Slice of Mango, Slice of Life
by: Aries Lucea
Thailand would always be special for me. It’s the first foreign country I have visited and instantly fell in love with. “Amazing Thailand," is one of the most successful tourism campaigns which made this Southeast Asian country a top tourist destination around the globe. And for a good reason, it’s really quite amazing and easy to navigate even for a neophyte traveler like myself.
It was year 2000 when I first explored the capital city of Bangkok, and already by that time, tourism infrastructure was already well in place and should I add, far better than what we have back home in the Philippines. The energy of this place known as the “city of gold” is fascinating. The sights are almost always grand namely; the huge lying Buddha at Wat Po, another Buddha made of pure gold, the majestic Grand Palace and even cruising along the murky waters of the Chao Phraya is a nice experience. Our hotel located in the middle of a street market make it all the more exciting. This being my first travel abroad I have a “pasalubong” shopping list so long, Custom officials would mistook me for a “byahera”, which was the fad at that time, with Pinoys looking to capitalize on cheap Bangkok merchandise such as RTW and jewelries. Our stay was brief, but nonetheless a memorable one. I remembered being all excited when I saw an elephant walking on the city street, just few hours before we departed for the airport. I promised myself to come back to this magical place.
Fast forward: more than a decade later. For fellow “balikbayans”, I am sure we all have one of those Pinas vacations, wherein our schedule is too hectic for comfort. Welcome party, dinner with college friends, lunch with high school friends, merienda with kindergarten playmates, mag ninong sa binyag, aatend ng kasal at kung ano ano pa, tinalo pa natin ang itinerary ng Presidential visit sa sobrang dami ng ating dapat gawin, sa maikli nating pananatili sa Pilipinas.
Kaya naman sometimes we need a break away from our event-filled Philippine vacation. Kung kaya naman pinili naming mag-asawa ang bumisita sa Thailand, para makapagpahinga and to take a breather from our very busy Manila homecoming. Masaya din ang aking mga magulang at mga kapatid na kami ay lumiban ng ilan araw at iwan sa kanilang pangangalaga ang aking mga anak. Malaya nilang ma-spoil ang aking mga anak na minsan lang nilang makapiling. Being away from our families in Osaka, we welcome this opportunity of having trustworthy family members take care of our two children, while we as a couple get to spend some quality time just by ourselves and enjoy the sights and sounds of Thailand.
So we head to the beautiful land, me for the second time and my wife, her first. I want to make sure Thai got on her good graces right on our first day. I booked a hotel right in the middle of a Bangkok shopping street mecca. As a result, Bangkok was a love at first sight for her too. But it was the flavor and the succulent Thai dishes that eventually made the trip memorable for her. She must have eaten way too much papaya salad.
For this trip we also made it out of Bangkok to see the ruins of Ayutthaya, the old capital. This vast area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is definitely worth the visit, despite the heat and humidity.
Para sa mga budget conscious travelers na tulad ko. Malayo ang mararating ng ating hard earned money. With right planning, Thailand could be a very cheap destination that has way too much to offer even on a tight budget. Malaki din ang matitipid kung pipiliin mong sumakay sa mga low cost carrier mula Maynila na lumilipad daily patungong Thailand.
I will always love Thailand, that’s why it saddens me that the country’s political turmoil for quite some time now takes center stage and shows no sign of getting resolved anytime soon. I pray that this charming Asian Kingdom gets right on track and still be amazing more than a decade, when world travelers took notice of its awesomeness.
*Note that some photos on this article were printed with permission from a good friend, Philip Rodriguez, who shared the same passion for life and travel. Please check his amazing photo blog at http://shimostar.blogspot.jp/.