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Asian adventures – from backpacking bum to advertising exec.

It is a Sunday evening and I am currently sitting at home, with a (large)  glass of Rioja and Facebook stalking myself (new lows.) However because of this I have noticed it has been a full year since I was gallivanting round Asia- and thought why not write about it? So here we go!

After months of planning, combined with last minute panicking,  my trip to South East Asia arrived on the 1st of August. Departing from Heathrow, the trip to Bangkok began with a mild passport issue (not ideal when you are planning on crossing six countries with said passport) but after a few minutes of heart stopping conversation, the lovely airline staff deemed my documents in a reasonable condition to travel. Thank God otherwise this article would be about my travelling experience on the Jubilee line back home.

Bangkok is not for the faint hearted. Getting out of the taxi and stepping into the bright lights of Koh San Road  was  an assault to all senses.  Growing up in London you would think we would have been used to the pandemonium only a city can bring, but the combined noise, smells, and activities left us inner city girls feeling a little overwhelmed.  Nevertheless after an afternoon of jumping in tuk-tuks and fighting off jet lag we were starting to adapt to the colourful Thai culture. As anyone who has been to South East Asia will know, and Thailand especially, the massage parlours and spas are everywhere. It’s a bit like being in New York and looking for a Starbucks or a Mcdonalds. With this is mind Tianna and I figured we deserved a massage after the excruciating fourteen hour flight (sadly we took this justification for massages back home with us, but London is lacking in the Thai pricing stakes). Tentatively I asked for a simple back and shoulder massage. Now let me tell you dear reader,  that this is not to be confused with an afternoon in The Sanctuary. My lovely masseuse leapt onto my back and proceeded to do things to my body that I don’t believe I will ever experience again. At one point she twisted my neck in such a way that I honestly thought my travelling companion was going to be on her own for the remainder of the trip.  However after a further fifteen minutes of intense prodding and pulling I was done. I was bruised but I had had my first Thai massage. (We grew to love these sessions, and there was nothing like stopping in the street and getting a casual foot massage. In hindsight most of my savings were spent on massages and elephant trousers).

The following day we were due to meet our pre booked tour group. For the next two weeks we were to be part of a group travelling up to Northern Thailand then on to Laos and Cambodia. Having such an experience meant it would give us first time explorers the confidence to be able to travel the rest of South East Asia with some knowledge, and if nothing else learn some Aussie slang for when we touched down in Bali. The latter proved true as the group, 20 of us altogether, were mainly comprised of Australians with a couple of Brits and Canadians thrown in. We came from many different backgrounds but  gelled together in mutual horror watching the ping pong show our guide had arranged. Let me tell you, that ping pong show will never take place in an Olympic arena!

That night, scorpion was on the menu. There is nothing like meeting new friends and having Dutch courage from the local ‘Chang’ to try your first deep fried arachnid. All in all it tasted a bit like pork scratchings.  Later in my travels I tried the infamous Durian fruit.  To be honest, scorpion  should be served at a Gordon Ramsey restaurant in comparison to Durian fruit. You realise when there are signs on the Singapore underground service highlighting ‘No Durians’ that there are problems with this delicacy.  It has a, shall we say, unique, aroma. We spent the night partying with seasoned backpackers on the streets of Bangkok, meeting one fellow who had come there for 2 weeks and was still there 10 years later.

The tour itself was an incredible experience. Activities had been planned, that if left up to us, we would never have done independently. A highlight was getting up at five in the morning to offer rice to the monks in Laos. This incredibly humbling opportunity gave us a real insight into the Buddhist culture, and how even living off generosity themselves the monks would then pour rice into the bowls of the young children trailing behind them. The Laos history itself is mind blowing. Learning that they are the most bombed country in the world, with unexploded bombs still cropping up today was sobering to hear. However the people there are probably the happiest and friendliest people I have ever met. They bear no grudges to the treatment their country has been put through and translate this positivity to the tourists that they meet. And if you ever get the opportunity to go to Laos the banana bread is amazing. With French influences, this country is genius when it comes to baking.

I wouldn’t change a thing about this trip. From being horrifically ripped off by tuk tuk drivers or having an awkward moment in Malaysia concerning food and bus drivers, every moment gave me maturity and knowledge that only travel can bring. It’s exciting to know I have the confidence to get off a plane and be safe in my ability to look after myself.  South America is next on my list, and with my Spanish background  I hope I will be able to visit it someday.

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