The Inside Scoop: Thailand, the Land of Smiles

Interview with Alicia Thompson, Away by TTI Travel Advisor

Why did you choose the destination?

I have always wanted to go to Thailand. I was fortunate to visit China years ago but wanted to expand my first hand knowledge of Asia.

What were the highlights?

Truth be told, the whole trip was a highlight for me, turning my trip summary into a story! If I had to say one thing, I would say the food! I am always excited to try the local food, and I was able to sample and savour different foods for ten days-and it did not disappoint. Tasty, exotic and healthy. The variations of the same foods were interesting from North to the South. I think my favourite was the Tom Yum soup. The flavors of kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, lemon grass, crushed chili peppers were incredible. Ingredients for the soup differed depending on each region you were in. Oh and how could I forget the Mango Sticky Rice – rice, coconut milk and mangos, how can you go wrong…sigh…SO GOOD!!

Most memorable experience?

So many! Starting in Chiang Mai in the North part of Thailand, we had a wonderful 3 nights at the Four Seasons Chiang Mai. Being 45 minutes from the city, you really got the feeling you were staying in a remote resort location. The accommodations were beautiful as were the grounds with rice patties, flower gardens and a small lake. It was a relaxing atmosphere with great service and food.

We visited an Elephant camp not too far away from the resort. We became ‘Mahout’s’ or elephant keepers. It was such a great experience to interact with these gentle giants. We learned how to mount and ride them as well as take them to the river and give them a bath. Who was giving who a bath was the real question!

While on my early morning run in Bangkok, I was amazed to see how busy Lumphini Park was with locals and ex-pats running, walking, doing tai-chi, stretching and having breakfast with friends. It was the young and young at heart, out getting their work-out. I ran around the park, approximately 2.5 km, and then joined a group of locals doing Tai-Chi for another 30 minutes. After our workout we walked around the park as the sun was now coming up and you could really see the beauty of the park. The lakes, trees and bridges. I even saw 2 monitor lizards. One was feasting on a turtle it just caught! For me this was what I love to do-immerse myself with the locals and their everyday routines.

In Koh Samui, it was definitely our private boat trip to Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park. I love being on the water and the ride to our first stop just outside the marine park to snorkel was lots of fun with sunshine, tunes playing, the boat jumping waves and meeting some great people! We headed to a beach area where you could kayak or just enjoy the beach. As our time was limited I chose to enjoy the beach with its warm turquoise water. Onto Mae Koh Island, we climbed up a very steep cliff of stairs to be rewarded with a gorgeous view of the Bay. From there we took our boat to another smaller island – Ko Phaluai and enjoyed a wonderful seafood lunch at Restaurant Phaluai Seafood. Oh my word the size of the prawns! With the day ending we had an adventurous (albeit choppy) 1 ½ ride back to the shore but we all knew we were in good hands with the Captain as he handled everything like a Pro and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

What surprised you the most?

I was in awe of the Thai people and how gracious they were. Being a country of about 93% Buddhist, they really live their beliefs on a day to day basis. No pushing, shoving, honking of horns or yelling, not even in the big city of Bangkok. Gracious everywhere we went with Hello – Sawadee ka/cup and always a Thank you – Kob Kun Ka/Cup.

The country itself is beautiful and has so much to offer travellers from destination weddings, honeymoons, family trips and group travel. This was my first trip to Thailand and I only scratched the surface of what there is to do. I can assure you that it will not be my last time. I am excited and look forward to having clients experience Thailand – The Land of Smiles!

Photo courtesy of Alicia Thompson