Thailand is a must for anyone visiting South East Asia and we couldn’t end our trip in this region without visiting this country. We’ve heard a lot about this place: a lot of friends have visited this country and the feedback was mixed, those who loved it to those who said it became too Westernised. So we decided to get a taste of Thailand and see with our own eyes what this huge hype is all about.
Bangkok was our first destination, also known as the city of angels (I haven’t yet figured out the reason for this). Another thing I have not understood about this place is the huge quantity of electricity wires hanging around in the roads. We were really impressed and this contributes to the sense of confusion that surrounds you when you get here. This city is the busiest city I have ever been too; with lots of people walking around, a lot of traffic and also a lot of commercial activity in the streets from shops to street vendors. The heat was unbearable (even though it was not the hot season) and we visited less temples than we had planned. Moreover it is impossible to visit all the temples here as there is practically one in every corner. I cannot say that I liked this city since it is too busy for my taste, too confusing to get around and above all too dirty – rats, cockroaches and ugly smells everywhere. For me this was a shock as I can withstand the heat, the busy roads and getting lost, but I could not withstand the dirt in the roads. This was the first time in my life that wanted to return home as soon as possible.
Luckily on the second day in Bangkok we booked a tour out of the city to visit the famous floating market. Here you you can buy everything you can imagine from food, clothes and souvenirs all from the comfort of your own long-tail boat. I really enjoyed the floating market as we arrived early and we were practically the first people cruising along the canals. The photographic opportunities here were countless and we did not miss the opportunity to make some good deals and buy some goods at discounted prices. On the same day we visited River Kwai Bridge and Railway, also called the Death Railway, as a lot of people died during its construction. Finally we went to the Tiger Temple of Luangta Mahabua where the monks tame tigers and took some pictures with these creatures as well. I do not actually recommend this place and it was one of the most awful experiences ever. Tigers are sedated and do not seem to live in the best conditions. There are better places to see tigers and I hope to be able to see them in the wild one day.
After 3 nights in Bangkok, we took a flight to Phuket for some relaxation at the end of our trip. We were really looking forward to this, as we had heard a lot of positive comments about this place. Moreover we were looking forward to escape the dirt and heat of the city and visit some of the best renowned beaches in Asia. We stayed in Patong, as we were told that it is the best area for some nightlife. In our opinion it is true that this place became too westernised. I compared it a lot with Lloret de Mar in Costa Brava, with bars and restaurants one next to the other and souvenir shops. There is hardly anything that makes you feel like you are away from Europe, however we weren’t surprised since we knew it would be like this.
There are several options as regards day trips here and we chose the most iconic; Phang Nga Park where there is the famous James Bond island and Koh Phi Phi with the most famous beach in Thailand, Maya Beach, set for Leonardo di Caprio’s movie The Beach. Both these places are really wonderful: Phang Nga is fascinating with all the karstic formations and caves through which you can go with a conoe. Koh Phi Phi has crystal clear waters, where you can relax and snorkel on the coral reef. I must admit however that we were not impressed as we had seen better in Madagascar, both in terms of beaches and coral reefs.
We spent our evenings strolling around the areas of the famous Bangla road, where apart from the overly persisting street vendors trying to sell anything you can imagine, you can get into bars with some live music and a really good vibe. Our impression on Thailand is that it is over rated, and a place where everything is being overly exploited: nature, humans (especially women), tourists ecc. There is no respect whatsoever to preservation and I hope that what we saw in Bangkok and Phuket is exclusive to these two places. In the future we would like to give Thailand a second chance, by visiting less popular areas in the hope that it can live up to the expectations we had and still have about it.