Situated right in the middle of the Indo China Peninsula, Thailand is a popular destination in India, sadly, for all the wrong reasons. Thai in the Thai language stands for “free men” or people in general and The Land of the People is truly a diverse country to cherish. After long deliberation, we had narrowed down on Thailand as our vacation destination and why not, it truly is the most “Value for Money Destination” as famously claimed.
We had 8 days to spend in Thailand and given the limited connectivity between islands, we decided to pick one coast for our first trip and decided to stay in the Eastern Coast, a little away from crowded tourist packed destinations like Pattaya or Koh Phi Phi. We decided on Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui (Detailed Itinerary to follow)
Surprisingly for Thailand, given that Tourism is one of their major industries contributing to their GDP, the people are very rarely tourist friendly. My flight from Mumbai to Thailand in Thai Airways was surely one of the most unpleasant flights with very rude airlines staff. On landing, the Visa on Arrival for Indians is a smooth process, with minimum documentation (A photograph, Return Flight details, Visa Form (Available at the counter) and Hotel Booking Confirmations and 2000 Baht) taking anywhere between 30-45 minutes depending on the lines. However, they also have a Priority Counter for 200 Baht extra, which can be availed easily if in a hurry.
Once all the formalities were done, we got an Uber to our accommodation in the heart of Ratchathewi and we were all set to explore Bangkok. We started off with nearby popular areas like Siam Paragon, MBK Center then went on to the Grand Palace and the National Museums. The grandeur and the preservation of the Idols of Buddha is commendable. We then headed to the popular Khao San Road and you realise why Bangkok is so popular as a party destination, a quiet street during the day that completely gets a makeover by night.
One thing to note about Bangkok is that they are not kidding when they say “City of Jams”, the traffic is maddening. We preferred the BTS or the Skytrain for most of our commute in Bangkok as it was way better than taking hours to cover a couple of kilometres. We went back to Khao San Road and Soi Rambuttri later in the night and were astounded by the lovely music, variety of cuisines and the sheer number of people on one street. After one hell of a night, we continued our day in Bangkok heading over to Chatuchak Park for their weekend market and I have only word for that market “MASSIVE”. There was literally no product you can think of that was not available for sale, right from souvenirs, clothes, accessories, spices, food items to automobile spare parts (No, I am not kidding). We however did have one of the best Coconut Ice Creams here at Coco JJ, a must if you are at Bangkok.
We went on to the famous temples starting with Wat Pho or the Temple of the reclining Buddha. One of the royal temples, known for housing the 46cm reclining Buddha, houses one of the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand. The structure of the temples, the royal touch, the gold coloured carvings and intricacies do leave one completely spellbound. Interestingly, Wat Pho is also known to be the birthplace of Thai Massages, it is still taught in the temple grounds which also houses the Thai School of Medicine.
Wat Arun and Wat Pho are separated by the Chao Phraya River, known for the sunrise and sunset by the river and the view of the temples on either side of the stream. We found this beautiful roof top restaurant by Wat Pho overlooking the Wat Arun called Sala Arun. “Sala” in Thai means open pavilion and the restaurant’s rooftop was just that a lovely open pavilion by the river overlooking Wat Arun, definitely one of the prettiest silhouettes I have ever seen. One of the striking commonalities that i noticed in these temples were the strong influence of Indian Culture in religious practices in Thailand. Most of the temples had the Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma idols in each of these temples and while it is said that the Indians during the time of King Asoka introduced Buddhism in South East Asian Countries, some aspects of Hinduism is still prevalent. For instance, it is believed that the Emperor / King of Thailand is a descendant of Lord Vishnu himself and is still referred to as “Rama” I II or so on with every successor.
While we enjoyed the fast paced lives and cultural diversity in Bangkok, we soon had to make our way to Soi Rambuttri for our overnight bus to Chumphon for the next leg of the trip. The islands were calling out to us and as the saying goes, the best is yet to come.
To be continued..