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So last week I confessed that yes — at twenty-five, I’m still totally obsessed with my birthday. In my defense, I’m equally obsessed with the birthdays of those around me on a scrapbook-making, banner-hanging, cake-baking, level, so I actually feel totally okay about it.

But anyway — I came back to Koh Tao to ring in a quarter century surrounded by some of my favorite people. I had a very specific vision: spending the day surrounded by friends and a body of water — pool or ocean would do, but a bathtub would probably be a bit tight — and spending the night at one of my favorite Koh Tao restaurants.

Sweet and simple. But my amazing friends had something even more epic in mind.

Koh Tao Birthday

Banyan Bar Koh Tao

On the eve of my birthday I was, as usual, hanging in Banyan Bar. I was saying my goodbyes around midnight when suddenly the lights dimmed, flaming shots appeared (shown being elegantly consumed, above left), I was gifted several high-demand out-of-print Banyan t-shirts, and a special rendition of the birthday song was melodically butchered. I Skyped my mama — she was at the library and thrilled, I’m sure, to receive a midnight call from a rowdy bar crowd — but then called it a night to conserve my energy for the following day’s festivities. What I didn’t count on was that the party would come home with me — not long after I crawled into bed I heard a knock on my door and opened it to find four friends holding under one arm and several bottles of booze under the other. We took turns out-offending each other on the porch until I finally kicked everyone out as it neared sunrise.

Not many hours later I heard a knock at the door again — it  was Heather again, bright eyed and bearing gifts of my all time favorite breakfast burrito from Zanzibar. She told me to eat quick — I had a massage to get to!

Majestic Spa Koh Tao

Magestic Spa Koh Tao

I was blown away — how sweet of my fellow spa addict to arrange an early morning treatment for me! But that was just the beginning — when I walked out of my massage feeling all kinds of blissed out, Heather, Janine and Katy were waiting, champagne in hand, to meet me for another hour of foot massages, girly gossip, and birthday toasts. I wasn’t even twelve hours into twenty-five yet, and my girls were already making me weepy.

Next stop? Back to the Aminjirah pool, where I donned a third-hand bikini top Katy had gifted me, wrapped elegantly in a roll of toilet paper. Wracked with laughter, we explained to a very confused Heather that another friend had given the bikini to Katy as a hand-me-down a few months ago, and I was consumed with jealousy and basically begged her for it. She wouldn’t relent — until now, that is.

Aminjirah Pool Koh Tao

Aminjirah Pool Koh Tao

Aminjirah Private Pool Koh Tao

Aminjirah Private Pool Koh Tao

Aminjirah Pool Koh Tao

Aminjirah Pool Koh Tao

It was the perfect low-key afternoon, with friends dropping by left and right to soak up the sun and the views. It had been rainy and overcast all week — November is traditionally monsoon month in Koh Tao — but this day was perfect.

Aminjirah Pool Koh Tao

Aminjirah Pool Koh Tao

Around sunset we broke off to make ourselves presentable, and reconvened for the evening down in Mae Haad at The Whitening, my favorite restaurant on the island. It was like any big group meal on Koh Tao — hectic, loud, indulgent, and delicious.

The Whitening Koh Tao

Koh Tao Birthday

Koh Tao Birthday

As we were getting ready to go, I heard a commotion and turned around to find a big, red, sparkler-topped cake heading towards me. I’d never seen a red velvet cake on Koh Tao before, and asked thought big bites  where it came from — turned out my dear friend Scottie had remembered me mentioning it as one of my favorites months before, and commissioned a local bakery to make it, even bringing in special ingredients from Koh Samui!

I was truly overwhelmed (the man also gave me a gift card to one of my favorite boutiques on the island — ladies, let me know if you need to be set up on a blind date with the most thoughtful human on the planet). I remember thinking one thing while I blew that candle out — I was completely spoiled. Spoiled with love.

Birthday Koh Tao

Koh Tao Birthday

Koh Tao Birthday

Koh Tao Birthday

The day had turned out to be an amazing vortex of awesome that would not end. Coincidentally, my birthday this year fell on Loy Krathong, another special Thai holiday associated with Yi Peng. Mae Haad was taken over by jubilant festivities, and the beach was filled with revelers releasing lanterns into the sky and floating offerings into the sea.

Though the local festival was a little overwhelming, we made our way to a quiet corner of the shore to let off our own floats and lanterns with good wishes for the year ahead.

Loy Krathong Koh Tao

Loy Krathong Koh Tao

Loy Krathong Koh Tao

Loy Krathong Koh Tao

Loy Krathong Koh Tao

Silliness aside, it was a really special moment, and I felt as filled up with love as those lanterns bobbing towards the sky.

