Our first two weeks were spent with friends travelling around the islands. Wanting to make the most of our time with them we didn't stick to a budget; therefore I will not include our expenditure in our 'cost' section, as it is not a true reflection of our typical backpacking lifestyle.
When in Bangkok...
There are always new stories to be told and this time was no different. Before arriving in Thailand we had been following the Thai coup protests and were aware that Bangkok had been on shutdown: everyone had to be in doors from 11pm to 5am. By a stroke of luck, this was lifted just before we arrived and we didn't have to worry about our friends missing out on the night life scene and the buzz of the city.
If you have ever been to Bangkok you will know there is an abundance of massage shops, which are incredibly cheap. I've never had a massage before but decided to give it a go this time as my friends wanted one. After carrying a 17kg backpack I thought a head and shoulder massage would be the perfect way to relax. Wrong. Never trust the advertisements on the outside of massage parlours. We were led through the shop and upstairs to a red room where each of us was told to lie down and a curtain was drawn. Immediately I knew I wasn't getting what I asked for when the lady told me to remove my top. When she unfastened my bra strap any thoughts of relaxation completely disappeared.Now I am fully aware of what a Thai massage is - I have seen the look on people's faces as their body is twisted and pulled and prodded- it is not something I wished to experience. My reminder of "head massage" fell on deaf ears, and what followed was 30 minutes of feeling like a piece of plasticine. "Relax! Relax!" She kept telling me. It's pretty hard to relax when you are walking on my back and pulling my arms around my back. Each time she uttered those words I found myself getting and more more tense, which didn't help as she wasn't satisfied until every joint in my body had clicked.The last time I was so aware of the clock was in my exams - here I found myself watching every movement of the clock's hand desperate for it to be 7.30pm.
Will I get massage again? No chance. They are not for me. My friends loved it, and went for another one at the end of the trip, but that experience has definitely put me off.
A darker side of Bangkok
I adore Bangkok and everything it has to offer, but this time I saw a side of it which I have never witnessed before. I'm very much aware of the poverty within the city, but when you are walking around the city in daylight hours - amongst the hustle and bustle - it is not as seemingly obvious as it is in the early hours of the morning. To see a family (mother, young baby and small child) sleeping on cardboard on the corner of Soi Rambuttri was heartbreaking. As I turned the corner an older lady used the main road as her lavatory. It is moments like this which put everything in perspective and make you realise the reality of the situation. It is moments like this which make me thankful that I made the decision to travel - not because I want to see things like this, but I find these little glimpses much more insightful than visiting an attraction designed for tourists.
Apart from Joe (drunkenly) losing our small day pack, me getting food poisoning in Bangkok, and clothes being stolen from my laundry in Koh Samui, our two weeks in Thailand were fantastic. We had been worried our friends might not enjoy travelling around, but they loved every minute and plan to come back.
The perfect start to our adventure.