One afternoon in Southampton in the Summer of 2008 – a hazy, sunny afternoon spent outside a bar drinking cold ciders in the sunshine. An offhand comment from a friend who was planning a trip to Thailand in the January of the following year with another friend. “You should come,” she said, waiting for a likely no. “I might, you know,” I said. I couldn’t think of a reason why not. I had savings, a generous holiday entitlement and a passport that needed some more stamps.
And so it was that on the 13th January, 2009, we landed in Bangkok. On the first day of my travel diary I wrote “A long taxi journey allowed us the opportunity for a first glimpse at the capital – scooters everywhere (no helmets), erratic driving, rickety huts giving way to high rise hotels, hundreds of taxis, car dealers, street vendors, dusty roads and dilapidated buildings.”
|finding tranquillity in temples|
|eating in night markets|
A few days later, after taking in more of the city I wrote “It is rich with smells, predominantly, honestly, a sort of sewage-y smell, punctuated with garlic, thai spices, exhaust fumes, and the smell of a hot climate – a dusty, humid, aridness. Everyone here seems to be waiting for something – street vendors, taxi drivers, girls outside massage parlours, barmen in empty bars. They are waiting for custom but there is a sense of patience and acceptance inherent in all of them that gives Bangkok a relaxed atmosphere despite the hubbub.”
Over several days we visited breathtaking palaces, bustling night markets, caught tuk-tuks, filled our bellies with street food, photographed countless neon signs and got taxis all over the city. We visited temples and ruins in Ayutthaya before catching a night train to Chiang Mai. From Chiang Mai we trekked through a jungle and stayed in a hut in the village of a hill-tribe as well as going trekking on elephants.
|the dog we adopted on our trek – ‘little man’|
We spent two more weeks travelling around – catching countless night trains (with seats that turn into bunks – 12-14 hour journeys with our noses pressed to windows taking in the landscapes, then waking in the morning to breakfasts brought on trays), walked along the bridge on the River Kwai, stayed on a hotel on a boat, visited a waterfall where monkeys stole another member of the group’s cigarettes and camera and visited a temple filled with tigers. We went bamboo rafting down a river, a trip that nearly ended in disaster, and visited a floating market – the smell of roasting seafood and huge woks of rice permeating the scene of boats bobbing gently on the canal.
|spring rolls from damnoen saduak floating market|
After all of our furious exploring and seemingly endless train and bus journeys, the second half of our holiday was dedicated to relaxation. We travelled down to Krabi and visited ‘James Bond Island’ – visiting a temple that was home to hundreds of monkeys and then taking a boat trip around four islands; cruising on iridescent, azure water, snorkeling coral reefs and exploring island paradises. On one we found our own little corner of heaven – sea for miles, a deserted beach – total serenity.
|matt and nicole in our slice of heaven|
One night we stayed on Maya Beach where The Beach was filmed. We slept in sleeping bags on the beach and played guitar with the local tour guides as the sun went down. We slept under the stars and woke in the middle of the night to dip our toes in the sea and run our fingers through the glowing phosphorescence that looks like tiny, bright, green lights in the darkness. (Breathtaking).
|sunset from maya beach|
|sunset and longboats – ao nang|
After visiting several more islands – Ko Phi Phi, Koh Samui and many more, we returned home at the end of February. It truly was the trip of a lifetime and even now, reading my travel diary brings back those irreplaceable memories of an adventure without comparison; living out of a backpack, immersing yourself in a different culture, eating new and indescribably delicious foods, feeling the heat on your skin for weeks at a time, pushing toes into the sand, swimming in the sea (in a thunderstorm!) and every day feeling the anticipation of what the next would bring. It galvanised my love for travelling as much as it cemented my love for home. In the final page of my travel diary I wrote “Being away from home has made me realise that I enjoy the simple comforts in life – clean washing, hot showers, a comfortable bed, a good night’s sleep, good friends, hearty meals and alone time.” Of course, as I tucked into a bag of hot, salty fish and chips on my first night home, cocooned myself in my duck down duvet and watched reruns of good old British sitcoms, I might also have been planning my next adventure….
This post has been my entry to the Travel Supermarket Holiday Postcards competition. I really hope you’ve enjoyed my memories of Thailand and a smattering of the hundreds of photos I took whilst I was away! I had an amazing time – if you’re planning a trip to Thailand do let me know and I can tell you more about the places we visited.