Like so many others out there my dream in life is to travel. I want to see the world. Experience different cultures. See all the amazing sights I have heard of. See the sights I’ve never heard of. I just want to explore, step out of my comfort zone and see what the world has to offer me; by that I mean the old cliche…I want to find myself.
In January 2018 I found myself searching online for trips, holidays, somewhere to escape to. I found Thailand. It was never anywhere I ever really thought too much about. Previously I have had many holidays around Europe. Lots of family holidays to Spain, European city adventures with my boyfriend as well as a very amazing 3 week holiday in Sydney Australia, when we had only been together for 6 months! But Asia has been high on my list. But a 2 week luxury island trip in Phuket Thailand soon became first place on my ‘I NEED TO GO THERE NOW’ list.
The excitement I felt telling friends and family that I was going to Thailand filled every cell of my being! But booking the holiday for December, in January made 2018 feel sooooo long! Each month I’d log onto the holiday account, see the countdown ticking away, and add my hard-earned money to the fund. It still didn’t feel real. Even packing the week before, we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. The website photos and description sounded totally out of this world! But there was that doubt in my mind that it was either never going to happen, like something tragic would happen the day before or that we had been conned.
On 1st December 2018 we arrived in paradise! From the speed boat to the island, to the incredibly welcoming staff that came to meet us, to the first moment we saw the island and the walkway towards the beach, to the showers we used before our room was ready, everything was perfect! I had never seen so much nature. So much greenery and flowers I never knew existed. The instant calm I felt walking into the shower room with low lighting and a smell that I can only describe as peace. And that is exactly what I felt throughout this whole holiday. Peace. My mind is an overthinking, overactive, exhausted mess sometimes. It can take me ages to calm down and leave work thoughts or anxious behaviours behind and focus on the now, yet as soon as I had this shower, as mad as it may sound, I instantly felt my unnecessary thoughts just float away (and the 20 hours of travel sweat and grossness.) I could breathe. I could appreciate what was right in front of me. In the humid heat we had first experienced when getting off the plane, a cold, refreshing shower with deliciously smelling gels and shampoos was everything in that moment.
The 2 weeks that followed were a dream. Pinch-me moments every time I woke up in the morning and went outside in our garden area and saw our private hot tub! Every time I walked out in the heat after showering and felt like I could do with another. Every breakfast on the beach with the freshest of fruit and the mountain of ‘all you can eat buffet’ food. Every speed boat trip to Phuket and nearby towns. Every plate of food put in front of us. Everyday being there and feeling so grateful that we were experiencing this.
Whilst we were over there it was my 25th birthday. I wasn’t really expecting anything as I was already living the dream. But my boyfriend surprised me with the greatest day ever! A day at an elephant sanctuary! It is well known that a main source of tourism in Thailand is elephants. The elephant trekking industries are booming there. Where tourists come and see elephants in their ‘natural habitat,’ ride the elephants, trek with the elephants but behind all of the selfies and seemingly happy elephants, they are tortured, starved, beaten down and forced to comply. It is horrific. So when I found out that I would be spending my birthday with elephants, I was very dubious. But once I got there and learned about what this sanctuary does and how it was set up to recover, re-home and care for Thai elephants, my doubts disappeared. Many of the elephants there were either old or disabled somehow. My heart broke learning about Thai elephants and the trauma they endured. How their souls seemed crushed by looking at their big broken eyes. But hearing what the sanctuary does and seeing the elephants roam around the acres and acres of land, it filled me with hope. I would visit this sanctuary again and again if I could.
We visited Phi Phi Islands whilst we were out there. And they were amazing. Such spectacular views, even if the sky was cloudy.
The tour guide asked us to call him Alex as he found foreign people would struggle to pronounce his actual name. He was lovely and gave us lots of facts about the islands. We later jumped off the boat, swam and snorkelled in the most amazing waters. Looking up and seeing the islands surrounding us was incredible. We felt so small. The boat sailed past a monkey island, which housed loads of long-tailed macaques. We stayed on the boat as the guided told us they can get aggressive, we happily sat there and watched them interacting with each and climbing on the rocks. It was extraordinary.
Writing this and reliving this holiday fills me with a burning desire to be back there. Beauty was everywhere to be seen and witnessed in the kindness of the Thai people. I cannot speak more highly of everyone we came in contact with. I wish I could take my friends and family are there to witness what we did…an absolute dream!