backpacking, bangkok and birthdays

It’s not even week one of my travelling adventure and I already feel like I’ve been out here for months. Time is the strangest thing. In a nutshell: I am loving life right now. If I were an emoji I would be most akin to the chuffed face emoji ☺️

To set the scene, I landed in a hot and humid Bangkok after a fitful night on Eurowings last Sunday. My eleven hour inflight experience included no food or entertainment unless you paid for it – making Ryanair look like Emirates.

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Nonetheless my gung ho spirit was not dampened, apart from in sweat, and after showering, I headed out for a mooch around the city which included embracing all cliches and eating a Pad Thai for lunch and drinking my first Chang beer – of many more to come that night.

While I don’t want this post to resemble a ‘Dear Diary’ entry or God forbid a day by day account of what I ate and how I felt; I will summarise some of the highlights of my 2 nights and 3 days in the crazy capital of Bangkok.

– I experienced the drunken stupor, sounds and smells of the Khao San Road; including buckets, then consequently a few very tempting tattoo shops, black skewered scorpions and pick-pocketing lady boys.

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– I was scammed into a tuk tuk tour of some temples and fell victim to the ‘government coupon scheme’ which involved a detour of every travel agent and tailor in the city for the driver to get free petrol. Don’t ask.

– I got drenched in the afternoon downpours in Chinatown among the local women gutting ripe smelling fish

– At Damnoen Saduak Floating market I saw – no exaggeration – both a 5 foot long anaconda-like eel and a slow loris

– I also realised that I am an embarrassing and very disrespectful traveller and tourist as I forgot daily to bring appropriate covers for my shoulders and knees for the temples which resulted in borrowing some rather questionable robes for decency. Sorry Buddha, mate.

In the process of acclimatisation I have also altered my penchant-for-prosecco taste buds to Chang-chugging ones capable of washing down £1 beers. I’m also dining like a queen on £2 street food dinners. In fact, my current PB is a 12 baht noodle dish I had in Bangkok which works out as 27p.

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Next stop – with half the other travellers I met – was Chiang Mai by night train. Negotiating the tickets was the first hurdle, involving a variation of shouting-to-a-deaf-person style broken English, accompanied by charade-like hand gestures. So it was a blessing to have a bed that opened horizontal for the near 12 hour journey from the capital into northern Thailand.

Chiang Mai is less concrete jungle and more green jungle, so a polar opposite from Bangkok. Bar the sweat, that’s still very much an issue to deal with. I have been staying in a hostel-come-guesthouse which throws all preconceptions of a grimy backpacker hostel out the window. For the price of a lunch from Pret, I have a pool that looks like it’s been Instagram filtered and views to die for, overlooking the mountains and temples. It’s not a lie when they tell you that your money goes so far in this country.

Chiang Mai has involved a lot of temple touring – again inappropriately dressed – but also celebrating my 28th birthday with some new friends. Many tequila shots, Chang beers and mojitos after the stroke of midnight on the 6th, I was driving through the outskirts of the old city on the back of a scooter in the pissing torrential rain trying to find local clubs to party into the night. It was a major YOLO moment and has made for a great birthday anecdote. The hangover the next day was spectacular.

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Among my tequila drinking and luxury pool swimming in Chiang Mai (insert ☺️ face emoji once more) I have also;

– Learnt how to cook the traditional Thai dishes Pad Thai, Tom Som and Khao Soy with the help of a rather eccentric Lady Boy at Mama Noi’s organic farm

– Trekked to the Monthathan Falls which was a real Pinspo moment

– Seen the biggest spiders in my entire my life which measured the size of my palm. Again, no exaggeration.

– Eaten my first melted cheese and ham toasty from 7 Eleven (for context, that’s like one of the most iconic things to do in SE Asia for travellers)

Amid these anecdotal bullet point experiences, I have met many wonderful people, I have already bought a pair of jazzy traveller trousers and I have fully embraced living out of a 45L backpack. Thankfully I am also yet to get food poisoning, but there’s time.

So far, just 6 days in, I’m technically a year older, probably not any wiser, but I’m feeling great. Life is great. And the adventure has only just begun….

Up Next: Pai, learning how to scooter and staying in a Circus School. The rest is in the hands of fate.

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