Songkran…What is there to say about it? Perhaps one thing: if there is a time of year to be in Thailand, this is it. If there is a place, it is in Chiang Mai. It is in this very place that 16 Free & Easy travelers (and a score of others along for the ride) are lucky enough to celebrate the half week long Thai new year’s festival.
Alright, I’ll be completely candid with you. I haven’t written in over 2 months, and I find it hard even now to complete a post. I’ve made an effort once or twice, but every time I come back to publish, it just isn’t relevant anymore. So I’m going to do my best to cover the time I’ve spent in Thailand from November on RIGHT NOW, and I know I can’t do it justice, but you’ll just have to bear with me and try your best to fill in the best details on your own, as impossible as that is.
So we spent 6 weeks in November-December in Thailand, the “Land of Smiles.” Which is the main reason no one has heard or read anything from me for almost the entire time. I think I called once and sent a few emails to ensure my parents that we were safe during the protestor take-over of the airport (which was largely blown up in the news). The rest of the time was spent chilling on white sand beaches, exploring limestone caves, snorkeling or scuba diving in crystal blue water, feeding monkeys, riding motorbikes and elephants (I was even allowed to ride on its neck, although it got upset at another elephant, trumpeted and galloped ahead to join with the rest of the herd…holy adrenaline rush!), petting tigers, zip trekking through the jungle, bungee jumping…you get the picture.
The culture itself is something to admire about Thailand, with the people being very courteous and respectful, the food delicious and served either in bags (in the case of soup) or banana leaves (and occasionally styrofoam containers =P). Have you ever tried eating soup out of a bag?! Me neither, until today. It’s tough! We have frequented a number of Buddhist temples, Buddhism being the dominant religion of Thailand, although you can find a number of Muslim communities as well. I have been taken aback on island after island at how friendly and kind the people can be to foreigners! All of my favorite places in Thailand are because of the families we have met or the bar staff who have made our stay so much better than it would have been without their special touch. I was even given a Thai name in Koh Lanta: “som chai”, which loosely translates into something resembling “gentleman”. I swore I would be back to some of those islands to visit, and I plan on keeping that promise!
We stayed mostly in the south of Thailand, on some of the most beautiful islands and mainland tourist spots. We did a tour through Free & Easy, a Canadian company that pretty much takes care of everything for you along the way. Nice if you don’t want to plan it out, and definitely recommended for anyone who wants to spend some time in Thailand. Another great thing about the country is how cheap everything is! Dinner will cost you around 50 cents (street food, anyways), a wacky t-shirt might ring up to $4-5, and accomodation at a hostel will be about 2-7 euros ($3-10) a night, depending how luxurious a hostel you want! Ridiculous!
So when it came time to leave Thailand, and we spent 5 days in Hong Kong (dirt cheap by Canadian standards), and I could barely stomach the prices in comparison! When I was faced with the prospect of spending even MORE money in Japan, I couldn’t do it! We’ve also become accustomed to 30 degree weather, I haven’t worn pants a single day in Thailand, and very rarely shirts. So when we hit 15 – 20 degree weather in HK, and started winter jacket shopping, I had a bit of a change of heart. Back to Thailand!!