I had never been to South East Asia, let alone Thailand before last week. Let me be honest, guys - I was downright wimping out after 7 years of zero overseas holidays (I know right?!). But sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone, right Wellington?
What can I say? Thailand blew my mind in so may ways. So I thought I would put together a post for those of you who are maybe on the fence about visiting about what to expect. Thailand is a place that Kiwi's have loved for years and it is not hard to see why. The culture, the food - and that's just the start! It certainly pays to treat-yo-self but even then it is very reasonably priced compared to visiting another major world class desitination. Above all else, Thailand is never be a dull! Here are the 6 reasons I fell in love with Thailand.
1. The Incredible Weather
Let's be honest. I love Wellington (and more generally, New Zealand) for her weather. She's got character, pizzazz, panache - but consistently warm she ain't. Thailand is a great place to visit for a refreshing change of pace and temperature.
It's hot, humid and sultry! Especially in Phuket, I couldn't get over the fact that the sea was SO warm - you could just dive in unlike in New Zealand where it is a bit by bit endurance exercise. It's a real 'pinch me' moment when you can run into the body temperature clear blue water. Now even in the height of Summer in Aotearoa, it's a stretch. Thailand sure delivers on heat....
2. The Delicious Food
Speaking of heat, Thai food is a winner on all fronts. Many of you front Wellington are as mad about food as I am. Thai's take their food very seriously, whether it is a local dive restaurant with local cuisine or a fancy western style establishment serving up the best of modern Asian fusion. My favourite places to eat on my recent trip were Foto Hotel at Phuket's Kata Beach, Tu Kab Khao in Phuket Old Town (somewhere I would very much like to explore more of if I go back) and Sala Rattanakosin in Bangkok (not to start on the many local small places I tried). Thai food is hot, fresh and pungent, packed with flavour and guaranteed to leave you feeling refreshed and excited by new flavours!
3. The Dazzling Culture
Right now, Thai people are mourning the death of their King, Bhumibol Adulyadej. Some folk may think this is a time to avoid Thailand because the Kingdom is mourning. But it is just a huge sign of reverence. For example, huge billboards have been erected in every city and hotels and most public places have a shrine to the deceased King. Thai people are wearing black or muted colours as a sign of their sadness. Apart from this, there was no difference in how tourists are treated (personally I chose to wear subdued colours on the trip as a mark of respect). For me, it was a huge honour to be in Thailand during this serious and moving period in its people's lives. I think that history comes alive when you see people in the midst of a cultural practice that is bigger than themselves. It is rare to see such things in our own everyday secular lives. Thailand is a place where you can feel the living culture of the people, steeped in the love the people have for their King and Kingdom. On top of this personal observation, Thai tourism is very welcoming to tourist still - so there is absolutely no reason to stay away- just don't be a dumb-ass ('nuff said).
The marvel that is the historical Grand Palace is now open and was a particular highlight for me visiting Bangkok. It takes your breathe away!
4. The Stunning Nature
While I could pass on the bugs in Thailand, for me seeing the bush and trees was a beautiful contrast to our of lush native plants in New Zealand. Thailand is a lush tropical place, fullof very different trees and flowers. A wonderful way to see this is at Hanuman World in Phuket. I had the somewhat terrifying experience of zip-lining through trees at 40 metres up. While at first I was sweating and wildly trying to think of excuses to get out of it, this was one of the best things I did in Thailand. It is safe and highly professional. And nothing can compare to being like Hanuman himself flying through the trees! It takes a bit of guts to get going, but is sure is worth it. Highly recommended!
5. The Generous Hospitality
Thai people really are experts at making you feel welcome. I was lucky enough to experience the hospitality of Well Hotel Bangkok, The Haven Khao Lak and Foto Hotel Phuket. Each was special in its own way, but each had a wonderfully warm feel to the hotel, excellent wi-fi (yuss!), beautiful rooms and delicious breakfast and dinner to keep me fueled. It's always a treat to go somewhere lovely to be looked after - and each of these places had its own unique vibe. The Haven Khao Lak is the ultimate Resort - blue, relaxing and oh-so-stunning by the beach. Foto Hotel has a Hollywood glamour to it with its incredible infinity pool on top of the roof and my balcony bathtub (I am now never going to go back to normal showers). And the service at Well Hotel was off the hook!
6. The Insatiable Energy
Whether it is the fast paced vibrancy of Bangkok or the lazy drawl of Phuket, Thailand has a wide range of energy to suit whatever holiday you want from this country. Bangkok is full of street shopping at local markets, modern restaurants, hidden flower markets, secret bars and frenetic streets. It's full of motorbikes and tuk-tuks, weaving around the city like ants. Phuket has a slower pace, beach lifestyle, that lets you relax and unwind (vege out if you will...). Whatever the break you need, Thailand has you covered. The only regret I have about visiting Thailand is that I wasn't here longer. It truly is AMAZING....