This summer, with the help of the Gateway programme, I went travelling with a friend across Thailand and Cambodia, for three weeks in total. We had decided that we would not organise everything in advance, as we wanted to experience a more spontaneous type of travelling.
After three weeks of living this particular lifestyle, I can say that I am happy to be back to the comforts of home, but I have definitely learnt a lot from it! Getting around in unfamiliar countries and making plans as the days went, rather than having everything planned out already, made me realise how important it is to always think before acting, even in ‘the heat of the moment’. At the same time, I also learned how to simply accept some things and to go along with them rather than trying to keep everything under control: for example, when we accidentally got on the wrong train and ended up in a very different place to where we wanted to go! If we had had the constraint of a tight schedule, such incidents would have been much more of a problem.
Even with our flexible type of travelling, we managed to explore a number of incredible places. We started our trip in Bangkok, and then went north to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s ancient capital. From Ayutthaya, we crossed the border to Cambodia by bus, and headed to Siem Reap and its beautiful Hindu and Buddhist temples. We even woke up at dawn to watch the sun rising over Angkor Wat, the ‘monastery city’. We then went south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, where a visit to the Killing Fields and the ex- S21 prison let us discover the history of the Cambodian genocide. After Phnom Penh, we embarked on a long journey back to Thailand, to a little known location on the coast south from Bangkok, Kao Kalok, where we enjoyed the quiet of the seaside. Finally, before taking our flight back, we spent another couple of days in Bangkok, during which we saw other areas of the city, such as the colourful and busy Indian and Chinese quarters.
Being able to see these beautiful and interesting places, whilst learning how to travel in a freer way, made this trip one of the most intense experiences I have ever had. It has also increased my self-confidence, as I now know that I am capable of travelling safely in very different places from those I am used to. I am very grateful to the Gateway programme for its help in having made this experience possible.