I’m currently taking a course at Stratford College on writing for newspapers and magazines. Each pupil was asked to write a feature on a specialist subject. This is Thailand by Richard-Neil Weatherhead.
Thailand, a backpackers paradise and the hedonistic capital of the world. A place that can pull you in and spit you back out again just as fast if you’re not paying close enough attention. From its stunning topical islands and beaches to its bustling cities, adventure lurks around every corner. It is the ultimate escape, everything you have heard about Thailand is probably true. There are an unlimited amount of places to explore and stories to be told. So when my friend Rory mentioned that he was going there for his scuba divers license, I knew that I couldn’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity to tag along and see it all for myself.
We travelled to Thailand on the 1st of September 2012 and we backpacked around for one month staying wherever we could find. Landing in Bangkok after a 14 hour flight and changing planes in Mumbai, we were tired, hungry and most definitely excited by our new surroundings. The heat hit us as soon as we walked out of the airport and we found a close place to stay, ate, slept and headed into Bangkok before planning our journey south to the island of Ko Tao where Rory was doing his diving coarse. Bangkok really was a lot to take in, there was so much energy and noise that you couldn’t keep your senses still for one minute. People were continually coming up to us and trying to take us somewhere or sell us something and we spent a lot of money there fast. There is a lot to see and some of the attractions like The Grand Palace are incredible to get up close to if you get the chance, we probably would have got lost if it wasn’t for all the tuk tuks (although we do suspect they took us the long way for more Baht). We just weren’t too impressed by Bangkok to be honest, it was far from the culture that we craved so next we travelled to a quiet fishing town called Prachuap Khiri Khan.
This and the 8 hour train journey through the mountains and coastline to get there was our first real taste of southern Thailand, I truly loved every moment of this. The next day after a long sleep in a hotel we found in the early hours of morning, we went for a wonder around the sleepy town. First we went up a mountain to a Buddhist temple that was about 500 steps high and covered from top to bottom in monkeys! I really mean covered! They seemed friendly enough and used to sharing the steps with humans, being that close to them was really fascinating and we watched them for ages. After that we needed a dip in the sea to cool us down from all the walking, the best place to go was an old but still used military base that civilians were allowed to pass through. As soon as we got into the crystal clear water there was a monsoon that lasted about 10 minutes, it was an amazing feeling to be in the warm sea when it passed right above our heads. After a couple of days in Prachuap Khiri Khan we took another long train journey to Chumphon where we could catch a boat to the island of Ko Tao. We only spent the night there with no time to look around as we had to get up early to travel again, a night of sleep, a shower and aircon were once again badly needed to recharge our batteries.
Arriving at the island, where I would stay for the next couple of weeks was like discovering a tropical paradise, it had long white sandy beaches, deep green jungles and crystal clear water filled with all kinds of colourful marine life. We both found somewhere cheap to stay and spent the next few days on the beach sampling all the food and drink that the island had to offer. The food was the best we’d had so far and really cheap, I must have tried everything on the menu at one place. I remember everyday thinking about how easy it would be to live here and how far your money gets you, everything was so cheap and I’m sure I spent more Baht in Bangkok in one day than I did in a week in Ko Tao. The sun was shining everyday and I felt more relaxed than I had been in a long while, however it was time to start planing my route home which I would be doing alone this time as my friend intended to stay to complete his coarse and move onto Australia. I decided the best way to travel back was to copy the route which I arrived, I stayed mostly in the same places so I knew what to expect and how much it would cost as my money was really starting to run low by now.
It took me 3 long days of travelling by boat, car, coach, train and plane till I arrived back home to England, it was worth every second of it though to have explored such an exhilarating and vibrant country. The U.K felt dull and miserable the moment I landed back there and I was already missing the friendly Thai culture, I also found it really hard to stop saying thank you with a ‘wai’ (Thai hand gesture that can mean ‘Hello’, ‘Thank you’, ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘Goodbye’). As I stated at the beginning, everything you have heard about Thailand is probably true and I can now honestly vouch for these words first hand, my only regret is not staying there longer but we got a good amount of travelling done. I’m really hoping to return in a few years to explore some more of the places we missed first time round and if you have a thirst for adventure and a love of backpacking like I do then I can’t recommend Thailand highly enough.
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