Coming from Australia, where food was expensive and not exactly haute-cuisine, South-East Asia was a foodie’s paradise. First, food is cheap by world standard and simple meal usually cost under $5. Second, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand have a “street food” tradition and numerous hawkers offer local delicacies on-the-go. Finally, the blend of flavours was simply amazing, from Thai curry to Penang’s Nasi Lemak.
I love taking pictures of signs because they tell so much about a country. For instance, Canada’s bilingual “stop-arrêt” sign is unique, and so are the many weather-related warnings, “ice falling” being my favourite.
During our trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, I collected various signs.
So, did I fall in love with Thailand? I can’t say I did, for a few reasons.
We enjoyed the scenery. The islands in the South, close to Malaysia, were great and people were really nice and helpful. It only got worse close to touristic places and I must admit some tourists behave pretty badly in Thailand where they seem to do things they would never do at home.
Wat Pho, birthplace of traditional Thai massage and home to the imposing Reclining Buddha, Wat Traimit and its five-tons solid gold Buddha image, or Erawan Shrine, nested among Bangkok’s skyscrapers, were all busy with tourists and locals alike.
Asian malls and markets are somewhat of a surreal experience to most Westerners. Upon entering the maze of shops, people usually go through several stages, notably “oh my God everything is so cheap”, “oh my God I have to bring that back home” and “oh my God I need to buy another suitcase to bring all that back home”.
“We are now in Bangkok and we arrived ten minutes ahead of schedule” bragged the flight attendant upon landing in the capital. Gee, I would have rather arrived ten minutes late and avoid the near-death experience when touching down.
Along with “Taxi boat? Taxi boat?” and “Tuk tuk? Tuk tuk?”, the ubiquitous call for massage is the most overheard sentence in Thailand, and you will hear it even in your sleep. Massage is both part of most Asian cultures and loved by tourists. The result? There are massage joints at pretty much every corner.
Everybody has heard of Phuket, Thailand’s most famous beach destination. Some remember it because of the tsunami that hit the island in 2004 while other knows it because of its reputation as a sex tourism center.
Phuket is disconcerting at first glance: it no longer look like Thailand, you could be anywhere on earth.
One of Feng’s legs was resting over my left knee, his feet were on the dashboard, and I had one arm around his waist, another above his leg. Picture a Kamasutra-esque position without the honey-get-your-clothes-off bit. That’s what it took for the two of us to fit on the passenger seat.
Ko Phi Phi Ley, Phi Phi Don’s little sister, is a popular day-trip once your hangover is over. Pretty much all of the travel agencies in town sell a half-day boat trip to the small island for 250 baht (about $8). Still curious to see why people liked the area so much, we signed up for it.
We had heard a lot about it. Ko Phi Phi (yes, it’s pronounced “pee-pee”!) has the best beach in Thailand, it’s a must-stop etc. Well, what we found there was very different from what we were expecting.
If you feel an irresistible need to read Tom Clancy while burning under the sun, wear a Speedo swimsuit and yell in some Scandinavian language, be massaged by young Thai girls, show off your bad-ass tattoos and listen to Scorpions while on holidays, you came to the right place. Ko Lanta has all of the above.
Leaving Ko Muk was an unexpected long journey, but certainly one of the most beautiful one I made.
Ko Muk is famous for the Emerald Cave, a limestone tunnel that lead into an island cave, semi submerged by the sea. The only way to get there is by boat, so we arranged to have a long-tail to take us there.
Ko Muk is everything you could dream of. Palm trees? Checked. Pristine water? Checked. White powdery sand? Checked. Throw in picturesque Thai long-boats (the main form of transportation around here) and you feel like you stepped into a postcard.