Why are you wasting 15 days in Thailand?

It is common for full-time travellers to spend months together in Thailand but not common among the rest. As a part-time traveller, I was asked zillions of questions about why I was planning to travel to Thailand for 15 days. Few of the questions were interesting, while more of them were annoying. I don’t blame them for asking such questions, but a few suggestions were forceful and awful. People around me were shocked, surprised and curious to know what I was about to do in Thailand for half a month with my mother.

I wanted to answer all of them; it is always better to respond with proof after wandering to Thailand for half a month.

There is nothing for tourists to see there for 15 long days in Thailand.

Krabi beach surrounded my mountains and tourists Kayaking in Thailand

The second most touristic place in Thailand perhaps is Railay and Krabi beach.

You can combine Thailand with Singapore & Vietnam. in 15 days!
-The most common suggestion

We must stop treating any country like a tiny town. Even after living in my hometown for 15 years, there are many mountains that I haven’t hiked yet. There are ancient temples hidden in the forest in that tiny village. So how can we talk about the world’s 50th largest nation surrounded by natural wonders?

For which thing Thailand is famous?

Southern Thailand is all about the beach. Central Thailand is historically significant. Walking through the forest with brick temples by the side is bliss. Hiking the mountains in Northern Thailand or hiking in the woods to dip in hot water in Spring is exciting.

Pink orchids stacked with green leaves at Bangkok night flower market in Thailand

Thailand’s capital Bangkok’s night flower market is one of my favourite places in the country.

Aren’t you curious to know about Thailand when it was Siam? Isn’t it fascinating to learn about the Cambodian and Indian connections to Thailand? Don’t you want to escape the party crowd in Patong to a peaceful beach away from Phuket?

If yes, stop stereotyping Thailand by saying, ” There is nothing in Thailand for 15 days to see.”

Thailand is almost three times bigger than my home state Karnataka. When a foreign tourist asks us how many days to spend in Karnataka, we usually say at least 10 to 12 days, right? Then how can we limit a country just to 15 days? Just because they haven’t heard or read about Thailand correctly, it doesn’t mean I must visit the country for 5 days.

Karen women in Thailand wearing brass rings weaving a scarf

Even after 15 days, I know I have scratched the surface of a culturally and naturally rich nation – I visited Karen village, but I really need to be there for a week to understand their lifestyle and tradition.

Are you going on a Buddhist pilgrimage to visit every temple in Thailand? All temples look the same.

Firstly, there are more than 35000 Buddhist temples in Thailand.

Giant white buddha shrine inside a temple painted with bright blue, cyan and mustard coloured designs all over

Even a religious Buddhist monk may take his life to visit each one of them. Let me make it clear – I was not going on a Buddhist pilgrimage, but I did visit multiple temples. I chose each one carefully so that I would have a variety. Most temples were devoid of busloads of tourists who come to take only selfies. I couldn’t prevent a few of them because their beauty and the locality were irrepressible.

Sukothai Temple with giant BUddha in sitting pose and ceiling open to sky with geometrical pattern

Not all temples are the same; they may look similar at times in their appearance. The fluorescent blue decor with intricate paintings all over hypnotises you. That Geometrical opening in the roof sheltering a giant Buddha statue feels like a different planet.

Human hand sculptures showing mid finger with red painted nile at Chiang Rai white temple in Thailand

The White Temple of Chiang Rai is an artist’s contemporary interpretation of Buddhism. The monster sculpture that welcomes you, those scary faces on the tree, the faces of MJ inside the temple – Have you heard of a temple-like this? Can you even imagine a pool of human hands rising above a pit with one of the hands showing you a mid-finger while the rest looks like they are begging?

The tall white Wat Arun by the riverside was divine, while the Ayuttaya ruins were all about Siam’s old-world charm. The tuk-tuk ride through the countryside of Sukothai showed us the village life of Thai to an extent. A cow crossing the road, chickens quacking inside their bamboo mesh, people carrying a load of green grass for the cattle on mud road – All this sounds like a typical Ivillage, but a brick Chedi peeping out of the wood makes it different in Sukothai.

