Before you get shocked halfway through reading this, I’ll just tell you now, this was a mother-daughter trip. Also, before condolences start showering in, the head of the family is completely healthy and lives with us. It’s just that the two of us thought that this would be an amazing experience. We had, however, thought of taking a baby step by travelling to Rajasthan but, de-monetisation happened and our plans were thrown completely off-track. At that point of time I was really irritated. But in hindsight I would really like to thank our Prime Minister, as without this sudden crisis our next plan wouldn’t have materialized.
One night I’m complaining about my entire vacation having gone to waste and the very next morning after a crazy decision, we book two tickets to Bangkok-Pattaya for 6 days and 5 nights- the ultimate dream vacation. The booking was made on 30th November and we were to leave on 4th December. The following six days were one of the best six days.
The one thing about short international flights is that you don’t realize that you’re flying across so many countries. It’s when most of the people you see around are the ones whom you are accustomed to seeing once in a while back home is when it sinks in that you are somewhere completely new. One major problem in Bangkok is that a big population doesn’t understand a single syllable of English. You won’t face this problem with your tour guides or people who handle tourists every day. However, if you are planning on setting out to see the city by yourselves and think you’ll just ask people on the street for direction, good luck with that. Still, you could at least use GPS to find your way, we wanted to buy fish tofu from a street-side vendor and we had to explain with hand-gestures for the lady to finally understand what we wanted (though I’m still not sure what she gave us was actually fish.)
Food in Thailand is phenomenal, though exceptionally spicy. There are a few specialties like pad thai and raw papaya salad which are extremely common and very tasty. A friendly advice- do not tell them anything regarding spicy while ordering. We ordered papaya salad at a restaurant and the guy asked if we want it spicy. We thought he was asking whether we want spicy or not at all spicy, so we nodded our heads eagerly saying “yes, yes spicy”. I’ll never forget that dish of papaya salad. It was so fiery that two bottles of water couldn’t stop the burning.
Coral Island (accessible from Pattaya) is a hub for adventure sports like parasailing and snorkeling. Though snorkeling needs certification, everyone can do parasailing. This was my first experience of an adventure sport, and frankly speaking, nothing comes close in comparison. The adrenaline rush you get in that fraction of a second when air fills in the parachute attached to you and you are swept off your feet like a rag doll, is worth experiencing. One minute your feet is firmly on stable ground and the next you are high up in the air with nothing but water below you in every direction you look. Another enjoyable activity here is the under-sea walk, where they take you to the bottom of the sea and you get to see coral reefs and underwater life, and even get to feed tiny fishes.
Bangkok has over 400 hundred wats (or temples) which are an integral part of its cultural heritage and tradition. However, at the time of our visit, Thailand was in national mourning for the demise of their beloved King Bhumibol. That is why the grand palace and all major wats in the city were closed. We could visit one wat, Wat Traimit, which houses the Golden Buddha. This statue is made of solid gold and at a height of 3 metres and weight of 5,500 kgs it is the largest of its kind in the world.
Most of the heritage sites in Bangkok are along the river Chao Phraya, which is why the night-time river cruise there is a must. It is an hour long round trip with included dinner. I wouldn’t tell very highly of the food but the view is surely a treat for the eye. The grand palace and all the wats are lit up, and against the dark night sky they look majestic.
Ayutthaya was the royal capital of Thailand till 1767, till the city was attacked and razed by the Burmese army in 1767 who forced the inhabitants to abandon the city. The city was never rebuilt in the same location and the ruined city has remained as it was. The beauty of the place lies in the way the modern city has grown, keeping the charm of the old city alive. The new city hasn’t been built thinking of the ruins as just archaeological artifacts and constructing buildings all around it, which is the case in many places.
We took a mini bus from Bangkok to the city and then hired a tuk-tuk (which basically is a three-wheeler vehicle which can accommodate 6 people) to take us around the city. Our tuk-tuk driver didn’t even know that there exists a language called English, and the entire payment bargain was made by a show of fingers. He showed us all the places he would take us by pointing it out on a picture map. Once the deal was finalized he asked us to wait. In a minute, he was back with a newspaper, for all the time he would have to wait, and we were off.
No trip to Bangkok can be complete without shopping. Though neither of us are that much into shopping, it’s nearly impossible to resist the urge in a place where street after street is dedicated to bargain-price shops. In India you will have to hackle with shopkeepers to lower the prices. Over there you don’t even have to try. Suppose you ask the price of a shirt and t
hey say its 300baht, just turn and pretend to leave, the price will have come down to 150baht within the blink of an eye. It’s not that the things you get there is not available anywhere else. The fun is in the fact that you know you are buying it at half the price you would have to pay for it in India.
This journey was one of its kind. Though I was a little low during the return flight, the thought that the memories of interesting people, funny incidents and mesmerizing places of this trip will make me smile at random moments in the future made it worth returning home.