyushu. A number of my friends and coworkers asked me how I did it so I will try to explain my itinerary as thoroughly as possible. If you fly during certain times through Peach and Skymark airlines from Narita airport, you can find discount flights for almost 1/3 of the price all year round in Japan! It just takes some time analyzing Google Flights but really anyone can create the perfect vacation if they put enough heart and research into it.

The dates I chose to travel were 8/30 – 9/5. My completed itinerary was:

Tokyo (NRT Airport) → Amami → Kagoshima → Sakurajima (via ferry) → Kagoshima → Kanoya (for Ogawa Falls) → Fukuoka → Kumamoto → Mt. Aso → Kumamoto → Fukuoka Airport ↺ Tokyo

Since I don’t have an international driver’s license, I relied completely on buses, local trains, taxis, ferries, and even rented bikes too! I spent a lot of time on the road but I listened to music, played my Switch, and did a lot of GoPro editing on my phone too. This was my first time traveling in quite a long time due to the pandemic and the typhoons that hit Japan during Obon season, but I’m happy to say it was another huge success! I learned a lot about the rural life of Kyushu, swam in onsen and oceans, and made many friends along the way (both human and goat). It’s been a while since I last updated Resurface to Reality so I hope you enjoy reading all about my latest Kyushu adventures in this latest article series.

Getting to Amami Island

I chose Amami Island as my first destination because it is one of the most popular remote islands for water activities in Kagoshima. It is not technically part of Okinawa, but it is extremely close to some of its island chains and the weather is almost exactly the same. Amami is a place you go to getaway from the crowds and doesn’t have nearly as many people as Naha, but it does have a bustling downtown shopping area where you can interact freely with the islanders. I spent most of my time swimming at my resort and biking around beaches, but there are a number of wonderful things you can see here!

The easiest way to get to Amami Island is by plane, and fortunately all of the best resorts and beaches are near the airport too! You can also travel by ferry from Kagoshima and Okinawa, but these trips can take up to 11 hours which you could be using to relax during your Kyushu vacation. I departed from Narita Airport around 10am on a Monday and my ticket was only 7040 yen, which beats the long 9000 yen ferry! The plane ride was only 2.5 hours and I slept for over half of it. When I reached the airport, I could already feel the tropical breeze and the bright rays from the sun as soon as I went outside. A free shuttle bus was waiting for me outside too, and driver smiled at me and said “Let’s gooooo!” in English. The adventure was about to begin!

Accommodation: Caretta Resort Amami

While looking for accommodations in Amami, I wanted something on the beach preferably with a pool or a hot tub for the ultimate relaxation. Fortunately I found my ideal hotel match at Caretta Resort! Not only did this hotel have a gigantic pool, inflatables, and a hot tub, but it also had friendly goats and was located directly on Kurasaki Beach. This was the closest resort I found in Japan that resembled Koh Samui, one of my favorite islands in Thailand due to the proximity of the ocean and the huge pool. The hospitality was truly amazing and the people were so kind. There were a bunch of kids in the pool roleplaying Pokemon which really brought me back to my childhood too. The view from inside of the rooms is really beautiful too. If you book far enough in advance, you can get a room for under 10000 which truly is a steal for a resort of this quality. I splurged a bit but treating myself was truly worth it! This hotel has everything you need, including free bike rentals too.

I recommend staying in Amami for at least 3 days like I did so you can fully enjoy the beaches and also choose to go snorkeling, kayaking, or paragliding which I will get into in my next article!

Eating a Heart-shaped Donut at Heart Rock

After checking in at my lovely resort and greeting the goat that lives outside of it, I decided to rent a bike from my hotel and bike to the famous Heart Rock that was just 10 mins away. This heart-shaped pool appears most visible during low tides, but you can see it year-round. It is said to have some kind of healing property so it attracts a number of visitors each day.

Before going to Heart Rock, you can stop at Healthy Island Cafe and buy heart-shaped donuts that come in different flavors and also try goat milk ice cream! I enjoyed how creamy it was plus meeting all of the goats outside that had helped make it. You can purchase other products like goat soap, cheese, and mascots as well. The goat culture on Amami Island is truly amazing and everyone loves them!

I really enjoyed walking through the mini jungle area on the path to the beach and met a stray cat on my way to the rock. A lot of Amami is completely untouched making it the perfect place for adventurers to explore!

