It was such an odd experience leaving the Philippines. We ended up spending our last day barely leaving our Hotel. Splashing out on a nicer place to crash didn’t quite go the way we planned; our hotel was decidedly average, and our aspirations for gourmet grub ended with a Jollibee (the local Filipino equivalent of Maccas basically). But never mind, you can’t win em all! The sad reality though, was this was the end of our trip, bar a couple of stops en route back to the UK. Our first, being Bangkok!
A great tip for those booking flights home. Fly back from an international hub, but look for layovers. By booking a flight with a long layover in Abu Dhabi, we actually managed to get flights from Thailand to the UK for about £380 each; almost unheard of, especially considering I regularly get flights to the UAE from the UK for about the same price. Planning this ahead, we felt we should probably have a few more days in Thailand as we bloody loved it so much last time around.
There was a little surprise to throw into the mix too. Tim and Steph were joining us for Kelly’s birthday! Somehow, we managed to keep this plan (that myself and the guys had planned months earlier) secret from Kel for months, so needless to say, she was rather shocked. For our final blast, we HAD to crash at Mad Monkey, meaning we’d stayed in all of their hostels over Asia. This old converted hotel had all the great vibes you’d expect from a Mad Monkey, with a cracking location to boot; just down the road from the legendary Khao San Road (but far enough away that you can actually sleep). Obviously, this meant our first night together ended up there, consuming god knows what out of buckets and having a little boogie on the streets.
The next few days consisted of doing the things we couldn’t do last time in BKK (New Years, just after the king died, when most things were simply closed). Tim and Steph took us to some of the ‘local markets they explored last time they were here: these quickly jumped to the top of the list as some of the most awesome markets in all of Asia! When you avoid the traditional backpacker spots, you really can find some superb little gems; this being one of them!
The great thing about Bangkok, is there’s just so much going on! This boheamoth of a city literally has something new and awesome on every corner. We all spent a day just wandering around, exploring the wonders of the city around Khao San road, and stumbled across a number of hidden gems (mainly MuayThai related)
The next awesome thing about Bangkok is the food! Man, there’s just so much good food all around this wonderful country. After the Philippines, we were desperate for fruit, freshly cooked veggies and in general, the beautiful thai food. Seriously, we ate our way through our Bangkok explorations, and I don’t feel one bit guilty.
One thing we were really gutted to not do was the floating market on our last trip here. As mentioned earlier, a huge amount of stuff just wasn’t running out of respect for the king. This time, we took full advantage. Hiring a private longtail, we took our time exploring the canals and the floating market. Whilst this is renowned as a bit of a tourist trap, it was still great to see this market in full swing.
Obviously, it was super sad to say goodbye to these guys, especially knowing this ACTUALLY was the last time we’d see them in Asia (we’ve said that before, about 5 times now I think), but with plans afoot to see them again in a year or so back in the UK, it’s certainly not goodbye, but see you soon.
The next leg of our journey home took us to the adult playground, Dubai! Now you’d think this would be a terrible place to stop at the end of a year away, it’s world-renowned for being bloody expensive, full of opulence and glamour, and basically, not very backpacker friendly. However, my family has been living in the UAE for the past 4-5 years, with my dad recently moving to Dubai, so we got to spend a few days in their company, for the first time in a year!
I don’t think my family was quite prepared for what they witnessed when we came through arrivals; both Kelly and I fully traveled up in our Alibaba pants and singlets, with me fully rocking the hobo hair. Oh well, gotta live up to the stereotype I guess!
After an afternoon sorting our lives out, washing EVERYTHING we owned, visiting my Dad at his new office, having our first family meal together for about 15months, the real fun and games started. Unbeknownst to us, but my family had planned a few bits and pieces for Kelly’s Birthday (she’s genuinely having the LONGEST birthday known now). The following evening, we all ventured to the world’s biggest inform theme park (I mean, of course, it’s the worlds biggest, we are in the UAE after all). IMG world of adventure is quite simply, outrageous! It really is a monster, filled with rides to suit all ages, with a number vermin on vomit inducing for those with a more sensitive disposition (namely, my mum). The absolute treat for me was the Marvel section, filled with rides from all their major comics. T’was certainly a giggle!
The following day, we all hit the slopes. Mum and Dad booked Kelly skiing lessons at Ski Dubai, the (again) worlds largest indoor ski slope. Now, if you think about this, it is utterly ridiculous; skiing in a mall, in a desert, when it’s punching above 45c outside. Oh well, we are in Dubai! What was truly ridiculous though was this is Kelly’s first experience on skis on snow!
Whilst Kel was having her lesson, my family and I hit the slopes for the first time together. I haven’t been skiing with them for well over 18 years and the last time we went my sister wasn’t even born! Somehow, I seemed to remember how to actually do it, with the fear of taking on the top slope dwindling after a few runs on the lower slaloms.
Sadly, all good things come to an end at some point. Our return to the UK was finally upon us. This really is it, the end of our trip across Asia. I’ll be writing another blog about our re-entry soon, but just to wet the appetite, this is what our first experience of the UK looked like… Definitely, something to get used to again I think!