After working an unremitting 60+ hours a week, getting burned out from sitting in my little cubicle staring at a computer monitor all day long, I finally subjugated my mundane life with some trepidation and headed to the Land of Smiles.
This particular trip was booked through a travel agency. The one I used was Gate 1 Travel. You can book your airfare and tour packages all at once through them. This was my first time using an agency and it went smoothly. This is also a good way to save money if on a budget and to see a good deal of the country. They offer transportation from the airport to the hotel and your tours. Some meals are included in the package but for the most part you are left to fend for yourself. Not all days are filled with traveling or tours so you have a day here and there to yourself. On the off days you can do whatever you want.
On the days of the included tour(s) you can feel rushed because of the travel time. Sometimes it took two hours or more to get to our destination and once there, you only had limited time to explore. On the non tour days, you could pretty much go and do anything you wished as long as you were back in time to catch the next tour. I took advantage of the non tour days to explore the city we stayed in and do activities and see things off the beaten path. Going on your own let’s you have the freedom to do what you want when you want with no time constraints. In retrospect, the tour was great in that it included transportation, hotels, airfare and I met some terrific people. All in all, whether you are a tour package or off the beaten path kind of person, Thailand is a great place to visit.
My first stop in Thailand was Bangkok. You are met with colorful taxis and heavy traffic. Bangkok was gridlocked in almost every direction. The traffic was somewhat overwhelming. After making it through the traffic and settling into the hotel it was time to start thinking of what to do and see first.
Colorful taxis, Bangkok (Below)
Bangkok traffic (Below)
There are many temples in Bangkok but the most famous one is Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha Temple) which has many temples and statues on the grounds.
Some of the more popular statues are of the Monkey-Demons (Below)
Another popular Temple is Wat Pho which houses the world’s largest solid gold Buddha statue (Below)
Monk sitting in the court yard at Wat Pho (Below)
Statue in court yard at Wat Pho (Below)
A must see is Damnoen Saduak or more commonly known as the Bangkok Floating Market. Shops, restaurants and boats are everywhere. To get to the floating market we took a typical boat taxi. On our way to the floating market we got to enjoy some views alongside the river.
Water taxi (Below)
One such view was this large Buddha statue (Below)
Palm jungle along the river on the way to the floating market (Below)
Some typical houses along the river (Below)
Me at the floating market (Below)
Boat full of fresh fruits and vegetables (Below)
Another boat with fresh flowers (Below)
A very popular mode of transportation is the scooter. Most of the time you will see whole families taking a ride on them. This particular scooter has three people but I have seen as many as five. It is very dangerous to ride around without a helmet and Thailand does have very strict helmet laws. (Below)
After spending a few days in Bangkok, the next stop on our tour was Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is in northern Thailand in the mountains.
One of if not the best restaurant in Chiang Mai is the Kao Kab Kang restaurant. This was a quaint restaurant stuck between other area businesses and wasn’t too hard to find. It was fairly small inside but had a very relaxed feel and all the food was great. Everything was made fresh from the spring rolls to the spicy chicken. If you aren’t used to Thai spices be sure to let the restaurant know you want your food prepared less spicy. (Below)
Our food was prepared with a teddy bear rice plate and the presentation of the rest of the food was very colorful (Below)
Spring rolls (Below)
Be sure to try their somewhat garish drinks which were very tasty or try one of their beers. You can choose from Tiger Beer, Beer Chang or Singha Beer. My favorite was Beer Chang (Below)
Part of our tour package was to go to Mae Sa Elephant Camp to see the Asian elephant. You can hand feed them, watch them take a bath in the river and take a ride on the elephants through the jungle and enjoy the views. Also included in the tour package was to go shopping at Chaing Rai and to see the Mae Salong Hill Tribe. Here you can get excellent deals on indigenous art, jewelry and clothing.
Mae Sa Elephant Camp (Below)
Mae Salong Hill tribe, Chang Rai (Below)
Also in Chaing Rai is the White Temple Wat Rong Khun. This is not your ordinary Buddhist temple. Designed and built by Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, as an offering to Buddha. The white symbolizes the Buddha’s purity.
White Temple Wat Rong Khun(Below)
A must see in Chiang Mai is the Nagas stairs at Wat Doi Suthep. You are met with two dragons at the base of the steps. At the top of the steps are more Buddhist Temples. You can choose to either take an elevator to get to the top or walk the 306 steps. I opted for the latter and it was an adventure.
Nagas stairs at Wat Doi Suthep temple Chiang Mai (Below)
Street vendors on the stairs selling food, clothing and souvenirs (Below)
Children dressed in their indigenous clothing posing for money (Below)
The summit of Nagas stairs looking down at Chiang Mai (Below)
Buddhist Temple at summit of Nagas stairs (Below)
Mae Sai. This is the northernmost part of Thailand where it meets Myanmar (Burma). This is the border crossing between the two nations and a lot of people pour in from Myanmar seeking better lives in Thailand. The town is filled with poor, homeless people from Myanmar and is very sad to see. If you feel compelled to help, please donate food instead of cash. By donating food you at least know it is going to be used. Also, if you are donating, please be careful and aware that you will be swarmed with people trying to get donations from you.
Golden Triangle. The area where Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Cambodia meet by the MekongRiver (Below)
Mae Sai northernmost part of Thailand (Below)
Mae Sai border crossing between Thailand and Myanmar (Below)
Mae Sai. Child carrying an infant. The parents send the children out to beg for food and money (Below)
Mae Sai. Another child sent out by parents to beg for food and money (Below)
Other notable interests are the rice harvest festivals where they celebrate the rice crops. Also visit the Cabbages and Condoms restaurants where they teach the public about the importance of safe sex. Lastly, orchids, colorful orchids grow wild everywhere.
Rice harvest festival (Below)
Cabbages and Condoms restaurant, clothes made of condoms and birth control pills (Below)
I hope you have enjoyed the photos of the Thai mainland. Part two coming soon. Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands.