In January of 2021, I had to opportunity to visit Thailand for several months on a group trip. It was an amazing time and I want to share my experience with you.
I had decided to take a gap year in the middle of college back in October of 2019. However, as we all know, things kinda fell apart in March of 2020. I ended up stuck at home for months until I finally found a program that would leave in January of 2021 to Thailand with Pacific Discovery. I spent a month filing paperwork, contacting embassies, and getting multiple COVID tests. On January 29, 2021, I flew from Chicago to Dubai, and Dubai to Bangkok. The entire travel time was close to 45 hours in which I got about four hours of sleep. Upon arrival in Bangkok, we were immediately taken to a government sanctioned hotel where we had to quarantine for approximately 16 days.
Quarantine was a weird and frustrating experience to say the least. The first four to five days I actually felt pretty good. I slept a lot to make up for lost sleep and adjust to the time change. However, when you have nothing to keep you up, it can be hard to make the twelve hour time shift work quickly. This was the first time I've ever had jet lag and hopefully it's the last. My first few days I enjoyed zooming with the other members of the trip, working out, eating some decent food the hotel provided, and teaching myself to throw cards. I did this for days and believe it or not, I didn’t watch any tv (Netflix, Hulu, etc) for nearly a week while stuck in a hotel room. But eventually, I got tired. When you work out with no schedule, you end up just going and going. When I finally let myself have a day off, that was it. I spent the rest of quarantine bored out of my mind and trying to order street food to the hotel.
When we finally got out, we flew North to Chiang Mai and drove to a yoga retreat in the small town of Lampang. There we spent two days meeting other group members, relaxing, and preparing to embark on the real adventure. After the yoga retreat, we left for a homestay for one night with a lovely local family. We cooked, walked around, and started learning some Thai. Although I got literally zero sleep due to roosters yelling all night, it was a fun time. Next, we left to go stay on a small permaculture farm in Lampang. There we spent several days rock climbing, caving, repelling, hiking, and more. After our adventures during the days; we would come back, enjoy dinner, learn some more Thai, and help on the farm. The people of Lampang and our guides were amazing. This was our first experience of famous Thai hospitality and friendliness and it did not disappoint. Many people were especially happy to see us due to Thailand's reliance on tourism. With COVID, a large percentage of the Thai people had no jobs and they told us it was a relief to see that things were starting to change.
After our time out in the country, we got our chance to experience our first big city, Chiang Mai. I was surprised just how much I enjoyed my time there. Chiang Mai hosts a plethora of restaurants, bars, and other fun things to do. The city also has plenty of Wats (Buddhist temples) to visit. They are stunning and have some of the most incredible statues you've ever seen. My personal favorite part of Chiang Mai was the night market. Every Saturday night, part of the city is completely lit up with vendors of street food, small statues, clothes, souvenirs, and more. For many people (including myself), it's shocking to see all the amazing food you can buy for the equivalent of a few dollars.
The areas surrounding Chiang Mai are some of the most notoriously amazing in all of Thailand. From waterfalls, mountains, elephants, and more. So stay tuned for Part. 2 of this series to learn more about my time traveling Thailand.