THAILAND – Journey That made me A Little More Humble!
Prototyping Thailand as “Bangkok” as if it’s the only existing city in their country – has become the norm. Yes Bangkok is full of commercial sex, massage parlors, strip clubs and many such heavenly things almost every man/woman secretly admire…
Yes– Bangkok has ‘SEX’ (a tabooed word, in our ever populating world…strange) just like Delhi has rape and Mumbai has traffic and overcrowded local trains. But I am sure we all know Mumbai and Delhi has more to it than the world has objectified it. In the very same way, what does not come to the fore is that Thailand has soul to it …to give one a gratifying experience, just like I had.
Yes, I do mean that Bangkok has more to it than just sex and Thailand has more to it than just Bangkok. We as guys fancy Electronic Gadgets just as much as sex in fact more and am sure we all know am not talking about vibrators here…:p. The very fact that people here are humble and respectful, there are places to roam around in the city, awesome-street-food, Madame Tussauds, their gigantic malls connected to sky stations and much more.
My Thailand trip started on Jan 8th, 2015. It was a morning flight with one of my friends. The itinerary for our Thailand trip was planned over a span of 12 days. Our to and fro air freight came to 16K INR pp and our overall stay costs for both of us were under 25K INR for 11 days.
Mumbai – Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Bangkok – Mumbai
We took a connecting flight from Mumbai to Kolkata reach Suvarnabhumi Airport(BKK), Bangkok around 4 in the morning. After collecting our baggage we headed towards the visa-on-arrival counter. Trust me this was the only time I regretted my journey. It took me 5 hours and 3 queues to get my visa approved only because I hadn’t booked my stay prior my visit to Bangkok. It was almost 9am when we got our visas. So make sure you guys do book in advance for a smoothie at these counters. I got to Bangkok since I wanted to buy some camera lenses, Tripod and a Hero GoPro without which my entire journey would have missed something very precious – capturing memories of my lifetime. We spent a day in Bangkok. Just outside their major train station Hua Lamphong there is this easy on the pocket accommodation Bangkok Centre Hotel.
Once we dumped our baggage and got fresh we headed to a couple of famous malls in Bangkok like MBK, Fortune Tower and Platinum Fashion Mall to hunt for cameras and its accessories. It was a long trek up and down these huge malls. The awesome range of electronic gadgets will definitely leave you awestruck with their cheap prices. Beware of the shops that sell fakes and first copies in the name of originals. And make sure you get two copies of bills for every electronic gadget you buy so as to claim VAT refund at the airport while exiting the country. I am very thankful till date as these are the gadgets that I am using to document my journeys, post which I can see my documentaries getting better in terms of being self explanatory. Post a sumptuous meal, we just settled in the hotel room for rest of the evening.
Next morning we headed to Don Mueang International Airport to start our journey to the amazing (that’s still not the right word) Chiang Mai. We got an afternoon flight around 2pm which took around 2 and a half hours to reach the destination. In Chiang Mai we stayed till 18th Jan i.e we almost spent more than 80 percent of our days in Chiang Mai and who wouldn’t want to spend time in this mesmerizing part of the country….
Chiang Mai – its not about the awesome things you do in this place but its the awesome things that the place does to you.
We stayed at the hotel Royal Lanna which was beside Le Meridian – one of the finest parts of the city . The location was pretty much awesome – Street food spreads – from Chinese to Lebanese to Thai .. guess what? we even found a couple of Indian restaurants serving both north and south Indian food. Being an avid sea food lover, I was astonished by the size of grilled fish offered and I knew at that very point what I wanted to eat for the rest of my stay here.
There are the usual massage parlours around (genuine masseuse as well as the ones who want to go beyond them for a happy ending…..starry eyed…:p). Once we got out of the hotel lobby onto the mainroad – “Tuk Tuk” drivers could be seen hovering around and calling out aloud “Boom Boom”.. it was later that I realized that it was their way of calling out that they would help me land at a place to get a Blow Job. Yes, that’s how easy commercial sex is available at Thailand. Hold on, I reiterate here – Thailand has more than just commercial sex.
People interested in genuine massages should go to Fah Lanna Spa where authentic massages can be experienced – its just the right ambience for a relaxing massage after a long tiring day. The expert masseuse ranging from 20 to 60 year olds – yes 60 and strong year old believe it or not !!!. This is also where I discovered two awesome tracks of zen music to aid fall asleep – Ong Namo & RaMaDaSa
Before I move on, “Tuk-Tuks” used to be everyone’s favorite way of getting around Bangkok before the BTS, MRT and colorful taxis took over. Originating from an old-fashioned rickshaw during the second World War, a Tuk-Tuk is essentially a rickshaw with a small engine fitted in. Riding a Tuk-Tuk is more of an experience rather than a practical way to get around. If it’s your first time here, there is no harm in giving it a go.
We started exploring places around – The adventures began with a 15 minute bamboo rafting experience down the river from an elephant park.
