A foodie’s paradise: ripe, pink dragon fruits and peppers that could slip past your eyes but won’t escape your tongue. Bananas break stereotypes, either palm-size or thick as a forearm. Fruits you’ve never heard of, flavours you might not taste again. If you can’t choose what to go for, rice is always an option – breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Mazes of motorbikes and cars too large for the island’s streets. The roads make music, all drive to the rhythm of beeps and tourist squeals. Traffic is a constant; a journey of just three kilometres can last an hour. Not recommended for those who get carsick.
For morning people. 6am alarms and 7am starts, sips of iced coffee with sleepy eyes and slow thoughts, all to beat the afternoon tide that recedes to leave the shores bare.
A world of contrasts. On your left, a five-star hotel, guests sipping orange-infused gin tonics on their sea-view balconies. On your right, a mismatched mound of bricks someone is proud to call home. Glimpses of golden temples between wooden ruins. A place where one’s mindless spending can feed another’s chubby-cheeked new-born.
Learning to nap in any position and waking up to embarrassing photos of yourself, wide mouth and eyes half open.
The ‘good morning’ of locals with palms pressed together and white flowers tucked behind their ears. Their mouths are moulded into smiles, even if they lack a full set of teeth.
Skin sticky with sun cream, mosquito repellent, and a permanent layer of sweat.
Monkeys treated like citizens. They have pedestrian priorities; make way for the families crossing the street. If you dare to feed them, you can marvel as they peel bananas with human hands and chew on the fruit with teeth, although a little less white, otherwise identical to yours and mine. Direct eye contact is considered a sign of aggression. Avoid it.
Footprints left by Brits, Australians, Chinese, Argentinians. A multi-cultural hub, something for everyone.
Fast-paced card games with rules that distract from the mosquitoes and competitive cries deafen their hum.
Pocketing your phone and looking up, down and around. Your camera roll has seen enough sunsets. Let your eyes be the lens - focus and capture. Not every moment needs to become an immediate memory.
Getting lost in temples, listening to the stories of barefoot Hindu men, those that wear sarongs and have spiritual traditions engraved into their bones.
Midnight conversations that turn friends into family.
Market stalls that mirror each other; every street a mosaic of elephant prints and wooden carvings. Each vendor fights for the optimal bargain – a compromise between you and them.
Google Images in reality. Beaches where the sand glistens and the water is turquoise no matter the colour of the sky. Other shores have waves double, triple your size, ready to wrestle in a fight they’ll always win. The ocean is dotted with speedboats and jet skis, surfboards and parasails, activities on every end of the adrenalin spectrum.
Palm trees that act as skyscrapers, trunks so skinny it’s a wonder they survive monsoon season.
Every spare minute spent being grateful for whatever it is that got you there.
Open-air yoga classes taught by a local whose limbs bend in what seem like impossible directions. As you inhale and exhale the million shades of green, let your body adopt the flow of the nearby waterfall to become that little bit more flexible.
Care, tradition, respect, positivity. Where being kind matters far more than being right. An island we could, and should, all learn a lesson from.