Jane Barlow is the March winner of our monthly blog competition and receives £150 in Explore vouchers. Read her winning blog about her experiences on an Explore Tailormade trip to Thailand.
Thailand – City, Rainforest, Coast
Shopping at local markets alongside saffron robed monks, taking an elephant ride through the jungle, zooming around in tuk tuks - and meditating at a Buddhist festival will be among our long lasting memories of a fabulous trip to Thailand.
We did an Explore Tailormade trip and were provided with a great itinerary as each place was very different to the one before and we were able to see some of the many different faces of Thailand.
Arriving in chaotic Bangkok was a real culture shock and an assault to all the senses. There was the difficult to master language, road signs written in a foreign script, the chance to buy roasted scorpion as a roadside snack, golden Buddha images and pictures of the King everywhere and traffic congestion like I've never seen before - but what an experience!
In a very short time we got the hang of our Sa Wat Dee hellos, were indulging in the Masamann curry as recommended by our guide and we even tried meditation for the first time after stumbling upon a Buddhist festival and being invited to join the locals for some quiet contemplation.
The Khao Sok national park was amazing. So peaceful and calm after frenetic Bangkok. It was a 12 hour sleeper train ride to get there, which I had not been looking forward to before the trip, but now I wouldn't hesitate to do it again, being totally comfortable and safe in our bunks in our own compartment.
On our first evening at Khao Sok we did a night safari, seeing snakes, spiders and a civet cat, although most memorable was sitting on some rocks where we could hear a small waterfall nearby and looking up at the stars. The half moon appeared like a smile as it sat horizontally in the Asian sky, rather then vertically as we are used to seeing at home, apparently due to the fact that we were in a different hemisphere. It seemed quite fitting though as Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles.
The next day we had an elephant ride, at a reserve where we had been assured the animals were well cared for. The mahout skillfully guided our elephant up and down steep and narrow pathways and none of us seemed to mind when, to be expected I guess, it rained (torrentially) in the rainforest. The following day it was off to the Cheow Lan Lake where we went on a long tail boat, trekked, travelled on a bamboo raft, visited a cave, swam in the lake - and ate sticky rice and other local delicacies.
Finally it was off to the coast, at Ao Nang, near Krabi. Our guide told us how the area had been affected by the 2004 tsunami and how many of the animals had survived, almost sensing something was wrong in advance and fleeing for the hills and the trees, although people had unfortunately not had the same sixth sense. Our guide had her own tsunami story to tell, only narrowly escaping the devastation which hit nearby Phi Phi island.
From Ao Nang we'd jump on a long tail boat each morning and head for the Railay pennisula to visit either Railay or the neighbouring bay Ton Sai. It felt like we were arriving at our very own desert island - with the white sands fringing the beaches, the palm trees along the coast and the awe inspiring limestone stacks jutting out of the water.
It was our first visit to the Far East and our first trip with Explore– but certainly not our last.
Words and photographs by Jane Barlow
Explore Tailormade Customer