It’s been just over two years since I stepped foot in one of my favourite countries and experienced the ultimate solo birthday trip to Thailand’s biggest Island, Phuket.
The first time I visited Thailand was in the summer of 2017 with my friends. I knew I had to come back to see more of this incredible country and was not disappointed. I left Phuket with the best memories but there were some that I haven’t forgotten and have kept me wanderlusting for more adventure in Thailand.
I wandered through the night food markets and enjoyed delicious street food, climbing up to see panoramic views of Phuket from the Big Buddha. Explored Phang Nga Bay and canoed through the caves and crystal blue lagoons, island-hopped around the famous Phi Phi islands and soaked my feet in the turquoise waters of Kamala beach. I snorkelled and quad-biked through the forest, as well as bathed elephants for the first time. After getting that adrenaline feeling and breeze through my hair while riding a motorbike, I strolled along the vibrant streets of the historical UNESCO Phuket old Town.
I had so many first-time experiences that made my trip a meaningful one. On a trip, I was able to go out of my comfort zone, try new things, connect with numerous people and create new memories. Thailand has often been nicknamed the land of smiles for a reason. The Thai people for me expressed kindness towards me and the beautiful encounters made my solo trip extra special.
The Elderly Woman Who Gave Me Her Slippers At The Elephant Sanctuary
On my first day in Phuket, I wanted to ease myself into my trip and decided to spend the afternoon at the Green Elephant Phuket Sanctuary feeding and bathing elephants. It was an awesome feeling seeing elephants up close and personal. I learnt a deal about the mistreatment of elephants in Thailand. Some elephants are used for trekking as part of the tourism industry which can cause permanent damage to their spine. There was one elephant who was traumatised from the abuse she received from her previous owners who wouldn’t let anyone touch her. Even so, it was an amazing experience, and I found the elephants were incredibly affectionate.
As I was capturing a memorable selfie with an elephant, my sandals ripped, and I would have continued walking barefoot in the muddy terrain if it wasn’t for an elderly Thai woman’s kind gesture. She saw my frantic expression and immediately removed her slippers from her feet and swapped her slippers with mine so I could continue to enjoy the rest of the tour and not have to worry about stepping on elephant poo. Later on, I returned her slippers and expressed my gratitude to her.
The Tour Guide Who Took Care Of Me While I Was Sick
I joined a Phuket island group tour and spent the day sightseeing and exploring the colonial Sino-Portuguese architecture of Phuket Old Town, enjoyed a visit to a traditional cashew nut factory, learned about Buddhist traditions at Wat Chalong and revelled in breath-taking views over the Andaman sea from Karon viewpoint and beautiful beaches.
With a combination of lack of sleep and experiencing jet lag, I felt nauseous and vomited during the tour. My tour guide stopped by the pharmacy to buy anti-sickness tablets for me and looked after me until I was feeling better to continue on with the island tour.
The Hotel Staff That Surprised Me With A Birthday Gift
After staying in the busy Patong beach town, I decided a change of scenery in Rawai would be a great way to relax and unwind for my birthday. I checked into a beautiful hotel, The Windmill Phuket, and was greeted with welcome drinks. I spoke to the lovely staff at the hotel and mentioned I was celebrating my birthday the next day.
On the day of my birthday, I was welcomed by warm smiles and a hotel staff member surprised me with a stunning purple and green Thai silk scarf. I was overjoyed and shocked as I never expected to receive a gift from the staff.
The Local Thai Guy Who Drove Me Home Safely On His Motorbike
Venturing out to experience the nightlife solo can be a bit daunting but I love dancing and it’s an interesting way to see the city come alive at night. Unfortunately, the plan to meet up with some new friends didn’t happen as scheduled and I ended up exploring the nightlife by myself on the lively Bangla road.
There was another room at Illuzion club that played my favourite music genre, Afrobeats. There’s something about this music that makes you want to move to the beat and shake a leg. The atmosphere in this club was buzzing. I was delighted to see Thai locals as well as tourists enjoying the West African music that I grew up listening to. That evening, I connected with lots of people from around the world. I noticed there were no taxis around as I tried to get home. This lovely guy who I spoke to earlier passed me a spare helmet and drove me back to my hotel safely on his motorbike for free.
Mrs Karn’s Contagious Smile
If you know me well, you know food and travel are my love languages. I couldn’t leave Thailand without going on a culinary experience and attending my first cooking class abroad!
I will never forget Mrs Karn’s cooking class, an amazing experience. Her positive energy and smile were contagious. She had a great sense of humour, a wealth of knowledge about Thai cuisine and simplified cooking tips which showed in her passion for making Thai cooking easy and authentic for everyone. I really enjoyed cooking Pad Thai, Tom yum kong, green Thai curry and mango sticky rice.
I had the most incredible time in Phuket and hope this post inspires you to travel to Thailand once it’s open for tourism soon. Travel to Thailand will start again in July for vaccinated people, with a staggered opening starting with Phuket.
Do you have any kind memories from the land of smiles? Share your story with me!
*This post has been published in collaboration with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) as part of their #throwbackthailand campaign. All views and opinions are my own. Find more Thailand travel inspiration at www.fanclubthailand.co.uk