The disjointed start to my stay in Chiang Mai only added to my relief and excitement when I finally arrived. The Chiang Mai Gate Hotel was like an oasis of calm and tranquility. The rooms are spacious, the beds comfy and there’s a pool and free wifi (seems to be a given wherever you are in Thailand).

Next stop was Tiger Kingdom. I was hesitant about heading here as I’d heard many stories about drugged up tigers, even so I wanted to check it out. The place was packed with tigers in various enclosures. I opted to spend some time with the smallest tigers, who were only a few weeks old. Sadly, I have my suspicions that these tigers weren’t entirely drug free. I asked lots of questions and apparently they are just fed very well every day so they have no need to hunt and kill. This didn’t sit too well with me though, so I lasted minutes in their enclosure before I felt too uncomfortable. Maybe I’m just being hyper sensitive but I’ve come to the conclusion that tigers like all animals probably shouldn’t live their lives couped up for the benefit of a stream of tourists to get great pics. I chose not to take any photos and left feeling a little sad that they live their lives in captivity.
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On August 2nd I was excited. As much as I enjoyed my first few days in Bangkok I was well ready to head up North to Chiang Mai and experience a little slower pace of life. We boarded our sleeper train in the early evening.

Having travelled on India’s railways I couldn’t believe how plush the train was. Our cabins and beds were not only immaculate but comfy too. Nice one! But and there is a massive BUT, it turns out that there have been no less than 7 derailments in the last 4 months on the Bangkok to Chiang Mai route. We set off in blissful ignorance, ordered our 3 course meal and settled in for the evening.

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Blog 1

I’ve landed, phase 1 complete. I successfully left Heathrow, had a quick stopover in Dubai and made my way to the Bangkok Centre Hotel (yes I cheated – I got a taxi). If you plan to stay here don’t be lame like me, jump on the train, the hotel’s right next to the MRT station.

So where to head to… well I obviously asked the masses and a number of friends said the Khoa San Road. I headed there and it was everything I imagined it to be… boozed up brits, fast food, bright lights and cheap clothes. I’ll let you decide if that’s your thing, but it probably is a must see if you come here. I nearly bought a Lonely Planet guide for Vietnam but when I took off the cellophane wrapper it was a badly photocopied version inside a genuine looking cover. The people are so lovely and had no issue with me returning it.

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These last few weeks I’ve said a constant stream of goodbyes. I close my eyes and I visualise me on a spinning wheel, looking like a mannequin with one arm raised. Like a mannequin I’m mostly emotionless, not because I don’t care but it’s easier to put the steel shutters up.

I’ve never flinched at goodbyes before, part from finding them a little awkward. I’ve consoled myself with the fact that I’ll see them again if I want to. These goodbyes feel different and maybe that’s because this time it’s me that’s stepping out into the unknown.

Over the last year or so I’ve said two incredibly painful goodbyes, but both were deaths.

This time it’s been a conscious choice to pick myself up, take a long hard look at myself and my life and time to start living again. I made the decision to listen to what I wanted to do and that’s to see the world. I’ve dabbled as most people have and been lucky enough to see some beautiful countries but always felt cheated when it’s time to come home. It’s not that I don’t have a lot here, I really do and now that I’m leaving I can really recognise this. But and this is a big but, something is definitely missing. I’ve always felt it… like I’m supposed to be somewhere else. Or maybe it’s all right here, under my nose but I just can’t see it. Either way it’s time to find out. It’s now days rather than weeks before I put my rucksack on and head into the big wide world. It’s goodbye to this life for the foreseeable future.

I try and act tough but there are few more goodbyes still to come before I jump on that plane and I’m pretty sure those tears will be flowing.