Thursday, 13 June 2013

My favourite 7 things of Thailand


I love shopping. It's an interest that my mom loves to encourage and when she found out I was going to Thailand, it didn't take her long to contact my cousin to find out where the best malls where (believe me, I didn't need my cousins help). Bangkok is the place to shop, in my opinion and I have seriously considered taking a train from Malaysia to Bangkok for a day just for it.
For some, shopping is just restricted to the huge shopping malls. I prefer to shop in the market place. In Siam Square, independent designers sell their work in market stalls that span across the roads. The prices are reasonable already but if you're brave, you can haggle down. The clothes look amazing, but there's jewellery, bags and shoes too. The designs are usually unique or ahead of their time. I remember seeing the metal tipped collars being sold for less than £5 before being it being sold in Topshop for £18 (same design!) later that year.

However, the most exciting shopping experience is the Chatuchak market. It's probably the biggest market place in the world and only opens on weekends. Unfortunately, I visited it once and on the last day of fasting as well, so you can imagine how torturous it was. The intense heat, the long day mixed with getting lost and being surrounded by people having ice lollies and BBQ. I could just about manage to stay a few hours before I felt like I had to escape before I collapsed from exhaustion. The cool MTR came to the rescue. I had plans to go back there again but with such tight schedule... ):

Chatty taxi drivers & tour guides
What struck me was, after visiting a fast paced business centre Hong Kong where people kept to themselves, how friendly and open Thai are. We obviously looked like tourists (who spoke English) and when we looked slightly confused about where we were going, people would come up to us wiling to help or other times people would thank us for visiting their country. I have to admit, I was little surprised how open people were (the fact they came to us randomly) and I didn't know how to respond. I know that's a weird thing to say but everyone that knows me knows I am very shy especially at the first meeting. I don't have the talent to speak (charismatically) to strangers and as someone who grew up being told to be wary about everyone, you can kind of see why I had a problem. Luckily, some people were social enough to see through that and when James was there, he was much easier to speak to.I feel like I should mention a few of my favourite encounters.
My favourite person was a taxi driver who was driving us back to the main station. He thought James and I were 17 and 16 respectively (bless) and that since James is a boy, he must like football and/or boxing. He was in denial of he fact that James does not, in fact, watch football and told us that we both must watch the match on that Saturday (as much as we wanted to, we were flying out that day). He spent at least half an hour talking about football and then shook James' hand before telling him to watch out for the mafia at the station. There was also our loveable and funny tour guide 'Ducky' and the really friendly staff at our Krabi hostel who told us not to book hostels during low season (we could have saved 200 baht!!). I'm sure there's more people I feel like I should mention but in the end, it's the people who came to us and gave their time to chat that did Thailand that extra quirk.

The turquoise blue sea and dramatic cliffs
There's a reason why I've wanted to go to Thailand. For my mom's family, Thailand is shopping central but what caught me is the scenery. You know those brochures you see of the clean, golden sands and the calm sparkling sea? Well, below, you'll see an UNEDITED photo we took on our way to Railay. The gemstone blue, the clear sunny sky is what we experienced. It was perfect. In fact, two of my favourite beaches are Railay and Nai Hat. Peaceful, scenic and a little isolated. Nature definitely has a stronger presence there.
It doesn't stop there. I know I'm using cliched terms with 'dramatic' cliff tops but that is the best way to describe it. I remember sitting on the beach, looking up at them and thinking 'I can't believe I'm here'. The geology is so unique, so captivating, I kept feeling like I was in a dream. If you go to Thailand, down south, I would recommend island hopping. The limestone cliffs can't help but surrender to the sea and the air. The way they have succumbed and shaped through erosion produces amazing landscape that have sparked locals imagination. I remember when we were canoeing under some of the limestone caves, our guide showed us what he saw hidden in the limestone (he only saved his dirty imagination for James).

The food (& drinks)
Forget about having 3 large meals everyday, the Thais do it better. The streets were always filled with food stalls from savoury thai food to desserts and fruits and the occasional drink stall (for you non alcoholics out there, I recommend the pineapple shakes) when the night was bursting with life. Some stalls, you just grab the food and go while others have plastic tables and chairs (all you need for a romantic dinner out). The portions are small ('Nuz sized') but all that means is you get to try one exciting food with room to try more. Luckily for me, I like thai food. Pad Thai, Thai fried rice, green curry (standard 'Thai food') but I also got to try things I haven't heard of before, and with prices of £1 per portion, why not? Luckily, Ramadan was over and the south of Thailand has a stronger Muslim community. In Krabi, literally all the stalls were halal hence I took joy to having both thai and western food.

OMG - how can I forget the pancakes? The glorious, glorious pancakes we had for breakfast and dinner. Krabi has the best pancakes!

The monkeys!!
Not considering the rabies shot was a mistake. In fact, I don't know why it didn't cross my head to get it. Well, I blame the GP. I had an appointment asking for vaccination advice and they didn't mention it. Or maybe they did and I just didn't take it in? Oh well, I survived without it (but I won't take that for granted). I realised that mistake on my first full day in Phuket. We went up to Khao Rang and as soon as the tuk-tuk parked and we jumped out, we witnessed a jeep being taken hostage by a band of monkeys. Monkeys jumping, swinging and climbing just like the story books you read as kids.

The kids
I didn't really get to interact with the children much in Thailand but there is one memory I have that makes me smile so much. In Phuket, we went on a boat tour that took us to a 'Floating Gypsy/Muslim Village'. These people have built their whole village on stilts in the middle of the sea. It's amazing how they can sustain themselves like that. Although isolated from the world's trouble, they do have their own troubles. The last tsunami took down part of the village... they are vulnerable to the power of the sea, and they are still trying to rebuild from that.

Rae, James and I explored the village to its end and decided to sit for a while when these three kids were running around. They ran towards where we were, ignored us and kept playing as normal. James decided to try out his Thai on them and said 'Swa deet karup' (hello). They all immediately giggled and hid their faces on the bench. Obviously ashamed of such terrible thai being spoken! Rae loves kids. You could tell by the way she was looking at the three children that she liked their presence as much as I did, if not more. She decided to join in with James and 'roared' at the kids, who then ran away giggling.
That was the only time I was so close to the kids of Thailand and they are just as cute as you'd expect!

The night life
Each city/town has it's own type of nightlife, with the exception of Bangkok which has something for everyone! Those that were pulled by Thailand's red light district culture would love Bangla Road. Actually, funny story about Bangla Road. When I was first researching where in Thailand I *had* to visit, Bangla Road was something that popped out. Now as a Bengali, I was intrigued as to why this was a touris attraction. So I entered in google and clicked on 'images' and well... I can definitely see why it's famous. Now some of you may have expected me to be put off it but nopes, it was near the top of my list to visit. In fact, I think I spent every night in Phuket walking down Bangla Road. Now my experience there is definitely worth another post...

So Phuket's night life is more for the loud and the wild whereas Krabi is more serene and laid back. There's not really any clubs but it's a place for bars. We spent every night at a bar that had live reggae/Soul type music that served large pineapple slices and flowers with their drinks. If I wanted to be somewhere more isolated, there was Ao Nang beach at my doorstep and a pancake stall near by. Krabi was definitely my kind of place.
I feel uneasy stopping my favourites of Thailand here but my word count is 1658+ and my eyes are a little droopy. Maybe that's a good place to end (;

No comments:

Post a Comment