Travelling South East Asia (SEA)
(29th September – 24th November)
I was thrilled to be heading back to Thailand, and in particular, the Thai Islands. Having heard such fantastic things about the Islands throughout my travels, I was eager to delve into the incredible adventures and fulfilment we had been promised. I was also dreading the Islands. I knew it would mark the end of our travelling journey, and I was dreading the time I would have to say goodbye to a part of the world where I had found such great treasures, not only within the people I had met, the countries, cities and towns I had explored, but the backpacker lifestyle I had quickly accustomed to as if it were in my blood. I was dreading the day I would head home, back to normality, and I questioned if home was where I really wanted to be.
Thailand (The Islands)
We spent between 2-4 days on each of these beautiful islands before hopping on a boat to the next. We knew the Islands would be where we would have more of a ‘holiday’, partying and chilling on the infamous beaches, soaking up the last of the sun, and reflecting on our two month journey.
We flew into Phuket from Bangkok and headed straight to Patong Beach, a resort town located on the west coast of Phuket. I was in complete shock (and horror) when our taxi pulled up outside the main strip dominating this part of town, and I almost wanted to take refuge from the craziness I had just stepped in to. Strobe lights and music darted back and forth from every available space, lady boys crammed the streets in revealing outfits luring holiday guests with the promise of a ‘good time’, and shops, restaurants, bars, and even tattoo parlours lined the streets enticing guests in to the action that unfolded. That place made Bangkok seem tame and boring, and I wondered what I would have felt like if Phuket was our first travelling stop all those weeks back when we first arrived. I was scared and frightened by Bangkok let alone how I would’ve felt about Phuket. I probably would have jumped on a plane straight back to the UK. Although I felt shocked and slightly horrified at first in Phuket, I wasn’t scared, shy, or withdrawn like I was in Bangkok, and I suddenly realised just how far I had come in a short space of time. I was now acclimatised to different cities, countries and cultures. I had become open minded, and each place had broadened my horizons to shape the person I had become.
Singing and dancing on tables whilst surrounded by naked pole dancers, lounging on the beach and visiting the market stalls to shop and test out our newly acquainted bartering skills (which we were still no good at), Phuket was an island that always makes me smile with good memories.
The island where parties are alive with fire dancers and fire shows, vodka bucket stalls, and beautiful scenery, Phi Phi was my favourite Island and probably my favourite travelling destination overall. We spent four days on this island, the longest we had ever spent in one place, and even after 4 days we were reluctant to leave. There was something about this magical island that drew me in. Though very small, the vibe was larger than life and happiness and laughter filled the hot air, it was intoxicating. On our second day we ventured off on a boat trip to visit the surrounding Islands, we even visited ‘Maya Beach’ where the famous Leonardo DiCaprio film ‘The Beach’ was filmed. The biggest highlight for me on this day was swimming with beautiful black tip sharks that elegantly graced the soothing waters. I couldn’t believe that I had actually swam with sharks, another great accomplishment I was super proud of. On the third day, I had my nose pierced, and on the fourth day, I had a tattoo in tribute to my travelling experience and the freedom it had allowed me, like a bird finally free from its cage. I had blossomed, I had grown, I had found my sense of style, I had found a new lease of life, and Phi Phi was the island that drew that out of me once and for all.
After leaving the beautiful island of Phi Phi, we set off to explore another beautiful Thai Island, Krabi. Admittedly after too much partying on Phi Phi, we didn’t explore Krabi as much as we had hoped, instead, we slept (and recovered) for most part in our hostel. When we were feeling better we ventured out to explore the local town. I remember stopping off at a little market stall to buy some chicken and corn on the cob (obviously) fresh off of the mini BBQ. I remember it being the tastiest, juiciest chicken I had ever eaten. BBQ food was easily available in South East Asia, especially in Thailand. Market stalls are built on what I can only describe as extra-large wheelbarrows. Carefully hand-made and crafted together using wood & bamboo, each has two leavers at one end to pull from one location to the other. From BBQ food to fruit, and vodka buckets to juices, expect to see all varieties of food and drink being sold from these makeshift mini markets.
