After my time in Cambodia, and with only a few weeks of my whole trip left, Thailand beckoned! I was curious as to how I would find Thailand, especially after spending so much time in less-developed and less-westernised Cambodia and Vietnam.
I arrived in Bangkok after a crazily long and uncomfortable overnight bus journey from Siem Reap across the border but knowing I only had a day and a half spare for Bangkok I set out right away to explore as much as I could! As it happened it was the day of the King of Thailand's birthday and if I thought we had a fondness for our queen in the UK, the Thai people take their love for their king to another level entirely. There was no sign of the ongoing political protests I had heard so much about before arriving; they had all been put on hold to celebrate the King's birthday. The streets were full but people were happy, dressed in yellow and with the colours of the Thai flag in their hair or on a badge. It did make travelling across the city near impossible as the roads and paths came to a standstill but I did manage to take in a few sights still; the giant gold reclining Buddha, the sunset over Wat Arun, and Khao San Road. The next day I was able to visit the incredible ornate buildings and temples attached to the royal palace where the Emerald Buddha is, though the Royal Palace itself was still closed for the festivities. Then I made my across town by skytrain to visit the enormous Chatuchak weekend market before I checked out of my hostel and made my way to the train station for my first overnight train experience of my adventure. My train would take me from Bangkok all the way up to Chiang Mai in the north-west of the country, a city that I had heard a lot of good things about from people on my travels; I had decided to alter my plans slightly and devote some time to it before heading south and to the beaches.
Chiang Mai the city was not in itself amazing but from Chiang Mai you could venture out of the city and into the jungle for trekking and other assorted activities. It was actually going to be my birthday on my 3rd day there and I had already decided that I would book myself onto a trek or a tour so as to be part of a group and not a complete loner on my birthday! I spent most of Sunday trekking through the jungle with a Canadian girl called Jen, a French guy called Yann and our Thai guide. It was pretty hard-going in the heat and up mountains I can tell you! In the evening our guide cooked us an incredible Thai feast and even presented me with a cake with an enormous candle in and a bamboo cup engraved with my name that he had carved with his machete as he walked along. It was such a nice birthday gift, especially as I hadn't expected anything. Waking up on my birthday the next morning in a ramshackle bamboo hut was pretty cool and unique, even if it was exceptionally early thanks to the crow of the rooster. My birthday activities included more trekking through the jungle, swimming in a natural rock-pool next to a waterfall, riding an elephant and bathing with it for an hour, floating down the river on a bamboo raft and finishing it off with a birthday meal out with new friends back in Chiang Mai. It was a pretty special birthday and one I won't forget in a hurry.
The next day was even better as I was able to experience a whole day with the elephants as a birthday present from home. The day was incredible as we learnt the special Mahout handlers commands for the elephants, fed them bananas and vitamin pellets, and got to ride them through the jungle and wash and splash around with them in the river. For such enormous animals, they are so friendly and it was so much fun to hug them, pet them, and ride them - an experience to remember!
From Chiang Mai I had another ridiculously long journey via Bangkok down to the south. I had had enough of buses by this point and so I chose to go for another train journey, or 2 to be precise, followed by a ferry across to Koh Samui. 3 days of enjoying the beach there, exploring a waterfall and making new friends! Then a hop, skip and a jump across the Thai peninsula and I was in Krabi. Krabi Town is not much to shout about but it does boast some delicious street food stalls which were so fun to explore each night and was the perfect place to explore some incredible beaches from. Railey bay was the destination on day one, a short trip away by longtail boat. The water was warm and crystal clear, the sand was white, the sun was scorching hot and the whole setting was as you would see on a postcard. The scenery on day two was even more breath-taking. I booked myself onto a day trip out to Koh Phi Phi islands where we explored various bays including the famous bay from the film 'The Beach' and went snorkelling with pretty colourful shoals of fish. The crowds of other tourists apart, it was like paradise on earth, it was that beautiful. It was the perfect end to my trip, swimming and taking in the sun, and the sights.
I made my way over to Phuket to start my journey home via Kuala Lumpur and tried to savour the last few moments of my but before I knew it my trip was over… I was on my flight home, back to chilly England and Christmas merriment. The last four months have been the most action-packed, adrenaline-fuelled, breathtakingly wonderful of my life and I'm sure I'll never forget my experiences or my new friends! All I can say now is I can't wait to start planning where to go next!