When I was 16, my Mum and Dad dragged me to Thailand. I say dragged, there would be absolutely NO dragging these days! I'd be the first on the plane! But I was 16 and grumpy. Probably hormonal. With a boyfriend who I couldn't bear to be separated from for more than 30 seconds. So, I was dragged, kicking and screaming to Thailand.
I tried my hardest to hate the place. I wanted to make damn sure that my parents realised how they had ruined my life by taking me there. But within a day (after a good 6 hours throwing up from jet-lag) I'd forgotten all about being a grumpy teen and started loving this strange place I was in. Hot like an oven from the moment we stepped off the plane. Tropical flowers so unusual that surely they weren't real. Beautiful people who would do anything to help you. This was a little piece of paradise that I hadn't expected. Every night, we climbed into bed only to find a perfect pink orchid lying on our pillow. Had I some how got off the plane at the wrong stop - isn't this heaven?
I got to do all kinds of things I've never done before.
I saw a floating market in Bangkok. These men and women, floating up the murky waters on their tiny boats laden with Papaya, Banana's, Mangoes, straw hats... it was just like being at a supermarket only the food comes to you!
It is where I found my love of all things primate. This little fella thought he could have a little chew on my finger... unbeknownst to me!
It's where I fell in love with elephants. We went to a kind of rescue centre where there were loads of them, you could help feed them, watch them having their baths, even get a lift if you wanted!
That's me and my little brother up there!
We went on an elephant trek through the rainforest in Chiang Mai which still remains one of the best experiences of my life! The man leading my elephant through the lush forest let me climb down from the basket on the elephants back to sit on his head (the elephants head that is!) with my legs dangling behind his big, swooshy, floppy ears. I thought he would be smooth and downy but he was really prickly - kind of like a toilet brush! I don't have a photo of us in the rainforest, the album they were in got lost when I was at uni which is heartbreaking because it was before the days of digital cameras so once they're gone, they're gone. I managed to find one set of negatives which I've had put on CD (which is why I'm sharing) but there must have been another roll which now seems to be gone forever.
I did my first dive in Thailand. Off a little island called Raja Noi which is just near Phuket. I remember being terrified. But my brother took hold of my hand and didn't let it go throughout the whole dive! We saw some amazing fish, I have no idea what they were, but the colours were magnificent and they were so graceful. Being down under that cool, still water, looking at such beauty that I had no idea existed, I felt so completely calm and relaxed (strange for me as I hate water. Especially sea water!), if I'd have had enough air, I probably would never have come back up! When we came up for lunch, I was watching Michael swimming in the crystal clear azure water around the boat when I saw a shadow below him. Not a big shadow. Well, it was bigger than him. It was a reef shark. Only a tiddler luckily and certainly not a man eater but I know if it had been me in the water, I would have needed a change of pants quick smart! He just calmly swam to the boat and climbed on board! Again, I don't have any underwater shots as they were in the lost album but I do have one of us about to jump in. My Mum came with us because she couldn't sleep the night before for worrying about her babies going diving by themselves!
Thailand is also where I discovered that I should stay out of the sun!
Me looking rather like a lobster on the hotel beach in Phuket.
Mostly though, Thailand was my first taste of real travel. We have traveled all my life, my parents drove me across Europe when I was only 9 months old! But this is definitely the holiday that got me curious about the rest of the world. It made me wonder, what else I might find, what people, what food, what flora and fauna, what unique wildlife. Every country has something new and amazing to offer, Thailand made me realise that, and it made me hungry for more.
Happy May day!