Heart Rock Address: 1346-1 Akaogi, Tatsugo, Oshima District, Kagoshima 894-0411

Trying Amami Foods & Sake

Amami Island is famous not only for its goat milk ice cream, but also its seafood and black sugar shochu! Due to the pandemic, a number of restaurants were closed so I just kept calling random ones near the beach until I found out that one named Restaurant AMAnesia was open until 7pm. I got extremely lucky because this restaurant was near a famous hotel and had a huge selection of seafood!

I decided to go with the mini steamed lobster set that came with local island specialties, rice, and vegetables. I also ordered a mini assortment of black sugar shochu. To my surprise it was very strong and not very sweet at all, but I still enjoyed it! After enjoying this delicious meal, I went outside to the beach to enjoy the ocean breeze. Boy this sure beat Tokyo!

AMAnesia Address: 1246-1 Kasaricho Oaza Yoan, Amami, Kagoshima 894-0508

I really enjoyed the privateness of Amami Island this day and reflected on my thoughts. This was an incredible first day with perfect weather and I was very excited for the rest of the week!

In my next article, I will be going into detail about various activities you can do on Amami such as paragliding and kayaking through the mangrove. Please look forward to my next article!

Final Day in Miyakojima: Exploring Irabu Island & The Great Bike Crisis that was Averted

A scene from Non Non Biyori: Okinawa e Ikukoto ni Natta recreated on Irabu Island.

After a sublime day of scuba diving on the best beaches in Miyakojima and exploring the pumpkin limestone cave, I was about ready to wrap up my Okinawa trip and fly back to Tokyo. However, before my flight departed at 4pm that day, there was one more island I wanted to see early in the morning. Irabu Island is connected to the mainland of Miyakojima by the appropriately named Irabu Bridge and can be reached by car, bike, and even on foot! It is roughly 11km from the main resort strip of Miyakojima and is extremely rural but has some beautiful beaches, cafes, and resorts to see. I figured it would be the perfect final destination to end my trip and reflect for a bit before taking the 5 hour plane ride home.

I woke up early, rented a regular road bike from my hotel, and set off for Irabu Island! During my morning run I had the chance to see the sun rise and it looked absolutely stunning on Painagama Beach. The blue colors of the ocean that surrounded Irabu were also impressive as I crossed the bridge. I had flashbacks to the Grand Tethe’alla Bridge from Tales of Symphonia as I made my way to the other side. This almost didn’t feel real!

It took me about 50 mins to bike to the main beach of Irabu called “Day’s Beach” but the view was definitely worth it. It looked just like the beach in one of my favorite anime movies Non Non Biyori: Okinawa e Ikukoto ni Natta. Even though this was slightly different from the setting of the movie, it still had the same vibe:

Here are some more photos that I took of Day’s Beach. If I had more time I would have went swimming! I noticed that there were a lot of farms and plantations here. One of the highlights of biking was stopping to see all of the tropical plants on the way:

After walking along the beach and feeling refreshed, I decided to stop by a nearby restaurant called Blue Turtle. Here I tried their signature rum cocktail called the “Blue Turtle”, ate some fried sweet potato and octopus, and drank a dragon fruit smoothie for dessert. The food here was top notch and the view of the beach was even better. Despite not being able to see any turtles during my scuba trip the previous day, this feast sort of made up for it.

Finally feeling fulfilled that I accomplished everything on my itinerary, I went to unlock my bike and set off back off across the bridge. But that is when disaster struck—as I started riding back I noticed I had a flat tire despite not feeling it at all before. I’ve ridden around Tokyo with flat tires on my bike when I’ve been short on time, but having this happen on a rural island is less than ideal. I thought about biking the 11km back or even walking if I had to since I had enough time, but I instead decided to do the smart thing and stop at the nearest resort and ask for help. Fortunately the staff at Azure Villa were more than willing to help me!

Initially I thought it was just a flat tire (パンクしたタイヤ) but after inspection the staff confirmed the tube was damaged too. This is the danger of renting bikes on rural islands—you truly never know what you’re getting and sometimes weather conditions can hasten these damages. Fortunately the staff drove me 11km back to my resort for free (because I don’t think most Okinawan taxis could carry this bike) and were super empathetic. I offered to pay them the normal taxi fee but they refused me. I couldn’t have asked for more kindness than what they had showed me. Okinawan culture is truly amazing!

