Flying is more than transport to a destination, its preparation for an adventure! Thailand must be one of the most affordable and adventurous outdoor countries in the world. There are enough activities to keep you busy every day, for months! Thailand was hit by a very destructive tsunami on 26 December 2004, which was the worst natural disaster to ever strike Thailand . The tsunami claimed many lives and caused major damage to the environment and property. The consequences of the tsunami on the Thai economy and environment influenced their fishing and tourism industries severely. The thousands of displaced people and loss of livelihoods reduced the quality of life for everyone in this paradise. The day of 26 December 2004 for these countries around the Indian Ocean was like 11 September 2001 in the USA. We went to Phuket, the largest island of Thailand, at the end of 2010 and was surprised to see that there was no signs of the tsunami after six years, except for warning signs. The restored buildings and the ever friendly people made it hard to imagine the chaos and emotional times that had come over these poor people a few years ago.
|Tsunami warnings in Thailand and on its islands|
Thailand is also known for its long beaches with crystal clear blue and turquoise water and green protruding rock islands. Other things that come to mind are elephants, massages, dark tanned people and water that is like your bath, after adjusting the temperature with little warm, little cold, and then you get it the right comfortable temperature, perfect! When I started planning the trip, I only did a little research on where to stay and what not to miss, but nothing could have prepared me for the pleasant surprise. Mmm.. Pleasant surprise. You don't hear that so often these days as marketing have developed to a level where they can even make your backyard look ridiculously fantastic! Face it, the best you can get is only if it's as good as the brochure portrayed it to be. And on the other hand, people are comfortable going to same place every year where they know what the trip will cost, where they have a camp spot that is "theirs", know where the best shop is and they meet all their other comfortable friends there.. every year.. We were like that for a couple of years in Groot Brak in the Western Cape.
The last time my parents left for another continent was 37 years ago on their honeymoon. My mom's dream was to go to an island, so when I saw pictures of Phuket, it was a sell. We bought a package for R8000 per person, which included flights, hotel, buffet breakfast and transport between hotel and airport. We started saving and after a few months of boring everyone with our story of going to Phuket, my parents, my bother, Karla and me were on our way to Thailand for 10 days. We stayed at a hotel called West Inn in Karon beach. Nice and quiet, but close to all the action. On arrival a tour guide comes and informs you of all the activities and you can book them there and then as well. My brother and me were determined to get my dad to do everything with us, and him being paraplegic made it so much more a family effort. We booked our activities so we have an activity full day followed by a rest day, where we traveled locally and spent time relaxing on the beach. Our first day we went on one of the most memorable rides of our lives.. Elephants in the jungle!
|Getting my dad on/off the elephant with a podium|
There are many unique activities, and you'll know when you find them! Some times someone just says something and when you get the feeling to ask them: "You do what?!", you need to make a booking. Our next big trip was to visit islands, caves and volcanoes on inflatable kayaks! The kayaks are loaded on a big double-story boat and then taken to these unique picturesque spots that make tourists realise that no matter how long you are going to be here on holiday - its going to be too short!
|Getting my dad on the kayak|
|Kayaking at James Bond Island|
|Kayaking among Limestone Cliffs|
|Kayaking past Protected cave with swallow nests|
We then kayaked into a tunnel in the side of a volcano, almost like going through the side of a large doughnut. Some places were tight enough to make claustrophobic people close their eyes. In less than 10 minutes you are on the inside of the volcano, filled with water and trees.
|Inside the tunnels through volcano wall|
|Tunnels in volcano wall|
|Approaching inside of volcano|
|"Victorious- We made it!"|
|Para-sailing at Karon beach|
|View from Para-sailing|
|Jet-ski after falling off|
Our next excursion was out on a speedboat! The triple engined machine took us flying over the waves to the best snorkeling spots and the islands you only see on television! We visited various islands, even the one where the movie "The Beach", was filmed.
|Speedboat to islands|
|Inside the luxury speedboat|
|Swimming among the lime stone islands|
|First we choose our anchoring spot|
|Secondly overland to our snorkeling spot|
|Thirdly, carry my dad into the water|
|And finally pull my dad deep enough so he can swim|
|Colourful fish when snorkeling|
|Fish attracted with bananas|
|Comfortable pillows on the beach|
|Boats at Phi-Phi islands|
|Boarding our "Sunset cruise"|
|Atmosphere is about being with the Right People in a place of appreciation|
|Coffee and snacks served on board the sunset cruise|
The nightlife is a story on its own. The streets become vibrant and cramped when it gets dark! Everyone is outside and the markets and shops are busy. There are many restaurants where you can enjoy local and international dishes. Local food is always cheaper than Western franchise restaurants.
|Restaurants with live entertainment|
|Local food: pineapple, chicken and cashew nuts|
|Small street restaurant|
|Fires outside restaurant creates welcoming feeling|
The zoo is also a fun off-day trip. You get to interact with the animals and there is a wide variety of animals to see here. We got to see different animal shows and even made the Orangutang part of ours! As Karla and me held the cuddling animal, someone screamed "Daddy, mommy, baby"!!
|Hug an orangutang|
|"Daddy, mommy, baby"|
|Mom loves waves|
Every morning you are greeted by the friendliest staff with words that sound as if they make all the sounds through their nose and mouth, saying: "Sawa-di-kaaap". I believe you should at least try local foods and traditions and trying to greet them in their language and eating their food made our trip even more fun and friendlier. Everyone loves it when a foreigner tries to say something in their language and sounds absolutely hysterical! When I visit foreign countries, I make time to visit villages where you can experience the traditional way they lived and and everyday life. One of our off days we went to visit such a town, where you can see their houses, taste their foods and see how everyone made a living before industrialization. One of the the most important travels we all have to go on is to meet others half-way. This will create value and appreciation in a friendship.
|Tuk-Tuk to traditional village|
|Traditional Thai houses|
|Latex flows from rubber tree into cup and is big part of Thai exports|
|Traditional condensed milk coffee|
|Water-buffalo ploughing the fields|
|Scooter parking at shops|
|Sight seeing the island|
|Cheapest traveling in Phuket|
|Entrance to temple|
|Me, Monk, my dad and Big Buddha|
|Mom, Karla and nervous monk|
The night sky in Thailand has another light which does not come from the moon or stars. These are known as sky lanterns, sky candles or fire balloons. Sky lanterns were the first hot air balloons. Although these lanterns were used strategically during ancient Chinese wars, they are now a symbol of happiness. The airborne paper lanterns are traditionally found in Asian country's skies. They are made from rice paper, a thin wire frame and small flammable substance to heat the air, sending it into the night sky. Unfortunately there is a negative side to these beautiful flickering in the sky, as they cause environmental damage and can cause destructive fires.
|Sky lanterns lit on beach|
|Sky lantern in Phuket sky|
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. We don't receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us" Marcel Proust