Ellie, Bella and I left our Hong Kong university with three full backpacks, plane tickets and little idea of what the next two weeks would entail. As we were walking to the bus stop, it still didn’t seem real that we were finally beginning a much-anticipated trip–to Thailand!
The journey began in Bangkok, the country’s capital. It was a unique time to visit because the King had died six months ago, and the country is still in mourning. Right away, we noticed huge memorials with portraits and flowers all over the city.
We spent the majority of our trip in northern Thailand, primarily in the city of Chiang Mai. Our traveling style involved a lot of spontaneous decisions, instead of sticking to a well-scheduled itinerary.
Everyone I talked to before this trip raved about Pai, so of course I needed to go see what all the hype was about. It’s a winding, 3-hour bus ride north from Chiang Mai. People say that you need to spend at least a couple days in this town to get a feel for the chill lifestyle there, but sadly, I only had 24 hours. The highlight was renting a scooter and riding it around Pai.
Chiang Mai (again)
I returned to Chiang Mai in time for Songkran, the Thai New Year. It’s a three-day celebration most known for the water throwing, which turns into a wild, city-wide water fight. Songkran is recognized all over the country (as well as nearby countries including Cambodia, Laos and Burma), but Chiang Mai has one of the biggest celebrations. The night before, people were already walking around with water guns and buckets, preemptively starting the festivities. On April 13, the first day of Songkran, kids, adults, travelers and locals alike were all participating, and there was no chance that anyone could step outside without getting wet. Pickup trucks drove through the streets with bins of water and people in the back aiming water at pedestrians. People hung off the backs of tuk tuks with water guns. It was insane!
After spending a week mostly in urban areas, I was ready to head south where the western Thai islands are, while Ellie visited a national park and Bella made the trek over to the eastern islands. This part of the trip was the ambiguous section, as I just had a flight booked from the north to the south and no further plans. I ended up taking a three-hour bus to Krabi on the western coast and befriending the two people sitting in the same row as me, who were both my age, but one was from Holland and the other from London. They didn’t have hostels booked for the night, so the three of us decided to stay at the same one and hang out for the next few days.
My favorite part of Krabi was a day trip to Railay Beach, which is a peninsula only accessible by boat. From looking at a map of Railay, we saw that in the middle of this peninsula was something called Railay Lagoon, which sounded cool, and we decided to check it out in the afternoon. We thought that it would be a lake that we could casually swim in, but it turned out to be a difficult hike/climb through the jungle. It was so much fun to scramble up rocks, climb down ladders and try not to slip in the mud. And once we reached the lagoon, we were surprised by a massive, open cavern with the lagoon at the bottom. The whole adventure far surpassed our expectations.
This spring break trip was a mixture of spending time with friends from different times of my life: travel, abroad and WashU. Now that there’s only one month left in my semester abroad, I’m starting to think about what it’s going to be like when I return home for the summer and then back to WashU for senior year.
Two weeks traveling in Thailand for spring break left me with countless mosquito bites, but also the confidence knowing that I can handle the backpacking life. We didn’t have the same freedom as the travelers we met that were on the road for several months, but we were still able to see the different landscapes across Thailand and experience varying paces of life and cultures.