One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.
I’m a woman who prefers the sweet confines of comfort. Make no mistake, I like to push myself, but I do think there’s a big difference between that and, say, trekking through the jungle barefoot, for example. It was my trip to Khao Lak, Thailand, that took me well outside those confines, and to my shock, I rather enjoyed the escape from my norm on vacation.
Although I pushed my limits, I miraculously left this piece of paradise relaxed and rejuvenated. When I was resting my head – be that by the warm, blue Andaman Sea or in a deluxe room overlooking the two-mile pool that wraps around the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa – I was in a state of vacation bliss at a lush, tropical oasis. The resort was picturesque, accented with restaurants of all cuisines, a biweekly elephant visit and hundreds of lounge chairs framing the largest pool in Southeast Asia. As if that wasn’t enough, it opens up to sandy beaches also dotted with a plethora of chairs. Basically, the resort gave us everything we needed to never leave, including the impeccable service you hope for from every destination (but unfortunately don’t always get). My time there was filled with breakfast spreads fit for royalty, good books at the beach, cold beers at the swim-up pool bar, sunset yoga on the beach, happy-hour cosmopolitans, Thai massages and dinner at one of the nine restaurants.
When I wasn’t busy savoring my leisurely vacation days, I was out pushing my limits. One day, I went on an all-day trip to four of the stunning Similan Islands. Picturesque doesn’t begin to describe it; I could make a living in the postcard business just from this one excursion. The water dazzled like aquamarine gemstones, in which we were able to dive into some of the best snorkeling waters in the world. To get to some of the scenic parts of the islands, including the iconic Sail Rock hundreds of feet to its peak, we ventured barefoot through the rustic, muddy trails and rocks of the jungle -- a far cry from the comfort of even the highest of my high heels. Despite the pain, cuts and scrapes, each trek was worth it in the end just for even a peek at Princess Beach and panoramic views from Sail Rock.
Another day, I let someone else to do the walking for me: a 40-year-old elephant. On this trekking and bathing excursion, I roamed the jungle on the back of this majestic yet highly intimidating creature, then was able to return the favor by scrubbing him down for an afternoon bath. I’ve never been this close to an elephant, much less was granted the opportunity to take a ride and pet him like a family puppy. Little did I know they’re covered in tiny, coarse hairs and love to eat bananas, but I can say feeding him was one of the highlights of my life.
All this adventure may have pushed me far outside my comfort zone, but learning the hard lines of that zone was truly liberating. After all, I did come into contact with more creepy crawly jungle creatures than even my worst nightmare could conjure, including thousands of salamanders, cockroaches as big as my pinkie and water snakes that slither up from the coral reefs. But, the thought of those crawlies was squashed with the ability to make friends with an elephant, swim with more species of fish than I’ve ever seen and watch the sun set from some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve encountered. So, maybe on my next trip, I’ll remember those confines aren’t as sweet as I once thought.
Travelzoo Tip: Looking to push your limits? Check out our Sports & Adventure vacations section for deals.