Experiencing ‘The Fear”

I think it’s cause I’d built it up so much in my head. Get a flight here, how to get from A to B, money for this and that, that by the time I registered again what I had actually signed up for I was completely terrified. I have had this trip planned for six months nearly; for those of you who don’t know the trip encompasses a month in India followed by Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and, finally, Singapore.

I had everything planned before I went except for one vital component: my state of mind (I’m sorry if Goa is bringing out my inner hippy, there are a lot of them here). The fact that I was actually doing this, not just planning some mythical adventure, only really dawned on me when I said goodbye to my family at the airport. When I turned round and they were gone, and I was at last alone, suddenly a deep fear manifested itself in me.

Goa, the first stop of my adventure.

Stepping onto that plane, alone, was one of the scariest things I have ever done and that surprised me. Travelling has always been one of my life’s passions, new destinations and dream holidays always toying with my mind. I’m signed up to all the latest travel blogs, I follow all of the vloggers on YouTube, I even had a magazine subscription to Wanderlust; surely this meant that I too was ready for a life travelling! So I thought anyway. Yet there I was, scared to leave my family, scared to leave my boyfriend and scared to leave the comfort and familiarity of home behind. I was actually kind of disappointed in myself, where was the Indiana ‘no-fear’ Jones figure that I thought I had inside me?

One of the benefits of solo travel is the amount of time there is for reflection (again I’ve been in Goa for the past few days so I apologise for the hippy vibe). Time spent in airports, nights in hostels or meals had alone have all meant I’ve had a lot more time to think. And I say to ‘the fear’: it’s okay to be afraid. I’ve never done anything like this before. And in today’s fast-paced society when you are usually surrounded by someone or something, be it phone or TV, it is actually rather unusual to be alone.

I still experience ‘the fear’ and I suspect I will continue to feel it as my travels continue, but I’m going to attempt to not let it beat me to the ground. We’ll see how that goes.

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Do’s and Don’ts for the Bangkok First Timer

Thailand for me was the first time I’d ever ventured into Asia. It was an explosion for the senses, so many strange yet wonderful sights that my eyes, ears and nose had never encountered before.

I was travelling with two friends and we’d planned a fairly organised itinerary, nothing too flexible as we were all fairly inexperienced travellers when it came to ‘winging it’. The plan was this: Bangkok, fly to Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, travel across land and then Koh Samui. Fairly standard for the Thai tourist.

Bangkok was just.. woah. I can see why it gets mixed reviews. I think I can can safely write this without one of my friends killing me (there are various other tales from the trip that I’m sure she’d rather I didn’t divulge) but she HATED it. I on the other hand, was fascinated by it. Love is a strong word.

For someone new to Bangkok you can see why it would be a bit of a culture shock. The dirty streets, the approachive-ness of people, the unpleasant smells you can come across whilst walking down the street. It’s all a bit different. However, in some ways no different to any street new to you in your own neighbourhood.

Here are some words of advice for my fellow travellers who may visit Bangkok.

Do

Try what the locals try
If the locals are trying it, it usually means it’s good. Usually this applies to food but I’d also extend this to shops and activities.

My personal experience stems from when I got a bit of cabin fever in the hostel we were staying in (Chern hostel, very good, would recommend) and so I decided to go for a bit of a wonder. A few streets away there was an extremely busy food place packed with locals. I gatecrashed this party and found myself purchasing what I would call a waffle/bread/pancake hybrid thing. You could get this topped with chocolate, sugar, caramel sauce. Very cheap and amazing.

Do your research
The first day we ventured out of our hostel to seek out the Grand Palace, and we LOOKED like tourists. We were navigating slowly and I had a map held right up in front of my eyes.

It wasn’t long before a Thai man approached us and very kindly offered to help us. He told us that unfortunately the Grand Palace wasn’t open to tourists in the morning and that he’d help us find a very cheap tuk tuk to take us on a tour instead. If you do your research you will realise this is one of the biggest scams in the book. Unfortunately we hadn’t done such research.

So away we go in a tuk tuk and we are dropped off at a pier where a boat is waiting and we are asked to pay for the canal tour. First day in Bangkok, this seems like a good idea, we hadn’t seen much of the city yet and we also hadn’t quite got our heads around the conversion rate yet. Turns out this tour cost us 20 British poundings each. A lot of money for Bangkok and the tour was, ehm, interesting.

