Coming Full Circle – Back in Bangkok

back in bangkok on khao san road
Many backpackers begin their South East Asian adventures here – Khao San Road, Bangkok

Back in Bangkok.

I’ve come full circle. A different person walks these streets to the me 6 months ago – a somewhat scared, apprehensive one but full of excitement at the wonders of the world that lay in the journey ahead.

But it was real, I backpacked my way around South East Asia and some parts lived up to, or exceeded my wildest dreams, and some parts sucked and I wondered what the hell I was doing!

Back in BangkokNow I’ve come back to where the journey and adventure began.

back in bangkok after my backpacking started here
Fresh faced on Khao San Road in the first days of my adventure

In many ways Khao San Road and Bangkok seemed better and more exciting the first time around. It’s true that it’s a gateway between the west and east but now I’m back in Bangkok the sheer amount of westerners partying and home comforts on offer unnerve me a little.

On the first visit Bangkok seemed exciting and exotic. I revisit some of my favourite spots and marvel again at the elaborate, golden, glittering Grand Palace.

bangkok grand palace
Bangkok’s Grand Palace is a beautifully, elaborate sight

But Khao San Road now seems bland and boring compared to to other parts of Asia that I’ve now experienced.

It all seems a little fake. Bangkok is so modern and developed and Khao San Road is so westernized that I hardly believe I am in Asia at all.

Instead of listening to the latest hits with partying westerners I find myself wishing I was back sitting on a tiny plastic stool drinking fresh Bia Hoi with the locals while motorbikes whizz past dangerously too close for comfort along the streets of Hanoi.

Bia hoi hanoi
Drinking Bia Hoi on the streets of the atmospheric capital of Vietnam – Hanoi

Now I look nostalgically on the beginning of my trip I know that travel has changed me. I feel so lucky to have seen, experienced and learnt all the things I have from a year of travel. I feel much more confident and worldly wise.

I remember the culture shock of those first challenging days in India among the chaos, poverty, colour and life of Mumbai’s crowded streets

dharavi slum mumbai
Welcome to Asia’s largest slum – Dharavi in Mumbai

Although India shocked and challenged me I grew to love it and learn from it. I also think back to those first few difficult, apprehensive, insecure days alone in the suffocating April Bangkok heat.

Now I feel so much more confident – I know I can do it. I have come full circle in a way.

I feel I can cope with anything that Asia throws at me safe in my knowledge that the world is kind and people are inherently good!

lost in vietnam
The kind Vietnamese family who feed and sheltered me when I was lost in rural Vietnam

But now back in Bangkok, and especially Khao San Road, pales in comparison. Have I just become jaded? Things do not shock, scare of excite me as much as they did those first few uncertain but heady days when everything was exciting and new.

And was the world what I hoped and dreamed it would be?

angkor wat and horse
Cambodia’s Angkor Wat was one of the most anticipated sights of my trip and did not disappoint

It was different, it wasn’t how I could ever have imagined it but yes, in someways more so. I can feel a deep change in myself, something that you can never get from reading travel magazines, history books, photos and a 2 week holiday.

In some ways, no – it wasn’t all plain sailing, not all ecstatic fun times. There were so many sad goodbyes. Sometimes when I was sick on another bumpy night bus that felt like it would never end I wondered what the hell I was doing here! Why the hell was spending so much money to be doing this when I could be in my comfortable bed at home!

“I’ll be happy when …..”

And no it didn’t solve all my problems but perhaps that’s the thing that I needed to learn and I feel grateful for all the privileges I have, I’ve had it so easy – I’ve never known war, famine or persecution. Coming face to face with such poverty in places like India and such shocking, brutal history in Cambodia really put things into perspective for me, looking at these people who have been through so much and still have ambitious, determined smiles on their faces makes me I vow not to take things for granted again.

indian wedding party couple
I was lucky enough to be part of a beautiful family wedding anniversary celebration full of love, laughter, music, dancing and colour

Walking these, now familiar, streets of Bangkok I can feel the change in me. I feel a little sad, nostalgic perhaps, that it doesn’t hold as much excitement for me anymore as it does for the partying, pale skinned backpackers fresh off the plane. In some ways I miss that heady, nervous excitement of those first steps let lose alone into the other side of the world but I also treasure what I have seen, what I have learnt, the person that I have become.

Bangkok is a great starting point but, for me, it’s time for new adventures, it’s time to move on.

Related posts

Life Lessons from a Year of Full Time Travel


The Kindness of Strangers – The time I got lost in Vietnam


Gallivanting Among Ghosts: The Rise of the Global Urban Explorer



Richard Read April 22, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Love the photos. For me Laos, Cambodia and the northern part of Vietnam beat Thailand and the southern part of Vietnam.

Anna Phipps April 23, 2014 at 2:34 am

Thanks! I’m glad you know what I mean. I loved Northern Vietnam and Cambodia so much that Thailand paled in comparison

Megan @ Mapping Megan April 23, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Really great post – I haven’t been to really any of Asia yet, so I can’t wait to explore the continent. I’ve been told that part of the world challenges you by pushing you outside of your comfort zone, and I really can’t wait to experience it.

Awesome that you can look back and see how travel has changed you – I love reading reflective pieces like this. Thanks!

Anna Phipps April 24, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Thanks for your lovely comment! 🙂 When you travel in Asia you see, experience and learn a lot – the most valuable of which I think comes from when you are out of your comfort zone. For me this is part of what makes it so magical, so fascinating and so worth while! Enjoy!

havana discovery December 13, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I really love Bangkok but it can be a love hate thing all I know is that I miss it. In my opinion it has the best iced coffee and street food in all of Asia.
As much as I like Bangkok you could not pay me to stay on or near Khao San Road. Of course you have to visit and check it out just like a visit to Patpong. There really is no great reason to stay there it’s not that close to mass transit and it’s not as cheap as people believe.
I prefer the are around Silom Road and Saphan Taksin bts.

I did really enjoy the post and the Bia Hoi in Hanoi is a memory I will cherish forever, along with the roasted pigeon.
I think travel is meant to change us and to expand our world view, if you are different now than when you started you should feel proud because you’re doing it right.

Anna Phipps December 15, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I know how you feel – I do miss Bangkok sometimes and it sure can be fun but it wasn’t as good the second time around. I actually felt a little sad that I did not enjoy Bangkok so much the second time but I still think if you haven’t been it is worth checking out and KSR is a great place to start traveling although I now have fonder memories of other parts of SE Asia – like the Bia Hoi and no, I wouldn’t stay on KSR again.

“I think travel is meant to change us and to expand our world view, if you are different now than when you started you should feel proud because you’re doing it right.” I love your final sentence, what a great insight – it really makes sense! Thank you!


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