San Blas Adventures: Love, minimalism… and rum

~By: Amanda

One day I woke up and realized I didn’t need any more ‘stuff.’ As the sun rose over the Caribbean and pierced the cerulean sky, I knew everything I needed fit inside a backpack. The ‘stuff’ that humans of our day have determined important, such as electricity, WiFi, and constant cell phone service, are all actually unnecessary. All you need are the basics: food, shelter, love and a little bit of rum. All mixed together on a pristine white sand beach with the tropical waters of the Caribbean lapping in the sunset. From an early age, especially as Americans, we are taught ‘stuff’ is important. Whether it be from various marketing channels or our peers, the social lesson we have embraced is that we need things to make us happy. At the end of our South American tour we learned with just how little we could live with and just how liberating that could be.

We first learned about San Blas Adventures from two of our Dutch friends; these guy are true travelers and claimed this was “best trips they had ever done!” Hearing that, it was inevitable we would go. Cap-stoning the end of our backpacker trip we each paid the hefty price of $450 for the four day, three night trip. Little did we know the experience we would gain would far outweigh the money spent.


San Blas Adventures operates speed boat tours through the islands of the Kuna people, who flourish here off the Caribbean coast of Panama. The Kuna people fled to the islands from the mainland after the Conquistadors invaded. Here, they found not only had they rid themselves of the Spanish pests, but the blood sucking kind (mosquitoes) as well. You can book a tour online in either direction between Panama City, Panama and Colombia by boat and see one of the most amazing cultures and beautiful archipelago of islands in the world. There are not many ways to transverse the border between these two countries, as the only other option is off-roading through one of the most dangerous jungles on the entire planet. Forget the lions, tigers and bears, this is one of the most highly trafficked drug routes in the world. Your other option is the sea route, by sailboat utilizing other tour companies. While tranquil, you receive much less time on the islands, and more time on the sailboat. Other travelers told us horror stories over beers in Colombia about boat captains kicking off  their passengers and changing itineraries for the company of hookers.


San Blas Adventures was one of the first companies to operate boat tours between Panama and Colombia. One of the three owners of the company is a member of the Kuna tribe, so to book the most authentic experience and to incur the least amount of speed (wave) bumps possible, we highly recommend this company. When pre-booking online one is required to pay a $100 deposit. With this deposit comes multiple emails of the most specific set of instructions I have ever seen for a vacation. Read them once, twice, maybe ten times because these are imperative for your enjoyment for the next 4-6 days, well that, coupled with Poseidon’s temper.

These are some of the points I can not stress enough…

  1. Money: Read all points specific to money. While the deposit is paid in credit card, the balance is paid in cash, specifically USD. San Blas Adventures operates out of Panama, which barters in green dead presidents. Why you might ask, because the remainder of the money is paid to specific Kuna people, for our accommodations on each island, to our boat operators, for food etc. For the Kuna, “Visa is not everywhere they want to be;” their culture operates on cold hard cash and that’s what is easiest for them. Remember you are a visitor on their land. Basically show up with a minimum of $600, it will save you drama later.
  2. Also understand that regardless of departure point, your balance is paid in USD. If leaving from Colombia, pre-plan to have the money exchanged ahead of time. We traveled from Medellin and exchanged our money at the Bank of Colombia in the bus terminal. This process took over an hour requiring passports, signatures and fingerprints. The last possible point to obtain cash on the Colombian side is in Necocli (and will still need to be exchanged from Colombian Pesos to USD), there is NO ATM in Capurgana or Sapzurro.
  3. Bring only the Basics: all you need are a couple of swimsuits and dry clothing for evening time. It will all fit in your day pack. Flipflops are all that is necessary. I didn’t wear makeup for 5 days and it was fantastic; however, deodorant and a toothbrush will keep you from being “that person.” Pack a sweatshirt, it’s insane how cold a hammock in the Caribbean can be. It’s advised by the crew to keep all valuables and breakables in your day pack. Apparently the Kuna are not so gentle with the transport of your big backpacks. For electronics, double bag them, we brought super size zip-locks from home. You can buy bin liners (garbage bags) to cover both your day pack and your larger backpacks to try and keep them dry during the journey. You won’t actually see the larger backpack again until it’s time to say goodbye.
  4. DO NOT BRING DRUGS: Your guide is not playing around. A few months before our tour a German man was caught with 2 grams of Colombian powder at the check point into Panama. Word on the street is, he is still in Panamanian Prison. You are checked entering Panama, you are checked leaving Panama. This is just not worth it; I assume South American prison is not fun, so just enjoy your rum and life!
  5. Charge everything before leaving civilization: While you won’t have signal…less time for Snapchat, more time for bonding with new friends. You will want to capture the beauty of this paradise you get to call home for four days and all the memories in tow. Charge up your mobiles before leaving the for the islands. We did have electricity available in Sapzurro the night before we left, so leaving Colombia this is your last chance. A back up battery pack is also a good idea and in our opinion a must for every traveler. If you are a GoPro user, maybe 2 back-up batteries—you know.
  6. Don’t be a squirrel: Be nice to your guides, as they are there for you. Please and thank you go a long way. At the end of the day they are not here to change your pampers or fix your personal travel mishaps; but keep you safe and introduce you to the wonderful Kuna culture.

