Follow a group of KILROY travellers on an adventurous trip through Thailand
My first time in Thailand - exploring Bangkok
I had always dreamed of visiting Thailand, the land of smiles, spicy food, and beautiful beaches. But nothing prepared me for the sensory overload that awaited me in Bangkok, the capital city. Swarms of tuk-tuks, motorbikes, cars and taxis, all honking and weaving through traffic. The sights of skyscrapers, street vendors, colourful signs of China town and locals scurrying through the city was intriguing.
When we arrived at the hostel, we wasted no time finding a cosy side alley to grab an ice-cold local beer, which was much needed after our long journey from home. Sitting on the sidewalk observing the sounds and chaos that is Bangkok was simply amazing, and the travel fatigue faded away in no-time. On the agenda for the evening: visiting the Rod Fai night market, which might sound like your typical market but boy, it really isn't. Here, all kinds of Thai hipsters sell modern takes on Thai classics, as well as some of the more exotic stuff. We tried fried bugs and scorpions, to name a few, but if that's not your thing you could stick to the mouth-watering Thai desert: sticky rice with mango or my Thai-food-of-choice Pad Thai.
Biking in Bangkok: away from the bustling city
After a few days of exploring Bangkok's sights and sounds, I wanted to see a different side of the city. Our little group joined a cycling tour that promised to take us to some of the hidden gems of Bangkok. We started from the old town, where we passed ancient temples and visited the Khlong Toey market. Our route took us through Bangkok's working class neighbourhoods - areas that tourists would normally never visit - before crossing the Chao Phraya river by ferry and entering the ''Green Lungs of Bangkok''. This area parallel to Bangkok city is called Phra Pradaeng. We cycled on narrow elevated pathways through orchards, parks, forest and small local communities. The experience was such a contrast to the sounds, smells and views of downtown Bangkok.
Biking through one of the busiest cities on earth was not what I expected. The cacophony of honking cars, blaring sirens, and constant chatter of people in the beginning was a little overwhelming, but after leaving the city centre, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a whole other side of Bangkok. The pace was slower, I could hear birds chirping and kids playing somewhere close by. The air was fresher, and the scenery was greener. It was a refreshing change, and I felt like I was discovering a hidden side of Bangkok. I was happy to get the full experience of this metropolis.
Becoming a yoga pro in Thailand
One of the reasons I wanted to go to Thailand was to practice yoga. I knew there were many yoga studios and retreats all over Thailand, and back home I could never seem to find the time or the mindset to get into it. In Thailand, most yoga studios offer classes for all levels and styles. I decided to try out different yoga places in each destination to improve my flexibility, balance, and mindfulness while travelling. We all know travelling can be a little stressful and overwhelming at times, so the yoga classes served a purpose to remember to breathe and truly enjoy where I was at any given time.
I was amazed by the variety and the top quality of the yoga teachers I met. They were extremely passionate about their profession, and about Thailand, and had an amazing ability to guide us through exercises (even me, as a totally inexperienced yoga enthusiast). I was taught how to breathe deeply, stretch gently, and meditate calmly. I also learnt some Thai words and phrases, such as "khob khun ka" (thank you) and "sabai sabai" (relax). In the end I felt like I wasn't just learning yoga, but also a little piece of Thai culture.
Diving into the blue ocean on Koh Tao
The biggest highlight was our diving experience on Koh Tao. Koh Tao is a world-renowned destination for diving enthusiasts, due to its always great weather and optimal conditions for first-time divers. The island is home to more than 70 dive schools and the ocean here is home to a staggering amount of marine life and some stunning underwater landscapes that will leave you in awe. During our days spent diving, we were accompanied by a pair of great diving instructors who weren't only well-certified but also deeply enthusiastic about sharing their love for the ocean and Thailand with us.
We got expert guidance from start to finish, and our instructors were constantly checking in to make sure we had a safe and enjoyable experience both on the boat and in the water. We saw large and colourful coral gardens, lots of tropical fish, a spotted manta, a sea turtle, some small sharks, and lots more that I don’t even know the name for. It was an unforgettable experience that left me wanting more. This great little taster even inspired some of my travel buddies to get matching tattoos at the dive school in Koh Tao, and while I wasn't up for that, it was great to have such an exciting trip together.
How I got closer to myself while backpacking in Thailand
My backpacking trip in Thailand was more than just a tropical vacation. It was also a journey of self-discovery and connection. I learned so much about myself and I met so many new friends from different backgrounds and cultures. Sharing stories and perspectives with each other while travelling creates entirely unique and intimate relationships. I tried many new things that challenged and surprised me. I had so many moments of joy and gratitude that filled me with appreciation, and I realised that travelling is not only about seeing new places, but also about seeing yourself in new ways. I came back from Thailand with a backpack full of memories, a phone full of numbers of new friends, and a mindset that was completely refreshed.