My trip to Thailand was my best trip ever. I was overwhelmed by the country’s beauty, industry and possibilities.
Let me start my travel journal from the visa process. It was simple. Because I used a tour company, I didn’t need to go the embassy in Abuja. However, I advise you to always check your travel visas. In my case, the embassy made a mistake on my date of birth, so my passport was returned, annotated and signed. You will need an NDLEA certificate prior to applying for your visa. Please use two guarantors you know well and who would bend over backwards for you. This is because the homes of the guarantors will be visited and they will also need to accompany you to the NDLEA office for an interview. If you have an existing clearance file, all your previous guarantors need to do, is to sign a re-commitment letter. They do not need to show up for every visa application that requires NDLEA clearance.
Your Yellow Card must be authentic to get into Thailand. On arrival (and before going to immigration), you must be cleared by the Health Department, who will check your Yellow Card.
Thailand is a cash based society with a money exchange on almost every street, so you almost don’t need your debit card. Just keep a photocopy of your passport in your bag. You will need a two-pin plug or adaptor. The Internet is really fast and I got a True Mobile sim at the airport. There are good public toilets in most places. Use a cross body bag when you go out and watch your belongings. It’s a bustling city. There are scooters (okadas) and tuktuks (kekes) everywhere. There’s traffic but I didn’t see any wardens. Everyone simply obeys the traffic lights.
In Thailand, you will enjoy the most incredible food. There’s street cuisine everywhere. You really don’t need to eat in restaurants. Almost everything you consume is locally produced, from the sea food to the fruits. I didn’t visit a Western restaurant once, while I was there. I only ate local food and was satisfied. My routine was, I would eat breakfast at the hotel, get a smoothie to keep me going in the afternoon, and then end the day with a sumptuous Thai dinner. Coconuts and Durian seem to be the national fruits of Thailand. But there’s a wide variety of every tropical fruit. You will drink smoothies till you’re tired. There’s also a surfeit of coconut ice-cream.
Tailoring is an art in Thailand. In two days, you can get a bespoke suit or evening gown. It’s worth getting fitted for one. There are also different types of exotic creams and soaps in the markets and shops.
There’s a massage parlour on every corner in Thailand, and it’s cheap to get one. I did a triple threat two-hour massage once – Foot Reflexology, Aromatherapy and Thai Massage. I dozed off at some point ?.
I visited three cities in Thailand: Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya. Here are a few highlights from each city.
In Bangkok, I was at the Asiatique to celebrate the last moments of the Loy Krathong Festival. The Asiatique is a pier with lots of stores & restaurants, as well as a centre for events. I watched the Calypso Cabaret, a spectacular dance and pantomime show featuring different genres of performances – Pop, Bollywood, Japanese, Korean, Jazz and even Big Band. I recommend it. I had some delicious fried rice inside a pineapple at Aloha Restaurant and enjoyed delicious ice-cream at Swensen’s. I also ate Crocodile barbecue.
You should visit Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok. Please do not eat before you go, so you can sample the street food. They have their own version of Bole and Plantain Chips! They also have a pet section, where you can get accessories for your animal companions back home. Chatuchak has shipping companies on site. So, if you buy heavy items like furniture or spa equipment, you can ship them to your doorstep. This makes so much sense for global travelers.
River City Bangkok is the destination for antiques & high end shopping, and is also the departure point for a lovely dinner cruise.
Three cultural sites you should visit are the Golden Buddha, the Reclining Buddha and the Grand Palace. The Golden Buddha is a massive gold structure. The Reclining Buddha is 46 metres long and 15 metres high! Its toes are the same height and the statue features 108 auspicious signs carved into its feet, made from mother-of-pearl pieces, The Grand Palace has beautiful and meticulously hand-printed murals. To visit these places, please ensure you wear trousers and a shirt with at least short-sleeves. If you don’t, you’ll need to rent/buy appropriate clothing to cover up. This applies to both men and women. You’ll also take off your shoes to enter some spaces, so ensure you wear something that’s easy to take off and put back on.
A curious fact about the cinema in Thailand (I went to the one at Terminal 21) – before the movie starts, you will stand for the national anthem, set to a montage of the King ?.
Terminal 21 food court in Bangkok operates an interesting business model. The vendors keep food prices low; about the same as street food. In return, the owner doesn’t charge rent. The strategy is to use the food to draw people into the other shops in the mall.
I visited Chulalongkorn University for physiotherapy sessions. I noticed something about the hospitals and clinics in Thailand. They treat first and collect money after. A lot of their hospitals are designed for the international market, so you can ask for an English speaker. They have a significant number of female doctors, so you can choose to be treated by someone of the same sex. The hospitals I visited were very efficient. You book ahead, so you’re not kept waiting when you arrive.
Now let me talk about Phuket. It’s a glorious place with pristine beaches, white sand and clear waters. The city itself is lovely, especially Rawai Beach area, while the main party centre is Patong Beach Road. I missed the Floating Market at Phuket. (I went to the one at Pattaya instead.) I hear it’s a must-see.
Phuket is so unreal in a beautiful, magical sort of way. There’s a looking point that provides a gorgeous view of the city. It’s beside a government power station, yet you don’t see signs like, “Keep Out. By Order.”, that you’d normally see in Nigeria. Thailand definitely understands tourism. There’s also a street with interesting art that you should visit on the way to your hotel from the airport.
I attended the Fantasea show in Phuket. Apparently Jay Z, Beyoncé and Rihanna also have ??. It’s a variety show with dancers, actors, elephants, goats and even chickens!
If you can, please take the 2-hour boat ride to Phiphi Island. Plan to spend a day or two there. There are hotels as well as tours to four other islands, including James Bond Island from the movie, The Man with the Golden Gun. Your hotel in Phuket will keep your main luggage until you return from Phiphi Island, so you can just take an overnight bag with beach clothes. In fact, if you’re doing several cities in Thailand, take along a smaller foldable overnight bag, so you don’t need to take your main luggage with you, as you move around. I left my main luggage in Bangkok, flew to Phuket and then on my return, asked my tour operator to bring my bag from my hotel to the Bangkok airport, before I left for Pattaya by road.
With the benefit of hindsight, I should have skipped Pattaya. It’s like Isaleko on steroids – so many people and so much commerce. It’s not serene at all. The Night Bazaar wasn’t bad though.
I visited Pattaya’s floating market. The street food was excellent. Now Thailand has some strange sea food. I really didn’t ask questions. I ate quite a few squid like creatures while I was there ?.
The Sanctuary of Truth rounded off my visit to Pattaya. It’s a massive temple with intricately carved wooden structures. As I listened to the waterfalls, I remembered my visit to Kwa Falls in Calabar. I wondered why tourist sites in Nigeria couldn’t be as clean and as excellent. The high point was riding an Elephant.
My overall impression of Thailand is that it’s worth visiting, especially if you like beaches and food. There’s something for everyone here – shopping, variety shows, cinemas, zip lining, hiking, water sports, wellness & beauty and so much more. It’s also child friendly. You should add Thailand to your travel list!
You can view my travel photos here.