As much are nobody likes rules, the ones mentioned above are important, because this trip will change your soul if you come open minded. Starting in Necocli, you take the 8 am ferry to Capurgana. We spent the previous night in Punta de Aguila hotel in Necocli. This hotel had one of the best reviews on, and a triple room set us back around $8 per person, including breakfast. The ferry is your first taste at what the next few days will be like. The ferry boats are larger than the boats you will use to transverse the San Blas islands to Panama, but the waves are the same. One of the guys on our tour watched someone vomit on his backpack. Upon arrival in the colorful coastal town of Capurgana you will have a few hours to kill before the tour group briefing.


Around 12 everyone huddled together at the San Blas Adventures office for our official tour meeting. Here is where we met Pedro, our Brazilian guide and his assistants David from Switzerland and Julia from Germany. Pedro broke down our plan for the next few days and gave us the 411 on what to expect. He collected our passports to stamp us out of Colombia, while we set off to buy important provisions like rum. We later poured the contents from our glass liter bottles into empty plastic water bottles–a more effective way to transport when riding 10 foot waves. The ferry between Capurgana and Sapzurro were the smallest boats I have ever seen deemed sea-worthy, considering the size of the waves beating up against the hull. On the 10 minute ride we managed to get insanely wet as we clutched to our day bags for dear life.

Once in Sapzurro we headed to our pre-booked hostel. I highly recommend staying with the hostel Hotel Triny that San Blas Adventures utilizes. We pre-booked Hilltop Sapzurro hostel in advance with fear that upon arrival, we would not find accommodation for 8 people last minute. Upon arrival we found the hostel a mess, without proper beds for our party. One bed had a random store of knock-off perfumes and condoms; I guess everyone needs a side business! We evacuated after it was confirmed that Hotel Triny recommended by San Blas could easily accommodate us.

We awoke the next morning ready for adventure. While traveling we refuse to use the word ‘adventure’ in the present tense. Doing so has lead to an immense amount of crazy situations, including but not limited to running away from a tsunami, multiple credit cards losses and a terrifying boat ride though the Straits of Malacca. So when we booked with a tour company which used the word adventure in its title, we knew we were doomed. We boarded our trio of speed boats, not really knowing what to expect. Boats one and two kicked to life, but ours didn’t, the motor refused to turn over. The Kuna drivers tried again and again and finally the boat surged to life; we were on our way.

“Catch me at the border….I got visas in my name”  (Paper Planes, M.I.A)

Our first stop was the Panamanian border, which we reached within 20 minutes. Our guide David pointed out the actual Panama border– a cliff of black rocks which jetted out into the ocean. I was surprised how quickly we changed between the two countries and how soon we were docked on Panamanian soil. As briefed, the border guards wanted to inspect all our luggage after checking our documentation. After the lead customs official apologized for the ‘inconvenience,’ a barking German Shepard we named “Sugarplum” was let out to sniff our bags. See we are not playing around, listen to your guides, its just not worth it…

“I’m on a Boat” (The Lonely Island, ft T-pain)

This tour is different from the other tours of the San Blas islands, because as opposed to sail boats, San Blas Adventures utilizes speed boats. This gives you much more island time and less chance for sea sickness; although some members of our party had their fair share, blame it on the rum. The boat time between islands each day is approximately two hours and the ride can be correlated to riding a wave runner. The speed boats travel in a pack of three for safety, two for passenger and one for supplies. These boats are not huge; they ride the waves of the Caribbean like a rogue cowboy.

