In the summer of 2009, between finishing my second year of university and starting my third, I spent 6 weeks in Thailand with two of my best uni buddies.
I had never been travelling before and I can genuinely say it was 6 of the best weeks of my life.
Whilst we were there we met several people who taught English in Bangkok during the week and spent each weekend on a different island. Heaven! Due to the low cost of living, they could experience absolute luxury come Friday, on a shoestring budget – staying in beach huts, eating massaman curry and drinking their weight in Chang beer and Sangsom buckets, all for less than the price of a single night out in England.
I left with every intention of going back to do that myself. But, circumstances happen, life gets in the way and things don’t always go to plan. You want to work your way up the career ladder, you need to earn money, prepare for the next stages of your life… and you simply keep putting it off.
Whilst there I felt like I would be perfectly happy to spend the rest of my life travelling the world, but not only have I not been back to Thailand, I haven’t been travelling since.
I have been very lucky, primarily thanks to my Mum and Dad, to have ticked a lot of destinations off my bucket list – Las Vegas, New York and St Lucia, to name a few. But there is something special about packing your life into a backpack and jetting across the world with little to no plan of what you will do once you get there, safe simply in the knowledge that you will have the time of your life.
I loved every minute of Thailand; spending my 21st birthday at the Full Moon Party and riding an elephant being two of the more memorable experiences. In fact the duration of the time we were there was incredible and I could talk about the trip as a whole for the rest of this post.
However, Ko Phi Phi and particularly the night we spent on Maya Bay is the single moment in Thailand, in fact, of any time I have been abroad that stands out for me the most.
Phi Phi itself was one of, if not my favourite, island –we saw someone get ‘I f**king love Phi Phi’ tattooed on his bum, so it has to be pretty great, right!
But Maya Bay, the setting of Leonardo DiCaprio’s 1999 film The Beach, was just on another level. It is a breathtakingly beautiful bay sheltered by 100-metre high cliffs on three sides, inside of which you find crystal clear water and golden sandy beach lined with lush greenery.
Many people take a day trip over to see it, but we were one of the limited number (around 12 in total, I think) that stayed there overnight.
Staying there overnight is unforgettable. Don’t get me wrong, just visiting for the day is an experience in itself, but it was pretty crowded. Sitting there watching as the beach became clear of day trippers, and as a result a far more tranquil space, we smiled in the knowledge that we had the whole island to ourselves until the next morning.
We spent the evening sat on the beach, listening to the gentle laps of the ocean waves against the shore, as guitars were played, songs were sung and countless buckets were drunk.
Down by the shore the bio-luminescent plankton provided an underwater light show as we kicked the water with our feet – Moby’s Porcelain playing in the background, as we became a part of this natural film set.
And, as we stood at the waters edge, looking out past the towering cliffs to the vast ocean, music playing softly in the background, the plankton glowing at our feet – in complete and utter calm, maybe it was the Sangsom rum, but I have never felt so happy and content in all my life as I did in that moment.
The older you get, the faster time seems to go by; all you want to do is pause it for a moment. Obviously you can’t but, in this single moment, it felt like time stood still.
Nothing else mattered and the day-to-day stresses and worries seemed so pointless and trivial. It put things into perspective and made me evaluate what really matters in life.
We spent the night in sleeping bags on the beach, underneath the stars – falling asleep to the calming sounds of the ocean.
Waking up wasn’t quite so picturesque, as I opened my eyes bright and early to find one of the Thai men sat on my bum, massaging my shoulders. One of the slightly weirder experiences – as my nervous giggles woke the others up.
But, as we were awake, we took an early morning swim in the turquoise waters of the ocean, whilst we had it to ourselves, before packing up our belongings and waving goodbye to this special island to continue our journey around this beautiful country.
It may have only been one night, but the memories we created there will last for a
lifetime. Which is why the countries I would like to visit, and the things I want to do whilst I am there, is endless. If only money was no object, hey.
I hope to go travelling again one day, whether that be for weeks, months or years. They say you regret the things you don’t do more than the things you do, and I think… no, I know, that if I don’t go travelling again and see more of the world, it will be a huge regret for me.
When, who knows? But Maya Bay, I will be back to pick up my heart one day, I can promise you that much.