Our Travel Editor Aine Kenny decided to talk to student Darren Groome about why he decided to travel to Thailand this summer, his experience of the various islands and their locals and how he accidentally got stranded in a Dubai dessert.
During the summer, many students across Ireland decide to go travelling. Some opt for Amsterdam, others decide to take Europe by storm and go interrailing. However, other students are going to more far-flung destinations, such as Thailand.
One such student is Darren Groome, a 23-year old soon-to-be DIT graduate. This summer he went on holidays to Thailand for three and a half weeks, travelling across the country and going to various islands. He says it was definitely one of the best holidays of his life.
“Well basically I wanted to go on holidays this summer, and it was either between a J1 or going somewhere else, and Thailand has become very popular. I went interrailing with a bunch of lads last year and eventually we decided on Thailand. After the stress of final year, we wanted to go on a holiday, not work for the entire summer,” Darren explains.
But what about the cost of going to Thailand? With a J1, you should be able to cover the cost of your trip and hopefully earn a few bob in the process. How do students fund a trip like this?
“Well I was talking to my Dad about how the lads were going to Thailand, and he asked me if I was going, but at the time I didn’t have the funds to go,” Darren says.
Darren’s Dad then offered to lend Darren money to pay for the trip and told him he could pay him back when he got a job after he came home.
“I borrowed €2,500 in total, but €500 of that was for emergencies, which I didn’t spend. I have a job now, so I am in the process of paying him back. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an expensive trip, so you’ll need a job to fund it.”
Actually getting to Thailand is no small feat. It involves two long flights, with a stop in Dubai. Once Darren’s group got to Bangkok, they travelled the country, staying a few nights in each place, enjoying the tourist attractions and taking in their picturesque surroundings.
They went from Bangkok (where they were refused entry to the famous hotel featured in “The Hangover: Part Two” for not being dressed fancy enough) to Chiang Mai, then to Surat Thani.
From these cities, they then travelled to islands such as Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan, stopping in Krabi then went on to Phi Phi and finally Phuket.
Activities on the island included scuba diving, sunbathing on extremely beautiful beaches and hiring motorbikes and exploring the islands at your own pace.
“It’s hard to pick out the best bit of the holiday because every place we visited was so different,” Darren smiles.
“I loved Chiang Mai because we got to go to an elephant sanctuary, go on hikes to see the countryside and visit rural villages to see how people lived there.
"Actually, there was a village called Karen village, and one of the girls who came with us was called Karen and the locals got a great kick out of that,” he laughs.
“But I also loved the beaches on the islands, apart from when I ran into the ocean with my phone still in my pocket… we got to party more on the islands too, the half-moon party was amazing, and we met more people in hostels there and got chatting to them which was cool.”
The worst bit of the trip for Darren was before they even got to Thailand. “We had a 14-hour stopover in Dubai on our way there, so we booked a tour of the city. Our tour guide took us out into the desert in a jeep and we were going over the sand dunes, it was actually class.
"But then our jeep got stuck in a sand dune for four hours solid, in the blistering heat, it was like 50 degrees out there with absolutely no shade, and with no water… we actually thought we were going to die,” says Darren.
“Luckily some locals came along and managed to help us get the wheels out. We drove to the nearest shop and got them to open it for us (it was Ramadan so drinking in public during the days was forbidden). I have never been so glad to see water in all my life!”
According to Darren, the Thai people were very friendly too, especially the people who lived outside of Bangkok. That was part of why the holiday was so enjoyable.
“I can’t recommend Thailand enough,” he says. “It was an unbelievable experience.”