Traveling outside of your own home country is a great adventure. Many people will head to Mexico or Europe as a first dip into the pool of international travel. But what if you’ve been to those places and are hungry for something more exotic? Thailand is your answer, it is Asia for beginners.
As you may know, I’m offering a tour to Thailand next February. Some of you have asked why that is my destination on offer. I’ve worked in travel and tours in Europe for a long time. Working for Rick Steves, I’ve been brought up on the philosophy that the best kind of travel is the kind that puts you close to the local culture and is focused on education. What I’m aiming to do is to bring that experience to a different continent. Thailand is the perfect place to start, and here are the reasons.
Thailand has little in the way of a language barrier. The former king studied in Europe and had a great love of Euro culture, bringing English back to his country. Most people you meet will speak a bit of English, but even if they don’t, the Thai culture is a friendly one and they will look for a way to communicate. Within Asia, Thailand is probably the easiest country to visit in terms of communication.
A big factor in the enjoyment of another culture is how open and friendly the locals are. The locals that I’ve met in Thailand have always been very gentle and kind, in a genuine way. The culture is based on Buddhism, and the primary tenant of that religion is happiness. I’m not sure that I have encountered a population that is so content and generally happy. The air of peaceful contentedness makes for a very relaxing visit. The common greeting of placing your hands in front of you, prayer-style, is so graceful and gracious that I had a hard time giving it up once I left. The common respect and kindness of the Thai culture is inspiring.
I am used to palaces, art and culture, I see it all the time in Europe. Thailand is so very different, it is just bonkers. The exuberant decoration of the temples is a sight to see, it’s like something out of a movie, or like you’ve landed on Mars.
Europe may have cornered the market on cathedrals, but the temples and Buddha statues of Thailand are stunning and very different to the eyes of a westerner. Much of the art is based on folklore which, although decidedly original, has common themes to the folk tales we have grown up with. Learning about Buddhism and Thai folklore with a local guide brings the country to life.
Thai food is one of the great delights in cuisine. Blending traditions from China, India and the tropics, the flavors are unusual and exciting. I have always said that I’d happily eat my own shoe if it were soaked in Panang curry sauce, but after spending time in Thailand, I’ve realized that there are many other sauces to adore. The food is fresh and not heavy.
Have you ever eaten a fresh mango off of the tree? There is no sweetness quite like it, it’s better than candy. The street food scene is considered the best in the world, adventurous eaters will have a great time trying everything from noodles to fried crickets. It’s like Disneyland for the tastebuds! All of these luscious flavors but with no guilt- rice, veggies and fruit are healthy!
Enjoying the natural beauty of Thailand is one of the highlights of a visit. Rolling green fields and tropical foliage. Pristine beaches, with shady palm trees to relax beneath while drinking a cocktail. Crystal blue waters for snorkeling, diving or swimming. The wildlife is something you’d never expect- monkeys roam freely and exotic birds are common everywhere you go.
The Thai people have a fun-loving nature. Dancing, singing and having a good time is just a part of that enjoyment of life. Nightlife is always hopping and the drinks are cheap. Zipping through the city on a tuk-tuk or playing with elephants are dream experiences but also a ton of fun. For myself, I enjoy the culture of Thai massages. Did you know you can get an hour massage for about $5-10? At that price, I get some kind of massage every day.
I’m not much of a shopper in general, but Thailand is pretty persuasive. There are so many beautiful handicrafts, from silk to paper to wood carving and much more. The markets of Thailand are a great source of fun for me, these are some of the best markets I’ve seen anywhere in the world. You can buy just about anything at any price, and enjoy a parade of street food while you’re at it. Birkenstocks for $6? Silk dresses for $10? I’m bringing an empty suitcase next time and buying my wardrobe when I get there!
Asia for Beginners
More than any other destination in Asia, Thailand is easy to be comfortable in, while at the same time offering a mind-bending experience of a very foreign culture. It’s got something to please just about anyone- nature, art, architecture, outdoor adventure, shopping, nightlife and fantastic food. If you’d like to experience all that it offers, but do so in a thoughtful and education-based way, come along with me in January 2022, it will be an unforgettable experience.
More info at www.Imprinttours.com.