When we arrived back at my resort on the mainland, Hotel Locus, the staff there was also super kind to me, gave me my bike rental money back, and added 様 to my name which was the greatest honor. I was able to make my flight with time to spare and saw everything on my itinerary, but if this would have happened the first day it would have killed the vibe a bit. However, no adventure is complete without some obstacle, and we all handled this in the best way possible so I’m proud.

Thank you to everyone that has kept up with my Okinawa article series! I am so happy I was able to make this trip safely in between emergency states and have such a phenomenal time. In the future I will be writing a spin-off series of my previous trip to Okinawa in 2016 mentioning all of the heritage spots I visited. This weekend I will be going to Kyushu to have some more island adventures, but they will be more a lot more relaxed than this. Life is never calm for an adventurer but I am loving every second of this life!

Exploring the Coastal City of Atami (Shizuoka, Japan)

After seeing the capybara zoo and the capybara illuminations of Izu, I decided to make my way to the coastal city of Atami and do some exploring around the beach and local area.  I chose to stay at this district during my backpacking trip through Shizuoka because it is centrally located and has a lot of nice seafood restaurants and floral parks you can visit.  My accommodation was at Megumi Guesthouse because it has an onsen and was only 3500 yen per night when I booked it.  Not bad at all!

Here are some of my favorite discoveries that I found during my two-day stay in Atami:

Idematsu Sun Beach

One of the best things about Atami is that the beach is only 5 minutes walking from the station!  When I woke up and went for my morning run, this was the very first place that I visited.  It was very serene and quiet, which is rare for a beach near the city.  Despite it being February, the temperature was extremely mild too.  It almost felt like a private beach to me.  In the summer, Atami holds a fireworks festival that many people attend.  I would like to come back during that time and see how the atmosphere changes!

BonBon Berry House & Maruya Terrace

If you love strawberries… well you’re absolutely going to love BonBon Berry!  This confectionery is full of fruits and desserts of high quality.  I first tried the original strawberry stick with manjuu and a small piece of strawberry cake.  It was so delicious, I came back the following day to try more~  I next ordered the strawberry shu cream that looks like a giant glazed strawberry but is actually a giant creampuff.  I traveled here in February, yet the strawberries were so fresh I felt like it was summer!

For lunch I decided to stop at Maruya Terrace near the central shopping street.  This restaurant will let you choose your favorite fish from the seafood store across the street and grill it for you on a seasoned sandwich.  I chose their famous mackerel sandwhich:

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This is one of the best fish sandwiches I have ever eaten!!

I couldn’t believe this sandwich was only 700 yen!  Seafood in Hokkaido and Kanazawa are much more expensive.  Atami is definitely one of the cheapest places to eat quality fish and I would like to try many kinds in the future!

Atami Ropeway & Kinomiya Shrine

Atami Ropeway definitely gives you access to one of the best views in the city!  For only 600 yen (roundtrip), you can take a cable car to the top of a mountain and see the city and surrounding seaside area.  As expected, the view was breathtaking~  I was happy that I brought my GoPro here.

Next I walked to the nearby Kinomiya Shrine because it’s one of the most famous in Atami.  I loved the green foilage and the leaves that were made into the shape of a heart:

If you’re looking for a hotspring, I recommend going to the nearby Nikkoutei Ooyu.  It is only around 1000 yen to go for the day and has a beautiful view of the surrounding nature.

Atami Plum Garden & Akao Herb and Rose Garden

Though February is usually not the prime season for flowers, I decided to check these gardens out anyway since I was in the area.  I was surprised to find beautiful buds when I first went running through the Atami Plum Garden.  According to the official website, this area has the fastest blooming plums in Japan:

This garden is divided into several areas; they have a Japanese garden, a Korean garden, an art museum, and dozens of plum trees that you can photograph pretty much year round.  I was surprised to find a miniature cave and waterfall here too.  This is much prettier than a lot of gardens that I’ve been to so I’m happy I came.  The entrance fee is only 300 yen.

Finally, I went to Akao Herb and Rose Garden, which actually is a garden up in the mountains!  From the bus stop, a free van will take you to the top (or you can choose to walk to the entrance).  When this garden is in full bloom, it truly looks like heaven.  Unfortunately I could not capture many flowers in bloom, but I got an awesome picture of me in my Orient T-Shirt on the swing.  I did manage to capture the photo below:

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February flowers of Akao Herb and Rose Garden.

