I awoke just moments before the early morning light woke the birds. Sneaking out of bed, I raised the window coverings and crawled back under the blanket to watch the sun rise. As the multitudes of sea and jungle birds started what, at six a.m., can only be described as obnoxious squawking, David woke too. I stood up, gazed out at the beach and commented on how lovely the ocean looked. Suddenly, David was breezing past me while putting his swim trunks on. “Taking a dip in the pool?” I asked, thinking that he just stepping out the door to our private pool. “Screw the pool!” David yelled, beginning what would be our basic attitude from there on out. Screw the pool. With all that ocean, we were going to take advantage of something that we just don’t have. I struggled to quickly change into a bikini and grab our shockproof/waterproof camera before flying out the door after him. Soon, both of us were swimming, he freestyle while I favored the breaststroke and backstroke stopping occasionally to check out whatever new nick we had obtained from kicking a rock or coral.
There was just something so calming about swimming on my back, my eyes free to look at the lush greenery that surrounded me. From the water you can barely see the Paradise, so perfectly built into nature. Looking out to the sea, limestone islands covered in palm trees and thick with wildflowers. Wild, in Thailand, is a lot more interesting than your average wildflower.
While I floated along, David powered on out to the swimming platform right where the shelf drops off. It was a mile out and I didn’t have the desire to swim that far. I watched as David made it to the platform and took victorious pictures of himself with the islands making for the perfect background. They were going to be some neat photos. He did a dramatic dive into the water and swam back to meet me. We were about ¾ of the way back to the beach when David started furiously patting down his pockets. His tan face went pale. “Where’s the camera?” I asked, already knowing the answer. “It-was-in-my-pocket-and-I-zipped-it-up-before-jumping-off-the-platform,” he answered in a stream of consciousness that could only be described as panicked.
These are the times that try newlyweds, the times when men somehow blame it on the woman or the woman storms off in a quiet rage. We handled it amazingly well, although I did let one or two remarks slip about throwing away $500 or responsibility. As the camera was good up to depths of 10 feet and it had been pretty shallow most of the time, we agreed that we could do nothing more than grab some snorkel gear and do a sweep. We headed off to the recreation hut and were met by an employee who surprised us when we told him that we had lost our waterproof camera. “Olympus?” he asked, knowing his cameras very well…something that you don’t on a remote island. “You were the ones swimming early this morning? You made it out far. You swam long.” He said, smiling and handing us our snorkeling equipment.
We returned to the ocean optimistic…we had swum in a pretty straight line and the ocean was only about 5 feet deep for the majority of that time. With a final spit into our masks and the snap of a flipper, we set off on the Great Camera Snorkel of ’08. With tide coming in, the water was so filled with silt that I couldn’t even see my bright orange flippers if I stood up. There was no way in hell we were going to find the camera, but I continued on for an hour before giving in.
Meeting up with David, he mentioned that it probably came out of his pocket when he dove off the swimming platform. There was a deep shelf right there, reducing the odds of finding the camera. “Nemo’s totally taking photos of all his friends by now,” I said. With that, we returned to our villa to wash up for breakfast. All by 8:00 a.m.
By 8:15, I had let the camera go realizing that I hated the photos it took when it wasn’t under or on water. David agreed and for the next three days we attempted to throw away the camera charger while the housekeeping staff religiously pulled it out as if it had fallen in there. Three days in a row.
With the first morning came addiction to something so terribly delicious that I would die of an early coronary if was readily available to me every day of my life…coconut jam. Trust me, it is every bit as delicious as it sounds and I spent the next eight days paring it with other jams: banana, strawberry, lime, pineapple, apricot. I’m pleased to report that they all compliment coconut
When the tide goes out, it really goes out. The Paradise has a beach shuttle to take you to this beautiful little island that has two bays, a sandbar to another island, and plenty of sun and shade. This gives you a way to spend a day swimming at times when it is impossible at the Paradise. We had signed up for that day’s shuttle but threw in the towel and opted to stay at the Paradise when ten other people showed up for the excursion.
Right before our wedding, I had found this awesome beach bag with a large, lightweight beach blanket inside. I hauled it across the world with me and boy, was it nice. As we lay beachside, I would catch the long gazes from other guests as they struggled to keep off the sand on their beach towel. We spent an entire day doing nothing…reading, listening to our iPods, eating our daily fruit basket and snoozing to the sound of this tropical paradise.
We found ourselves alone, save one other couple positioned way down the beach. The tide was in that day making the beach shuttle unnecessary, yet only four of us opted to stay. It was our own private paradise.
I’ve always attributed my love of oceans and pools to my being a Pisces, a fish. I’ve discovered that David loves to be in the water as much as I do…he’s a Cancer, a crab. We spent so much time in the water every day of our trip that it was ridiculous. When the tide was out, it didn’t matter! There was still plenty to do in the tide pools and I would spend hours tromping around barefoot on the rocky reef. I love ocean creatures so I was always picking up a sea cucumber, starfish, mussel, oyster, conch or sea snail to show David. I would tromp back and forth the distance to him twice in the time that it would take him to reach me as he has very girlie feet. He would use his fancy camera to snap away at whatever I brought him and then I would gently return the creature to its home.
By four, we were exhausted and headed back inside to take a two hour nap. It is amazing how fast your day goes by when you do nothing but lounge around. It is also terribly exhausting. Once we were showered, it was off to the beach bar for some pre-dinner drinks and conversation. One of the most beautiful places to sit at the bar is at either of two high, long tables made out of fallen wood. The bench behind them faces the ocean…it is marvelous just to sit there and watch the setting sun change the sky pink.
As I sat there, leaf matter kept falling off of the tree above and onto my shirt. When some landed on my leg, I smacked it off. As I swatted, my hand registered that whatever I hit had depth to it. I was certain that I had just killed a gecko. Hopping down to the ground, I found this poor little gecko unconscious in the sand. “Oh no!” I exclaimed while repeatedly poking it in the stomach. The manager teased me that the island’s environmental police were going to jump out of the woods and arrest me for killing a gecko. I felt terrible yet continued to poke the gecko. Suddenly, it flipped itself over and scrambled up the tree like nothing had ever happened.
I went back to my fruity drink and broad beans, ordering another drink to get over the shock of almost killing the poor little guy. You see, we love geckos. Everywhere tropical that we have ever traveled has had a house gecko in our room. While other guests may freak out, we welcome them for their mosquito-eating prowess and cute squeaking noises.
The rest of the night was a blur of tequila shots with those fun loving Turks, Gokce and Gokce. I’m surprised that I made it back to the room. This was not going to be a good start to our island hopping excursion the next day.
 Obnoxious Squaking: No, I am not one of those people that write on TripAdvisor that they didn’t like a hotel because there were too many bugs in the jungle or that the frogs were too loud after the rains. I love the birds, the birds are very pretty…just not at five a.m.
 Broad bean: a wide bean native to Southwest Asia and served fried and salted. It’s so delicious. I hate peanuts. Why can’t America use broad beans instead?