Sawadee Ka…Siam


Just as my 4th semester ending examination concluded a wave excitement run throughout my body while packing my luggage for a trip which was going to be my first visit to a land outside India. It was only few months back during the summer vacations that I got my Indian Citizen Passport and now I am preparing to go out of country on a leisure/holiday trip with close family members. I was the last member to be inducted into the group of tourist leaving from Odisha and Punjab. The journey was about to start when realized a very interesting fact…Thailand was my grandfather’s 1st foreign destination in the early 1990s and now almost after 20years it is the 1st foreign destination of both his son(my father) and grandson(me).The excitement was evident on his face when he had come to see-us-off at the railway station. He was going on sharing experience of those days and even gave me a Thai language,food,place guide which was presented to him by the then Thai Embassy. His words “you must see the Grand Palace at any cost, I have not see it so you have to see it and report me” just showed how excited he was. Just as the train was about to leave Bhubaneswar for Kolkata I called up my mom to bid her farewell. It was very sad that she could not make it with us this time because of her professional compulsions. The only incomplete part of our 1st foreign trip will be the absence of her but “man is just a puppet in the HIS hand”.

14th of September was the day when this memorable trip in a distant land was scheduled to start. As we reached Howrah that morning my uncle(bubu mamu) who was our tour’s chief organizer was there to receive dad and me. On the way to a rest place before boarding the plane we stopped at Sharma tea shop(one of Kolkata’s famous tea shop  with income over 1lakh per month.) Prior to the tea-shop I had no idea about the trip thanks to my exams. As the propaganda was revealed to me my already excited heart was hyper excited. The tour was so well planned that in a span of just 10days we were going to cover the entire length of erstwhile Siam in all modes of locomotion i.e. air, water and land. At around 12:15pm the Intelligence Bureau people gave us a NOC to leave the country and the stage was set for the journey.

                      

As the Air Asia took-off I was eagerly looking down at my India, many thoughts were arising about the  journey, how the new country. It’s people. It’s food, it’s culture will be like and so on. It was a short journey of 2.5hrs from Kolkata to Bangkok .On the way I fell asleep and began dreaming which was as follows…..

We arrived at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport,Bangkok,Thailand. The airport was celebrating its 6th inception anniversary with colorful flowers decorated all round. The rush was same as any busy airport but what was new was the word “sawadee ka..” instead of a traditional Indian “namaste…” that was buzzing all round where ever we went .we then boarded another flight that was supposed to take us to Phuket a coastal state of Thailand. While checking into the Deevana Resorts we were given a warm welcome by their bell boy who seemed particularly fond of my small sister who coincidently completed her 10th birthday that day only. The bell-boy needs a special line for he was as good as a jester in a King’s court, he was very friendly and active. It is said 1st impression is the last so the first Thai with whom we actually interacted (the bell-boy) was just perfect for a 1st impression. The rooms were very cozy and we wasted no time in relaxing ourselves after a day-long journey. It was around 11pm when we thought of walking in the nearby street and help ourselves with some dinner. Just then we saw an Indian restaurant and beside it a Thai food stall. Shagun,naniji and I decided to try the Indian restaurant as we were a bit reluctant to start with Thai food all of a sudden. The rest members went for the Thai food. I will describe the cuisine later but one think that attracted me most in that food stall was that it was completely run people belonging to ‘intersex/Hinjda’community. They were working and earning their living with dignity unlike their friends back in India.

The next day morning was very beautiful and as I was calling back home it started raining that was as if nature was expressing its joy of the arrival of monsoon. The trees were lush green and smiling with freshness in the essence of the earth. The breakfast was simple bread and jam(this was soon changed as we entered into more of Thailand rice was the only common dish available as breakfast, lunch and dinner.)We then went to the Mai Khao Beach of Phuket. The first impression as I reached beach was that a place worth visiting. I have seen many beaches in India but have never seen a a clean beach as the Mai khao. The sand was polish white and so was the water crystal clear. The Andaman Sea was very filmy type and so I could not resist plunging into it just to realize the water was very salty, saltier that normal Indian Seas. After spending some hours in the water as I was coming out my uncle suggested me to do parasailing. We had come for adventure and what better than parasailing over the sea be more adventurous. Immediately I was ready for a ride in the sky. As I was sailing in the sky the humans below me all looked same. Then a thought came to my mind, up in the sky all look the same then why down on earth we fight for diversity. For one thing is clear now that if God’s abode is up in the heaven then from there also all are same.

