I know it's only January, but already I'm hearing big and exciting plans for the 2012 summer months. Many of my friends - or acquaintances - are approaching their finals at university, and although they've already given Thai masseuses and Koh Phangan the pleasure of their company numerous times before, it's time, apparently, to hit up the full moon parties once more and have sex on the beach.
I used to want to visit Thailand, its culture has always appealed to me - and I'll be honest, so has touring the islands with friends, gazing into crystal clear lagoons and relaxing in the faultless serenity. Perhaps while sampling some freshly caught fish and admiring the sun set into the sea, contemplating Yoga and discovering who I am. Yeah, I've read The Beach, and I enjoyed it - I've seen the film, too.
Unfortunately now though, I fear that embarking on such an expedition would feel like a night out in Oceana. The countless Facebook photos and updates showing fishbowls in Ko Samui, raving until the early morn and wondering if it really is a woman, just doesn't seem much like a tropical paradise to me. Not anymore anyway.
I know Thailand can still be explored, and not all of it is as I imagine, see or hear. The beauty I am aware is unrivalled in parts, the food incredible, and the people friendly - but I can't help think that around every corner in Bangkok, or on a stool in every bar, I'd run into the same boy who was standing behind me at a kebab van in Guildford.
I fear too, that it wouldn't just be friends from school I'd bump into, or the occasional holiday romance. I hear that there are two very distinct subcultures which frequent Thailand: those made in Chelsea; and those who believe the only way, is indeed, Essex. I would no doubt encounter such individuals.
Though Ralph Lauren and vajazzling have their place (I haven't ruled out giving pubic decoration a go) I just don't think the right time to try either would be Thailand. Certainly not when I'm experiencing authentic jasmine rice, or smoking opium in a tent on top of a mountain. I hasten to believe that would cause all sorts of problems. And all too often, I hear about lads on tour, taking Phang-nga by storm with brand new River Island espadrilles and sporting Chang Beer vests all round. Oh dear.
And let's not forget, that famous notion of 'Gap Yah' - probably the truest young person's travel guide to Asia around these days. And I think to myself, would I actually be able to cope, listening to a lovely fellow with pink trousers and floppy blonde hair recount his time in the slums; how he helped a poor widow come to terms with the loss of her child? Or ponder the imagination of a Jack Wills encrusted oh-so-sassy girl, about to start a Philosophy degree at Exeter, tell me the tale of when she met a wizard in the jungle? I don't know if I could, I'm not sure I could quite handle it.
Two years ago I was ready, I was sitting in STA Travel with a friend browsing catalogues and getting excited: we'd found flights for only £400. It would be the adventure of a lifetime we thought, an expedition into the unknown. But the more I think about it, the happier I am that I didn't. I could spend £400 on a week in Aberdeen and probably feel further from home.
I don't want to disrespect Thailand; its brilliance is undeniable - why else would so many people want to go there? And of course travelling through the jungle, meeting Australians and dancing on the beach all sound appealing; but while it's so visited, while it's basically an extension of life as I know it, I'm going to give it a miss. I wouldn't be able to totally forget English boredom if I was sitting next to a guy who works in Sainsbury's. Maybe in a couple of years I'll think yeah, Phuket, let's do it. But for now, I'd rather go to Sweden and help a farmer rear Elk.
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