Wednesday, August 6
Yes. It HAS been 6 weeks that I haven’t written to you. Sorry. Big sorry. Like the super mammoth one. Guilty as hell, but all with good reason.
Being busy at work is stale news, but what’s absolutely taaza maal is that I was nominated for a popular award “Rookie of the Year” and I won with a thumping majority. My colleagues voted for me with all their love and goodwill, branding me the most talented, inspiring, motivated recruit of the year 2013-2014. Ten months in Hitachi Consulting and I thank God I came here every single day. My work and team are great, and as I enjoy what I do, work pressure is totally absent in my life. Good thing, I don’t need stress right now anyway.
Another piece of news is that I celebrated my birthday in July so my hubby and I took off to Thailand to celebrate. I brought in my last birthday in Goa so we had to make it large this time. While Thailand appeared an off choice to most people, we realized that we could do an international tour for the same cost as a domestic package. The only venues I am interested in India are Kashmir, Agra and the North East. July is not the most ideal time to visit any of these locations and voila, Bangkok-Pattaya it was!
A week in Thailand and let me tell you it was relaxing for sure if nothing else. Food and communication were a challenge even to a non-veg loving avid traveler like me, and that could be a serious concern for traditional, vegetarian tourists. KFC and McD’s abound there but none of them serves even one vegetarian option apart from the drinks and fries. Seafood is cooked and sold right on the streets of Bangkok, while the fancy restaurants are expensive and serve limited veg options. Akhilesh thoroughly enjoyed the chicken at KFC, but I did not relish it much. My birthday Thai lunch in Bangkok, I must say, was exciting – a Thai chicken curry with steamed rice and Crab spring rolls. Apart from that, I had to rely on the snacks that I had carried from India – my mum’s homemade delicacies and some other packed stuff.
To tell you the truth, Bangkok resembles Mumbai and Pattaya is like Goa, even the Bangkok-Pattaya motorway is identical to the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Shopping and sex are the main sources of income throughout Thailand, and that is evident on the billboards and streets. Semi-nude women (none of them sexy or alluring in my opinion) dancing and luring tourists embarrassed my loyal, loving hubby in Pattaya and the Alcazar show was also quite repulsive to him. Sadly, I was looking forward to it and it turned out to be disappointing.
Indians were not rare, and the loudest hoots and cheers came when “Nach Le” was played in the theater. Even in Bangkok, Indians came running to dance on stage when they were welcomed at Safari World… Some enthusiasm our lot’s got! And lack of hygiene as well. There were signs specially put up for Indian tourists to keep toilets and surroundings clean. It was shameful, but I was compelled to agree. It’s sad really, to see that we have absolutely zero bathroom etiquette, even the educated ones amongst us. These things need to be taught at home right in childhood, else we grow up and bring disgrace to our country and fellowmen.
So, on to more pleasant topics… What did we see in Thailand?
Mini Siam, Pattaya – This lovely place has miniatures of a lot of famous spots around the world on display. While the absence of Indian monuments is striking (they only had a poster of the Taj Mahal), they have a lot of international and local attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, London Bridge, Opera House, Colloseum, and Thai places of importance. This sprawling garden can get tiresome to tread, but the displays are beautiful, and the maintenance mind-blowing. We also discovered that Ramayana has a parallel story in Thailand as we were browsing the souvenir shops.
Underwater World – This is one attraction you absolutely can’t miss in Pattaya. There are a variety of marine creatures here and it is very exciting to watch them all surrounding and floating around you. Scary, too! We went berserk taking pictures. Thank god for cams on cell phones! Since we were not allowed to go for the Coral island tour, this was certainly a must-visit for us.
Alcazar Show – The highlight of Pattaya, meant to be a cabaret, but it was sadly low on energy and enthusiasm. The colors, costumes and glamour were intact, and dance forms from around the world were included in the show. Indians, needless to say, were howling like idiots and taking pictures, even video-shooting the entire show, desperate buggers.
Pattaya beach – Very clean, that is what I remember about the seashore. The water was transparent and crystal-like, and it was such a refreshing change from what we see in India. No rubbish in the water, no garbage on the sand. No shacks either, for that matter. There are some beach chairs, and you can only sit on them for a fee. That part was ridiculous, but I guess that’s the price you pay for the maintenance.
MBK Mall – This is a famous electronic and garment mall, similar to several other malls in Bangkok like the Platinum Fashion Mall and Golden Plaza, etc. While items are not dirt cheap, they sure have a lot of variety for smaller sized women and men. The worst bit is that all shops shut by 8 pm so you can’t saunter around leisurely. Street markets are on until late, but the malls will be deserted as soon as dusk sets in.
Safari World and Marine Park – Another attraction you cannot miss at Bangkok. This is a zoo cum circus which offers full day entertainment to children and adults alike. We thoroughly enjoyed the Orangutan show, Elephant Show, Dolphin and Sea Lion Show. The ride around the Safari Park was quite amazing as well and I was reminded of my thrilling safaris in Africa as a teenager.
Bangkok Temple Tour – While Bangkok has over 4000 temples, there are some that are hot tourist destinations. First among these is the Golden Buddha temple which has an 18 carat golden Buddha statue that is about 10 feet tall and weighs 5.5 tonnes. It is quite a mesmerizing sight, this dazzling glowing piece of work, and you need to walk all of 3 flights of stairs to gaze upon its marvelousness. The second is the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. This temple is known to be the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage (but I only realized that while browsing just now). The temple has more than a thousand Buddha images, the most significant among them being the reclining deity 160 feet in length. It is stunning to say the least, and should you be interested, you can check this link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wat_Pho
We also saw the Garuda temple in Bangkok – honestly all the temples and idols look the same, and I am not the historically inclined types. But yeah, the 2 mentioned above, surely were worth a dekko.
We stayed at the Ibis in Pattaya and the Best Western in Bangkok, both very decent hotels right in the heart of town. Indian restaurants are many in Thailand, but the food was pretty average and obviously costly. Shopping for clothes and souvenirs was all we did, as neither Akhilesh nor I are very fond of this expensive pastime. Besides, you find everything everywhere these days so no item is a novelty.
A four hour nonstop flight brought us back to Bombay from Bangkok and we got back the 1.5 hours that we had missed while flying to Thailand. I managed to catch up a bit on my reading (“Only Time Will Tell”) but I could only finish the book a few days ago back in Pune-land. My fingers are now laid upon A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, and I have enjoyed watching movies like Hercules and Kick. Of course, family engagements and other domestic chores are back on…
So now you know what I have been up to these past couple of weeks. See you sooner next time. Hope you are enjoying the rains!