Day 12 to 15 – Ayutthaya and Sukhothai

As predicted, I have fallen behind with my blog! I have been moving about quite a lot and have spent very little time relaxing, I think I will need a day by a pool soon. 

So after saying goodbye to my lovely host Nice, I caught the train to Ayutthaya, a small temple town that once upon a time was the capital of Thailand. The train was an interesting experience, as people wandered up and down selling all sorts of things – I was very tempted to buy some curry and rice purely because I never have the opportunity to on a train! Much better than Southerns sorry excuse for a ‘refreshment’ trolley and at a quarter of the price. The train was also on time and arrived EARLY! Miracles do happen.

After a bit of a trek hunting down my hostel, I eventually found it and dropped my stuff off before heading to the night market.The next day, I woke up early and rented a bike to explore the temples. The best thing happened when I got there – I was actually approached by some monks from Myanmar and they were very interested in speaking to me in English. When I told them I was from England, one of them said ‘Ah, Wayne Rooney – he very famous footballer!’- hilarious! I soon realised that one of the monks spoke very good English so took the opportunity  to ask him about Buddhism. He told me that the main principle of Buddhism is to believe in yourself and that they do not fight with other religions. It was difficult to get a more in depth explanation from him but it was so great to learn about Buddhism from a monk, and I will definitely be reading some more about it. 

In the afternoon, I met up with two Canadians, Greg and Rachel, and we went for noodle soup and some more cycling. Greg decided that he fancied Sukhothai too so we booked the bus for the next morning. Sukhothai used to be the capital but it was then superseded by Ayutthaya. Upon arriving in Sukhothai, I immediately preferred it to Ayutthaya – it was much more chilled out and less commercial. We rented a bike to explore the historical park and the temples were very impressive. I really liked the elephant temple, photo below! 

In the evening, we went to the walking street to try some local delicacies and have a beer. It was really funny being with Greg at the market because he is 6 foot 9 and most Thai people are about 5 foot 5, so they can’t help but look at him and their faces are priceless. They don’t mean it to be rude, you can tell that it is pure fascination. It was great for me because I couldn’t get lost as Greg was so easy to find, he was even taller than the food stall tents!

Now that I have been here a few days, I now have a good feel for the culture and people. Thai people love to smile and unless they don’t speak any English at all, they want to speak to foreigners and help them whenever they can. I do realise that they often charge us foreigners more for things, but it is still ridiculously cheap and in my opinion it’s no different to England where cities that tourists visit are disproportionately more expensive. I am happy to pay a bit more if it means supporting local people with their small businesses, and it does annoy me a bit when I meet travellers who moan about things being expensive. Take my word for it, nothing in Thailand is expensive! 140 baht for some curry and rice at a restaurant is equivalent to £2.70 – where in England could you eat for that cheap? You can’t even get a sandwich for that in most places. 

Next stop – Chiang Mai! It is definitely my favourite place so far, please read my next post to find out about this wonderful city in the North. 


Day 9 to 11 – Pak Chong and Khao Yai National Park.

Before heading up North, I decided to make a slight detour to visit a national park. I really wanted to see elephants in the wild – not in chains and being ridden by big fat tourists. I was so sad to hear about the elephant in Cambodia that died from heat exhaustion. Elephants are extremely intelligent creatures that we should respect and care for, not put to work and abuse. I understand that in some places they are required for work, but using them for tourism is completely different and unnecessary. Don’t believe people who say they are looked after and the elephants enjoy it – all lies!

Rant over. I arrived in Pak Chong late after a 10 hour bus ride from Koh Chang, and fell into bed without dinner. I had organised an afternoon tour with Greenleaf guesthouse, so spent the morning recuperating and talking to the guesthouse owner. Her English nickname is Nice and she lives up to it! Really sweet and her English was very good – she wrote down a nice dish in Thai for me to order at lunch. She was keen to further improve her English and was pleased when I said I had trained to be an EFL teacher. I helped her with some pronunciation, it’s really fulfilling when you suddenly see someone understand something, however small. She soon mastered the difference between ‘ship’ and ‘chip’ which are really common difficulties for South East Asians. It makes me really happy when I teach, even if it’s just five minutes and a few words. 

The half day tour was very interesting and I got to see lots of different animals. I held a scorpion spider ( the spider from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!), it was terrifying! I didn’t really want to but there was a five year old boy in my group who offered his hand to the guide as if he was accepting a sweet. No fear at all, and it was quite fun to watch him chase millipedes and beetles round the forest! We did have to reign him in a bit in case he grabbed something poisonous. We went into a cave that was full of bats, literally inches from your head. They can’t hear our voices but we were told to not open our bags because they would hear the vibrations of the zip. We also saw some snakes and a tarantula – luckily I didn’t have to hold this one!

