The chennai international Airport confounded us with chaos and confusion .
It was Haj times and one had to trudge a long distance sans trolleys which just werent available ,Chennai city definitely deserves a less shoddy airport than this .
We were off to our four days sojourn to Thailand for a get together of my wifes classmates KMC 79 batch reunion .
The tour itself was courtesy Diana Travels ,and was arranged with finesse .
After exited sightings of old classmates and thier families ( my batch was 77 but I knew most of them )we were comfortably enconsed in the orchid themed Thai airways flight .
The colourful and tastefully attired airhostesses and stewards welcomed us with a very ethnic Sawasdee and folded hands ,from that moment the Thai culutre ,history and its similarity to Indian specially Hindu culture intrigued me .
The menu unfortunately designed by Michelin star chefs was tasteless and disappointing so much for michelin stars !even the vodka shot could do nothing to change its tepidity .
In three hours we were at Suwarnabhumi airport which was somewhat similar to terminal three Dubai but more eastern ,orchids were everywhere and the royal family beamed on us from above
The taxis were rainbow coloured and striking ,it was a wet morning and the rains had made it cool and nice .We alighted into our luxury coach .
Mr Ramanan one of the Directors of Diana travels had accompanied us and he introduced us to Mr Tim our guide for the tour .
Tim said he was a direct descendant of the last emperor of China ,we did believe him because he was a wonderful man with his quaint chinese english and quiet demeanour akin to Jackie Chan in Karate kid .
Our itinerary was packed and we had no time to waste ,we moved on to Pattaya which was around 2 hours drive from Bangkok airport .
On the way we went to Sri Racha tiger Zoo ,after breakfast we saw some shows of tigers ,elephants crocodile etc which were absorbing .
After lunch we checked in at A1 Cruise hotel shaped like a cruise ship facing the sea ,a couple of hours of sleep made us fresh for the evening .
Things happened in Pattaya only at dusk ! famed for it nightlife and sex tourism It seems during the Vietnam war American soldiers found physical relief in Pattaya and thus orginated the famed nightlife of Pattaya .
Pattaya also had a side of it for families with no lurid intentions !
We went to one such famed show called the Alcazar show .
It had beautiful ballet pieces with excusitively dressed women beautiful and gorgeous ,we wowed at thier subtle sensuality ,flowing dances ,sparkling colourfullness and stunning visuals ,after this feast for the eyes and the senses we could see the artists at close quarters as they gathered in the lawn outside to bid us farewell ,it was then that we came to know that the sinuous curves bubbly chests, full lips and rosy cheeks all belonged to lady boys and not women !most of them would give our Bollywood/Tollywood heroines a good competition .
with the ladies and children heading for a much needed rest some us of men folk headed to explore the famed night life of Pattaya ,the place was full of massage parlours with different possiblities suggested ,in one place the girls were all lined up behind a glass screen and the selction was done by numbers with the smiling girls joining the person selected and going off with him ,after our voyeuristic tours we went for one of the live shows with seductive Russian lasses some among us were made to accompany them in the dances too ! (no details please )
By midnight we took a tuktuk ( an extended auto which can carry around 10 people ) we refused Tims invit to a round of more pleasure places and returned to our rooms soberly, to our wives with honours intact .
Morning we were off to coral island which was reached after an exciting speed boat ride
there was parasailing and underwater walking
I tried the latter and enjoyed it
we kneeled wobbly on the ocean floor with a huge head mask giving us oxygen from the boat above ,fishes of all kinds nibbled our bare skins as we felt corals and sea anemones guided by expert divers .
Many went for the parasailing including all from my family which I heard was great fun ,
I limited myself to taking photographs for posterity .
after a nice dip in the sea we returned back to our hotel by boat and lunch
we then went to Nong Nooch Tropical Garden, situated between Pattaya and Sattahip on Sukhumvit Highway, had a modest beginning 40 years ago as a fruit orchard on 520 acres of land but has become since then one of Asia's leading botanical gardens with a collection of palms, cycads, shrubs and rare species of plants.
