Thai­land Travel - Bangkok and Beyond

Storizen Magazine - - What's Inside - - by Raakhee Suryaprakash

If the cut­ting vi­ral ver­bal re­view of Veere Di Wed­ding told me any­thing new, it was the in­for­ma­tion that Thai­land is the des­ti­na­tion for the Bol­ly­wood-duniya rich to mend their bro­ken hearts. While this may be fact and the rich sooth their bro­ken hearts there amidst un­prece­dented luxury, I find Thai­land has some­thing to of­fer for all.

This ver­sa­tile, varied and val­ue­for-money videshi des­ti­na­tion is suit­able for a per­son travelling abroad for the first time, some­one travelling solo, or peo­ple go­ing on a girls/boys-only trips. It is also an ex­cel­lent des­ti­na­tion wed­ding lo­ca­tion while also be­ing great for both bud­get and luxury va­ca­tions with or with­out fam­ily. Re­ally there is some­thing for ev­ery­one. I sound like a PR agent for Thai tourism but I speak from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. I trav­elled there for a six-day va­ca­tion with my mum amidst civil un­rest when she won a “buy one get one free” (BOGOF) round-trip ticket and tour. Care was taken to en­sure our safety, se­cu­rity, and com­fort de­spite the protests – which were very civ­i­lized and didn’t in­volve in­con­ve­nienc­ing

tourists! We spent un­der Rs. 50,000 for the BOGOF hol­i­day pack­age as well as our shop­ping, gifts and sou­venirs. We vis­ited Bangkok, the district of Kan­chana­puri for the “Bridge across the River Qwai” and the Tiger Tem­ple as well as the coral is­land of Pat­taya with its pris­tine white-sand beaches. Thai­land is su­per tourist-friendly and is es­pe­cially wel­com­ing to In­dian tourists. There are many tour groups and ho­tels that cater to the needs, whims, and quirks of a typ­i­cally de­mand­ing In­dian tourist. But most im­por­tantly for the bling on of­fer at the mul­ti­ple “gem palaces” across Bangkok and Thai­land and cheap and trendy shop­ping all have an ir­re­sistible lure to the av­er­age In­dian tourist!

Bangkok

The ma­jor­ity of the Thai va­ca­tion we spent in Bangkok. The Su­varn­ab­hoomi air­port is phenomenal and packed with in­ter­est­ing cul­tural in­stal­la­tions in­clud­ing a mas­sive colour­ful sculp­ture of the Sa­mu­dra Man­tan – the churn­ing of the Great Ocean by the gods and the de­mons in the quest for the nec­tar of im­mor­tal­ity from Hindu mythol­ogy as well as a nearly life­size wooden house boat.

The high-points of Bangkok for me were the din­ner cruise of the River Chao Phraya with live mu­sic (in­clud­ing Bol­ly­wood songs) and see­ing the lit up palace, tem­ples and mon­u­ments lin­ing the river; eat­ing Phad Thai and au­then­tic Thai green curry; an un­for­get­table and su­per cheap tuk-tuk (auto) tour of our ho­tel neigh­bour­hood with stopovers at three “gem palaces”; visit­ing the tem­ple of the “Emer­ald” Bud­dha; shop­ping at the night mar­ket; the friendly and in­for­ma­tive lo­cal guides; bar­gain hunt­ing in the shop­ping com­plexes (We even came upon an ex­hi­bi­tion with a bright red Fer­rari!); and wan­der­ing around the Palace grounds re­liv­ing scenes from The King and I and Anna and the King of Siam. While we didn’t buy any real pre­cious stones we bought lots of re­ally trendy ar­ti­fi­cial jew­ellery. My mother is a veg­e­tar­ian so in most places we had to make it known and en­sure that fish/prawn/seafood paste was not added to flavour “veg­e­tar­ian” dishes. But the prepack­aged Phad Thai (flat rib­bon noo­dles and veg­eta­bles) in the street stalls and mar­kets was proper veg­e­tar­ian and a boon to my mum!

While we both aren’t keen on mas­sages, across Bangkok there were many spas of­fer­ing Thai mas­sage at very af­ford­able prices and open-air fish pedi­cure tanks were ubiq­ui­tous in all mar­kets and shop­ping com­plexes. If that’s your thing, Bangkok had it in spades. The lo­cal Bud­dhist tem­ples were filled with in­ter­est­ing cu­rios, gold (plated!) struc­tures, rose and teak wood doors and win­dows and ex­quis­ite mother of pearl in­lays and were oases of peace in a bustling mod­ern me­trop­o­lis.

Beyond Bangkok

I trav­elled to Thai­land mainly to visit the Tiger Tem­ple in Kan­chana­puri and play with the tiger cubs and han­dle tigers. So de­spite the prob­lem­atic an­i­mal rights an­gle the Tiger Tem­ple was the most in­ter­est­ing part of the trip for me. I fed and played with the cubs for a full 45 min­utes and be­cause it was a week­day with no rush I had all the cubs to my­self!

The or­nate lo­cal bus stops were de­light­ful, in­dica­tive of the tal­ent for sculpt­ing and carv­ing im­bued in the peo­ple of the district. Also mem­o­rable was the buf­fet lunch served in a for­est camp by the river be­fore we reached the Tiger Tem­ple af­ter the visit to the “Bridge Across the River Qwai” part of the tragic Death Rail­way built by the pris­on­ers of war dur­ing World War II. We weren’t in time to take the short train trip across the bridge as we had to reach the Tiger Tem­ple but that’s also a pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tion. In­stead we walked across the bridge over the rail lines. We rel­ished all that Pat­taya had to of­fer as well. We took a ferry over to the coral is­land with a mid-sea stop for para­sail­ing off a float­ing plat­form on the sea. Af­ter en­joy­ing the wave-less while sand beaches my mother and I opted to take a lo­cal public trans­port

on the isle – a shared mini­van to visit the coves on the other side of the is­land as well as a tem­ple with a giant tur­tle and laugh­ing Bud­dha atop a hillock. The fresh seafood and the chilled co­conut water served in a shaved king co­conut were de­li­cious af­ter a hec­tic day on the beach. A quick trip on a glass-bot­tom boat gave us a glimpse of the colour­ful marine life of the coral reef with­out hav­ing to dive or snorkel, al­though both ac­tiv­i­ties as well as speed boat and water scooter rides and water-ski­ing were on of­fer at very rea­son­able rates. The Bhat- Ru­pees rate was a bless­ing! On­shore that even­ing we en­joyed the risqué Tif­fany Variety

Show with transwomen and found it to be more spectacular than the Parisian can-can & cabaret shows! Al­though visit­ing two cities and a district is barely scratch­ing the sur­face of Thai­land it was phenomenal nev­er­the­less. It en­sures that we will def­i­nitely be go­ing back to see other places like Chi­ang Mai and Phuket to start!

Raakhee Suryaprakash is a Chen­nai based writer, edi­tor and an­a­lyst. She has a mas­ter’s de­gree in In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies and an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in Chem­istry, Raakhee is as­so­ci­ated with civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Red Ele­phant Foun­da­tion, Chen­nai Centre for China Stud­ies & Cli­mate Tracker. Her short sto­ries and ar­ti­cles has been pub­lished widely both in print and online me­dia.

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