I must admit that in my job it is easy to develop a little chip on your shoulder. The number of times people make googly eyes when I tell them what I do and that yes, in fact, I am currently working from Thailand, is staggering. Nobody cares that I am not only working double right now because I am doing my dive master training while still doing my regular job nor that my credit card is crying each time I use it. Or that it is, in fact, raining right now and I am stuck with a salad that is probably going to give me a heart attack (bacon, crumbed chicken, Caesar’s dressing, croutons deep fried, and five sad leaves of Cos salad).
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind any of it and secretly I love the fact that the chicken in my salad was crumbed, but I am not on a constant holiday. So when someone makes comments a la ‘Oh, I’m happy I reached you, I never know where you are on holiday at the moment’, I have a hard time holding back a snarky comment.
The fact is, I don’t remember when I was last on a proper holiday. While I love love and my job and the fact that I can work from anywhere in the world, dive in the morning, sit on a beanbag with an ocean view and write (I think enough travel bloggers have debunked the myth that we actually get any work done while sitting on the beach), I am not on holiday 365 days of the year.
Zeavola – An Eco Resort in Thailand
So when I got invited to check out Zeavola Resort on Koh Phi Phi before starting my divemaster training I thought it was high time for a holiday and I decided to treat my weekend there as such.
Mind you, I was also a tiny bit hesitant. That chip on my is also kicking in when it comes to destinations. If you know me and my style of traveling a bit you will know that a place like Koh Phi Phi would usually not be very high on my agenda. I had been there once, saw nothing that resembled The Beach or anybody who resembled a young Leo at least in spirit and vowed to never come back. In fact, even now I stand firmly behind the title of this post.
There is only 1 reason to love Koh Phi Phi.
And that reason is Zeavola (but you saw that coming, didn’t you?). As soon as I am being told that I need to take off my shoes on board of the speedboat from Phuket, I have high hopes. Those only increase when we arrive after an hour and there is no sign of tacky beach umbrellas, dancing monkeys or alcohol being offered in buckets. The only thing that is a bit odd is a tractor driving up and down the beach, playing taxi for some people from the nearby resort. A sad fact of island life Zeavola needs to live with as all beaches in Thailand are public.
Mind you the ocean makes up for it. I cannot remember ever seeing water so crystal clear in this perfect shade of mint-turquois and I almost make a beeline while I am being walked up to reception.
I have dressed up for the occasion and naturally, my look lasts 5 minutes before I spill coffee on my pants which confirms once again – I shouldn’t have nice things! Luckily at Zeavola nobody minds, it is the quintessence of barefoot luxury and that requires little more clothing than a bikini and a caftan, with or without stain.
That is not the only reason why I immediately like it here. My wooden villa sports a large outdoor lounge and a racket to electrocute mosquitos. I spend some time swinging it like a light saber feeling quite daring; the mosquitos are something else here and the empire needs to strike back (or something, I have watched all but one Star Wars movie and regularly mix up the title with Star Trek).
My bedroom is wonderfully cool and smells of alang alang my favorite tropical smell ever (has anybody bottled it yet??) and then there is the pièce de résistance: the outdoor shower. I have mentioned before that I am a complete sucker for outdoor showers so the newly renovated inside bathroom is of little interest to me. I want to be surrounded by greenery, insects, and monkeys and if a branch falls on my head – so be it.
I will admit that I have a hard time relaxing even when I arrive in a paradise like this. I want to do everything and try anything and usually get hit with an acute case of FOMO. Zeavola is no different but as I have diving booked for the next day, dinner still a while away, I decide that the one thing I really want to do is lounge in the warm water for a while and do absolutely nothing.
And that is exactly what I do and to my utter surprise, the FOMO doesn’t make an appearance. I happily play in the water, start happy hour way too early, and read my book. I am glad to realize that I have no problem switching from work mode to vacation mode in a matter of a few hours.
After a blissful night that makes me grateful, I don’t have to sleep in a bamboo hut on a mat anymore (don’t ask!), I am off to go diving. And just as well that I have a final dip here before my divemaster training starts because I decent with difficulties, then cannot equalize, and end up holding on to a barnacle-clad rope like a scared open water diver. Luckily my divemaster Tan has the patience of a saint, distracts me by showing me interesting fish, and just lets me be until it clicks. Or rather plops – all of a sudden my ears are free and we go down.
Even diving is fancy with a side of bare feet with Zeavola. We break for lunch on a deserted beach in the middle of the Andaman Sea and when I return the crew immediately grabs my gear to take it for a wash. I concur reluctantly, I don’t like other people to touch my equipment – what if they don’t give it the TLC it needs?! But then I realize that this is probably the last time in a long time that anyone offers to wash equipment for me and so my laziness wins over my love for my Scubapro gear.
Instead, I meet with Lion, the hotel manager who shows me some other parts of Zeavola that make it so special. While many resorts in this day and age claim to be green or somehow add the word ‘eco’ for a nicer ring, sustainability is key here and goes way beyond keeping the beach clean. A true eco-resort in Thailand.
Water comes from local wells and is filtered and reused. In addition to it being used for toilets and watering, Zeavola is currently working on a system that will allow for drinking water. No more evil plastic water bottles – hurrah! They are also building a natural pool and save energy wherever possible.
They also have a coral awareness program for guests and the local community as well as a coral nursery. Breeding of approximately 18 different bird species is supported on the premises and of course, the chickens roam freely. It truly seems to be one of the few eco-resorts in Thailand that manages to offer luxury and sustainability rolled all in one. I am delighted by how easy they make it for their guests to feel good while feeling good.
At night I dine with Lion at the beach restaurant, feet in the sand and cold white wine is followed by some more. I wake up with a slight hangover that even a good night’s sleep cannot cure. However, another swim followed by a big breakfast does the trick.
While the Indian breakfast doesn’t come close to Kerala food, I love the way it is served and that it helps settle my stomach before taking the boat back to Phuket.
Of course, I have an “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go” moment when the time comes. But people are waiting on the boat and while the staff is friendly, they seem unphased by my reluctance. They probably see it all the time.
I have no choice but take my sandy feet, put on my big girl pants (the ones with the coffee stain) and leave. The holiday is truly over but still, I am happy – I gave it a second chance and managed to find the 1 reason to love Koh Phi Phi.
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