So this is it, after four weeks of temple touring in Bangkok, elephant riding in Chiang Mai, bike riding in Ayutthaya, volunteering in Koh Samui, snorkelling in Koh Tao and partying in Koh Phangan; I had gone full circle and was back in Bangkok again – for a final night out with the people I’d become so close with that past month, before our trip came to an end.
After a snooze on the long journey from Koh Phangan, I opened my eyes to the bustling atmosphere and bright lights of Bangkok. Arriving at the Sawasdee Banglumpoo Inn – where our adventure started four weeks before – felt like stepping back in time. It felt like just yesterday we were all sat around a table outside, introducing ourselves to eachother and wondering what our journey would entail. The big, scary place I’d left behind a month before now felt like home.
It was such a weird feeling realising our trip was coming to an end. After saying goodbye to some of the girls who had to head off pretty much as soon as we arrived in Bangkok, and giving presents and cards to our lovely tour guides made me feel really sad. I should tell you more about our tour guides actually, I haven’t given them enough credit in my blog posts.
Yo and Art; you are my heroes! As a first time traveller, I wouldn’t have had the foggiest idea (and still don’t now to be honest) how to organise travel across the country, accommodation, taxis, tours etc…I just generally would have no idea what I was doing. Yo and Art organised the best activities for us, always making sure our safety and happiness was their top priority; and were always happy to answer our questions. Above and beyond all that, they were amazing people. If you’re reading this Yo (Okayyyy guyyy), you are truly one of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. It was so endearing to meet someone who is so proud of their culture and so happy to share it with others. You taught me so much about your culture, about yourself and just how to be a good person. You’re a credit to Gap 360, to your parents, and most importantly to yourself. Remember; check your belongingggg! And Art, I’ll admit I didn’t completely “get” you at first, but you were always there for us, joining in with our drinking and such; and once we started sharing banter about our plans to “get married and honeymoon on Koh Phangan” we totally became the best of friends! You’re a funny and smart guy, thank you for everything you & Yo did for us; and I hope to see you both again someday.
*puts away tissues and continues writing blog post*
Okay, so as a group where the foundation of our friendship was alcohol, we couldn’t have gotten away without having one final banging night out, KHAO SAN ROAD BABY!!! The nostalgia and déjà vu continued throughout the night, for example; buying street food (chicken skewers) from a vendor I’d visited just before we were leaving Bangkok the first time and going to a live music bar that we went to on our first night out together. It was such a fantastic night, the buckets were flowing, the alcohol was making me even more emotional, I don’t remember most of the night and what I do remember I can’t possibly share on the internet…yeah, crazy shit happened that night; but with the way our nights out always panned out, I wouldn’t have expected anything less – it was absolutely perfect!
So the night was over, I’d said goodbye to most of the gang whilst ridiculously drunk (which actually made it a lot easier, I was dreading the goodbyes), I had to leave for the airport at 8am in the morning; but that didn’t stop me staying up til about 5am, with one of the lads who was shoving food & drink down my throat to sober me up.
And with that, my trip was over. All the sunshine, beaches, mosquitos, elephants, tigers, temples, bike riding, snorkelling and fab adventure with my new pals was over; back to boring old reality in boring old England.
It’s been three months since I returned from Thailand, meaning I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my journey; what I’d learnt, what I’d do differently and what I want to do next.
Things I’d do differently
This was my first travel experience that wasn’t a normal resort holiday with my parents. I had a lot to learn, I didn’t get everything right but that’s what life is about – learning.
Budgeting was one of the things I was most worried about before I went. I’ve been to uni, budgeting was never my strong point. Going to a place where the currency and value of things is so different to home tricks you into believing you aren’t spending much money. The equivalent of £1 for a beer is quite a bargain, but do remember that all those pounds add up. Fortunately for me, after my four week trip I was going home; back to a place where I live with my parents, have a decent job and don’t have that many bills and other payments to worry about, so I spent my money pretty freely and didn’t say no to any opportunities. Overall I spent about £800 over the course of a month, which is not that bad. However, next time I go travelling I want to stay out for longer, and go to places that are a bit more expensive than the land of smiles; therefore next time I shall put a bit more thought into budgeting.
As you can tell through reading my Thai memoirs, alcohol played a big part in my adventures; which was absolutely fine, I had loads of fun and the parties out there shit over any party I’ve been to at home – but please remember the majority of my adventures weren’t alcohol induced and I am definitely a person who can have lots of fun without it. There were occasions where I embarrassed myself, lost my friends and had alcohol induced confidence (can be a good or bad thing!) Luckily, nothing terrible happened to me, I had wonderful friends who always had my back and made sure I was safe – and I felt completely safe too. I wasn’t so drunk that I had no idea what I was doing/where I was/what was going on etc, but I could always end up in that situation in the future…so yeah, next time I’ll probably drink a bit less.
Little lessons and big reflections
I know it sounds bare cliché, but I really feel like a different person since coming back from travelling. I have a different perspective about certain things, and I learnt many things (big and small) about the world and about myself.
I learnt little things about Thailand/South East Asia specifically, about how peaceful and welcoming their religion and culture is, that their toilets – whether Western or squat – are less than sanitary; deal with it, that when crossing the road you can’t dawdle – it’s so busy but you need to just GO! I learnt that eating my body weight in spring rolls and chicken satay is totally cool, that wearing the same outfit 7 times is okay, and most importantly I don’t need a lot of material belongings to make me happy.
Granted, my phone, my iPad, my makeup, my hairdryer and my straighteners came with me; but I didn’t feel the need to sit on social networks and compare myself to other people, and I genuinely felt that everything I had in my backpack was all I need. The experiences I had, from things as big as riding elephants and to as small as watching the sunset on the beach, were more valuable than any material possessions I could ever own. As that famous saying goes, “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” I learnt how important it is to immerse yourself in culture and experiences; I mean just look at the amount of things I did that I was so scared of doing! Eliminate the fear! I can’t wait to get out and see the world again; the travel bug has truly infected me. Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos are next on my list, with another visit to Thailand – and then hopefully onto Australia.
Last but definitely not least, the best thing to come out of this trip was meeting 17 of the most beautiful people inside & out – who I can honestly say are some of the best friends I’ve ever had. We were all so different but so the same, we blended together perfectly and genuinely got on. I felt like I could completely be myself around them, I didn’t feel like I had to prove myself or live up to any expectations. After hearing some people’s stories of nightmare travel companions and arguments, I can’t help but think how lucky we got with our group. As soon as we got the buddy list a month before our travels were beginning, we were straight on Facebook, introducing ourselves, asking advice about what size backpacks to get; and once we’d all met up we completely hit it off! Admittedly there was so much drama in the group, more than Geordie/Jersey Shore, The Only Way Is Essex and Made in Chelsea; but it was mostly good drama and I really felt like we were cool enough to have our own TV show.
Okay Guyyyys; thank you for being such incredible travel companions and friends, I couldn’t have possibly wished for a better group. You’re all amazing people and I couldn’t be happier that I met you all; I will never forget any of you and I look forward to seeing you all again someday, wherever in the world that may be.
Kop Khun Kha Thailand, and always remember
I REGRET NOTHING