The steaming plate of aromatic Thai sticky rice and the mouthwatering, scrumptious, Thai yellow chicken curry meandering its way towards the rice on my plate...sheer pleasure..and to think that we had almost landed up in Hong Kong. Destiny had other plans and we finally alighted in the heart of South East Asia.
We boarded our flight from Kempegowda International Airport on the night of 4th May 2018 at 11.40 p.m and reached Don Mueang airport, in the wee hours of the morning. Ayan and I had eagerly awaited this trip although we had had no specific destination in mind. It took us quite some time to get done with the visa on arrival formalities on reaching the Don Mueang airport. Thailand is a preferred holiday destination for most Indians and Chinese people, a fact established by the several Chinese and Indians we saw in the airport. Ayan deftly took charge and I trailed behind since I was too tired and also because he was quite adept in clearing the visa formalities. When I stepped out of the airport, I found a city which did not seem very different from our country, a little cleaner, perhaps. We very soon reached our hotel Mercure in Makkasan. It was a day of leisure as planned by our tour agent and we were too tired to venture out during the day. We savoured satiating Thai food during our brunch. As expected the food was awesome, especially the aromatic Thai rice and the yellow chicken curry ( we vowed immediately to taste more of the yellow chicken curry during our stay). The rest of the day was spent in deep slumber in our hotel room.
The evening was spent in 'adda' with Ayan's friends from India who now reside in Thailand followed by dinner with them in a restaurant that offered Indian food. As we stepped out on the bustling streets of Bangkok, I almost felt as if I was in some busy market in India. We even found a Bengali guy who started chatting in Bengali since he had spotted the vermillion on my forehead, the gold plated iron bangle and the famous red and white bangles symbolically worn by the Bengali wives. Maybe his home forlorn heart warmed a bit to find people from his home in this distant foreign land.
I was intrigued by how colourful Bangkok looked during the night. I could find a strong similarity with India with all the fast food stalls at frequent intervals on the road, the numerous eateries, the street food and so on. The Bangkok night market is something that cannot be simply missed.
The next day promised to be an eventful, fun-filled day. We left for an outing to Safari world and marine park early next morning. A few other couples were picked up on the way to safari world. Safari world comprises of the Marine Park and the Safari park. It was a hot day, the sun was glaring at us. As soon as we reached the safari park, we managed to locate a food and drink stall to quench our thirst. Unlike other zoos, the Safari park offers an animal show which is quite entertaining. It was fun, sitting on the gallery and watching the elephants and monkey, baboons performing. The orangutan show was particularly interesting. The paintings made by the elephants with their trunks were later put up for sale. Very soon it started drizzling although the heat of the sun was still scalding us. It made me remember that as kids we believed that a fox gets married when it rains on a sunny day. The best part of the Safari park is the giraffe feeding platform. It was fun feeding bananas to the long-necked beautifully marked animals. The safari drive was fun just like all other safari drives, watching the lion lazing, the sprightly deer, the cheerful baboon and so on. We were so tired by the time we reached our hotel after the day's activities that we slept like logs. We woke up late evening and then again stepped out of the hotel since we did not want to waste the evening sitting in the hotel room. We went to the Zanzibar restaurant and had a sumptuous dinner accompanied with very good music. The singer had an appealing voice. Ayan too, took up the mike and sang "Country roads.." in his mellifluous voice. I always marvel at the fact that he always takes up the mike to sing with the least inhibition, which I am not capable of doing. The food was tantalizing, looked good and tasted even better. It soon started raining and it was already 11 p.m in the night. We ran across the street, alighted on a 'tuktuk' and headed back to our hotel. You cannot miss riding the 'tuktuk' once you are in Bangkok.
The next day was a day of temple visits. We also visited the Grand Palace. The grand palace had been the residence of the kings of Siam since 1782. We reached the palace, early morning at around 8.30, soon after having our breakfast. Everything about the palace was royal and enchanting. The architecture of the palace was fascinating. The magnificence of the palace was accentuated by its rich golden colour and eclectic architecture. The remaining part of the day was spent in visiting the various temples. The temples depicted various scenes from the Ramayana and Buddha in his various postures. The temples were grand with awe-inspiring architecture. After that, we went to the busy market place of Petchburi, Ratchathewi. A stroll around the market place, a cup of steaming hot coffee in Starbucks was followed by shopping in the economical platinum shopping mall. The platinum mall is an indoor flea market which offers everything of your daily needs under the same roof. Many of the shopkeepers in the platinum shopping mall were Indians or rather looked like Indians. I remembered to buy a few makeup essentials that I had forgot to bring on the trip. On the way back we boarded the metro since trying out all modes of transport when we step into a new country is an absolute essential.