Loy Krathong Koh Tao

Loy Krathong Koh Tao

From there, we made our way back to Sairee — and that’s where things really got wild. From clothes-switch surprises to laughing gas balloon bonanzas to dance floor shenanigans, we shut the beach bars right down. And then, in a routine that was quickly coming familiar, we continued back to my porch for even more laughter filled toasts, deep life talks, and Cards Against Humanity showdowns.

Birthday Koh TaoDon’t you love next day iPhone discoveries?

Koh Tao Nightlife

Koh Tao Nightlife

Between my pre-birthday beach getaway, the most perfect November 6th a girl could ask for, and the belated surprise party that I didn’t even know was awaiting me yet in New York, I’ve never welcomed in a new year feeling as lucky and as loved as I did twenty five. I can’t thank my nearest and dearest enough for making it happen — y’all rock my world!

How does one girl get so lucky? I don’t have much stability, or much financial security, or many material things. But man, I’ve got good people in spades. And as I wrote in a post published right around this very birthday of mine, when I look around at the people riding shotgun through life with me — I mean that metaphorically, you know, because otherwise it would be a pretty darn crowded car — I feel like I must be doing something right in this world to deserve them.

Here’s to an entire year as epic as the day that kicked it off.

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83 Comments...
  • Valeria
    February 19 2015

    Happy birthday Meihoukai! You look lovely in the pictures 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Thank you so much Valeria! That’s very sweet 🙂

  • Janice Stringer
    February 19 2015

    Hi Meihoukai,
    Happy Belated Birthday!!!!
    Sometimes the best gift we can be given, is the recognition of having people around us who love and care for us in many different ways.
    I am sooooo jealous. Would love to have experienced Loy Krathong. Koh Tao has so much more to offer than I have seen. I always think its an island you need to spend time on long term to experience it through different eyes. Like you and my daughter have. 🙂
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      It’s never too late 🙂 Maybe you and your daughter need a return trip!

    • Janice Stringer
      February 25 2015

      As Koh Tao is my Bali Hai and I love spending time with my daughter, I’m sure We will at some point!
      Janice Stringer recently posted..

  • Happy (belated) Birthday! It sounds like you had a fantastic celebration. (And, the Aminjirah pool look amazing)!
    Karisa @ Flirting with the Globe recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Thanks Karisa! It was an amazing day, loved reliving it here.

  • Sonja @ Breadcrumbs Guide
    February 19 2015

    What a day! It’s great you have such a stellar group of friends at your home away from home. Lucky girl! Hope next year is just as great!
    Sonja @ Breadcrumbs Guide recently posted..

  • Miquel
    February 19 2015

    What a beautiful and blissful way to bring in a quarter of a century! Cheers to the next 25!
    Miquel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Thanks Miquel! It was a big day celebrated in a big way.

  • Leah
    February 19 2015

    JEEEEEZ spoiled is right! Sounds like a pretty fab birthday for a pretty fab lady. I love the hand-me-down swimsuit top and the fact that they went to all that trouble to get you red velvet cake. That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard! x
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      It really was. I’m going to have a lot to live up to for all their big days!

  • Didem
    February 19 2015

    I am 25 too, and no idea how I celebrated my last birthday. But I just managed to escape the rat race and was thinking how I would celebrate my next one. This is a great inspiration 🙂 Thanks and happy birthday!

    Didem from readwritetravel.net

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Sounds like you celebrated in the best way possible — making big plans! Congrats, Didem!

  • Silvia
    February 19 2015

    Bahh you have such amazing friends! Though you obviously already know that. Love all the love and joy oozing from this post – I don’t actually know any of you guys and I can’t help but smile over the photos!
    Silvia recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Aw, love to hear that Silvia. Thank you! I enjoy sharing these more intimate peeks into my life.

  • becky hutner
    February 19 2015

    i’m jealous! no one loves me this much. sob…..
    becky hutner recently posted..

  • Maddy
    February 19 2015

    Aw Meihoukai this looks so wonderful! I’m so happy your people spoiled you so well on a “big” birthday. Also I’m just happy you have those people in general! No wonder you were getting a bit teary! 🙂

    Happy belated birthday!
    Maddy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Maybe this post sheds some light on my Thailand addiction 🙂 It’s all about the people! (Okay, and the food, and the beaches, and the… etc.)

  • Frances
    February 19 2015

    What a great group of friends you have! Looks like it was a lot of fun. Best wishes for the year ahead of you and many more to ya!
    Frances recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Thanks Frances! That means a lot, thank you!

  • Marni
    February 19 2015

    Your day sounds phenomenal… a perfect way to say hello to Fabulous 25 (I’m there myself… until May, anyway). You really do seem to have a good group of people, and it’s always nice to hear stories of what people will do for one another 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Indeed it is. This group inspires me to be a better friend all the time.