What I liked about this garden is that there were hammocks and benches where you could relax and see the seaside.  In addition to the swing, they also had a trampoline!  There were many fragrances you could try for free as well.  This was one of the best views I have ever seen from a flower park, and I regret that I could not take more pictures of the roses.  All the more reason to come back here in the summer!

Entrance here is only 1000 yen.

Final Remarks

 

I love Atami because everything you need is either walking distance or just a short bus ride away: the ocean, mountain, hotsprings, restaurants, and beautiful gardens.  It’s very easy to relax and find inner peace here.  In addition to the capybaras, I loved the nature and food.  I’m so glad I discovered yet another floral beach paradise in Asia and I recommend that everyone else come and experience it for themselves.

Getting to Atami

From Tokyo Station, take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen towards Shin Osaka.  Atami Station is only 37 minutes away, which is closer than getting from one end of Tokyo to the other!  The cost is 4300 yen which is about the same as going to Nikko or Hakone.  It’s definitely worth the cost.

Exploring Koh Rong Samleom

After my wild night of raving in the jungle of Koh Rong and frolicking on the beach until the early hours of the morning, I still couldn’t sleep so I decided to take the first ferry from Koh Touch to its sister island Koh Rong Samleom.  This ticket cost about $8 and there are 4 ferries that depart from Koh Rong daily depending on the boat service you choose.  I decided to get off at Saracen Bay because it has the prettiest beaches and most bars and accommodations.  M’pai Bay is more lively at night and attracts a lot of backpackers with its parties and cheap accommodations.  However, Saracen Bay and the other parts of the island are quite relaxing and carefree in comparison.

The atmosphere here during the day was definitely more quiet and reserved than the main island, but it had a lot of restaurants and places you could stop for a massage as well as snorkeling equipment available for you to rent.  Wifi is scarce here due to how remote this island was, but I was able to score it for a bit from a local restaurant I ate at.  It was definitely the cleanest area in Cambodia I had been to and I was very impressed with all of the great views:

Similar to Koh Rong, this island also hosts jungle parties on Friday nights and Half Moon Parties during certain times of the year.  Though I wasn’t able to attend one here this year, I’d really like to come back and go in the future.  I loved staying at Treehouse Bungalows on the main island, but I would like to trying staying here in the future so I could get to know more of the locals.  The island really has a great vibe and is off-the-grid so you can definitely make it your own.  I just went here as a day trip, but I wish I could have stayed longer.  It was great to relax here and reflect on all the crazy things that happened the night before.

For more information on Koh Rong Samleon, please check out the island guide from Don’t Forget to Move!

Resurface to Reality: Raving in the Jungle of Koh Rong

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Resurfacing to Reality at Police Beach, Cambodia.

When caught up in work, stress, and a maze of relationships, it’s often easy to lose sight of yourself and forget what is important.  Though I love living in Tokyo, I find it often hard to relax here and there is an endless amount of events occurring which really places a lot of pressure on my life.  Spending 4 days on the small Cambodian island of Koh Rong in Koh Touch, a small village that only stretches for about a mile, really taught me taught me some valuable lessons I will treasure for life.

It was here where I went to my first old-school rave in the jungle and learned to live frugally compared to my extravagant city life.  The villagers were extremely kind and I was always surrounded by friendly people that took care of me despite the fact that I ventured here completely alone.  My time here really helped me let go of a lot of anxieties and insecurities I had that were holding me back recently.  Though I have many caring friends in all the countries I have visited, being in this setting helped me resurface to reality and form an entirely new perspective so I could enter a new mindset that I couldn’t reach before. I am still trying to find the proper words to convey exactly what happened, so I am just going to start from the beginning and write it all as I feel it.

The night began I as I wandered from my treehouse from around 9pm to a local bar called Karma, just because it had a lot of pretty murals, dank music, and was the designated pre-game spot before the rave in the jungle.  The best way to find out where these places are at is by word of mouth (simply by asking someone that works at the bar what’s going on for the night).  Here I met a crazy diverse group of people (one banker, one bar owner, and one government worker) who I really hit it off with so they ordered me some happy cookies, shots, and some Turkish coffee (which is just really strong, delicious tasting coffee) to keep me awake.  We all just had the same vibe–this was our first time in Koh Rong and we wanted to go out for the night but didn’t know what to expect–so we stuck together.  Fortunately all of us were experienced travelers who had done the Fullmoon Parties in Thailand already and were looking for something different.  And an absolutely insane night full of neon lights, fantastic music, and important self-discoveries was ahead of us!

