Last week was the most enriching, revitalising, and rejuvenating days of my life. I got acquainted to my inner self, learnt to be around people belonging to different cultures, my money managing skills were put to some serious test, and I got to feel as alive as I ever felt for six whole days.
And all of these happened miles away in Thailand. The moment I stepped out of the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, I felt as though I was in Mumbai. The humidity in the atmosphere, the jam-packed roads, and the warmth of the place made me feel at home in minutes. We quickly got into a bright pink taxi and told our driver to take us to Dusit Thani, our abode for the next few days.
The drive was slow but we weren’t in a hurry either. Instead we were like those typical tourists gasping at the tiniest things that caught our eyes, be it the multiple coloured taxis or open rickshaws called ‘tuk-tuk’.
On route we did notice several street food and shopping stalls and I quickly made a mental note of it having no itinerary prepared for the trip. No sooner we reached at the gates of the gorgeous Dusit Thani Hotel, situated right in the heart of Bangkok, I was instantly bowled over by the magnificence of the place.
Walking through the entrance I was greeted with a polite “Khaponkhaa” with hands joined together in an Indian ‘namaste’ fashion and a bright smile. At the reception a fragrant jasmine bracelet and a refreshing fruit juice awaited us.
We got the keys to our spacious suite rooms and went in. My room had two huge balconies from where I could see the rest of the huge hotel property including the swimming pool and the mini waterfall in the middle. Soaking up in the tranquillity I whispered to myself, ‘Welcome to Thailand’.
THE JET AIRWAYS EXPERIENCE
Being a frequent flyer I have travelled to many places, especially in India. And when it comes to choosing the airlines, while I have been a Jet Airways loyal for a very long time owing to their prompt service and warm hospitality, I never really got to experience the elite side of the airline journey due to my limited pocket money as a student traveller.
But this time it was different. As a journalist I got a chance to visit Thailand. I was super excited for many reasons — it was my first trip to a new country, I would be meeting my friends after a long time, and most importantly, I would get a chance to see the Coldplay concert. What more could I ask for?
On the day of my travel, along with my boarding pass, I was given an access to the Plaza Premium lounge. The lounge had an open buffet counter, a refrigerator with juices and soft drinks, a dessert counter, with free Wi-Fi access and a sprawling sitting area where we could relax for the next few minutes. We made judicious use of the privilege before heading towards our gates. We boarded the 9W 539 flight about 45 minutes before take-off and settled down on our comfortable business class seats.
As soon as we sat down, the flight attendant approached me with a selection of juices to choose from and a refreshment towel. I was impressed by how the air hostess would arrive even before I’d ask for them. They were like mind readers throughout the journey and would appear out of nowhere promptly with a bright smile and cater to all my requests.
I did notice that all passengers on the entire flight were being given the same treatment; the same warmth, hospitality, and great service. As soon as we landed at Mumbai airport, the ever-so-efficient Jet Airways staffers were present at the airbridge and throughout the airport to assist all the passengers. Clearly, they know their responsibility doesn’t end once the flight lands and the passengers are well assisted all the way until they either finish all the formalities at the airport or until they’re board the next flight, in case it is a connecting flight.
Our way out from the flight to the food court in Mumbai airport and finally to the next flight to Thailand was, as expected, hassle-free. For my Omani colleague it was his first visit to India and he couldn’t stop admiring the artsy textures and patterns on the huge walls.
The wait at the airport wasn’t too long and we soon got busy with some window shopping at the gorgeous airport. After a while another Jet Airways attendant came to escort us to our gates from where we boarded our 9W 70 flight from Mumbai to Bangkok. Having always travelled in Economy class as a student with my limited budget, my jaw dropped the moment I stepped into the first class of this wide bodied luxury of a flight.
It was like entering a dorm room, just way tidier and slicker. A cabin crew member came to me promptly and led me to my seat, which reclines a whole 180 degrees. It actually becomes a bed with just a press of a button.
This was just the beginning of the features that had started fascinating this first-class amateur passenger. Again, before I could even think of it, the lovely air hostess was there with a tray of juices I could choose from and another with magazines and newspapers that I picked depending on my mood at that time.
I kept pushing the different buttons on the wall beside me to get the footrest high enough, and the seat reclined perfectly, and the head rest set to the level I needed it to be in.
Finally, after I was settled in and tucked into the super cosy quilt, I decided to take the remote-cum-joystick beside me to operate the TV, which had a list of movies (classics and new), TV series, songs, and games to choose from. Soon the attendant came to me with a menu and I ordered a spicy Indian chicken biryani and some drinks to go with it, which was served fresh exactly the way I had visualised it.
