The first time I went to Thailand, I was 18 and had just read The Beach by Alex Garland. At the time, everyone had just read Alex Garland’s The Beach, about a backpacker looking for an idyllic island paradise off the coast of Thailand, and so I was by no means the only one. British teenager made the trip to Bangkok in 1998.
I had never been further than Spain, and my mom packed me up with travelers checks, a package of Dioralyte, and a warning not to smuggle drugs. It was the kind of little things you said back then. Anyway, when I arrived in Bangkok, I couldn’t believe it. The whole world opened up to me in the time it took to bring a tuk-tuk to Patpong and open the first of many Singha beers.
I’ve seen things I didn’t know were possible, and I’m not just talking about the infamous bars on the Strip. I looked at Wat Arun temple and took an overnight train to Chiang Mai. I walked with hill tribes. I drank moonlight. I believe I met a family of water buffalo, although it could have been moonlight. Not once have I encountered food poisoning or smuggling drugs, just the friendliness and that overwhelming joy that comes from experiencing a different culture for the first time. I absolutely loved it.
So much so that I have been back to Thailand every decade since – and each time it has shown me something different. On Koh Samui, at the age of 29, I recovered from a broken heart with a best friend, chasing all my sadness during the day and drinking it (more Singha beer) at night. Then, in the winter of 2019, I returned with my husband and my daughter. There we had our best Christmas on Anantara Layan Phuket beach, paddleboarding and snorkelling and eating seafood instead of turkey. “Khob khun kha!” my daughter parroted every person she met. We have seen in 2020 hanging out with monitor lizards. It was the last place we went as a family before the pandemic hit, and at the darkest times we rejoiced as we remembered Mai Khao beach.
It is therefore good to know that Thailand is once again opening up to vaccinated travelers. There is nowhere I would rather go to start exploring the world again after 18 months at home. Koh Phi Phi, do you like it?
1. Blow up the budget of the newlyweds
Fantasy is forever blurred with reality in dreamy Thailand. Fairy temples, exotic flavors, and endless beaches set the stage for romance, making it a favorite for honeymooners and couples looking to rekindle a spark. Make up for lost vacations by planning a celebration of epic proportions, exploring every inch of the country in style with Original Travel’s bespoke Megamoon. See Bangkok from above on a helicopter ride over the Grand Palace, learn to meditate with masters in Chiang Mai, and disconnect from the outside world in the northern highlands. End on a high at Soneva Kiri on Koh Kood Island, where tree-top dinners are served by a waiter on a zipline.
A 17-day trip starts from £ 28,115 per person including flights (020 3582 4990; originaltravel.co.uk).