When Bangkok residents and those in neighboring provinces like Ayutthaya, Hua Hin and Ratchaburi were gearing up for the hottest season in Thailand, 6 young, adventurous Pinoys set out from Manila to fulfill part of their goal - to tour the whole of South East Asia. Their destination? Thailand!
But little did they know it's going to be more than just a taste of the spiciest meal they've ever had in their life, or that it's going to be more than just a beach experience. Here is a story of six friends who came to Thailand for the first time. Their experiences have been so much more than they hoped and planned for, and how they did it would be something you could learn from if you yourself plans to travel Thailand.
Mark, Vangie, Hencel, Hil, Jeff and Sheryll thought they have done all the research they could lay their hands on to arm them with all that they needed for their Thailand trip. But although they did see parts of Thailand they expected,
nothing prepared them for the scorching, energy-draining heat Thailand is famous for especially in the months of March and April.
"Umaga pa lang, mainit na" (in the morning, it's already hot), the group was saying. And that had an impact on their sight seeing plans. They wanted to do more and see more, but the heat was just too much so they had to catch up on some sleep their first couple of days to have the energy to tackle Bangkok streets thereafter.
Nonetheless, those first couple of days, they experienced the historical architecture of Ayutthaya - Thailand's capital before the Thais moved it to Bangkok, also known as Krungthep in the local language. They also had a taste of Thailand waters and sand in tranquil Hua Hin, which is the King's choice of residence for the summer season. Though they didn't have a chance to bump into royalty while there, they were not the least disappointed. They had a chance to see and experience parts of Thailand other than Bangkok even though it's only their first time to travel Thailand.
The morning after their travels in Ayutthaya and Hua Hin, we met the Pinoy travelers at Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and took them to the ever famous Floating Market in Damnoen [http://www.siampinoy.com/thailand-travel/damnern-saduak-floating-market-and-rose-garden-2.html]Saduak.
While having a picturesque moment watching the array of Thai fruits, food and crafts along what is known to some as the 'Venice of the East', the group had some regular Thai noodles (bam-i nam) and enjoyed sticky rice topped with ripe mango (kaw niew ma muang) and the cheap, yet very fresh fruits being sold along the khlong (canal). The sellers were cramped with their goods in narrow wooden boats. Not much time to haggle there for customers, lest the boat with the goods you have your eyes on gets swept by other boats.
And of course, the adventure wouldn't be complete without the boat ride along the khlong (canal).
But the most unforgettable experiences the group had came in contrasts. Nearly at the end of their Thailand travels, the group visited the Grand Palace. There, they were awed by the intricacy of the Thais' handiwork on the walls of the temples.
Literally everything spelled "majestic", and they wondered whether the bright colors and the intricate work are true for all Buddhists or is it only in Thailand.
Apart from the grandiosity of the palaces and temples, the Thais' reverence for their King also made a great impression on the group. To them, it's amazing that despite the apparent modern technology in Thailand, people still have a deep respect for and that they still follow their King.
That same night, the group had an 180-degree turn when their travels took them to yet another infamous place to visit in Thailand - Patpong! There they saw another side of Bangkok that is equally amazing but in a totally different way. Though they had a forewarning that they might meet quite aggressive people who would try to convince them they have the best "pingpong" show that side of the city, nothing prepared them for the real experience.
"They really force you to buy their wares", was one of the comments from the group. "Nakakatakot yung inaapproach ka nila tapos hindi ka nila talaga titigilan.Tsaka hindi ko ininom yung soda (when we watched the show), kasi natatakot ako kung ano yung nakalagay doon"
it's scary when they approach you and they don't easily let you go. And I didn't drink the soda because it's scary to think what could be in it), was yet another member's memory of the group's Patpong experience.
What was unexpected by the group was how the women who worked in Patpong reacted to their work situation: "Nakakagulat sa kanila, parang wala lang" (What was surprising was that it seemed like nothing to them). "In fact, nagtatawanan sila (they were laughing). Parang they don't see it as work na; just something natural. They don't see anything wrong about it".
Before the group came for this trip, they heard many stories about Thailand. Surprisingly though, not much was told about Patpong. Many of the stories the group read in blogs and heard about Thailand were scary, but they've found out, they're not all true. One of them says, just be practical. Have the common sense to take the same precautions sensible travelers would take in any country they visit for the first time.
The group also advises, "Do not limit yourself to Bangkok. Thailand is not beaches. Thailand is not Patpong. Thailand is not temples. Thailand is everything!"
And because of that, this group of 6 friends vows to come back. There is yet more to Thailand that they have not experienced. Next time, they would like to go south and explore the island beaches like Krabi and Phuket. They might also go north where the long-neck tribe and the like lives, and where the climate is so much more forgiving especially for travelers.
In the Philippines the group has also seen many beautiful places. And their Thailand experience has only enhanced whatever is good and beautiful about our country.
And that is one message they would like to convey to others back home: to go places beyond the 7,107 islands (or more) of the Philippines. The purpose is not to promote tourism in other countries, but for Pinoys to appreciate what is good about our own. And that is one message they would like to convey to others back home: to go places beyond the 7,107 islands (or more) of the Philippines. The purpose is not to promote tourism in other countries, but for Pinoys to appreciate what is good about our own. This way people will have a better understanding of what works in our country and what does not. From there, it would be easier to correct our mistakes because we will have tangible points of comparison.
As the group leaves Thailand with thought provoking memories, they have this to say to Siam Pinoy, "Thank you sa experience sa Thailand. Yung hospitality, hindi namin expected. Pumunta na kami sa ibang lugar na may kakilala pa kami (we've already gone to places where we even know people). But here, we don't even know you, you don't know us. Yet you spent time for us."
For us in Siam Pinoy, it has been a pleasure. It's not everyday we meet like-minded people. And for those adventurous spirits left back home who plan to unleash themselves in Thailand, here's their piece of advice, "Prepare themselves. Keep an open mind. Ang Thailand, hindi mo right away mahal, e (you don't get to love it right away). But it grows on you. And when they get here, respeto lang sa kultura nila" (just respect their culture).
The Venice of the East As the group of 6 friends go back to their different lives in Manila, they will always have their extreme experiences of Thailand to look back to. A part of them would remember the 'cigarette-smoking' and 'pingpong' ladies of the Thailand nightlife who sell entertainment of another kind.
Another part of the group would look back with awe and wonder at the nationalism of a people and the love they have for their King and country. And that national pride is the part of them, which gives rise to those majestic and intricately decorated temples and palaces Thailand is known for the world over. But for one thing, they are a more proud group of Filipino travelers, appreciating more what is Philippines after learning and experiencing what lies beyond our borders.
Hedda Joy Tady-Tan is an international School Teacher in Thailand. She is also the Editor in Chief of SiamPinoy.com - The Filipino Expats Community in Thailand Online.
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