No matter what you’re looking for, Thailand has it all. You can expect buzzing city centres, deep jungles, tons of history and near perfect beaches; something to suit everyone.
Not even the most honed of travel guides can prepare you for what you see, smell and experience when you get to Bangkok. It is a city like no other, filled with an eclectic mix of ultra modern and downright backward. A city where poverty meets excess and it’s all a little bit too much.
The buzz was immense, something people either love or hate about Bangkok, depending on what type of holiday they are looking for. With locals throwing themselves at you on the street it is inevitably a bit overwhelming, but settling into the city and enjoying the surreal sights with some local beer is a great way to start travelling.
The most predominant tourist trap in the city is the Khao San road. Chances are if you were asked to picture Bangkok, your mental image would be pretty close. Neon signs invade the peripherals and everything is for sale, the smell of street vendor’s barbecuing pervades the senses and the sticky heat adds to the stark fact that you are very far from home.
It is like nothing experienced before, but isn’t that the point of flying half way across the world? Culture shock is part of the fun and seeing the infamous lady boys, meeting new and strange people and riding around in tuk tuks at incredible speeds is what it’s all about.
For the laid back traveller, the south is the place to be. Just a bus, a boat and a high altitude taxi ride from Bangkok and you can find yourself on the east coast island of Ko Chang. One of the more relaxed islands, Ko Chang is a world away from the city. Beautiful secluded beaches are the island's forte, however accommodation is not its strong point.
Being the inexperienced first time backpackers that we were, my two friends and I opted to ‘slum it’ paying £1.30 each for a beach hut. I suppose you get what you pay for in life and we paid for a toilet without a roof, a host of tropical insects and a ceiling that didn’t keep out rain, not much fun during the heavy tropical storms that frequented the island. On more than one occasion we woke up soaking wet, huddled together, fearing the hut would blow away; but then again, it was a bargain!
For a real party, Koh Phangnan should not be missed. With a lot more tourists here, you get less for your money and you may end up forking out quite a bit more than you would elsewhere for basic accommodation. This hubbub is mainly due to the island’s monthly party, infamous around the world and claimed to be the biggest in south East Asia. The full moon party does not disappoint.
Rumoured to have started in the 1980s as someone’s leaving party, the full moon party grew in popularity and numbers and now attracts up to 20,000 party-goers every month when the moon is full. All you need to do is slather yourself (and your hair if you’re as unwise as me) in U.V. paint and party on the beach with your bucket of rum... great fun.
For fans of the book and movie, ‘The Beach’, Ko Phi Phi is the place to be. The 2000 film was set here and this west coast Island is a true taste of Thailand. With idyllic white sand beaches that will truly take your breath away, traditional long-tail boats, delicious Thai food and a host of laid back locals, you will be made to feel at home. With blue-green waters and hosts of tropical fish, snorkelling here is a must and for a small price the locals will take you on a boat tour of the nearby beaches and lagoons.
In the north of the country, more adventurous travellers can try their hand at a jungle trek. Tour guides take explorers into the depths of Thai jungle where they get slathered in mud, wash in the rivers and sleep under the stars. It's hard work but well worth a go.
A month in Thailand was such an unforgettable experience and travelling around such a diverse country was amazing, a definite must-do. All I would do differently would be to book a longer stay and better huts!
By Ciara Mc Crory
JMU Journalism travel articles
Ko Phi Phi beach, Thailand YouTube: Thailand highlights