When Isobelle left England on her solo trip around Asia, little did she know that the countries she’d visit and the people she'd meet would have such a lasting impression on her. We spoke with Isobelle after her homestay in Phuket, Thailand. This was the first time the 21 year old student would travel to Thailand and also her first time embarking on solo travel. She described her time in Phuket as a fantastic experience and one she'd never forget. Read on to find out more about her experience...
I decided to visit Thailand because of the culture, with a principal focus on family life and food. I love Thai food and I wanted to experience authentic Thai food and go to a Thai cookery school. Also I love the beach and so I wanted to discover their renowned coastline.
I travelled to Thailand on my own. I was slightly nervous as I didn't want to attract the wrong sort of attention or get into trouble, especially as I didn't speak any Thai but it was an incredible and rewarding experience and I felt extremely proud of myself that I was able to navigate my way through Thailand and organise the trip.
I chose Theerapakorn (Oak) as my host because her family live in the centre of Phuket which meant that everything was easily accessed. The family offered great value accommodation and described themselves as professional tour guides so I felt confident that I could see the parts of Thailand that I wanted to and gain local advice about where to go. They’re a large family living together and I wanted to experience Thai family customs and the traditional way of living. They offered all that in one!
I wanted to experience Thailand and Thai culture and I felt that a homestay would offer that. Also, I am travelling all around Asia, so I wanted to explore Thailand with minimal cost and a homestay was cheaper than forking out on a hotel.
Wow! My homestay experience was absolutely life changing and one which I will never forget. I was welcomed as part of the family and was given my own private bungalow with en-suite. A light breakfast was included, but it was more of a feast, not that I was complaining. Oak's mum is an incredible cook so I spent a lot of time learning from her. I’d buy ingredients which she then happily cooked into an exquisite meal.
Oak and Oh were busy during the day, but on a few occasions I hitched a lift with them into town and explored, going to cookery schools and visiting old Phuket. On the days where I did not go to town I spent time with Oak's parents who happily took me to beaches, gibbon rehabilitation projects and sea gypsy villages. We went for walks and went to hotels to swim when the waves in the ocean were too strong. They introduced me to their friends and a Thai literature club. They also took me to an area in Phuket where I was able to train Muay Thai boxing with Chok Chai which was a fantastic experience.
Meal times were epic! We would buy ingredients and I would help out in the kitchen making many dishes for a feast for us all. The family was so lovely and really looked after me by making sure I did everything that I wanted to. I enjoyed every single part of my homestay experience. I was able to be a part of Thai culture and a Thai family as well as learning a few Thai words!
After spending the previous two months in Hong Kong, Thailand shocked me as it seemed much smaller than I expected it to be. Even in the bigger cities, buildings did not exceed more than five storeys.
I really enjoyed going to the Phuket Thai cookery school and also training Muay Thai boxing with Chok Chai, but my favourite memories were spent with my homestay family either travelling to different beaches and watching the sun set or coming home and cooking and eating all their delicacies.
Thailand is a fantastic place to visit. If you enjoy food, go to the food markets and try everything that comes wrapped in a banana leaf and also go to a Thai cookery school (it's definitely worth the money and you get to meet new people). Thai people are very happy, so even if you don’t speak the language, keep smiling and everyone will smile back at you. Go to Patong for nightlife and cheap massages but be cautious.
Personally, I will definitely do a homestay again. It suited me as I’m laid back and I have good intercultural communication skills. For anyone thinking of doing a homestay, make sure you’re prepared to absorb and soak up the culture. If you are willing to do anything then you’ll get the most from your experience. I definitely feel like everyone should try it, at least for a few days because you get to experience so much more of the country and the culture. After all, we all visit countries to see how other people live, how they work and what they eat and do which is why a homestay is a way to experience everything in one.
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