Tuesday, July 11, 2006

“You want massage?” the smiling lady with the husky hands asked me for the fifth time that day on the beach. I was about to kindly say no again, as I had said previously to the pineapple seller, sarong peddler, and bead hawker, when I suddenly realized how nuts this was. My fear of staggering off the beach, dripping in sarongs and pineapple juice, while the hawkers hi-fived each other, wasn’t proving rational. The sun was setting over the water, the price was certainly right (maybe $2), and after all I was on a beach in Thailand.

Does Asia seem too far away? Not only in distance, but culture and language? Maybe too difficult or dangerous to travel in? If you’ve never been, I can highly recommend Thailand as a first timer’s destination to Asia. If you arm yourself with a sense of adventure, a helpful Lonely Planet Guide, and carry bug spray along in your arsenal, you’re in for a treat. Your treat could consist of: Your own private beach bungalow for 5 dollars, elephant rides, the FOOD!, sunset beach massages (roaming hawkers included), temples to study meditation in, and exchanging giggles with curious 8 year old monks. There is no wonder that Thailand is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, well, mostly with Europeans anyway. You will encounter more Scandinavians than you can shake a stick at, but it’s all part of the fun of meeting fellow travelers.

Without a doubt, the biggest expense of your trip will be the airfare. After that, a ridiculously affordable adventure awaits. Cheap (under $5) and mid priced (up to $15) accommodation abounds throughout the country. Clean, simple, and comfortable. With all the delicious food to eat, things to do, and foot massages to enjoy, I threw my budget out the window, and never batted an eyelash.

Getting around Thailand by bus, train, and tuk-tuk was a breeze. If you keep your English simple and polite, and learn a few phrases in Thai, people are obliging to help. There was never a problem buying bus tickets, negotiating a tuk tuk price, or finding a room, even in high season.

I was there for about a month and was fortunate enough to explore Bangkok, Lopburi (a city crawling with monkeys!), the ancient capitals of Ayuthaya and Sukothai, Chiang Mai- a mountain city and popular base for trekking, the WWII sights of Kanchanaburi Province, and the islands of Koh Tao and Koh Samet. Even if your time is short, there is plenty to experience in and around Bangkok.

Thailand is the perfect place for a unique trip, whether you want to take cooking classes or just get lost in some temples. You’ll likely come home sporting a lovely tan and arm-loads of well-haggled over souvenirs. And you’ll still have money left in your pocket for another adventure!!!

Review submitted by Genah W. (her 2nd review for Tuesdays Traveler)


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