It’s insane to look over at your sister boat and see it flying out of the water, skimming the top of the waves and realize you are doing the exact same thing. Our second day on the water the waves reached over 10 feet. Sea water poured into our boat and all I could think about was the Titanic, but sadly we were sans Leonardo DiCaprio. I walked off the boat that day soaked from head to foot, and my eyes stinging from the salt water. I have never seen Anna be so green in my life, meanwhile her cousin Josh seated on my left belted out an excited shout every time the boat peaked over a wave and became airborne.

Our guide Pedro said this was the worst he had ever seen the waves, hence our arrival was delayed a day. If the waves are deemed unsafe, extra days might be added to the tour, at a cost of $25 a day. San Blas Adventures highly suggests giving a minimum 2 day cushion on the back end of the tour for delays. This means it’s in your best interest to not have immediate flights booked or onward travel plans set in stone. Plus you get extra island time #winning!


“The sun is shining and so are you….” (Sun is Shining, Axwell ∧ Ingrosso)

The plan each day is to split between two islands. The first island is typically deserted and reserved for sun, relaxing and splashing in the waves. Later you move on to a nearby island to have dinner and sleep. As we docked on our first island, our souls entered paradise. The day time islands are your perfect white sand beach island covered with palm trees, which shaded us from the hot Caribbean sun. As usual, we lasted about three minutes before jumping in the waves. Here is where lunch was served, all washed down with fresh coconut water mixed with rum; it was the perfect way to start every afternoon. The beach contained a volleyball net, snorkeling areas and shallow waters to play. San Blas adventures carts around a huge bin full of sports and water equipment for you to play with and there is plenty of snorkel gear to go around. Let’s just leave it at Julie and I are an epic fail when it comes to volleyball.

The second and third islands followed similar pattern. Day two includes a trip to Monkey Island, home to a pair of spider monkeys. They each had their own unique personality, one loving to cuddle while her rambunctious brother stole Julie’s sunglasses. On our final day we stopped at Pelican Island, which you can walk the circumference in 3 minutes. In the shallow clear waters surrounding the island, you can find hundreds of starfish resting in the sand. Careful with these fragile creatures though, as too much time out of the water will kill them.

“I acquired taste for salmon on a bagel, with the capers on a square plate.” (Broccoli, D.R.A.M)

I can still describe every bit of food they served us on this tour. This is mostly because everything was delicious and the portions were huge. Us girls often found ourselves scraping our plates over to a guy friend as we could not finish. Considering the cooking circumstances, I was highly impressed with the meals our crew served. They can also accommodate a wide range of dietary requirements, if notified in advance. According to our guide David, he had never seen a group go through so much hot sauce. Pretty much the only thing missing from my life in those 5 days was pizza, but the rum helped me cope.

Our first night at dinner, to get everyone mingling instead of staying comfortable in their own cliques, the guides started up a game that we would play out til the end of the trip. It’s the perfect icebreaker as you form alliances with people and start bonding over diabolical schemes.

Water, soda, beer and coconuts are sold by the Kuna people at a price of $1-3. The Kuna on each island keep a running tab in a notebook and you settle up at departure time. They usually have plenty to get you throughout the night…. unless someone named Josh decides to be bougie as hell and buy the entire cooler of beer for a shot-gunning party. On some islands you can purchase liters of rum. Your guide will know–plan ahead, no one likes an empty bottle.



