I’d been on package holidays, but I wanted to travel the world and see outside the hotel and the tourist facade. I wanted to see somewhere new, I wanted to understand a new culture, see landscapes I’d not seen before. So one step at a time.
Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for a few reasons, it’s one of the cheapest places to go for hotels and eating, the transport links across the country are exceptional and it’s known for it’s safety. An ideal place for a solo female to do some independent travel. It took me a very long time to decide which islands I would include in my island hop experience, a process that I enjoyed immensely and I booked all the hotels before I left home.
First Stop: Koh Mook
With my first stop I decided to treat myself to a nice hotel, with a beach front gorgeous bungalow. As I was travelling solo I took a recommendations from a fellow female solo traveller. She advised that as I’d be tired and jet lagged when I arrived it was best and safest to book the transfer with the hotel. The car and speed boat over to the island wasn’t cheap, but it was easy to book with the hotel and in my weird jet lagged and disoriented state it was definitely a good idea. I don’t think I could have coped with much else to be honest. I felt like a celeb when the speed boat rocked up to the island and just me disembarked onto the beautiful white sand. That moment in itself was worth every penny.
The bungalow was amazing, with my own stretch of beach, a terrace, huge patio windows where my bed looked directly out to the sea. In reality the room was far too big for little old me, but it was true luxury. As I was travelling solo and the hotel was out of the way from the rest of the town I was restricted to the hotel restaurant. I was at a very nice place, the kind where the guests didn’t even think about talking to another guest. Everyone was in their own bubble. This was fine it was just the start of my holiday. In the evening I borrowed from the dvd library and watched Good Will Hunting in my room, as there was nothing else to do. To be honest, so far it was no different from a package holiday, although I just hadn’t met any fellow holiday makers on the coach over.
After 3 nights here I was ready for a change of scenery and I had booked onto the speed boat for my next destination with the hotel. Although this time I wasn’t the only one on it. I chatted to a lovely couple from Sweden on the journey and at the time I thought it was strange how no one had been so chatty whilst I was there.
Next Stop: Koh Lanta
My speedboat journey also included a taxi to the hotel and for the first time I was able to see more of the Thai way of life around the busy streets on my journey. This hotel was the cheapest of the trip. The room was big, simple and clean, with my own terrace. It was a family run business, and they were friendly and down to earth. I walked out onto the beach. The sand was brown. It wasn’t a patch on the beach at Koh Mook and I was starting to wonder why I’d left such a beautiful island.
I walked along the beach and stopped for a drink, suddenly I felt a wave of relaxation and understood that this island had a great chilled vibe to it.
I had dinner alone with my kindle, again on my first night there. I felt like the waiters were almost awkward around me, and I wondered if solo female travellers ever do come to Thailand. It was really unusual for me to have not met and spoken to many people by this point, even when I travelled solo before I had always made so many friends. So this was uncharted territory for me.
Luckily this changed at breakfast and I made some friends that I spent the rest of my time on Koh Lanta with. I noticed how all the staff changed the way they acted towards me when I had friends and they spoke with me more often. When my time came to leave the island I was really sad, and wish I had longer on this island with an amazing vibe.
Again I booked with the hotel my transfer via car and ferry to my next destination. I spoke to two girls who were spending several months travelling around and I was most envious. Mid sea – yes mid sea, we transferred from the ferry to the long tail boat.
Next Stop: West Railay
Again another beautiful beach. I spoke to one or two people in passing, but I was back to spending more time alone. Yes I know what you are thinking I went away alone, I had prepared to be alone and I’m OK with my own company. Eating meals alone was probably one of the hardest things for me to get used to.
I took one of the local long tail boats that sit across East Railay to my next stop.
Next Stop: Krabi
The town seems a little run down and I didn’t feel entirely safe, so I stayed in the hotel. I was only there so I could be picked up early in the morning for a tour I had booked.
Next Stop: Chieow Laan Lake
I was greeted by my guide, and I was surprised that I was the only one on the tour. Turned out I hadn’t booked a group tour but a guide all to myself. We made our way to the floating raft houses.
It was beautiful and peaceful. After a guided tour and walk around, I had dinner on my own, again. I was starting to get used to it. I had an interesting night’s sleep in the floating raft house and and experience I recommend to anyone going to Thailand.
Next Stop: Khao Sok
I had booked two nights here so I could get the tourist bus back to Krabi. It was a lovely tranquil place to be. Even if I did see a snake! My activity that day (I’m embarrassed to say) was an elephant ride. From what I saw they didn’t treat the elephants terribly well, and since going I have seen many articles that have said the same. So I wouldn’t recommend it.
That evening I returned to my beautiful hut and I felt lonely. I felt the loneliest I have ever felt. The looks I had been getting from all the hotel staff everywhere was of pity to me. Everyone was polite and kind, but you couldn’t escape the look they gave you.
I was ready to jump in a taxi and head to the nearest beach resort. I spoke to a friend back home on facebook who thought I was crazy and that I was so lucky to be in such an environment. Which was true, but there was no getting away from the loneliest. Even the long conversation with one of the waitresses, where she told me she thought I looked exactly like Hermione from Harry Potter, didn’t help me shift this feeling. I stayed as there was no guarantee that being by the sea would change anything.
The next day I had a tour of the rain forest. I was met by my guide where the first thing he did was to tuck my trousers into my socks so I would not get leeches on me. As we were walking around, and he’s helping steady me on rocky areas, I’m thinking “what is a princess like me doing in the middle of the rain forest?” It suddenly didn’t make sense to me and I felt like a fish out of water.
I stayed for my final lonely night at the most beautiful place and marvelled at the scenery.
Next Stop: Bangkok
I jumped on the tourist bus and chatted to a few people. There was a lovely couple from Barcelona. It was interesting to me, once I felt the cultural differences I saw between myself and someone from Spain was massive, now suddenly it felt like I’d bumped into someone who lived down the road from me. In the greater scheme of things I guess I had.
From there I went to Krabi airport, ready for my Bangkok flight. Suddenly I was talking to everyone in the queue. I felt sociable again. It was also affirmation that there was nothing wrong with me, I’d just been unlucky not to cross paths with other sociable people.
I arrived at my hotel, and explored the area before it got dark. As it got dark I headed back to the hotel for my safety and had dinner, and was joined by a lovely couple in their 50s who were just starting there travelling journey. I spent the next day experiencing the hecticness of Bangkok. By that evening I was ready to go home.
Where Did I Go Wrong?
I think the first fundamental thing I did wrong was to book more expensive hotels. If I were to do it again I would book far cheaper hotels, forgo the luxury for more sociable environment. It was probably much more of a culture shock than I could have imagined. This was 3 years ago and I’ve been on a few trips since. Although from this lesson learnt I now book group tours.