Wish you all a happy holiday season ahead filled with fun and frolic. December is the month of the year when the regular and hectic schedule comes to a pause almost automatically , if not for all, to enjoy rest of the days with our friends and family in a place we choose to have. Like everybody else, I also yearn to travel and explore different places, be it in our own country or abroad. We choose a place and book rooms in advance so that we would go there during the third week of December. It has been my long cherished dream to visit Hampi in Hoskote which has magnificent structures of the erstwhile Vijayanagara empire. Hampi seemed to beckon me for a long time, but Thailand or rather Bangkok called me in a louder voice. Yep, it was a place that I had visited once before, but she called me again and there I went!
We stayed for 3 days during our first visit and it was a stopover while coming back from San Fransisco. I suffered from jet lag and though we visited the usual landmark places, I forgot the details of those places. So it was well worth another visit thanks to my husband who was on frequent visits to Bangkok this year. And of course, 3 days is not enough if you want to properly explore at least some places in Thailand including famous shopping areas. This time, the visit which lasted for a week rejuvenated me like never before. It also brought out the hidden adventurous streak in me. ;) If you are a person who loves night life and endless shopping, Thailand is just the right place. It is less than 4 hours of flying time from India.
After I reached the hotel, I was more into catching up the lost sleep before gearing up for the weekend.We had booked to go to Pattaya beach through a travel company. There were 2 people from Bangladesh to accompany us. Both of them were bankers who had come to Bangkok for work. One among them had gone to Pattaya a few times and he said that the night life there is more interesting and during the daytime the place sleeps! To make the long story short, we cherish the moments in Pattaya with two adventures mainly para sailing and underwater sea walking. It was sunny throughout and there was not a trace of winter season. My hubby ventured for para sailing first and I hesitated for sometime. As they say, if you hesitate you will lose. This proved to be true here. I made up my mind in the last moment to hold the parachute. If I had not para sailed, I would have missed the fun. Those 3 to 4 minutes, I felt like a bird and I liked it so much that if I get a chance in future, I would go for it again. For the underwater sea walk, we were taken to a coral island where the white sands and clear water reminded me of Miami beach. The surroundings were perfect and many of the tourists were relaxing on the beach chairs and sun bathing. But we were in a mood for another adventure. A handful of people including us were taken to a point by the boat. We were given instructions before descending into the water 20 feet deep. We had to wear a mask and keep our faces straight failing the water will get into the mask. I got into the sea water with assistance of the lifeguard and those 20 minutes were simply divine. We were surrounded by lots of small fishes, seaweeds, corals around and we were given bread crumbs to feed the fishes. I got to see a little bit of underwater life and it is something I will not forget soon. After sometime, I felt the sea water was lifting me up from the bottom and the lifeguard helped me to get back to the boat. For the rest of the day, we walked and had a look at various stalls. Throughout this trip to Pattaya, two men from Bangladesh gave us company and by the end of the day we were discussing about our places, families, politics.
Two days of my trip was spent on shopping and we bought some souvenirs. The two major bazaars in Bangkok are Indira Bazaar and Chatuchak. Bangkok is a shopper's dream as it has glitzy malls and roadside stalls with endless varieties of clothes, accessories, precious stones and gems, and what not. But I am not a shopaholic and shopping is not in my blood. Two hours of aimless walking through malls and stalls made me tired and I was happy not to 'waste' more time in these shopping areas. But for ladies who love shopping I caution, this place is so addictive that you want to be there forever.
Grand Palace, which is at the heart of Bangkok, is one of the most visited place by tourists all over the world, and this time it was my second visit. But it was well worth it as I had forgotten many details. It had been the official residence of the kings of Thailand for more than two centuries. Grand Palace is full of ornamental buildings and structures, paintings, murals and anybody going round that place will want to click photos at each and every point. So folks, do not waste too much time clicking around as it is going to be repetitive. Take a deep breath and absorb details as much as possible. The main attractions I found there are emerald Buddha, murals, miniature of Angkor Vat temple of Cambodia. There are lots of 'Phras' around. I guess the word Phra has to do something with royal. It was my lone visit as my husband had work that day. I went to Grand Palace using waterways and tuk tuk ( the autos there are known as tuk tuk).
