After being home in Adelaide for a few days, I was ready to pack up my small amount of essential belongings (the number of belongings deteriorating due to selling everything on ebay for travel funds), and venture out again, this time, to Thailand. After sitting a few tests and submitting a few assignments for uni, I found myself jet setting off on the cheapest Air Asia flight imaginable, eating only my pre packed nuts to sustain me until I arrived (no food supplied on the plane obviously). I was to spend a mere 10 days backpacking around the south of Thailand. “But Nikki how are you meant to see another country and truly experience their culture in only 10 days?” you may ask. Well, this is where careful planning, meeting people with better plans, and then throwing your shitty plans out of the window, comes in.
Now as a person who has never been to an Asian country before (Airports and day trips excluded), getting off the plane at 10pm in Phuket was a bit of a shock to the system. We were dropped on Bangla road at “Kool backpacker hostel,” where we had pre booked 1 night simply out of the hilarity of the hostel name. It was here that the tsunami of thai people attempting to sell me crappy merchandise and tickets to ping pong shows, hit. I fumbled my way through the sea of drunken tourists and majestic lady boys, offering a “so sorry not today” or a “I really am quite sorry but I must go” to these people, before my well travelled backpacking bud taught me how to ignore them; just walk past, perhaps say “No” once, but simply continue on your way.
Although this description of my first 30 seconds in Phuket may appear somewhat amusing – it is also applicable to my next 24 hours in Phuket. If you would like to travel to party with drunk tourists and sit on a dirty beach whilst being nagged to buy a “Kiss me lady boy” bracelet, by all means, go to Phuket.
As you may have guessed, we got out of there as fast as a tuk tuk on steroids.
It was then that we decided to stay away from full moon parties and ping pong shows (still yet to figure out what this is – although I unfortunately do have a rough idea..). We caught a 6 hour coach through what appeared to be a jungle, to Suratthani, where we were to catch the night ferry to Koh Tao – an island neighbouring Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, yet dissimilar as it does not host full or half moon parties and is known for its extraordinary diving (see “Choosing an island in Thailand”). The bus ride alone allowed me to see some of the rural and significantly less developed areas of Thailand – areas characterised by battered old shacks and unruly jungle.
After recruiting another 3 friends for the trip, 5 of us set off back to the mainland, where we caught another lengthy bus ride through rural Thailand and up to Bangkok, arriving on Khao San road at 1am. Fully aware that we would have more time in Bangkok at the conclusion of our trip, we followed the advice of a fellow backpacker, and caught a white sprinter van 2 hours up to Kanchannaburi (See “A town of history, beauty and Bob Marley”). We saw another two nights pass us as we stayed on a floating hut and explored this unique thai village.
The conclusion of our Thailand adventure saw us departing with a new, but dear friend (whose lack of shoes and impressive dreadlocks resulted in him closely resembling Tarzan) and heading back to Bangkok. We stayed on Khao San road – backpacker central located in the “old city” of Bangkok. Its endless choices of hostels costing less than a small latte in Australia, shops, bars, pop up stores and street food, make it the perfect location for backpackers. Those seeking something a little less intense than the classic Khao San, Soi Rambutri, located only a few metres from Khao San road, may be the answer. Soi Rambutris narrowly paved streets, secluded hostels and laid back environment can offer the perfect balance between relaxation and exploration. The highlights of our short, yet somewhat adventurous Bangkok experience included a predicated 40 minute tuk tuk ride being completed in a mere 20 minutes (yes, the duration of this ride was spent planning for my funeral), exploring Wat Chana Songkhram – the local temple tucked away between Khao San Road and Soi Rambutri, and eating endless amounts of street food (tastes the best by far, and decreases your chances of food poisoning/related illness!)
- Take buses. Don’t waste time flying all over the country. Long bus rides allow you to see rural aspects of Thailand, and other areas you never would have seen otherwise!
- Utilise the night transport available – this also means you won’t be wasting day time, and the transport acts as accommodation for that night (++$$).
- Eat where the locals eat – not only does this taste the best, but eating with the locals significantly reduces your risk of picking up something nasty from your plate.
- Meet new people, listen to their stories and take their advice
- Meet and talk to the locals, and most importantly – try and get off the beaten track!