Thailand - land of a thousand smiles and 'zany' boys puking

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Myself and two friends had been toying with the idea of hitting the Full Moon Party on the party island off Thailand this July, it was the quandary getting us through our dreaded finals. After spending two hours in STA we decided it was worth living off savoury rice for the next six months if it meant we could don copious amounts of UV paint, ride an elephant and master the ‘Baht’ exchange rate i.e. purchase as many fake designer goods as we could cram into our backpacks. After handing over near enough £600 for our flights and primary accommodation we could practically taste the San Som. Along with thousands of other backpackers we flocked to Bangkok and our journey began.

Koh San Road is antithetically exhilarating and exhausting, particularly when the words ‘ping pong show?’ become more familiar than your own name. The abounding City does however grant travelers a true glimpse into all things Thai through the open-aired view of a laughably cheap 80p all-day TukTuk ride. From Bangkok one must board a ‘sleeper train’ (note: you will not sleep unless you are partial to sleeping on roller coasters) to reach the northern destination of Chiang Mai, a far cry from Bangkok’s buzzing smoggy streets.

The aura of Chiang Mai is one that can only be described as ‘magical’ (according to my fellow traveler, Sophie) and its luscious green jungle air inhaled aboard an elephant makes you realise exactly why you ventured across several continents for this trip. Arriving in Phuket does however bring you back to an acrid reality but thankfully it was only necessary to endure one night of purgatory before we could venture on to the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi. The sheer beauty of this miniscule island was, however slightly blighted by the Magalufesque ‘sights and sounds’ of zany boys regurgitating last night’s noodles following what appeared to be a trip to ‘mushroom mountain’ the night before, long story short: stunning island, not so stunning sewage system.

The true Thai charm lies within Koh Tao, an alluring island where scuba diving is a religion and fire shows are akin to a national sport. This charming island is so chilled, falling asleep in one of the delightful beach bars along the coast is obligatory; hence the copious amounts of pillows and beds scattered across the beach. Generic travelers complete their ‘journey of self discovery’ with the infamous party island of Koh Phangan where buckets and UV paint are crucial outfit completers. This party island offers a totally adverse experience to the tranquil Ko Tao and you are so likely to get your belongings stolen it may just be easier to sell them upon arrival.

This island is like an 18 year old ‘gap yahs’ playground who maintain that testing every type of drug on offer will aid them in ‘finding themselves.’ Although Thailand is notorious for its drug scene, over 1,000 dealers were actually arrested in 2010 and Thai police are now clamping down on the trade in favour of ‘enriching cultural life’, I’m presuming they overlooked the men on the beach selling ‘ice creams’ at 4am and the giant mountain with a host of mushrooms on their bar menu then. Ultimately, love it or loath it, Thailand is a destination for any traveler’s hit list and a little bit of it really does stay with you forever (parasites and tropical diseases included).

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A London-based freelancer and MA Newspaper Journalism student at City University.