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I think travelling around southeast Asia and not going to Thailand would be considered practically a crime amongst backpackers. It’s also fair to say that people from all over the world flock there for their hard earned holiday or an exotic honeymoon. So needless to say, I was gonna go too. If you’ve been following Escapes Etc and have read my around the world route, you will know that I haven’t done the whole off the beaten path thing. In fact, I very much travelled with the backpacker flow and I loved it.
However, when it came to Thailand, there were 3 main things that were springing to the front of my mind and suddenly, I wasn’t feeling it:
- The world and his wife will be in Thailand and I just don’t want that.
- It’s just going to be full of westerners getting wasted and throwing up at 8pm because they have no control.
- Thai Full Moon parties are so overrated – there are so many beautiful beaches around the world that haven’t been ruined for the sake of tourism so why bother?
I don’t mean to sound like a travel snob as like I’ve said, it’s not like I’d ventured off elsewhere for the rest of my trip, but these thoughts really did shape my time in Thailand. It was a ‘marmite’ destination for me. But in all honesty, I don’t think I was throwing myself into things as much as I could have. I had put up my walls and they weren’t budging. I had, for all intense and purpose, turned into a travel snob – exactly what I never wanted to be.
BUT KNOWING WHAT I KNOW NOW, I SIMPLY HAVE TO GO BACK TO THAILAND!
My first stop – Bangkok
To start with a more positive note, I loved Bangkok! Before I knew it, I was wandering down Khao San road eating bugs, stuffing my face with Pad Thai, haggling the fakery goods and drinking till I couldn’t move. It was great! Bangkok is such a vibrant city and I was loving being swept along with the backpacker must-dos. It is incredibly touristy, but It’s an amazing city and I actually ended up starting and finishing my time in Thailand here before flying off to Australia. There’s so much to do and it’s a great mix of city and culture.
My next stop – Phuket
I had heard a lot of amazing things about Phuket, beautiful beaches, a great place to relax. Well, I didn’t think so. If you want all of that, don’t stay in Patong where I did. And without meaning to sound obnoxious, it felt like I was on an all-inclusive holiday somewhere in Europe surrounded by people who were not interested in the culture. The thing was, I had booked my hotel for a couple of days and now I couldn’t bring myself to move, lose the money and go somewhere else and join all those people I could see on Instagram having a blissful time. Yes, I had well and truly shot myself in the foot.
My final stop – Chiang Mai
By the time I had reached Chiang Mai I was pretty deflated. Lots of people go to Chiang Mai to see the elephants which is something I already knew I wasn’t going to do (check out Little Grey Box’s post about the realities of animal tourism) but aside from that, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and to be honest the town itself left me pretty uninspired. But once again, I found myself resisting joining in. Chiang Mai has a wealth of amazing and unique temples to visit and fantastic day trips to the mountains with stunning views or to Chiang Rai to see the famous white temple, Wat Rong Khun. But did I do this? Nope.
The stop I wouldn’t even entertain- the islands!
You know those beautiful Islands with the Full Moon parties that so many people dream of going to? Well, I didn’t even contemplate them. To me, they just screamed drunk westerners abroad, happily ruining what would be a set of beautiful spotless islands with spilt drinks, used condoms and vomit. What’s worse is I let the news of horrendous things happening to tourists scare me away. Although all of this does happen, Thailand is certainly not the only place in the world where it happens, and I can safely say that I have been to places like that before anyway! And you know what, I had a bloody good time.
But I had made my mind up and I wasn’t going. What I failed to remember, as with many places that promote this kind of tourism, that only a small portion of the area is for this and the rest is far from it. Yes, Koh Phangan is famous for the crazy Full Moon parties but it’s also home to stunning beaches and fantastic walks. The other islands like Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi are equally as beautiful and yet still dismissed them.
WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKING?!?
Learning a lesson the hard way
So let’s fast forward a few years to today. Looking back at the time in Thailand I know I went in with the wrong mindset and over exaggerated views of this amazing country. I was so hell-bent on not being another Brit abroad that I forget to open my eyes and really look at what it has to offer and realise that I AM that Brit Abroad! After all, there are reasons for things being so popular, and it’s not because it’s shit. I forgot I was a backpacker and it’s ok to do backpacker things! I don’t usually care about clichés or what people think of me in general, but Thailand changed that which is crazy.
The problem was, I took Thailand for granted and now I regret it. So if you’re going to Thailand and wondering whether it’s for you, my answer would go for it! There’s only one way you will find out, and trust me, you won’t regret doing it even if you find it’s not for you, half as much as I regret not even trying!
Now, let’s fast forward 5 years…
I’ve recently been lucky enough to finally go back and really see what Thailand is about. I spent about 3 weeks island hopping around Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lant, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan and it was awesome! I’m so glad I was able to go back and not only did I learn so much about Thailand, but it was actually my first time travelling in the low season which was great. You can check out my guides to island hopping around Thailand and my epic first timers guide to visiting Bangkok and be sure to head over to my YouTube channel to check out my vlogs from my trip!