It wasn’t one of the more popular canal tours you see and instead took us round Bangkok’s ‘old quarter’ where we saw the ramshackled homes of the locals. We saw monks walking over bridges above, women washing their clothes in the water; an authentic experience which I have no doubt is part of the ‘real’ Bangkok. I’m not snubbing this, I just believe the purpose of this trip was much more lucrative, as we were asked if we wanted to pay to feed the fish and were pressured into purchasing from women selling their wares on floating river boats that we passed.

What we ultimately learnt as the trip went on is, do your research. You can say no to these people, as long as you are polite there should be no harm done and you may save some money.

Negotiate with tuk tuk drivers
You will be harassed by tuk tuk drivers as you walk from place to place. They will shout at you asking if you need a lift and will offer a price. This is something you can also refuse, don’t feel like the first price is the one you have to agree to. This is the drivers opportunist price. Haggle him down to a more reasonable price and be on your way.

Or walk. It’s much cheaper.

Don’t

Leave without water and sun cream
We were in Bangkok in May, it was excruciatingly hot and was hitting 42’C at times. You should always make sure you leave your hostel with some water wherever you are going. Our hostel room’s fridge always had new bottled water in when we came back, I believe most hostels do this. We were also advised to not fill up from fountains or taps just in case. Buying bottled water is dead cheap anyway and you could often buy it from street vendors for 20-40 baht.

Also always lather on the sun cream. At risk of sounding like your mum, sun burn is not fun and this is something I discovered after a boat trip from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi. I was burnt ALL over and was in pain for days after. I was in pain getting into my wetsuit when I went scuba driving, and I resorted to Google-ing how to soothe it. I ended up wiping cool tea bags all over myself, can’t say this helped. Also, my holidays photos are now not very flattering either.

Dress inappropriately
You’ve probably read this umpteen times now, but always make sure you carry a scarf or spare shirt for when you are visiting temples or religious places. You will often not get in unless you are appropriately covered and respectful.

I’d also recommend taking a good pair of shoes you can slip on and off as many temples require you to take your shoes off to enter. I had Converse sometimes and this was a pain in the butt.

Location, location, location
It’s often very tempting when you are booking accommodation to automatically go for the cheapest option. Yay, £5 for a hostel! But then you realise when you get there that you are actually miles away and the price you have to pay to actually get into the centre meant it worth paying a little bit more for your hostel in the first place.

We didn’t really have this problem too much. Our hostel meant we were well located to visit all the attractions we were after. Good choice amigos.

Don’t regret anything
Obviously you can’t do everything, especially if you only have a few days in Bangkok. However, I feel like I hadn’t quite done enough research regarding what there actually was to do in Bangkok beyond visiting the famous palaces and temples. Do some YouTube and Instagram searching before you go so you can see what amazing things there are to do and perhaps plan your trip a little more thoroughly. Winging it is great, but sometimes it’s nice to have some good ideas in your head.

After looking at other people’s trips to Bangkok via YouTube, we should have visited a Sky Bar. These are elaborate bars on top of buildings with immense views over the city. I would also have liked to have visited one of Bangkok’s huge shopping malls which make ours seem tiny in comparison. I also hear there is a Ghost Tower which is popular to have a tour around. Ayutthaya is an old city north of Bangkok that looks like a Thai Angkor Wat. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and luckily I’ll be back this summer to explore a little more.

Top 6 Free Things on the Isle of Skye

Scotland is beautiful, Scotland is wonderful. Although I have an intense itch to see the rest of the world, my own little corner is particularly fabulous, and the part which I would recommend the most is the Isle of Skye. Here are my top six free things to do whilst you are there.

1. The Quiraing

The Quiraing can be found on the tiny wee (Scots: small) road between Uig and Brogaig. It’s essentially a massive landslip which looks incredible! With its massive cliffs and jaw-dropping scenery it is a must-see in Skye. Pack some walking boots or trainers as there is a small path that walks right below it and involves jumping some waterfalls and rocky terrain. Pack a camera.

However, be careful as the road passing the Quiraing can get blocked with tour buses and tourists. If you do own a car, try find a good place to stop which doesn’t block the road, as it is very narrow.

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The Quiraing, very LOTR. @hantravelssolo

2. The Old Man of Storr

Skye is wonderful in that many of its attractions are completely free of charge. The Old Man of Storr is a pretty example, as you drive north up the A855 you cannot miss it jutting out from behind the hills. It is a massive pinnacle of rock which stands alone next to the landslip feature beside it.

Again, it is easy to park just off the main road and walk up to it to see it up close in all it’s glory!

