Turning 24 in the Blue Lagoons of Phuket

Phi Phi Island, Phuket

This time last week, I was so giddy with excitement that I couldn’t go to sleep. The prospect of Phuket and spending four glorious days there just rolling on the beach and frolicking in the clear blue waters with 3 of my best friends kept me up wider awake than even the strongest shot of espresso.

I went to Phuket 23 years old and returned 24. It was only a matter of a few days but you know what, I did come home changed. I did come home a little different.

I came home knowing I am, more than anything else in the world, loved. And that is the best birthday present a girl can ask for.

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Where do I even begin? It was four days in paradise with my 3 favourite angels. They made me feel like the most special person in the universe, just being there for me. I remember the day in March so very well when we were contemplating whether we should go on an all-girls’ trip. I suggested we go in August so it coincides with my birthday and they all said yes in a heartbeat.

They didn’t even need the time to think about it or any of that nonsense. That’s when I knew I had friends the sort corny teenage high-school movies talked about. Only mine weren’t fiction. They were as real in flesh as blood as our friendship was strong.

Phi Phi Island, Phuket

I had the most amazing time there but I must first declare that it didn’t start out perfect. The beach was murky and almost brown in some parts. It looked almost like the beach we have back in Penang — decent, but nothing at all to shout about. We were in Perhentian two years ago and the beaches there were 10x more beautiful and the waters 10x crisper and clearer.

I was beyond disappointed that we had come all this way to be greeted with something this ordinary.

But that’s the funny thing about life, about fate and about how certain things have their certain ways of turning out. Phuket started out horrible but the moment we decided to have fun anyway despite the less than ideal circumstances thrown at us, everything just turned around and became more than we asked for.

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It rained all three days we were there but the more we decided to dance in the rain, the further back the rain clouds hid. There were tuorists everywhere much to our dismay, but the more we decided to laugh at ourselves for not doing our research properly before coming here, the further out into the sea we went and the less crowded it got. And while the waters were far from clear, the more we decided, “To hell with it, let’s just jump in and enjoy it anyway”, the bluer it seem to steadily get, I’m not even kidding.

Sometimes, maybe it isn’t about what life dishes at us, but what we choose to do with our dealt hand. It certainly isn’t about how clear the waters were and how breathtaking the view was; it was about how we chose to have fun and make the most out of it anyway.

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A warm kind of happiness is washing through me as I write this, every word helping me relive the four  best days of my year thus far. It makes my heart so full knowing that I am so blessed to be who I am, where I am and having what I have. These girls made sure I knew that on my birthday and every other day.

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Like I said, Phuket isn’t quite the perfect beach holiday I envisioned it to be. There were tourists everywhere and no matter where you go, you’re bound to bump into someone if you’re not careful. There isn’t a single empty stretch as far as the eyes can see so forget it if it’s a quiet getaway just you, your friends and Mother Nature you’re looking for.

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But with the right company, anything anywhere becomes perfect.

I like to think I had some of the best a girl can ask for. I had with me friends — real friends — who went out of their way to clear their schedules so as to make it for this trip; friends who lent me her one and only scarf because I was cold but was stupid enough to not bring anything to keep myself warm; friends who went hunting for cake while another distracted me with grocery shopping so I can have something to make a wish on and pretend-blow out my candles (McDonald’s doesn’t have candles apparently) on my birthday.

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What more can I ask for? :)

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On our third day there — the 16th of August, my birthday — we found a spot of paradise.

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A two-hour boat-ride out to James Bond Island and Phang Nga Bay redeemed the two previous days that verged on horrible. From then on, it was all clear skies ahead. Clear skies, fairly clear sea water, and finally, a clear conscience to just let completely go and just be nothing but happy.

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When you’re in Phuket, you laze around in your bikini and pretend you’re Bob Marley or someone equally as chilled out, so that was exactly what we did. We became best friends with the sun eventhough under normal circumstances we load up on sunscreen and stay out of it as much as we can. We became freaking children of the sun, soaking it up like it was the most delicious thing in the world, as if we don’t get it all year round.

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Our hair was constantly wet either from the waves or mist sprays from the boatride but looking good was the least of our concerns. Ironically, that’s when we did look our best from all that beach hair and suntanned pink cheeks. Nature was our hairdresser and happiness, our makeup.

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Best of all, even though there wasn’t really anything to laugh and marvel about, we just did, at everything and everyone. We were just in this perpetual state of smiley-ness with a balloon of joy, excessive happiness and waves of giggles growing in the depths of our chests that feels like it’s ready to burst out of our chest. It grew and grew until it seeped out of our throats and ears but we just kept smiling anyway because by then, our entire face was already numb from all that sun.

