thailand: truly outstanding

thailand boatThailand: a country where cares and worries ooze away… by Catherine Graham

“Thailand has so much to offer it is difficult to pinpoint just one element and still truly capture its magic. The experience gained from this country culminates from so many separate novelties on so many levels, I guess I just don’t know where to start…the Thai manner, service and friendliness, the temperature, the frantic yet exciting atmosphere of Bangkok, the peace and beauty of southern islands, the delicious cuisine, the quaint stalls and markets, the list goes on.

If I could cover every positive element from my two week holiday in Thailand, I would. However I will have to settle for one outstanding evening on Ko Pha-Ngan, down on party central: Haad Rin beach.

Backpackers and locals alike, crowds flock to Haad Rin regularly to party under a Full Moon, and in the daytime, to enjoy the watersports and chilled out vibe of the beach. Restaurant and bars line this beach as far as the eye can see and as my friends and I wandered down there one Wednesday evening about 9pm, these beach bars were already lit up, buzzing with activity and pumping out beats.

We’d just enjoyed a divine Thai meal at a restaurant near the beach, run by a warm couple called Paul and Opor. Our plan was to chill out at a bar, have a couple of drinks before heading back to our accommodation around 11pm. There is honestly nothing more cool and delicious than wandering barefoot along a beach after dark, feeling the warmth hanging in the air and pushing your toes through the silky sand. A sensation like that seems to bring this inevitable feeling that there is not one care or worry in the world. This is how I felt as we wandered, with full stomachs and content, towards the distant music and the illuminating lights. Looking up at the sky just completed this image of paradise; stars shone down bright and full and there was not one cloud to blemish the clarity.

Thai men were entertaining crowds outside the front of the bars with fire throwing: tossing rods, burning with fire on both ends, up in the air and catching them again so accurately it made you gasp. Their bodies so agile, they seemed to work as one with the fire, flipping it round in every direction so quickly it was almost a blur. We joined the admiring viewers, relaxing on the sand round a low table set back from the entertainment. One by one the men took turns to dance with this fire in the most daring ways I’ve ever seen. How they were skilled enough to avoid burning themselves I don’t know.

The excitement really kicked off as the Thai entertainers set up a very tall pole in the middle of their circle, probably about 10 foot high, then set up cups of alcohol in glasses on a table and surrounded the pole. One by one they held a burning rod in front of them, drank the alcohol without swallowing it, then spat it out towards the fire in an attempt to blow the explosion of fire towards the head of the upright pole above them. Between them they were trying to light the head of this vertical pole, by effectively blowing fire towards it! The rocket of flame which exploded when the vodka touched the fire was immense; it must have been inches from their faces yet not one of them was phased. Incredible. The crowd was transfixed at this point, ‘oooh’ing and ‘aaah’ing every time the flame almost reached the top of the pole.

They followed this with fire limbo, a game which honestly had me cringing from my safe patch of sand. A typical limbo bar for people to bend backwards underneath, except that the bar was alight with roaring flames. As volunteers came up to join in the competitions, the atmosphere grew even more tense. The Thai men were still entertaining by topping everyone’s efforts; they even showed off by holding cigarettes in their mouth, almost bending over horizontally without legs buckling and lighting-up on the flame as they went under. Sighing, I tried to imagine what it must feel like to be so skilled that cockiness like that was totally viable.

Completely having forgotten our 11pm plan, by midnight we were throwing out shapes on a sandy dance floor, surrounded by people who, like us, were high on this happy feeling which envelopes Thailand. Nothing could have made the scene more positive, fun and enjoyable as like-minded tourists and locals danced euphorically on the beach to perfectly selected party tunes.

That evening, and across the duration of my stay in Thailand, I experienced no anger, violence, or rudeness; Thai people seem to exude warmth and foreigners are immediately infected with it. A country which seems to flow with laid-back attitudes and electric nightlife puts our own into perspective; when we imagine the uproar and chaos that would be caused if a game of limbo-on-fire were to be played down on an English beach. Coupled with what seems like zero road rules in Bangkok and the ability to hire a jeep without a license, Thailand, whether for good, bad, correct or incorrect reasons, seems to function successfully with very little strict law and order. By looking directly at the individual people, their attitudes and their treatment of one another, perhaps we as a society could learn a few things. Thailand: A truly outstanding experience!”

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Happy travels!
Intrepid Express Editor

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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