Two friends and I recently visited Thailand to catch up with another friend who is an Expat there.
The holiday (my first to Asia) began with a smooth and comfortable Emirates flight (via Dubai) to Bangkok (roughly 7 hours per sector). After clearing immigration (a slow process) we made the 90 minute journey to Pattaya which was our base. We stayed in the Jomtien Beach area of Pattaya. This is a thriving beach resort with hotels, apartment blocks (condominiums are what they are more commonly called), a waterpark, shops, bars and restaurants. We rented a well equipped privately owned apartment in in quite a lively complex.
During our stay we alternated between chilling out at the pool (temperature high thirties but breeze from nearby beach was very pleasant) and visiting some tourist attractions. Some of the places we visited were :-
FLOATING MARKET - This is a market where shops and stalls are on platforms built over a lake. It is mainly locally crafted goods and souvenirs on sale. There are also boats from which purchases (mainly food and drink) can be made. Boat rides can be taken and food and drink purchased.
NONG NOOCH GARDENS - An adventure park where there are tropical botanical gardens.Anyone who has visited the island of Madeira would notice striking resemblances. There was also an elephant show as well as a Thai culture and dancing show..
MINI SIAM - A theme park which is really the world in miniature as there are replicas of many worldwide landmarks - The Statue of Liberty, The Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House, The Colosseum to name but a few. Again, the gardens here are very attractive and obviously very well looked after.
ISLAND OF KOH LARN - A forty minute ferry trip takes you to this tranquil island where there are golden sands and crystal clear waters.
As regards nightlife in Pattaya, Walking Street is where it all takes place - numerous bars and nightclubs. We paid a couple of visits here (resulting in very sore heads the next morning). On other nights it was fine to have a few quiet drinks in one of the many bars near to our accommodation.
Eating out in Thailand is a great experience and is extremely inexpensive. Thai people are very healthy eaters. Lots of seafood, chicken and pork as well as fresh veg and steamed noodles/rice are eaten. There are also some Italian, Indian and Chinese restaurants. Of the many restaurants we visited, two I would say are worthy of a mention.
1. 18 Coins Restaurant. Thai as well as Western dishes are available. Portions are generous and presentation and service are excellent - and of course prices very reasonable.
2. Surf Kitchen Restaurant. This restaurant serves mainly Thai food but Western dishes are available. Staff are friendly and the use of coconut shells as serving dishes is a very novel feature.
Another aspect of Pattaya which I liked was the Baht Taxi (main mode of public transport).It is (pardon my morbidity) like an open sided hearse with two rows of seating, one looking on to the other. When seats are full people stand on the step at the back holding tightly to the person next to them. (UK Health and Safety Brigade would have a field day!) They are very cheap - the standard fare for any distance always seemed to be 10 Baht - just over 20p.
The holiday ended with 2 days and 3 nights in the capital, Bangkok (staying at the Ibis Hotel). Sightseeing there included The Grand Palace (a must if visiting Bangkok), The Golden Buddha (apparently worth millions of pounds) , The Emerald Buddha, China Town (really interesting information given about Chinese people coming to settle in Thailand).
Siam Paragon is the place for retail therapy in Bangkok. As well as many shops selling designer label goods, this complex has a cinema, an aquarium, a car showroom as well as countless eating and drinking establishments. I shall be reminded of my visit here when my next credit card bill is received (dreading it!!)
A popular mode of transport in Bangkok is the Skytrain - an elevated rail system which has, I think, almost 30 stations. We also did a journey back to our hotel one day in a Tuk Tuk (a 3 wheeled vehicle similar to a car used for fairground ride). Never again!
The day after we left to return to UK, the Songkran Festival was due to begin. This is an annual festival where passers by soak other passers by using water guns and other containers full of water. Pity we missed it..........or maybe not!
All in all a lovely holiday and I would certainly love to go back to Thailand at some time in the future.