If you haven’t heard, the main reason that people flock to Koh Rong is because of their weekly beach parties on the un-ironically named Police Beach.  In addition to the vivid nightlife, there is a ton of unspoiled nature and beaches to explore.  The reason I love Koh Rong is because unlike other places, it usually only has one event going on per night such as beach parties, bar hopping, or game nights between small groups of people.  There is no competition between events and everyone that shows up is generally friendly and looking to have a good time.  I did not encounter one unpleasant person while on this island.  I came during the off-season in October, but the weather was still sunny with only mild rain.  It was perfectly suited for me because I never felt like I was missing out.

We arrived almost at the start of the party because we were already buzzed and ready to dance.  I wasn’t extremely familiar with any of the DJs but they did a great job of mixing really classic techno songs.  I liked the venue because it had an indoor area that protects you from the rain, lounge chairs where you can relax and smoke joints, and nicely-sized dancefloor, and an outdoor area where you could relax on the beach but still hear the music.  It wasn’t anything fancy because it was partially in the jungle, but it was perfect for what it was.  I have been to many clubs in Asia so I was looking for something different like this.

Basically anything goes at this party–it preserves the old rave culture that is lost to Japan and many other places.  If you’re looking for something, then you’re likely to find it if you make friends with people beforehand.  I also loved the fact that wild dogs would roll up to the party and fall asleep on the ground (they were friendly and nice).  While I was at this party I really had a lot of fun twirling on the dance floor and running across the beach.  I felt relaxed, energized, and full of life.  It reminded me of being in college again, so I messaged some of my old college friends and told them I was thinking of them while I was there (since it was day time in the US and they were awake we had some great convos).

I stuck with the group of people that I had met earlier, but also was in my head for the most of the night.  To be honest I don’t remember a lot of things, but I was able to reach a level of thinking where I could compartmentalize my stress and anxieties and manage them a lot better.  That in itself made the entire experience worth it.

When the clock struck 6am, we climbed down to the beach and watched the sunrise.  It was breathtaking.  The sun looked like a red beady dot that was emerging from a sea of clouds, just like how we were all slowly trickling out of the jungle to the beach.  Earlier that night I had put a lot of effort into my appearance but at this time of morning I didn’t have a single care in the world.  I felt like a mermaid as I swam in the cool water.

When the party ended, I didn’t go to sleep.  I ran back to my treehouse and blasted my favorite songs from my balcony.  I met one of the bartenders on the way walking his dog and we had a lovely conversation.  Then I waded in the water until the first ferries arrived and sailed off to Koh Rong Samloem Island (which I will cover in my next post).  Overall, this was one of the best party experiences I had in my life, and I am so grateful I made the decision to come out here.

Compared to the beautiful islands I traveled to in Thailand, this was like an off-the-grid, undiscovered, party paradise that only the true backpackers make it to.

As an article on Matador Network puts it:

It’s not as if Thailand lacks an authentic culture…but the country, especially its islands, has been inundated with foreign tourism for so long that it’s far more difficult to forge sincere connections than it was on Koh Rong.

The biggest issue with islands in Thailand is that they are sometimes overcrowded with tourists so it’s difficult to partake in genuine Thai culture while you are there.  Plus because their Full Moon parties attract a large number of tourists, there are always other smaller underground parties going on at the same time as competition.  If you are only in Thailand for a short time, then it’s really impossible to hit up all the events.  However, at Koh Rong you never have the fear of missing out and can really learn from the culture of the people there.  The parties take place away from the hotel area so you can easily escape them if you need to.  There is a sense of peace and balance on Koh Rong that you’d never find elsewhere.  From what I’ve heard, Thailand used to be like this in the 80s, but this kind of culture is starting to fade away with the huge tourist boom.  However, I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to travel to both countries and make friends.

Will I come back to Koh Rong to resurface to reality again in the future?  Perhaps one day.  Next I have my sights set on the Philippines and Indonesia which I likely will traverse next year!  But this has been my best island experience by far so I likely will try to go again.  Thank you to everyone for reading my heartfelt post.

A Sacred Beach Getaway to Koh Nang Yuan (Thailand)

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The postcard-worthy view of Koh Nang Yuan in Koh Tao, Thailand.

