Thailand - a popular gap year destination and a favourite among backpackers. With a promise of a hot climate, stunning architecture and plenty of adventure, there's no wondering why! We caught up with traveller Emily Suart to share her experience of visiting Thailand. Read on to find out about how to plan your own Thailand adventure, riding elephants and even learning to cook Thai food!
Hello! My name is Emily, I'm 22 and from South East London. I'm currently in my final year of studying at University and wondering what's going to happen next!
Upon finishing our A levels, my friends and I knew we didn't want to go straight into studying, so we decided to take a year out and get a taste of what the world could offer. After working hard to save as much money as possible we packed our bags and travelled around Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, and in the process had the best five months of our lives!
Thailand. Mecca for all travellers hungry for some excitement. The promise of a hot climate and beautiful beaches was too tempting for us and we knew we had to explore it for ourselves.
The opportunities are varied, with jungles, temples and bustling cities in the North, and opportunities for snorkelling, diving and hedonistic bucket parties in the South. Thailand offers something for every visitor, and definitely lives up to expectations.
I've since returned for a family holiday to visit my sister, who has now moved to Koh Phi Phi. The trip was just as exciting, proving that Thailand also has much to offer to the more mature visitor (sorry Mum and Dad)!
I've spent a total of six weeks in Thailand and have visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Krabi, Ao Nang and Koh Lanta. Everywhere offers something different, meaning the opportunities for adventure are unlimited!
Accommodation is very cheap and we paid between £2-15 a night for a bed, staying in hostels, hotels and guest houses. For the multitude of backpackers there are lots of dorm rooms available, but paying a couple of Baht more will often get you a private en suite room. Of course, if slumming it isn't really your thing, there are plenty of luxury hotels for a fraction of what you might pay in the UK.
Planning a trip in Thailand is really very easy and most activities can be organised at last minute. My friends and I had around-the-world tickets and Thailand was one of the stop-offs. Apart from that and the first night's accommodation, we literally had nothing else booked- not even a flight out! Booking travel internally can often be booked at your hotel; otherwise there are usually travel agents.
Booking places to stay is also very easy and can generally be done online. Visa-wise, you don't need to apply for one unless you're staying for more than 30 days, which was enough time for us to do everything we wanted anyway.
The only problem we faced was actually travelling over the border to Malaysia by coach. A lady ripped us off by telling us we had to pay a certain amount of money to cross the border and in our naivety and panic we paid up, later realising it had been a scam. I would just advise backpackers to keep their head screwed on, and make sure you find out in advance before travelling whether there will be any payments needed.
Thailand offers lots of different exciting adventures, often for not much money. For example, we did lots of boat/snorkelling trips, including visiting Phi Phi Leh where the film The Beach was filmed. One particularly good day trip was the trekking in Chiang Mai. We did a long walk through the jungle and eventually arrived at a stunning waterfall and had a swim to cool off. We then got to ride elephants, before finishing with white water and bamboo rafting. It was a tiring day, but one filled with excitement! Before booking a trip, please make sure the elephants are in good care and when you are there make sure they are fed and watered well! Our enjoyment should never be at the expense of the animals' welfare!
One of the best ways to get involved in a culture is to learn to cook some of the cuisine. Cooking courses are widely available and can usually be organised and booked from your hotel/ hostel. I have done courses in both Chiang Mai and Ao Nang, and they were both really hands-on, fun and a cheap way to enjoy a banquet at the end of the day!
We were taken around the local market, shown different vegetables, rice types, noodles and spices, and as a result we were completely immersed into the Thai culture. We each had our own cooking station, and with the help from our lovely teachers, we were quickly and easily able to make six delicious dishes. Eating it was the hardest part of the day as there was so much of it!
With the aid of the free recipe book we were given at the end of the class, I'm now able to cook Penang curry, Pad Thai and Spring Rolls, all the way from the UK!
Perhaps the worst thing that happened to us was my friend getting scratched by a dog and having to get a series of Rabies jabs in both Thailand and Australia. In the end she was fine and as we told her, this could have been avoided by staying away from the dogs!! Apart from this and the scam on the border, nothing too bad happened. Unfortunately we regularly had upset tummies from the food, but this is unavoidable and shouldn't stop you from trying out the delicious cuisine; just don't drink tap water and avoid dodgy-looking street food!
There are too many to mention! We made lots of new friends whilst travelling, and this was maybe one of the best things. Dancing on the beach with friends and our drinks in buckets was a particular highlight.
My best advice would definitely be to keep a diary!! You can record where you've been, what you've done and stick tickets and photos in it. Your memories will last much longer and it will be an extra souvenir for you!
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