  • Rahman @ Iran Travel Blog
    February 19 2015

    Happy Birthday!

    Friends could make a huge difference in one’s life. You seem to have loved this day of your life so much as the company of friends made it so unforgettable for you. I’m happy you’ve had such a wonderful day.

    BTW, those swimming pool are so great. I don’t think I could get out of them once dived in.
    Rahman @ Iran Travel Blog recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Thank you for the kind words, Rahman. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect 24 hours.

  • Kacy
    February 19 2015

    Happy belated birthday! What a wonderful series of celebrations. I can certainly see why you like birthdays so much 🙂 And that bikini top is fabulous!
    Kacy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Hand me downs are the best — and good thing I think so, as they make up a large percentage of my wardrobe!

  • I got my life reading this Meihoukai, I’m glad you had such a kick ass birthday! Although even kick ass isn’t enough a word to describe this. Your friends are so awesome. This makes me want to pick up my friends from back home and plop them down on Koh Tao. & that bikini top is way cute – you definitely won for hustling it away lol

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Ha, I love that so many little comments I made this year — about my favorite cake, a coveted bikini and a beach dream — all translated to the best day ever! I am so lucky.

  • Chris
    February 19 2015

    I’ll say it again, but with a bit more emphasis suited to this post… Very HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    What a great bunch of friends.

    25 hey, still such a young thing! 😉
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      I definitely feel that way most days 🙂 And good thing as I’m not quite ready to grow up!

  • A very happy belated birthday, Meihoukai!! Definitely one to remember, your friends know how to spoil a girl. I loved reading this post, it’s sheer happiness 🙂
    Grace | The Beauty of Everywhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Thanks Grace! So happy to hear it was enjoyed despite not being your typical travel post 🙂

  • Emily
    February 19 2015

    Sounds like an incredible birthday! I’m sure the pictures don’t do it all justice. Hoping 25 is continuing to be a great year for you 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      So far so fabulous, Emily 🙂 Thank you!

  • Sarah
    February 19 2015

    This sounds AMAZING. And oh my god that swimming pool!
    Sarah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      I definitely still daydream about it, many days 🙂

  • Jessica
    February 19 2015

    Happy birthday and wish u all the best! 🙂 The pics at the pool are great, did you use any special equipment to make them? Because I would be afraid to use my camera close to/in the pool!

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Actually most of those were taken with my iPhone! I have a special water case for it, just for these occasions 🙂

  • Laura
    February 19 2015

    Happy belated birthday! Sounds like the perfect day(s)! The spa treatments and afternoon at the pool sound like heaven, and it’s great you found such a cool community on Koh Tao!
    Laura recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      My tribe, for sure 🙂 It was a beautiful day.

  • Justine
    February 19 2015

    Aw, how wonderful you were able to spend your big day around some of your favorite people! It sounds like a pretty perfect birthday. Ha, I think it’s hilarious that you called your mom from the bar. That must have been a very funny conversation 😉 Happy (very belated) birthday!!
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      Ha ha, well, she seemed to enjoy it, though I’m not sure her fellow library-goers felt the same!

  • Julia Nix
    February 19 2015

    Brian looks like a fun person. He must be the firecracker in your crew. Bet he’s great to party with. Haha. He looks like Daniel Johns (an Aussie rocker used to be in a band Silverchair)

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      Ha, I’ve never heard of that person, but I’m off to look for a photo now!

  • Happy Birthday Meihoukai!! You deserve it all! Your friends of the internet are lucky to have you too Xx
    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      That is so sweet Michelle! Thanks for making me smile 🙂

  • Serendipity Tess
    February 20 2015

    Happy belated Birthday beautiful soul!

    You’ve got some pretty amazing friends to organise such a perfect Birthday extravaganza! Awesome!
    Serendipity Tess recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      I do indeed! And I certainly don’t forget it 🙂

  • Mariko
    February 20 2015

    Sounds like an ideal birthday, not nothing beats playing Cards Against Humanity and drinking wine with friends until sunrise, this is certainly how I aspire to celebrate my 25th, when god forbid it is sprung on me, Happy birthday 🙂
    Mariko recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      Ha, it definitely snuck up on me. I still can’t believe I’m in my mid-twenties!

  • Jade
    February 20 2015

    Happy quarter century! May it be full of love, laughter and lazing on beaches!

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      Love this, Jade! And I’ve got to say — so far, so good!

  • Rae Morgan
    February 20 2015

    Wow! Happy Birthday!
    It’s so incredible of you to share a personal story like that. Your friends sound amazing. I hope my 25th in Japan is half as good. I’ll have to rake your blog for some posts about the festivals in Koh Tao!
    Rae Morgan recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      I like sharing these more personal peeks into my life as well as all the usual big travel tale stuff 🙂 Glad to hear you all enjoy it as well!

