(Thursday) After waking up and eating breakfast, I decided to walk to a different beach. I went to Phra Nang which was voted National Geographic's Top 100 Beaches. While walking there, the tide was pretty low. I passed a place to hike that lead to a lookout point as well as a lagoon. With my big beach bag, there was no way I could do it, but I would try again another day. The beach was beautiful but crowded. Of course, it is a huge tourist destination. Boats came and dropped off loads of people for a given period of time. There were rock climbers, monkeys and a sanctuary in the rocks. The water was warm and deep enough to swim in almost immediately. There were also caves that I walked to and found a little cove. I stayed there for quite sometime. I passed the time reading Vonnegut's Timequake. It was a great book! I absolutely love his writing style. I found it funny that in his book he wrote his dislike of semicolons because I absolutely love them! I think they're a great alternative to commas and periods while he thinks they are useless.
A few weeks back, I read South of the Border, West of the Sun. I do not remember the author's name because I could not stand the book. It was so terrible and juvenile. I thought a fifth grader had written it. I also found it to be tasteless when talking about personal subjects such as sex.
In the late afternoon, I went back to the beach house, took a shower and then a nap. I opened a bottle of wine and relaxed. The wine was a gift from Luke as part of my Secret Buddha gift. It felt so nice to enjoy the taste of red wine on my lips. It had been a long time.
Tonight was our last night together. Hillary ordered dinner from none other than Mom's. We set up our kitchen in a buffet style, and we all ate together. One last group dinner after eight weeks of traveling together. It's amazing how many strong friendships have formed. We ate, lived, breathed, climbed, scuba dived, biked, swam, laughed, cried, built, learned and listened together 24/7 for the past two months. We started off by "hitting the ground running" and ended up with lasting memories and lifetime friends. I feel so blessed to have been in the company of these people. Each person has brought different strengths to the group and has helped us evolve. There are many people who have inspired me. Leaving them will be hard. Who will I share inside jokes with now? Who will say, "Love you Kha" when I go to bed?
We have all been there for each other so much. There were physical and mental obstacles that we each faced throughout this adventure. I faced many throughout the two months, and I would never have made it without the support system of these people who were once strangers. There was always encouragement, companionship and empathy for what we were each experiencing. It was incredible.
After our dinner, we played a trivia game. Hillary drew questions at random; the questions were about random facts we had learned along the trip. They included personal questions and facts. I was really happy when the question pulled was, "Who would you want to make you a birthday cake?" The answer was me :) I loved that! I love making my cakes too.
It was then time for Secret Buddha. At the beginning of our trip, we all drew names. The name we drew would be the person we bought or made a gift for. I happened to pick Isabel! You think shopping for someone who happened to be your closest friend on the trip and one you have a lot in common with would be easy, but it wasn't. I bought her first gift when we were in Luang Prabang. We had been at the night market, and she really liked this journal so I purchased it. She had been contemplating doing a meditation retreat post trip. However, she changed her mind. I had bought the journal for that purpose, but as I wrote in my letter plans change. She got accepted to go to Israel in June, so I wrote that she can use it for that trip. The cover may say Laos on it, but it's important to remember where you've been and where you're going. I also bought a wooden picture frame with silver elephants. Elephants are the symbol of Southeast Asia. I printed a picture of us together in Cambodia and placed it inside.
Luke was my Secret Buddha. Apparently, I am hard to shop for. I thought it was really cute that he asked the only other guy on the trip for help. He did well! The bottle of red wine was perfect for me. Everyone knows how much I love my red wine. I also received a beautiful scarf and some lanterns to hang in my new apartment. I haven't signed a lease yet, but I am looking!
After exchanging gifts, we went around sharing something about this trip. Isabel said she was hesitant to come at first. I went after her because I was so eager. Our actions getting on to the plane were exact opposite. I couldn't wait to get on and get out. I was running as I often do. If there's one thing I learned throughout this trip it's that there is no reason to run. I have so much to be thankful for. It made me appreciate everything I have back home especially my family and friends. I don't know what I was exactly ready to leave; perhaps it was the normalcy and repetition of everyday life. That eagerness to constantly be moving has faded. My passion for traveling has not. Lets not get confused here. I plan on continuing my travels in a less drastic measure. In 2010, I went on vacation an average of once a month. I couldn't sit still. In the past 12 months, I have been to 10 countries not including the 3 I'm about to go to. It's a bit excessive looking back on it now.
After many tears were shed (by myself included), we went to the beach. We partnered up and had paper lanterns. Isabel was my partner. After making a wish, we lit the wick at the bottom of the lantern and held on tight. Walking into the water, we grasped the lantern as the heat continued to grow. We released the lanterns and watched them rise into the dark sky. We danced and giggled with excitement. Seven lanterns went into the sky with 14 wishes made upon them. It was a beautiful moment and one I will always remember.
After this most of us went skinny dipping! We were alone on the beach, and it was dark. We cracked up at the mere thought of this. Who cares? We had spent everyday together for two months so why not enjoy a liberating moment?
I rinsed off and headed to the other house. Five of us sat in bed underneath a mosquito net with a bottle of Thailand rum and some white wine. Hillary, Sam, Madeleine, Isabel and I talked about life, love and everything in between. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.