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Thailand: Southeast Asia jewel largely untouched

Special to Kalamalama by Shaija Taal Romey, '04

 

Travel to Southeast Asia for Hawai‘i residents can be a real bargain for HPU students as well as any one who likes to travel. Thailand is the perfect vacation spot, where families, couples, and singles can enjoy a variety of outdoor and indoor activities such as sight- seeing, shopping, hiking, rock climbing, dining out, or relaxing on a white sand beach.

Ka‘ia Jeffus, a former HPU student, has visit to Thailand three times in the last two years. “I absolutely love Thailand,” Jeffus said. “The last two trips I have made have been solo: I feel perfectly safe. The Thai culture is amazing; any-where that you go, the locals can speak English, which makes communication easier.”

 

 

Recently, Fly for Less, a Hawai‘i travel agency, has offered roundtrip tickets to Thailand for about $570 plus tax. East-West Best Travel, another local agency, operated by HPU students and alumni, offers tickets to Thailand for about $585 plus tax, roundtrip on China Air. Depending on availability of seats when you want to travel, and how flexible your schedule is, these fares may fluctuate.

There are no direct flights from Hawai‘i to Thailand, so you will have to make a stop in Osaka, Japan, or Seoul, Korea, depending on the airlines. The flight time from Hawai‘i to Japan is approximately nine hours, and from there the flight to Bangkok (Thailand’s international airport) is approximately seven hours.

Chris Chang, a local travel agent at Star Tours, said Thailand has become a popular travel destination because the U.S. dollar is worth much more there, compared to the Baht (one dollar to 42 Baht).

“ I have been told that the country is beautiful,” Chang said. “I still haven’t been, but I plan to go at least once in my life,” she added.

Thailand is known for fabulous, mouth-watering cuisine. Assorted curries, soups, and salads can be specially made to suit your taste buds. Just about anywhere you go you will find fresh vegetables and the juiciest fruits grown in Southeast Asia. However, some people do not take to the food in Thailand immediately. Thai dishes can be overpowering and spicy. Lot’s of chilies are used, as well as plenty of herbs and lime juice.

Depending on what you want to eat—seafood, poultry, beef, or veggies—a nice meal can cost about $3. If you are a vegetarian, don’t worry! Thailand’s Buddhist influence means vegetarians dominate. The strict vegetarianism of Bangkok’s former Governor, Chamlong Srimuang, has inspired a chain of vegetarian restaurants.

Many shopping bargains await you in Thailand, if you have the luggage space to carry them back. Bangkok is most famous for it’s street markets. Pratunam, Chatuchak Park, Khlong Toey, and Chinatown are just a few. “They have everything you will ever need, from silk bedding, to live animals,” Jeffus said. Even if you don’t want to spend any money, they are great places to wander around.

As Bangkok is one of the cheapest cities in the world, you can get quality products for only a fraction of the price. Thailand’s two big department store chains, Central and Robinson, offer reasonably prices on electronics, clothing, and housewares.These two department stores can be found in Bangkok as well as major surrounding cities.

If you’re trying to experience local Thailand life, you should stay in beach bungalows or cottages. These range from $5 to $8 a night, per person, and are clean and decorative.

Deciding where to go in Thailand is the hard part. There are many different places to visit, depending on how much time you are willing to spend in a country that is 517,000 square kilometers, slightly smaller than the state of Texas, and about the same size as France.

There are thousands of small islands, and a few large ones, all very relaxing with white sandy beaches, bungalows, clear ocean waters, and thousands of shells. Jeffus’ favorite travel destination is the island of Ang Thong, but she also likes “Ko Samui, because it has one of the best jewelry shops I have ever been to, and Krabi, because of its cool, calming beaches.”

Nicola Hedge, an HPU international relations major from New Zealand, prefers north Thailand. “I have been to both the northern part of the country (Chiang Mai) and to the southern islands. If you haven’t been to Chiang Mai, then you have not really experienced Thailand. The city itself is absolutely beautiful. It has more than 300 temples, which makes it visually outstanding.”

If you want to try something different, rock climbing is popular in some of the islands.

Limestone cliffs on the huge headland between Hat Tham Phra Nang and East Hat Rai Leh, two southern islands, offer practically endless rock climbing experiences. East Hat Rai Leh is a major tourist attraction. According to climbers, during the high season as many as 300 visitors a day will climb this rock face. Arranged climbs can be made in both Krabi and East Hat Rai Leh. You can rent gear and learn to climb with other beginners, or, if already trained, find cliffs difficult enough for your individual climbing level.

Whether solo or in a group, travelers in Thailand feel safe. The people are friendly and helpful to foreigners. Hawai‘i residents probably won’t even suffer much culture shock because Thailand’s culture, flora, and fauna are similar to Hawai‘i’s. The price is right, too, and summer (our winter) is a great time to let yourself enjoy the serenity of beautiful Thailand.

“After my first visit to Thailand, I fell in love with the people and their life-style,” Jeffus said. “I have traveled to Thailand three times, and want to make it an annual trip.”

 


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