Skip to main content

“Thailand was unexpected, in the best way”: an interview with Emily Grosser on sustainable travel and her Thailand highlights

In partnership with Amazing Thailand, content creator Emily Grosser set off on an epic adventure from Bangkok to Pai, travelling on Contiki’s Northern Thai Highlights trip.

As her first overseas journey since returning from living abroad in Belgium, where she was pursuing her passion for hockey in a small rural town (in the middle of winter no less – brrr 🥶), what better way to thaw out her passport than a trip to a country known for breathtaking beaches and unlimited sunshine.

Fresh off her Thailand adventure, we sat down with Emily to chat about her trip.

Image source:Emily Grosser / Contiki

So Em, what did you think about your first time in Thailand?  

“From Day 1, I was hooked. I honestly didn’t realise how beautiful Thailand was going to be. It was unexpected, in the best way. Everyone talks about the incredibly friendly people, and of course, Thai food, but I don’t feel like you hear enough about how jaw-dropping the landscapes are. Taking the overnight train from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai, we woke up to the most unreal views – you couldn’t help but just sit and stare out the window for hours, wondering what was coming up next. I also really loved the diversity of places we visited. From battling the streets of Bangkok one day, to dipping in waterfalls the next, every day offered up something new and surprising.”

If you had to pick the best part of your trip, the absolute highlight, what would that be?

“I’d have to say it was the night we went without power at the Jungle Raft Hotel in Kanchanaburi. I love anything to do with water, so I was in my element here. Our beds for the night were in bamboo rooms floating on the river, where you could launch yourself right off your balcony and dive into the water. It felt like an amusement park. That night, we read books by the light of our little kerosene lanterns, and the next morning we all woke up at 5am to huddle together and wait for the sunrise, because the rule was once the sun is up you can go swimming again, so we were all counting down the seconds as we waited to jump in the river again. That was pretty special.”

Do you think Thailand is a good destination for people looking to travel sustainably?

“Absolutely, as long as you’re mindful of your own sustainable practices. I expected some of the bigger cities and touristy spots to be on top of sustainability, as I’d heard a bit about Thailand’s focus on conservation and environmental initiatives. But what really surprised me was seeing these efforts in smaller towns and remote areas too. They had programs like water bottle recycling and alternatives to single-use plastics, which was fantastic to see.

In one of the places we went hiking, you had to pay a 20 baht deposit if you entered the area with a water bottle. If you left with the same bottle, you got your deposit back, but if you’d left your bottle in the park you had to pay 100 baht to exit. I thought that was a really clever way of holding people accountable.

Transport is also a big consideration in sustainable travel, and from what I experienced, Thailand has such a variety of options available to get you from A to B like ferries, slow boats, and trains.”

Why is sustainable travel important to you?

“I kind of feel like, why shouldn’t it be important?

If we want these insanely beautiful places to stay insanely beautiful, as travellers we’ve all got to contribute to ensuring we leave no trace.

Do you have any advice for anyone else wanting to travel sustainably?

It might sound a bit unconventional, but TikTok is actually a great search engine! When you’re visiting a new place, it can be really helpful to get ideas from others who have been there. For example, I tried reading some articles and found the information overwhelming. So, before my trip, I searched for things like “how to recycle in Thailand” on TikTok. I went down a scroll-hole of information and came across a video about not flushing toilet paper in Thailand, which was super helpful to know in advance. I’d never been to a country where you shouldn’t flush toilet paper before, and I think sometimes it’s human nature to avoid asking questions out of the fear of looking silly, but if people talked about these things more openly and shared their knowledge, it would make us all better, more aware, more confident travellers and environmental champs.

What did you like most about travelling with Contiki?

I have very severe ADHD, so while travel is a lot of fun, it can also be very exhausting, so I really loved the balance between free time on the trip and the structure of having an itinerary and an awesome Trip Manager to keep us all in check. I feel like with Contiki I was able to squeeze every possible experience into my time in Thailand, and not having to plan too much was a blessing.

Would you recommend group travel? If so, why?

For sure! Firstly, because my job as a content creator is not exactly conventional, when I have the time to travel my friends aren’t typically free, and when they are free I always end up having a sports tournament of some kind on. So Contiki us great because I can go when I want and know I’ll meet some really awesome people to share the experiences with. I also think the group environment helped a lot of us younger solo travellers feel safe, which is super important, especially for your first time in a new country.

So, where’s your next Contiki then?

I’d absolutely love to come back to Asia and see some more of Thailand, but I think my next trip will be Europe somewhere as I know I’m heading over that way this year. It’ll be something adventure-skewed though, for sure. I actually only just found out about Contiki’s ski trips, and I’ve never done that, so I think that could be cool.

Want to hear more from Emily? Follow her adventures over on her TikTok or Instagram.

Up next

Recommended by us

Stop dreaming and make sh*t happen!