Jungles and small huts vanishing past the window as fast as they appear, patchy torrential rain falling on our 10-seater as it speeds down the windy road towards the pier. It’s been eight hours and counting since we left our jungle tree house in the heart of Khao San National Park, 24 hours since we were cooling down in 165 square metres of pristine Cheow Larn Lake and 48 hours since 15 strangers congregated in the lobby of the Nouvou City Hotel in Bangkok. As the backside paralysis starts to set in, I’m overcome by an unwavering sense of appreciation for not just the experiences had but the remarkable people I’ve met in just under a week.
Travelling with a group of unfamiliar faces can be a daunting thought to most, but can be easily abated through keeping an open mind and embracing whatever experiences are thrown your way – good or bad. Last night our humble abode was set atop a tree house with minimal comforts by way of two beds complete with worn out mosquito nets, a trickling shower that ran permanently cold and a rudimentary wooden study equipped with two bottles of water and desk lamp. The pure rawness of the environment had an enticing draw to it nonetheless with nothing but the crickets singing and bats screeching to lull us to sleep. Five-years-ago-me would’ve wanted to seek out more luxurious creature comforts but I’ve learnt to see a benefit behind all encounters. Everything you experience is a memory, and how you choose to remember it will ultimately shape how you grow as a person.
The dynamic thus far has been incredibly positive with an abundance of laughter and smiles across the group. From playing boisterous games of charade in tree houses, singing T-Swizzle songs (badly) in the back of the van to sharing intimate stories of each other’s past over a Chang beer – we can all safely say that we have no regrets to signing up for this trip. What we all share in common is the desire to experience foreign cultures, discover how the rest of the world exists and realize scenery that most would perceive as imaginary.
Cruising in a long-tail boat surrounded by 165 square kilometers of manmade lake in the middle of Khao Sok national park was surreal to say the least. The scenery could have been taken straight from Jurassic Park with perpetual evergreen jungle and towering limestone cliffs. We arrived at secluded floating bungalows for lunch and to cool off, we threw caution to the wind and leapt straight into the water with our food babies. The peaceful surrounds were almost too dreamlike to part with but alas, this was not where we would call home for the night. Instead we were taken into tree house style accommodation where we spent the night appreciating the orchestra that comes to life under the moonlight.
At dawn we set on our long journey to Langkawi Island that consisted of many hours in the back of a van and crossing international waters into Malaysia. We celebrated dear Mike aka dad’s birthday on the trip with a celebratory feast after our long commute. This was promptly followed by a night of beers at an Irish Pub that played the entire Vengaboys album whilst we played I’ve never. The first 72 hours was an intense cocktail of feelings; excitement for new experiences, nervousness from being amongst new people, fatigue from all the activities and early starts, appreciation for everything that we have and camaraderie for your new family abroad. Writing this whilst travelling from Langkawi Island to Penang was the only way I thought would be possible for me to describe the experience first hand.