“Blame it on the Night….” (Blame, Calvin Harris)

There are thousands of islands inhabited by the Kuna people. Some of the smaller islands are home to 1-2 families, while the larger islands are covered with a “Kuna city.” These house several families, have schools, shops and some even restaurants and sleeping accommodations. Our sleeping quarters varied from wooden bunk houses built over the water to hammocks in a thatched hut on the beach. Each provided their own unique twist on island living. Don’t expect luxury accommodations, this is basic; however I was comfortable and slept well every night. Bucket showers are a thing and a bottle of water will take care of your teeth, otherwise just pretend you are a mermaid and live in the moment.


“24K Magic” (Bruno Mars)

Our last night our guide promised us magic…..We arrived at a small island which was inhabited by just one family and claimed our hammocks, which were lined up under roofs made of bamboo. We filled the rest of the afternoon with our usual games: playing on the white powder beach, relaxing in the hammocks, and card games of course. This was paradise, how could we ever want go home? Our fun was broken up with a call for pictures, as Pedro wanted a girl group photo for the company’s website. Following though in typical girl spirit, we concocted several creative poses, including a three tier pyramid. We learned that it was all just a rouse; as we rounded back to the beach, we saw one of our own, Dano’s boyfriend drop to one knee and ask her to marry him, as the golden sun dipped into the horizon.

If that doesn’t start a party, then I do not know what will! The only thing missing was Champagne, but this is the middle of nowhere and you can’t have everything. It was our last night and we determined to make it a memorable one. Our guides gave us access to the leftover fruit salad from the morning and we attempted to mix up some sort of sangria. This somehow generated a beer shot- gunning and log wrestling contest; I think the boys had some insane idea of making this the island version of American gladiators. Dinner came soon enough consisting of a lobster feast which made Red Lobster look like a biotch. So much lobster stacked on top of each other, it was a tower of heaven.

The bonfire was lit and the speakers were hooked up; we spent the rest of the night dancing around the fire and sealing our new friendships– it was magical. As I settled in my hammock, swinging in the night breeze, my only regret was that  I couldn’t stay here for longer. I could have spent another five nights in that hammock and another five days swimming around that island hanging out with my new friends. I was not ready to go home….

Why I would go back again tomorrow

I was not ready to go home, I was not ready to go back to civilization, the constant beeping of the phone, the loudness of the billowing city, I was happy in my bubble. “Everything I need, I now know for sure, I can fit in a backpack.” This is from my favorite book “Grounded” that I have read six times. It’s true, every time I take a trip like this I learn I can live with less and less. Some clothing, my pair of Converse chucks which are ripping at the seams, and a stuffed black lab puppy that I cart everywhere (to remind me of home). However, we have been tricked into thinking we need things to make us happy. More and more I realize it is experiences, travel, friendships and love (and maybe a little bit of rum) that are true happiness!



Our soundtrack for this adventure, prefect for island dreams and rum coconuts Julie’s Hammock Playlist, here is the Spotify link:

Check out our other Blogs about Panama:

Way too Wanderlust Reccommends

San Blas Adventures:

Hotel Punta De Aguila Necocli:  Calle 50, Necocli Colombia, 057870 booked via



  1. M.I.A. “Paper Planes.” Maya Arulpragasam, Wesley Pentz, Topper Headon, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Joe Strummer. “Kala.” London, XL Recordings and Interscope Records, 11 Feb 2008, digital download.
  2. The Lonely Island. “I’m on a Boat.” Andy Samberg, Akiva Schalter, Jorma Taccone, Wyshmaster, T-Pain. “Incredibad.” Universal Republic, 3 Feb 2009, digital download. 

  3. Axwell Λ Ingrosso. “Sun is Shining.” Sebastian Ingrosso, Salam Al Fakir, Axel Hedfors and Vincente Pontare. Single, Sweden, 12 June 2015, digital download.
  4. D.R.A.M., Lil Yachty. “Broccoli.” Roget Chahayed, Julian Gramma, Shelley Marshaun Massenburg-Smith, Miles McCollum, and Karl Rubin. “Big Baby D.R.A.M.” Atlantic Records and Empire, 6 April 2016, 7″ and digital download. 
  5. Harris, Calvin. “Blame.” Calvin Harris, John Newman and James Newman. “Motion.” London, Deconstruction Fly Eye Columbia Records, 5 Sept 2014, digital download.
  6. Mars, Bruno. “24K Magic.” Bruno Mars, Christopher Brody Brown and Phillip Lawerence. “24K Magic.” Atlantic Records, 18 Nov 2016, digital download.
  7. Stevenson, Seth. (2010). Grounded. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.





