Thailand is by far one of the most exotic destinations on earth. Its natural landscape is part of the appeal of the northern mountains and beautiful blonde beaches. It’s a country surrounded by majestic blue water teeming with vibrant schools of tropical fish and magical underwater gardens.
I have anticipated my journey here for one important reason: this is the only country on my itinerary I also visited on my first round the world trip 10 years ago.
As I expected, life has changed in Thailand. It’s now a more modern world. Part of the draw for a traveler like me is the cross-cultural experience this amazing country offers. It has it all—affluence and sophistication coupled with disorganization and chaos. It makes for a great adventure!
Happy New Year
It’s the Thai New Year and that means everyone packs a water pistol, bucket of water or a hose! Adults, children and tourists are the perpetual target. I’ve learned, there’s not point in trying to stay dry because someone WILL get you! The safest place for me to take some pictures was inside a mini-bus. But as you can see below, I was still a target!
Fabulous Thai Food
One of the best parts about traveling around Thailand is eating its extraordinary food. Did I mention how cheap it is? Our average meal has been under $5 U.S. dollars. Not bad! In full disclosure I’ve not been able to enjoy the local fare as much as I would like. I got some short of food positioning in Laos that has remained in my system for weeks. I spent three days in bed in Northern Thailand (thankful it happened in a city I visited 10 years ago) but the infection continues to linger despite lots of medication.
By the time I got to Southern Thailand I had to cancel a dive trip two days in a row. So I decided it was time to take a different course of action. I starting eating only packaged food (crackers and granola bars) from 7-Eleven. The plan worked! It kept me out of the bathroom long enough to go diving (and have a little fun). I asked the dive instructor for refresher on vomiting through my regulator (just incase). Drowning in Thailand isn’t an option! It turned out to be a successful day deep under the ocean blue. Praise God for 7-Eleven!
Ten years ago in Southeast Asia my dear friend Selena and I discovered pirated music (it’s perfectly legal in SE Asia). I was in heaven—any CD I wanted for just $1 U.S. dollar! Needless to say, I must have bought more than 100 CDs. I even carried them around in my backpack for the rest of the trip, which included Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii (I must have been crazy). This was around the same time we starting hearing about the concept of downloading music from Napster. When I saw the CD’s pictured below in a market in Patong Beach on Phuket, I just laughed and remembered the joy of having every song I ever loved at my finger tips. It’s remarkable how 10 years and technology has changed so much about how we get our music. At this moment, I really appreciated how some things–like pirated CD’s–haven’t seem to change in Thailand.
Victoria and I flew from the northern city of Chiang Mai to the western coast of Southern Thailand. We spent three days on Phuket relaxing and getting very sunburned before Victoria had to return to the states and I ferried on to Koh Phi Phi Island.
Koh Phi Phi Island is a little tropical gem in the Andaman Sea. It’s comprised of lush limestone cliffs, sea caves, white sand beaches and bejeweled blue waters.
Life has changed here since my last stay (which was onboard a sailboat in the harbor). In 2001 this island had a hand full of places to stay with no more than dozen restaurants and bars. In 2004 Koh Phi Phi was completely destroyed when the Indian Ocean tsunami whipped out nearly all the island’s infrastructure.
To my surprise redevelopment has been swift. In fact I bordered zealous environmentalist when I saw just how built-up the island has become. Development has completely exploded and the quant Phi Phi I remembered is now a memory.
Nonetheless, I chose to find the island’s new character. Turns out the beauty is timeless, I just had to share it with a lot more people.
My favorite part of Phi Phi: the long tail boats. I took many sunset rides around the island during my week here for about 500 Baht ($15 U.S.) a ride. It’s a great way to wind down a round the world adventure!
I’m spending a couple fun nights in Bangkok before reluctantly leaving Southeast Asia. The highlight has been a visit with a dear journalism school colleague. Noi Fitts and I became fast friends back in 2001 after I had recently (four months prior) made my first trip to Thailand–Noi’s home. At the time, she had recently left the Wall Street Journal Asia where she reported for a number of years. Needless to say, our conversations were never dull! As a reporter, I learned a lot from Noi and for that I’ll always be grateful.
It’s been fun to see a bit of Bangkok through her eyes!
Next stop: Tokyo. Unfortunately, not for the week I originally planned. Details to come.
Till next time…Carpe Diem.