Today we want to paint the portrait of a wonderful country with multiple facets and fascinating culture (and delicious food, let’s not get distracted): Thailand.
I lived there for four months during an internship at the United Nations 6 years ago, and there is just no other way of saying it, I fell in love with Thailand. It is one of these difficult things to explain rationally. There is the food of course. The FOOD! Tasty, varied, spicy, sour, balanced, unstructured, imaginative, surprising, incongruous, hair-raising… And it’s everywhere, you can eat in the streets, in nice restaurants, local stalls, lunch cantines, mingle with the workers or the Sunday shoppers. We just could not get enough of it.
Then there is the culture, the temples, the history of the country, the attachment to traditions with the vertiginous rush to modernity, the smiles, the kindness… There is also the language. I don’t know why, but Thai is just my favourite language to listen to and to learn (right up there with Italian). It just meanders in and out of your ears with surprising intonations, strong consonances followed by low and smooth tones; it’s poetic and melodic, albeit impossible to pronounce for foreigners.
|We even met Yoda!|
There is also the nature, the weather, the smells… There are all these rational explanations to why I love this country, but really there is also something which is more difficult to explain, a feeling of well-being and belonging, the vibrations of Bangkok, the heat and humidity like a protective envelop, the sense that everything is possible, including taking your time and enjoying life, while doing business and taking opportunities.
I wanted to introduce my second half to this country and so we planned our first long trip abroad together.
We did a 2 week trip which started in Bangkok where we met with a long-time friend who introduced me to his country 6 years ago.
We exclusively travelled by public transport (except once), which contributed to making our trip unique, staying close to Thais: boats on the klongs (canals) of Bangkok, sky train, metro, buses, trains, plane, boats, local mini buses…
We first took a bus to Tong Pha Phung (impossible to pronounce, the lady from the train station initially thought we were going to a town in the South, indicating it was the wrong bus station, when we were actually going North…). Tong Pha Phung turned out to be a small village and we were left by the side of the road to a local café/restaurant. There we waited for François, to come and pick us up. We were going to spend a full day with the elephants (more on this in a next post!).
Then we came back to Kanchanaburi and spent a day there, enjoying the local food, the slow rhythm of a provincial town and a lovely vegetarian cooking class.
We took our only private car to join Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of the Siam empire, for the cultural 2 days of our trip among the temple ruins scattered around the entire city.
From there we took a train to Don Muang airport to fly to Krabi in order to rally Koh Jum, a pirate like island still preserved from mass tourism and full moon parties (nothing against the latter, just not our thing). It has a very slow and smooth feeling, living at the rhythm of the air, the sea, and sunrise. We were under the impression that we were going to cross the path of Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver lurking behind a palm tree.
Finally, we left for Rai Leh. Now this was not the best part of our trip. True the peninsula is set in a breath-taking natural environment, and true the water is transparent and the wooden Thai house we stayed in was full of charm, BUT, Rai Leh was unfortunately too touristy. The food was really bad, as in bad, and expensive. The long tail boats (which are so nice when you only hear them from afar and not all day long), roam the bay from dawn to dusk, bringing in tourists from nearby towns. It’s like being near a motorway, no exaggeration. We made the most of it by waking up very early with the sun and the birds chipping, and going for a swim in the sea before the crowd arrived. Or in the evenings once everyone left, we went to the south side beach, and enjoyed a magical dinner (only good restaurant of the peninsula is in the 5 star hotel there) and romantic evening walking along the sea shore by moonlight. I know it sounds cliché, but the clichés actually come from somewhere and Thailand is one such place ;)
And then back to Bangkok for an afternoon of shopping at Chattuchak, a Thai massage and back to London (that was a difficult transition).
Anyways, because it was so lovely and so interesting, I thought it would be nice to have a bit of a Thailand series of articles. We will be back soon with some delightful treats and hopefully interesting stories, so watch this space!
R and M.