Have you thought of visiting the world’s largest wooden temple with the sea in the background at Pattaya? Ayutthaya’s Buddha head embedded in roots is a religious place unlike nowhere else!

Thai Buddhist temples aren’t only about the sloped roof with coloured tiles and a meditating Buddha shrine. The town, the neighbourhood, their appearance, the simplicity give you a different vibe.

What are you going to do in Phuket for five days?

Pattaya and Phuket are similar. Skip one of them.
-Told by someone who hadn’t heard of Old Phuket & Samet nangshe

White mansion with indigo shaded louvers in typical European style at Old Phuket, Thailand

I have read a few Indian bloggers who say, “Pattaya and Phuket are similar, so skip one of them”. It is wrong. Geographically, culturally, gastronomically and historically, these two are different cities and give you different experiences. The common things are walking streets, cabaret shows, tiger parks, dolphin shows, bird sanctuaries and the beach.

But even the beaches in Phuket are way more unique than Pattaya.

When you go sailing through the beaches near Phuket, you see the green rocky mountains. When you stroll in the streets of Old Phuket, you doubt if you are in a European or Asian town unless you spot a Tuk-tuk or a Thai signboard. Pattaya is more of a party place. The cultural and historical part of Pattaya isn’t as strong as Phuket. Phuket has many faces – The old town, the new town of Patong for parties, and nearby islands for nature lovers.

Mustard colour building with dark brown louvers and arched windows  in typical European style at Old Phuket, Thailand

Many of us travel for an experience, not sightseeing solely. So Pattaya and Phuket aren’t the same. I love Phuket more than Pattaya, and you can easily spend more than a week in Phuket.

Oh, two days in Bangkok? One day for seeing the temples and another to go shopping in malls and Indra Bazaar. I will tell you where to buy good Denim.

I know many people who go to Thailand solely for shopping. The black markets sell Louis Vuitton bags for a lower price. You get a Gucci skirt for just 1000 baht. Yes, buying good denim for a low price is any day good. But we wanted to shop for something unique to Thailand. Whether it is Mysore Silk or Gujarati Patolu, most Indian women love silk fabric. Don’t you want to see the Thai silk making? Isn’t it exciting to own fabrics made in Thailand?

Thai Silk and Thai Paper

For brand-conscious people, there is Jim Thompsons. For others, you can visit silk factories to pick silk fabrics right there. We all have seen Buddhist monks walking with giant umbrellas. Have you ever thought of how those giant umbrellas are made? The coconut shell cutlery and jewellery, Hipster, dresses, glamourous neckpieces made of seashells – There is a lot more to shopping in Thailand other than the black market of Indra Bazaar and Chatuchak markets

Thailand is meant for Bachelor parties! So why are you taking your mom to Thailand?

Mountains

Yes- Indian bachelors love their pre-wedding parties in Thailand. Even middle-aged Indian men go to Pattaya for partying. Russians love sunbathing on Thai beaches and getting high in full moon Parties. British love sipping beer while getting their yearly dose of sunshine. But, Thailand is more than a party place

The stage performance of Khons depicting Ramayana of India

The Traditional Thai dance form like Khons and Serng Krapo are mesmerising to watch.

At Samet Nangshe, it feels like a slice of heaven has descended to earth in the form of rolling hills on water. If you pick places like Bangkok, their flower and vegetable markets are as colourful as Thai food. The beach to do nothing, Sukothai for hiking, Chiang Mai for unwinding – Thailand is beyond boozing and partying. My mom may not be a party person, but she loves to check out the vibe – So Thailand isn’t meant for young party people only.

Prostitution is legal in Thailand. Isn’t it all about sex there?

10% of Thailand’s income comes from Sex work. The walking streets are the most famous ones in Thailand. Almost once in 2-3 years, a new walking street gets added in towns. Places like Chiang Mai got Sunday walking streets now. So sex work is legal and evident in Thailand. 

