Lesson learned = don’t let me procrastinate from exam revision – cheap flights were found and booked!
So, I was off! Well, nearly. I really don’t like flying, so it took a bucket of mental strength to put myself on the plane. But I did it – I have always promised myself that I will never let fear stop me from going on amazing adventures, and it was worth it!
On my first flight out of Heathrow, the cabin crew of my Qatar Airways flight were incredibly supportive. I explained to one of the stewardesses how nervous I was and she went out of her way to make sure I enjoyed the flight. Feeling more confident on the second leg of my journey, I made friends with the guy sat in my row and we managed to have an enjoyable 8 hours!
I love the feeling of walking through the arrival gate at an airport. It’s even better when someone is stood at the barrier shouting your name and waving manically. In this case, it was my slightly crazy godmother, who has been living and travelling in Asia for nearly 10 years!
Still awake after 24+ hours, we spent a day exploring Bangkok. We took a boat trip on the Chao Phraya River and visited Khaosan Road, Wat Pho and saw Wat Arun and the Grand Palace. In the evening we had dinner in the Terminal 21 shopping centre, themed on an airport with a different continent as the theme on each floor and caught sight of Bangkok’s nightlife.
A short sleep in a hostel and we headed back to the airport to catch a domestic flight to the north. We arrived into Chiang Rai and checked into the friendliest hostel I have ever stayed in! Tony, who ran the hostel, pointed us in the direction of a great café for breakfast and later helped us to plan our few days in Chiang Rai. We visited the stunning White Temple, which looked like it had been drawn from a fairy tale story. It was surreal to explore, sparkling sliver in the bright Thai sun. We discovered a few more temples and explored the markets of the town. I gave in to my inner shopaholic and left with beautiful bracelets and the typical Thai bottoms! We spent a day hiking in the mountains just outside Chiang Rai. Our guide was fantastic and made the best of the rainy day! We visited some villages, swam in a waterfall and had a lunch of Thai curry out of leaf bowls.
We said our goodbyes to Chiang Rai all too soon and boarded a bus to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai felt very busy after a few days in Chiang Rai. We checked into a lovely hostel run by a young family. The mother of the family sat with us over breakfast and gave us a brilliant introduction to Thai culture, including offering us some samples of the traditional foods left at temples and used for healing. We spent a day exploring the city’s extensive markets, a few museums and temple, including Wat Chiang Man and Wat Chedi Luang.
On the second day we had a few mishaps and ended up getting lost on an attempted hike out of the city to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on Mount Suthep. We were ‘rescued’ by a passing songthaew driver and ended up jumping on board to reach the temple. The chaotic start to the day was 100% worth it! Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was stunning. With the sun shining on the temples decoration and a spectacular view from the mountain side over Chiang Mai. The story of the temple is that the King Keuna of Chiang Mai chose a white elephant to carry a holy relic of Lord Buddha to its resting place. The elephant walked up Mount Suthep, and found a place to lay down. It was on this spot that the temple was built. We visited a hill tribe further up into the mountains. I found some awesome rocks to ‘geologise’ over, including some fantastic exposures of migmatites and gneiss!
With my first week in Thailand drawing to an end, we found ourselves in another airport, ready to board a flight to Surat Thani, in the south. From here we jumped on the night boat to Koh Tao, where my godmother has been staying for the past couple of years.
I spent the second week of my trip learning to dive on the beautiful island of Koh Tao. I completed 6 dives and saw so many awesome creatures; turtles, eels, corals, many types of tropical fish, crabs, jelly fish. The island itself was fantastic. A few small towns with restaurants, bars and little shops! Every evening I went for a walk along the beach which spanned nearly the length of the island. I got to spend some valuable time with my godmother and getting to know the place she lives. I met some many inspiring people in the dorms and at the bar of the dive school. I left the island with my open water diver licence and a lot more relaxed than I had been in ages!
The journey back to Bangkok by boat and coach went quickly, and before long I was waving goodbye from the departure gate. After a busy couple of weeks I slept for most of the flights back. This made them a lot easier to deal with! I arrived back to a rainy UK late on a Friday night and met my parents for a weekend at home, then the onward journey back to uni in Plymouth!
Thailand was a fantastic adventure of cultural and natural beauty!