Throwback Travels: Thailand

Elepahnts and temple In January 2008 I followed my friend on her business trip around Thailand with a visit to Laos and Hong Kong, too. By now I’ve forgotten most of the details so don’t ask me which hotels I stayed at or even how long exactly I was travelling! Nordic walking in a temple / Dinner is served (with chilli oil) What I do remember are certain quirky little incidents, such as seeing a Buddhist monk/pilgrim doing Nordic walking in the Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai, or my happily dunking a fish parcel in homemade chilli oil without even thinking it might, just might, be a little bit hotter than what I was used to. My friend’s family were impressed that I even tried! How could I forget any of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as having my photo taken with a fully grown tiger or riding an elephant? At that time they were something straight from my bucket list but having since read about the controversy surrounding ‘the tiger temple’ and the potential cruelty involved in elephant training, I wouldn’t do either again. Gaining experiences is great but not at any cost! I will do my research carefully before visiting any wildlife parks in the future. I found the atmosphere at the Chiang Mai night market enchanting with its numerous arts and crafts sellers and street food vendors with their tasty goodies. (Sticky rice and mango, anyone?) I found tuk-tuks a really fun way to travel. I was glad my friend was there to argue with the taxi drivers if they didn’t want to have their meter on for tourists. I remember carrying our hotel’s business card on me in case I got lost. I remember feeling tall for once (believe me, it doesn’t happen often!). Night market and tuk tuks One of the most memorable parts of the trip was the visit to my friend’s family in Nong Khai. It was so peaceful to wander around their back garden, which backs onto the mighty Mekong River on the Laotian border. I remember riding on the back of the moped with her sister to the local market, and the long, complex procedures it took to get a visa to Laos with both an exit *and* an entry fee when crossing the border. When I was exploring Bangkok on my own, I felt irritated by the various extremely persistent ‘guides’ who, always smiling and polite, wanted me to visit a number of famous temples for good luck, preferably using their uncle’s tuk-tuk service. However, I enjoyed the buzz of the floating market even with its own traffic jams on the water, and I remember how refreshing it was to drink coconut water straight from the coconut whilst navigating through the laden boats. Floating I remember buying earrings made of orchid petals at an orchid farm, and coffee always tasting really, really sweet because it always came with sugar and syrup. I remember thinking that leaving your comfort zone is a must and that having good friends with you makes travelling so much more fun!

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