In 1954 Mr.Pisit and Mrs. Nongnooch Tansacha bought 1500 rais (approximately 600 acres) of rolling hills and valleys at kilometer marker 163 on Sukhumvit road in Chonburi province. The newly purchased land was anticipated to become a fruit plantation. But as fate may have it, Mrs. Nongnooch during a trip abroad, was inspired by the beauties of many world-renowned gardens and decided to turn it into a tropical garden of ornamental flowers and plants.
we also heard a story from Tim that the lady named it after the person who saved here from imminent death and died in the process but I could not authenticate this from the web
The shows were elegant and traditonal and the garden was exotic
We then went to the famed Gems showroom where a train ride gave us the history of gems and thier making ,the showroom one of the largest in the world had a wide choice of stones .
we moved on Bangkok after a long drive and post dinner checked in at East Inn hotel exhausted but happy .
every single detail of our tour was meticulously organised with enough time for sightseeing ,shopping and all other needs it was safe secure comfortable with delicious food .
in this post I would recommend all readers to go straight to Dianna travels Chennai for any of thier travel needs .Mr Ramanan one of the directors of the firm with more than 3 decades experience and an old Sita travels hand was a wonderful friend and guide to all of us .they specialise in corporate tours .
The next day morning after a sumptous breakfast we went to the Golden temple ,we managed to take snaps of its towering spires in spite of the constant drizzle
The reclining Buddha was long and massive .
Thailand followed Therawada type of Buddhism and the majority religon was Buddhism .Hinduism and sanskrit names were very common and one found lot of references to the Ramayana with more than nine kings called Rama ,one of the kingdoms in ertswhile Thailand Ayuthayya had its lineage from Ayodhya ,many of the main roads were named Rama 1 Rama II etc after the kings the Sukumvit road ,Suvarnabhumi airport ,the huge showpiece in the airport of the Hindu legendary Amrit churning using a snake ,the folded hands greetings definitely showed the historical links existing between ancient India and Thailand its heritage and culture ( food for a seperate blog ) I was discussing this with Dr Dhanasekaran in one of our moments of rest a very intresting aside of the trip .
The country has given great importance to tourism as it has enough to offer
Moving away from the sex tourist label Thailand is focussing more on its rich culture and history with excellent infrastructure and tourist friendly comforts and safety feutures ,
We Indians have a lot to learn from this small country .
The afternoon was dedicated to shopping ,we walked amongst the narrow bylanes filled with people reminding us of south Mumbai the huge IT mall with hundreds of electronic shops but Dubai was definitely a better bargain place with more choices .
Evening we were off to a grand cruise in the Chao Prayya river with ornate temples and highrises lining its banks the bright lights reflectd in the moving waters as the huge ship cruised under many bridges ,tables heavy with food the deck resounding to pounding foot as peppy Tamil and Bollywood numbers kept us on our toes dancing our blues and letting our hair loose .
The river was Bangkoks soul in its begginings but the famed boat market is no more today with the city having grown with its skytrains ,metros buses colourful taxis tuk tuks and even motorbikes where one could get a pillion ride to anywhere .
The last day we went to a safari park with the bus taking us around a forest with deers sambhars rhinos giraffes and on the on the fenced other half reclining tigers, lions lazing around in thier natural surroundings oblivious to the curious humans and thier clicking nuisance,the trickling rain wet lakes grasslands knorled trees and the misty climate made the safari one of my most memorable experiences .
post lunch we had in our plan some more shows which we wisely skipped and made up with a restful chat with old friends under a canopy of greens
we then were off to, by now our old friend Swarnabhumi airport and its duty free offers .
we bid farewell to Tim the lastest emperor and his benign smile ,
we bid a goodbye to Thailand itself a land of simple people hospitable and friendly thier rich culture deep spirituality innate beauty a land where there was freedom to choose the subtle or sensous as be your choice with no judgements or prejudices ,
where one is treated as a mature human being with the power to choose and enough choices to choose from
Back to Chennai Airport and to our dear India