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Discussion in 'Travelogues' started by Craig, Oct 3, 2015.

  1. Craig

    Craig New Member

    We could have been hiking the hills in any rugged area of Europe or America on this particular Sunday, but there were a few differences that would suggest not. It was a December afternoon and we were all wearing summer clothes, perspiring in the humidity. The sun was shining brightly through the forest canopy and the temperature lingering near 90 degrees.

    Our walking sticks that were needed for the steep hills were cut fresh from bamboo trees by our guide, a rather short, dark haired man, wearing surplus combat attire. His name was Sam and he was Thai. We in fact weren't in Europe or America but in Sam's native Thailand.

    My wife and I were about half way through our tour of Thailand when we were 'roughing it' on the trekking section. We had four days of walking deep in the hills of northern Thailand, but only for a few hours a day. Each day the goal was to walk to a different village of Thailand's hill tribes and spend the night in one of their huts, soaking up their way of life.

    It's not an experience for those who couldn't be without the luxuries of a hotel. We stayed in the villages of the Karen, Akha and Lahu tribes; each having their own customs, dress and way of life. All live life quite primitively, with virtually no modern amenities.

    The huts we stayed in were made of bamboo and straw and our group slept on the floor in sleeping bags. No glass windows, no running water. The toilets were outhouse style and the only water available for washing was the central village tap for all to use.

    Our group, which was comprised of
    Americans and Europeans, sometimes felt as if we were intruding, but it was an experience for both cultures. Us Westerners learning that there are still peoples who can live without the conveniences of blow dryers and mobiles phones; and the villagers finding benefit by receiving an income from the tours staying in their village. One of their traditional crops, opium, is being stamped out by the government who wish to make Thailand a drug free country.
    Thailand meaning 'Land of the Free', is an appropriate name as it's one place in Southeast Asia that was never colonised by the French or British! The Thai's remain fiercely proud of their past and their royalty.

    Bangkok, a huge bustling metropolis of 11 million or so, is the capital and this is where we started our tour from. Thailand's main religion is Buddhism and Bangkok alone has more than 400 temples; photos of the more prestigious temples of gold and ornaments adorn the tourist brochures associated with Thailand.

    We spent a morning on the klongs (canals); aboard long tail boats with huge outboard motors that moved the along the canals at great speed, slowing down only to cross anothers wake. We cruised the canals viewing the way of life of those who live in stilt houses along the banks and visiting a colourful floating market before being dropped off at the Temple of Dawn on the edge of the Chao Phraya River.

    The Temple of Dawn is a Cambodian style temple whose tower rises over 60 meters in the air. If you're up to it, to get a good view over the city, you must climb half way up the tower (you can't go up any further than halfway) on probably the steepest steps you'll ever encounter.

    Later we visited the famous Temple of the Golden Buddha, a solid gold statue of Buddha that was only recently (1950's) discovered to be so. It was revealed after its once stucco exterior was chipped by mistake revealing its gold interior. For being solid gold, it's remarkably 'open' for tourists to get close to and take photos.

    Another famous temple is that of the Reclining Buddha, definitely worth a visit. Here you'll witness the awesome sight of a 45 meter long Buddha lying on his side!

    And then don't miss the Grand Palace, virtually a city within a city. The golden spires reaching above the surrounding white walls which separate it from 'modern' Bangkok.

    The Grand Palace is the place which reminded my wife most of what she thought Thailand should look like.
    ( She's seen the movie "The King & I" too often).

    Colourful is the key word to describe Thailand's temples. The base colour of most everything being gold, then layered on top with bright colours and all set against deep blue skies - Thailand is certainly not the place to try out black & white photography!

    Our northern base was Chiang Mai, a 13 hour train ride away from Bangkok and Thailand's number two city. With a population of a mere 1.5 million, it's just an oversized village compared to Bangkok's teeming masses.

    We found it much more traveller friendly, being smaller and not so hectic, but will all the amenities you'd need including numerous American fast food chains.

    More traditionally, Chiang Mai has a popular night market which bustles with activity from locals and tourists alike. We stocked up on souvenirs here, after having spent most of the day at an elephant training camp in the forests an hour away from the city.

    There were over 20 Asian elephants at this particular camp, each with their own life long trainers. The elephants are trained and still used for work in the forests.

    After they put on a show for us, we went on an hour long ride through the trees and back through the river on elephant-back. The elephants moved along very gracefully allowing us to sit back and enjoy the ride.

    After our hill tribe trek we went as far north as you can go in Thailand, to the Golden Triangle. The area where the mighty Mekong, and another smaller river make the natural border between Laos, Thailand and Burma, is physically the Golden Triangle. Here we stood at a well located viewpoint and aimed our camera sights into neighboring Burma and Laos.

    The area is more famous, or actually infamous, because of the illegal production of opium, mentioned earlier, which still makes its way to the drug dealers of the West. The Thai government is doing everything in its power to curb this production, as our guide Sam kept telling us.

    Halfway between Chiang Mai and Bangkok, we boarded our transportation for the last leg of our journey. As a relaxing end to the trip, our group spent two nights and a day cruising slowly down the Chao Phraya River aboard a converted rice barge!

    The barge had it's own crew who cooked us more of the spicy Thai food we'd all become accustomed to during our stay.