Cabaret show at Phuket & traditional Sarang Karpo dance at Pattaya

Is legal sex work right? I have been thinking about it since I came back from Phuket’s walking street and I don’t have an answer yet. But girls/boys/transgender people who work here may be doing it out of their passion or forced or for money. So generalising Thailand to be a country for having sex only is heights of ignorance. Stereotyping all transgender people of Thailand as hookers show your petty thoughts. You got to see and experience all sides of this culturally, historically rich nation before labelling it as a place to do “Boom Boom.”

Is the sex industry legal in Thailand?

 A friend of mine explained how many of his friends assume every lady housekeeper in Thailand hotels is ready to have sex with them for money. Not every woman you see in Thailand is into sex work. Thai women are some of the most hardworking in the world.

A woman runs the Khao San Tara travel agency in Bangkok. Her 70-year-old mother takes care of dropping the passengers off at their respective bus terminals in Bangkok. In Ayuttaya, a mother and her teenage daughter row the boat in the evening. A lady managed the Sangathew we took in Pattaya, and her husband drove. This strong lady, “Momo”, was the boat captain on our island hopping trip. ( Thais keep these short nicknames because most of the time, the tourists find it difficult to pronounce the long Thai names).

What are women’s roles in Thailand? – On the left, a Thai woman making a Saa paper umbrella at Chiang Mai. Right – Our sailing tour captain, Momo.

The ladies make umbrellas at the Chiang Mai Sa umbrella factory. The Karen women at Chiang Rai weave scarves to make their living. Even at night, a teenage girl sits at the reception counter to receive and manage guests at Velvet Orchid hotel, Chiang Mai. There are women scuba diving instructors. They run restaurants, manage guest houses, give the best body massage, drive, own companies, and CEOs- They do everything a man does for a living.

Transgender people aren’t limited to cabaret shows and happy-ending massages. They work in every other sector like other genders. So stop stereotyping Thai women & transgender people to sex work only.

Thailand isn’t safe for two women to travel. So don’t go to the Cabaret show and Walking streets.

Just because of the walking streets and cabaret shows, you can’t assume Thailand isn’t safe for women tourists. For example, when we walked in the Bangla streets at Patong, women wearing smart casuals distributed pamphlets about the Ping Pong show & pubs.

Magician performing at Bangla street in front of  a glittering sign board that says 100 sexy girls here at Patong, Thailand.

We walked in Bangla street at night. We wandered in the Bangkok flower market at 9 PM; We came back from a cabaret show in Phuket at night. There wasn’t even one moment where we felt unsafe.

On our first day in Thailand, we were over-cautious. While looking for Deck by the river restaurant in the dark and narrow streets, we met two women busy with their daily chores. After they showed us the route, we asked if it was safe to walk “two women” at the night there. They laughed and said,” what is there to get scared of? We work in the flower market late at night. Nothing to worry about,” You just need to be conscious about belongings as you do in any other country. As long as you are away from the drugs and drinks with strangers, women travelling in Thailand is safe.

You, vegetarians, are going to struggle in Thailand!

Thais eat everything – from an insect that flies to the worm that crawls. So it is tough to find veg food there.
Said the ones who never ate real Thai veg food

First of all, it is an occasional scenario where vegetarian struggles for food in a Tropical country. There are fruits always. In Thailand, to be particular, the fruits and veggies are as fresh as you get in India. Seafood and pork may be dominant, but you can easily find veg food. Thai people love their spicy curries. Thailand is one of the top three largest rice exporters in the world. So when you have rice + curry and friendly Thai people to customise the curry without meat – why will we struggle?

The tender coconut water to rejuvenate, Mango sticky rice to pump up the energy, Papaya salad to tickle the taste bud – You are in for a food bonanza even if you are a vegetarian. Unless you are particular about eating only Idli Vada for breakfast or Dhal Baati for lunch, vegetarians are all good with Thai food.

Flashpacking in Thailand with Mom may be difficult. Why don’t you approach a travel agency?

I can give you the contact number of the best travel agent if you want.