The highlight of the half day tour was watching 2 million bats leave their roost. It’s hard to describe how amazing it was but you can see the sheer number of bats in the photo below. It’s definitely something I will never forget and will probably not have the privilege to see again. I feel very lucky indeed! After the tour, I went to the night market to get some food. It’s fun trying to guess what things are and then choose something lucky dip style. Luckily, everything I bought was edible and my new fave dessert is mango sticky rice. If I eat it everyday though I will be buying two seats for the plane to Korea!

For my last day in Pak Chong, I booked a full day tour to the national park with the same tour group. I got to stay with my little German group and it was nice to have some kids on the tour. Seeing their faces when they see an animal is such a joy! The two boys were both under 5 and they managed a trek through the jungle for 3 hours, I was very impressed. The littlest one didn’t want any help walking and he found this 7 foot piece of vine that he decided he wanted to take home (see photo below). Hilarious!

We got to see a few endangered/uncommon species during the trek, including a gibbon, a Siamese crocodile, a huge hornbill and a baby green Python. In the afternoon, we went to visit a waterfall which sadly had dried up but I was excited to learn that it was the waterfall from the film The Beach! I stood metres from where Leo jumped into the pool, almost the same as meeting him (HA). After the waterfall detour it was time for the most important part of the tour – elephant spotting time! We drove around in the truck for about an hour and I really thought we wouldn’t be lucky enough. But as we went round a corner, an overwhelming smell of elephant dung wafted into the truck and there in the bushes was a large bull elephant! I was excited and also scared because we were very close and I am pretty sure he could have tipped the truck in a matter of seconds. He didn’t seem too bothered by us though and we got to watch him for a few minutes. I would have liked to seen a larger group interacting but Nice has been to the park seven times and never seen an elephant,  so I am just happy I saw one at all! See if you can spot him in the photo, it’s not easy but it’s still proof. Also, a curious macaque! 

Next up, another detour to some temple towns – Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. Only a short train ride so another new transport experience to look forward to! 

Day 4 to 8 – Koh Chang

After hectic sweaty Bangkok, Koh Chang was complete paradise. I really got to unwind and also made some amazing new friends. The bar we frequent every night is called Gubay bar, and if you are ever visiting Koh Chang you must go! It is very chilled out and you get to choose the music which is a nice touch. The owner, Sun, is very welcoming and always full of energy! He always made sure we were having fun and looked after all of us. I don’t think I ever saw him pour a drink though, he is very good at persuading his customers to work for him! 

On my second day, Sun organised a motorbike trip for the Gubay gang. You will all be pleased to hear that I did not attempt any motor biking! I was quite happy to sit on the back of Sun’s bike and enjoy the beautiful island scenery and try out my GoPro for the first time. I was told that I would be too slow which is probably true!  We rode round to the other side of the island which is pretty much deserted of tourist at this time of year. It was a long way and at times, there wasn’t even a road which was an experience! We went to a mangrove, ate delicious Thai fruits, went swimming and then finished off on the beach to watch the sunset. It was such a great day and I have become quite attached to the gang. I think this is going to be the first hard goodbye of the trip but certainly not the last. 

I spent the next two days on Koh Chang just relaxing on the beach and then heading to the bar in the evening. It was actually nice to have some sort of routine, and much better than my standard work routine. My days went like this – coconut on the beach, tanning time, swimming time, lunch, another coconut, shower, nap, dinner, bar! Heaven! I also treated myself to a Thai massage – having your back cracked by a tiny little Thai lady is an experience! I’ve definitely got rid of a lot of tension and am in a good state of mind for the rest of the trip. Like any holiday, it always take a little while to relax into it – I think I’m there now!

So Koh Chang has set the bar high for the rest of the trip, although obviously islands are very different to the mainland. I will be spending the next few days exploring temples in Ayutthaya and Sukhothai before heading up North to Chiang Mai! 

Here are some pics of the Gubay gang and a Koh Chang sunset!

Day 1 to 3 – Bangkok!

And so the adventure begins!!! 

I arrived at Bangkok on Sunday afternoon and made my way by train to the Lub D Hostel in Silom. I met some people on the plane who thought my hostel sounded great so they came with me and we got the train to the hostel. Stepping off the train, the heat hit me – 40 degrees and so humid! Apparently it’s the hottest it has been in Bangkok for 45 years, just my luck. However, I think I have adapted reasonably well, apart from looking like I have stepped out of the shower pretty much all the time. They do not hold back on the air con though so the trains are like moving refrigerators, amazing! It really does make you appreciate any opportunity you get to cool down, so I guess that’s the silver lining!

So before I left for my trip, a number of people asked me how I will cope being by myself all the time. Well, I will let them know when I find myself alone which hasn’t happened yet. I immediately made friends with the girls in my dorm and we spent all of our time in Bangkok together. I tried my first street food and I haven’t died yet so that’s my first success of the trip. Despite the heat, we managed to spend some time at Wat Pho and had a walk round the local neighbourhood. We also went to a really cool night market along the river called Asiatique. The clothes are dirt cheap and pretty good quality, shame I have the tiniest backpack and a fairly small budget, otherwise I would have a new wardrobe sorted. 