Koh Tao is yet another popular destination in the Gulf of Thailand due to its colorful coral reefs that make it popular for diving because it attracts a large variety of sea creatures.  In addition to that, there are many beach huts and ocean resorts on the island making it a lively place. “Koh Tao” actually means “Turtle Island”, and you can see that a lot of the islands within it resemble turtles due to their leafy green foliage and surrounding rocks.

I chose to go to Koh Nang Yuan (on the northwest coast of Koh Tao) which is a chain of 3 gorgeous islets that are great for scuba diving.  Once arriving by speedboat, you can reach all of them on-foot by using a sandbar that spans in-between them.  If you climb up a trail from the boardwalk you can see one of the most amazing views in Thailand!  The emerald oceans glisten beautifully from above, and it truly feels like paradise.

In order to reach Koh Tao, I took a speedboat from my resort in Koh Samui.  I booked an affordable tour from Klook in advance, and had more than enough time to go swimming, hiking, and eat a buffet meal that was included in the tour.  Though some articles I’ve read online warn tourists to stay away from Koh Tao due to a series of murders that were found on the island (source: News.au), I did not sense any hostility while I was on this tour, and I think it is more than fine to visit even as a solo traveler as long as you are responsible.

During my trip here, I decided to stay in Tango Bay Resort on Koh Samui (for around $50 per night), because it is conveniently located and there are more activities to do on the island.  I enjoyed staying on Chaweng Beach because it is lively but still feels like a private beach.  My resort came with a private hut, a pool, a delicious restaurant and bar with a happy hour every day, and a beach, so I felt more than welcome!

When I walked into my room, both of the towels were folded like elephants!  It was truly a sight to behold and I couldn’t get over how cute they were.  I was impressed at how beautiful the beach was at night with the lanterns hanging from the trees and reflecting off the ocean.  I saw many people having weddings here and felt luxurious since I came here by myself.  Whether you’re with people or alone, it’s really hard to be sad here.

There are 3 foods that I recommend trying in Thailand: Seafood (any kind), sticky mango rice, and coconut ice cream (ideal if it’s from a real coconut).  I was fortunate that I could have all three on the beach!

It was great to relax here after being trapped in an office for so long.  I can’t stress how important it is to get away from the city and take an island vacation!  It doesn’t have to be expensive because countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and more are very affordable, and the quality of service is usually quite good.  I hope that everyone reading this is inspired to come here some day!

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That’s all for now–see you next menu, Space Cowboy!

The Rainbow Huts of Your Dreams (Koh Samui, Thailand)

Koh Samui is my favorite place in Thailand.  It has beautiful private beaches, and even unique geography like mountains with gardens that make it a stunning destination full of wonder.  I arrived here by ferry on the first day of 2019 after counting down the new year at the full moon party.  When one of the attendants woke me from my slumber, I had arrived at this fantasy dream-like island and was staying in a pink triangular hut on Lamai Beach:

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This is New Hut Bungalow, the most colorful and affordable accommodation on the island (priced at around $11 per night).  When I saw how adorable my hut was, I immediately fell in love with it!  All of the beaches on Koh Samui are more secluded and less touristy than the ones in Phuket and Krabi.  I enjoyed waking up and running on the beach every day, the ending the night with a swim under the purple and orange gradient sunset.  It felt like I had the beach to myself at times!

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The palm trees, soft waves, and the lanterns really made me feel like I was in paradise!  I enjoyed swimming and looking back at the rainbow huts.  It made me realize how hard I had worked to come here, and how much I was enjoying adventuring through this country! The restaurant also had amazing glass noodles and fresh fruit that I feasted on everyday.  It was so much fun that I didn’t want to leave!

One iconic landmark of these bungalows is the sign for the toilet whose eyes light up at night:

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Whether it’s cursed, and omen, or actually good luck, I was grateful for this guidepost, as the island gets quite dark around 8pm and there are no streetlights like in the city so this is a necessity to survival.  Even though whatever it was is now deceased.  In theory.  I really would like one of these for my room!

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The 5 cocktails I had during happy hour on my 2 nights here.

While I was in Koh Samui, I went to the Tiger Kingdom, saw and aquarium and birdshow, went to the Magic Buddha Garden and saw some of the mountains, and also relaxed on the beach and had an amazing start to the year!  I would choose this over Tokyo most days, because you don’t find this kind of relaxation there (though onsen are pretty great for that).  I am so excited for my next trip back here during Golden Week!