You might be wondering, who is Zoe and why are we looking for her?
My name is Zoe and I am currently traveling throughout southeast Asia with my uncle for three weeks. I recently got back from Israel on a Birthright trip which was amazing and unforgettable. Don’t worry, I’ll post about it later.
Right now I am a little more than a week into my trip. I have explored the Philippines and Bangkok, Thailand. I have been keeping a journal but while I was writing a couple of days ago I realized I wanted to share my experiences with the world. Thus the birth of “Where’s Zoe?”
Throughout my travels I have surfed, snorkeled, hiked, floated, drove, cooked, ate my body weight in local cuisine (and then some), and most of all just explored. My week in the Philippines brought me to the very top of the mountains, the depths of the sea, and everywhere in between.
The “in between” has been pretty exciting. Driving up the steep, dirt roads of the mountains would cause most humans to hold on for dear life, as I did. After a thirty minute drive up we finally made it to the top, or as far up as we could possibly go. After walking around and taking in our surroundings (both mentally and digitally) it was time for the descent. As scary as going up was, going down was double that. As much as I was praying that this wouldn’t be the time for a landslide, a huge boulder to break loose, or any rain, my mind quickly drifted from all of that anxiety when looking outside. The landscape from that high up is magnificent to say the least. Being so high up that you are literally in a cloud is something I had never ever thought was possible, being born and raised in the flat terrain of Florida. The way that you can see everything at once is something that everyone should get to experience in their life. It makes you feel small while also making you feel on top of the world. The thought that you are watching as thousands of people go about their daily lives below you is extremely calming and surreal.
From the mountains I bring you to the sea for a story that we can hopefully laugh about. My first day in the Philippines my uncle and I set out at 5 in the morning for some paddleboarding. What I would soon find out is that paddleboarding in the Philippines with actual waves is very different from paddleboarding in Florida on the extremely flat Intracoastal Waterway. I zipped my phone into a Ziplock baggie and placed it in the waste-band of my swim shorts, thinking I would be fine to take it out while on the water and take some pictures. Ten minutes into paddling around the shallow part of the water, I could feel myself drifting a little farther out than I anticipated. The water began to get choppy and before I could think twice a huge wave washed over my head holding me down in the water. After I popped my head up from the salty death trap, I put my hand to where my phone was and to my (not-so) surprise, there was nothing there.
My uncle saw me struggling and asked if everything was all right. To that I screamed, “I lost my phone but I’m good!” I quickly thought to myself that it is just a phone and to not panic because it will all be fine. I was talking myself off the ledge. I had accepted my phone’s fate. My uncle, on the other hand, did not. Around us there were some fishermen on little boats with masks on their faces. He told them what happened and where it happened and then asked if they would try to find it for us.
He was very confident that they would be able to find it. Me? Not so much. I had already accepted the fact that I had lost my phone and would be without it for the next three weeks. This was a pretty crappy situation but it was not the end of the world. I paddled back to shore and walked along the beach to see if anything had washed up. After about 15 minutes I heard some yelling coming from the now group of fishermen. One of the men was waving around a Zip-lock bag just like the one that housed my phone. They found it! Now we just need to hope that the bag didn’t open.
We got the bag from the man, gave him a reward, and looked down. It was filled with water. My phone was soaked. We raced home and put the phone in rice for a day to absorb the water that had seeped into the deep crevices inside.
Fast forward to the next day and we take my phone out of the mason jar for the moment of truth. Will it turn on?
I had hoped for the best but the best did not occur. We popped out the Sim card and decided to venture to the closest phone store within the next few days and get me a phone that I could put my sim card in just to be safe. I wouldn’t want to get lost in a foreign country with no way to contact anyone. I don’t think my parents would want that either. When I told them of my little adventure, they were pretty frustrated with my stupidity. But, they wanted me safe and reachable as most parents would.
Anyways, crisis happened, crisis averted. All is well in the World of Zoe.
The next day one of my uncle’s neighbors took us on his boat to a little island called Badoc. We snorkeled and I saw some of the prettiest coral reefs I have ever seen. An array of blues, pinks, and yellows popped in random patterns and designs. Although the coral was beautiful, the fish were lacking in numbers. In the Philippines the fishermen will catch any fish they can find, big or small. This causes the reefs to be somewhat deserted, or at least where I was.
After snorkeling for about an hour we decided to take the trek up the hill on the island. There wasn’t much of a path so I felt very Indiana Jones-y pushing my way through vegetation almost taller than I am (note that I am only 5 feet tall so they weren’t huge but it was huge to me). Though I got pricked and scratched on the way, the view from the top of that hill made every scratch worth it. Looking down, I could see straight through the crystal blue water. To the right, I could see the vast mountain range on the other side of the water. To the left, I could see the beautiful horizon where the deep blue water meets the baby blue sky.
This morning, we arrived in Bangkok and are enjoying the change of scenery before we head off to the city of Chiang Rai tonight. Though I am not a big city girl, I find myself enjoying all that Bangkok has to offer. There is something about watching people walk around a bustling city, all with a purpose and place to be that makes me feel at ease. The moment I feel at ease and calm, the first of the many smells of city life hits me and that feeling quickly fades away and is replaced by one much less pleasant that I won’t get into.
I am loving my time in Southeast Asia so far and I can’t wait for what is to come. Stay tuned so you can continue this journey along with me! And if we go paddle boarding again, I promise to leave my phone safely on the beach.