Thai-ed up in Thailand
Every year, thousands of students descend upon South East Asia, and more specifically, Thailand. Most are drawn to the wild parties of Bangkok’s Khao San Road, the increasingly dangerous Full Moon parties in Koh Phangan and the recently prohibited ‘Tubing’ in Laos’ tourist hotspot, Vang Vieng. But why travel half way around the world if you aren’t going to explore off the beaten track? I do understand the attraction of the party islands, what is there not to like about a neon party on a stunning white sandy beach with cheap alcohol? I went and wore the florescent yellow t-shirt, but this was not all my trip consisted of… I wanted to see the realThailand.
Pulling into Phuket, my priority was not to head down to the seafront for a bargain-booze-bucket, but to catch a speedboat heading toward the nearby island of Koh Yao. A beautiful island sandwiched between three thoroughfares for young travellers, Phuket, Krabi and Phi Phi. The port in Koh Yao was a stark contrast to the tourist-filled mainland we had just left. Perhaps it was the tranquillity that made the white beaches more beautiful and the shack-style ‘hotel’ (complete with outdoor bathrooms) more appealing. Due to the lack of hustle and bustle there were no taxis or tuk-tuks in sight; our mode of transport was a small van belonging to a fisherman while on deliveries. We finally we felt fully immersed in the Thai culture. The relaxing atmosphere of the island made us immediately forget about being detached from anything particularly westernised. It was truly a refreshing change.
We borrowed bikes from an elderly lady next door (who happened to own a pet eagle) and set off to follow the coastline around the island. We saw everything from cattle farms to deserted palm tree beaches without being bothered by salesmen or bar reps. Still, I wouldn’t have minded missing out on some of the Mother Nature’s gifts… coming across massive spiders weaving webs in front of us wasn’t quite my idea of fun. The next day, we borrowed a kayak from another neighbour, picked an island on the horizon and paddled towards it. Little did we know, this island bore a perfectly constructed white sand pit connecting to the mainland at low tide, a natural wonder that was purely breath-taking. The return journey was quite not as smooth as I was stung by a jellyfish and a tornado was brewing on the horizon turning the sea extremely rough. Panicked, we paddled as fast as possible to the nearest shore.
Despite the mishaps and unpredictable events, the attitude of having to make spur of the moment decisions instead of following plans allowed us to experience a different Thailand, perhaps a more real Thailand. Travelling without the safety net of other tourists was definitely more exciting! Besides, who wants to arrive home with the same photos and stories as everyone else.