The TTI Ambassadors Boot Camp continues for its third run with 17 travellers plunging into Phuket to spend 72 hours together. Besides idyllic island life and insane adventures, of course, unfortunate mishaps had to happen too.
“You won’t sleep one, trust me.”
Wide-eyed and daunted, us newbies could only manage nervous smiles upon hearing those replies. We just wanted to know how the previous Penang and Bali Boot Camps were. Were they so ‘bad’ that all we got were words of caution instead?
After going through the third boot camp in Phuket, I can safely say the warnings are true. What else do you expect when you put together 17 like-minded, hungry experience-seeking, millennial travellers on an island known for its overcrowded beaches and questionable nightlife? Well, you get a wild time.
Pre-Boot Camp Boot Camp
Day 1: Oh, Hello!
Similar to the last boot camp, we all gathered at the TTI HQ to mingle around and get to know one another. Cue a round of introductions and a chaotic game of human bingo to break the ice. Who’d have known we had two yoga gurus and a skilled calligrapher in our little group? We even got our personal TTI notebooks inked!
Afterwards, supreme founder Hendric moved on to administrative matters and briefs for the upcoming boot camp. Our purpose was to create Phuket-related content, which sounded pretty straightforward. Except we had one big issue: it was monsoon season in Thailand, and the rain would likely mess up our plans and shots. The solution? Pray lor. You can control the weather, meh?
We then had a quick crash course for the writers and videographers on our respective mediums that would help our work in Phuket. I was surprised when Hendric announced the day was over after our content workshops ended. Wahh, so chill ah? No need do work now? I wondered as the writers moved on from WordPress 101 to random chit-chat. Maybe boot camp will be easier than I thought.
Day 2: Oh, Hell No!
I thought wrong. To quote Drake: we went from 0 to 100, real quick.
To sum it up objectively, we gathered back at the office and were briefed about our assigned content deliverables, groupings, and prep work. But in reality, there was a lot of anxious screaming involved.
In typical Hendric fashion (that man is full of surprises), he listed out the three groups based on adventure activities we would be doing on our first day. After giving us a moment to side-eye our teammates, he revealed the activities and let’s just say jaws dropped.
ATV. Zipline. Bungy.
You can imagine which team immediately started wailing.
Then came another kicker. Hendric explained that we needed to collaborate and share materials with one another in order to make our articles and videos work. The challenge was for us to figure out what we wanted to cover, before coming up with a workflow. We also had to plan our first day itinerary that included adventure activities and other Phuket attractions. Deadline? End of day — which was in two hours. Ouch.
With help from supreme co-founder Cherie and other experienced TTI peeps who guided us lost newbies along the way, we managed to meet the deadline. As we left the office, we were reminded to arrive at 6AM the following Monday at Changi T2, and praaayyyyyy for no rain.
Actual Boot Camp
Day 1: Let the Adventures Begin!
Most people would, upon touchdown, head to their accommodation, unload their bags and freshen up before sightseeing. But we’re not like most people. Once we landed, we immediately split into our groups and embarked on our planned-out itineraries.
Our group (Team ATV, a.k.a. Rawai Kawaii~) headed off to explore Phuket Old Town. But it’s quickly apparent we didn’t pray hard enough because we got hit with a nasty shower.
Here’s a fun fact about the Old Town: there aren’t any shelters along the streets, so if you don’t have an umbrella… well, GG. By the time we dashed to Tu Kab Khao Restaurant for lunch, everyone was soaked (except me, because I brought an umbrella #lowkeyauntie).
If there’s one thing I discovered on this trip, it’s that the best and worst people to eat with are instagrammers/videographers. They’ll do anything to get perfect shots for their content, even if it means moving to a different part of the restaurant ’cause it has better lighting.
They’ll also argue over the positioning of each dish (must be “aesthetic”, okay), and prevent you from eating/taking food until they’ve got enough photos and videos. My impatient, hangry stomach was obviously unhappy, but even I have to admit the shots and styling were worth the wait!
The rain lightened up while we were eating, and then we were off to our respective adventure activities! Hendric also mentioned that each activity could only accommodate four people, so obviously us newbies
were forced into went for them.
Our ATV adventure was a slightly bumpy but fun ride. You don’t need a licence to drive these four-wheeled vehicles, and they were really easy to use (take it from me, a rusty driver). Cruising through the muddy trails with the wind in my hair also made me feel fabulous.
Team Zipline (a.k.a. Chronic Crabs) had a fun time ziplining through Phuket’s rainforests. They also got to rappel down a huge, ancient tree and experience other high-element courses. If that wasn’t enough, they got free Flying Hanuman merchandise afterwards too!
