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Published: March 29th 2011
Thailand is a land of extremes - the rugged beauty and cultural richness of the north and the idyllic beauty and tourist-induced madness of the south. I loved trekking in the hills of Chiang Rai; I loved the Yunnan style beef curry with steamed dumplings that we shared at Doi Mae Salong; I loved the juxtaposition of a monk blessing a woman while taking a call on his mobile in Ayuthaya; I loved the peaceful seclusion of Koh Yao Noi; I loved the bohemian and creative lifestyle of old Phuket Town; I loved (eventually) the bustle and excitement of Bangkok - it took me a while to warm to the city, but when I did, it become a second home.
I loved the open and embracing values and mindset of Buddhism; I loved the friendliness of the Thai people; and I just loved the food - kaeng phed gai normai
(red chicken curry with bamboo shoots); gai pad khing
(stir fried chicken with ginger); gai gaeng keaw wan
(chicken in green curry); khao soi gai
(chicken and yellow noodle coconut curry soup); pla gaeng lueng
(fish curry); pla muek gaeng phed
(squid with long green beans in spicy
red curry); neua phad ta krai
(stir fried beef with lemongrass, chilli and cashews); and pad thai
(rice noodles stir fried with shrimp, egg, bean sprouts, tofu, chillies, fish sauce and peanuts) with anything and everything...
At times I felt uneasy being a traveller in Thailand, because I hated the way the country and its people has been forced to pander to intolerable tourists and unrestrained tourism. But intolerable tourists are everywhere, so maybe I need to heed the text that Ton Udom (the young monk we chatted with in Chiang Mai) emailed me. It was titled On Meditation - Instructions from talks by Ajahn Chah
, and it started with the following quote:
“…whichever approach we use for meditation, we need to do away with wrong thinking, leaving only right view. We need to get rid of confusion, leaving only peace.” SHE SAID...
At the risk of sounding sentimental, I feel that the more I travel in Asia the better my understanding (and thus admiration) is of people who live in worlds so unlike ours... and going beyond that, the more I appreciate my own Asian background and cultural heritage.
Thailand can offer a
traveller such a large platter of goodies that no matter what your travel draw card, I’m sure you’ll not only find it there, but you will find it in every colour and size too (as the old saying goes). The only uncompromising factor is the weather - it definitely won’t be the pocket of paradise we thought it was if you don’t like tropical heat and humidity! The three main seasons are hot, wet and cool, with the usual geographical and coastal variants thrown in. We decided on March as the appointed month that best suited the range of areas and activities we wanted to experience. In theory, it should only have had a little rain and the hot season shouldn’t have begun in earnest yet... but apparently the weather gods aren’t keeping to their schedules anymore. It was hotter and rainier than it should have been. We met farmers in the north and fishermen in the south who told of unpredictable weather patterns and unseasonal weather for the last two years. However after a few days of acclimatisation to it, it didn’t really stop us from doing what we intended... as long as we planned for the afternoon rain
shower that came along like clockwork in the south.
This was one of our most action-filled travel experiences. In one month we got acquainted with an Asian metropolis, floated on a rice barge exploring the western waterways, wandered through old kingdom ruins in the central plains, played with elephants, trekked through northern hill tribe villages where the rice paddies met the steamy mountain jungles, sea safari-ed on islands on the Andaman sea and completely surrendered ourselves to beaches, beach massages and a few cocktails on islands with blue skies, bluer seas and creamy white beaches. 😊
Having spent a month in a very Buddhist country, I feel I can talk about things like karma
with a bit more confidence. The notion of karma
suggests that we are responsible for our own choices and actions and that everything has a consequence; conversely the concept of kismet
refers to predetermined fate or destiny. I usually subscribe far more to karma
, but by the end of this journey I could see how choosing one didn’t naturally eliminate the belief in the other. People eagerly take good luck, good fortune, or a blessing from whatever source bestows it
on them. It would be tempting fate to ignore it, and much worse to question it.
We could so easily become addicted to the many fascinating aspects of this amazing country - the smiling faces of the people, the abundance of delicious food, the glut of beautiful orchids, the profusion of fresh tropical fruit, the beautiful coconut tree fringed islands etc etc etc. However for now, this is the end of our travels in this Land of Smiles. We have tagged the Lampang, Sukothai, Sangkhaburi and Koh Samui sections of our Lonely Planet Guide
for the next time we find ourselves in this part of the world. So much of the world to see, so little time!
A big thank you to everyone who followed us on this journey…we hope that we managed to communicate how glorious this country really is, and we also hope that we may have tempted you to venture to Thailand if you haven’t already done so. A bigger thank you to Yvonne, Damian and Darcy who baby-sat our four-legged ones so caringly while we were away.
Lah gorn people, and may your travel cup runneth over! 😊 Flying ships
on this trip... Thai Airways (Melbourne-Bangkok)
; Thai Airways (Bangkok-Melbourne)
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