My first impressions of Thailand are mostly positive and the people here are really friendly and happy to help. When I left for Koh Chang yesterday, I had my first real glimpse of what it is like to be entirely surrounded by people who don’t speak English. I was the only foreign person on my bus, so there was no hope for conversation but everyone smiled at me and seemed curious if anything. Although when I attempted to talk to them in English, some people stepped away from me and looked at me like I had just sneezed on them or something!  This isn’t because they are being rude or unfriendly but more that they just have absolutely no idea what I am going on about and I think they are just a bit shy too. The man I sat next to in the mini van was very curious and he took a selfie with me which was quite sweet, I felt like a celebrity! I’m not sure if it was because I was foreign or a girl ( or both!) but he wasn’t intimidating at all, just a bit curious I guess. I have heard stories of people being scammed but so far I have only met really friendly people. Thai people are very happy and chilled out, hopefully there optimism will rub off on me. Not that I am miserable, but they just seem to have no worries at all. 

My first few days have been so great and it’s so exciting to finally be here after wanting to travel for years. I have felt a bit overwhelmed a couple of times but it passes as soon as I meet another traveller. The weirdest thing happened when I got to Koh Chang – I went out to get some food and the couple from the plane who stayed in my hostel were sat eating in the restaurant I had chosen! We had lost touch and I didn’t realise they were even coming here so it was a really great surprise. They have introduced me to a little bar with a great atmosphere and I now have a little group to hang out with. Went to the beach with my new Dutch friend Renee, she is also a huge geek like me and we really clicked! She works at a rehab clinic out here and it sounds like an incredible job. I had no idea that you could have a career on a tropical island – where do I sign up?!

Anyway, enough from me for now – I need to concentrate on tanning and exploring! I am renting a scooter tomorrow ( I really hope my parents aren’t reading this or I will be getting a phone call) so I will let you all know how that goes. If I don’t post in a few days, just assume I fell into the jungle and have been taken hostage by a troop of monkeys….

Ps. Here is a photo of me at Wat Pho and another of Klong Klai beach, Koh Chang. 

6 days to go!

The big day is nearly here! I am feeling a mixture of emotions currently – excited but also a bit terrified and in denial that I am actually going. It doesn’t feel real yet and I don’t think it will until I get off the plane in Bangkok. I am staying in a big hostel popular with backpackers so hopefully I will meet lots of people straight away which will help me to feel a bit more secure.

Since my last post, a few lovely things have happened. Firstly, I am now a CELTA qualified teacher, yippee! Secondly, I have a job in Korea ( provided I submit the 1,000 documents they require from me!). I will be teaching children of various ages, and will hopefully be placed on Jeju island, but if not somewhere else in Korea. So happy that I have a job in place, so I can now enjoy the next 4 months without too much worry.

First stop on my trip is Thailand, and then Laos and so on! I may change my plans at any point depending on who I meet and where they are off to. This will be my first proper break from work and I think it is going to feel really weird not having a purpose other than to wander freely, eat nice food and meet new people! I think it’ll take a few weeks for me to completely relax but I’m sure it won’t be too difficult. I plan to read all the books while I am away, so if anyone has any recommendations please leave a comment! I like most genres, except crime books really. The next book I am going to read is The Alchemist, so I’ll let you know what I think. My next post will be about my first week in Thailand – ahhhhh!

Ps. I had my leaving party last night with family and friends – so thank you to everyone who came to say goodbye and brought me lovely gifts. Will miss you all!!!image

No more excuses!

There have been a number of things supposedly holding me back from travelling the world. New job, inability to save, finishing qualifications etc. They are all totally rubbish excuses, and purely a cover up for the fact that until now I have mainly been held back by fear! The idea of leaving everything I knew to travel to the other side of the world was just far too much. Six years after graduating from university, aged 27 years old, I have finally decided to ignore my fears and go for it!! I have also decided to change career path, as whilst I loved my company, insurance just isn’t for me.  I’ve always thought about the idea of teaching biology, as I have a degree in Zoology, so when I return to the UK I will be applying for a PGCE. In preparation, I am going to teach English as a foreign language on my travels, and I’m currently applying for a position in South Korea (watch this space!).

So in summary, my whole life is about to change dramatically and I couldn’t be more excited!! Not being one to do things by half, I will be embarking on my South East Asian adventure solo. I will also be doing as the experts do, and packing light! Hence the blog title, which refers to the fact that I might look like an expert backpacker but in fact have zero experience whatsoever! I am under no impression that my trip is going to be entirely plain sailing, but that’s all part of the adventure. To end my first blog post here is a quote from The Lord of the Rings, which I think beautifully sums up the prospect of adventure:

“Its a dangerous business, going out your front door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to”.