At 21 years old CARRIE GREGORY, of Oakes, decided it was time to fulfil a childhood ambition and see something of the world. Her decision to spend three months backpacking around South-East Asia got a mixed reception at home. But, ignoring the doubters, she and friend Laura Vickers, of Lindley, set out on their adventure. Here Carrie, who attended Salendine Nook High School and Huddersfield New College and has just graduated in English with journalism from Huddersfield University, gives an account of their travels.
RATS at my feet, dirty food vendors at the roadside and the foul stench of sewage consuming the humid, sultry air. Bangkok.
This was to be the beginning of a three-month backpacking expedition around South-East Asia.
As a recently graduated English student, a naive 21 years of age, mollycoddled all throughout life, I could never have anticipated what lay ahead for me on my eagerly awaited travels.
Bangkok, our first port of call, introduced us to lively night markets, the collaboration of culture and religion in the many magnificent and intricately detailed temples, and plays host to a number of drag cabarets featuring men with voluptuous, well-groomed bodies that any female would be insanely jealous of.
Any more than two nights in the hustle and bustle of Thailand's capital, however, will be more than enough for even the most experienced traveller to stomach. Verdict - an eye-opener.
Our dislike of all things city-like took us southbound to picturesque Phuket, an area renowned for its idyllic and relaxing beaches.
Tourism is the biggest money earner and travellers gather here to party and generally experience a very different, more laid back way of life.
Here we were given the once in a lifetime opportunity to ride oxen carts and trek with elephants. Being close enough to touch an elephant's rough, leather-like skin or even, as we did, receive a massage from one of these giants was a dream come true and a memory that will certainly remain with me for the rest of my life.
Although potentially one of the most memorable nights in any hardcore party-goer's life, travellers should be wary at the monthly Full Moon parties in Koh Pag Nan. Drinks and drugs are readily available and foisted upon you at every opportunity.
However, this is not a night to be missed and the party continues on into the afternoon of the following day.
The Phi Phi Islands are the epitome of tranquillity and the closest I will ever get to paradise.
Untouched, remote white beaches occupied by no more than a dozen people at a time, this is a little slice of heaven hidden away in the Andaman Sea.
As far as accommodation was concerned, however, it was here where we felt we were really living the "backpacker" lifestyle. At £2 per night, a box-sized rundown guesthouse was to be our shelter for the stay and with a leaky ceiling - not practical in Thailand's monsoon season - and communal bathroom and toilet, one really couldn't label it as anything more than just this, a shelter.
We arrived in Malaysia after a 10-hour ride from hell in a 12- seater van, crammed with 16 people in such close proximity that I could smell what the person sitting next to me had had for dinner the night before.
Time spent in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, was welcomed with open arms, bringing about a brand new appreciation for fully working ceramic toilets, an altogether more efficient form of public transport - good riddance to the Thai tuk-tuk death traps, a form of taxi - and countless designer malls.
For relaxing times, Langkawi and Penang come highly recommended. For the ever vibrant atmosphere of city life, however, Kuala Lumpur is a must-see and screams culture.
We took in the sights from the tallest building in the world, the KL Twin Towers, dined in the revolving restaurant at the top of KL tower and visited Chinatown.
Skimming through Singapore, we sampled the Singapore Sling, a lethal cocktail mix and partied with the chefs from Raffles after treating ourselves to a luxurious but miniscule meal at the hotel's Doc Cheng restaurant.
Our final two weeks were spent lazing around the golden beaches of Bali, Indonesia.
So several financial crises, dozens of head- splitting hangovers, four countries and 10 weeks later, I arrived back safe and sound, and a little more worldly wise, in the seemingly small town of Huddersfield.
And, just to have the last word in a long-running argument, Dad, you were doubtful I could even make it to Bradford by myself but your little girl has quite comfortably made her own way from one end of a continent to the other. So there!