 

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Skye on a nicer day, the Old Man in the distance. @hantravelssolo

3. The Fairy Pools

Okay, so on the day I visited The Fairy Pools in Glenbrittle the weather was foul. I mean horrendous. We had wild camped the night before just down the glen a little and woken up to grey clouds, not a great omen. Parking in the car park next to the path down to the pools also proved challenging, and I think some extending may be required, although I could see how that could perhaps take something away from it all. We dawned waterproof after waterproof and left the safety of the car for the winding path down to the Fairy Pools.

The walk is nice and gentle and probably doesn’t require anything more than a good pair of trainers, however we had only been walking 20 minutes when even my RAB waterproof was struggling, it was torrential. Although the Fairy Pools looked nothing like the tranquil spots basked in sunshine like in the photos, they were still beautiful with the backdrop of the mysterious Cuillin hills. And I could kinda picture how they would look amazing on a good day! Top tip: if visiting on a sunny day definitely pack a swimming costume! Ran back to the car and enjoyed a much needed coffee from the Cuillin Coffee Co. van at the car park.

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Fairy Pools, too cold for a dip though. @hantravelssolo

4. Duntulm Castle

I felt like I’d fallen back in time when we discovered this gem. Drive north and north and north on Skye, until you can’t drive north anymore and you’ll find perched on the clifftop, Duntulm Castle. Story goes it was the seat of the MacDonald clan in the 17th century before they abandoned it in 1732. It is also said to be haunted by the ghost of the nursemaid who ‘accidentally’ dropped the chieftain’s baby from the window onto the rocks below.

Park the car just off the road and follow the path through grassy fields to the killjoy gate which says ‘Do Not Enter’. Enter. And be in awe of the ruins perched on top of the sea.

5. Kilt Rock

Plummeting 60m into the sea below is the Mealt Waterfall. The rock itself is composed of columns of different colours and according to some people looks like a kilt… erm, maybe? When visiting there is a viewing platform ideal for selfies with the waterfall and Kilt Rock itself, however you can cross the road and see the equally beautiful Loch Mealt on the other side. All for free.

 

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Kilt rock. @hantravelssolo

6. Coral Beach

Tucked away near Dunvegan are the coral beaches. Park in the car park at the end of the road at Claigan and start walking. Now it is a mile and a bit away, which I hadn’t realised at the time and I kept saying to my boyfriend what a rubbish beach it was and how I didn’t know what all the fuss was about… until we reached the top of the small hill and looked down on the other side. Woah, I never knew beaches like this existed in Scotland. I honestly felt that with the blue skies and the sandy beach that we could have been in the Maldives, shame about the temperature. Honestly well worth a visit and absolutely stunning. Plus you have walked a few miles and earned that bit of cake back in civilisation.

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Maldives; cold, hilly Maldives. @hantravelssolo

 

 

So, you like travel?

I’m joining the party and creating a travel blog. Yeah, I know, there are already countless sites consisting of jet-setters, solo female wanderers and wanderlusters, but I would like to join the party.

I must admit, I feel like a bit of a fraud as I sit and type this in my dingy flat in Dundee, Scotland. ‘How can you love travel if you are sitting at home in your pyjamas?’, you may ask. But I think this is something that many of us can relate to. All too regularly a video/news article will pop up on my Facebook feed consisting of a happy couple voyaging around the world. ‘I gave up my job and now my life is great’, ‘9-5 just wasn’t for me’ or ‘everyone should do this’. And I’ll sit there and reflect how this is exactly how I should be spending my life, but the truth is I have no job to pack in (I have only just graduated), I have no house to sell (see above: ‘dingy flat’), I have no money (see above: ‘just graduated’) and my car would sell for pittance. So instead, I must sit here and plan for better days, when I have it all so that I may then pack it in.

Although, I have been lucky, I have traveled like most people do. Save, go on a very enjoyable two week trip, rinse and repeat. However, I dream of an extended escapade where I don’t look back and how I aim to do this I will cover in future posts, as well as some of the destinations I have been lucky enough to visit.

Recently, I was gifted the book ‘Microadventures’ by an adventurer I have followed for some time now and have admired (and had a really strange dream about recently, but you don’t want to know), Alastair Humphreys. In the book he details how, even when going about your normal 9-5 routine, it is possible to add excitement and adventure by going on what he terms microadventures. It is rather good stuff and includes exploring the area around you and camping in more unusual spaces. I truly think I’ll try some of them out, and I have bought a bivvy bag recently in order to do so, so watch this space.

Thanks for reading my first installment. I think you should go away and have a cookie for making it to the end.

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Trying to be sophisticated at the Alhambra, Granada (Spain).