Deaf Travel12th October 2013
The Wonderful Kingdom of Thailand
Heather delights in travelling around the world. Here she tells us about het latest trip to Thailand
Thailand, formerly known as Siam, is a wondrous kingdom, featuring Buddhist temples, exotic wildlife, and spectacular islands. Along with a fascinating history and a unique culture that includes delectable Thai food and massage, Thailand features a modern capital city, a pastoral countryside, and friendly people who epitomise Thailand’s ‘land of smiles’ reputation.
I went with a friend Tammy to Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Bangkok currently holds the Guinness World Record for having the longest name of a place. Bangkok is just the short version you see, because the city’s full ceremonial name is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. I bet that wont take too long to memorise!
We stayed at the 5* Lebua at State Tower Hotel, which was famously known for being used in the film Hangover II. We were so excited about staying there because we loved the film. If you want to stay in Bangkok, this is the place to stay. It has a rooftop bar on the 64th floor with the most amazing views. It is no wonder they chose this location to shoot parts of the film as it is fantastic, and gives you a great view of the vastness of the city.
We decided to be true to form and ordered a “Hangovertini” at the Sirocco Bar. The prices were sky high (how ironic) but the view is worth it. We were in the spacious roof top bar with a warm but slightly humid crispy breeze with aHangovertini cocktail in one hand and holding onto the rail for grim death with the other, looking out at the breathtaking 360 degree view of Bangkok. It sounds nice doesn’t it? The hotel’s mixologist created this cocktail especially for the cast and crew of Hangover II as the movie was shot extensively at the bars and restaurants of the Lebua at State Tower.
Thai food is definitely the best! If there is one thing Thailand will not disappoint, it is your taste buds. From five star restaurants to colourful street food stalls, Thailand offers a unique culinary adventure for all types of travellers. You can’t miss their fragrant jasmine rice –that goes with just about anything, but most perfectly with their spicy dishes! There were plenty of exotic kicks on offer, like fried cockroaches and caterpillars (which we did not try!) in the night floating markets and authentic Pad Thai, cooked right before our eyes. The night markets are not to be missed as they are incredibly popular. We went to the markets on a long ‘tail boat’ which then took us down the river where we found fireflies glowing in the dark. What is more magical than a firefly light show in the wild on a warm summer night?
Sadly, we didn’t do everything we wanted to do in Bangkok, because we discovered there are 72 provinces alone, which meant that some of the attractions we wanted to visit were three hours’ drive away. We had actually thought it would be nearby because it was in Bangkok! We underestimated how massive Bangkok is, so I recommend a 3 to 5 day stay if you want to see a lot of things like the Tiger Temple (where you can contact a tiger) and the River Kwai Bridge(known as the Death Railway) which became famous all over the world, when it was featured in movies and books. The cliff-hugging tracks and natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and valleys were very well captured in David Lean’s ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ World War II classic. Be prepared for some bad traffic as the roads are designed for two million people, when there are ten million people living in Bangkok – it is madness!
After Bangkok, we flew down to the south of Thailand to Phuket and caught the two-hour ferry to the middle of nowhere - the Phi Phi Islands. This has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. If you want peace, tranquillity or simply some me time, this is the place to be. The Phi Phi Islands have no motorised transport so when we got off the ferry we were greeted by a guy from the hotel with a wheelbarrow, which he used to take our luggage to our hotel room. This instantly put us in touch with the intimate nature of the island. Dining and drinking was one of the highlights of our stay on the Islands, with lively nightlife and fresh seafood restaurants at the front of the beach.
We went on a boat trip, which took us to all of the six islands. Monkey Beach was one of the islands that we liked. We had to be careful as the monkeys were aggressive, especially when food was concerned. There was a mini stall on the beach where they sell bananas for tourists to feed the monkeys. We witnessed one tourist getting bitten as she was teasing the monkeys.
Another place we liked was the Maya beach. Arguably, Maya Bay is Phi Phi's most fantastic beach and was the location for the movie, The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio in 1998. The bay had hard coral and colourful reef-fish, making it a favourite spot for snorkelers and first-time divers. It was beautiful.
There were several highly skilled and entertaining fire shows held nightly in several venues on the island, including at Carlito's, Apache Bar, Hippies, Carpe Diem, and The Tia. We went to the Hippies bar at the beach where there were friendly staff and one of them invited me to try the fire sticks! We stayed until the crack of dawn, lying down on the beach at the bar watching the sun rise, with crystal clear waters and birds singing. We actually thought wow this is the life!
One night we went to a bar called the Reggae Bar and bumped into Julia, an American deaf tourist travelling alone, so we invited her to hang out with us. The bar offered 2 for 1 bucket drinks all night long. They had a Muay Thai boxing ring in the middle of the bar that allowed anyone to get in the ring with someone to earn themselves a free bucket. Most people in the bar could barely stop themselves from falling over, and watching them fight was pretty hilarious. We did find that once we had sunk a couple of buckets that we were contemplating getting in the ring ourselves for what we had considered “a laugh”, but luckily we came to our senses after watching endless people regret doing it! We didn’t fancy turning up for work and trying to explain a black eye!
Julia told us about a Deaf man who owned a restaurant in Phuket, and we made sure it was on our to-do-list to visit him when we got to Phuket! When we arrived there, we instantly clicked with him because of our deafness. He knew some of our friends back home in the UK. It was awesome that the deaf world was that small! The guy was very friendly and he offered to show us the nightlife near his restaurant. There were so many lady-boys around which caught our attention with their awe-striking beauty! Tammy interviewed him for BB Deaf News about his livelihood and the video can be found on her “BB Deaf News” fan page on Facebook.
There are plenty of things to do in Thailand, which means we were spoilt for choice, but we did not have time for it all. But one of the highlights in Phuket was doing the day trip on the boat tour to the James Bond Island. This included visiting the Monkey Cave at Suwankuha Temple where we did canoeing and had a fresh coconut to keep us cool; Koh Panyee (Fishermans Village) where I tried a prawn for the first time ever; and lastly, James Bond Island, which is famous from the 1974 James Bond movie, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’,
starring Roger Moore and Christopher Lee. It was the scenic topography that helped make the film into a Bond favourite, and it also turned the previously unknown Phang Nga Bay into a major tourist attraction for Thailand.
Apparently, the film was nearly made in Cambodia a few years earlier but had to be postponed due to the Vietnam War. Had that terrible conflict never happened, it might have been an island in Cambodia that would have benefited from the millions of pounds in extra tourism that Phuket now gets.
Travelling to Thailand is a dream; the food, the weather, the people, the infrastructure, it’s all-great. The only drawback is that it is all a bit too easy as it fits our western comfort zone, but we can’t fault it!
Heather Thomas is an experienced traveller who has travelled to many places in Asia, America, South America, Europe, Middle East and Australia. She is still aiming to do more in the future. She is planning to go around the world travelling in late 2014/2015 for a couple of months and is looking for peers to go with. Got the travel bug and no one to go with? Look no further if you are up for an unforgettable adventure please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Article by Heather Thomas
posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Deaf Travel
12th October 2013