Travelling is something I’ve always loved to do. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity from a young age to immerse myself into many different cultures, try delicious local food from a number of different countries and pick up the odd phrase or two in languages very different to my own. Exploring a world that is not your own can be a very humbling and educational experience. We live in a world rich in diversity and variety which is something that I’m passionate about exploring. I’m not saying that I’m a professional trailblazer by any means, but when I get the opportunity to venture outside of the UK I tend to not turn it down. During my early teens I had already started planning my gap year before university, a year full of eye opening adventures, meeting people from all over the globe, going places I’d only ever seen on Google Images. This was going to be the gap year of dreams. But after my diagnosis in 2017 that’s all it was, a dream.
But five years on and I’m coming to terms with the fact that my illness doesn’t define everything, there are still ways to enjoy things, albeit slightly differently (ok, sometimes very differently) to how I imagined. Accepting that I am going to need help, acknowledging my fatigue and most of all not feeling ashamed when I just can’t do something. So, in January I chose to shorten that dream gap year and condense it into a 2 week dream holiday. The first 5 days spent exploring Singapore and finally meeting my extended family, the following 10 were a mix of the vibrant and bustling metropolis that is Bangkok and the tranquility offered by Koh Lanta and Krabi.
Singapore was everything that I’d hoped, we stayed in Chinatown which made it so easy to access public transport. The underground metro system was efficient, clean and easy to use – I found it to be quite accessible. I loved the signs used inside the carriages and on the buses to prompt others to give up their seat for those with accessibility needs.
Although I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was 100% accessible (but which city is?), I found the terrain and size of the city itself manageable, to my delight most of the streets were flat and paved which made it easier to get around on the hotter days. We were also never too far from a hawker centre or some sort sort of eatery which came in handy when my fatigue was at an all-time low. Unlike Thailand, the hawker centres were more orderly and had fixed seating which was a lot easier for me.
We went to Gardens by the Bay on one of the days, this was super easy to get to and very accessible, they have wheelchairs available to rent, a free shuttle service for those with accessibility needs and water bottle filling stations. The gardens and surrounding area were flat and easy to get around which led to a stress-free and enjoyable day!
On another day we went to Singapore Zoo & Night Safari, despite being quite far from Chinatown the journey there was very straightforward. The zoo was very easy to get around, electric scooters and wheelchairs were available to hire, there were also multiple tram stops around the zoo which take you to the next point of interest. The Night Safari was fantastic, I’d recommend going as early as possible to get the last of the daylight. You have the option to either join the guided tram ride or to explore the wildlife by foot, or if you’re feeling adventurous you can do both!
Bangkok was both crazy yet peaceful, an urban paradise and a foodie’s dream! I’m not going to lie, I boarded that plane filled with apprehension. My excitement slightly overshadowed by the anxiety. It definitely wasn’t as easy as Singapore but the times that I did struggle were worth it. Bangkok was manageable to get around, with some areas much more pedestrianised than others. But with a little help from my boyfriend and a lot of pit stops to re-energise, I was able to partake in most activities. Areas such as the MBK shopping mall were great and the majority of the BTS (sky train) stations had lifts. You can also opt to get a bus, taxi or tuk tuk. The busses accessibility-wise were very hit and miss, although some did have accessibility signs on them. Due to the compact rickshaw-esque nature of tuk tuks I would not recommend this as an accessible mode of transport.
The day we chose to go to the Grand Palace was scorching hot but they offered wheelchair hire which meant that I could spend the day in awe of the mesmerising architecture and grounds without dedicating most of my energy to just walking around. There were also accessible toilets available.
Koh Lanta & Krabi
For the last week we went to the most beautiful hotel in Koh Lanta. Due to it being quite a remote island we flew into Krabi from Bangkok and then got a shared minivan. The first 4 days were spent relaxing by the pool, reading my book that I bought from a second-hand bookshop in Bangkok and having a (wobbly) stroll along Klong Jark beach. On the third day we did venture outside and went to Koh Lanta Old Town. The strip which had charming little shops selling everything from handmade bracelets to spices was small and manageable, the street itself was fairly even and easy to walk along. However, the shops, restaurants and pier were not easy to navigate, most of which had stairs and/or narrow walkways and uneven floors. Although all in all I loved the calming and charismatic vibes in the Old Town, the combination of heat and having to constantly be on alert left me quite fatigued.