The thought of turning 25 was a scary one. While it may seem so young to so many, it seemed like such a dauntingly high number to a wide-eyed 24 year old. Part of me feels like I was just in Seattle preparing to graduate college. Part of me feels like I’d be in a much different place as a 25 year old. But when I turned 25 on January 31st, all my worries faded as I woke up and realized I was in the perfect place. Physically and mentally, I was exactly where I should be.
If you’d asked me last year what I thought I’d be doing on my 25th birthday, I would have never been able to predict such an amazing day. Sun was shining into our hot beach bungalow as we awoke late on the Thai Island of Koh Phangan. After lathering on what would turn out to be not enough sunscreen, Daniel, Jason, Phil and I headed to a beachfront restaurant on Haad Yao beach for some lunch. After a bowl of Tom Yum soup, we decided to rent 4 motorbikes and explore the island.
The seductive beauty of Koh Phangan is visible the minute you step off the ferry onto the sand. But driving a motorbike into the center of the island with the wind whipping through your hair unveils a different type of allure. The winding inter-island roads showcased lush and abundant landscape, green from recent rainfall. We drove for a while before turning down a road that lead us to a beach on the northern most point of the island. We parked our bikes, kicked off our sandals and ran over a small bridge towards the picture-perfect turquoise waters. This particular beach had a sandbar that connected it to a small, neighboring island. We spent the next hour wading in the water across the sandbar, exploring the deserted little island and laughing a ton.
Back on the bikes and ready for more exploring, we stumbled upon a sign that said Paradise Waterfall with an arrow. After turning off and parking, we walked up a steep hill and discovered a sparkling pool of water just below the furiously flowing waterfall, complete with 2 rope swings and a handful of children laughing and screaming as they swung from the trees into the water. We had to join them.
A while later, hungry from swimming and swinging, we made a stop at a small restaurant with a big Thai woman inviting us inside. The restaurant was Panee’s Corner, a delightful little stop on the way back south that everyone visiting should make. Fat and sassy, Panee told us to order the Panang and a while later, her and her daughter served us 4 dishes of the most delicious Panang Curry I’ve ever had.
Motorbiking through forests, colorful beaches, waterfalls, delicious curry, good friends…the day was perfect. But, it wasn’t over yet. After a few drinks, we found ourselves in a cab being driven to the Half-Moon Party that happened to be taking place that night at a venue in the jungle. As soon as we arrived, vendors with cans of day-glow sat painting the arms, legs and faces of party-goers. With black lights lining the jungle, we all knew that we needed to participate. I ended up with a neon yellow, orange and blue dragon on my right arm.
Walking further into the party, the sounds of DJ’s spinning blasted the air, fire-dancers caught our sight and the smell of buckets full of coke+whisky lingered. We headed towards the center of the party and joined the crowd of brightly-dressed people, ready to dance and ready to celebrate.
Turns out, turning 25 was one of the best adventures I’ve ever had.