After spending the day in the beach in the evening we left for ‘Fanta Sea’. Initially I thought it will just be like any other  entertainment park. But as I stepped into its ticket counter, the magnificent looking counter changed my impression about it. If you have not had a chance to visit the Disneyland in USA then visit Fanta Sea in Thailand. What was special about that place was the idea, innovation and concept of Fanta Sea. All around there are many stalls with variety of activities for all age-groups. Many shows were going on 24*7 there but the one show which was actually in true sense the ‘crowd-puller’ was the Legend of Kamala. It was a show that aimed at giving the visiting tourists a brief idea about the evolution of Thailand, its culture, its believes and it’s civilization. The show was so brilliantly directed and choreographed that for 1.5hrs an auditorium full with over 4000 national and international audience were sticked to their respective seats with pin-drop silence. Truly words fall short to describe those scenes.

From Phuket we left for a Phi-Phi islands. This time travelling by a cruiser we marched across the sea to reach Phi-Phi relax Resort Island. As is the name so was the ambience of the place. A night on a tree house in midst of a dark jungle with min. electricity supply was all in all a new experience. The silence all round the place is perfect for writers, thinkers and philosophers who love to be with the nature and chat with it. The peace there was so touching that for a moment I thought of renouncing all the worldly pleasures and settle there. That night while walking by the sea that was touching my feet with its waters of high tide all alone my mind was flooded was with many thoughts. I was almost lost in some wonder world. Walking and reading a book in the dead silence with the roaring sound of the sea  in the background was perfect for a nature lover. This nature has given us so much, all the world’s beauty starts from it and ends also. The next morning we went for ‘snorkeling’ and the sight of hundreds and thousands of colorful corals and fishes under water was a treat to the eyes. The boat ride to different islands in the sea so yet another adventurous venture that we undertook at phi-phi. The boat ride was very pleasant except for one place, almost in the middle of the vast see the waves were very strong all of a sudden and was threatening to topple the boat. That was the only time I feared of some misshape and out of fear wore the life-jacket realizing that the life was at risk. But then everything was fine. We returned safely to bay to join for the night beach parties. These parties were a trademark of the beaches for their umptime fun and frolic .

                

After spending almost 4days in sea finally we returned to the land heading towards the interior Thailand. This time we decided to go to Surathani  from phuket via a bus. The road journey from phuket to Surathani was yet again a learning experiencing. The best part about the roads is the cleanliness and the greenery on either side. The country-side was very beautiful and so was the traffic system. I hardly saw anyone blowing horn(which practiced religiously here) or overtaking the other. Yet there was accidents. As I saw the accident site I was assured that it is a common phenomenon worldwide. On reaching Surathani we first bought our train tickets and then as the train was to arrive late me thought of visiting the local markets of Surathani. Now here I would like to mention about the  Thai cuisine. The people here think anything other than human being is eatable hence all sorts of non-veg starting from beef,pork,mutton,duck,chicken to all sorts of sea food including octopus,sea-horse  and all sorts of sea weeds. In vegetables they have everything starting from the lotus bud to its leaf to all sorts of non-poisonous plants like lettuce,broccoli,’sawai’.Egg of all colors white,brown,pink,green are all eatable and that too for vegetarians. Hence if you are pure veg then you’ll have to tell that ‘mai sai khaye’ or  ‘ I don’t eat egg’ else ask for Janis monk food. In hi-tea we eat biscuits and pakoda but they eat earthworms,cockroaches,grasshoppers and all insects. After the short walk through the markets of Surathani we boarded the train for Bangkok. The train there is very clean and well maintained unlike ours an aura of dust particle is hard to find.The night journey in the train brought us to Bangkok station. We were supposed to leave for Ayutthaya from there in about an hour when the clock ticked 8a.m. All of a sudden the whole station came to a standstill as the national anthem was being played. There in Thailand it’s a custom that every day at 8am all over the country the national anthem is played in every public place and people pay respect. This is exhibition of great nationalism and loyalty to the King of Thailand.

