If you are looking to enjoy the best beaches, massages and watersports - look no further!
Thailand is famous for
From ornate Buddhist temples to its extensive cuisine, Thailand leaves no stone unturned in earning a spot as a perfect tourist destination.Its enticing sandy beaches stand testament to the fact that the best holiday locations aren't that far away from home. Thailand is a melting pot of different cultures with a nightlife rivalling New York or Paris.
"Thailand is going to be a surprise for you. The sea here is very wild and turbulent and thus a li'l scary. Except for the bays - the bays are the quietest and the calmest places you will ever visit."
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Solidarity, Serenity and Serendipity!
I traveled to Thailand - Pattaya, Phuket, Phi Island and Krabi Island - and I am going to talk about Phi today. This place is the perfect blend of peppy and calmness!
One thing - if you are used to calm beaches of India (both eastern and western coasts), Thailand is going to be a surprise for you. The sea here is very wild and turbulent and thus a li'l scary. Except for the bays - the bays are the quietest and the calmest places you will ever visit.
Before I start to talk about Phi Islands in an overly excited manner, let me share a few travel tips before you plan a trip to this beautiful land of Thailand.
Best time to visit Thailand is November to February.
On arrival visa is a good bet if you are okay to spend INR 2000 on the processing fee of the visa.
If you plan to take a visa from India, it is free of cost (with a service fee of INR 350). It takes around four working days to process the visa, only if you apply 15 days prior to your travel date. DO follow the guidelines correctly to get the visa on time
If you plan your trip around June - July, beware of the sun. Carry a good sunscreen, though most likely, it won't work but still to be on the safer side
If your trip is planned well in advance during the month of June and July, do visit your dermatologist and take the sun burn tablets, one month prior to the date of travel. Sun burn is a serious issue
Always wear a hat or carry and umbrella and cover yourself up with a shrug or scarf when you are not in the water. No matter how enticing the sun tan might seem, in these months of July you are most likely to get burns rather than any tan
Carry an after sun burn lotion and aloe Vera gel and apply it as soon as you can after getting exposed to the sun
Respect the culture and rules of this place. People are very soft spoken here but you might not want to test their patience
Language is going to be a barrier - use Google translate for "safely" putting across what you want to say
Food might be a problem if you are not open to experimenting with your food - but do not worry. The retail chain called Seven - eleven which will come to your rescue
Reaching Phi from Phuket in a ferry is a different adventure in itself. Crossing the not-so-so calm emerald sea while being surrounded by the green limestone walls is something you don't get to see every day!
Phi is a group of island, part of Krabi district. In the Tsunami of 2004, almost all of Phi Islands and its infrastructure was destroyed. They certainly have done a great job in restoring everything!
We were in Phi Don, the part of the island which is inhabited by the locals and the tourists. The best part about this place is that you have to pay a cleanliness fee before entering 20) and you know it is not going in waste because the way this island has been maintained is marvelous.
Once you enter the island, you would feel as if you are in some sort of modern village with shops all around and so many cute cafes. When I say cute, I mean cute by both the look and feel of it!
I decided to have some good sea food, not very local, but yes, I had to try the Thailand varieties. The squids and blue mussels were on my mind for a long time now, so I decided to try them.
After a hearty lunch with a liberal serving of watermelon juice(that is my love that I have brought back from Thailand! ), We explored the market a bit more. And yes, Thailand can never stop to amaze me. There were these li'l kiosks, selling cocktails in buckets with all the component in it. Pleasing to the eyes, yes! And I am very sure that these buckets leave their consumers completely drunk and high!
Narrow, hilly roads is what characterizes this part of Phi Don. I loved the roads because of two reasons. One, they were so narrow that you can not take any vehicle that can pollute the air. The limited use of motor-vehicles thus makes it a place to live in. Second, the roads are formed in spiral and the terrain is a li'l rough. So, it seems like a hike! After a good amount of hike, we could spot the cottages where we were supposed to lodge ourselves. Savage much? These cottages offered a great stay! A clean pool, very calm cottages, all located at different levels and so much peace. Just one thing - the wooden cottages among the wilds also come with the insects and reptiles about which you can't complain. You signed for it!
