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Confused on where we are? I’m catching up on the black hole of content from May of 2016 to April of 2017, when I jumped forward to blog the summer of 2017 as it was happening. This is my last post from 2016 — blogging at lighting speed here, right? I can’t wait to turn my detailed notes and journals into more blog posts Thailand and Bali next. My apologies for any confusion with the timeline, and thanks for sticking with me.

By the way, craving some Southeast Asia adventure in your life? My Bali Blogging + Entrepreneurship retreat is still accepting applications and my Thailand Dive + Yoga retreat in August has spots remaining!

After our sister spa getaway in Koh Samui, Olivia and I were ready to face the full-on chaos of Koh Tao over the holidays. By now I’ve clocked four or five Christmases on my island home away from home — I can’t keep count — and I was thrilled to have my sister near for what we knew would be a tough holiday season.

Longtail boat in a storm on Koh Tao

We had a few days before the true Christmas madness kicked off, and I wanted to make the most of them. Olivia strongly objected to any hiking on the itinerary, so I settled on the John Suwan Viewpoint, easily accessible via what I’d refer to as a seven minute walk from the parking lot, but which I quickly learned some people may, in fact, consider a hike.

Maybe I’ll consider adding it to my series.

John Suwan Viewpoint Koh Tao

John Suwan Viewpoint Koh Tao

John Suwan Viewpoint Koh Tao

The best part about the strenuous journey to John Suwan? When you stumble down that treacherous mountain, you can recover from the enormous exertion on the shores of Freedom Beach, famed for its white sand and the shade of the unique pemphis acidula trees.

And okay, yes, I am giving my sister a hard time, but what else are sisters for?

Freedom Beach Koh Tao

Hiking and beaches aside, we made time for plenty of sunsets…

Sunset Koh Tao

Sunset Koh Tao

Sunset Koh Tao

Nights out at our beloved Banyan Bar…

Banyan Bar Koh Tao

and crazy field trips around the island! One day, I braved the scary drive to (honestly, after all these years I’m still a baby when it comes to tackling Koh Tao’s hills on my motorbike) to investigate a rumor I’d heard — that there was an enormous waterslide ripe for the sneaking into on Koh Tao.

Sai Daeng Resort Koh Tao

Sai Daeng Resort Koh Tao

It was true, and Olivia and I and our friends who also had a sister in town, spent hours shrieking our way down the slide. Needless to say it was a permit-less built and it only lasted a few months before authorities ordered its removal. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.

Sai Daeng Resort Koh Tao

Sai Daeng Resort Koh Tao

Sai Daeng Resort Koh Tao

Sai Daeng Resort Koh Tao

And then, suddenly it was Christmas in paradise. We might have palm trees instead of pines, but Koh Tao has such a fun and unique way of celebrating the holidays, you really do get into the Christmas spirit without a snowflake in sight.

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas Eve kicked off with a big, joyous barbecue at Ian’s house, where I learned an invaluable lesson about trying to frost a cake with buttercream in the tropics. Note to self: next time, bring a cheese board instead.

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

We might cobble the decor together with goodies stashed in suitcases from home and handmade creations crafted from old greetings cards and random bits and bobs found in 99 Baht shops around the island, but dang it if we don’t know how to rock some serious Santa hats… and, apparently, Santa Mankinis.

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas Eve ended, as Koh Tao Christmas Eves tend to, on the beach, watching sunset with a drink in hand. And, if you’re lucky, a little sister to twin with.

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Well, it didn’t really end at the beach. Christmas Eve is one of the biggest nights out of the year on Koh Tao, so it usually ends dancing on a table on a bar on the beach somewhere, more accurately.

Christmas in Koh Tao

The next morning, I defied the odds and made it to my beloved annual tradition, my friend Cynthia’s Christmas themed yoga class at Ocean Sound Yoga. Between the incredible holiday playlist, the joy of starting the day with a practice in my home studio, and the fun Christmas costumes spread around the mats, it’s one of the best parts of my .

