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It's hot hot, HOT

By unknown | Apr 01, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Don Makatile

Don Makatile

As Bangkok welcomed us with a blistering 35degreesC, Jeed, our tour guide, warned us that the weather in Thailand comes in three seasons ... hot, hotter, hottest!

How I wished the same could be said of the women, who, in their conspicuous panty lines you'd think have never heard of the sartorial wonder of thongs!

In their unyielding resolve, one couldn't help but suspect they had a thing against those of a darker hue until hindsight counselled that golfing wunderkind Tiger Woods is half Thai.

With nine days to spare and the domestic cuisine that definitely deserves better than the uninspired "To Thai for" that is the standard fare of culinary scribes, this here is not a lament - it is a celebration of the beauty of the Land of a Thousand Smiles, a largely Buddhist country.

About the food: Thailand is a gourmet's paradise.

The east-bound 179km bus trip to Rayong, one of 76 provinces that make up Thailand, is like flipping through the pages of a travel guide.

In the same way that Holland is bicycle country, Thai roads teem with scooters. Men, women and children of all shapes and sizes use the two-wheelers to go everywhere.

Known as the Detroit of Asia, car manufacturers are among the biggest employers in Thailand and, as a result, there's such a surplus of cars for the 67million citizens that the export market is flooded with Toyotas and Hondas.

Whatever the problems of Thailand - and with unemployment virtually unknown - public transport is definitely not among these.

With better people skills and manners, the louts who took umbrage at Nwabisa Ngcukana for showing a thigh in a miniskirt at Bree Street taxi rank could find jobs here as the taxi industry is huge, no, humongous.

The cone-headed contraption we call the Quantum is known as the Commuter in Thailand. Almost invariably the driver's first words to the paying customer is likely to be Sawaddi - good day, not Four-Four spat out.

And airconditioning in the Commuter is standard.

Bakkie ownership is large enough to shame our farming community and inevitably most end up as taxis too.

Variations of the scooter as taxi is also in abundance, either as conventional one-passenger carriers or as tuk-tuks - motorcycles with a side-car for two.

As is the practice with virtually every facet of Thai life, fares in the tuk-tuks are bargained before starting the journey.

If there's space, these Asians find a mode of transport to traverse it - the sky-train, the subway, river taxis, trains and buses.

On the beach in Rayong, I caught myself looking for signs of the tsunami. There was none, only Phuket was hit.

After a night at the just-fine Novotel Hotel, where the highlight for me was the in-house gym, we left for the picturesque Ko-Chang the next day.

With its fine white sandy beaches and blue marine waters, Ko Chang, accessible by ferry, is the sort of island retreat I'd recommend for any brother eager to win favours with the missus.

For two nights at the Amari Emerald Cove Resort, which struck me as an eight-star establishment, one was treated and waited on like royalty. Good service is a national pastime for these folk, the subjects of His Majesty King Bhumibol Aduladej, or in pronounceable language, Rama IX.

There's such a lot to do even in areas outside Bangkok. We met some Europeans who came to visit, fell in love with the country, and stayed.

As we flew out of Trat province, our itinerary promised a revelation in the capital city. It was an understatement.

Our bases were the fabulous Four Seasons and the equally posh Sukhothai.

From handbags to shoes, Bangkok, with its 10million residents and malls that stay open until the wee hours of the morning, is a place you'd rue taking your spouse and credit card together in one trip.

With the rand 5:1 to the local currency, the Baht, the flea market is one place you'd like to see. Take one line with you: Lot ra - kha noi dai mai - any discount? It's a mouthful, but its worth learning because the answer is always in the affirmative.

The killjoy who edits this page says I should end it here, but believe me, Thailand offers a lot more than what you've read about, or has been read to you.

Take it from me: to avoid looking like an oaf, instead of the sweater and jersey, pack two extra T-shirts.

And for the optimists wishing to get lucky, unless your name is Earl Woods and you carry a potential golfing high-earner in your DNA, your best bet would be the throbbing red-light district in downtown Bangkok.

To Thai Airways, who saw fit to fly us back Business Class, your names now appear on the list of my favourite people.

l The writer was a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.


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