_ Lale Ak

Do you want to travel in Thailand ?

Tip number one: Get off the plane in Bangkok , step outside to smoke a cigarette, wait for Natalie and Michael to come ask you to share a taxi. Follow them for one month wherever they go. You will not only end up travelling most of Thailand but also get the chance to go to Cambodia . This of course is relevant, if you are lazy enough like me, not to read the Lonely Planet (i.e. Bible) while you are flying in an 8 hour journey and fall asleep…

This is how lucky I was. We were. Yes I had the privilege to have the ultimate travelling partner with me this time. Who also slept all the way to Bangkok …

This was my first time backpacking to Asia . I have heard stories of people starting their world tour with Thailand and never leaving this land of beauty again. The beauty is not only coming from her beaches, mountains, glorious land of green, but also her perfect culture. Is it perhaps Buddhism, that made her so calm, so kind, so shiny?

Thailand remains the only country in Southeast Asia , which was not colonised by any imperialistic system in the past, which made her keep every bit of the culture they had, and kept her people smiling. The people are so kind there, it sometimes makes you hate yourself for being too greedy and too horrid. Patience is a virtue there, and they almost always make you feel, ‘there is always a solution, don't you worry'.

We started from the ‘lonely beach' of Koh Chang, the southeast island, where the beach is no longer ‘lonely' but still ‘backpacker friendly'. One thing you realise when you arrive to the beaches in Thailand is, that all those scam e-mails and pictures you used to receive from your friends with ‘paradise' attachments are actually true. I slept in a Bungalow, which had Indian Ocean swiping below it. I have seen many sunsets which were better than the one before. I have met people, who felt closer as family only in a few days after meeting them. This was Thailand 's winter after all, where the temperature did not drop below 30 C. So my theory continues: Sunshine makes you a better person.

That, and of course the tasteful Thai kitchen too. Thai people love cooking, and they are extremely good at it. They eat healthy, the very reason of all of them looking so glam, and they never underestimate the importance of it. You eat the best of king prawns, seashells, and chicken never tasted so good. I am not even getting to the fresh fruits and the shakes, but stay away from anything that starts with ‘happy', ‘magic', ‘special' meal or drink. That is another subject to talk about only to ‘very' close friends.

So, you have sun, good food, good music, colourful Indian ocean sweeping your feet day and night, friends you share all this beauty with- Can you remind me again why I should go back, please?

Koh Kham was our next stop. Still following Michael and Natalie, our lovely German friends, without opening the pages of Lonely Planet. Did I mention ‘ Lonely Beach ' was nice? Well, then we are in Paradise now…

Koh Kham has the most beautiful scenery, a very tiny island, with only one resort on it, 16 bungalows, and Indian Ocean that comes in 16 different colours. You experience the tide every day, to feel like Moses, who allegedly could walk on the sea. Here, we became a part of the sea, the tree, the hummock, the white sand, and we did not move unless we had to. Here you develop a feeling of belonging somewhere. You are a part of Nature. You see Spiders, that are big as your fist, snakes that look beautiful, craps that run around like chickens. You get to know the nature and its inhabitants, and you learn to be a part of their life. You get used to everything in life. Something, that could freak you out in your past, can make you feel very home indeed, when your perception changes.

After 4 more days in Heaven, it was time and we had the courage to go to Cambodia . This is when we realised, that two neighbouring countries could be so different, regardless of their geographical situation. Unlike Thai people, Cambodians had a very harsh past with lots of wars and the unspeakable Khmer Rouge era, which made them forget to smile. This is a subject for a complete different Journal, so I will leave Cambodia for another time.

We went back to Koh Chang, we did need it after a horrible experience at the border after Cambodia , where we felt like we were back home. After embracing the Indian Ocean one more time, and spending beautiful nights with fire poi and full moon, we were again ready to move.

From the very beginning, we wanted to go to the north, Chiang Mai region, to feel little bit more cultured, than the time we spent at the beach. Thailand has the most beautiful architecture with their Temples (Wat, they are called). We have seen all kinds of Buddha, standing, reclining, happy, cool, giant. Buddha is everywhere in life, and Thai people worship Buddha, whenever they feel like. There is no ‘special day' to visit him, or any kind of ‘restriction' is applied in these Temples . You are free to show your appreciation anytime, anywhere to Buddha. Thai people have small houses, looking like bird houses, where they believe the ‘ghosts' reside, and they bring food and incenses to them everyday, so they will keep away from their rooms. I thought this was the most beautiful way to handle ghosts, if of course you'd believe they exist.

Chiang Mai along with the south and the east of the country is very much touristy now. You can just make a decision where you want to go next day, and walk in the next ‘entity' you see, being a bar or guesthouse, or restaurant, they will give you a voucher for your trip and you will be picked up to reach that destination. Tourism is obviously one very important part of their economy now, everyone is adjusting to it. Only in Thailand you can see Elephants paint and play football, meet tuk tuk drivers who are as well as tourist guides, get to know travel agencies who don't speak a word of English. They exist, trust me. They believe a smile goes a long way- And I have seen it, it is true!

Being a backpacker gives you the freedom to move as much as you like. In Thailand , this is exceptionally easy, since people are very friendly, and trying very hard, and the prices are too reasonable. Most of the time, we would spend 5$/day, for accommodation and breakfast. For so little money you have the chance to explore something new everyday, something that blows your mind away, and makes you realise, unless you travel enough, you won't have the right perception…

It's a pity a country like this is also referred to as ‘sex tourism' destination, when there is so much beauty lying there to explore. Its also a pity, their undervalued Baht, and poor economical situation, makes it very cheap for all of us to enjoy this privileged beauty, yet the lovely, kind Thai people will never get the chance to travel like us, even tough they deserve this more than we do. It is so unfair, leaving me pessimistic, but also knowing, that we can help these people by taking what they offer: Visit their country as often as possible, so they earn more. Besides, once you are there, you are always drawn back to her. There is always more to explore.

After one month of swimming in the Indian Ocean , floating with the fish while snorkelling, eating delicious food, hugging the most beautiful and kind people of this world, experiencing the nature to its most, being stunned by its culture and of course Buddhism, and most importantly gaining two beautiful friends, I am back to Turkey again. To plan my next trip to Thailand …

December 05


Lale Ak #