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Thailand 2024

After leaving Vietnam, my next destination was Thailand. First stop, Bangkok. I met my Intrepid Travel group in the evening and was very happy with my fellow travellers. Before I even got to know them, I could see there was a variety of nationalities and a few Brits, who I knew would know about epilepsy. After previous bad experiences in group tours, I was relieved that this one felt safe. I was in the company of people I felt I could trust, and being in the routine of an organised tour always feels more comfortable. To my surprise, the tour guide enquired about my epilepsy. Unlike other tour companies, Intrepid Travel had made her aware of it, demonstrating a proactive approach to ensuring my safety and inclusivity during the trip.  


I was excited for the tour of Northern Thailand. On the first day, we did a long coach journey but made regular stops to see the landscape and take a few short strolls. I found myself mesmerized by the passing mountains and on a few occasions caught sight of some playful macaques. I hadn’t realised Thailand was so mountainous, so I was a happy woman. Although I longed to hike the mountains, and this trip underscored my preference for hiking holidays, I decided vision was a great honour.  


We made some regular trips to bustling night markets, which were brilliant. The vibrant atmosphere and diverse array of food options were wonderful and the markets often overlooked lakes, with magnificent temples completing the scene. It was moments like these that confirmed the reason I came. There were a few days when we cycled through various parks and villages. The scenery was magnificent, albeit I’d rather have been walking. One fascinating stop involved a demonstration of rice cultivation, which showed us how complex and precious the crop is. On one day, we stopped in a village and had a delicious lunch, cooked by a local.  

All round, I preferred Vietnamese food because it was less fried and tasted fresher. I found myself purging on a few occasions, but I felt safer as I was with others. Exercise was more restricted in Thailand as I had less freedom on an organised tour. However, the hotels often had pools compared to the few in Vietnam and I enjoyed some swims.    


I treated myself to four Thai massages whilst I was there, a must-have experience in Thailand! Though similar to the Vietnamese massage, it was less intense which I preferred.  


One night was a home stay. I’ve done these on many occasions and always enjoyed them. It’s very fulfilling to learn more about the locals, experience their lifestyle and enjoy cooking a meal with them. I never keep the recipes, but on this occasion certainly enjoyed the food and company with traditional Thai music and dancing. We were introduced to various instruments and taught how to play, which became a laugh. To end the night, we took part in a Northern Thai tradition - releasing lanterns into the night sky, symbolizing good luck and sending our hopes and wishes. 


Once we arrived in Chiang Mai, I was keen for some independence again and I ventured out alone. I was expecting a smaller city, traditional buildings and plenty of greenery but it bore a resemblance to what I had briefly encountered in Bangkok which was fairly disappointing. Later in the evening, I met with the group again and we explored a vibrant night market. The lively atmosphere kept us entertained and I loved it.  


The best day of the trip was our visit to an elephant sanctuary in the mountains. It was the first elephant rescue place in Thailand. With four elephants rescued from the cruel tourist trade. We had the privilege of seeing them all roaming freely amidst the mountains accompanied by their guards. As the guard quoted, “we want them to be elephants again” which I absolutely loved. Two of the gentle giants came remarkably close to us and I felt happy tears.   

The temples were beautiful, although in Thailand you see so many I was tired of visiting temples in the end! One day, we embarked on a journey to Doi Suthep. The walk all the way up the mighty stairs was invigorating, but the temple itself seemed artificial with its replica gold elements. Along with others on the tour, I concluded it was far too touristy. That said, the panoramic views of Chiang Mai from atop the hills were truly stunning.


Our final meal together was very nice, and I felt fortunate to have been in such a great group. Everyone had been welcoming and I hadn’t felt different. It’s down to luck, but being part of a good tour group makes a difference to a holiday.   


I was in Thailand alone for one more day and it felt great to be solo again. I booked a tour of the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, with the stunning Wachirathan Waterfall. It was a truly amazing sight and I loved every minute. After the mountain, we visited a village to learn about coffee production - a fascinating experience. It was the most perfect last day.  


Having had a wonderful day, my mind was too occupied to fear the following 24 hours in the airport. But my flight home couldn’t have gone better. Whilst waiting in the queue, I met the most remarkable Swiss woman and we engaged in a deep conversation for hours. She was a life coach whose husband had epilepsy. Her company made the first half of my journey infinitely easier and more meaningful. It reminded me of the importance of speaking to others, especially during tough times. When I landed in the UK, I felt relieved, excited and proud.  


What a holiday! In summary, I preferred Thailand as a country as they are understanding eco-tourism more, and the animals and environment were magical to see. Vietnam is becoming very developed and Americanised, with habitat destruction, but I preferred Vietnam as a trip because I’d never felt so much freedom before. It was honour to travel totally solo. Although tiring and a genuine challenge, it felt so different and special being able to choose what I wanted to do and where. For once, I didn’t see myself as that person who had experienced all the traumas. I’d never been called ‘brave’ so often. Communicating with strangers so much also felt like an accomplishment and like I’d been on the BBC’s Race Across the World! 


Three weeks without the gym, fabulous people, no seizures and amazing experiences. I felt a reason for being alive on many occasions, and it was travelling at its best.


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