A Travellerspoint blog

January 2008

Thailand The fabled Country

Adventure in South Asia

sunny 28 °C

The school boy knowledge that I possessed about Thailand was, that Siam, as it was known in ancient times, in the Indian Ocean, was a fabled country, rich in culture, polite people, unending rice paddies. That the people were Budhists, that centuries ago, Hindu culture and religion were popular in the country. My hobby was to collect postage stamps and among Thai collection, I had many stamps with the picture of the king and many scenes of temples.

Later in life I saw the motion picture titled Anna and the King and although I was unimpressed by the scenes of romance lurking beneath the outward courtesy and court manners, I enjoyed the movie nevertheless. It reminded me of Shangrila and the forbidden city of Lahsa in Tibet and the kingdom of Sikkim. Places where adventure was, legends about mysterious monks who lived in mountain-top monasteries and in freezing weather, could survive for forty days without any food, which the villagers could not bring to them because of heavy snow and inaccessible mountain tracks.

The modern history of Thailand shows that the country was ruled by many monarchs and kings during 13th & 14th century, and despite political upheavals and military coups, the country, unlike its neighbors Malaya and Singapore, Indochina, Indonesia and parts of China, it thwarted attempts by western powers to become their colony.
So Thai people have no hang ups from any colonial masters. No shriveled Brit sitting in his bungalow in Simla or Darjeeling (India), no White Rajah reminiscing about his exploits in the jungles of Sarawak over his Gin and Tonic at six o’clock in the evening.

However, the political situation in Thailand has always been unstable as was demonstrated by the recent military take over of government ruled by Thaksin Shinawatra, and his party’s very recent win in national elections. It is the deep reverence of the King by his people that has kept the country united and there is no visible tension of political unstability in the country. But the political situation could again end up in a turmoil. I sincerely hope not, I like Thailand and Thais very much.

In the early 70s, in London, I used to frequent a dilapidated Thai restaurant which had two tables, four chairs and a small counter behind which an old woman did the cooking, assisted by another young woman, when not attending the few customers. There was a permanent presence of steam and wet linoleum.

In South East Asia, Thailand attracts the highest number of western tourists, and although the country was devastated by a powerful earthquake and a tsunami in 2004, which destroyed many islands and tourist resorts, it seems to have somewhat recovered from the enormous disaster. And the tourists have flocked back to this beautiful country. I think everybody loves Thailand and its people.

Thais like to talk and are curious people. Every body wants to know where you come from, if you are married and how many children you have. They are also very polite and helpful although sometimes we found them ubrupt in their response. It was my impression that the moment a taxi driver, a boatman or a shop assistant saw you hesitating over something, he lost interest in you.

Thais can not get visas to European countries unless some one acts as responser. They can travel to Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore without any visa, but there is a shortage of work in these countries. And Thai are poor people. We met a young Thai girl in Hua Hin, who had come from Bangkok with the idea of working there but was going back, because there was no work in Hua Hin. Another girl who had started work behind the bar only a few days before our arrival, had come from Pukhet as there was no work there. All young people want to go to U.K or Europe and work for five years to save Ten Thousand Pounds or Euros and come back and buy a house. On the other hand, we met many Europeans who had come to Thailand for a visit and have stayed on. They are treated well, properties are comparatively cheap and so is the food.

Posted by The Islander 11:16 Archived in Thailand Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

Langkawi(Malaysia) to satun

Thailand The Fabled Country

sunny 31 °C

The last day of our stay in Pulau Langkawi, we stayed in Kuah at Eagle Bay View hotel, facing the harbor. The room was spacious and clean with attached bath (W.C and wash basin and bath tub. Not so clean). The room had air conditioning and room tariff included breakfast. The normal tariff was MR.80 per night but because of weekend and some festival going on, we had to pay the extra charge of MR50. Kuah is a hustle bustle of commerce, shopping malls and fast food centers and we did not enjoy it a bit. So we walked down to the jetty and bought our tickets for crossing into Thailand at Satun, the mainland town where the ferry passangers disembark from Kuah, Pulau Langkawi.