And then it was time to cool down with a girly gossip by the pool.

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas night was a little more low-key, we stuck close to home with Christmas dinner and a family dance party at Banyan Bar. Dang, I miss that place. I’m not crying, you’re crying!

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Post-Christmas, we took a few days to recover — AKA work from bed, one of the greatest joys of self-employment — because New Year’s Eve was right round the corner.

I’ve often waxed poetic about the joys of New Year’s Eve on Koh Tao. There’s no drama, no bouncers, no lines, no admission fees — just slightly more people than usual, better dressed than usual, crowded barefoot on the beach to ring in a new year.

New Year's Eve in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Christmas in Koh Tao

Plus, Olivia surprised me with her Christmas gift — custom A+O necklaces designed together with our talented friend Amy. Honestly, this crying has to stop.

New Year's Eve in Koh Tao

Amy Jennifer Jewelry

Amy Jennifer Jewelry

And then it was time to party like it was 2017! Believe me, I definitely see the ridiculousness in a blog post about the 2016 holiday season coming out in the summer of 2018. Let’s just roll with it.

New Year's Eve in Koh Tao

New Year's Eve in Koh Tao

New Year's Eve in Koh Tao

New Year's Eve in Koh Tao

New Year's Eve in Koh Tao

New Year's Eve in Koh Tao

I’ll be honest — it was a tough Christmas. Between the then-current state of the US, my sister still trying to figure out what what going on with her life and the ill-timed delivery of some tough news from home, we had a hard time. But we were together, and with every passing year I’m taught a lesson from the universe about how little matters beyond that.

And then, we leapt into the new year.

Sunset in Koh Tao

Next up: a sissy goodbye in Bangkok

Heading to Koh Tao and want to know the best restaurants, beaches, dive shops and beyond? Check out the Wanderland Guide to Koh Tao!

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40 Comments...
  • Mary B
    July 17 2018

    This post makes me a) wish I had a sister! and b) wish I’d spent more time on islands in my 20’s. Merry belated Christmas and Happy 2017 😉
    Mary B recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 26 2018

      It’s never too late a decade to start spending more time on islands 😉

  • Jo-Anne the crazy lady
    July 17 2018

    Oh so nice
    Jo-Anne the crazy lady recently posted..

  • Chadwick
    July 18 2018

    “Hey, boss, we got a load of old 2010 glasses left over. I’ll just chuck ’em away, yes?”

    “No! Glue a 7 on them and sell them this year.”

    “Really, won’t people notice it says 20107?

    “It’ll be fine, trust me…”

    • Meihoukai
      September 26 2018

      LOL. Thailand, where I am never not entertained!

  • Dominique
    July 18 2018

    “… spent hours shrieking our way down the slide” – that must’ve been a super long slide 🙂 I’m wrapping up my winter trips as well. They did happen this year, but it still feels strange to post pictures of the snow in the midst of July 🙂
    Dominique recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 26 2018

      Ha, I know. Luckily my blog has been out of synch with normal time for years, so I like to say I’m just keeping everyone on their toes… lol.

  • Rachel en Route
    July 18 2018

    Haha, wow what a way to spend the holidays! I love how festive you all got for Christmas in a tropical location. Work with what you got! I’m so interested to hear what your sister is doing now – hope all is well x
    Rachel en Route recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 26 2018

      Aw, thanks for asking Rachel. She is hard at work on a midterm campaign and loving life in Philadelphia <3

  • Markus
    July 19 2018

    Hey, nice read and lovely pictures. Seems like a really fantastic trip.

    • Meihoukai
      September 26 2018

      Thanks Markus! Appreciate you reading.

  • Julia Nix
    July 22 2018

    This post just gives me an instant good feeling. Hope your sister was OK at the Banyan Bar. 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      October 3 2018

      She didn’t love the cleanliness levels, but she managed 😉

  • Meg
    July 25 2018

    I’m sorry about the circumstances you and your sister ended up together. But I also think it’s really great! I’m trying to do more with my sister as we’ve recently lost my Dad. We’re heading to Barcelona first in October!