I flashpack whenever and wherever possible. It is the comfortable version of backpacking. When I flashpack, I can do what I want, see what I like to see, and spare time as much as I want to at my own pace. With my requirements, the kind of places I wanted to avoid and the places I wanted to explore, the cost would shoot up to the stars if I went for a private car and driver. When Thailand’s public transportation is comfortable, efficient and convenient to use, why will I waste money on a travel agent when I still can sort things out by myself.

Wow, Thailand! Don’t miss out on clicking a picture with a Tiger at Tiger Park.

Hell to the no! I don’t mean to offend the ones who do this. Ashrith did it when he went with his friends.

Touching a big tiger and patting its back and having a cub on his lap is unexplainable. But he regrets it.

” That moment when I touched the tiger, it was scarily fabulous. Holding the cub in hand was joyous. It was a feeling that I had never felt before. After coming out of the tiger’s room, I looked back at the tiger. The tiger was lethargically moving here and there. It looked like the tiger wasn’t aware of what was happening. It was more like a powerful human exploiting a sedated, helpless animal. That creature was born free in the wild to be wild. I added my sin share that encourages this kind of money-making business by torturing another creature. I don’t deserve to rule other creatures just because I am a human. I am a non-vegetarian. Sometimes I even wonder why I am encouraging killing animals for my taste bud. But caging a wild animal for human pleasure is devastating.”

So mom and I didn’t waste our time and money on patting a sedated mighty animal.

The Gyaan session by an Immigration officer at Bangalore airport.

The best coffee shop in Phuket, in my opinion is this

After all the unwanted suggestions by those who don’t know what Thailand is and helpful Tips by the real travellers, we were all set to take off at Banglore International airport. As usual, the Immigration process began. Mom was called before me –”

Where are you going? Are you going alone? Why are you going – Mom answered everything. He looked at her E-Visa paper and asked her,” How many days are you going to stay in Thailand? – 15 days she said. The drama began there. 

” Are you sure of the number of days? Show me your hotel room and return flight ticket? There is no travel agency’s receipt here. Are these fake bookings? Call your daughter too.”

 The investigation continued with me.

 “I checked your return flight tickets; it seems to be real. But I am not convinced if you will stay only in Thailand for 15 days. Are you going to Vietnam from there? Why not? I hope you know that Singapore asks Indians to get Sticker Visa. You can’t enter Singapore without Visa. So 15 Days in Thailand is too much. I wonder what you are going to see there. Didn’t anyone tell you about all this? Why didn’t you find a travel agent who organises things for you?” 

I couldn’t afford to be rude to him. I didn’t want to get denied and deported. Smilingly I kept telling, No, sir. Yes sir. After almost twenty minutes of his rambling, he put a seal and sent us ahead!

How long does immigration take at Bangalore airport?

It usually takes a few minutes. But I have never been investigated to this extent at any airport. They have all the rights to check our documents. But it isn’t very pleasant when he suggests where we should travel and how many days we should spare! We sarcastically thanked him for annoying suggestions and moved to the departure gate.

How do I stop being annoying to tourists?

It gets frustrating at times when you plan a trip. Not everyone who travels can give you valuable tips. Their way of thinking and your wavelength may not match. That is ok. But all the above comments and suggestions were forceful. Many looked at me with a doubt in their mind.

If you are not surrounded by people who can inspire you, you need to look for inspiration outside your surrounding. Whenever you plan something, you receive plenty of tips and a thousand opinions (including mine if you read my blog) float in the air. So take what you need, ignore the rest and have a kick-ass trip. Whatever is your type of travelling, do it and don’t try to force others to do the same.

Skyscrapers in Bangkok Thailand

Let us go beyond Bangkok!

I think I have rambled enough! As “not a full-time traveller” it is not easy to keep the travel plans hidden. Applying leaves at the workplace, colleagues, friends and family members will eventually know where we are heading. We are slowly learning to identify and take suggestions from those who know well and are less judgemental.

Which is that trip of yours where people judged you when you planned? Let me know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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