Barefoot in Bali

~By:  Julie

Tired of the routine of perusing the islands in Thailand, we sought to broaden our horizons and collect a few more passport stamps. As such, we decided to see more of what southeast Asia had to offer. I was running low on passport pages, and with visas taking up an entire page, I was really starting to worry by the end of the trip! We went from LA to Japan, flew to Singapore for a couple of nights, headed to Bali for a week of sheer bliss, then to Kuala Lampur for one day. From there, it was up to Vietnam for another 5 nights, then we bounced back over to Bangkok before passing through Burma and Cambodia, but again: I was down to my last passport page. So, I split up with my travel group and flew back to Bali, joining up with some travelers I’d met on a rooftop in Bangkok three years previous.

On our last visit a week or so earlier, we’d spent the majority of our time hanging by the pool or sitting on the beach in Kuta with the beach boys (not the band). Kuta Beach is a long string of little beer stands surrounded by colorful plastic chairs and umbrellas, run by local Balinese guys with coolers displaying signs selling “Bloody cold Bintang.” Some are even humorously advertised that the beers were “Cold as your exes heart!” We made fast friends with a beach boy in front of the Sheraton named Harley, with his contagious smile and warm greetings. We were serenaded by the locals, who sang American songs, and kept ourselves cool beside ice cold beers, which whisked us into dusk. We found our own little section of the beach that felt like home.


Even when I returned a week or so later, I felt like I would be cheating on Harley if I sat at any other stand… so I didn’t. In that first week we made arrangements through a local travel agency next to our hotel to rent a van and driver for the day to take us up to Ubud. First we went to the Tegalalang Rice Terrace, then to Monkey Forest in Ubud and finally to the Bali Pulina Agro Tourism Plantation to taste the most expensive coffee in the world. Luwak coffee is made from the poop of a civet cat, which we cleverly nicknamed “cat-poo-chino.” At the time, none of us knew about Kopi Luwak or the cruelty involved with the Civet. All we knew was that coffee pooped from a civet cat is the most expensive coffee in the world sounded like a must-see novelty. In hindsight we probably should have done more research and taken it out of the day’s agenda completely, but it was an educational experience overall.

Be aware that traffic is horrendous in Kuta. We brought plenty of snacks, an aux cord for Spotify playlists and (obviously) roadies… it is us after all! I will also warn you that the driver we hired did try and take us to different places, other than the ones we had agreed upon. He tried to take us to an unofficial coffee plantation, and luckily Anna caught on that it wasn’t the right place. She was able to direct him to the one she had saved on TripAdvisor. Google Maps was another big assist. Traveling with T-mobile makes life so much easier and keeps drivers honest.


So fast-forward a week and some change, and I’m flying solo back to Bali to meet the Canadians. They had booked a spot at TZ Party Hostel in Kuta so I also booked a space. The location is ideal, being right in the heart of Kuta, and the pool bar is a great place to make friends. They have floating bean bags in the pool that I basically lived in for 3 days even in the rain. The rooms themselves are bare and minimal, however, I spent so little time indoors it didn’t matter. TZ Party Hostel was epitomized by the owner, Brad. He sat down with me, explained the place in detail and described the tours he could hook me up with.

Brad’s Australian, and after being in Asia for so long, hustling with broken English and hand signals, it’s so refreshing to have someone speak perfect English that isn’t trying to hustle you! He lays the good and bad out in great detail and has so much knowledge of the culture and the land. He knows which boat companies are safe and which ones have had fires or sunk. No joke! At night he organizes dinners and shows, so that other hostel mates can mingle and get to know each other. I made some pretty fun friends after a steak dinner and a lady boy cabaret show. We are bonded for life after that!