The next day, we spent on visiting various Buddhist temples and the prominent among them were The Golden Mount, Wat Arun, the temple of reclining Buddha, another temple where 45-metre Buddha was standing majestically, the lucky Buddha temple to name a few. Each of these temples stand out on its own and they are worth visiting again. The Golden Mount temple is 'Meru Parvat' where we had to climb up the mountain to reach the top where there were varieties of Buddhas. There were lots of bells and gongs. It was a beautiful view of the city including palaces from the top. After sometime, I was reaching the saturation level of seeing the Buddhist temples and I wanted to go back to the hotel. But my husband insisted that we had to visit Wat Arun temple, the second most famous landmark after The Grand Palace. Unfortunately, when we reached there, the inside of the temple was closed and we had to be content taking outside photos as it was late in the evening. The structures of Wat Arun temple when lighted up were full of splendour and looked majestic. We ended our day by seeing the lighting in front of the Grand Palace which was done to celebrate the birthday of their king. I was famished at the end of the day and I was ready to crash on the bed once we reached the hotel.
After my tryst with all kinds and sizes of Buddhas, I would have loved to relax in our hotel room the following day. But there I go with a group tour to the floating market which is about 2 & 1/2 hours from Bangkok. When water transport played important role in lives of locals long time back, people used to sell goods from the boats. Now these places serve as a major tourist attraction. The place we went was Damnoen Saduak floating market in Ratchaburi. The tourists had the option of going by boat to experience the feeling of floating market or just go around the stalls on the banks of the rivers. I was travelling by boats too many times for the last 4 to 5 days and so I took it easy by not using the floating market boat. I clicked a few selfies and other photos with the floating market as backdrop. Little did I know that another 'adventure' was waiting for me there in the form of a python. There was a board put up which said 'no bite, no poison, safe, and so click a photo'. After a long thought, just before going back I 'plunged' into taking few snap shots with the python on my neck. It WAS HEAVY and when it moved a bit, my facial muscles showed some tension which was visible in some photos. There was no time to get the photos in print and so it was captured in my mobile. I paid the person a 100 Bahts and was tired after that end of the day. It did bring out lots of 'Wows', aahs, OMGs, words like courage, brave from my family and friends. It was like how can a soft person like me, more so a lady can do this! I believe there had been some inner craving to 'prove' the world the other side of 'me'. From the floating market, our van headed to the elephant farm. There, I did not take an elephant ride, but just relaxed over a cappuccino.
You are seeing it right! This restaurant is located at Soy 13, Sukhumvit run by an Indian and named after our PM.
I consider myself to be lucky enough to visit Bangkok again and absorb it in a more detailed manner. Travel does widen one's horizon and I hope it has widened mine. Even though it was for a brief period, I got to meet people of different nationalities visiting there as tourists. One major identity of Thailand is the endless rows of massage parlors where girls sit in front of the parlors wearing skimpy and revealing dresses. Thailand has lot of influences of Hinduism and we saw lots of Hindu deities like Ganesha, Durga, Saraswathi, Shiva, Arthanareeswara idols everywhere. I am not sure to what extent they are worshiped by the locals there. Smoking is very common there and somebody like me almost felt like covering my nose all the time as I hate the cigar smell. Another thing that was common was the sight of female escorts accompanying the tourists there. As far as food is concerned, it is not a food friendly place, especially for Indian vegetarians like us. A few Indian hotels, Subway, pizza outlets kept us going throughout our stay. There was an Indian restaurant named 'Namo' and yes, it was named after Narendra Modi as the owner, an Indian, is a staunch supporter of BJP and a great fan of our Prime Minister. He had worked as a chef in various hotels there and this restaurant is his own baby and he talked to us with pride and enthusiasm about his business and his passion for Indian politics. We felt good after having a thin crust pizza there. As far as locals are concerned, language is a problem as English is not talked much there and people there do not know to tell the directions if you as a tourist is lost in some place. But even during our brief stay, I could experience the warmth and friendly nature of the local people there in spite of problems. We stayed in the downtown area of Sukhumvit and during evenings, we used to take walks on pavements. There were various kinds of stalls on these pavements with some stalls selling pornographic videos, condoms, oral jellies etc which I have not found much in our places. The roads are wide and well constructed and I observed that public there has more civic sense than in India!
I somehow managed to make our trip alive again through a few words. I could have put in a lot more details of our trip, but I wanted this article to be short and concise rather than make it long and boring. I do not know how much justice I have done to that, but as I wrote, the whole place came alive in my mind. I will soon post an album of our trip with more interesting images and captions. So guys, watch out!
Hampi, sorry to disappoint you this time as some other engagement has come up for which we have to go. But, I'll be visiting you soon, very soon!