Saturday, January 15, 2011

A tryst with Thailand…

Thailand is one of my favorite countries in Southeast Asia. In so many ways, it reminds me of my home country India yet it has a strong identity of its own. Some things I love about Thailand are the friendly people, great food, fascinating culture and gorgeous beaches. It is no wonder that Thailand is a magnet for travelers the world over.

My first trip to Thailand was more than 10 years ago during the summer of 2000. It was the start of a new millennium and my family and I wanted to do something special to commemorate it. The major chunk of our holiday was spent in Bangkok where we stayed at the Narai Hotel with a few days in Pattaya spent at Siam Bayview. I don’t have pictures of this trip as it took place a long time ago and we were using a (now obsolete) film camera at the time. I do however have many fond memories of it. I vividly remember riding the Jet Ski at Pattaya Bay in the scorching sun, admiring the marine life sitting in a glass bottomed boat, spending a relaxing day at Coral island, doing lots of street shopping, enjoying the scrumptious breakfast at Siam Bayview and taking in the splendor of Bangkok’s Grand palace. Everything else seems a bit hazy...another trip would definitely jog my memory! 

My second trip to Thailand was in October 2006. This time round, it was with my husband. We were toying with the idea of going to either Phuket or Chiang Mai, and finally decided to go with the former. 

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and one of the major tourist hubs. Patong is the most happening area popular for its nightlife and hence Patong beach is one of the most crowded beaches in Phuket. Not being a fan of crowds, we made reservations at the Katathani Phuket Beach Resort located at Kata Noi beach in southwestern Phuket away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.

Once we landed in Phuket, we started off with a visit to the Kinnaree elephant trekking camp to observe the gentle giants up close. 

We found Katathani to be lovely and the beach an absolute delight. I let out a little girl squeal as soon as I saw the gorgeous turquoise water! What a treat for sore eyes! The resort had a beach side café and it was a wonderful experience to eat while gazing at the breathtaking view. There was a local Thai eatery right next to our resort run by a lovely elderly woman which had the most extensive menu that I have ever seen in my life! The food was good and very reasonably priced and had us going back again and again. I can never forget the Pad Thai and Thai fried rice I had there...yummy! 

Kata Noi beach

One thing that I was very eager to experience in Thailand was the traditional Thai oil massage. We rented a scooter at a rental place beside the resort and set out on a quest for a good massage parlor! There are so many that it will drive you nuts. In the end, we got the much anticipated Thai oil massage and it was heavenly! I would recommend it to anyone visiting Thailand. Since we had the scooter with us for a few more hours, we drove around the unfamiliar roads in Kata and by chance came across this really good view point. 

Viewpoint overlooking Kata

The next day was spent roaming round Phuket town in a ‘tuk-tuk’ (Thai taxi equivalent). It even comes with an ice chest stocked with complimentary refreshments! We also stopped by some shopping malls - Ocean Shopping Mall and Central festival. 

Phuket town

The highlight of our Phuket trip was the tour of Phi Phi Islands. On the ferry to Phi Phi, we saw a huge number of islands and limestone cliffs that make up the Phang Nga Bay, a location for the famous movie, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. One of the primary destinations of this tour was Maya Bay where the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer ‘The Beach’ was filmed. Maya Bay just took my breath is so striking that you immediately know why it is considered paradise on earth. 

We had an opportunity to snorkel and see the outstanding reefs and underwater marine life oh Phi Phi Island. The tour took us to Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley. We had lunch at Phi Phi Don and did a spot of souvenir shopping after which we had to leave. I will always remember this island as one of the most visually appealing places I have ever seen.  

On the ferry
Phang Nga Bay
Maya Bay

A trip to Phuket would of course be incomplete without an after-dark stroll down Patong's Bangla Road. We had to see what the fuss was all about! We even had time to do some shopping. We found a street lined with tiny shops selling knock-offs of top-quality brands of t-shirts at throwaway prices. You really couldn't tell the difference. Bargaining could probably get you an even better deal!

As the saying goes, ‘All good things must come to an end’ so did our holiday to Phuket. If you are looking to have a good time, eat good food and enjoy great natural beauty, Phuket is the place to be!

Have you been to Phuket? What did you think of the place? Leave a comment to let me know!


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