Whats your favourite Country? Whenever I get asked this question (and I get asked it a lot) I do have to think about my answer for a bit. I have to think back to my recent trips and trips over the last 10 years and the only answer that really feels right is.. Thailand! I tend to follow the answer up with – ‘I know it’s really cliché and so many people will say that Thailand is their favourite Country’, but the thing is, for me, Thailand holds such a special place in my heart.
I’ve been through a lot there, I’ve had a lot of fun there, I’ve met many friends there and I’ve been so many times and changed each time that it just feels right saying that.
So here’s a little story for you on why Thailand will always hold a special place in my heart and how I went full circle from my first time visiting in 2011 to my most recent time in 2019.
Why I Love Thailand!
The first time I went to Thailand was in November 2011, I was 21 and I flew into Bangkok to start my month in Thailand before going onto Australia to start my Working Holiday Visa. I’d been to the USA for 4 months the previous summer but this was my first big backpacking trip, and I was on my own.
I didn’t know what to expect of Thailand and of Bangkok, I mean, I arrived with a huge suitcase (which I soon ditched and replaced with a backpack). I’d literally never eaten Thai food before, the closest I had got to Asian food before was a Chinese Takeaway. I was scared of crossing the road and didn’t have a clue how to do it when cars just wouldn’t stop (!!) and the heat and humidity were unbearable!
On my first morning, I walked out of my hostel onto Khao San Road ready to explore. I was hungry but intimidated by how busy it was, that I didn’t know the currency and how people just seemed to ‘fit in’ and seemed like South East Asia life was for them. Whereas I 100% felt like I stuck out as a newbie backpacker with my pale white skin. Ooh and my jeans! I heard from my hostel receptionist that I needed to cover up to go inside the temples but the only trousers I had at this point were jeans so that’s what I wore..!
I saw a fruit shake stall, got a mango shake (I don’t think I’d ever tried mango before!), went to see the temples, avoided a scam on the way to the temples which I was happy about and I had a good day.
The rest of my month in Thailand was amazing! I met a Canadian girl on my way to the islands and ended up spending 5 nights with her on a tiny beach in Koh Phangan. I hadn’t planned to go to Koh Phangan, I had wanted to go to Koh Tao but when the waves got too big on our crossing and the boat decided to stay in Koh Phangan and not go onto Koh Tao I figured that this is what true backpacking life is, I didn’t panic and I fully embraced the change. Although it was helped by this girl asking me if I wanted to stay with her as without her I may have been a bit stuck and panicky.
This girl really inspired me, I still remember her telling me her travel stories (she had travelled a lot) and telling me not to waste my year visa for Australia by only staying 6 months as I was initially planning (I ended up staying in oz for 2 years!). I also met so many more people in this month travelling around on my own. I went to a Full Moon Party and overall, this month totally changed my outlook on life and it was what really started my wanderlust, my love for the Backpacker life and my desire to see more of Asia, and the world!
A few years later after finishing my working holiday visa’s in Australia I was back in Thailand to kick off the big South East Asia Trip I had been thinking about for the last 2 years. I spent a month in Thailand to start with on my own which was full of new adventures and self-discovery, followed by few weeks a bit later on with friends from Oz and then another few weeks a few months later with friends that I had met whilst travelling!.. So basically I went back quite a bit!
I was a completely different person when I went back in 2014, and even more different the 3 times I went back in that 5 month period. Unfortunately, my beloved Thailand did end my time in South East Asia short as the night before my second Full Moon Party I went to the Jungle Party and stood on a broken beer bottle which went right into my foot. Long story short- it got infected, I went to the hospital, I was on crutches and going home was the best option, but I know it happened for a reason and I’m ok with that.
Fast forward another year and I was arriving in Thailand in December 2015 with 2 of my besties where we had a fun few nights on Khao San Road (I also put a Facebook status up saying if I ever get to an age where I don’t like Khao San Road, I need to be shot… I love it there), we spent Christmas on Koh Tao, New Year and the days leading up to it on Koh Phangan, we chilled in Koh Lanta and then headed to Phi Phi to party for one of my friend’s birthday! I also added a bamboo tattoo to my collection in Thailand which you can read about here – Getting a Bamboo Tattoo on Phi Phi Island in Thailand!!
This trip was again, totally different from any of my other trips to Thailand. I drank way more Chang and way more Buckets than I had done before, had way more fun than before due to being with 2 brilliant girls and I felt so much more confident in myself. I wasn’t a super young, newbie traveller, I had travelled a lot by this point and Thailand gave me a whole new experience because of this.
My 6th time in Thailand was a few weeks after the month above, I had just been in the Philippines for a few weeks and was flying back to the UK in 2 days time which would end my most recent backpacking trip.
This time I vividly remember arriving into Bangkok airport so confidently. I knew how much I should pay for the taxi from the airport, I knew the best places to eat around Khao San Road, I had a list of all the Thai food I wanted to indulge in before I left, I appreciated the heat and I knew how to cross the road (just walk out and hope the cars will stop!). The total polar opposite to the Ellie of 2011!
On my last morning in Bangkok I decided to get a mango shake from the exact same stand I got one from on my first ever morning in Bangkok in 2011 (I remember where things are very well & things don’t change that much on Khao San Road) and this moment really made me feel like I had gone full circle!
2019 Update: After I went home in 2016 I moved to London and started working hard on this blog whilst also working a full time job. 2 and a half years later in 2018 I quit my London job and left my apartment to travel full time again but this time, with the aim to work online via my blog.
At the start of 2019 I got a dream email! STA Travel emailed me asking me if I wanted to go to Thailand with them on a press trip and go on 2 Contiki Tours- one in North Thailand and one on the Islands. STA Travel & Contiki – YES PLEASE!
Previous to this I had paid for all of my travel in Thailand as I wasn’t working online, I’d been a budget backpacker most times, which luckily, is very enjoyable in Thailand and I wouldn’t change a thing about my past 6 trips since 2011 however I admit, it was nice to be picked up by a private transfer from the airport this time, stay in nicer hotels, not worry about the prices of things, and of course, the best bit was that I was now one of those ‘digital nomads’ and ‘full time travel bloggers’ who I’d seen in Thailand in the past and envied because of their constant travel and nomadic life.
What another full circle hey!
I think Thailand will be a Country that I keep going back to. I hope you enjoyed reading why Thailand will forever hold a special place in my heart and was not only the gateway to South East Asia for me, but the gateway to the rest of my life.