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backpacking

Backpacking around Thailand sounds cool and exciting, right?

Asia never really appealed to me because it was so far away and the culture is so different to what I'm used to – but I've realised they should've been the reasons why I wanted to go.

My boyfriend had travelled around the country for three months last year so he was the perfect travel companion – also, he took care of all the boring booking so I had more time to drink Margaritas. 

Right, if you have a spare two weeks, are cash-strapped and have a desire to go on an adventure, then read on…

Before we begin, these are some of the essential things to pack:

Sunscreen (It's HOT)

Mosquito spray (I was eaten alive)

Flip-flops – easy to shower in and throw on/off because many restaurants and hostels expect you to be barefoot. 

You will also need vaccinations if you haven't gotten them – I got typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, tetnus. 

Change your money from Euro to Baht.

Before our flight, we had only booked a hostel with a private room for one night because we knew we'd be jet-lagged – so don't plan too much. 

Where to stay

Hostels all the way.

They are cheap AF – like 250 upwards Baht a night (around 7 Euro). 

Obviously, make sure they come with air-con or fans included. 

The best place we stayed in Bangkok was Pop Art Hostel run by Luca, a cool Italian guy. It's central, bright, clean and we meet other backpackers there in the communal rooms.

You can sit outside, get some local beers from the shop right next door – it's perfect. 

We stayed in hostels in Pak Chong and the coastal province of Krabi too. 

We later took a boat to the island of Railay where it was a bit more touristy.

We stayed in Rapala Rockwood Resort which cost a tenner for a room and a communal shower.

We also spent a night in Railay Viewpoint Resort with was 14 quid a night and came with a pool.

The cutest place we spent two nights was in Koh Lanta. 

They were rows of actual mini huts with a huge double bed and private bathroom and the cutest porch with chairs and a hammock.

It was near the beach where we had an evening swim and pubs/restaurants were a few minutes away.

It came with breakfast and set us back 8 quid a night – like C'MON. 

We booked everything online the day before – it was sooo easy.

Food

While you're in Thailand, eat the local food.

Not only is DIRT CHEAP (like 1.50 for a meal) but it tastes unreal.

Who knew fried rice and vegetables could be so delicious?

We are vegetarian so no meat for us, which helped lower the risk of food poisoning. 

Ethos restaurant is kinda hidden but such good food and massive portions.

For snacks, we ate sticks of pineapple from street stalls (my boyfriend drank, no joke, four fruit shakes a day at the stalls).

It's easy to eat cheap in Bangkok, but more touristy places like Railay can be a bit pricier and less local. 

Be careful of water there are 7-Elevens on every corner so no excuse not to stock up on bottled water.

I also didn't try any scorpions etc but people we met in one of our hostels did and they were fans. 

The best Pad Thai is in a place called Thipsamai in Bangkok, there's always a queue but they stay open until 2am – and when you eat it you'll know why it's in such demand. 

Transport

First off, you've gotta get a few tuk-tuks.

You can haggle and get them for quite cheap and it's so fun to be whisked around the Bangkok traffic in one. 

If you're getting taxis ALWAYS ask for one with a meter so they can't charge you tourist prices. 

For a 15-minute drive, it was less than two Euro for us. 

Motorbike

If you have a driving license, you can rent a motorbike (well, moped) there.

My boyfriend drove so it was fine – bit f*cking scary the first time we're speeding along the main roads.

By day three, I was as relaxed as the locals…a family of four with a toddler went by us on a bike one day.

Train

We got the train from Bangkok to Pak Chong – it was four hours of gorgeous scenery and no Wi-fi.

Prices were around four quid one way – there are fans and people walking up and down selling soft drinks and bags of rice, of which we devoured.

Night bus

This goes from Bangkok to the coast, for everyone who wants to get to the islands.

It leaves at 7pm and we got to Railay around 10am the next day.

It's not the comfiest (obviously, we slept on recliner chairs) and they put on The Shallows, which was an odd choice for a group of travellers going to the beach for the weekend. 

We stopped off for food and drink at around midnight and all in all, it was a long trek but worth it when we arrived at the island.

We got the day bus back to Bangkok and I wouldn't recommend it.

We chose it because we wanted another night in Koh Lanta but we spent our last full day – 12 hours – on a bus…it wasn't fun. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Things to do

Temples 

There are millions of temples across Thailand, all of which expect you to be covered up clothes-wise just FYI.

However, the Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi is special and is famous for its 1,260 steps to the top, which are ''fun'' to climb.

DO NOT attempt this if you're in any way unfit because I died several times on the way up.

Khao Yai National Park

It was seven Euro entrance fee and then we biked through it, saw waterfalls and slept in a tent next to a river – a dream come true for anyone who loves nature.

That isn't me, it's more my boyfriend so it was tough, but worth it because we saw monkeys, gibbons, porcupines, deer. 

We also did many hikes as well as the Night Safari where we went around the park after dark with rangers to see if we could see any wildlife at night.

We rented the tent, sleeping bag and pillow there and it was super cheap.

P.s A deer broke into our tent because my boyfriend stupidly left peanuts in there so don't have any food on you. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Beaches

Thailand has some stunning beaches – and the sea is the perfect temperature for a swim. 

We spent the weekend on the island of Railay where we just swam in the sparkling blue sea and sunbathed. 

The beaches were busy enough but it was absolutely stunning. 

In Koh Lanta and Krabi we biked around different beaches and just swam lazily in the sea for hours – it was perfect (especially after the nights spent on a bus and in the jungle).