In the evening we went for the Chaypraya Dinner Cruise. The Chao Phraya river, also known as the River of Kings, is one of Thailand’s prominent rivers. The luxury cruise on the Chaypraya river gives a captivating night view of the city and its dazzling lights. Bangkok's most famous landmarks such as the Royal Palace and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) could be seen during the cruise. Along the way, one can also see the old capital of Ayutthaya. Just before we started on the cruise, they clicked our 'couple picture' just like they were doing for the several other couples on the cruise. The cruise consisted of a lower deck and an open upper deck. An exotic Thai dinner, with live music from professional singers and the lovely view..everything was enchanting. The evening proved to be a delightful experience. After dinner, we went to the open-air deck to get a closer view of the river, the city and enjoy the mild breeze. The next day was a free day spent shopping and roaming on the streets of Bangkok. The lunch at a very small local restaurant was unexpectedly quite delicious.
The next day we boarded a morning flight to our next destination-Chiang Mai from Don Muang airport. We reached Chiang Mai at around ten in the morning and were pleasantly surprised by this quaint small hill town, untouched to a great extent by the tourists who mostly do not plan Chiang Mai during their Thailand trips and rather visit other places in Thailand. We were greeted by Nan on arriving at Chiang Mai airport. Nan was a cheerful ever smiling cute looking young girl of about 25 years. She had a nice sing-song voice and was quite friendly. She drove us to our hotel, Holiday Inn. We were staying in a hotel by the riverside. We could view the Chiang Mai river from our hotel room. After a quick lunch, we left for the Doi Suthep. Nan and her manager Ms Marple (I don't remember her name) had come to pick us up. Ms Marple was not just a tour guide but also an insurance agent. It was fun to be with this unique duo, the middle-aged tour manager and her college-going part-time employee. Both were friendly and shared quite a few anecdotes. Ms Marple drove the car while Nan sat beside her and shared her knowledge on the town of Chiang Mai with us. Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand and is situated beside the Ping river, a major tributary of Chaypraya river. Once we reached the mountain, we alighted on a cable car which took us to the glittering temple. There were several souvenir stalls and food stalls. We explored the intricate Buddha temple and also had fun with a game that Nan introduced us with. We had to pick up cards which would predict our fortune for the year. If the prediction was positive then we could keep the card with us or else silently we could leave the card there. Nan and Ms Marple were kind enough to click a few couple pictures of us.
The next day we left for the Maetaman elephant camp. This time Nan drove the car. We went for an elephant ride through the jungle. The animal took us around the jungle, on the river and on the way we fed him the bananas that were handed over to us once we had started the journey. The ride was enjoyable although at times we feared that we might end up falling on the muddy land below. The staggering stride of the elephant made my heart skip a beat in the beginning but soon I forgot my fear. After the ride, we enjoyed a great elephant show. The performance of the elephants was awesome. At the end of their performance, we even managed to get a trunk 'kiss' on our cheeks and an elephant hug.
Our next destination was the hill tribe village, Ban Huay Pa Rai. We were intrigued to see the long-necked woman, the kayans, in the village. The women in the village wear long rings on their neck which gives the appearance of a long neck. The greenery of the village, their worship place, the swing for the children, everything we saw seemed interesting to us. Then we went for a boat ride on the long tail boat. The boatman had a quirky sense of humour. He grinned and tried to scare me saying that there were anacondas in the lake. He was sporting enough to hand over the rudder to Ayan, who waded through the water for some time and posed for a click in his boatman 'avatar'.
After lunch, Ms Marple planned rafting for us. This day was turning out to be the most exciting day making me do things which I had never before tried in my life. I was not at all prepared for the adventurous rafting experience. I had never before rafted and did not know how difficult it could turn out to be. We were taken to an elevated point. We had to remove our shoes and then climb down barefoot to the raft. I learned that rafting through the current requires strength. One really needs strong arms to make it through the current till the end of the river. It soon started raining, we were shivering, our arms were aching and still we waded with our rudders, with all our might. We were almost relieved when we reached till the end. Nan and her manager were waiting for us on the riverside. We had some snacks and watched the heavy downpour. The day was a very enjoyable day with a lot of 'first times'. I had rafted for the first time in my life, saw the long-necked women for the first time in my life and was kissed by an elephant for the first time in my life. The next morning we left Chiang Mai for Bangkok and boarded our flight to Bangalore. The trip was extremely enjoyable, the memories of which we carried in our hearts.