Team Bungy (a.k.a. Tan Upon Tan), on the other hand…
Yes, they all survived the bungy jump and lived to tell their hair-raising tales to the rest of us later. Listening to their experiences and watching their videos made half of us insanely jealous, while the other half went, “Wah, lucky not me.” To immortalise their bravery for jumping, Team Bungy received official certificates of participation.
Now that I’m writing this, I just realised: how come Team ATV didn’t get anything?!
Night 1: Experiencing Phuket’s Nightlife
Some of us (including myself) were assigned to cover Phuket’s unique shows, so we returned early to our gorgeous villa to settle down and wait for our respective pickups. For us, we got to experience the PG side of Phuket’s nightlife by watching amazing performances like Phuket FantaSea and Siam Niramit. It was truly top-notch entertainment, with elaborate set designs and great acting.
The others, however, ventured into the seedier, R-rated side of Phuket’s nightlife at Bangla Road to find out what it has to offer.
This isn’t a place where magic happens, but a lot of things that did happen certainly shookt some of us. Did you know the crrrunch that a cricket’s carcass makes under your shoe is similar to the sound it makes in between your teeth? Just ask Michael.
As if bugs weren’t enough, the few brave souls went deeper (hur hur hur) and watched an infamous Ping Pong show. If you don’t know what that is, refer to this comic:
If you still don’t get it, Google the term in incognito mode (seriously). Described as a “bizarre, unique and eye-opening show”, let’s just say none of us would ever see ping pong balls the same way ever again. Ugh.
The day finally ended with us backing up video footage and taking long, cleansing showers. Hendric confirmed the timings for the next day’s island-hopping activities with everyone before leaving us to our own devices. Tired from the day’s adrenaline-fuelled activities, most of the writers jotted down whatever info they collected from the day and decided to sleep. We can begin writing tomorrow night, it’s fine.
I hope you can tell by now: No, it was not fine.
Day 2: Sleep is for the Weak!
The next day was another adventurous and chaotic day. Clearly, all of us didn’t pray hard enough, because some island tours got cancelled midway due to heavy rains. The unlucky ones ended up going for alternative activities like Muay Thai and cooking classes.
Those of us who did get to go on our assigned activities had an interesting time. Have you ever spent an hour in a speedboat flying over choppy waves? Or have your speedboat stall in the middle of the ocean during a storm? Or sit in a cramped van for three hours waiting for the rain to lighten up?
These troubles might sound like holiday hell, but if there’s another thing I learnt from this boot camp, it’s that you’ve got to experience the bad to appreciate the good. Despite the inconveniences caused, we still had a lot of fun. If anything, the rain added an interesting touch to our experiences.
Sherry and I went on the Phi-Phi and Khai Island Tours. Though the journey to the different islands was akin to a rollercoaster ride without seat belts, we got to swim and snorkel in calm waters at Pileh Cove and Phi Phi Don Island. Unfortunately our luck ran out at Khai Nok Island.
Funny story: for some reason we didn’t really pay attention to the boat operators’ warnings that a storm was coming. So once our boat docked, many people on the boat rushed to the island for shelter, but we went into the waters to snorkel instead (#lolwin). We only realised there was a storm when we saw styrofoam boxes flying from the beach, and locals running towards the waters helping people out. What a ride.
Night 2: We are Weak!
Time gets warped when you’re having fun and/or pulling gruelling all-nighters. Minutes can feel like hours, but then you glance at the clock and wonder where had all the time gone. After our activities ended, we returned to the villa and had dinner before getting down to business.
Fuelled by junk food suppers and caffeine, we had a fierce determination to meet the 10AM deadline before our presentations. Us writers were furiously typing away at our keyboards, churning out as much information as we could for our articles and speed-editing whatever photos we had. The videographers were frantically sifting through footage and piecing them together to suit their angles.
I make it sound like we were so productive. In reality, we were progressing at the speed of a snail. When Cherie came around to help us writers out, some of us realised that our ideas were digressing from our assigned angles. Solution? REWORK. Meanwhile, some of the videographers were fretting over the lack of footage and/or dissatisfied with how their videos were turning out. Solution? REDO (Michael redid his video three times throughout the night).
Towards daybreak, people’s engines started giving out. Around 5AM, I realised the only people awake in the whole villa were Cherie and I. Everyone else had passed out all over the place: in their bedrooms, in beds that weren’t theirs, couches, mattresses on the floor, and even outside on the patio.
Cherie came over (again) to help me with my itinerary away from the crowds, and offered great suggestions I couldn’t really internalise because I was pretty much a brain-dead zombie. After scrawling down notes, I dragged myself to my bedroom only to find that someone else had taken my spot.
At that point, I was pretty desperate for some sleep. So I curled up on a tiny mattress on the floor and closed my eyes. It was 5:30AM. Goodnight.
Half an hour later, someone’s alarm sounded. Good morning!
