the nothing whatever...

Nic on Thailand

Thailand was completely off my radar when we were planning our trip, I knew we would be coming here, but it never occurred to me how much I would love it. Like Ben said last week, we had forgotten how amazing Thai food is and that it actually comes from this country, and as soon as we arrived in Chiang Mai I knew we had hit the jackpot. Our tour guide, Bon, said to us that Thai people believe that laughter promotes a long life, so they try and make their customers laugh as often and as much as possible, and thanks to the amazing Thai people that is exactly what we have done during our entire Thailand trip.

Chiang Mai is a fantastic city, full of amazing sights, like the lady tuk-tuk drivers who pimp their ride with flashing lights, loud dance music and a fully-sick exhaust system, which had me double over in laughter every time one drove by. There was a distinct lack of napkins in restaurants but an over-supply of flyers to that nights Muay Thai fight and even if you didn’t move, you would be handed upwards of about 6 flyers per night. I read somewhere that Chiang Mai outlawed ‘happy hour’ so the pubs have a new tactic which involves a buy 2 get 1 free deal, which if you ask me is a pretty smart concept, as it guarantees the patrons stay for at least 6 beers between 2 people. The amount of food stalls has thrilled me to no end and many nights Ben and I would head out and only eat from the food stalls, jumping from stall to stall and buying one dish to share from each so we could try them all, and Im happy to report that not one place failed us. We have been Thai food lovers since forever and what surprised me is that even in comparison to Thailand, Australia has some quality Thai food restaurants. One of our favorite places in Sydney was Sam Thai in Neutral Bay, we would eat from there and assume that this is exactly what Thai food is like in Thailand as it has the right amount of spice and amazingness…..and it’s true, they nailed it.

Randomly dotted around the city are some of the most spectacular temples I have seen throughout S.E Asia, they are huge and covered in gold, making them very hard to miss. We didn’t venture into any of them, mainly due to respect and not really understanding their significance. The last thing I wanted to do was to insult someone by being culturally unaware, so we looked on from afar. The monks in Chiang Mai have a different aura to the monks in Luang Pragang, they seem to be pretty relaxed and self-aware, they don’t look like they are in hiding and are a lot older. I guess that comes back to Laos being a poorer country than Thailand, as our tour guides in Chiang Mai told us they both used to be monks, well, they described themselves as baby monks, and as they came from poor families with Laos and Cambodian ancestry, the only way they could afford schooling was to become a monk and converting to the monastery, which means your family has the financial support from the elders of the community. So, from what I gather, the monks in Thailand are monks by choice, making them seem more at peace.

Now, Phuket. Where do I start. It’s like someone needs to remind the island that they it is still apart of Thailand, because being here, I certainly don’t feel like I am in the middle of SE Asia. Granted there is a beach across the road from our hotel and the humidity in the middle of the day is high enough to stop your heart from beating, I still can’t help but feel like we are back in Australia. Although I had been told Phuket was exactly that, I didn’t want to believe it, especially after learning about the Thai culture and eating our way through Chiang Mai. It’s a place that I think has spent far too long under the thumb of the Western tourist, they have more 7/11’s on the main street than I have seen in the middle of Sydney and I’m sure more tattoo parlors than would be found in The Cross, for that matter. I’m sure if you came here for a holiday you would love it, as it’s directed entirely to the quick trip one stop tourist who wants to relax by the pool and order room service, which after 2 months of travelling around Asia is not where our heads are at. The best part of this whole week has been the fitness centre I have been dragging myself and Ben to every afternoon, the only problem being that it is in the middle of the resort and everyone that walks past looks at us as if to say, ‘what sort of freak works out on their holiday’, but that judgement I can handle if it means running off the many kilos of rice we have consumed over the past 2 months.