One of the perfect tourist havens, Thailand’s weather can be hot and humid even in December, with day temperature as high as 36 degrees centigrade! Nevertheless, it does not dampen the number of tourists who pour into the country. We visited Bangkok for a couple of days and managed a day trip to Pattaya. Be warned, the flight tickets can cost a bomb if not booked in advance!
Places we visited:
Day 1: We visited a few attractions along the Chao Parya river and took a ride on the BTS skytrain.
Grand Palace: The Grand Palace is situated along the banks of Chao Parya. This was the official residence of the kings since 1782. The beautiful architecture with intricate and detailed paintings and designs is built in traditional Thai style. The palace has several halls where royal ceremonies are still conducted.
Wat Phra Kaew: The Temple of Emerald Buddha situated in the premises is one of the most important Buddhist temples. The atmosphere inside the temple is peaceful and serene. Emerald Buddha is seated right on top, and the temple is beautifully decorated.
Wat Arun: The Temple of Dawn is an ancient Buddhist Temple along the Chao Parya dating back to reign of King Taksin. The pagodas are huge and encrusted with porcelain. The temple got its name as the first rays of the sun reflects off the temple with pearly iridescence.
Day 2: We hired a cab to visit the floating market and crocodile farm outside Bangkok and the Asiatic Night market.
Floating Market: There are several floating markets in Thailand, given the vast maze of rivers flowing in the country. We visited one. We hired a private boat with a boatman who rowed us along the canals that were lined with shops selling food, fruits and souvenirs. There were a couple of men with yellow and brown pythons who invite tourists to take pictures with it around the neck! We caught a glimpse of the villages that dotted the canal. All houses are made of wood and stand on stilts.
Crocodile Show: Next, we were taken to a half an hour crocodile show where two brave men stuck their hands and head inside the crocodile’s mouth, played around with the reptiles and managed not to get eaten!
Railway Market: A few kilometers outside Bangkok lies a small town called Samut Songkhram which has a railway line running through. There is a market along both sides of this railway track, and it is business as usual for the vendors. Just as the train enters this market, the vendors coolly pull down the tents and leave the merchandise as it is. The moment the train passes, they reopen their tents and get back to business within a few seconds!
Muthumariamman Temple: Hindu cultural influence is prominent in Thailand, and many Thais follow Hinduism. We visited Muthumariamman Temple, constructed in Dravidian style architecture situated in the heart of Bangkok. The pujas and rituals are conducted in Vedic style as followed in Tamil Nadu.
Asiatique the Riverfront: Asiatic is a shopper’s paradise, but a tad bit expensive. Don’t forget to bargain. You can witness broadway style dance shows or enjoy a traditional Thai puppet show or traditional Thai dance along with dinner at two fine dining restaurants for THB 800. Restaurants serve a variety of cuisine and we managed to find an Indian joint that served decent food.
On the final leg of our trip, we hired the same cab to Pattaya.
Bee Farm: Pattaya has several bee farms. We took a tour of the farm that contains a variety of bees and held a beehive without getting stung.
Gems Gallery: Our next stop was the Gems Gallery, where they took us on a tour of how gems are naturally formed, how it is mined and processed into gemstones and jewelry. Black pearls are naturally found in Thailand, and you can buy silver jewelry studded with black pearls for as low as THB 350!
Pattaya Beach: Pattaya beach is a long narrow stretch of sand crowded with people. We took a private boat to one of the several makeshift barges and experienced Paragliding. The day was windy and cloudy, so we felt quite a few bumps, but the experience is fantastic and a not to miss one!
Big Buddha Temple: The Big Buddha statue temple has a flight of stairs with two six headed golden Nagas on either side, On top of the hill, surrounding the majestic Buddha statue are seven Buddhas representing seven days of the week. There is also a laughing Buddha with a hole in the belly button, into which devotees try to throw coins.
Art in Paradise: This is an art gallery where paintings come to life with 3D effects. You can smash into walls, find secret passages underground, almost get eaten by animals, or ride a boat in Venice, become a princess or mermaid, shoot arrows, become an artist, anything! These moments come to life in the stunning and humorous photographs you can click with your imagination running wild.
Thailand is very close to my heart, despite spending just three days there. The country, its people and culture are beautiful and unique. It is a must visit place at least once in your lifetime. I am definitely going there again!
Primarily a Buddhist country, you will find a lot of Hindu influence in the names of places.
Thais worship Lord Buddha and Erawan. They consider Lord Ganesha very lucky, and you will find either a small Buddhist shrine, Erawan Shrine or Ganesha shrine outside every house and hotel around Thailand.
Where to stay: The best way to book is to find deals online, you can get rooms in three star hotels for rates as low as Rs. 2,500 per night! If your hotel is somewhere near one of the BTS Sky Train stations or MRT, there is nothing like it!
Commuting around Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain and MRT provide good connectivity to prime areas in Bangkok. There is also the waterway system, which takes you around old Bangkok. You can take ferries for THB 18 or 20 per trip. Autos are a major attraction in Bangkok and you can steal a ride, but they are expensive! Taxis are a far cooler way to travel and are less expensive. You can also hire private taxis, but ensure you bargain heavily before committing.
Shopping: Bangkok and Pattaya are dotted with day and night markets where you can get the best bargain on everything including clothes, F1 team t-shirts, shoes, accessories, gifts, colourful swimwear, anything!
Cuisine: Streetfood is a rage for those who love their fish and squid. Meals can be a nightmare for vegetarians,.
Watch out for: Pickpockets, hotel staff flicking cash. Never leave cash or anything precious unlocked or unattended. Avoid carrying too much cash.