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Happiness is celebrating your birthday on a boat in the warm tropical sunshine with your best friends. Amen.

The whole while, I just felt this constant need to throw my arms in the air and scream out loud to tell the world how happy I felt. The sun felt amazingly warm on my skin and the wind, smooth and tingling as it combed through my hair. I don’t really know how to explain that euphoria. It was like falling in love for the first time; like finishing a marathon below cut-off time; like a cold drink of water after along gruelling session at the gym; like a  gentle, tender massage after a long day of work.

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Not a single worry brushed my shoulders as I sat there watching endless blue meet more endless blue, knowing that I am in the company of some of my favourite people. People, who in turn, will be there for me anytime and anywhere.

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There is a saying that goes, “If a friendship lasts more than 7 years, it is going to last a lifetime”.

Bitch please, I’ve known these girls almost 17 freaking years.

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That’s a whole 10 years added to your pathetic 7 years.

Phuket

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Phuket honestly wasn’t all that great. We have much prettier beaches and seas back here. But what made it so amazing was truly the company I was with.

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My favourite part of our stay was without a doubt the canoeing. For all that Phuket lacked, it made up for it with its underwater caves and hidden lagoons.

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In pairs, we got off the boat and into small air canoes before making our way into underwater caves.

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I get to ride at the front? Why, thank you.

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I’ll give it to Phuket. What it has that we don’t, are these amazing marble stones that stand tall, strong and proud even amidst decades’ worth of ocean waves. We had to row under them to emerge on the other side where there is a hidden lagoon and it was one of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever seen.

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The experience brings to mind one nursery rhyme my mum often sang to me late at night when I couldn’t sleep.

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream….

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Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream…

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A beautiful, breathtaking dream I never want to wake up from.

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I don’t know if it was the salted ocean air or simply because we were on holiday, but there were only good vibes everywhere. Madeline was constantly saying something funny, Li Ying was always laughing about everything and nothing, and Yuh Ting was always grinning to herself. Me? I was just basking in it all, trying to imprint and carve everything into my mind so I’d never forget a single thing.

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For as long as I live, I never want to forget how I felt floating with the current down the lagoon in that canoe. The peace I felt with the world and the growing love I have for life and all that it brings my way.

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There was this indescribable sense of calm and serenity at being surrounded by the most majestic creations of nature. You feel so small and insignificant, yet you’re not envious in the slightest bit of her power, her magnificence.

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Let’s just say that was one heck of a way to celebrate turning a year older.

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Omg, I’m 24 yo. By any standards, I am now a grown woman.

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I used to dread growing up so much as a kid. Every older woman I’ve met only ever laments about getting old. If only someone had told me it feels this great to grow older, then I would have been saved a lot of unnecessary worrying.

With every passing birthday, I feel more sure of myself, more confident, more assured. I’ve come to love parts of myself that the old me used to hate.

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I now love my strong thunder thighs because they’ve helped me finish a marathon. I now love my slowly but surely widening hips because I look so much better in dresses. I now love my puffy cheeks because sunken and hollowed out cheeks would make anyone look haggard and gaunt. But above all, I now love my life, and the fact that I am simply young, healthy and able-bodied enough to take it on as it comes. Come what may.

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I’ve always loved birthdays but not like this. I feel this need to lap it all up because it all just tastes so good.

Purpose, drive and ambition in the present, they’re all there in my days, along with hope, excitement and anticipation for what the future holds. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, life right now, is a great place to be. Growing up and getting wiser with each passing year is awesome.

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It makes me wonder why I used to worry so much about what lies ahead. The true joy lies in not knowing. In just waiting and spectating as life, on its own accord, unfolds in front of you.

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So just choose a good spot, select the right people and sit back and relax to enjoy the show.

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I was lucky enough to have front row seats this year with the best company.

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Thank you, loves, for the amazing birthday. You were there for all my birthdays as far as I can remember. I can only hope to be there for you as much as you have been for me.

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Here’s to laugh-till-you-cry moments, to the incessant need to take a bzillion photos, and our mutual love for tom yam.
Here’s to 17 years of friendship that has braved through the most malicious gossips and trivial misunderstandings.
Here’s to 24.

Happy birthday to me :)

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3 Comments
  1. Can I like this a hundred times?!? Thank you for immortalizing our four days so wonderfully I think I need to bookmark this page! Every sentence and every photo brought back that warm familiarity of the memories and experiences we shared. :’) couldn’t have written it better! #walrusesforever

  2. Looks like you had a blast. Glad you seem to have had a nice birthday vacation with the girls.
    The area looks amazing and surely would love to visit someday.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Happy birthday.

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