From Krabi we took the long 7 hour boat ride across to the other side of the Thai Islands. Spending hours on boats and bus’s had become normal for us, and any travelling that involved less than 8 hours we deemed as pretty short. I was so excited to discover that the boat boasted a huge TV and was playing the film ‘Avatar’ which I had never seen before. Unfortunately the TV had no sound, typical, but I was still able to partially follow the film and it was actually brilliant. It’s a memory that really stands out for me and one that makes me smile and giggle.
Famous for its scuba-diving and picturesque scenery, Koh Tao was our next travelling destination. I noticed that the island seemed very uphill and steep, and I prayed that our hostel was at the bottom rather than at the top. Unfortunately it wasn’t, and with our heavy backpacks firmly in place we climbed the never ending hill to reach the top.
Knowing the island was famous for scuba-diving, and having never scuba dived before, I was excited to try something different. We signed up to do a fun dive with a nearby shop offering lots of fun water activities for its guests to enjoy. The following morning we were picked up from our hostel and taken to a nearby hotel with our scuba diving instructor to practise the scuba diving techniques in the swimming pool before heading out to sea. We also learned how to use the equipment and the all-important health & safety aspects. That afternoon we headed out to sea and plunged into the world that awaited us underneath. Beautiful corals housed multiple different types of fish and it was incredible to witness a world so different from our very own. The fun dive we did meant we were only allowed to dive to 6-8 metres, but if you chose to do a PADI open water qualification (3-4 day course) you are entitled to dive even further, up to 18 metres with the chance of spotting sharks whilst gaining a fully recognised scuba diving qualification.
I was so excited to be heading to this island with only one thing on my mind, the half/full moon parties. Throughout our travels we had been told that Koh Phangan was the party capital that would blow our minds, and knowing this Island was our second to last travelling destination before flying home, I was adamant the last few days we had left would be the greatest yet. We checked in to ‘Majestic Hostel’, a short taxi ride from the local pier. I instantly loved the hostel. The vibe was relaxed and chilled and we made friends almost instantly with the friendly guests that greeted us when we checked in. I was stoked to discover the hostel had a gym, a swimming pool, and huge rooms with powerful showers and hot water (another luxury I sorely missed). After making friends with our fellow roomies (who were also from the UK), we decided to hire a jeep and head off exploring. Making regular pit stops for food & shopping, visiting beautiful beaches and driving through gorgeous mountains we were surprised to discover that Koh Phangan had so much more to offer than the parties it was notoriously known for. As we sat watching the sun set whilst sipping our drinks in a bar nestled between the mountains, I remember looking out on to the ocean feeling privileged and in awe of the beauty that surrounded me.
The Half Moon Party had finally arrived and we were beyond excited. Our hostel hosted a before party where we played drinking games and made light work on the two for one vodka bucket offers before heading off to dance and drink the night away. Hidden in the mountains and described as the ‘party in the jungle’, the scene was electric with music pumping through the air, live fire shows, and beautiful art pieces that blended in perfectly with the crazy jungle theme. Unlike any other party I had been to before, and despite the horror at discovering I had lost my iPhone 6 that night, the half-moon party was epic and certainly lived up to its expectations.
I had mixed emotions about Koh Samui. I was excited to explore another Thai island but I knew this would mark the end, and I remember wishing if only I could either reverse time to start the travelling experience all over again, or wishing I could extend time so that the journey would never end.
One of the largest Islands in Thailand, Koh Samui is famous for being a luxurious holiday destination boasting spa’s, big hotels, and beautiful beaches. We checked in to a small hostel tucked away from the lively part of town and spent some time sleeping before heading off to explore. I noticed how busy and city like this island was in comparison to the others. Entertainment was plentiful with nightclubs, dozens of restaurants and even a shopping mall. We spent two days on this island and blended in with the many other holiday guests lapping up the luxuries on offer.
It was then time to travel to Bangkok to fly home. Will my family recognise me? Will I regret leaving a part of the world that I felt so strongly connected to? Will I ever be happy back at home? So many questions raced through my mind, though strangely, I was excited to be heading home. I was excited to see my friends and family, and I was excited to share my thoughts and feelings on the two month journey that completely changed my life….. And I was excited to share what I had in store for the future.
To be continued….