The term ‘travel bug’ is something which I have discovered is very real. The moment you have the opportunity to wander aimlessly around a strange destination, is the moment you will be bitten. Is it the people you fall in love with? Or the fact you can do whatever you want, when you want? For me, it is a concoction of desires whipped up into a great, big mixing bowl; and Thailand is my first delicacy.


It wasn’t hard to pick Thailand as a worthy contender for my first trip. The cheap food, booze and stunning beaches is something which people worldwide are drawn to. Some of my University friends have been before and gave me advice and recommendations on the areas and activities. The possibilities are endless. Kayaking in a crystal clear blue lagoon, snorkelling with sharks and hiking massive mountains, have always been on my bucket list.


Discovering the culture was one of my favourite parts. It’s a whole different world to what we live back home. The hustle and bustle of Bangkok was the first taste of this month-long holiday. I had never seen something so chaotic yet so wonderful. Seeing the street sellers, massage ladies and smelling the local delicacies was something I’ll never forget. The constant smiles of Thai locals and their effort to sell you anything and everything always makes me laugh.


Scorpions, cockroaches and spiders for 1000 baht? Seems like a tasty bargain to me. Toasting under the intense heat, they were calling my name. “When in Thailand,” I thought. After tasting the crunch and spray of blood I knew I had made a huge mistake. But that unexpected aftertaste of crispy bacon made this one of my favourite moments.


Around the corner from the food vendors and restaurants, was the apparent madness of Khao San Road. It certainly lived up to its expectations. I’ll always remember the smell of buckets upon buckets of alcohol and crowds of dancing people who had similar traits of happiness. This reminded me of New York City being the ‘city that never sleeps’. The loud noises, bright lights and weirdly unique people – this lifestyle was wonderfully mad.


Although I loved the chaos of the city, it was time to unwind on the scenic beaches. There’s nothing better than feeling the sand beneath your toes and the sun on your skin. This place was paradise! I had seen Thailand on TV and on social media videos but it’s even more beautiful in person.


I was excited to wake up at the crack of dawn, relax on a boat and float over to Maya Bay. Supposedly one of the most stunning beaches in South East Asia, this dream island is the one from the movie “The Beach”. I could see why this place was so popular. Being one of the first people on the island was surreal. The limestone rocks looked like they were perfectly chiselled and the wooden long-tail boats were picture perfect. The crystal-clear water was so inviting and the cheeky monkeys’ stealing belongings was  like being in an outdoor paradise comedy show.


Visiting the elephant sanctuary was up there with one of the best days of my life. We learnt about the cruel elephant trading that happens around the world and this sanctuary is one step closer to combatting this, as the proceeds go towards helping these big, friendly giants. It was amazing feeding and bathing them and swimming under a freezing waterfall whilst the two youngest elephants were play -fighting. To end the day on a high, I attended a cooking school where I whipped up 6 delicious Thai cuisines from scratch. When I arrived back to the hotel with a full stomach, they luckily upgraded me to the most extravagant room. As if that day could get any better!


After travelling to 7 cities and islands, the urge to cancel my flight home was stronger than ever as the final day was approaching. We ended our journey in the same place where we started – Bangkok. This time, we splurged out our remaining cash on one of the most spectacular rooftop bars you could ever imagine. Looking over the city allowed us to reminisce about our memories of the past month, there were too many to even count!



Spinning around a plastic world globe is something you see in movies. My next trip will be 100 times more exciting as I’m travelling the world with one of my best pals. Australia, New Zealand and South America are definitely on the list. But who knows where we’ll end up!


Usually a bug’s bite is something that would irritate and annoy you. But the travel bug is a bite like no other. Go on, there’s a whole world out there to discover.

If you want to know more about the experience, please feel free to contact me.


Cal McIlwaine is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Facebook – Facebook Account / Twitter – Twitter Account / LinkedIn – Linkedin Account