Before I could realise I had already dozed off in my comfortable bedroom-like seat only to be woken up a while later after getting the best power nap. I unwillingly got off the flight, only to return to the same hospitality and services a week later on my trip back. Jet Airways just earned a loyal customer.
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After enjoying the view and letting the serenity seep, I wanted to have a long and refreshing bath. Well, that mission wasn’t quite successful as my two girl friends from India barged in screaming and yelling out of excitement. We were meeting each other after over a year.
Chattering away to glory, we decided to explore the surrounding area on foot. Just a few minutes from our hotel, there was a crowded lane with stalls selling clothes, fruits, and other food items.
There were little cafes with great interiors too. We got into one of the tiny cafes that had a grungy rustic look and ordered noodles, pasta, and a Thai rice dish and enjoyed a hearty meal before setting off on our shopping spree. Every time I would convert the rates of the amazing tops or dresses I spotted on the streets to Omani rials, my jaw would just drop.
I wouldn’t, in my wildest dreams have imagined that I could get a fancy party wear top of uncomplainable quality for just OMR1.5. I decided not to spend all my cash in one place and go ahead to the famous ‘Patpong Market’.
With bright lights and a variety of stuff kept on sale, from phone covers, to clothes and accessories, to bags and footwear, everything imaginable was available at extremely reasonable rates. And the best part is that even if you find the stuff cheap, there is always scope for bargaining.
However, here is a tip. When you find overtly persuasive vendors trying hard to get you to their store for some funny sounding “shows”, then look away and try to run as far as you can from them. Unless, you have a lot of money to spend and enjoy weird adventures of life in a foreign land.
On our way back, we stopped in front of a mobile food truck that sold meat and vegetables in skewers, very similar to our kebabs. We relished them in a city that was bustling even way past midnight.
The next day started very early. At 6am, we rushed down for our complimentary breakfast buffet at the hotel that served Thai, Continental, English, and even Indian food, before ordering our taxi using the ever-so-handy app ‘Grab’ to take us to Safari World, which was about an hour’s drive from the hotel. It is paradise on earth for animal enthusiasts.
You will find all species of birds, apes, tigers, and reptiles housed in a natural and warm habitat that is made suitable for each of the species. Because the park is huge, you may miss out on a few shows, but try not to as they’re supremely entertaining and definitely worth watching.
The first is a sea lion show where these intelligent creatures put up a show to entertain the crowd and make them laugh with their gimmicks and tricks and clap for themselves if the audience fails to do it.
Later in the day, there is an elephant show, which we ended up missing as I was busy feeding the tiny colourful birds who refused to leave my head, shoulder, and arms, and perhaps just got too comfortable there. But the main highlight of the Safari World is in meeting a tiger cub who will come and sit on your lap and have some milk from a nippled milk bottle while you get a few pictures. You can have a time of your life at the giraffe park with over 200 giraffes who will sniff you if they like you and you give them food and blow their nose on you if they don’t.
The final safari tour on the big bus is where you drive through the open jungle and see zebras, rhinos, cranes, and other such animals co-existing peacefully, and another section where there are huge lions and tigers chilling and taking their afternoon nap and wild bears swimming in the lake and so on.
We left Safari World by late afternoon and went to Show DC Mall from where we had to collect the passes for our next day’s Coldplay concert. Right next to the mall was a lane with a number of restaurants adjacent to each other. We picked the smallest one, which looked cute and homely where we ordered Thai rice with chicken curry and Thai sauce. It was a foodie’s delight indeed.
Soon, we went to the mall that wasn’t fully constructed adding to the aesthetic value of the place. With a show tuk-tuk in the centre, hall of fame featuring some of the Thai superstars and many branded outlets, the mall was everything an ideal mall needed to be. The 5-hour long wait for the passes weren’t tedious at all because of the excitement all around.
The friendly volunteers kept us updated and the hundreds of us waiting in mall in the long queues spent our time crooning Coldplay songs together. As soon as we got our passes we couldn’t contain our excitement and decided to celebrate by going club hopping.
We booked our trusted Grab taxi and set off to Bangkok’s popular pub lane.
We could hear the music from about half a kilometre away.
As soon as our cab stopped we jumped off and ran towards where the sound was coming from only to be stopped by the smell of the roasted chicken coming from the street food stall.
In Thailand, you find food, clothes, and people everywhere all the time. It was such a pleasant surprise to be going from one club to another without having to pay an entry fee.
We went to one club where if you’re claustrophobic, you would die and another that had a more chilled out atmosphere. One was so loud that I lost my voice after I came out of it and the other was where I had conversations with random strangers from different countries.
Needless to say, I came out of the club lane extremely tired and hungry, looking for a restaurant to satisfy our growling tummies. Unfortunately before my food came, I passed out on the restaurant table as it was 3am, but my friend’s found a night market nearby and went shopping. This place never sleeps.