    You’ve also added a hiking spot to my never ending list of places I want to climb up!

    Fab blog as always x
    Meg recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 3 2018

      I’m so sorry to hear that Meg. I hope you guys are looking forward to that trip this month — it sounds very healing xo

  • Li
    July 30 2018

    Nice photos! Love it!
    Li recently posted..

  • Kelly
    August 4 2018

    Great post as always! I know you typically post more regularly so as it’s been three weeks, I really hope you’re alright!! Or just taking a much-deserved break! XOXO

    • Jay
      September 6 2018

      Meihoukai’s mom is very sick and she has been spending time with her slowing down a bit. Check out her Instagram where she talks more about it 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      October 9 2018

      Hey Kelly, just catching up on comments here so not sure if you’ve replied elsewhere but I’ve shared a bit on my Instagram about my hiatus, thank you for checking up on me <3

      • Kelly
        October 11 2018

        I’d read your Instagram posts and while I was glad to hear you’re physically okay, I am so heartbroken for you. Been thinking about you and your family a lot! My friend’s mother had a similar diagnosis last year. It’s a horrible disease and I hate hearing how many people have to go through it. Sending love your way <3

        • Meihoukai
          October 11 2018

          I appreciate that Kelly. I agree, the amount of stories I’ve heard now about something I didn’t even really know existed a few short months ago breaks my heart.

  • Marni
    August 6 2018

    There’s something about the magic of Christmas that makes it such a versatile and special holiday – of course made even more so by the closeness of family and friends! I think enough time has passed that you can call this post nostalgia as an excuse for 2017 😉
    Marni recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 9 2018

      Ha! I am definitely feeling allll kiiiiinds of nostalgia for Koh Tao right now, so these old “catch up” posts are going to be more sentimental than ever.

  • Matthew Karsten
    August 9 2018

    It’s always important to make time for family, and I see nothing wrong with Christmas in July. Great post!

    • Meihoukai
      October 9 2018

      Thanks Matt. Great seeing you this past month!

  • Chris Bloomfield
    August 15 2018

    Beaches, hiking and sunsets. My kind of Christmas! It looks like you had a blast. That water slide looks epic too! Great photos (especially the one of Santa!)

  • Tim
    August 31 2018

    This really looks like a dream place. I can’t wait to go to Thailand and enjoy it too. Maybe next year, if I can save some money 🙂
    Tim recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 10 2018

      Best of luck with the savings — I find there’s no better incentive to buckle down 😉

  • Jacquelyn
    September 3 2018

    Your photos are beautiful; I love the sunsets. Reading this made me even more excited to see my sister in a couple weeks. So happy you all had a good Christmas! Cheers x

    • Meihoukai
      October 10 2018

      Thailand is certainly spoiled for magical sunsets. And I never once got sick of them!

  • Megan
    September 4 2018

    Your photos are absolutely wonderful. The sunsets over the water, in particular, made me miss living on an Island. I lived in Hawaii for years and though palm trees over pine trees did seem a bit odd the very first Christmas, I quickly adapted just like you did. 🙂 Thanks for bringing back good memories of island life.

    • Meihoukai
      October 10 2018

      Living in Hawaii… my dream <3 Someday, someday! Which island did you live on?

  • Dylan
    October 11 2018

    Wonderful article! Very colorful photos. They reminded me of my wonderful vacation in Thailand 4 years ago. My wife and I hired a car and rode along the coast in the evenings admiring the sunsets.

    • Meihoukai
      October 11 2018

      Wow, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to rent a car in Thailand! Done a ton of motorbikes, but no car yet! That sounds magical — how did you find the driving?

  • Jesse
    October 14 2018

    This is fantastic too, I think we’ll be ringing in the New Year in Thailand as well. We’ve never been either but it’ll be a perfect time.

    • Meihoukai
      October 24 2018

      Have an incredible time! I loved my many, many years of Thailand New Year’s Eves <3