A trip to Thailand

May 5, 2024

Places to visit and things to do in the lush Southeast Asian country

A trip to Thailand


wasdeekha, meaning Hello, was the first Thai word I heard upon landing at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The airport bustled with people from diverse backgrounds, each eagerly awaiting their chance to explore Thailand – a country celebrated as one of the world’s top travel destinations.

The long immigration queues feature visitors from diverse origins, underscoring Thailand’s popularity. I was greeted by Ms Yaya, a friendly and hardworking Thai taxi driver who also served as my tour guide. After leaving the airport, we headed straight to the hotel so I could rest and freshen up for the evening.

After a brief rest and a quick shower, I was eager to discover the country. I asked Yaya to take me to the Chao Phraya River for a dining cruise. The taxi ride from the hotel to the river was a perfect opportunity to see Bangkok’s impressive infrastructure.

The cityscape was dotted with high-rise buildings adorned with glittering neon signs and expansive advertisement boards. The road network has been meticulously designed to manage the busy traffic. Certain areas of Bangkok evoke memories of Karachi from years past.

We soon reached our destination, and thanks to Yaya, I did not have to wait in the ticket queue as she had already secured a dinner-cruise ticket for me. After securing the ticket, I waited for about an hour before embarking on the two-hour river dining cruise. The cruise was enchanting, featuring an air-conditioned indoor first floor and an open-air top floor. I opted for the top floor to immerse myself in the magical experience. The cruise was radiantly lit and exquisitely decorated with a variety of lights, colours and flowers. On board, a music band, dancers and traditional Thai artists enhanced the experience, making it more than just a meal with scenic views of the river and the city.

It was a complete entertainment package, with music performances and traditional Thai dance. The musicians skillfully blended Thai and English songs, overwhelming me with their talent.

A trip to Thailand

The atmosphere turned electric when a young lady began singing Whitney Houston’s famous song I Will Always Love You. Her mastery over the low, medium and high notes was truly impressive. I cherished every moment—taking in the city lights from the river cruise, observing traditional Thai temples, hearing about their rich history and savouring traditional Thai dishes like Tom Yum soup and seafood.

The next day, I was eager to explore the vibrant city of Bangkok to make the most of my trip. I began my day by visiting the unique Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, a remarkable showcase of Thai culture and tradition, where sellers offer fresh fruits, fish, and flowers from their floating boats.

After the market, I chose an exhilarating ride on a small engine boat, where wearing a life vest was mandatory due to the high speed of the boat – a stark contrast to the leisurely pace of the dining cruise. It certainly delivered an adrenaline rush.

Later, I took a taxi tour of Bangkok with Yaya, enjoying a coffee as we travelled. Yaya took me to the area where the king stayed during his visits to Bangkok. In this area, we explored famous temples, most notably Wat Pho, renowned as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

The area, under the protection of the Thai Army, exudes grandeur. Nearby, we found Thammasat University’s Bangkok Campus, Thailand’s second-oldest university. I requested Yaya for a brief drive past the university, which is known for its alumni who have risen to prominence in Thai media and politics.

Afterwards, Yaya led me to Bangkok’s Chinatown, a vibrant neighbourhood teeming with Chinese food stalls. People strolled along the roadside, enjoying the beautifully decorated streets filled with Chinese art while savouring the richly garnished dishes from the street food vendors.

A trip to Thailand

I believe the key to any successful visit to a foreign country is understanding and respecting its rules, laws, people, culture and traditions. Travel and tourism not only shape our personalities but also expand our perspectives.

During our visit to the Sukhumvit area, I was struck by the sight of visitors from Western countries enthusiastically riding the Bangkok TukTuk. These are not ordinary rickshaws but spacious, brightly lit vehicles equipped with booming music systems. Another notable feature was the presence of cannabis shops. Thailand is the only Asian country where cannabis has been decriminalised (since June 2022). This contrasts sharply with the severe penalties in most Asian nations.

Bangkok’s train transport system is remarkably organised and state-of-the-art. It provided quick and efficient access to the bustling downtown areas without a long wait. The Sukhumvit area is also filled with a variety of bars and nightclubs that cater to diverse tastes. Some of these have dress codes.

In the evening, I enjoyed an unforgettable dinner at Sheba Arabic Restaurant, which perfectly wrapped up an exciting day in Bangkok.

The next morning, I picked up a cheese sandwich, a butter croissant and a caffe latte for the drive from Bangkok to Khao Yai National Wildlife Park, Thailand, a journey that takes approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Khao Yai is the first National Wildlife Park in Thailand, spanning four provinces in the Phanom Dong Rak mountain range. Its diverse landscape of both high and low mountains creates a fertile environment that supports a wide variety of wildlife and plant life and is the source of many rivers.

The park is home to a rich array of wildlife, including elephants, sambar deer, over 260 bird species, monkeys, porcupines, muntjac and big cats. Historically, Khao Yai was a forbidden area, often a passage of the criminals and fugitives who sometimes met their end due to the dangerous wildlife and harsh forest conditions.

Over time, the Thai government intensified efforts to apprehend wrongdoers and gradually allowed people from nearby villages to settle in the area. This led to the development of sustainable practices such as rice farming, hunting and gathering, transforming Khao Yai into a thriving community intertwined with nature.

One of the main attractions of Khao Yai Park is its waterfalls. Haew Narok Waterfall standing out as one of the tallest and steepest. It is both enchanting and perilous. Its beauty is best witnessed from at the end of the rainy season when champagne mushrooms – so named for their resemblance to champagne glasses - in red, orange and yellow colours emerge along the waterfall’s path.

Haew Narok is also referred to as the Wild Elephants’ Graveyard, as elephants frequently traverse this route in search of food. Tragically, there have been some incidents when whole elephant families slipped and fell to their deaths from the waterfall.

A trip to Thailand

As a wildlife enthusiast, I was particularly excited about the night safari, with the prospect of sighting elephants high on my list of priorities. I was fortunate to encounter a wild tusker elephant during the safari. This majestic, massive and beautiful animal was grazing peacefully at a distance.

The experience evoked a mixture of joy and excitement, tinged with a subtle fear, knowing that elephants can be unpredictable and can overturn even large vehicles, potentially causing injury or death in a matter of moments.

The experience of sitting in an open 4x4 safari truck was captivating. The driver was joined by a forest ranger at the front of the truck while I sat at the back alongside another tourist, who seemed to be a Thai gentleman. We alternated using a safari torch provided by the management to spot wildlife.

I was fortunate to spot a sambar deer, a wild tusker elephant, a porcupine crossing the road and some wild boars. Earlier in the day, as I trekked towards the enchanting waterfalls, I had also spotted plenty of monkeys.

After the night safari, I headed straight to the hotel. The following morning, we departed from Khao Yai National Park and made our way to the airport since I had an evening flight to catch. On the drive back, I asked Yaya to pull over so we could grab some food and coffee. During this break, I also took the opportunity to go go-karting with some Thai people.

I believe the key to a successful visit to a foreign country is understanding and respecting its rules, laws, people, culture, and traditions. Travel and tourism can shape our personalities by expanding our perspectives. I look forward to returning to Thailand to discover more of the exciting destinations it has to offer.

The writer is a freelance journalist

A trip to Thailand