This day was about exploring the night life of the place. And trust me, the whole place is very different during the day and the night. According to me, it is a perfect place - eat the best during the day and then party at the most happening place during the night.
Phi Don has completely different areas - all within the same vicinity. You can go to the main market place where you have all the cafes and shops and pubs. Then there is the Tonsai passenger pier which has got beautiful and peaceful dinner places which close by 10 at night. And finally, there is the beach side where the most talked about "neon parties" take place.
The next day was dedicated to island hoping and exploring the night life even more.
It was on this day that I realized that these groups of islands resemble elephants - some sitting, some standing and some doing their own silly things! And then, I couldn't stop clicking them. The most mesmerizing pictures came out during this island hoping tour. The island hoping was a more personalized tour on long tail boats which could accommodate 7 people on board. And opting for this tour rather than the usual speed boat Tours was the best decision ever!
The tour coasted us 1000 TBH (INR 2000 approx. Per person and the "sailor" would take us to places that we could cover in six hours. We made sure that we made the best out of those six hours!
The sea is furious and trust me, it seems scarier in a long tail boat!
Our first stop was the Bamboo Island, which is a preserved and restricted entry island. The entry fee is TBH 400. We made our stop somewhere around it, in the middle of the sea, where the divers among us decided to go for snorkeling and diving to enjoy the deep sea life!
After that we sailed towards the Laem Tong beach, which is again the characteristically fine white sand and clear blue water beach. This was the place where I dived into the sea, with a life jacket on, of course. I hate to say but I am scared of water. I so wish I was not!
After relaxing in the sea(literally) and in the sun, we headed towards the shark point.
When you traverse from one island to another, you will come across certain private beaches as well - completely secluded and beautiful - place where you would want to live for sometime!
The shark point is an amazing place for snorkeling. Though this place is named after the leopard shark but you might not be able to locate any. However, this is a place for some pretty soft corals and different species of reef fishes. And these are super hungry and friendly reef fishes. You dip your finger in the sea, with no fish in site, and hundreds of fishes swiftly swim towards you mistaking your finger to be food.
This was one of my cutest experience ever. Given the fact how much I fear water, this was certainly too big for me - standing stagnant, somewhere in the middle of the sea, on a rickety boat, not knowing what creature might pop up from anywhere.
The next stop was the Monkey Island. As the name suggests, one would expects monkeys there.
I was expecting an usual beach - white sand, blue waters - with the usual jungles but with wild monkeys roaming around. This island is no where near this description. It doesn't have a proper beach. You anchor your boat near the island and then you can hear some noise which is pleasantly unpleasantly. And it is rhythmically aligned with the sound of the waves. I personally had no clue what is happening. And then I realized, oh, I am at the Monkey Island. And that is me, more shocked than surprised after I spotted the monkeys.
So, this place is scary and I don't know how scary it might get at the night. Dense jungles surrounded by water all around and inhabited by the closest cousin of the human species - that is scary, if you ask me! But everything aside, this place is indeed beautiful. Beautiful is rather an understatement.
Finally, we proceeded towards the Viking Caves. Our stoppage here was of very short duration, because the boat wala bhaiya was very tired by now. You can not go inside the caves, but the internet will tell you that the cave walls have paintings of the Viking ships and thus they get this name. The Swiftlet's nests are harvested here for human consumption. And it tuns out that this is one of the most expensive animal product consumed around the world! Edible nests - strange, right?
And finally, we stopped at the nearby Pileh Bay. To say the least, this place is picturesque. I have never seen anything so amazing and peaceful. Even now when I sit to write this, I am surprised at the miracle of nature. Pileh Bay is a completely calm bay, somewhere in the turbulent and wild Andaman Sea, surrounded by huge chunks of limestone from all the sides. This place will send you to a state of complete ignorance and trance as you enjoy the green limestone walls and the emerald bay of the Andaman Sea!