The hostel is on Legion street in the heart of Kuta, right by the memorial of the 2002 Bali bombing, which I highly recommend taking a moment of silence before you set off to celebrate life over at the unavoidable Sky GardenSky Garden. I’m not really sure how to describe Sky Garden. You pay an entrance fee and you get 2 free low quality drinks. I’m not a picky drink person but whatever poison they are serving didn’t agree with me… twice. I promised myself after the first time around I wasn’t going back there, that I’d have just as much fun with my friends at a more low key bar with better and cheaper drinks. However, at my second arrival in Bali, the Canadians and my new friends from the hostel hadn’t experienced it yet and I was dragged back into the lure of the Sky Garden. That poison that they are passing off as liquor has some strange and varying effects on everyone. Personally, I’m not a fan, but like I said, it’s something you have to do, for a reason I can’t explain.

You should make note that October to April is rainy (wet) season. This effected us in really “special” ways. While in Kuta we had about 36 hours of solid torrential downpour. China Air had lost the Canadian boys’ bags and it took them 2 days of having to wear the same clothes and buying a few tourist shirts until their bags finally arrived. Being their luck, the bags arrived the day of the storm. They had to ride their rented motorbikes in the rain to and from the airport. Meanwhile, I was enjoying a couple rounds of Kings Cup with some Australians, Brits and Swedes back at the Hostel. After a solid game of Kings Cup, the rain didn’t matter anymore so we hung out in the pool on floating beanbags until nightfall.

Tired of the noise, the hustle and bustle, and the legendary hangovers, we decided a change of scenery was needed and to chill out over at Gili Trawangan. Anna flew down from Rangoon to join us in Bali and we booked a boat transfer to Gili T. The hostel helped us arrange the transportation to the boat and picked the safest boat to the island. This is a day I will never forget. We had met a Lufthansa flight attendant and a boutique British flight attendant, a Chilean philosophy student who studies in China, a French Canadian bartender and a fun sized Filipina traveling nurse all at the pool in the hostel. We made fast friends on the boat and when we got to Gili T, Surprise… surprise it’s raining!! We realized that none of us have planned for lodging so we head to a bar for ‘planning beers’ as we dried off and used the wifi to find hostels. At the Canadians suggestion, at some point we realize that there are enough of us that we can rent a private villa rather affordably. We locate one on Airbnb and we sent 2 people to go in person to do some low season rainy cash negotiations. We ended up getting the most gorgeous villa for roughly $24 a night per person which in Asia is a splurge but we were beyond ready to be spoiled. We got a palace with our own pool, a live in staff of three, and it included the most amazing breakfast with fresh juices and fruits. It was a great break after so many hostel bunk beds.

Gili T doesn’t have motorcycles or cars; it’s run only on bicycles and tiny horses. We rented old rusty bikes and I believe you can go around the whole island in less than 3 hours, though be prepared that a fair amount of the route is sand and the bikes aren’t properly aligned. They are very rusty and old which can make for some unexpected exercise. We made stops to watch sunsets at various cute little bars and bungalows around the island and we made sure to do the iconic swing photo shoot. We spent 3 days exploring, snorkeling, swimming with the turtles and relaxing.

As travelers go, a few of us split ways and a few of us ended up in Ubud, and our two Dutch friends from previous travels joined us. Ubud caters more to the yogis and the nature lovers. It’s quiet and peaceful and the food selections are incredible. We found a delightful tapas restaurant with tasty sangria and stumbled across a quaint little vegetarian place with bunnies roaming freely in the back garden where you dine. We stayed a day, left our main backpacks at the hotel storage and packed only the essentials for what might be the craziest 4 days of my life thus far. 2 Americans, 2 Canadians and 2 Dutchies hopped on 3 motorbikes and we set off to explore the island of Bali.

