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Thailand's Northern highlights with Contiki

Why hello there everybody, I hope you're all having a lovely week so far.
Today I have one almighty blog post to share with you all. If you've been keeping up with my Instagram feed you'll know I recently went on a trip to Thailand, travelling solo on the Northern Thai Highlights tour with Contiki. Now *warning* this is gonna be a hefty post so please grab yourself a cuppa (and snacks - ALWAYS grab the snacks) and get comfy, while I give you the full 411 on what a Contiki trip is really like, the in's, the out's and what I really thought about it all.
I thought the best way to structure the first part of the post was to literally strip it down and do a play by play of what exactly we got up to at each destination starting with...

Bangkok
 So first thing's first - I arrived after flying from Heathrow with BA, my first solo long haul flight. I will admit I was slightly apprehensive, not nervous just eager to get there and meet people. I think the often the biggest fear when travelling alone is that silly thought of 'Oh god what if I don't meet anyone and spend this entire trip alone?!' Fear not, this never happens and one of the reasons this trip was so amazing is because I did it solo. Anyway, I digress... I arrived in Bangkok and headed straight to the first hotel. After a quick nap (jet-lag got me good) I headed down to the lobby to meet Jasmine, our trip manager (and utter legend) for the duration of the tour along with the 30 other people - strangers at this point, I would be spending the next 8 days with. After our meeting, discussing the what, when and where's and introducing ourselves we set off for a group dinner.
Enter the infamous Khoa San road. Manic, magical and one big party! Khoa San road is the place to go for a flavour of Bangkok's nightlife. With drinks (that come by the bucket) costing next to nothing and DJs pumping music into the streets, you can't help but get swept up by Thailand's vibrant capital.
Next morning and with some of the group nursing their hangovers, we were up bright and early and en route to Wat Arun temple. A stunning temple with such beautiful detail. We wondered around, taking pictures and taking in the beauty of such an iconic temple within Bangkok before catching a boat along the Chao Praya River where we fed the nearby cat fish with left-over bread rolls from breakfast.
  Kanchanaburi
Next stop was Kanchaburi. After hopping on our coach, which quickly turned into our favourite place to nap, we met Suthep - our tour guide, honestly one of the nicest most considerate people I have ever met! Arriving at our stop in Kanchanaburi, a provincial town steeped in history. We visited the World War II cemetery along with the Death Railway Museum to learn more about the history of the Burma Railway and the Prisoners of war who built it - a truly sobering experience but one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting the area. I always think it's so important to educate myself on the culture and history of a place I am visiting. We walked alone the bridge over River Kwai itself and saw the many plaques and stones of memorial.
Jumping aboard jungle river rafts we then headed to our next hotel - the River Kwai Jungle Rafts Resort. This was billed as our 'special stay' whilst on the Northern Thai Highlights tour and my goodness it really was. I was truly in my element and just loved it! An eco friendly (no power) hotel perfect for a digital detox and chill. For me, someone who is constantly on their phone or computer, writing articles or updating social media. To have no choice but to leave my phone in my room was simply blissful! Zero signal meant it was pointless and I have to admit I felt so free, not having to or being able to do a single bit of work...it was great! Jumping from one end of the hotel and floating along the river to the the other end became a favourite activity among the group, with some even taking a beer along for the ride. When the sun finally set it was oil lamps that lit our way to dinner where we were treated to a feast of traditional Thai food. We spent the night playing games and getting to know the group more before heading to bed.
Next morning we headed along to the nearby Mon village, a remote village made up of only 25 families. Finishing our time in Kanchanaburi we trekked to the waterfalls in the beautiful Erawan National Park. Natural springs and pools, we spent our day taking Instagram worthy pictures and sliding down water slides that had formed amongst the rocks whilst the fish swam around our feet. The water was crystal clear and the surroundings just so beautiful and I'm not gonna lie, I felt like a real life mermaid sitting on the rocks... childhood dream come true!

