Thailand… the mother of all holiday destinations

Ang Thong marine park
The unspoilt beauty of the Ang Thong marine park

Can it really be over two weeks since I got home from Thailand? Judging by my fast-fading t-shirt tan and increasingly infrequent bouts of beach-set, work-based day-dreaming, I guess it can.

While Thailand is one of the more ‘westernized’ of South East Asian countries, there was still so much that amazed and confounded. The frankly terrifying traffic in Bangkok, the view over miles of jungle from a hilltop tribe village, the lengths people go to charm gullible tourists out of their Baht, the luminescent colour of the water around the islands in the south, the abundance of ornate Buddhist shrines in front of every property, the teeming street-level life in every town and, when we were there, the fact that every telegraph pole in the country was adorned with an election poster of some stern-faced candidate.

Chinatown, Bangkok
Bangkok's Chinatown is a barrage of sights, sounds and smells

I spent just over two weeks there with friends, following the well-beaten tourist trail from Bangkok up to Chiang Mai for the outdoors experience, followed by the long journey south to the lazy island of Koh Pha Ngan for daytime relaxation and night-time recreation.

But far from any predictable, packaged trip, this was an eye-opening, dare-I-say epic journey that has really given me the jolt to explore more of the world beyond the comfortable, reigned in West.

Lahu village
The view from the Lahu hill tribe village we visited at dusk

It’s impossible to count the ways that a place like Thailand boggles the mind of a relatively inexperienced traveller. The overall impression I got was that, whereas life in Britain is rigidly segmented and regulated, life in Thailand seeps and smudges with few controls or barriers. Opening hours, health and safety, the licencing of designer brands, traffic hierarchies, the capacity of a scooter,  and, famously, gender, are all very grey areas in this part of the world.

While the Thai government has been known to be extremely tough when it wants to be, an unflustered, genial mood seems to define the national character, making life seem particularly sweet in a country that, despite recent political strife and ongoing economic hardship, is blessed with some of the finest scenery, nature, food and, of course, beaches in the world.

I’ll definitely be back.

Elephant trekking
Elephant trekking in the conservation camp near Chiang Mai

I have a few more Thailand photos over on my Flickr

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