As tourists and travelers you are going to be stopped by the police or “traffic officers” and it’s inevitable that they are going to try and get money out of you. We got away with maybe handing over 30 bucks total on a couple of occasions. The goal was to hike up Munduk but between the rains and my broken toe (happens sometimes when you hike up a waterfall barefoot) it wasn’t feasible. We drove our bikes into the jungle with ponchos and at some point we just gave up since we were soaked to the core and just wrapped our small backpacks in the ponchos. The jungle road trip was incredible minus the rain and the limited visibility due to fog. The turns were hairy and I’m sure my knees hit cars and cyclists going the opposite direction. I held my breath and silently said my prayers. We finally found a little $10 a night guest house, set our clothes on the impossible mission to dry and warmed up in the shower and downed some tasty hot soup. A couple games of cards with beers and we were back in great spirits. The next morning the group headed to watch the sunrise over the mountains and after a good full breakfast we were back on the road. We ended up in Lovina where we set up camp at another guest house that we stumbled upon.

The new goal was to try any activities involving water since the rain wasn’t really cutting us a break. By now we had started to smell like wet dogs, and nothing we owned was dry! Our plan was to go to the natural water slides but yet again, rain fell on our parade. The locals told us that the water levels can get deadly and there is no way we could go. They told us that we could definitely do the natural hot water spring baths instead. So we hopped on our bikes and spent a glorious day in the hot springs with cool rain sprinkling us!

Now, you might have gotten the impression that we cope with alcohol and you’re right. A day in the hot springs with old traveling friends, reminiscing our previous journeys and copious amounts of alcohol later… things got fuzzy. The next thing I know we are getting matching tattoos in a scuba shop in Lovina because apparently that place had the best lighting for the job. We marked an incredible journey permanently in ink to remember for the rest of our lives, not that we could ever forget.

I never knew how helpful a motorcycle ride can be when you’re hungover as holy hell. But the novelty soon wore off, as we spent 6 hours straight riding around the island trying to get back to Ubud to have a warm shower and clean clothes. It’s been 4 days of rain in the same clothes and everything is turning a sort of orangish color. The smell is something we could only describe as “the odor.” We had to wash every single thing we owned, we threw away shoes that were unsalvageable, scrubbed every pore but it somehow still lingered. We had one final night all together in Ubud before the Canadians had to leave and we ventured to a quaint little hookah bar and somehow ended up at a gay club dancing the night away. The group said our tearful goodbyes to the Canadians and Anna and I followed the Dutchies back to Kuta were we prolonged our trip one extra day at a time. We were delaying the inevitable of going home. No one ever wants to leave paradise. The long journey home seemed like a death sentence. Eventually we slowly made our way across the ocean. It personally took me 5 flights and 38 hours before I made it back to California.

One of our good friends just recently returned to Bali and found our friend Harley, tending bar on the beach in his same spot in front of the Sheraton hotel. He remembered her and had a bloody cold Bintang ready and waiting!

Read more about Potato Head Beach Club:


Koh Phi Phi: Never Never Land

~By:  Julie

Sometimes you come across a place so magical that it changes your life forever. The first time I went to Phi Phi, I knew immediately that not only did I belong there but that I would be back as fast as I physically could. I was right, not even 4 months later I booked another trip and extended my stay. From the time you see the island from your boat in the distance, you know this place is different. It’s the energy, the beauty, the people; it’s magical. There are no cars and no motorbikes, which in itself sets it apart from the rest of Thailand.

Whether you are going to Phi Phi to escape from life, to honeymoon, to party, to explore; there is literally something for everyone. I think I’ve been maybe 5 times and I still have so many things on my to do list. I’ve done the half moon parties, I’ve hiked to the viewpoint, I’ve done the day trips to Monkey Beach and Maya Bay. I’m hoping this year to swim with the glowing plankton at night.

Whether you come in from Krabi or Phuket, you need to know the ferry schedule. The ferries stop running early. I made this mistake the first time and trust me, I will never make that mistake again. I don’t really do mornings but I guarantee you that unless you wanna spend the night in Krabi or Phuket, you better get your butt on that early flight or you will be stuck paying 70 USD a person for a speed boat in the middle of the night and I’m gonna put that into category of the dumbest and scariest things I’ve ever done. We just wanted to be there and we had already booked this amazing 5 star hotel and we didn’t want it to go to waste.