And that is how this island hopping tour on the long tail boat ended.
Did I mention that this place is a food lover's paradise? No food option is going to disappoint you here. The papaya Salad is of course a must try. The signature Pad Thai Noodles with the Massaman is a delight. Ending your meal with the sticky rice or the Monster Ice creams will leave you food high - for goo. I just described my lunch to you!
After the hearty meal, we retired to our cottages to catch up some sleep. In the evening we decided to explore the beach party scenes. Though none of us was in a mood to have a wild party or anything but then again, when in Roman, do as the Romans do! It was wilder than I expected and I certainly had some very weird experiences of my life there! I really don't like the idea of doing completely dangerous stuff, like playing with fire, when under the effect of any kind of drug. But I did enjoy my stay at these parties - not to mention, super short stays!
The next morning was about watching the sunrise. I was not expecting something amazing because yes, I have seen too many beach sunrises. Just when I thought that I was done with the beauty of Phi, this group of island proved me wrong.
I started to hike towards the view point at around five in the morning. The hike was an easy one and takes around 30 to 40 minutes to reach the view point. I reached there and was wondering what should I do next!
And then, there was this breathtaking view! The perfectly H- shaped Phi Don. I was left speechless. I was too mesmerized to say anything!
Mountains make me wonder that I am too insignificant in this world. Sea make me realize the same. The calmness of the Pileh Bay was my drug. It made me meet myself - breathing in the air and breathing out all my worries. The sunrise point made me realize how important it is to not to worry about the path when the destination is too beautiful. The night parties made me see that it's okay if different people have different drugs to get their high in life!
With so many beautiful memories of this place, my stay at Phi Island came to an end.
I am heading to Thailand
Getting to Thailand
Transit time: 4 hrs from major cities
Cost ₹ 7,500 per person
From ornate Buddhist temples to its extensive cuisine, Thailand leaves no stone unturned in earning a spot as a perfect tourist destination. This tropical getaway, with its enticing sandy beaches, stands testament to the fact that the best holiday locations aren't that far away from home.
The Thai people are inhabitants of the Yunnan province of China that migrated further south into South-East Asia. While it was influenced by some of the earlier Indian dynasties such as the Mauryas, Guptas and the Pallavas, the Thai people have retained their unique cultural traits.
The country was known to European explorers by the name "Siam" during the early years of Europe's colonial expansion. A series of reforms by its enlightened monarchs and some clever diplomacy allowed it to play both sides while dealing with the colonial powers. Interestingly, Thailand is the only South-East Asian nation that was never colonised by the Europeans. It was briefly occupied by the Allied powers shortly after World War II to disarm the Japanese soldiers who were present there. In another connection with India, it was the Indian troops who were involved in this disarmament, who had been sent by the British to ensure that things went smoothly.
Thailand is presently under a constitutional monarchy. The new king of Thailand, Vajiralongkorn, is the 10th monarch of the Chakri dynasty. The king of Thailand is a revered figure and is held in high esteem. One can see portraits of the king adorn the streets in various parts of Thailand.
Why You Should Visit
Thailand offers an interesting assortment of reasons as to why people come here so often.Thailand is a melting pot of different cultures with a nightlife rivalling New York or Paris. The nightclubs and bars are venues to meet people of different ethnicities, giving tourists a truly international experience. The sandy beaches let you bask in the tropical sun with delight. The blue waters close by let you indulge in some maritime adventures such as snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking. The culinary richness of Thailand can humble even the most seasoned connoisseur of cuisines. Don't be taken in by the flashy signs and extravagant décor alone - even the local shacks pull in a great number of people for its high-quality food. The multitude of temples here are architectural marvels that populate the various cities of Thailand, where one can experience the rich cultural heritage of the Thai people.
Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and Krabi are top of the charts for attracting the most amount of footfall to Thailand.Bangkok is a city of contrasts, with sacred temples sharing space with seedy joints that are in proximity of one another. The city offers the gastro-tourist a culinary overload, with every street corner populated with food vendors. Phuket is known by many as the "Pearl of the Andaman". This huge island is a hotbed of tourist activity. The nightclubs, sandy beaches and rejuvenating spas are guaranteed to turn any frown upside down. Pattaya is located on a crescent-shaped bay offering a panoramic view of its light blue shoreline. Dubbed "sin city" by some, Pattaya has drawn large crowds for its huge shopping centres. Krabi, with its signature limestone Karst formations, beckon the naturalist within. The topographical splendour of these formations against the backdrop of a light blue ocean and the setting sun make for a picture-perfect holiday.
Local AttractionsPictures don't do justice to Wat Pho (The Temple of the Reclining Buddha). The temple houses within its walls a 46-metre gold encrusted statue of Buddha, which symbolises Buddha's attainment of Nirvana. Wat Pho is in Bangkok. The Wat Chalong Temple is a three-storey, pink temple dedicated to the revered monks who led the Chinese rebellion in 1876. The temple premises are adorned with 36 figurines of the Buddha in various poses. The temple is in Phuket. The Sanctuary of Truth (Prasat Sut Ja-Tum) is made entirely of wood and is a commemoration to Thai, Khmer, Chinese and Indian iconography. The building is a testimony to the accommodative aspect of Thai culture that has borrowed from the above cultures and enriched its own in the process. One can find this architectural marvel on the shores of Pattaya. The Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Suea) is perched upon a 600-foot Karst Peak, with the temple premises providing a bird's eye view of the sea beyond Ao Nang. A gigantic golden Buddha statue sits majestically in the centre of the temple grounds. The temple is in Krabi.
Favourite Local FoodsTom Yum Goong Soup is a Thai classic. It is a fusion of spicy, salty and sour tastes all mixed into one dynamite-grade soup that'll leave you wanting more. Its ingredients include lemongrass, chillies, galangal, lime leaves, lime juice and fish sauce. Prawns and mushrooms form the main body of the soup. The bright orange soup gets its colour from the spicy Thai chilli paste also known as "prik pao". The dish can be had alongside any other dish and has a distinct, perfume-like aroma. Gaeng Daeng is a rich, aromatic dish that can set off a chain reaction within your salivary glands. This sweet and spicy meat dish is prepared using coconut milk, garlic, shallots, dried red chilli peppers, galangal, salt, shrimp paste, coriander root, kaffir lime peel, coriander seeds, lemongrass, cumin seeds and peppercorns. The meat that is added doesn’t necessarily have to be chicken and can be substituted with pork or duck as well. This curry is best eaten with rice which absorbs the flavours of the curry. Pad Thai Noodles is prepared using fresh juicy prawns stir-fried with tofu, crunchy vegetables and fried rice noodles with egg. This internationally acclaimed dish has put Thai food on the world map. It’s best served with a wedge of crushed peanuts, chilli powder and lime. The fish sauce, sugar and chilli powder give it a more lasting flavour. Alternatively, some people add sweet radish or tamarind to give a sweet and sour flavour.
Favourite Local Things to BuyThai silk is conspicuously displayed in many shops. These are highly sought-after by many of the tourists. The brightly coloured silk scarves, clothing and cushions bedazzle the eye and add a regal touch to things. One can purchase them from Jim Thompson shops. On a budget? The Thai people have you covered there as well. They have knockoffs of Thai silk which are just as brightly coloured and have the same feel of silk. These can be found at Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok. Want to add a vintage look to your home? Although far away from Bangkok and other attractions, the Chiang Mai region is the renowned furniture capital of Thailand. These intricately carved pieces are furniture can add an exotic touch to your living room. Try your hand at the Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, which has many of these products. The shops are more than willing to help in international shipping. Coconut and coconut products are found in abundance here. Keep an eye out for coconut wind chimes, salad spoons and monkey statutes. These can be found in beachside shacks in Pattaya, Krabi and Phuket. ]Beat the heat with some Meiji flavoured milk. The number one pasteurised milk brand in Thailand and Japan, these little delights are available all over Thailand. Some of the shops that sell them include Tesco Lotus, Big C Market and the 7- Eleven store.
