What is it that a traveller feels after a wonderful trip – is it a déjà vu evolving around a sense of ending; is it exhilaration about new found memories; is it an overbearing desire for a next trip; is it a melancholy of coming out of a most sweet dream, trying to cling on to it knowing well that memories of dream are at the mercy of an infidel mind intent on erasing them sooner than later?
Memories are rejuvenating, rehabilitating – they are life-enhancing. They are what a human being is all about.
We returned loaded with special memories from our trip to Thailand; memories of a country, of a people and of our amazing experience being with them in close quarters. We visited Thailand in the later half of March this year.
[Agree, memories don’t have weight, in physical sense…in the sense of weighing scale at airport showing excessive readings on our return trip. The scale, of course, had nothing to do with gravity of memories, rather something more earthly – additional gravity caused by ladies dresses, sandals, decoration pieces, ladies dresses, make-up stuff, ladies dresses, Thai foodstuff…….and, did I mention ladies dresses? ]
The trip is also special because we, a family of three wanderers drove across the country for 7 days (out of 11 days stay) and 2000 kms. The drive enabled us to watch it closely – we got the first hand feel of ‘Amazing Thailand’ and the famed hospitality of ever-friendly Thais, the ‘Smiling people of a Smiling country’ while avoiding the hackneyed tourist spots since we charted our own itineraries and destinations.
Soon after landing at Suvanrnabhumi airport, Bangkok we picked up the car and moved south to Bang Saen, a local beach-destination some 100 kms south of Bangkok. Thereafter, we drove to Chiang Mai in North Thailand, bypassing Bangkok (Bangkok to Chiang Mai is about 700 kms). After 7 days, we were back in Bangkok handing over the rental car and spending the last 4 days in Bangkok, before boarding the flight back home.
Truly Amazing…it was.
The idea of driving across Thailand occurred while planning another trip to another continent earlier this year. One thing led to other and soon we realised that driving a car across Thailand would not be a bad idea at all because –
- 1. Thailand follows left hand traffic on right handed vehicles (similar to India) – thus obviating any need for reorienting our inherent driving perceptions (right is right and left is wrong or right is wrong so left is right, but if right is wrong then ………and so on).
- 2. Rental charges are very reasonable. Our car, a Toyota Vios cost some 900 Bhats (approx 1500 `) per day excluding fuel and optional additional charges.
- 3. Fuel prices are similar to that in India – thus the fuel expenses are not overly pinching.
- 4. Basic internet research indicated that road/ driving conditions are quite favourable (similar or superior to those in India).
This was first time we were to drive on the roads beyond Indian frontiers. There was, naturally, trepidation before and during the venture. The ‘unknowns’ involved knowledge about permissibility/ licence/ destination/ driving condition/ security/ charting the itinerary and other intangibles which needed to be attended to before this distant objective could materialise.
The posts in this series are aimed at highlighting info relevant to an Indian traveller, whether in self-driven car or otherwise. During my research about the country, very limited info appeared on the net in terms of driving, roads, rules/ procedural issues, experiences about such ventures etc. Moreover, almost entire info there is from western tourists, which at times differ widely from the way we look at things.
There are two issues which I bring out here (and will be harping on them later) –
1. Perception about Tourism in Thailand. It is extremely Unfortunate, Deplorable and Ignorant of a majority in India (and elsewhere, if internet is anything to go by), who view tourism in Thailand to be oriented towards an unsavoury, ‘sleazy’ market. This is totally distorted, ill-informed and myopic view, as far from truth as it can get. The fact is that Thai people are highly traditional, religious, extremely friendly and courteous. The country in general is very safe. Thailand, for sure, is more family friendly and secure than many countries/ parts of Europe or US.
2. ‘Do-ability’ and Economics. Prices in Thailand are mostly at par and sometimes lower than India. Therefore, a trip across Thailand would cost similar to that incurred in India (for similar period of time or quality of stay), excluding the airfare. Airfares to Bangkok are quite competitive anyway.
‘Likes’ about the trip- There are so many….. sample these for the starters:-
A. Thai Food – The world famous Thai cuisine is delectable, abundantly available and close to Indian palate.
Though sea-foodies and non-veggies will have the better of it, sheer variety and affluence ensures that irrespective of
preferences, everyone gets one’s fill more than adequately.
B. Drive across Highways – Driving across long, smooth stretches at 120 kmph (speed limit on highways) is a wonderful
experience, despite the fact that it felt like going at the speed of sound (i.e. vis-a-vis other vehicles zooming past at speeds of
light – ‘CERN’ concerns notwithstanding).
C. Thai Shopping – Thailand in general and Bangkok in particular are shoppers’ paradise. Apart from usual format (street
shops and malls), there are some unique shopping formats such as –
- Floating Markets!
Railway Markets !!
D. Thai Friendliness – Thais are called ‘smiling people’ – such an apt description! They are so very generous with their
smiles and friendliness; these are on offer anywhere you go.
Friendly smiles, though, were less prominent in metros viz. Bangkok, in keeping with cosmopolitan metro culture world over.
Next part covers the preparations required for a driving trip in Thailand.