By the time I visited Thailand I had already seen a lot of the world. This, I feel, was very lucky. Had I chosen Thailand instead of Cyprus for my first proper trip, my life may have been very different. I might still be living in that self-satisfied little town with Weston Super Mare as my solitary horizon. Bangkok can be overwhelming, but seeing it in my 30s rather than my 20s meant I was ready. I embraced the heat, the mad traffic, the street food, with an enthusiasm that my prim 21 year old self would never have found.
Wider afield, I discovered an insatiable love for sour mango, saw unidentifiable foodstuffs animal, mineral and vegetable in the markets and did not cry on discovering that the cute furry things in cages at the gate when we entered were dead furry fillets on a slab when we left. I did not go to a party island to wave a glow stick. I did not wear tie-dye clothing. I did not expect, or find, The Beach. I did not for one moment believe the tuk-tuk drivers who told me “that place closed today.”
Most of all, I discovered that taking a trip with people from the area can sometimes make all the difference. We were invited to stay in a village in Northern Thailand with a friend’s parents. We do not speak Thai; they do not speak English. We communicated through food. They cooked; we all ate; we all smiled a lot. We stood out on the road early in the morning to put food in the monks’ baskets as they passed through the village. It was beyond cool. I loved it. I wanted more.