The ferry ride to Satun took about one hour, with both shores of the sea wrapped in dense jungle of palm trees, millions of trees, with tall dark rocks jutting out of the water, the deep blue water and moss green and turquoise shore, here and there a small beach, enticing us to jump ship and make home on the lonely and lovely stretch of sand. There was a brisk wind blowing and we sat on the top deck of the boat, soaking in the sun, waving at passing ferries or long boats plying between Satun and Kuah. It was enthralling experience, I had the feeling that we were heading towards a new adventure on the Indian Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Siam (Thailand) on the other side of the thin stretch of land, filled with thousands of islands. A sense of mysterious excitement and anticipation engulfed me.

After disembarking and completing immigration formalities, we entered the main hall with three tourist offices, two restaurants and one or two small shops. The tourist operators all gathered around us and wanted to know as to where we were headed. When we inquired whether there was a bus service or tuk-tuk, we were told that we could either take a taxi to the bus stand(Bht.200 upto Hat Yai) or ride on the back of a motor cycle(Bht.15 pp upto bus station). Imagine an elderly couple riding pylon on the back seat of a motorcycle, clutching suitcases. Oh! to be young and a back-packer. What a joy to travel. Travel light and travel fast and far. But no bus and no tuk-tuk.

Satun is a small town and we decided to continue our journey to Hat Yai, although we wanted to stay at Satun for at least a day. However, we decided to continue our journey to Hat Yai, two hours' journey by mini-bus. We were told by a woman traveler that the bus fare to Hat Yai was Bht80 pp, however, the travel agents, one and all, wanted Bht200 which included car ride to the center of the town. Totally discouraged by the threat of a ride on the back of a motor cycle, we agreed to the terms and were taken to the mini-bus stand. The bus left every half an hour and after waiting for forty minutes, we started our journey to Hat Yai, the Land of Smiles (so says Lonely Planet Guide).

Posted by The Islander 20:06 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Travel The World...

Thoughts on Travelling Trends

sunny 32 °C

I started this travel blog with the intention of writing about my travels and the pleasure it has always given me to go to different places, meet people of different cultures in their native lands, eat local food and have a good time in general. Unfortunately my travels have been limited to short trips. One month, three weeks or a fortnight, but every time I go on a trip, I make it as if it is an adventure.

Today when travelling has become so common, so many people can go to places where 30-40 years ago only persons with a sense of adventure ventured. Overland trips to India and Nepal, were hippie culture. Now people go to China, Russia, Viet Nam and Cambodia and Burma. You name it. Few people then traveled to Australia and New Zealand.
In europe people started going to Spain, Greece, Yugoslavia and Turkey, because things were cheaper there. I remember in England in the sixties and seventies, when some one went to Costa Brava or the Canary Islands for his holidays, he had gone "abroad" or people said "he is on the continent"'

Today's traveler is neither an explorar who has to travel to discover the north-west-passage or go to the South Pole for the glory of his country, nor an adventurer, who has, for his personal glory, to meet the natives of Papua New Guinea or to climb the peak of Machu Pichu.

Most of the people I have met in Spain, Portugal, Greece etc, go there for the sun in winter, to escape the harsh winter of their own country or to go there for holidays, not because things are cheap there. Today it has become far more cheaper to travel to distant lands, long haul holidays, and one of the reasons is the fact that things are cheaper there, you can stay there longer and visit many interesting places. And you find travelers from USA, Europe, on trips in South Asia, South America, Middle East. Any where. You find back packers in Bali, Phi Phi Islands, Goa and Kerala and taking it easy in China Town in Kuala Lumpur. I have met travelers who have been to Phi Phi islands in Thailand because lonely Planet Guide described them as one of planet's jaw dropping beauties. And indeed it is so. That the beaches in Prehensian isles in Malaysia are divine and there is no motorized traffic, white beaches and turquoise-blue water, is also true. What better reason one needs to travel to these distant places other than visit them because they are there?

Travel guides, travel forums, internet and never ending stories of travelers to distant places, their experiences, cheap travel etc, all have contributed to more people traveling to more places. Be it to meditate in Puri, take Yoga lessons in Kerala or Rishikesh or go snorkeling in deep green and dark blue waters of Thailand, it is almost always a pleasant experience to look forward to.

Posted by The Islander 22:42 Archived in Malaysia Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 5) Page [1] 2 » Next