For a more touristy vibe, Ao Nang beach in Krabi is the place to be.

Massage

When you're in Thailand, you need to get at least one massage.

We had three – two full body ones and one just neck, back, and shoulders.

Be warned – the therapists are not gentle but you will feel a million dollars after. 

An hour costs about five quid. 

Nightlife

Bangkok is obviously mad with bars and restaurants and the insane Khaosan road, which everyone should visit.

We went onto the adjoining road and got beers and cocktails in one of the many bars.

Try the local beer – Chang, Leo or Singa and there's always cocktail deals everywhere.

It was a relaxed holiday so we did a few bars, live music and then some nights we had drinks with other backpackers we met.

All in all, we spent 300 Euro each in 12 days backpacking – not bad, right?

So, book those flights and pack your bags because a holiday in Thailand is something you will never regret. 

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When are people going to remember that getting naked on ancient monuments is simply not okay. 

Two men were arrested yesterday for taking photos in the complete nip on the ancient site of Machu Picchu in Peru. 

The British and French men were put before a judge in court and formally charged with moral misconduct and all for a Facebook cover photo. 

The South American heritage site increased police presence in 2014 as a pattern of streaking and nude photos became synonymous with the area. 

And it seems they are now taking the offence very seriously. 

"Stripping naked at Machu Picchu probably isn't a great idea, unless you want to be removed from the citadel and possibly face criminal charges," said a rep for Ferter Peru Travel to the Telegraph. 

"Prudish perhaps, but those are the rules."

Yikes! 

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Friends, family and colleagues have been taking to social media to pay tributes to Govan Jolliffe-Byrne – the young Irishman who died in East Africa over the weekend. 

Backpacking with friends in Tanzania, the 20-year-old Dubliner fell off a balcony at a nightclub in the coastal town of Tanga early this morning, the Irish Mirror reports.

Mr Jolliffe-Byrne hailed from the Carrickhill Close area of Portmarnock and was a keen football player.

His local GAA club Naomh Mearnog this evening tweeted: "Govan Byrne a true legend, always the the soul of the party and everyone's friend, you will never be forgotten," while others who knew him also paid tribute online.

Govan had worked as a bartender at Portmarnock Sports & Leisure Club and furthermore counted himself as a cricket and soccer fan. 

The student had attend Portmarnock Community School and sat his Leaving Cert there in 2013. He particularly excelled in maths and was also an exceptional chess player, competing at an international level.

Govan left Ireland for his East African trip in June and was expected to return shortly to resume his studies in Maynooth.

The Foreign Affairs department has been in touch with the Irish embassy in Dar es Salaam, and is in contact with his family.

Tanga sits on the Indian Ocean close to the Kenyan border. It is popular for its proximity to the islands of Zanzibar – where Govan was also spending time – and Pemba. 

 

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Whether it’s a round the world trip for a year, or a four week holiday to some far-flung continent, it’s a rite of passage to do some sort of long-haul travel in your twenties.

With your bag packed, Birkenstocks bought and tickets booked, you might think you’re ready to go, but there are a few unexpected things (good and bad) that will no doubt happen along the way.

Here are just a few…

1. You’ll realise you can live without your GHD
Either it’ll break, it won’t work in the strange foreign plugs, or you’ll bravely leave it back at home – whatever happens, you’ll soon discover that you can get on just fine without super-sleek hair. Rock those curls!

2. That 3-hour train trip from Dublin to Cork will seem like a breeze
36 hour bus journey with two border crossings? I thought this was meant to be a HOLIDAY?!

3. You’ll gain the talent to sleep anywhere
Planes, trains, buses and shaky taxis are all just places for you to rest your weary head now. Sweet dreams, little traveller.

4. You’ll become hugely patriotic
Barry’s Tea is now the most important thing in your world, even though back home you could take it or leave it. As for music, if it’s not The Fields of Athenry you can just turn it off, thanks.

5. You’ll lose half your clothes to dodgy laundrettes
Which is not the end of the world because you seriously overpacked. Oops.

6. You’ll take 10 million pictures of churches/Inca ruins/indigenous plants
Someday you just know you’ll look back and treasure them all…

7. Only to realise later that NOBODY needs that many pictures of anything
Delete, delete, delete. Back to selfies and pictures of your food!

8. Everyone becomes a friend
This is especially true if you’re travelling alone. No room for awkwardness here – just get out there and start chatting!

9. You’ll get horrifically, disgustingly ill
It might come out of one end, it might come out of both. It happens to the best of us! Ride the sweaty, nauseous wave and know that you’ll feel better tomorrow… or the next day.

10. You’ll lose all sense of style
Skinny jeans? No thanks. Heels? Oh god, no. You have your “fancy” flip-flops and that one dress that’s not ripped to shreds. Those will do just fine for now! 

 

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Planning on heading to the States this summer? Why not make it a little different by backpacking around for a few days

Big Bend National Park, Texas
This 30 mile gorgeous park is pretty secluded from tourists and is full of mountains, woodlands and arroyos. The trail is pretty rugged but you’ll experience sunsets and night skies that you would never have imagined existed.

Mahoosuc Mountains, Maine
This is a 40 mile trail around Grafton Notch and you will be introduced to peaks, swimming holes and granite walls. You might even bump into a moose.

Appalachian Trail, Georgia to Maine
This is the longest trail in America so is a must see if you are a keen hiker. It spans 3,505km and goes through six national parks and eight forests. This is for the professional, so if you just fancy a nice walk with pretty views avoid it at all costs!

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