Thailand is a perfect blend of heart-felt hospitality, great food and rejuvenating wellness. A trip to Bangkok and Phuket had me wishing that the holiday should have lasted forever!
It all started as an invitation by Thailand Tourism to a group of 5 people who had never met each other before travelling to Thailand to explore the region, the people, the culture and of course, the food. The experience was fun, to say the least. But what really intrigues me is if it was the people I travelled with or was it the place I visited that made the journey. Hard to say but I am sure all of us who travelled would agree that it wouldn’t have been the same if the place wasn’t Thailand!
There’s something in the hospitality of the Thai people that’s so endearing and so real that it’s difficult to not feel almost overwhelmed and touched by it. Initially you might get a little tired of the number of times you hear ‘Swadeekah’ but then it just grows on and soon enough you find yourself folding hands and wishing people back in the same manner.
The flight from Dubai was just 6 hours and we, as a group were just getting to know each other. Cindy, Peter, Ian, Yatin and me… we reached Bangkok and were asked to explore the street food. It does take a little getting used to to sit on the streets… not on the footpath, mind you, we were on the streets with the traffic whizzing by in Chinatown. The truth be told, if you want to feel Bangkok, the real place to feel it is on the streets.
Let’s Get On With The Food
We started with a Shark Fin Soup, a local delicacy and the servings were huge. Being a seafood lover I just couldn’t resist finishing the ‘huge’ portion. And then we had to test the another speciality – the Squids With Hot Sauce! Served on skewers, with a generous helping of the hot sauce, this spicy dish should actually come with a warning .. ‘Careful – might burn your insides!’.. but thankfully there was no warning and we all ate it and realised a few minutes later what ‘spicy’ meant in Thailand! But all said and done, it’s a very tasty dish and highly recommended.
Then we had the snails, which comes with a sauce too but we were wary of the sauce this time around and chose to play safe. This was followed by rice and some delicious crab curry. Eating the food next to where it’s being cooked, being trashed and the plates being cleaned might sound weird but believe it or not, it’s fun and somehow more tasty. For Cindy it was a culture shock but one that I think she enjoyed!
The evening could not have ended without us having the Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk and Mangoes. This dish alone is reason enough for you to visit Thailand! It might not sound or look like much but it’s one dish we asked for, every single time we had lunch or dinner for the next 5 days! On the street it’s served in a white box with a plastic pouch for the sticky rice and a small puffed bag of coconut milk and another bag with some crisp lentils. We were guided on how to eat it, thankfully, or we would have surely made a mess of it. Serve the sticky rice and pour the coconut milk over it and then sprinkle the lentils and pile around the sliced mangoes and there… you have one of Thailand’s favourite desserts. But the experience of having it on the streets could not be replicated anywhere else and we also realised that at some places they used sesame seeds in place of lentils.
Sightseeing in Bangkok
The hotel that we were lodged at, Amari, was conveniently located and the second day was mainly temple trips, a massage session at Wat Pho Massage Schook followed by lunch ‘Deck By The River’, a restaurant next to the Wat Arun and Chaopraya River. We die ask them for sticky rice but they didn’t have it. Following that a canal tour by Mr Chart, who knew the history of Bangkok as well as he knew that of Buddha, was an interesting session. Another must-do for those visiting Bangkok.
Phuket : Here We Come
Day 3 was about Phuket and the place was more beautiful than I expected it to be. Unreal blue skies with dreamy clouds and a relaxed pace that makes you wish that this holiday could last forever. The fact that Amari, Phuket (Beachfront Resort & Spa) is such a lovely location also helped.
An amazing property at Patong Beach, this place is highly recommended if you are looking to stay at a place with a great view, superb facilities and a remarkable spa that seems to be tucked into the hills but opens up to the seas. With a choice of what moods you want to be in at the end of the treatment, this is another addition to the list of ‘Things to do in Thailand’.
So what does one do in Phuket? Mr Chart ensured we saw the the islands to the south of Phuket . A blissful boat ride to serene locations within the limestone mountains that you would never reach unless you rely on ‘boatsman’ and trust his ‘don’t worry’ assurances. The caves in the middle of the sea are an experience that you just can’t afford to miss in Phuket. And like I said earlier, trust the boatsman and his ‘don’t worry’ assurances.
This was followed by the cultural show at Siam Niramit in the evening. Not something we were enthusiastic about initially but once the show started we had elephants, goats and cows actually running around in the seating area as part of the show! We will definitely remember it as a highlight of the trip and as something that can perhaps happen only in Thailand! A great show, befitting the culture it showcases, it is one more in the list of ‘things to do’ in Phuket.
Back To Food
The next day was back to ‘food’ and Amari ensured that we tasted the Thai culture in its authentic form. The fruits in Thailand is something I could go on writing about and maybe the whole magazine would not be enough. Due to the variety and abundance of fruits, it’s no surprise that there’s so much of it used in their cooking as well… and although I am still thinking of Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk and Mango, I actually mean a whole range of other dishes!
Amari has the option of training you to cook Thai food and we were lucky enough to have got this opportunity. I cooked Spicy Chicken with Galangal in Coconut Soup and with all the modesty of a first time cook, I would say that that my dish came out perfect! Well, surprisingly all the others too seemed to have done as well as me… so maybe we could attribute it the skills of the chef who was training us! Here’s a few of the recipes and I am sure you will have as much fun as us while we were at it.
Food, fun and wellness… Thailand offered us all of this and more. As a holiday destination, Thailand gets my vote as ‘definitely a place to visit and experience’ and my vote for the best dish in Thailand goes out to ‘Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk and Mangoes’.