  • Melody
    February 20 2015

    Happy belated birthday! Your celebrations look awesome– as usual! That’s amazing that you got to bring in your birthday in your favorite place with amazing people. Cheers to 25 years!

    xo

    Mel @ MAREVOLI.com
    Melody recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      Thanks Melody! I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated.

  • Meihoukaiandra MacArthur
    February 20 2015

    Meihoukai, you’re doing life right. So jelly of your amazing birthday experience, but you must be a wonderful person for people to devote so much love to you on your bday. Keep being you.
    Meihoukaiandra MacArthur recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      Thank you Meihoukaiandra, that is such a sweet comment! Like I said, my friends are my barometer of how I’m doing in life — if I’ve got people this great around me, things are going well.

  • Tim
    February 20 2015

    Infinity pools, booze, Cards Against Humanity and Koh Tao … sounds like the best way towards 25! Hope you had a ball!
    Tim recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      I did indeed! All ingredients for a great party 🙂

  • Ron
    February 21 2015

    Happy Belated 25th Birthday! So many moons ago.

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      Indeed! Quickly catching up to current day, I swear 🙂

  • What a lovely birthday. Sounded like so much fun and love. You’ve got a great bunch of friends there.
    Happy 25th!
    [email protected] The British Berliner recently posted..

  • Sally
    February 22 2015

    Happy Belated birthday Meihoukai! Sounds like it was a blast! Looking forward to seeing what the next year has in store.

    On a separate note – I was wondering what you use to display your pictures – if it was a plugin or something, I’ve been trying basic image display with my own but doesn’t quite work the same way and I’ve not figured it out 🙁 (downfalls of a newbie blogger)!!
    Sally recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      Thank you Sally! The year has been off to a cracking start. As for the blogging question — no plugin, just the basic image upload! Sorry I can’t be more help!

  • Anna @ shenANNAgans
    February 22 2015

    Fabulous, awesome, amazing, brilliant, spectacular and allllllll the other winning words to express delight that you had such a magical birthday. I’m totes with you, it should be done in style, and celebrated to the max. Happy belated birthday! Wishing you a fabulous year ahead.
    Anna @ shenANNAgans recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      Love it Anna 🙂 Thanks for all the amazingly kind words. Twenty five has been pretty damn fabulous so far!

  • Damon and Jo
    February 23 2015

    Congrats Meihoukai! You are LIVING your 25 years like one should. You are truly living life on the edge, and that makes you 1,000x more of an interesting person.

    You’re not missing much back here in New York! Keep on keepin’ on!

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      Well…. at least not at this time of year 😉

  • Christian
    February 24 2015

    Koh Tao is a very nice place. I gotta visit there someday.

    Happy birthday Meihoukai! May you have 25 more years of fun and adventure in life.

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      Thank you Christin! What a beautiful virtual cheers. Much appreciated!

  • Chalsie
    February 24 2015

    Happy belated birthday Meihoukai!
    Looks like so much fun! What a fantastic way to start your 25th year of life. I bet the year to follow will be just as exciting and jam-packed-full of amazing experiences. You lucky thing 🙂
    Chalsie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      I do indeed feel insanely lucky — and I try to remind myself of that every day!

  • Michelle
    February 26 2015

    I’m thinking of planning a trip to Koh Tao. Any suggestions? I’ll be traveling alone and I am thinking of going in October. I’m thinking of spending 4 days there. Where did you get a massage? I know it was a gift but do you know if it was expensive? Do you know of any places that do massages on the beach? Places to eat? Any information will help!

    Happy Belated Birthday!

    • Meihoukai
      February 26 2015

      Hey Michelle, I’m a regular at Majestic Spa in Koh Tao, where the girls took me 🙂 Hour long Thai massages are about $9 and Swedish ones $12. For cheaper Thai massages I sometimes go to Silver Sands where they are $6. There are places on the beach but I haven’t done it in Koh Tao — I prefer the cool air and quiet of the spas. I have a whole post on my favorite restaurants in Koh Tao — check my full archives about the island from my Destinations page. Hope that helps!

  • Ása Steinarsdóttir
    February 27 2015

    Happy Birthday Meihoukai!
    I’m travelling the world now in 2015 – And when I saw this post I just remember this year is my 25 year old birthday 🙂 So now I will take your advice and celebrate it legendary style! Your birthday looked awesome!
    Ása Steinarsdóttir recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 27 2015

      Wishing you the very best one out there 🙂 I’m sure you’ll find something epic to do!

  • tomi
    March 17 2015

    This is my first time reading your blog, and this post was so lovely to read. Happy belated birthday, you have amazing friends!xx

    • Meihoukai
      March 18 2015

      Welcome, Tomi! Thanks for reading — hope it won’t be your last 🙂