Thailand for the Traveller

Dovetail's Rebecca shares her love for Thailand

There is something about Thailand that keeps drawing me back. Six times to date in fact. As a country, it has its critics, yet its landscapes, people and food are often without compare. Bangkok in particular is like Marmite – you seem to either love it or hate it. I find myself firmly in the fan camp.  

It was with great pleasure therefore that I headed back this Summer for two weeks, ready to re-discover all I had enjoyed previously and find a lot more. Compared to a number of nations, travel in Thailand is easy. A large number of people speak varying levels of English, the road and train systems work surprisingly better than expected and although I am a wuss I admit, they are happy to serve your food ‘mai pet’ if you ask – that’s not spicy if you are a farang like me who can’t take the heat.  Yet it has that sense of difference, enough of a culture shock to make you sit up and pay attention. Every city, every island, every village offers something different and beautiful.  

The first stop on my fortnight long voyage was Chiang Mai. A fleeting visit a few years back had left an itch to return which had to be scratched, particularly as it regularly topped the list for those I knew who had travelled in Thailand. Tucked in a lush jungle landscape, this ancient city appears from nowhere to offer a cultural melting pot of influences developed over hundreds of years. Strap on your comfortable shoes and navigate the old city on foot like we did. Buy a freshly cooked street food meal, receive a blessing in one of the city’s hundreds of temples, have your knots worked out by female ex-prisoners with the most effective £5 massage of your life and head out of the city to discover the lives of the surrounding hill tribes. A tip: make sure to stop by the trendy Nimmanhaemin neighbourhood for a cocktail at the impeccably stylish Akyra Manor Chiang Mai. It’s glass-edged rooftop pool has Instagram material written all over it.  

Next stop was the royal family holiday hotspot of Hua Hin. Whilst not as picture-postcard identifiable as the Andaman coast, its proximity to Bangkok makes it a convenient destination. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its charms. Travelling out of season in the British summer, wide stretches of golden sand were seemingly deserted. Tiny crabs would run past your feet, the sea had the temperature of bath water and the freshest seafood was enough to satisfy any gourmand. Thanks to its resident wild population, the sensation of looking up to see a monkey sitting at your feet while sunbathing is certainly a lasting one! We found a hidden oasis mere steps from the beach and it was the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of London life.  

For me, no stop to Thailand is complete without time in its enigmatic capital city, our final port of call for our trip. It’s bright and sometimes brash, loud and sometimes smelly, yet it lures you in. It’s a shopaholic’s paradise, from the heady maze of Chatuchak Weekend Market to the polished refinement of the big glossy malls. My favourite part has to be along the banks of the Chao Praya river, the life-blood of the city. Watch the world go by as river traffic whizzes up and down or hop on the boat to be a part of the rush. A highlight of our trip? Sticking with the water-theme, it was hiring a private tour of the khlongs or canals in the suburbs of the city. It is where life is still played out daily on the water, from the post-man delivering via long-tail boat or the Bangkok version of supermarket delivery with different vendors mooring up outside your home for you to browse. Keep an eye for the water monitors as you traverse the waterways.  

Thailand has a magic which is hard to ignore. Whether a seasoned traveller or starting out with your adventures, a first-time visitor or a repeat guest like myself, a party animal or culture buff, it can cater for everyone. It’s no wonder it remains one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. Now, when can I squeeze in visit number seven…