They say hind sight is 20/20… I’d have to agree. I feel extremely safe in Thailand, almost all the time. Regardless, you have to use your street smarts and intuition. When the sun was up the speed boat seemed like a great idea. Once the sun went down and we were slamming over the waves in pitch black dark and holding on for dear life as the wind and water smacked us in the face, we realized maybe we made a terrible mistake. At some point I realize there are only 3 of us girls and 3 local boat guys and my brain got the best of me. We’ve never even been to Phi Phi yet so we had no idea where we are going, if we would recognize it if we saw it, if these guys were gonna sell us as sex slaves and no one back home had any real idea where we were at all either. I sat there on the boat speeding through heavy waves in the Andaman sea, thinking about how I’m probably gonna go pretty cheap as a sex slave cause I’m over 30 and I have way too many tattoos and piercings marking up the goods. I’m thinking how I fell the night before in Bangkok down wet stairs on Khaosan Road and my entire left butt cheek resembles a giant nebula of a bruise.

What felt like a lifetime (probably 4-5 hours) later, I saw what I prayed was Phi Phi in the distance. I never understood kissing the ground before, until then. All that said, I highly recommend the morning ferries where you can drink, relax, claim a spot to sun bathe for a 2 hour ferry ride and make friends from all over the world. We were so unprepared. Besides booking a hotel, we didn’t really know much else. When you get off the boat there are HOARDS of people with signs trying to get you to book a room at their hotel. This is the trip we learned that the less booking you do beforehand, the better. Apparently our hotel was WAY on the other side of the island, and after the day we had, the hike felt not just unnecessary but brutal. The hotel was worth it tho. It was so beautiful and a bed and a shower rejuvenated us enough to go explore a little night life.

Through our many journeys thru Phi Phi we found a hotel we try to always stay at now. We still like the night life but also our quiet time. Right in the center of the scene is a place called Tara Inn. It’s clean, spacious,  has hot water, is quiet, and affordable. The owner always makes us feel so welcome when we come back. It feels like home. It’s located by the Banana Bar which is great for the beginning of a chill night. You climb up two stories of winding, frightening stairs and on top they have chairs and screens and show movies. Everyone eats Mexican food, margaritas, and finds a small section to get cozy for the movie.

If you aren’t interested in the nightlife, the other side of the island on Long Beach is basically honeymoon central. It’s beautiful. I’ll walk down to that end to swim and drink fresh coconuts. You can plan so many different types of excursions and day trips. It’s absolutely mandatory to take a day trip to Maya Bay. A good portion of the movie “The Beach” was filmed there in 2000 but after the tsunami in 2005, you can only go there for day trips. It is the softest sand I’ve ever felt in my entire life. There is a memorial in the jungle for the campers that died. It’s really haunting.

There are plethora of good places to eat and drink. You will discover those on your own. Phi Phi is a small enough island. Everyone has been to Stockholm Syndrome, played beer pong at Dojos, danced at Slinkys, Stoned Bar, Ibiza House, and the Reggae bar (where after enough buckets of Sangsom, you will feel inspired to try Muay Thai boxing or at least watch people with absolutely no fighting skills compete against each other to win another free bucket of Sangsom.) You will absolutely end up on the beach dancing all night at Slinkys; watching the fire dancers, getting painted with glow in the dark paint, making friends, meeting future ex lovers, watching testosterone- hyped men compete to climb up wooden poles and trying to impress the women. You might even have enough buckets that you will even jump through a fire hoop or a fire blazed jump rope. Never say never and don’t underestimate the power of the bucket.

Phi Phi takes hold of you if you let it. We started making friends that had abandoned everything to move there full time. Friends who had to pass out fliers at night to pay for last nights bar tab and tomorrows hostel bed. Mornings in Thailand are my personal favorite. I love having my breakfast Chang and watching everyone crawl out from whatever hole (sometimes quite literally) they crawled into the night before. The decisions of tattoos, the lines coming out of the clinics of people with burns from the fire hoops and broken bones. None of that matters when you are in paradise. Nothing matters there. Everything is always going to be ok. It’s hard to leave. Sometimes I wouldn’t leave until we committed to a date for the next trip. You are going to have life experiences that people at home will never believe and you will make friendships that last a life time… bonded through inexplicable experiences and magic.

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