     

The  2nd last phase of our trip was a home stay in a village with some common Thai family. We arrived at Ayutthaya railway station from where our guide Mr. Poke(a guide for 40years with a characteristic beard arising from a mole) took us to the Ranguekray,the village where we were supposed to do home stay as paying guests of Mrs. Tim and Mr. Tam. That day was evidently Ganesh Chaturthi  here in Indian and by the grace of Ganapati I was able to worship him on foreign land. The home-stay actually gave the feeling of home when the puja which looked very difficult given the circumstances we had previously experienced happened so smoothly. The Buddhist couple were very friendly and showed lots of interest in our customs and our culture. There we did boating, fishing and many other activities. The experience of staying with common Thai people was in itself unique. We then went to a nearby monastery and from there to a local school. The principal was very proud to say that the total strength of the school was only 60 students, which for them though was a big lot but for us who studied in a class with 60 students and school with over 3000 students it was a joke. The next Mr. Poke  had arrived to take us to the ancient city of Ayutthaya. We bid farewell to Tim and Tam and thanked her for the hospitality. The village and the people of Thailand are very friendly and their economic status is also very good. Why only there village but in general their economy is stronger than ours hence Rs.1.8 INR= 1 baht.

  

Finally we were heading towards Ayuthaya,the ancient capital of erstwhile Siam and modern day’s Thailand. Ayutthaya remained as capital of Thailand for 417 years and has been registered as a world heritage by UNESCO. Thailand as I was discussing with Mr. Poke is a Buddhist dominant country with almost 70% of the population following either the Mahayana or Hinayana sect of Buddhism. Their worshiping style is influenced by the Hindu as well as Islamic customs for Ganesh is also a main deity there. Probably because the land of white elephant that Thailand is famous for is not completely white but is larger than others and is has a white trunk with pale body. White elephant is a symbol of power and Ganesha there is the Elephant God. Well in Ayutthaya we visited many historical ruins those were once the pride of Thailand. We saw one of world’s longest sleeping Buddha ,largest bronze statue of Buddha and also the old palace of the Kings. The connection of Ayutthaya with India lies in its name as it is said to be derived from Ayodhya,UP,India. The river Lobar  was as majestic as it was in ancient times while guarding the old royal palace. The architects of Wat Chaiwattanaram depicts beauties of the Cambodian Angkor Vat Temple . Thailand which was never a colony of any of the European nation unlike its neighbours of  south-east Asia but was under Burmese rule many years and that’s the reason why many of its structures have Cambodian type of architecture.

After spending almost half a day in Ayutthaya we returned to Bangkok, this was the last phase of our journey. Bangkok is a super metro. A fast growing city and one of world’s most colorful and busy cities. With sky-high towers, criss crossing fly-overs and sky metros it’s a highly modern urban city. Like New York, Singapore,Shanghai  to name a few it is also large techno-hub apart from having a huge wholesale market of garments,jewelley and gem-stones. There is no need to describe Bangkok for everyone can get ample information about it from anywhere. The world famous floating market and Paruhat(the Indian Market) is not unknown. But about Bangkok 3 distinct things that I must mention is the Safari world, the Grand Palace of the King and the international hostel where we stayed. The grand palace was truly splendid as per its name it was Grand. The official residence of the King of Siam(Thailand) since 1782. The palace is majestic with its typical Buddhist style pointed roofed building with works of bronze and gold leaves. The temple of the Emerald Buddha is both sacred structure and the repository of spirit of entire Thai people. It is the only temple of its kind in the whole world. The safari World is probably one of the best maintained zoo-safari that I have seen till date. With a large variety of birds starting from ostrich to Indian Peacock and animals lions and tigers to orangutan the overall ambience of the park was fabulous. The chief attraction though was the various entertain shows like the Dolphin show, Cow-boy show, Seal Fish show, Elephant show . The hostel where we stayed ‘Saphaei  Pie’ runs actually like any hotel but the concept is hostel-like for it provides its habitant to live with travelers from many parts of the world.

The last day came just 5days before our visa expired and all were excited to return to our dear country. Ten days spent in Thailand far away from home,friends,and relatives was like a decade but was worth it. Just as we were boarding the flight the perfect was being played on my I-pod i.e. “Musafir Hoon yaaron na ghar hain na thikana mujhe chalte jaana hai” this was probably for the best farewell message I could have left for all my Thai friends and Thailand….

Just as these thoughts were coming to an end I heard the voice of my dad “papal Kolkata ho gaya” and I woke up from nap to realize all that I was thinking to be a dream since  departure from Kolkata on 14th September were actually what I had experienced and was reality as the Jet airways landed in Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport,Kolkata,India. If I have to describe this dream cum reality in just one word it will ‘MEMORABLE’

 

 

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