I have a confession to make. I am addicted to the Real Gap Experience website- I browse it every day, planning trips and deciding where to explore next. It’s been my lifelong dream to see the world, ever since I was little I had visions of donning a backpack, immersing myself into different countries and cultures and exploring the world. One day I decided to put my dream to travel into action, I went onto the Real Gap website and headed straight over to the Thailand section and after reading up about their trips I decided the Bangkok to Beaches tour would be perfect for me; Two weeks, heading south from Bangkok and ending up on a tiny tropical Island nestled in the gulf. I had booked myself up to fly in February, it was so easy, a quick chat to Ben at Real Gap and everything had been sorted, my excitement held no limits.
Before I knew it the morning of my trip had arrived, I jumped on a plane in London and half a day later I ended up in the beautiful Bangkok. As soon as my feet touched Thai soil I knew that this place was going to be somewhere special, I had collected my bag and was through customs in a matter of minutes, where I was greeted by a Real Gap rep and driven off through the city to Khao San Road, where my adventure would begin.
Highlights of the trip included (and trust me there are A LOT of them)...
· Meditating with monks at the Grand Palace, this is quite possibly my most amazing memory. It was Chinese New Year on the day of my Bangkok city tour; the whole of the tour was incredibly special, but this experience will stay with me for life. Later on that day my friends and I were blessed by a monk with incense under the immense shadow of Wat Arun.
· Being on Khao San Road, surrounded by the craziness of it all, there’s no time to think there so I just dived in head first. I spent my nights dancing on Koh San Road with my friends from the tour group, and new friends made under the neon skyline of Bangkok. Eating amazing street food, some of which was the best food I’ve ever tasted.
· Climbing a mountain in Khao Sam Roi Yot (Mountain of three hundred peaks) it’s a bit of a boulder climb, but once you get to the top it has the most amazing view.
· Discovering a hidden temple in a deep cave you can climb down, this was a big thing for me since I HATE caves. But it was absolutely stunning, light filtered down onto the temple and shrine, dappled light played on the wet cave walls as I stood and took it all in (and caught my breath.)
· Seeing Koh Tao for the first time. Once my feet hit the first bit of sand of Sairee beach, just under Lotus bar, I fell in love. Beautiful sand, turquoise water (in high tide), palm trees, and colourful long tail boats dotted around the perimeter of the island. I knew right then and there I had landed somewhere special. Here I danced the night away with my friends, tour guide and good friend, Aow under a thick canopy of bright stars hanging freely in the dark sky.
· We got to snorkel in the turquoise waters, floating over coral, being surrounded by rainbow coloured fish. The end of our snorkelling trip we ended up on Koh Nang Yuan, which are three islands just off the coast of Koh Tao, connected by white sand. You absolutely have to snorkel the Japanese Gardens here, nothing compares to it.
Thailand was the most amazing place, and this trip, I honestly couldn’t imagine anything better. I made some beautiful friends on my tour group and had created some magical memories. I have never been to a country and loved it so much. The people are warm and accommodating, with a brilliant sense of humour, the food is outstanding and the scenery will blow you away, from the Bangkok bustle to the slow island life of Koh Tao. I cannot recommend a trip enough, I guarantee you will fall in love with the land of smiles in the same way I did.
Hannah travelled on our Bangkok to Beaches trip back in February, and has since been back to Thailand to live in Koh Tao for six weeks. You can follow her and her travels over on @hannahbryant_