We went white water rafting at Bobby’s Elephant Home where we got “Mahout trained” as well as went on a joy ride, fed the elephants with their favorite yellow dwarf bananas. They also offer other exciting adventure sports which you can find on their website hyperlinked above. There are a number of places along the Mae Taeng river that offer these calm rides down the river. We had boy fun at the Maerim Shooting Range and visited the Karen Tribe village (one of the tribes that is sadly going extinct). The Thailand government is trying to provide this tribe opportunity to thrive by helping them sell their crafts and products. This is the same tribe where the women have beautiful long necks and carry around heavy rings around their neck.
Chiang Mai Xcentre is where we did Bungee Jumping (Btw my first….yaayyyy!). It was an experience of a lifetime – and it scared the daylights out of us. First the anxiety then the fear but once you fly you just love the perspective you see the world underneath you – just like an eagle. We loved the experience so much that we actually jumped twice !! I still have a tee they gave us as a souvenir that I will always cherish.
Chiang Mai has close to about 300 temples with some as old as the city itself. The first we visited was Doi Inthanon. On the main road to the summit of Doi Inthanon stand two adjacent chedis (stupa’s), one called Naphamethinidon and the other Naphaphonphumisiri. These temples were built to honour the 60th birthday anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1987, and the 60th birthday anniversary of Queen Sirikit in 1992, respectively.
On our way back, we visited the Wachirathan waterfalls. This trek was definitely worth it as it goes through a forest and has its own adventure in exploring the place. Our next temple visit was to the oldest and most important Wat PhraThat Doi Suthep temple (‘Wat’ the Thai word for temple) from which we saw magnificent views of Chiang Mai. On our journey back to the entrance, we met a few delightful kids. When the cute little girls kissed my cheeks I went red but assuring this memory will remain forever green in my heart.
Oh yes, before I forget, I must say, – being Indians it was a surprise for us to see shops selling meat along the path to the temple. Rest of our trip, we ate momos to our hearts content and was actually part of our food on the go – we experimented with a variety of momos that we didn’t even knew existed ! It was also the first time I had Rice / Noodles with meatballs (I had duckmeat) and it was drooolicious. What’s travel without adventure in food and eat what the locals eat – what say?
We visited the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai. We read in the forums that tigers in Bangkok are drugged and being animal lovers, we really did not want to encourage this treatment of animals if it's true so gave that a miss and decided to visit the one in Chiang Mai. It was an experience of a lifetime and so humbling to be among these majestic creatures. After winding up our day here we visited “Sunday Night Market” in Walking street – Tha Phae gate, where you get handicrafts and artifacts from all over Thailand –handmade purses, leather wallets, colorful bags, leather shoes, ceramic ware, umbrellas, sneakers, tops for women, scarves, shawls, just about anything you would want at a fair .. and of course – scrumptious food !
Though we did not get to bicycle around the place, we strongly recommend that you set aside half a day just to ride around and take in the soul of the city. You will be surprised to know that there is less traffic and breathtaking sights and sounds at every nook and corner of the city that’s a treat to your eyes and ears. What we were really impressed with were that the people are so humble .. there is 80% chance that any person you make eye contact will give you a heartwarming and welcoming smile.
What made me take a step back again was the fact that drivers there respect pedestrians. I’ve seen people traveling even in the most luxurious of vehicles signal to pedestrians to cross the road with a smile, even if their vehicle has right of way. This is a stark contrast from what I see here in Mumbai where even if the signal is red, you still have people violating rules and jumping signals. Can you believe it, traffic rules are followed even at the dead of the night? I picked up a lot of lessons from Thailand for my road trips. If you see kids – slow down, see a school board – slow down, if there are old people walking at the side of the road – drive slowly around them as they tend to be unstable on their feet, if someone gives you right of way, you bow to acknowledge and thank their thoughtfulness – the learning’s are endless.
The second last night before we departed, we went to this musical concert at Chiang Mai Nai Basa (night Bazaar) at this quaint place – Boy Blues Bar on Soi 6 of the night bazaar road. The performer “Boy” was the show stopper and had the audience enthralled right through. We had a couple of beers and relaxed the rest of the evening.
We visited the Three Kings Monument, the provincial Administration Building erected to immortalize the 3 kings who together were responsible for the founding of Chiang Mai in 1296. Our last place to visit was the Lanna folklife museum which offers a lot of information about the city’s history. Inside the museum are 18 different exhibitions presenting displays about how life was in the past. While there aren’t many historical artifacts in the museum itself, there are detailed scenes of everyday life with life size wax dolls dressed in traditional costumes. This place would ideally be a good place to start with for those visiting Chiang Mai as it would make you see “Rose of the North” in different light.
Thailand certainly has more to it than Bangkok. There is sex in the city but also love in the air, food in your tummy and life in your soul.
Kob khun krab Thailand !