Things to do in Thailand
There is a wide array of activities that one can indulge in while at Thailand.In the coastal areas, one can take partake in some maritime activities such as scuba diving, snorkelling and kayaking. Thailand is known for its beautiful women. Some of these women do come with a surprise twist. There are shows and performances by these women, which you are unlikely to encounter in other parts of the world. Those wishing to improve their knowledge of food can try out cooking classes where one can learn the basics of Thai cooking. The Thai people have a strong connection with nature. Those interested in establishing a bond with nature can visit the Sriracha Tiger Zoo on the outskirts of Pattaya. One can feed hungry tigers milk and meat. These tigers are very docile and well looked after.
Ideal Tour Package
A tour of Thailand can be completed in a period of 14 days with ease. Ideally, one should go in the sequence of Bangkok – Pattaya – Phuket – Krabi – Bangkok. Bangkok and Pattaya are geographically close while the same is true for Phuket and Krabi so make sure these two places are grouped together. The former two can be connected by bus, while Phuket and Krabi have a ferry that connects the two cities. All the cities are well-connected by air.
VISA and Travel
Tourism is one of the major economic activities of Thailand, with some estimates that show tourism contributing to more than 15% of the GDP of Thailand. Thailand has gone out of its way to ensure that the tourists who visit the country have minimal hassles to face. In fact, the Thai government has constituted a separate tourist police that is trained in multiple foreign languages to help assist foreign nationals.
A tourist visa can be applied for in India at three different locations - at the New Delhi Embassy or the Consulates at Kolkata and Chennai. Although no time frame is given on how quickly a visa is granted, an online application, as well as a helpline, is provided to give better clarity.
Alternatively, there is a provision for Visa on Arrival for Indian citizens. However, there are some guidelines to this:They cannot be in the country for a period not exceeding 15 days. The applicant must possess means of living for expenses of up to 10,000 Baht per person and 20,000 Baht per family accordingly. The applicant must produce a fully paid ticket that is usable within 15 days since the date of entry. Visa on Arrival is provided at 32 designated international checkpoints and applicants should produce the application form to which his/her recent photograph (2 ½ inches) is attached. The application fee is 2,000 Baht. Visitors who enter the Kingdom with Visa on Arrival generally cannot file an application for extension of stay except in special cases such as an illness which prevents them from travelling, and so on.
Best Time to Visit
The tourist season begins sometime from November to February as this is this when the country is coolest. The weather is pleasant with minimal rainfall and is the ideal time to visit. One can also witness the Chinese New Year, which is celebrated with great pomp in Thailand. Christmas and New Year parties are legendary at all the major tourist spots during this time of the year. If you're a party freak, then make sure you book your tickets during this time.
Crowd usually avoid the months from March through June as the weather can get a little on the hotter side of things. However, this is nothing that Indians can't handle. As Thailand is largely tropical, the temperatures are similar to the Indian subcontinent. The prices go down drastically at this point of time and one can get accommodations for a steal during this period. This is because this time of the year is considered the off season as most Europeans are unable to cope with the heat. If you want to live at the best resorts at a very reasonable rate, this time of the year is perfect for you.
Much like India, Thailand experiences the monsoons from July through September. It receives its rain from the Andaman Sea and provides much relief to beat the summer heat. The rain isn't as vicious as the monsoons in India, and often, the rains stop within 30 minutes. This is the transition period when there is a steady increase in tourists. This is a delightful time to come and experience the magic that is Thailand.
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