Ayutthaya
Arriving in Ayutthaya we headed out for our bike ride tour around the historical ruins of the old city. Well I say we....those of you who have followed be for a while will know - I can't ride a bike! So I was in the van, something that I must admit in the humid heat of Thailand, I was actually quite thankful for! But as the others sweated whilst riding their way through the local villages, rice paddies and temples, we finally arrived at Ayutthaya historical park. We walked within the ruins, again taking pictures and taking in the beauty of the setting.
Making our way back to the hotel to collect our bags, It seemed like the perfect time for a Thai massage. So me and a few of the girls headed to the local spa. After being clicked, stretched and prodded into various positions I felt ready for our next destination - I must just point out that what would cost you approx £60 in the UK cost 200 Baht, the equivalent to £4.50!!
All aboard! Taking the over night train from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai proved to be an unexpected highlight. I bloody loved it! claiming the top bunk, memories of school trips and summer camp were relived. The boys played card games as I shared my snacks and passed down magazines. Finally when tired out, we pulled our curtains across our bunks and fell a sleep for the 12 hour train ride.
Pai
I survived 726 turns to Pai! Oh yes, it really is the long and winding road but the destination is totally worth it. I would have LOVED to spend more time here, the vibe is so chilled! The hippie centric town boasts of markets selling hand made goods and laid back bars pumping out sounds of reggae music. It's also home the the best vegan falafel wrap I have ever eaten! Like seriously, this wrap was insane! The crepes were pretty good too...and the fruit shakes - yes I ate a lot on this holiday!
Whilst there, we chilled by the pool at our guest house, a gorgeous resort with each of us having our own little bungalow, it was like living in a mini village and was really cute.
Whilst in Pai we also headed to a Muay Thai lesson - Thailand's national sport. After stretching and going through all the basic moves of this combat/boxing sport we got into the ring three at a time to put our punches to practise. I really (somewhat surprisingly) loved this, even though it's a tough workout it's strangely addictive and a great way to let out any pent up aggression! After two rounds each and completely exhausted we finished off by watching the professionals in a real Muay Thai fight.
Chiang Mai
Ending our trip in Thailand's Northern capital made legendary by it's famed night markets. This was probably my favourite destination of the ones we visited. We packed so many activities into our two nights here. First up, Flight Of The Gibbons - a zip lining adventure through the jungle and one of my personal highlights. Flying hands free among the trees and vines, screaming our names as we went. It was one of those things I'd always wanted to do and I'm very proud of myself as I even plucked up the courage to do the jump and free fall at one of the platforms - and it felt amazing!
Next up in Chiang Mai we had a cooking class, learning how to master some of Thailand's most signature dishes. Now those that know we will know, cooking isn't exactly a skill of mine... I hate it! But after going to the local food market to pick up the ingredients and popping on our aprons, I must admit I actually had a great time AND my dishes ended up tasting pretty damn good! We all lined up and quite literally set the stoves on fire as we rustled up 4 dishes each before watching a tropical storm erupt over the surrounding fields as we sat down to eat our *ahem* culinary masterpieces.
Onto the night markets, something I'd been looking forward to since the start of the trip. The famous umbrella ceilings and stall upon stall, selling everything from leather goods to traditional clothing. I got my elephant pants, something I think anyone who's ever travelled to Thailand owns. Myself along with the majority of the group spent hours haggling, buying gifts and treating ourselves to sweet treats TOP TIP - the ice cream stalls in the night market are amazing!
Our first night in Chaing Mai ended with the famous Chiang Mai Cabaret Show, a 'lady boy' show bursting with energy and humour.
We ended our time in Chiang Mai with my personal trip highlight, the Elephant Nature Park. I've always wanted to get up close to an elephant and here I was spoilt for choice with so many of them walking freely. A charity and sanctuary for elephants rescued from the riding, logging and entertainment industries. The elephants are left to roam wild whilst we walked along side them, fed them and washed them.
Ok, so it's time to get a little senty, a little emosh... my Contiki family.
Going anywhere solo can be scary, I had wanted to go to Thailand for the longest time but finding someone to go with always proved difficult. So it came to a point were I was like no, if I want to do this, I'm doing it solo and although I love going away with my friends and family, this trip was what it was because I did it alone. I met so many amazing people. Some travelling in groups and others solo travellers like myself. Each and every one of you were integral to making this trip one I will never forget! On my first night, sat in the lobby on my own a Canadian couple came up to me with the most random opening line to a conversation ever..."Do you watch Love Island" my answer (obvs) was yes and from that moment on Shay, Peter and I became best friends, literally not leaving each others sides for the rest of the trip. The last thing I thought was going to happen was for me to suddenly be third wheeling on a couple romantic getaway... but we literally spent every second together laughing.
I cannot even begin to explain how much I miss them both. Shay and Petey, come to London!!
Another shout out goes to my boys Graham and Givarn, a couple of complete nutters from South Africa. Boys I adore you and your cuteness and can't wait to meet up for Karaoke, get those dance moves ready! Although I adored everyone in the group these four were my ride or dies and I thank my lucky stars that I got to meet them and experience some pretty cool stuff together along the way.
So yeah, being a solo traveller can feel scary at first but rest assured, you will always meet people and they'll make your trip what it is.
The Northern Thai Highlights tour was everything I wished for and more. I got the adventure i wanted and experienced so many things that make the Thai culture so special. Even though I headed out there solo, I came back with a Contiki family, one of which I plan to visit as I continue to travel around the world.Thank you to the Contiki team and thank you to every single one of my fellow travellers for being the best team EVER!
For more info on what we got up to, check out my article over on Contiki's six-two plattform and my travel vlog over on my Youtube channel!
I travelled on Contiki’s Northern Thai Highlights as part of The Travel Project. If you believe that travel has helped you become a better person, or you have discovered something revelatory about yourself whilst on the road, Contiki want to hear from you!
 Head to contiki.com/thetravelproject to see how you can get involved, and maybe even travel on your own Travel Project mission with Contiki.

K x

4 comments:

  1. This trip looks amazing, especially the elephants! So cute! Looks like you had a great time.
    Loved the post x

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    Replies
    1. Hey Lucy,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, really means a lot! The trip was honestly amazing and yes the elephants were a highlight for sure!
      xx

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  2. These pictures look amazing and it looks like you had so much fun on your trip.
    xx, Eda
    http://luxeandlinen.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Eda,
      I really did, it was the trip of a lifetime! Thanks so much for stopping by!
      xxx

      Delete