Now, I cannot confess to be an extreme explorer, or even a backpacker resigned to life on the road, however, after my trip to Asia, I can confess that I have been converted from mere holiday-maker to avid traveller. I would now voluntarily swap beach towel for hiking boots, villa for night train and taxi for perilous tuk tuk. The journey is part of the beauty of travelling, and I do not mean the journey to the swimming pool. Trekking, boats, night trains are part of this globetrotting, they allow you to see the vibrancy and rich variety of the country and it’s culture. You see more, do more and undoubtedly create more memories than those of a luxury beach holiday.
During my month in Thailand, I saw untouched islands, crumbling ruins, bamboo forests and streets run by ladyboys and, if the variety isn’t enough to convince you, let me share some of my adventurous escapades.
I caught countless boats, which took me to tropical paradises isolated by azure waters and the famous Monkey Bay, island hopping from the commercialised Koh Phangan to the infinitely more rustic Koh Phi Phi. Twice I, rather melodramatically, thought I wouldn’t make it to the shore. Stranded in a long-tail boat during a tropical storm out at sea, it was impossible to differentiate the buckets of rain from waves of salt water. That night, I would continue my tempestuous journey on a nine hour night boat, travelling from Koh Tao to Koh Phi Phi. This night boat was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Some likened it to a slave ship and, while I wouldn’t like to detract from the horror of the slave trade, they weren’t far off. Thin ‘mattresses’ were arranged with only a pillow, side by side along the three bunks of the boat and the breeze from the cockpit was our air- con. The ‘toilet’ was reached by stepping over the stray cat that had climbed aboard and the few adventurers without the privilege of a bed. The air was bitter with sweat, salt and sea sickness but I’d do it again it a flash.
Similarly, waking up in a first class train cabin with a cockroach nesting on my pillow was another of the experiences that was less easy to forget. But looking out of the window and chugging through villages on stilts, tropical forests and past fishermen settled by rivers surely makes up for the hardship.
I beheld stunning, untouched views of palm forests and bamboo jungles that could only be grasped trekking through hill tribe villages, while Thai tribes’ children ran alongside me as I meandered beside waterfalls. I marvelled over the entire island of Koh Tao by roaming up mysterious dirt tracks on quadbikes, and I was engulfed by ancient temples cycling around the city of Ayuthaya (a spectacle that was evidently fascinating to the locals). And what better way is there to travel through Bangkok’s seedy, yet electrifying, backstreets than in a tuk tuk that could potentially be taking you to the local gem shop or, worse, a ping pong show?
Travelling is about the travel itself, the journey; so be the wayfarer rather than the idle tourist.
by Isabelle Pitman