Day 3: Panic! at the Villa
Everyone went into maximum overdrive before presentation time. Anxiety levels were basically through the roof because some of us writers didn’t manage to back up our photos on the hard drive in time. We resorted to sending our photos over Telegram to each other, but the poor WiFi couldn’t process them because so many people were doing that. Guess we weren’t the only ones working overtime.
About an hour before our presentations, we gathered in our groups and started discussing what we wanted to present. My teammates and I still hadn’t finished our deliverables, so our presentation turned out to be a reflection of our content creation journey and possible solutions to the issues we experienced. There was some relief, though, when we saw other people’s works and realised that they hadn’t finished too.
Despite the lack of full completion (save for some), I was truly impressed by the quality of work we managed to produce over that short amount of time. The articles were SEO-optimised (as much as possible) with beautiful photos and witty descriptions of the activities we did. The videos were also well done, and I was amazed that our previous 48 hours could be captured in such a cinematic and exciting way.
A pat on the back for all of us — we achieved quite a substantial amount in those 12 hours.
After a short chill-out session in the pool, Hendric announced the winners of the challenge. Team Chronic Crabs emerged victorious! They definitely deserved it as their deliverables were the most completed, and their individual works had a consistent element running through them (all their works tried to show that Phuket is an adventurous and exciting destination).
And so the winners were rewarded with an hour-long, in-house massage, while the losers were punished by being rained on and dunked in the pool. :'(
Just kidding. While the massage was ongoing, the rest of us headed out to have lunch at a nearby eatery. As we were about to head back, another torrential downpour came (what’s new, right?) and we were left stranded. It didn’t seem like the storm was going to let up anytime soon, so we braved the rain and headed back to the villa anyway.
As we neared the villa, some of us suddenly got very high and started running and dancing in the rain. Somewhere in between laughing our heads off and circling Isaac, who was lying on the floor with a Fusion Pro, we had the bright idea to jump into the pool. I mean, we were already sopping wet so why the heck not? Spontaneity at its finest.
Night 3: A Ballin’ End to 72 Hours
Around 8PM, Hendric and Cherie treated all of us to an amazing dinner with drinks. We sat around chatting, laughing, and watching the behind-the-scenes video that Akif and Xin Yee created. It seemed surreal to watch ourselves going through the past 48 – 72 hours, but it sparked a lot of laughs and nostalgic feelings.
As it was nearing National Day, we also watched The Travel Intern’s video to commemorate Singapore’s 53 years. 13,912 photos complied in a video? How cool is that?
As the clock approached 12AM and we were slowly winding down, the “weaker” ones decided to call it a night and have restful sleep before our flight out at 7AM (I was one of them — but hey, I got good sleep so it’s a win for me).
The others decided to end off the remaining hours in Phuket with one last visit to the notorious nightlife: specifically, to Suzy Wong’s. For the uninitiated, it’s a famous Thai Go-Go bar where the girls would spank you as part of entertainment (it’s painless, but loud). Apparently everyone in the group got so into the activity, they ended up spanking each other for fun. So if you fancy spanking someone *coughbosscough*, bring ’em to Suzy Wong’s!
But that wasn’t the highlight. No trip is ever complete without something going hilariously and epic-ly wrong. So the story goes like this: After all the spanking and rambunctious laughs, Suzy Wong’s decided to host an impromptu ping pong show within the bar. Everyone was stumped — this wasn’t included in the menu.
Somewhere between unmentionable tricks, a lady called someone from the group to go up to the stage. In most logical circumstances, people would often refuse because you never really know what the ladies performing ping pong shows would do to you with their… uh, internal assets. But remember: We’re functioning on minimal sleep and quite a bit of alcohol, so logic was nowhere to be found. That person went up to stage, and followed the lady’s orders to sit on a smaller stage platform and lean back.
She commanded, “Open your mouth!” Okay, opened.
Then, she stepped forward. Everyone stared. It was so quiet, you could hear a pin(g pong ball) drop.
And one did, dead centre, into the open mouth.
I really wish I was making this up, but I’m not that creative. The person just spat the ping pong ball out and dashed for the toilet. The rest of us just gaped, wide-eyed and shocked. After making sure the person was okay, we decided to call it a (final) night and returned to the villa for an hour’s sleep. During the journey back, the shock finally drained away and it dawned on us how funny the whole situation was.
Make no mistake, it’s still a running gag in the TTI office to this day.
In all, The Travel Intern’s Ambassadors Boot Camp in Phuket was an incredibly fun, perilous and enlightening learning journey. I think we definitely took something away from these eventful 72 hours. It could have been the daring activities we’d never experienced before, learning a lot from the night of content creation, enjoying the close friendships and bonds we formed with one another, or having a deep appreciation for the opportunities TTI had offered us. Regardless of what it is: Phuket will never be the same for any of us.
So will a ping pong ball, for one of us.
Want to see what we came up with? Check out the rest of our Phuket content!