    We didn't do much on the barge except resting those tired bones from the treks. We stopped at a temple or a village here and there, but most just took advantage of the sunbathing opportunities in the near 100 degree heat before the inevitable return to the hustle and bustle of civilisation.

    The gates admit you to a world guarded by colourful creatures of a definite Asian flavour. Inside you'll find the famous Emerald Buddha, relatively small but one of Thailand's most respected religious symbols, amongst many other colourful sites within the huge complex.
    Prakriti likes this.

  2. sillyllucy

    sillyllucy Member

    My sister went to Thailand and she loved it. I like your description of the Asian flavor. When people describe Thailand they tend to focus on the negative or the lady boys. Most fail to recognize the amazing cuisine there.

  3. amelia88

    amelia88 Active Member

    I loved Thailand! I backpacked through there, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia on one trip, and I have such fond memories from it and also made a lot of great friends. I think my favorite place in all of Thailand was Chiang Mai - I loved the culture!
  4. pwarbi

    pwarbi Active Member

    I've never been to Thailand either but I know a few people that have and though also enjoyed it. More and more people are seeing it as a travel destination these days and I just hope the tourism doesn't destroy the beauty of the area no matter how good for the economy of the country or will be
  5. misskrystal1982

    misskrystal1982 New Member

    Thailand has always been somewhere I have dreamed of going, mainly because it is so untouched. I really hope that it doesn't become to modernized to where it ruins the uniqueness of the country. I would really like to see it stay the way it is.

    I really want to see the ancient temples there. I really love historical places, and when they are a little spooky it's even better.
  6. Rezonate

    Rezonate Member

    Unfortunately for myself I have never been to Thailand but have seen and heard enough from family and friends whom have been to Thailand to make it a bucket list destination. The pictures I have seen are beautiful and magical almost. Its a paradise out there and I can't wait to go one of these years.
  7. jetfleet

    jetfleet New Member

    Thailand is one of the beautiful place in all over the world, and beaches are very lovely one.
  8. tabby

    tabby Member

    I've had the occasion of visiting Thailand back in 2010. I truly enjoyed my stay there. I particularly could not forget how the Thais celebrate their New Year. They call it "Songkran." If you happen to travel to Thailand during their Songkran, be prepared to get wet as people on the street would be firing water guns. They also had that white clay thing/mud (I forgot what it's called) that they would smear your face with. It was an unusual experience strangers smearing white mud unto your face as you are walking the streets. I also loved Ayutthaya. I can't get enough of the ancient ruins. It's a must visit to those who would want to see old Thailand.
  9. Vinaya

    Vinaya Member

    I have not been to Thailand, however, Thailand is on my list of travel destination. Thailand is predominantly Buddhist country, there are numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. When I am in Thailand I will love to visit these Buddhist temples. Thai architecture is heavily influenced by Hinduism, in the Bangkok airport we can see statues that represent popular Hindu myth of ocean churning. I will love to see this in person.
  10. Shaka

    Shaka New Member

    I have a lot of friends who love Thailand. One professor I knew a few years back retired in Thailand. He loves it there. Says the country is beautiful. I have always planned on visiting Thailand one day.
  11. tabby

    tabby Member

    You should definitely visit Thailand! It's indeed a beautiful country. Haha, you might want to visit the Philippines as a side trip to your trip to Thailand, too. As I see that you're from the U.S., I'm sure you'll have a grand time there as your dollars can go a long way in Thailand. If you like shopping, you'll definitely appreciate how everything (at least most of the things) are cheap. Just be ready with your palate. It should not be a problem if you like spicy food. I find most of their food are hot and spicy.
  12. Sheba

    Sheba New Member

    I have always wanted to visit Thailand, but I've never had the chance. It is always one issue or another that has stopped me from going. I will make it there one day and I know I'll be happy I did.
  13. tabby

    tabby Member

    In God's perfect time, you'll get there. Definitely you are going to enjoy it there. At least, I did have fun during my own trip there. I guess, I just like looking at ruins, temples, and the like - something which India also has. That's why I myself would like very much to visit India. It is for this reason that I quite enjoy reading the threads in this forum.
  14. AnnaBanana

    AnnaBanana New Member

    I have had a few friends who lived in Thailand, and the descriptions that were relayed to me were amazing. Its as if Thailand had its own personality and if you left it, you experienced a very unique sense of homesickness.
  15. Prakriti

    Prakriti New Member

    Thailand is beautiful. The landscape resembles to India. Food is awesome if you are a non vegetarian but I was awestruck looking at the floating markets. food is cooked and served in the floating boat. :) floating-market1.jpg
  16. iamawriter

    iamawriter Member

    That was a nice description of the time you spent at Thailand. We have been on a package holiday of Singapore - Bangkok - Pattaya. Pattaya is an island for Coral lovers - a 2 hour ride by bus from Bangkok. The beach there is inviting for diving and snorkeling.

    We were taken by a glass boat for a closer view of all the colourful corals lying beneath which is a highlight of this Island -also known as Coral Island. Lots of artifacts made from sea shells were available for sale. I have a memento of the day I spent at Pattaya.
    For nightlife lovers there is plenty available at Pattaya we were told.
    Image source: Wikimedia commons