Our third day in Bangkok was the day of the much-awaited Coldplay concert at the Rajamangala Stadium that has a capacity of 50,000 seats and perhaps another 50,000 can stand on the field. Let’s just say that this was the best concert with the best crowd that I have ever attended in the 22 years of my existence.
SHOP AND CHOMP
TOP 5 MARKETS
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Patpong Night Market
TOP 5 STREET FOODS
Khao Niew Ma Muang or mango sticky rice
Gai Yang or grilled chicken with sticky rice
Pad Thai Kung or noodles with shrimp
Som Tam or papaya salad
Hor Mok Pla or Thai curry fish custard
KRAZY IN KRABI
Unsatisfied by the shopping we’d done, or the street food we’d tasted or the night markets we’d visited and convinced that we would need a few more days to fully explore Bangkok, we left the pumped up city to go to the peaceful island of Krabi.
Having dragged ourselves to the airport and squeezed ourselves in the not as spacious flights as the Jet Airways we had travelled in, the smiles on our faces finally returned only as we were landing to see the green spread out meadow-like land beneath us and patches of waterbodies in between. It was simple serene. Our Grab taxis weren’t accessible here so we had to rely on the airport cabs to get to the Dusit Thani Krabi Beach resort.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that my breath was taken away when I saw the resort.
I walked through the open lobby from where all I could see was greenery at the end of which was the blue sea and the sun that rose above the horizon.
I found it difficult to look away from the gorgeous view while the attendants greeted me with an even warmer ‘khaponkha’ and gave me a jasmine bracelet and a refreshing drink made of lemon grass, which instantly took all the tiredness from the journey away.
A cart soon came to take us to our room. Here, there were clusters of about 8 rooms spread throughout the vast property, which houses 8-low rise buildings and 240 rooms.
On our way to the room we crossed a tennis court, a gym and a board that had yoga, aerobics, Muay Thai, kayaking, and other watersport timings mentioned in it. I made a mental note again to come back to this side of the resort soon.
The best part about my room was the fact that I could slide open the bathroom door while lying at the bath to enjoy the beautiful view of the sea and the plush scenery that my room offered. It did end up being a problem soon because of my over intrusive friends who have no sense of personal space and would keep sliding the door open for no good reason when I was inside. After our bath, and having some green tea in the room we set out to explore the resort.
We walked over a small bridge, crossed a small lake whose surface was covered with lotus leaves, a random wild lizard, which was easily 4 feet after which we ran until we reached one of the two infinity pools from where we could see the beach.
There were open shacks, poolside restaurants, and some cute outdoor furniture and hammocks, and swings. We ran like little kids to the clean beach and sat on the almost white sand looking at the mountain and thick jungle on the sides.
As we were catching up on every significant and insignificant event we had missed in each other’s lives lying down on sand, suddenly I felt a huge droplet of water fall on my face. And suddenly out of nowhere, it started pouring heavily.
By the time we decided to get up and run back to our rooms we were dripping from the cold rain water. After having another shower we decided to explore the town. We were just thinking about how we’ll get there as our trusted Grab wasn’t working here, when we spotted the trippiest public transport vehicle of all times.
With loud led lights of different bright colours and music that was even louder and a driver that was way more quirkier, we knew we had the best ride for the night. The main town was about 15 minutes from our resort. There were a lot of restaurants in the lane one after another providing different cuisines, so we knew what we had to do. After restaurant hopping for a bit, we decided to settle at a night outdoor space where there was live music and the wonderful singer would even sing our songs on request. That was exactly what we needed after filling our stomachs up to the brim.
The next day, we went to the concierge room just to get excited and confused at the same time by the many options that were presented to us. We opted for the prettiest and the closest one.
We got onto a boat, which took us to paradise in just half and hour. From afar we could spot huge vegetative rocks and a small island in the middle of the sea that was so pure, unadulterated, and natural that took us to a whole new universe in a different time.
There were a lot of tourists chilling on the white sand of the emerald sea and many more snorkelling and swimming in the beach along with the beautiful multi-coloured fish.
We jumped in the salinated water enjoying the freshness and richness of nature like never before. We got off the water to explore the island a bit more. We grabbed a thick coconut drink, the tastiest i’ve ever had (coming from a Keralite it is a big deal), and followed the nature trail, which is a walk through the dense jungle. All we could hear were noises coming from the various species of birds and animals, the rustling of the leaves, and the distant sound of the waves. There were no artificial or mechanic interferences anywhere. Just us getting lost in the depths of nature.
We took back home an experience that was most enriching, memories that were most precious, and life lessons most valuable from our six days in Thailand.
Dusit Thani Bangkok
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