Monday, June 4, 2012

Ozge's Big 30th Birthday Trip!

-from April 13th to April 21st, 2012-

How it really started?

In fact around 3 years ago, when we were walking in the streets of Milano with Ozge'cim, we saw some street posters by Emirates Airlines showing pictures from all around the world and we decided simply then.. We decided that we were going to travel the world (or at least a part of it) when we are together by the time we were 30.  
Ozge and I decided to take this trip together in Milano in 2009 September.

I was too impatient though and she changed her job last year so it would be tricky to go together this year. But she came to visit me, together with Deniz, her friend (also mine) living in Zurich and Gozde, her sister (also mine) living in Istanbul. We decided to go to the 3 islands of Gulf of Thailand after a day in Bangkok indulged in shopping.

Of course, as expected from me, I was about to miss my flight to Koh Samui as I was confused with the 2 different trains going to the Bangkok airport, I took the cheaper and the slower one by mistake and I was the last one checking in after making a long run to the gate. Thanks God, Ozge and Gozde were ready to save the situation for me, but nevertheless I could still catch it and we could meet up with Deniz at the gate. 

So here we come “Koh*”s of Thailand
(*Koh means Island in Thai) 
We started our trip in Koh Samui the biggest and most accessible one. However we had a nightmare on our first night. Based on my suggestion seeking cheap accommodation, we booked that room in a hotel which I don’t remember the name of, and I don’t even want to remember. We had 2 rooms and both were literally full of cockroaches. We killed 5 of them in less than an hour, and also the giant cockroach at the restaurant walking on my leg and almost Deniz’s shoulder didn’t help us to have a good impression on this place.

 Happy and Relieved to get out of Samui! 

Another thing that left me a bad taste about this island was the taxi drivers. Getting used to the cheap and honest taxi drivers of Bangkok which are mostly working by meter, the taxis in the Thai islands were much more expensive. We booked one taxi to bring us to the pier next morning to head to Koh Phangan, however the taxi driver didn’t show up at all. We had to take another one just on the road, however this guy was paid twice 600 bahts (around 15 Euros) by both me and Gozde due to a miscommunication between us and he never said anything. With these bad experiences we were already looking forward to leave Koh Samui immediately.. 

Koh Phangan was way different.

Here we are Koh Phangan

We stayed at a very nice hotel by a "secret" beach, and we could finally get some rest, good food and some nice treatment that we deserved. Although there was a bit of crisis in the first night, as I didn’t want to pay much to the taxis and girls willing to party, the second night we went to a boat party after being convinced by an American fresh meat, Ted.  :)
 Ted singing by the sunset trying to convince us to join the boat party in the evening 

The party was wild, crowded and sweaty and you could easily meet up with people from all around the world and we ended up meeting with one of the most interesting Thai people I have seen so far.  I can not recall his name, but he was a local artist with some experiences abroad, he even had a Swedish girlfriend ;) This was the most memorable night of our 2 day short trip in Koh Phangan. 

Koh Tao was the best though!

After 2 days in Koh Phangan, the smallest of the 3 islands, Koh Tao, was our next destination. There we were staying at a very nice hotel and -I guess that was his title- our guest relations manager, Ben, originally from Manchester, was really helpful from the very beginning and I think we had such a good time thanks to him. Often enough, I had some difficulties to get along with local hotel staff so it was good to have someone who could really help especially in such an occasion when we were celebrating Ozge’s 30th birthday.

Our Diving Adventure 

Deniz and I were really eager to complete PADI Open Water certificate in Koh Tao. Since I was interested in diving for the very first time, I heard that Koh Tao was one of the best places to get Open Water certificates as it was cheap, it was full of good instructors and there was a lot to see in Koh Tao waters.

Right after we reached our hotel, we decided to head to Sunshine Divers with the suggestion of Ben. It was going to be a 3.5 day course mixed with theory and practice. Our first impression on our German Instructor, Manuel was not super positive in the beginning. Because according to him, every single thing was very simple and we would manage it very easily. Instead of being relieved, these words sounded a bit too unserious for us.  

Now we are official PADI Open Water Divers!

But after 3.5 days, we were SUPER happy with our course and our instructor. I had no experience in diving before so I was super nervous when we were in the pool with the scuba tanks for the first time. I thought I could never make it but it went pretty smooth. In the sea, it was even much better because I didn’t claustrophobic at all.

The only time I felt closest to death was..
... when we had to take off the masks. It was a part of the exercise and we should be able to take out the mask and put it back without any problems. However once I took the mask off, I got panicked and I stopped breathing again. My eyes open in the water, I could barely see the instructor and his hand signs showing “everything is going to be alright”. In these 30 seconds or less, I could hear my own heartbeat and I felt I was so close to death. But thanks to Manuel’s insist, I didn’t (or simply couldn’t) give up and everything went pretty smooth afterwards.

I loved the waters of Koh Tao. I wish we had an underwater camera and I wish I could take pictures however I will never forget all these colourful clownfish, angelfish,stingray and many other "creatures" I would not probably see again.

So let's start the party! 

After tiring but fun 3 days, we were ready to party for Ozge’s 30th birthday. The night started at a Mexican restaurant with good food but disappointing margaritas. Afterwards we moved to Lotus Bar full of teenagers, free cocktails and a fire show. After our free cocktails, we decided to go Fireflies which we heard from our party fella in Koh Phangan, Ted.

 Party starts in Lotus first and goes on in FireFlies! 

The place was really cool. Big cushions and small tables spread all over the beach with strong drinks, fireshow in the beginning, cool dance music afterwards we were ready to go wild for our Ozge’s 30th birthday. Deniz and Gozde, getting tired earlier, Ozge and I  decided to stay a bit more and we made good friends with an English dude, Nick C.who claimed to be the cameraman in BBC’s Planet Earth, which is still a mystery for us. We could never find it out. 

Dancing in the sea & Nick, the mysterious man!

After the birthday celebrations we walked back to the hotel for minimum 30 minutes singing loudly 90s Turkish songs and being chased by local dogs.. It was a remarkable end for an unforgettable birthday celebration.

As Deniz already departed for Siem Reap, our last day in Bangkok was full of sightseeing for Gozde & Ozge and waiting for Pinar for me. And in the afternoon, there she was..  After a hectic week of important meetings, she could arrange her trip only in the last minute and got her ticket to Bangkok at Istanbul airport. She couldn’t make it to Ozge’s birthday but at least we could meet up in Bangkok even for a short dinner.

Saying bye to Ozge & Gozde, we were now ready to head our way to Cambodia with Pinarcan. 

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